Congratulations Winner!

It’s funny. I have been thinking a lot about the last and only conversation I had with you (the five year mistress) since finding out about the affair. You know the one… during which my husband told you it was finally over while I listened and Skyped with the two of you… you being fully aware of my intrusive presence and witness to your heartbreak. During this conversation, with all the contempt you could muster, you said to me “Congratulations, Winner!” and over the last few months I have thought about this often.  This is because far from being “The Winner” I believe I have been the biggest loser of them all in this sick love triangle, except perhaps for my children who have lost their sense that the world is a safe place now and forevermore. And for that and that alone, I will never forgive you, try as I might and as a result, I end up hurting myself each and every day. For this sorrow, as we both know, only hurts me and doesn’t begin to touch you because you are not a part of their lives and you don’t have to bare witness to their pain.

Yes indeed, I may have my husband back but there are so many things I have lost forever or have yet to regain. I have lost my innocence regarding the 30+ year relationship I have had with my husband.  I lost the notion of true love and happily ever afters. And unfortunately, I have learned that the man I once trusted with my life is capable of deceitfulness and lies so deep that the Grand Canyon is not big enough to hold it all.

Sadly, I have lost all belief in myself: the idea that I can discern truth from fiction, that my perceptions are to be believed without question and that my feminist stance is a in-dwelling part of me which I honor no matter what. I have even been stripped of parts of my dignity. For those who know of the affair and the fact that I went back to a cheater, judge, I have somehow given up on my own sense of self, and my self- worth….and they pity me for it, thankful that they aren’t a spineless me. Yes, now I  have whole pieces of myself that have disappeared as I tried to preserve my children’s lives and my own no matter the cost to my own sanity and ego.

Further, where once I believed that my husband was incapable of  certain behaviors; I find he is capable of so much more than I could even conceive that it makes me feel emotionally unsafe. I may have him but I often feel alone as I wonder if he is still thinking of you when he closes his eyes while we are making love. I have lost my sense of joy and gratitude that I am alive because I no longer feel fully alive in this shell of myself which I now inhabit. A shell that my oldest son no longer talks to because he is angry at me as he feels I have turned my back on everything I have always professed that I am and he says I am no longer a role model for his daughter, a fact that may indeed be true. Now, the ground that once held the foundation of my marriage strong and steady is soiled and has turned to quicksand and what is left of the foundation is so unstable there are days that I don’t know if anything can be built on it to last no matter how hard we try.

But mostly what the two of you have taken from me is a sense of peace and all I am left with is an anger which rides a broomstick like a witch on Halloween. Here one minute, gone the next, casting spells and leaving behind ghosts which haunt me and rise suddenly out of nowhere their shadows throwing themselves throughout my life in the most unexpected places and ways. It’s the peace I miss the most. That sense of security which dwells inside your soul… quiet, restful, content contributing to a persistent belief in yourself and all you can accomplish. That stolen part of me hurts the most and at my age I worry that I will never find it again… keeping me in death tied to this thing I lost in life…forever searching and becoming a ghost myself. Oh, I do all the right things. I read the self-help books, I meditate daily, and  I try to practice forgiveness, but sadly, this sense of peace I once had is now elusive and I equate it to trying to find a lost diamond in the forest after you have walked a thousand miles. Although you re-trace your steps it is nowhere to be found. It’s the same with peace.

Even more bewildering than all this is that there are days that I still obsess about you, and while these obsessions are less frequent, they still interrupt me and my life at the most inconvient times. Like when I am finally finding peace in my husband’s arms, or while I am in the check out line at the grocery store, or while gassing up the car. Sadder still, I believe I think of you more than my husband thinks of you and it makes me scratch my head in wonder that you take up any single part of my day when you don’t deserve being thought of again for one measly nano second. And yet I do.  I resent that you now rent a room in my head when I never gave you permission to move in. I also find that when I think of you I find myself trying to I hate you, just so I can live with him. For the truth is that if I spent the amount of time thinking about what he did to me…to us…to our family,; then there are times I think that I could probably never live with him again. And so the blame lies solely at your feet.

Frankly, it would have been so much easier if you had been a six month affair. Easier still if you had lived down the block but being around the world made you that much more desirable because you were never put to the test, never had to live day in and out with this man or the chaos of our very complicated family. You never had to have a fight because he had to come home to his family or because he put us first. You never had to see us, husband and wife, laughing and joking together while walking down the street disturbing your sense of righteousness at saving B from the “awful” woman that he made you think I was. No, you never had to pick up my boys underwear, smell my husband’s farts in bed, iron his shirts or clean up after him. You got the fantasy relationship that I now dream of. That one that is free of complications because reality never actually touched it. Both of you were each others perfect fantasies because your relationship was just that…a fantastic dream. And therefore, the forbidden kisses you gave one another over the phone were sexier and more exciting than any I gave him. Nothing I did could bring satisfaction because you were mightier in his mind than I. And that mightiness overshadowed his “disappointing “real life with me which was all created in his own head to justify what he was doing and it was egged on by you. And as a result, during your “perfect” five years of Skyping, B got the perfect untested woman who would tell him whatever it was he wanted to hear, would listen and cluck with sympathy, all the while telling him all YOU would do for him once you took my place and how much you would appreciate him. Yes, you made him a King and he found wearing your crown was  quite addictive.

Sadly, it was not so much him you wanted but merely to take my life so that you could have my status, my home, my American passport and my “THINGS.”   I suppose the $50,000 he paid you for that three day fuck cemented that interest in obtaining my place in his life too. I am sure it gave you hope that you would be lifted out of a life of poverty and uncertainty because of “your” savior and our resources. And I have to say that I “get it.”  I understand why you betrayed me, the woman you had over for dinner with your family. You had hopes of permanently securing what you could only get in small very lucrative doses… freedom, security, citizenship, and “love.”

So, while you think I am the winner in this game I can assure you that I am not. No one wins in the game of adultery. Not one single soul. Our children lost big-time. They were hurt in so many ways and now wonder if their father is someone they can truly rely on to be there for them for the rest of their lives. You were hurt and I was hurt… both of us stripped of our dignity, left naked, exposed, and very much alone in an wasteland of empty emotions. I did nothing noble in fighting for B. If the truth be told, I was just a wife and mother who was trying to hold onto our family and our dream of what our life would look and be like all those years ago when we married. I was stubborn and petty and just angry enough not to let you “win.”

No, if there is a winner in all of this it would be B, the man who strung along two women, gave and with held his love as it suited him and who ate both from the plate of the secure and that of the fantasy. He got to feel undeserved admiration from the two of us, and your family, along with the rush that comes from being the prize. And he wasn’t left feeling “less than nothing” whereas the two women involved were.

So sleep well tonight knowing that you were not the “loser” and I the “winner.” This game of deceit and sacrifice did nothing for any of us except to line your pockets and to line B’s head with ideas of who and what he is not. And if adultery is the game for losers as I suspect it is, then the game becomes less about winning and more about just surviving. And all of us are now left just trying to survive the selfishness of two people who thought they had it all but in reality had nothing.

 

Radical Acceptance

I have been reading a book called Radical Acceptance-Embracing Your Life With The Heart of a Buddha by Tara Branch, Ph.D. It has amazed me.

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One of my issues over these last four years of heartbreak and betrayal has been resisting the experience I have had. I have wanted the situation to be something other than what it has been and have denied what was in front of me in order to give the benefit of the doubt or see B in the way he used to be but refused to view him for who he has become. I thought I was doing myself a favor trying to save my family the trauma of divorce when all I really did was just delay it.

And herein lies the problem. Resistance to what IS causes trouble for your body, heart and soul. It creates misery, health problems, and unnecessary suffering. It has made me physically ill. The last four years have probably taken ten years off my life and one reason centers around resisting what was in front of me instead of accepting what was. Given enough time I believed… I could change it…I could minimize it… and I could make B love me again…but of course, I couldn’t.

In her book, Branch advocates using guided meditation techniques and in this case something she calls exploring the POWER OF YES. During this exercise the author suggestions sitting in a quiet place, breathing deeply and closing your eyes. Then she asks you to bring to mind something in your life or a situation that produces strong reactions like sadness, anger or fear. She then asks you to access what it is about the situation that provokes the strongest feelings and be mindful of how that feeling feels in throughout your body…your chest or your stomach of any other place that you may feel tighten or get hard.

Then, and I quote from her book:

“In order to see firsthand what happens when you resist experience, begin experimenting with saying NO. As you connect with the pain you feel in the situation you have chosen, mentally direct a stream of no at the feelings….as you say no, notice what this resistance feels like in your body.” p87

So I followed her instructions  and immediately began to feel so stressed that I began to feel ill. My stomach clenched so hard that I felt nauseous. My head started pounding and my chest felt tight making the air flow to my lungs decrease. It was awful now that I was really paying attention to the reactions my feelings were provoking. How I had lived for all these years saying NO to my grief, NO to my anger and NO to my sadness? More importantly did I want to feel this NO for four more years, four more months, or even four more days? Obviously, the answer was NO.  Now that I was aware of and could really feel the impact that this denial or resistance to my emotions was having on my physical body I knew I could no longer live this way.

This now lead me to the second part of the authors meditation. After directing NO at your emotions she asks you to once again think about that painful situation and to remember the words, beliefs, and feelings that are associated with it. But this time stream the word YES. Say YES to the words, the thoughts and the beliefs that come forward.

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Upon doing this part of the mediation I immediately felt a shift… a lightness and lifting of the unpleasantness that I was feeling. My chest loosened, my nauseau disappeared and my mind became quiet… no longer racked in pain. And with this YES to the experience came an acceptance. It was not an acceptance that what B did to me was okay. It was an acceptance of this is what has happened. You can’t change it nor can you fight it and more importantly I didn’t need to rally against it anymore. As I allowed these non-judgmental YESES to come forth, I felt a release of some of the burdens, anger, anxiety and fears that I had been living with begin diminish as a gentle form of acceptance began to soothe those less than pleasant emotions. I found I could just BE and did not have to react both physically and mentally to all the emotions that I was feeling about the affair or my impending divorce. Finally, I felt a sense of peace.

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So this is how I start my day. Saying YES. Accepting what is. Finding understanding where I could not before and I feel good. My chronic pain has decreased and I find more joy. Sure I am still struggling but the struggle doesn’t defeat me. It has just become a small part of my life instead of the epic saga it once was. And for that I am thankful.

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Mish-Mash

Today’s post is going to be a little like how my brain is reacting these days…a total mish-mash of ideas, art, photos and whatever else happens to come along.

I wanted to share this from last year. It was taken near Yosemite National Park. Sometimes the majesty of a creature just stops you dead in your tracks.

In other areas of my life…my garden is just lovely. The hummingbirds are going crazy as the flit from flower to flower. While I love the flowers I have to confess I hate the weeding and unfortunately doing it in 90+ degree weather doesn’t motivate me in the least.

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In other news, I went to pick up one of my kids and saw this

A Ford Econoline Van. That sure brought back memories. The year was 1977 and my first husband and I were traveling across country from Florida to California. I was so young I didn’t drive yet so he did it all. Just as we crossed into Ca on a foggy mountain pass he started hallucinating due to lack of sleep. We were almost killed by a semi but it was enough for him to get his shit together and keep driving. These were my hippie days and I was with him for seven years.  Several years later I met B and that is when this oddessy of 31 + years of a marriage began and is now ending.

One thing: B and I sat down to discuss splitting our assets. He told me he will not be going to try to get his father’s inheritance returned to him and that we will split everything 50-50. I hope this is the one thing he is telling the truth about but I am reluctant to believe him after these four years of lies. Frankly, I don’t know if he even knows how to tell the truth anymore. Yesterday, I told him that after he moves out that we should maybe have one night as family night where we all get together and eat but other than that I am no longer feeding him. He is trying to stay close to me and I know that it is not in my best interest. Last night I said I was going for a walk and he asked to join me. I told him NO and that I thought it would be best if I began to not rely on his presence so much and that he didn’t need to call me during the day anymore either. I think it will be for the best but it seems to be hard for him to do…too bad.

This is my latest piece of artwork that I did for my therapist. I tell you I am amazed how doing this allows my feelings to be felt and bypass the possible sting of my words.

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And this I call temptation

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Well, that is it for today. Hope you have a great day filled with joy and many blessings.

 

 

 

How Can I Ever Trust Again?

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One of my biggest fears in regards to the end of my marriage is that I worry that I may never trust again. Frankly, I don’t even know how or where to begin to even attempt such a feat which feels on par with climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen. For up here in Betrayal Land the oxygen is so thin that my guts often feel as if they are on fire and an ever persistent stress headache looms as vast as when the wheels hit the ground in the Himalayan Mountains.

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t just betrayed in four major ways by my husband over the past several years…that alone I could probably deal with. No, I was also betrayed by:

  1. The mistress whose house I visited in Vietnam. I met her parents, siblings and had lunch with them. Upon returning home I sent her father books, I sent her money many times and I tried to find a way to get her father over here for a visit as he had been in Texas during the Vietnam War and wanted to return before he died.
  2. My husband’s sister who began her own relationship with the mistress. They emailed and she commented on mistress’ FB page telling her she was “So pretty.” This is a woman whose crack-head daughter came to live with me and i got her clean. The woman who I supported emotionally for years.

So two of the most important people in my life betrayed me and mistress’ whole family that I was trying to help. How does one get over that? EVER?

I have tried asking for help in forgiving. I have tried to let go of the hurts of the past year. I meditate. I read books about joy, letting go, and the like. I pray. I beg. I plead. I bargain….nothing helps.

For quite a while i was doing okay but in the last week I have gotten angry. I mean really angry and all of a sudden all these betrayals feel like I am dancing on hot coals…my feet and soul being scorched and burnt black as the earth itself. And with all that anger comes feels of disbelief and distrust that feels so vast, so tall, and so unending I do not know how I will ever cross it or get over it.

I want to trust again because I think it is so much healthier for you. Living in a cloud of distrust slowly strangles you. As a result our soul becomes parched and drier than the Sahara Desert until it is so dried out it just blows away like the dust that you have become.

I want to trust again. I want to trust men, women and most of all myself because with betrayal I have lost the ability to trust my own perceptions and all aspects of my reality. I have lost my ability to discern, to see clearly, and to read between the lines. I no longer trust what I see or feel is genuine or meaningful. I have become damaged in a way that I wonder if I can ever come back from. Does BETRAYAL=BLACK HOLE?

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I want to trust again and I know that it starts in some way with forgiveness…but how? How does one do it successfully and let go in ways that are not detrimental to oneself?

I wish I knew the answer.

 

Finding Positive Ways Of Letting Go Of My Marriage

No one said it would be easy letting go of a 30+ year marriage. It isn’t. It is fucking hard. The most difficult thing I have ever done.

B was my best friend.  We had a fabulous history for most of our marriage. He was the father of my children. A talented lover (I WILL take credit for training him well in that department)

I miss the closeness we once shared.  Not hearing his voice is a painful reminder of all that has gone wrong over the past several years. Not hearing his soft breath at night and and meditating with him in the morning are things that I hate about the rabbit hole that my life has slid down into.

Yet, I am trying to find the good in life and since this weekend was my birthday, coupled with the fact there was no where for him to go; I came to my sacred spot while he stayed in my home with the kids.. (Seriously, there is no place for him to go…remember the huge fire in November it left 40,000 people displaced…there is nothing to rent and housing prices have increased 40% since the fire in our area)

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So for the past few days I have spent walking the cliffs to the tune of 3-5 miles every morning. It has been a great way to clear the mind and see the beauty that life has to offer once again. And as I walk I work on letting go of this marriage of mine.

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One of the things I have been doing is to say a prayer or affirmation. It goes like this and is from Angela Montano’s course, 21 Days of Prayer To Change Your Life, found on the Daily OM.

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“I am willing, to be willing, to let go. And so it is. Amen.”

When I first started walking this is what I began with. After six days it has morphed into this:

“I am willing to let go of B and any illusions that I can control the outcome of this situation. And so it is. Amen.”

I must have said this 500 times and I can feel it making a change for the good in my brain. Letting Go doesn’t feel so scary or painful now. It feels empowering and gives me a sense of hope and relief.

Another thing I have been doing is leaving pieces of my relationship behind as I walk which looks like this:

 

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It helps to leave a tangible reminder of my grief and at the same time know that I am giving that past life/love and that grief  away.

I have also been working on my art. Frankly, I am a terrible artist but my therapist says it doesn’t matter…just get the images out…so I have. It is amazing how putting the images to paper helps to reduce the intensity of the emotions.x7RN2U48RBuX9NbMb0zXVA

So this is what I have been up to and it has calmed my soul while taking me slowly to a place of acceptance. I want to leave this marriage as I came to it: optimistic, excited … full of compassion and love.  While it was not my choice to end the marriage it is my choice how I choose to act as it enters its final lap.  Above all, I am trying to choose love. I am working on forgiveness and finding meaning in what I had and what I am left with . I don’t always succeed but I am trying. Thinking bitter thoughts will only poison my own well and when this ends I want to be able to drink clear, refreshing, life-giving water not something stagnant and polluted with negativity.

So, from you my dear reader, I could use a few positive thoughts sent my way in order help me feel the good vibes when the going gets rough. And thanks for hanging there in with me as my life as I have known it changes into something not yet revealed.

AH-HA MOMENTS

Last week I bought this sign for my kitchen.

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Today, that sign played out in my life as an all-too-rare “Ah-Ha Moment” and for that I am grateful.

It all started with a beautiful sunrise this morning which morphed into a cool afternoon devoid of rain. I decided to take a hike on one of the numerous trails that surround my home. It was a beautiful fall-like day with crisp-clean air, sweet dew laden grassy smells and wildlife galore.

 

After visiting “The Point” my son, Paul, and I started back up the trail. As we turned the corner near the visitors center where a few houses sit back of the path; I heard a Swoosh- followed by a rather loud SPLAT. Looking up I saw two 10-year-old boys lobbing lemons in my direction.

My first reaction was, “those little assholes. Why haven’t their parents taught them better.” That was obviously not the thoughts of the 70+ yo ladies who were heading up the path while I was going down.

“What was that?” the woman asked.

“Lemons,” I answered.

The woman looked over at the young lads and exclaimed loudly, “LEMONS!!!! I JUST LOVE LEMONS!!! CAN YOU THROW SOME MORE MY WAY?”

The boys looked at one another with a total look of surprise on their faces. Then they smiled and gently tossed more of the yellow fruit to the two old ladies who picked them up from the ground with the delight of 10 yo girls playing baseball on a summer’s afternoon.

AH-HA MOMENT…the sign…when life gives you lemons make something sweet…or funny… lighthearted and enjoyable. Why, I wondered, do I use the lemons life throws my way to leave a sour taste in my mouth instead of finding the sweet that is embedded in the moment? Why go to negative first instead of finding and embracing the positive? Why not ask, “Can you throw some more my way?” and be pleased to have them land at your feet?  Yes, I could definitely infuse many parts of my life with more sweet and less sour.

I thought about this as I walked home…tired but enlightened. And later, as I was munching on some of the best lemon bars I have ever made, I was grateful to realize that making something sweet was much more satisfying than being an old sourpuss.

 

…AND THAT’S OKAY…WORDS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

If you are like me, being non-judgmental towards yourself has probably been next to impossible for most of your life. If you are like me, I suspect you were often unable to rid yourself of those pesky “transgressions” that go unnoticed by others but somehow managed to become a spotlight on your “perceived” flaws…all 1,137 of them!

In the past, it didn’t seem to matter how full my day was, somehow I would find that the one thing I didn’t accomplish and it would rise to the top of my “why I am such a loser” list.. and once discovered…I would hang it out on the line for the world to see and judge. Unfortunately, for many of us, we fail to be kind and cut ourselves just a little slack.

So that’s why, when I saw this idea online, I swooned. Finally, a way out of my self-imposed “SHOULD’S” and onto a more carefree way of thinking.

It is my hope that you benefit from this wonderful phrase as much as I have. It might even be my next tattoo.

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Resisting Your Impulses

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Throughout my life I have gone through periods of impulsivity. During my teenage years impulsivity reined supreme as I cast off my life as a teenage daughter and tried on a new set of clothes as a 15-year-old “adult” making her own way through the world alone. Sure,  it all turned out okay in the end… BUT… was it the really the best way to go about things? Did impulsiveness help me to embrace myself and my talents, love myself more, while not inflicting unnecessary pain upon my soul as I journeyed? I suspect not. As the years have gone by, I have come to believe that there was a kinder gentler way of leading me towards myself and I suspect I would have found it sooner had I had been less impulsive.

During the past three years,  the “almost divorce” period, I found that impulsivity tried to rear its ugly head once again. Repeatedly.  My thoughts became dominated by:

  1. The things I should do
  2. How I SHOULD react
  3. What I needed to do to not look foolish to myself and others
  4. The steps I needed to take in order to “feel better” again (can you really in this type of situation?) and take back my life from a husband in the midst of a full-blown mid-life crisis.

Yet, ultimately what I discovered was that impulsivity did not allow me to “feel better” again. In fact, it produced the opposite effect. It created both physical and mental chaos. Slowly I came to comprehend that by acting impulsively instead of mindfully, I inflicted deep wounds upon my soul. Over time, I realized if I did not “rope it and rein it in” my suffering would increase exponentially, and God knows, I didn’t need anymore of that!

When I think back to the number of times I almost walked out or threw B out over the past three years…well, it was almost a daily occurrence. But thankfully, during these times I would hear my therapist reminding me (over and over again) how now was the time for mindfulness, discovery and curiosity. It was not a time for impulsivity.  She showed me how “sitting with things” and “seeing what comes naturally” instead of forcing things allowed me to examine my fears and act in ways that I am now extremely thankful for. This is true especially in regards to learning how to let fear pass through me without acting impulsively because of those real/or imagined doubts and anxieties that were hiding in my mental closet.

While I am still working diligently on seeing impulsivity for what it is and reacting appropriately; I have discovered that there is great power and joy in just letting sudden impulses pass by me without acting on them. By observing and not reacting to impulses, I don’t stop the flow of what I need to know from occurring naturally without the roadblocks that impulsivity puts in the way. I can truly say that I have found a greater sense of peace by not bending to fleeting/momentary “desires” or “fears” which I have discovered are actually often only transitory thoughts.  Dismissing impulsivity gives me the ability to postpone the immediate gratification of “action” and instead look ahead to find those things that fulfills me more or improve my life in ways I never dreamed possible had I given into the impulse.

In nine days it will be the one year anniversary of finding out about the affair. I am grateful that I have not let impulsivity direct these past 365 days.  For if it had I would be in a far different place than I am now and while things are not perfect they are much better than I imagined that they would ever have been just one short year ago.

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Scattered Thoughts On Older Age And Sex

Things are going fairly well at this end of the earth. We have re-settled after we evacuated from the Camp Fire and the Amaryllis has bloomed for the holidays.

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The past few weeks I’ve been painting and wrapped more presents than I care to remember.

The new “Happy Holiday” 2 seater hot tub came. Getting that tub up the back stairs was a bit daunting but now our backs are loving the warm water and our muscles thank us everyday. Of course, falling down said stairs did make the hot tub a mandatory requirement at least until the bruises disappear.

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Funny thing about that 2 seater…it reminds me of the first indication that B was beginning to have a mid-life crisis…a two seater sports car that mysteriously appeared in our garage. From there it progressed to the affair. I think I will make the lock downs on the hot tub so tight that only I can open them…a chastity belt for the hot tub.

Today I went to the doctor and found out I am a walking heart attack waiting to happen. My cholesterol is a whopping 303 and the bad is steady 224. I think it is time to have DNR tattooed to my chest. The doc is putting me on meds and suggests I go vegan. Oh and there was also that…” let’s get a thumb wrap for that appendage, let’s up the thyroid meds and maybe you should start running…you are going to need a new knee soon anyway so why don’t you just blow out the one that you have got!”

Years ago I was a vegetarian. I baked my own bread twice a week and grew my own food. My hippie years were healthy and carefree…getting old is a bitch. I wish I could say I walked 30+ years ago in a pot induced haze but I can’t… I opted for the love-ins instead. I think I may have gotten it wrong.. that too much sex and too little drugs thing… because at this point in my life it has reversed and frankly doctor induced “old age” drugs are a lot more concerning than a joint. I think the more sex and less drugs of my younger years was a much better option than what is available to me today. Now I am left to only dream of those good times…when I can remember them at all.

One of my adult children is urging me to try cannabis gummies to mellow me out in my old age. I have to admit that I have considered it but I am afraid that I might never get off the sofa if I did. Also, I have never been one for marijuana…it always made me paranoid and after B’s affair and feeling like I was crazy for those three years I am not sure that being anything less than fully present would be a good thing for me. There is nothing enduring about paranoid.

Yesterday as I was returning home I listened to a podcast which encouraged each person listening to celebrate and create for themselves a designated Day Of Compassion. This means waking up with intension of showing compassion and helping others whenever the opportunity presents itself or creating those opportunities throughout the day yourself. Doing things like thanking the woman who cleans the restrooms and telling her how much it means to you to know that when you use the bathroom you can always count on it being clean and fresh thanks to her hard work. Buying a McDonald’s food card for the person on the street so you know that they have something warm in their stomach. Noticing and commenting to your husband and kids when they help you or others. Just being there for someone in need no matter how big and small.  So I have decided to schedule my Compassion Day for January 3. I will let you know what discoveries I make and what opportunities presented themselves.

 

And…The First Fire-Related Lawsuit Is Filed. Compassion Is Needed.

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Tonight six more individuals were added to the list one never wants to be on…deceased. Dead due to a fast burning out of control wildfire. This brings the number killed to 48 with hundreds still missing. It is a sad day for our state but especially for the towns of Paradise and Concow where most of the victims resided.

Paradise is not a compact city. There were many folks living down miles and miles of long country roads. People spread out far and wide surrounded by tinder dry forests. As I read over the list of the missing I couldn’t help but notice that about 90% of them were over 70 years-old. Grandparents who couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t drive, or maybe even hear any warnings that might have come their way.

Tonight it was also announced that the very first lawsuit was filed in court with the fire still raging and fault not yet determined by fire investigators.  The defendant in the lawsuit is PG&E, the local electrical utility. Right before the fire became an inferno, the utility emailed an individual requesting access to their property as the PG&E’s transmission wire was sparking. This is most likely just the beginning of a long list of suits that will surely follow.

While I realize that many will want to see someone held responsible for the deadliest fire in California history; I am hoping people will not turn on those who did their best during a chaotic situation…the first responders. Having lived through several emergencies, I can only believe that everyone did their best to save lives while a fire was swallowing up land the size of 8 football fields every minute. With hot embers flying through the air driven by radically changing winds which were being pushed faster than a person can drive, it seems to me that to try to point fingers is a game in futility and one that degrades our collective humanity. Yes, looking back we always find things that could have been done better and faster but when calamity strikes we all do what we can and  we do what we can to the best of our ability and with the knowledge we have at the time.

Unfortunately, we all have noble ideas of how we THINK we would react in certain situations, often playing those scenarios out in our minds at different points in our lives. But life isn’t that simple. We often find in an emergency that our previously good ideas no longer work. Trees fall, lines are long, folks stay behind for one last thing, we fail to heed the warnings soon enough or we don’t have enough gas in our car.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there will many people who will go to their graves second guessing themselves for failing to act in ways that were impossible to implement when there are so many lives to save in a cataclysmic event. It is truly one of those moments that you can never totally prepare for. The notions and ideas that survivors had about themselves and how they would react in life changing events can often snare them. Then the “if only’s” may begin to slowly eat away at them until they are but shells of their former selves.

I hope this does not happen. I hope people will look at one another and not point fingers but will show compassion and understanding. Perhaps one of the greatest things folks can do for themselves and others in this type of situation  is to stop, breathe, and say:

“I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.”

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The “end” of an emergency is really just the “beginning” of a new normal. It isn’t easy. Anger appears out of nowhere and despair can rob us of moments we formally enjoyed. Yet, compassion and forgiveness (a blame free environment) can go a long way towards bringing a community back together and re-building it in such a way that it creates a long-lasting atmosphere of vibrancy, restoration, and love. May everyone impacted by this fire remember that blame creates suffering which only causes further suffering for ourselves. And may those involved look for the best in each and every person and not assume the worst; so that seeds of compassion planted now will flourish in the future creating Paradise once again in this amazing mountain town.

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View of the area around my home