Stars

So today I was determined to climb out on the roof again to paint the second coat on the shutters. As I was pulling the heavy wood and metal blinds up, they slid out of their holders and put a dent in my head. I immediatley became nauseous, got a terrific headache… the likes of which I have never felt before… and I saw stars. The kind of stars that circle around the head of  Daffy Duck or any Looney Tunes character who has had the unfortunate experience of being hit on the noggin.

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I spent the majority of the day in bed popping aspirin, groaning, and trying to remember if my DO NOT RESUSCITATE orders were on file at the local hospital… just in case.

Stars are  usually a glorious thing. When shining brilliantly at night they light our way to uncharted places. They remind us that there is something other than ourselves taking up space in the cosmos. They sprinkle the sky and our minds with hope when we wish upon them and they let us see history in its making. I still get amazed when I think that I can look back in history 20 million years just by viewing a star.

Stars have tremendous significance in our culture. We aspire to be stars in our own field of work and some aspire to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. We shoot for the stars, they mysteriously fall from the sky, and sometimes, if you are very lucky, even love is written in them. Stars really are an unpredictable and incredible creation.

Sometimes as I walk this journey through Mid-Life and through a “maybe” divorce I look to the stars for answers. I look up and see both the shadows and light which seems to mimic the course my life is taking now. I realize that looking to the stars for answers sounds like something out of a child’s fairy tale. Comforting. Magical. And perhaps that is all it really is..one big illusion. Yet, I would like to think that the stars are lighting up and guiding me to the possibilities that lie within me…freeing me… from those black spaces so that I might get my sparkle back and shine brightly once more. And thinking this way gives me hope that someday I can be my own beacon for my children and that they might look at that light radiating outwards from me to help them find their own place in this world…wherever that may be.

Simple

I am too busy to put something up today so I thought I would leave you with a story I wrote in 1999.

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Two years ago when my family moved to the Midwest, we did so in search of a “simpler” life. After burning the candles at both ends, we felt it was time to slow down. We wanted to have the time to stop and smell the roses, and to enjoy the “simple” things in life. I thought I knew what those “simple” things were until we met Boone during a mountain trek while in Thailand.

Boone was 33 years old then. Gracious and quiet, he used to be a sustenance farmer. In his village he eked out a meager living cultivating rice and growing vegetables. His was a simple life, yet Boone wanted more. He wanted more than to just sustain himself, he wanted to have some money set aside for a rainy day. So Boone gave up farming and he dedicated his life to learning how to speak English in an effort to improve his life. Now he leads jungle treks for foreign tourists who pay a lot of money to forget their busy lives and experience the “simple life” of the hill tribe people in Northern Thailand.

I got to know Boone very well on our two day trek and I think he got to know me better than he wanted to as he carried my pack for most of the trek. I would like to say that I lead the group due to Boone’s pack carrying generosity. I can’t. He carried my pack in hopes that I would arrive at the remote village sometime within the same week as the others in the group. Going straight up mountains and then straight down did terrible things to my knees and by the end of the day I was beginning to think that knee replacement surgery sounded like fun; if it involved being evaced out by helicopter.

That night while sitting around the campfire in the thatched roof village, Boone and I discussed his former “simple” way of life. I asked him about the concerns that idealistic academics have expressed about the hill people losing their culture and their “simple” ways of life due to the lure of money from Westerners.

“They think we have a “simple” life,” said Boone. “Those people should try to live such a life. What is “simple” about trying to keep your children fed on a daily basis? What is “simple” about having no money for clothes or to send your child to school? What is simple about watching a loved one die because you cannot afford proper medical care?” Boone told me that everyone wants a better life, a color TV and a satellite dish so they can learn about and discover the world in an effort to improve theirs.

Early the next morning when the rooster sounded the alarm, as I lay on the grass floor, every muscle in spasm, I contemplated my “simpler” life. Money could not buy me a cool breeze when I desperately needed it on the top of that mountain. It could not stop my heart from racing nor quell an aching thirst. Yet, money was able to buy me something else. Understanding. An understanding of why people risk life and limb to come to the United States or other nations in search of a “simpler” life. Never again will I just listen to the put-downs of those who criticize our new citizens who haven’t yet learned their new language. Because for them getting here was the battle. The language is just a minor skirmish.

Isn’t it ironic that wile the people of the so-called “third world” are attempting to “simplify” their lives many of us in the states are attempting to do so, only from the opposite end of the spectrum. In truth, maybe simplifying is really just letting go of old beliefs, allowing new possibilities to enter our lives and stopping to smell the roses. Or maybe, it’s as Boone said. Maybe it’s as “simple” as a new color TV, satellite dish and a little money saved for a rainy day.

How Many People

Lately I have been contemplating the question that asks by how many people must we be loved to be happy? Is there a magic number? Is life worth living if one doesn’t have anyone to give love to or get some back? And what kind of love do we as human beings need?

For some people it appears that they are happy by themselves with no need to have someone love them. Self love is all they need. For others, it appears having a gazillion “friends” on Facebook makes them feel loved even by those they do not “know” in real life. So is there a true number like two? or six? or ten?

Or is it we only need one person because that person gives us what our soul needs for nourishment. Is it the person who takes away our fear? The person who makes life meaningful for us? The person who you know will always have your back? Or the person who cries at the end of the movie before you do?

I am not sure of the number of people that have loved me but I know that I have been fortunate enough to have been loved. Passionately. Deeply. Genuinely. Freely without expectations. Is that because I am drawn to good people or because for most of my life I have demanded to be loved in this way?

Love is a funny thing. It is the ying and yang of life. It can quench our thirst or it can make us feel parched and worn.  It is what makes live beautiful or sad, satisfying or unpleasant. At this point in my life I am looking for connectedness with those that I love and a partner whose love fills my soul. I want a love that if life-giving, refreshing and meaningful. I want love that embraces me,  that holds me, and is accepting. I think B and I had it once and in many aspects of our lives we still do. But I think we can love each other more and in doing so and lead each other gently on to ourselves so we can be free to love each other again. In a respectful, healthy way, and in a way that satisfies us both. I believe in love. I still believe in us and I am not ready to give up. Maybe that is all that is needed right now.

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Fences- A Positive Post

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Yesterday Paul needed to get some service hours in for Scouts. He elected to paint the fence at our church. It was hot and the fence sat square in the path of the intense rays of the scorching sun. Six hours spent working in the sun is difficult for anyone but even more so for a young autistic teenage boy with no previous painting experience. Fortunately, one of the older members of our congregation (R) was there to provide guidance and cheer him on.

I love it when old and young connect. There is something almost magical that happens when wisdom meets youth. Learning occurs in an unstructured setting and life’s lessons are conveyed easily. More importantly, both parties share those things that are important to them and greater understanding of the world and each other is obtained by both.

When he arrived home Paul was stoked and could hardly wait to tell me about his afternoon. But it wasn’t the fence he talked about. It was the connection that he made that mattered the most to him.

“Did you know that R served in the Korean War?” my sweet Korean boy asked.

“I had no idea,” I replied.

And so Paul sat with me and excitedly told me all that R had shared with him. Things about the war, what the country of Paul’s birth looked like back then, and how his life had changed because of his service. They also talked about what boys did growing up in the 40’s, how times have become more complicated and R’s ideas about the important things in life. But most of all Paul gained a friend. A man who could teach and discuss without being parental. A person with whom Paul could relate his troubles regarding peers in school and his concerns for the world as he navigates becoming a young adult.

It’s funny how sometimes in doing things for others you gain something special and totally unexpected for yourself.  This weekend Paul learned from R the value of a friendship with someone older and wiser than himself. He learned to share problems and issues and listen to good advice in return. And more than just learning about how to paint fences he was also taught how to mend a few too.

 

 

 

 

Damn I’m Good-A Positive Post

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I love the color red. It’s bright, invigorating and screams out “LOOK AT ME!” like a three year-old having an intense but satisfying tantrum. Yes, red is a color that begs to be both seen and heard.

I have never had much red in my life even though I love it’s sass.I tend toward colors that live life in a predictable fashion, steady and neutral ones, which when I think about it, describe me perfectly. They are the familiar and comfortable colors. They represent things like  grilled cheese and soup on a warm winters day. Nothing fancy and nothing too far “out there.” Just reliable go-with-anything colors that you can count on to get you through life.

This week I decided that the house needed a facelift so I bought a gazillion of those cans of paint samples trying to find the perfect hue with which to paint my shutters. There were forest greens, navy blues, and soft grays. Yellow was out but black remained on the list. With the amount I spent on samples I could have bought several gallons of paint but it was important to find the “perfect” color. Just for kicks I decided to try a red on for size and surprised myself when I decided to paint those shutters a kiss-me-once-more shade of RED.

Now I think I have shared with you that I am desperately afraid of heights. Terrified. And the shutters are mostly on the second story which would necessitate crawling out on the roof to get the job done. Now B would have eventually gotten around to it if I had asked but frankly his painting sucks. Drips everywhere. Streaks galore. Whereas I am a painting pro who doesn’t even need to tape off because I have such a steady hand. I am a Leondardeschi of the da Vinci gang. But up on the roof? Heaven help me. Even I had my limits…or so I thought.

So it was with trepidation yesterday morning that I eased myself out of my daughter’s second story window and stood out on top of the roof, the sun scorching my delicate skin, while I scrapped, prepped, and painted eight shutters. And if I do say so myself the change looks great. But it is not the exterior change that is important; it is the interior one I made inside of myself that is significant as well as meaningful to me. Because once again I conquered my fears and I accomplished something that made me feel positively giddy. I did what made me happy and was not afraid to transform things just a bit. And if the truth be told, painting the shutters became symbolic of something even greater. It spoke of my belief in the longevity and eventual recovery of my relationship with B because I wouldn’t have risked life and limb on the roof of a house that I wouldn’t be living in in the future. Amen.

Looking For The Good-Positive Post #2

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The other night B and I were out taking our usual late night walk. It was a beautiful evening, cool and crisp, for this area of the country. The moon shone bright and the stars were singing the Twinkle song. Everything was perfect…except… where was the sparkle between us?

About mid-way through this jaunt we stepped into a quiet and very dark place where I told B, “I think that instead of concentrating on all the characteristics I don’t possess or all the things you feel are missing from this relationship, perhaps it would make us happier if we both looked for the good in one another.”

“That’s funny,” replied B. “That is exactly what my therapist said tonight and she gave me some homework to do in this area.”

Instantly we reached for each others hand, reemerged, and continued walking along.  Immediately I got that sense that both of us realized that by looking for the best in each other, instead of the worst, things felt immediately different. Better. For while you are in the dark there is nothing to see, but when you change perspective and step into the moonlight, the sparkle returns, and you can begin to be able to shine once more.

The Dance Lesson- A Positive Post

The other night we took our first dance lesson. We had been looking for something fun to do and this just seemed to fit the bill. We picked something that was not fast or sassy like the Rumba or Salsa. The Slide didn’t generate much interest nor did the Polka.  We decided that the only prerequisite was that the music needed to be old and slow …just like me… and most of the other students who showed up. In short that left us only one dance…the Waltz.

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For those of us who know me and before you howl in laughter let me assure you that this waltzing stuff is hard work. YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER:

Eyes up..keep looking over your partner’s left ear.

Left hand held high…but not too high…not too low either.

And keep in mind that your right hand must be seen at all times in order to prove you are not goosing your partner.

And those feet…keep them out from under your partner.

Make your steps smaller.

Make your steps bigger.

Go slower

Now faster

And ladies, to make this dancing stuff even harder… you will be moving BACKWARDS!

“Okay, I’ve got this,” I thought after doing the box step about a dozen times. By then, B and I had stopped fighting about who got to lead. But then, horrors of horrors, we were told to switch partners! It had the effect on me that an orgy would…get me the heck out of here!!!

Now I know I said for the next week I would only write positive things. So here goes: I am positive I have two left feet and should be banned for dancing forever. By the time we were done I think my other partners believed so too. I looked like a teenage boy at his first boy-girl dance in Junior High. Graceful was not in the cards but stress induced acne was.

My first partner smiled big as I slipped into his arms. His smiled disappeared the first of the seven times that I stepped on his toes. “Stop trying to lead,” was his helpful advice.

When I arrived before partner #2 I laughed wickedly and said, “I was a teenager of the 70’s. I either danced alone or did the BUMP.” I saw “CHALLENGE” flash through the man’s eyes. We had only gotten three steps into the box when he said in a superior and slightly uptight manner “Stop trying to lead.”

Partner #3 was obviously a professional dancer. I tried the BUMP conversation again at which point he said, “Hogwash, I can make any dancer look good.” Turns out he was wrong. He waved me on to the next man with a “Stop trying to lead” tripping off his tongue as I inadvertently did the same over my own foot.

Partners 4, 5,6, and 7 all had the same thoughts and “stop trying to lead” became the mantra of the day.  This dancing stuff was tough and not necessarily because of the movements and coordination that was involved. Truth be told it was the fighting each man to lead that was doing me in.

I think at this point I should confess that  I do like to lead in all areas of my life. Frankly, I am a natural born leader and a forward thinking kind of girl. I try not to look back in life with too many regrets and apparently this going backwards stuff while doing the waltz  didn’t leave me without regrets either.  I soon began to ask myself, “What am I doing here?”

Finally after being paired with so many different partners, I arrived back into B’s arms. It felt good and comforting to be held by someone so familiar and suddenly I found myself moving backwards with ease. In retrospect, I think it has something to do with trust and for those few moments I had an abundance of it as B waltzed me across the ancient hardwood floor.

I wish it was that easy in real life. It must be amazing to just let go and get swept up in the moment, gracefully put one foot in front of the other, and in time to whatever life throws your way. It must feel marvelous being able to trust your partner and to know without a doubt that they won’t bang you into any walls or waltz you right off the stage. To know that your back is covered and your feet are too. And it must be awesome to move with your partner to life’s beat without constraint and without a care in the world.

I hope dancing will teach me all of those things and more. I am even more hopeful that dancing will allow me to finally recognize something even more important:

That following doesn’t mean giving up the lead…it only means you’ll tread on fewer toes!

 

 

 

You Are Your Own Images

So yesterday I went to see my therapist and read her yesterday’s piece titled Parolee. She responded that the images we see in these scenes are all us and that we often put those images on our significant others. In other words, I am both the Parolee and the Parole Officer. And that the harsh officer in that scene… is really me… for I am so harsh with myself and my own worst critic. In addition, I am my own jailer and am angry at myself for being that.

This is going to take some time to digest but I think she may be on to something.

In the meantime my therapist has urged me to spend the next week writing positive pieces about myself and my life. No divorce pieces. No negativity. Just happiness, butterflies, and unicorns. So I have decided to try.

I hope I have the imagination and stomach for it. Hope you do too!

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Parolee

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Sometimes I this “maybe divorce” makes me feel like a convicted felon out on parol. It isn’t a comfortable feeling and makes me feel jumpy in my own skin. And if the truth be told sometimes I feel as if B is the Parol Officer which sometimes makes me resentful and angry at the system that I have allowed myself to be incarcerated within.

It must be hard for real life parolees. Living in the shadow of an officer who in the blink of an eye has the power and absolute authority to send them back to prison. One false move and their life changes whether they want it to or not. You can’t help but wonder if they are constantly looking behind them and in front, unable to live in the present, due to the stress of staying vigilant like I am. Not being able to let your guard down is a terrible way to live.

Frankly, I just want to be let out on good behavior. I have served my sentence and have made major changes in myself along the way and while serving this sentence has made me be more mindful and has helped me not to yell (which has been a good thing for both me and my family) I am tired of being under watch. I just want to be free to be me again without the fear of separation hanging over my head.

 

*After I wrote this piece I told B that this was how I was feeling. With tears in his eyes he said, “I’m sorry. That must feel awful to feel you are having to live that way.How can we change this?”

 

Shut Down

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I have noticed at the therapists office lately whenever I say something and the therapist asks how B feels about what I said, he replies “It makes me shut down when she says that, talks that way, responds that way, etc.” Frankly, its getting old. Put on your big boy jock strap and get over it for goodness sake!

You shut down years ago and now you use me as your excuse. You actually started shutting down when you were a kid. Now you are a middle aged man who is mad at himself for keeping in his feelings and not saying what was on your mind to your mother, to your family, and to me because we all “shut you down.”

But instead of being the scapegoat I think you need to put this one directly on your own shoulders for it seems to me that you “shut down” when you don’t want to deal with conflict or emotions or whenever something makes you uncomfortable.  You use “shut down” as an excuse to avoid…me, your feelings, or anything that makes you have to think in a way you do not want to. This then gives you the excuse to be righteous in your misplaced anger.

Your first response may be to shut down. You are not responsible for that first response but you are responsible for how long you choose to live with it.

So, in essence, shutting down is a really just a bad habit and it is a choice. Stop making that choice. PLEASE.