Ying/Yang… Life Flows

Good and bad. Joy and sorrow. It often seems as if one goes with the other. One minute you are at the pinnacle looking down into life’s pleasant valley and the next minute you find yourself on a frantic ride down the slopes of hell into the snowy abyss.

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That sums up my life this past week.

The joys: A new grandson was born this week. I was suppose to be there but he made his debut a little early so I am here now, in the south, getting my grandma fill. You forget how little but mighty newborns are. All it takes is one little squeak and the world comes running to their beck and call. Oh, the power they wield is immense. Of course,  when you are that small there are the people who are content to just hold you all day long as they stare into your soft innocent face and say silent prayers for your safety as you begin your life journey. So my, Grandson, as I have held you today, these are the thoughts that have been running through my mind as I contemplate all that I hope for you.

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May your life be not too easy that you never know the satisfaction of a job well done but never too hard that you are weary. May you be honest with others but mostly with yourself because it causes the least amount of pain in life when you can do your life’s work from a place of clarity about who you are and what you want. I hope that you explore and find great adventures in the little things. Yet, I hope that you are not afraid to take those big chances in life that bring the vast emotional rewards that promote faith in yourself  coupling themselves with an “I CAN DO IT”  attitude. Further, I hope you realize that even if everything doesn’t turn out the way you planned that you quickly come to the conclusion that it is not the end of the world.

My Dear One: please go outside and spend time admiring the handiwork of Mother Nature instead of sitting indoors playing with electronics. The beauty you see will still your soul. Try your best. Be a good friend, Promote good. Look for opportunities to help others which, in the end, will only end up helping your self. Take time out everyday for giving thanks and expressing gratitude. Don’t yell. Take time to meditate or pray…whichever trips your trigger. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cut yourself some slack when need be but don’t give yourself so much rope that you hang yourself with it. Try your best. Smile, then, smile some more.  Belly laugh often and so hard that you almost wet your pants…but not quite. (now that is a fine line to walk) Treat women well and with respect…opening the door for them is a lost art but practice it anyway. Listen instead of talking and then think before you speak…if you can manage to do these two things you will go far indeed. Finally, know that your parents and your grandparents are there for you and that we will always be your biggest fans. And if you are ever in trouble…don’t be afraid to call. For our love for you is steady and can weather whatever storms come your way. We are your rocks and your mooring as you sail down your chosen path. We will always be there for you.

On sorrow: Last week I told B that I was concerned that we were backsliding on the promises we made about spending quality time together and honoring our relationship by going out on date nights together.  I suggested that if he truly felt our relationship was important he would do something about it because it was time he stepped up and showed me that…. ME or that WE as a couple…. are of the utmost importance to him and I was tired of doing all of the care taking of this union.  And so, on Thursday, he informed me that he had made dinner reservations to be followed by tickets to the ballet and asked if I would like to go on a date with him. My heart leaped with joy…he had listened but more importantly he had acted.

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The big night arrived and I got all dressed up. Frankly, this almost 60 yo body was rockin’ it.  As we were driving downtown, I received all call from my real estate agent. When I saw her number I was giddy.

“Finally,” I thought, “I had an offer.”

My excitement was short-lived. Instead, she was calling to inform me that the inside of my house had been flooded when the sump pump failed. All of the carpet would need to be removed, along with the cabinets and built-in bookcases. And god only knows what else would be needed to be done. As difficult as it was to digest this news I decided to try to put on a happy face for our date. After all, the damage was already done and there was nothing I could do from 1,800 miles away.

At this point I am unsure if my insurance will cover the damage which may cost upward of $50,000 to fix. Needless to say, this has been difficult to contemplate as I look at having to sink my retirement money into fixing a home that I had no plans of keeping.  And then of course, I begin to doubt my decisions…”If I hadn’t gone to Texas I would have been there and none of this would have happened.”

You know, the kind of thoughts that get you no where really fast and are totally counterproductive.

Yet, through all this disappointment and despair, a sense of unexpected healing has occurred. It happened the day after I received the bad news. If you have been reading this blog you know that this house is mine as a result of the ALMOST DIVORCE and as I result I, alone, am responsible for its upkeep and expenses. Frankly, the possible enormity of the costs of repair could wipe me out. And yet…as I sat quietly with my thoughts churning, my husband.. the former.cheater B… reached out to me and said, “if you need money to fix the house you can use the money in in rental account or I can give you mine. After all, its only money.”

And with those words, I finally felt my heart shift and move towards his. Finally, it felt as if he had my back. Finally, it felt as if he was in it for the long haul and as if he wanted to do what he could to make things right.

Tears filled my eyes as I told him, “No, it is my responsibility but your offer means the world to me.”

And it does. Because the offer he made was more than economic. It was from the heart. A heart that he had closed off from mine when he started the affair and kept it closed for five long years in order to justify it. And now, it felt as if he was finally opening it up again to me. It felt like finding that one small perfect present under the Christmas tree that you didn’t know was there…. and even better….it has your name on it. And inside you find a promise ring wrapped up in all the hopes and dreams that you share for the future. A symbol of the all possibility of good to come. Perhaps, even the start of true forgiveness which as seemed so elusive this time around.

Yes, this year Christmas has come early for me. It may not be a perfect one but it is damn close. Because, in all honesty, it isn’t the tons of tinsel and glitter that make the holidays bright. It is really all about your attitude and how you CHOOSE to perceive things. And this holiday season I choose to be grateful for the abundance that I have been blessed with and not to worry about those things over which I have no control. For a sense of peace has descended upon me and it feels damn good.

OIP

 

 

The War Of Words

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Recently, I have been thinking back to the days when the boys were young. Those were the days and many of them I would never like to repeat. They were stressful with meltdowns and words that took a cruel aim to the heart.

“I hate you” “I wish you were not my mom” “You’re a whiney little jerk” “Mom, he called me a butt.” Those kinds of things. Normal, yes, but the frequency at our house was 100 times what was normal. It was exhausting.

I remember at one point trying to get the boys to think before they said something. Hard to do when you are seven and in the heat of the moment. Hard for me to do now at 55+ and if I am honest; I have never been a model for saying quiet well-thought-out words.

During these early days of chaotic boyhood, a friend once  told me what she asked her kids when the War of Words was going on. I thought it was genius and wished I had done more of it as they grew up. She would ask her kids:

Is what you said kind?

Is what you said helpful?

Is what you said loving?

Often times just by asking these questions I found I could bring a temporary respite to all the chaos. It was a blessing. It taught my kids that words have meaning and repercussions too.

Recently, I was thinking back to those times and I decided that those questions of yesteryear were valuable not just for kids but for me too and I have been trying to be mindful before I speak by asking myself these questions before spouting off. I have also added two other questions to ask myself before responding to others:

Is what I am about to say true?

What is my motivation (honest) for saying what is on my mind?

Admittedly, it is hard for me to remember to ask myself these questions before talking. Often, I fall far short of where I would like to be. But usually, if I just pause before speaking, I can do a quick inventory in my head of the answers to these questions and decide whether my response is:

True

Honest

Loving

Kind

Helpful

 

If what I am about to say is not any of the above; I am trying to learn to shut my mouth and keep it that way. As a person who has shot from the hip most of her life this is a real learning experience for me. A challenge akin to climbing Mt. Everest. It is not easy. It takes a little bit of awareness and planning. But every time I succeed in being mindful I know I am getting to be one step closer to the person I want to be which gives me hope that maybe one day before I die I will master this ability to speak mindfully and to shut my mouth when needed. But somehow I suspect that it might take my deathbed to figure it all out if even then. Yet, I keep trying because I know for the sanity of all involved that when I am kind, loving, honest, helpful, and true I give the best of myself to those who deserve only the best of me.

Amen (so be it)

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Kindness

I saw a THOUGHT today that made me think.

What I saw reminded me to “Be Kinder Than You Have To.”

Wow! Did that struck a chord with me and it got me thinking. How does one Be Kinder Than They Have To?  Are there minimum levels of kindness that are expected? Is there a norm of kindness? Is there a minimum number of times per day that kindness is expected of us? Do we look for it or does it find us? Is kindness based on the intent of the giver or on the perception of the receiver?

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And what does kindness entail, anyway? Is it looking out for “the other” and putting them before yourself? Does it mean handing over your money to someone who needs it more than you do? Maybe it is just recognizing the deeds of others and commenting on them. Or does it mean choosing your words carefully or holding your tongue to the point that it bleeds?

The dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It sounds as good a place to start as any. For me, the being friendly and generous parts are much easier than the considerate aspect. More often than I would like, my voice rings with harshness, or I flip off the driver who cut me off. I slam the phone down on the teller marketer who has disrupted my day for the fourth time instead of just saying “no thank you.” Yes, that being considerate aspect to life is going to get me turned away from the pearly gates without a doubt.

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In an effort to honor the idea of Being Kinder Than You Have To I decided to give myself a reminder list of things that I could do on a regular basis that just might embody that philosophy. Here goes:

  1. Instead of just tipping the restroom attendant also tell her that her bathroom must be the cleanest in the entire city and just how much you appreciate being able to plop your butt down on a seat so clean you could eat off of it.
  2. Keep McDonalds gift cards in your wallet and hand them out to those in need.
  3. Ask your elderly neighbor if there is anything you can do for them
  4. Send your kids teachers a card telling them how much you appreciate what they do for your child.
  5. Spend a couple of hours volunteering at a place that needs one-on-one interaction
  6. The next time someone cuts you off get out of your car and hand them a McDonalds card instead of giving them the finger.
  7. Do your kids chore
  8. Give your spouse a massage.
  9. Give a bigger tip than your server deserved.
  10. Feed the parking meters of others
  11. Bye a big bouquet of flowers and hand stems out to strangers
  12. Shovel your neighbors driveway
  13. Send a text to a loved one giving them an example of why you appreciate them instead of just telling them that you love them
  14. Write a REAL letter instead of sending a text or email. It is something they can hold in their hands and look at when they are feeling down
  15. Hand out balloons to strangers just because you can
  16. Throw out a little extra birdseed to our feathered friends
  17. Each day message a different friend you have on Facebook and tell them what you like about them
  18. Go through and label all those people in the zillion pictures that you have. Believe me your relatives will appreciate it in the future and will nominate you for sainthood.
  19. The next kid who passes you on the street…give him a buck.
  20. Practice biting your tongue two or three times a day.
  21. Make your spouses favorite dinner
  22. When sending your loved ones out into the cold cruel world instead of just saying have a good day go over and give them a big long hug,
  23. Pick up someone else’s litter
  24. Give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you do
  25. A heartfelt smile can do wonders for someone’s soul
  26. Let that mother with the three out of control kids go ahead of you in the checkout line. She just wants to get home and put the little boogers to bed.
  27. Pray for someone if you are so inclined
  28. Put a thank-you note on someone’s car.
  29. Pay for the person’s coffee behind you
  30. Say something nice to the person in the wheelchair
  31. Talk to someone who doesn’t look the least bit like you
  32. Forgive someone and let them know it

 

So there you go. A list to promote kindness is born and in doing so it is my hope that all of us will be reminded to BE KINDER THAN YOU HAVE TO at least once per day. Just imagine if everyone did that what a truly different and exciting place this world would be!

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Regrets

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption-Sinatra

Throughout my life I have tried to live a life of few regrets. In some regards I have succeeded spectacularily and in other aspects I have failed miserably. But since I have the immense need to make amends and dispense advice before I board that plane for China on Monday; I have decided to inform my children what my biggest regret in the world is with the hope that they will try to do better for themselves than I was able to do for myself.

Regrets are tricky things. If you are fearful, regrets are often too few because you never have taken yourself out of your comfort zone enough to do much of anything that might cause you distress or regret. In fact, often your regret is that you had no regrets because you played it safe. On the other hand, going off pell-mell-willy-nilly without thinking things through, well, in the worse case it can lead to tragic results. Yet, in the best of instances in can involve seeing your name in the police blotter of your local paper for something people will talk about long after you are dead and gone. Personally, I think it is prudent to shoot for the notorious remembrances that don’t involve jail cells or lawyers.

It often takes chutzpah to admit your failures and gain insight on how you might do better in the future which is exactly what a regret should serve to do. It takes more than brutal honesty to dig deep to examine your shortfalls. It often takes courage and really listening to the people you love the most as they dish about what they love about you the least.  And so in that spirit I have decided to share my biggest regret which is this… that I have not been as GENTLE as I wish I had been during the days I have walked this earth.

Frankly…I wish I had been more gentle with my words, more gentle with the tone of my voice, and gentler when giving advice. I wish I would have been more gentle by holding my tongue, gentler in my touch, and that I would have been softer with my facial expressions. I wish I would have provided more plentiful and gentle/nurturing hugs, held my children more tenderly than I did, and that I would have gently laid down the law without malice or anger. I wish my first reaction to that first spark of anger would have been one of gentle compassion to myself and the other involved by refusing to allow the spark to turn into a bonfire and by allowing myself to listen in the hopes of greater understanding. I wish I would have understood that there are so many things that you will be remembered for throughout your life and I wish I would have appreciated the fact that if you are living well that the best thing people can remember you for your gentle/loving nature.

One of the gentlest individuals I can think of is Mr. Rogers. He once said, “I’m convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings–ways that don’t hurt them or anyone else–we’re helping to make our world a safer, better place.”  I wish I had taken these words to heart when I first starting raising children. Had I understood that my reactions set the stage for my children’s reactions now and in the future, I’d like to think I would have taken the time to develop gentleness and all it entails. I also think it would have been awesome to have really understood that to help our children deal with their feelings we have to be gentle with our own. I wish I had known that way back then too.

Gentleness is important. It is a calming influence. Gentleness is merciful, compassionate and kind. It is also wise, dignified and considerate.

Perhaps Max Lucado describes gentleness best when he says “I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.”

Gentleness…its something we could all use a little more of as we go about our busy lives. Perhaps in practicing it we can become it. That is my wish.

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