Who Are You And What Do You Stand For?

I could write something profound and meaningful about the question of who are you and what do you stand for. Always an important question in my book but one I will leave for others to debate. Today, I want to ask you the questions in regards to art. Precisely, designing your own coat of arms.

Several weeks ago I wrote about how my therapist has been encouraging me to paint. I am not good at it but I am finding that it is getting those “after his affair/almost divorce” feelings exposed in a way that is finally helping me to examine them and let them go. Who knew?

Unknown

This week I decided to take on a new project. I am designing my own coat of arms. I was inspired to do so, believe it or not, because of Meghan Markel and her now husband, Prince Harry. Seems that when they married they needed to have a coat of arms designed for their household. A big task to say the least. It is said that Meghan took great pains to make sure that emblem represented who she is and where she came from. As such, California figured predominately. First, she incorporated the state’s flower, the California poppy. In addition, the blue background on the shield represents the Pacific Ocean and the yellow rays across it come from “The Sunshine State” logo.  She also acknowledged her own power of communication through the open beak of the song bird and the quill.

Coat of Arms

In designing my own pennon, I have looked hard at myself. Who am I? What do I believe? What do I love? What represents my authentic self? And for the past week I have been designing my crest.  I am not ready to share yet but I will share with you some of the symbolism that I have incorporated.

  1. The first thing you would notice on my coat of arms is the Phoenix rising which signifies that I have arisen from the flames a winner having beaten life’s challenges and defeating the hard times. It is a concrete symbol of my rebirth as a person, female, wife and mother. Around the neck of the Phoenix is a heart with a number in the center which is meaningful to me.
  2. Instead of a traditional crest I have used an open book with symbols of what I believe contained within the pages. This works because I am an open book and share openly and freely. I also love to read and write.
  3. Within the pages of the book is the earth meaning I am a traveler and a person who sees all people as being in and on this planet together. There is also a musical note…self explanatory. The scale of justice sits high upon the crest because of my believe that we are the same and therefore the scales should be balanced for all equally. A pen representing my writing career also has its place. A symbol of Korea is also represented since the country has played such a major role in my life. And there is a very large ? showing that I am a seeker as well as a person who questions everything.

Needless to say, designing this coat of arms has been an interesting process. It has helped me clarify some things and made me look hard at what I value. Further, I have tried to approach this design as my 26th Grandfather must have approached his. Seven hundred years later his crest still stands embedded within the doorway outside of his castle reminding all that enter what his life stood for. I want my coat of arms to be the same… a testament to my great-grandchildren of just who I was and what I stood for.

Unknown-1

My 26th Great Grandfather’s Coat Of Arms At Craigmillar Castle

A Little Art Therapy

About a month ago my very bossy therapist (LMAO)  encouraged me to start painting. She wanted to see what emotions would emerge on paper, the colors I used, and the feelings I could name for what I drew.

“HOLD ON THERE, ” I thought. “I can’t even draw stick figures.” And so, like most things my therapist suggests, I resisted. I mean, writing comes easily but drawing….NEVER. And if I was going to invest in something; I wanted to do something I would excel at. The truth was if I couldn’t be Rembrandt I wanted no part of it. Yet, since my therapist is Miss All-Knowing, I decided to take her cue and give it a try.

Frankly, I was surprised what emerged from my hand onto the paper. The first pictures screamed in rage but as I drew I found that anger lessening with each picture. Those pictures that I was unable to express the images I felt … I found them, copied them, and then added to them to make them my own. They are rough, scary, beautiful…all of what my heart and soul has experienced during the past three  traumatic years.

And here is the funny thing. When I first started drawing I found I could not leave the words out of the pictures. Since I write professionally, I guess it should come as no surprise that words gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity that was hard to walk away from. But Miss All-Knowing insisted that I take the words out so I could no longer hide behind those words. What a struggle that turned out to be!

As much as I hate to admit it, doing all this artwork is producing a change in myself. I feel more at peace and my anger/pain has diminished.  Although I will never be a great artist there are several things that I have learned about the similarities between art and life in these few short weeks as I have explored this unused side of me and what I have discovered is this:

  1. The fewer words you use; the less explaining you have to do.
  2. Getting “stuck” in life or in art curtails the creative process. Just keep on forging ahead even though nothing fruitful appears to be emerging..
  3. Art, like life, is meant to be fun. Don’t take it all so seriously.
  4. Chances are, the more you try to fix, something the bigger mess you will end up with.
  5. Almost nothing turns out the way you expected when you first started your masterpiece.
  6. If you go with the flow and just let the colors end up where they are supposed to you will cut down considerably on your stress.
  7. Life, like paint, is meant to be free flowing, not stagnant.
  8. Leave your painting/emotions alone and come back to them later. Often you will see things in a different light later on.
  9. Less is often better in painting and in life.
  10. Trying to control all aspects of your life and your creation will often result in untold and needless suffering.
  11. Do anything enough and you will get better at it whether it be artwork or improved communication.
  12. Shut up and let your actions/work speak for themselves.
  13. Trying too hard is just as detrimental as not trying hard enough.
  14. In life as in art; have no expectations about the results.

Funny thing. While I am still not crazy about drawing and the like I have developed enough of an interest that I have found the need to learn a few of the “how to’s” of painting..  And so this weekend I attended my first water color class. While I am unsure whether this turn of events is due to the curiosity factor or my foolish need for “perfection” I am unsure; but either way I find I am enriching myself and growing beyond the artificial borders that I once set for myself… and what more could you ask of yourself?

IMG_6735

IMG_6734

IMG_6733

IMG_6732

 

Self-Improvement

images

Several weeks ago an older woman walked up to me and told me that she really liked how I talked to my son. I was shocked because I did not feel that I had done a good enough job to merit that type of praise. In fact, as I often do, I felt as though I had “kind-of-sort-of failed” in my response.

Later as I reflected on the moment I thought, ” Why, if a stranger can be so kind to me, then why is it so difficult for me to be kind to myself? Why do I seem to negate recognizing the good that I do each day? Why is it I always feel the need to do better?”

As I have contemplated this the last several weeks I have realized that I often end my day examining those things that I feel I have failed or done a less than spectacular job at according to some invisible standards I hold for myself. And so, I have been contemplating and asking myself: where did these standards even come from and what makes me give them the validation that they so often don’t deserve?

In response to this, I have begun a nightly ritual in an effort to change this part of my life. Upon laying down in bed at night, I hug myself tight, and make a mental list of all the things I did right that day and if I am in doubt about one of them I give myself a win anyway. At the end of this recap I am write down the improvements I have seen in myself as a way to encourage myself as I take this journey through life. I give myself the chance to see the positive through a lens of critical assessment that I have lived with for a very long time. At times, It has been difficult to see positive change because I am so used to being harsh with myself, but little by little, even though I may fall short of my “invisible standards;” I am finding instances in which I deserve my own pat on the back even though I have not behaved perfectly. And I find, that when I wake in the morning I seem to be much more optimistic than I had previously been.

Often newly married couples are given the advice not to go to bed mad at each other because it leaves a sour taste in your mouth the next morning. The same could be said of ourselves. Going to bed with negative thoughts begets negativity in the morning. So try noticing your good points and successes throughout the day and run through the list before retiring for the night. You might just find you sleep sounder and wake up feeling refreshed.

images-1

So Be It …I Found Happiness

After all that has happened in my life I decided I needed to take a break from blogging. I needed to center myself and become really grounded so I could do the work that I needed to do.

The first thing I did (we did) was move. That said, the new house is in my name only and is not part of community property. I felt I needed to do this to protect myself and my children should B go off the rails again. It makes me feel secure and I am proud of myself for insisting on this safety measure.  I also put some other measures into place that has ensured that I am taking care of myself and kids.  All in all a good deal and I came out ahead of being divorced. A 30+ year marriage is not something I wanted to leave behind especially with the dynamics of our family. Besides I do still love the big lug and I know he loves me regardless of the past. Doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dorie but it does mean we are both still trying and that is something!

Needless to say, moving involves a lot of change which all have managed fairly seamlessly and with a few tears. Change is hard but also it shows you what you are made of. It offers new possibilities and allows everyone to “reinvent” themselves to some extent. Honestly, reinventing your life reveals surprises that you never considered before and I welcome them with open arms. Come on world…show me what you’ve got!

I have been working hard with my therapist’s help to decide who I want to be and what I want from these coming “golden” years. Not there yet but getting close so it is time for me to plan. I feel stronger and more confident now and am able to go with the flow without anxiety. I am settling into myself and it feels wonderful like a warm sweater on a crisp fall day.

I am enjoying making this house my home and am happy that our old house just sold. Good riddance to the pain and sadness that I felt in that house.  I am infusing my life and likes into every corner of the soul of this place. I am putting in a garden again and even though the “dirt” is hardpan clay and rock upon rock, I find a wield a pickax with the best of them.

The wildlife is expansive. Deer take bread from our hands. Fox run amuck. Opposum waddle through. And the skunks reek havoc. The first week we were here, the dog, who was protecting our son, grabbed a skunk by its tail and shook it, twirled it around and around and then threw it against the stone wall. Needless to say the entire time he did this he was being sprayed. Then he was bitten by it after cornering it. We tried everything to get rid of the stench but even 5 weeks later there is a slight after-smell on our brave pooch.

I have been stringing up hummingbird feeders and I now have great friends who visit everyday. In the morning when I water, these mystical creatures stand behind the spray so now they are getting a daily shower. I never knew you could see joy on a hummingbird’s face but I swear you can!

Our relationship is much better. Sitting on the deck watching the sunrise over the mountains together drinking coffee helps. So does watching the boats ply the waters, laying in a two person hammock and taking time to explore this new land around us together. Less stress also has contributed to a greater sense of well-being.

One of the things that I have decided to do as an act of faith in my relationship is not blog about it anymore. I have so many more wonderful things to write about…so why beat and dead horse to death. I want more positive vibes in my life and in order to have them my mind has to be in a place that welcomes and honors them. Talking about my “almost divorce” only serves to fixate me on the past and does not allow for me to be open to a future full of promise. And at this point in my life I want to be open to everything that might come to me.

So I leave you with one of my feathered friends enjoying a shower. (Okay…I haven’t figured out how to do that yet! Some other time!)

Peace to all.

 

Envision

images-5

Tomorrow starts Gracie’s 5th competitive diving season. This afternoon, B took her to down to the city where it is being held. She competes at 8 a.m. which, if you ask me, is an ungodly hour to expect anyone to do anything well… especially a sport. Heck, I can’t even root her on before nine because the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet.

This year Gracie moved up a level and she is getting to be at the top of her division. Only one level to go and she goes into elite. At 13 yo it is a heavy load to carry. She goes to school all day, the final bell rings at 3:15 p.m. and by 4 p.m. she is in the pool working until 8 p.m. five days per week.  But she loves it. Added bonus: I consider it good birth control….there are no boys around this little lady EVER.

images-8

I rarely go to watch her workout anymore. The dives she is doing scare me and I’ve noticed that the kids who cry and get upset all the time are the ones whose mothers are always there watching.  I believe that she doesn’t need the added pressure of doing good for her mom. I want her to do good for herself. That is enough. And if she’s off… who cares… in a week we won’t even remember her scores. This is my part of her sport…trying to walk the line between letting her know that I care but that it is never the end of the world if you struggle or end up last. Sometimes you just do what you do for the fun of it and because YOU LOVE to do it. That has worth in of itself.

Tomorrow Gracie will compete doing a dive that has been giving her a lot of trouble lately. Before she left with her dad I reminded her to ENVISION herself doing the dive perfectly and to BELIEVE that she will do it. I will call her in the morning and play the song from ROCKY (Fly) which is a tradition in which she rolls her eyes and says “please, not again.” That is what I will miss seeing. And then whatever happens will happen. It is all good. Either way she gains confidence, learns to strive for what she wants and starts to trust herself which will carry over for the rest of her life.

images-7

So…. GO, GRACIE, GO! Envision! Believe! And go for it! You have nothing to lose. In my book you are hard-working, dedicated young lady and I will always be proud of you no matter how you do!

Love,

Your Number One Fan (who is already missing you!)

 

P.S. She earned a 1st place, a 2nd place and a 7th. She amazes me!

 

 

 

Pain In The Neck

images-3

For about 25 years I have lived with chronic pain in my back and neck. It was the result of two on the job injuries one of which involved trying to catch and patient and his ventilator as he began falling off a gurney on the way to the shower. This was followed two weeks before or later (I no longer remember) when I caught an old lady who was going down on the floor. Several years later I was in a car accident. All of this has added up to chronic pain in my neck, shoulders, and back. If I don’t go crazy the pain/spasms are manageable but certain things set me off like repetitive bending and sitting for long periods of time. After all these years I have gotten pretty good at knowing where I can go and what I can do without setting myself up for painful back spasms.

Recently, my primary care physician sent me to a doctor who specializes in pain management. He is a nice guy who listens well and treats his patients with care. I had a workup and in the end he thought it would be helpful to have injections in my trigger points to break them up and hopefully provide some relief to the pain. I had had those same injections soon after the original injury and I passed out cold in the doctor’s office so I wasn’t looking forward to the procedure. In fact, I have been dreading it.

Well, today was the day and luckily it wasn’t as bad as it had been previously. I had ten shots in my neck/shoulders and while it made me woozy I am happy to report I remained upright and conscious the entire time!

I am now home with a massive headache and a lot of hope that this treatment will help decrease the chronic pain that I have endured for so long. Living with chronic pain has affected my life in so many ways. It has made me tired, grumpy, and hesitant to do/try things. It has made me uptight and has decreased my self-confidence. Usually I have managed to keep my discomfort under wraps so as not to burden others but not always. Sometimes I just got grumpy with those who love me the most and I am sure it contributed to my “maybe divorce.” I also believe that it is the root cause of my fibromyalgia.

images-1

Happily, today, I truly believe that this time the injections will help. Like so many things going on in my life at this particular point and time, I expect to have a fundamental shift in how I interact with those around me and in how I treat myself if I can decrease or eliminate this pain. I am excited and am blessed that I live in a country in which this option is available to me and I can hardly wait to jump for joy again as chronic pain becomes a distant memory.

Reminder: If a loved one suffers from chronic pain…believe them when they say they are hurting and lighten their load if you can. Until you have endured you will not understand how daily doses of pain effect you and your family. Be kind, be patient, be gentle and ask what you can do to help. Who knows, someday the table may be turned and you will want the support that someone who has lived lived with chronic pain because they will understand what you need and will be there for you. Indeed, what goes around come around!

images-4

 

Out With The Old (2017) And In With The New!!! Or Get Me The Fuck Out Of This Crappy Year!!! Or Celebrate Change!!!

th-1

In many ways, this past year has been one of the toughest of my life. It has been a year of sorrow and heartbreak as I watched my 30+ year marriage hang by a thread only to snap in December. But it has also been a year of tremendous growth as I have learned to sit with things longer before reacting, have found joy in places that were once unavailable to me, and I have located pieces of myself again which I thought were gone forever. Good and valuable pieces that I am proud of and am grateful to have re-captured in a slightly different form.

This past year I have walked down paths and met new friends who have been there for me while I cried on their shoulders. I discovered amazing people who have given me wisdom through new perspectives and helped me to realize that there is renewal in letting go and giving up so that future growth can occur.

My children have given me courage and a dogged determination to act in ways I once never dreamed possible. I have learned to appreciate them in a new light and with a sense of gratefulness that has brought joy to my spirit and wisdom to my soul.

Seeking peace has become a way of life and a way of viewing a future that is full of possibility and excitement while negative self-talk is becoming a slightly more distant phenomenon. I am trying, as I go into 2018, to avoid turmoil… self and otherwise so that anxiety is no longer walking in the shadows along side of me as I journey through the end of this life as I know it and the beginnings of a new life that I am about to confront head on.

th-2

The changing relationship with my husband has shown me that pushing my own agenda is like walking through a land mine and that sometimes you just have to stand still until the bombs can be diffused. It has taught me that people change in ways you once never imagined and that their changes are THEIR changes and you don’t have to take them on as YOUR OWN. I also learned and am working on the idea that his changes and dislikes may have little to do with me in all actuality so that disappointment I have felt in myself may well have been misplaced.

I have also realized (after spending time in a sauna yesterday) that even skinny 65 yo women’s bodies look old and that acceptance and making peace with my less-than-perfect body will probably bring me a sense of freedom that has eluded me for years.

As I march into 2018, head held high, I thank you for putting up with my confusion and bull shit for these past several years.  Thank you for your wisdom, knowledge, and loving support. I know in real-life some of us could be best friends and leave our mark upon the world together though I think we might need the name of a bail bondsman handy!

I wish for all of you joy and wisdom in the coming year. Dance, dammit, dance…. preferably under the stars. Do something tough and do something you love often. Read tons of good books. Dream more. Eat more chocolate and take more time for yourself. Visit a place you have never been and kiss those you love more often. For those who suffer from chronic pain may it ebb. And lets try to remember that we never know just how much time we have on this earth so let’s all vow to use ours wisely.

And finally, may child-like Trump and childish Kim Jong-un not one up each another in a fit of spoilt “my dick is bigger than yours” and blow up the entire world just because they can.

26219410_1866445866781792_3085676911892973328_n

Amen!

th-4

 

 

Empathy and Tattoos

So yesterday I went and got my tattoo. Yes, it seems even strange to me the person who said she would never deface her body and here I am at 57 yo getting my first. I have to tell you that it felt great! A way of taking back myself and giving a gift to myself in the form of myself.. My authentic self. The tattoo is a message to myself.  It is a reminder of the way I hope to carry myself and to act throughout this process of separation and divorce. I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in the bathroom looking in the mirror trying to instill these words into action. 

I put a lot of thought into where I wanted it placed. It is very small and very personal to me. So I put it right below my shoulder where I have to make a conscious effort to see it. Without further ado:

25550164_10155062862126516_3912669759152172591_n

 I suspect there are times I will fail mightily as I try to maintain and even grow my dignity and grace, but somehow I also suspect that in just knowing it is there, like a ghost following behind my well-worn path; it will serve me well.
I did think that this thought from Thich Nhat Hanh might be a good alternative to DIGNITY & GRACE…but it was just too long and I am just too chicken…so I leave you with his lovely words.

 

Empathy

Visiting With Ghosts

“I’m not being bossy, I’m just telling you what to do,” says my husband.

As you can imagine these are not the choicest of words to say to your wife or any other woman who is over 30.

Years ago I would have told this man where to shove it if those words were said to me. Today, it is more complicated…kids, a 30+ year history together, mortgages…and then there is the sex which has always been divine.  So what does one say when the man you have admired more than anyone in the world hits his 50’s, goes through male menopause, and suddenly becomes someone you no longer know. Somehow…”SCREW YOU ASSHOLE”… no longer feels like an option when you are trying to become your best self and live in a more authentic and pleasant sort of way.

But enough of that.

Today, I was sitting inside when I suddenly heard the roar of B’s hedger. I decided to go out and help him because his back has been hurting.  Upon arriving outside I find B taking it to the rose buses with blades the size of a helicopter and my beloved pink agastache already mowed almost to the ground.

“What are you doing?”

“The trick or treaters won’t be able to make it up the walk. Had to make room for them.”

“B, those were precious to me. I work hard to have a beautiful yard. Why don’t you honor what I do and how hard I work?”

“There you go again. I can’t do anything right.”

And with that we were off. He went his way thinking his wife is a bitch and I went back into the house fuming while feeling what I do is devalued. As I crossed over the threshold it occurred to me that I could be right and I could feel miffed… or… I could have peace. Which did I want? It was a no-brainer. Outside I went.

“B… we need to talk. I came outside to help you so you don’t have to bend over”

“I’m busy. I’ve been working all day. I don’t need your help.”

“Honey, I am done with this old pattern of relating. I say something and you respond that you can never do anything right. Then we both go off into our corners with our invisible boxing gloves on. It is time to do something different.”

He looks at me suspiciously.

“Look,” he says “The kids can’t go up our sidewalk without running into our bushes.”

“I understand that now but didn’t realize it was that much of a problem. But instead of destroying what I worked so hard to create it would be helpful if you would come to me and state your concern about the kids. Then you could say, “Honey, I am going to cut the agastache down if you don’t come out and take care of them your way.” That way I am responsible for what happens. Not you. And I get to do things in the manner I choose; in a way that preserves my plants and my dignity.”

“I didn’t mow them all down…”

“Honey, lets just agree to disagree and try harder not to do the same dance which gets us nowhere. Right now, I am choosing not to be right at all costs. Instead, I am choosing to create peace.”

Later, we went to the pumpkin patch with the kids. We all know that they are getting too old for this folderol but it is a tradition…something to hold onto when so many things are up in the air and our relationship is hanging like grapes on the vine. As we entered the farm, I reflected on our “Days From The Past” and I remembered the happiness our family had experienced here. I harkened back to the times when I saw B in a kinder, gentler sort of light and felt a soft glow surround my heart.

I suspect that sometimes this is what is needed…reminders of times gone right. Those moments in our lives when our joy outweighed our sorrows and fits of laughter outnumbered our tears. Days filled with pumpkins, sunflowers, corn mazes and a frosted cup of apple cider. Maybe these are the things we all need to sustain us when things in our lives morph into things we no longer recognize.

IMG_9948

So this Halloween, instead of paying attention to the ghosts of the present who rattle their chains in an effort to be heard; I think I shall visit with the ghosts of the past to gain a new perspective and appreciation for what was and could possibly be again.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Set oven to 350. Clean pumpkin seeds. Mix with melted butter, dark cherry vinegar, garlic salt, and rosemary. Roast for 25 minutes.

IMG_9959

 

 

Acceptance Or I Need More Gray

download

This week I walked into my therapists office and told her that for this session I wanted her to pick a topic I needed to address and that I had been avoiding. A topic that would help me look at things from a different perspective and encourage personal growth.  Being that my therapist and I have been in contact with each other almost every week since “I Think I Might Want A Divorce Day” two years ago; I figured whatever she said would be something that I could easily wrap my brain around. I should have known better. What she chose was the notion of acceptance and opening my door wider to welcome it into my life. That BITCH (I say that with all the love in the world directed to her)

She began by stating that I needed to accept the distance that I feel with B so that I can create my own stability. It doesn’t mean I have to like it but that I need to acknowledge that it is what is true right now, and while my expectations of two years ago did not pan out, there is value in seeing what is in front of you and not trying to challenge or change it all the time. And what I discovered throughout this talk is this:  I truly have difficulty with the concept of acceptance, let alone the actions, that must accompany it.

Unfortunately, for me, I realized that acceptance means defeat. It means surrender and laying down. It means something “bad” vs. something “good.” And therein lies the problem said therapist tells me.  Acceptance is just a thing and I don’t need to assign value to it, like “good” vs. “bad.”  It is just what is. Nothing less and nothing more. According to her this either/or thinking complicates my life and does not allow for the possibility of acceptance. In fact, according to her I need more gray areas in my life and not as many absolutes and right vs. wrongs. Furthermore, this lack of acceptance on my part effects my relationships and I need to question whether this is where I want my resources to go. Is fighting acceptance worth it? she asks.

UGHHHH

So my assignment is to work on acceptance by just seeing all that is around me and not assigning meaning to it. She challenges me to acknowledge that by labeling these past two years as an exceedingly crappy set of circumstances (something “bad”) it means that I am giving up on seeing further possibility through letting go and experiencing all the gifts that acceptance brings with it. So I am giving this acceptance thing a try, while secretly hoping, that one of those gifts turns out to be a vintage VW bus.

download-2