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.

Empathy and Tattoos

 

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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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Letting Yourself Alone Or Self-Acceptance

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I sometimes wonder why it takes so long for most of us to get to the place where we just let ourselves alone in peace. Finally, we get to the place were we no longer pick ourselves apart, engage in negative self-talk, worry so much about what others think, or put so much emphasis on “what we should be” but instead accept ourselves for just what/who we really are.

I don’t know if it takes age to know you are tired of feeling crappy about yourself or if it is finally coming to an understanding that you are done with letting others treat you in ways that you don’t deserve. I am unsure if it is a greater self awareness or just the desire to experience positive change that finally allows us to say ENOUGH! I WANT MORE! I DESERVE MORE! But I do know that as I get closer to 60 that I have come to realize exactly that…that accepting myself is one of the most important things that I can do before I punch out on life’s time clock for the final time.

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Acceptance. It’s easy to say we should accept ourselves…yet it’s hard to put that belief into practice. But I am finally learning that self acceptance involves being realistic about my good qualities and playing them up. It means giving those best parts of me the respect that they deserve. By honoring them and giving these positive attributes the opportunity to expand and grow, it is making me a better friend to myself and a better person in general.

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Acceptance also means that I reexamine my “flaws” by asking myself how they have helped me in the past. Then I look for ways to challenge my old notions and accept those parts of myself that I am less than comfortable with by giving them the opportunity to change and not by regulating them to a distant corner of my life. I let these “fixers” out so that others can see them and help me find the good in them too. Just like I accept my friends good and bad qualities it was wonderful when I began to grant that same grace to myself. Sometimes I find it helps to ask myself “Would I say to a friend what I am saying to myself? ” If the answer is no, I try to gently remind myself that negativity directed inward is not helpful, and then I find something positive to focus on instead. This is exactly how a good friend would act… they would talk you up not down. I deserve nothing less.

Another thing that has come to the forefront for me is that the concept that “Trying” to accept myself will not work. That is like “trying” to diet…I will fail miserably. It is only when I practice “seeing” myself with kindness and compassion that self acceptance can occur. And then, finally, one day I suddenly realized that my “bad” parts were okay and I finally embraced them.

Rituals can help promote self acceptance. Every morning I have taken to looking in the mirror and saying out loud, “You are wonderful just the way you are.” Somehow putting those words out in the universe makes me accountable to them and encourages me to find small ways throughout the day that make that statement true.

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I wish self acceptance came easier. I wish it came earlier. I envy those for whom self acceptance is just a natural part of their being. Yet, I am glad that this feeling of acceptance is working itself into my life now. I enjoy the freedom it brings. Freedom from pain. Freedom from so many worries. Freedom to be myself. But instead of concentrating on the “I should haves” I am now just being thankful for the “better late than nevers” no matter when they are discovered and put into practice in my life.

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The Year In Pictures

So another year is coming to an end. Frankly, it has been the worst year of my life. So much change and pain…The coming to light of my husband’s three year affair, the “almost” divorce, the loss of a job, a big move and how that impacts autistic kids, selling our house, the development of PTSD due to B’s affair, the big fire and evacuation…anyone of these are considered top stressors but they arrived on my doorstep all within the year of 2018… resulting in the death of one life and the re-birth of another.  Yet, there are now rays of light shining throughout my life because with truth instead of deception (B’s) comes the ability to re-build, allows for understanding and growth. Our six kids are happy and healthy as are our grandkids and really… you can’t ask for more than that!

So as crappy as this year has been, in ways, it has been one of great personal development for me and for that I am thankful. I am making a conscious effort not to induce further suffering…mine or contributing to others. With age comes…well, heck…I have no idea what comes…except wrinkles. Hard to believe that sometime within the next three years I will be 60. Where has the time gone?

Up until now, I have never shared a picture of myself as I have always felt the need to protect my family from the gritty-ness and pain of this blog. But with the filters available today, I decided to post one picture of myself because, well, it doesn’t look like me!

May everyone have a glorious 2019. May we each find peace, joy and love in our everyday lives as well as the time to contemplate whatever it is that needs to be “looked” at. And like a good egg, may we gently break open to get to the yolk of our lives! Amen!

One Man’s Obsessions Are Another Man’s Quirks

For the past six months Andre has decided that he will only wear the color blue in a particular hue. Heaven forbid, the shade may not be a Navy blue, dark blue-gray or even Robin’s egg blue. No, Andre’s blue has to be bright, brilliant, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. So today while I was waiting to pay for Andre’s all things blue, the clerk chuckled: “You’ve certainly got a lot of blue there!”

“It’s for my son,” I said with a sigh. “I wish I could get him into something else.”

“Is blue the only color that your son will wear?” asked a 50-ish man dressed from head to toe in black waiting for the clerk to locate something for him.

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“Well blue is his favorite and, yes, it is the only color he will wear. Why do you ask?”

“Sounds to me as if he has OCD,” said the man with a gentle smile.

“Do you know someone with OCD?” I inquire.

“I have it,” the man in black says with a grin. “If you notice I am dressed in all black from my head to my toes. Once in a while I will throw in some gray but for the most part black is what you would see me in every day of my life. In fact, people keep trying to get me to wear color ALL THE TIME.  Friends and relatives keep giving me shirts that are bright red or green but in all honesty they go to the nearest thrift store without ever being worn.”

“Why is that? Why does color bother you so?”

“It isn’t the color per se, it is that I know that in order to keep my anxiety down, black is what I need to wear. If I wore blue I would obsess that I was wearing blue all day long. I might feel itchy because I was so uncomfortable. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on much of anything except the fact that I was wearing a blue shirt. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I think I am beginning to.”

“Think about it this way. Let’s pretend that you see a gorgeous pair of shoes that you have always wanted. An outrageously expensive pair of Jimmy Choo’s. The only catch is that in order to have them you have to wear those Jimmy Choo’s 8 hours a day… and they are two sizes too small. How would that work for you? Sure for the first five minutes you might be happy with them but as your toes began to rub together and cramp pretty soon you wouldn’t be thinking about how glamorous the shoes were instead you would begin to spend your time obsessing about how much your feet hurt. The next morning the thought of putting on those shoes would probably be almost unbearable and the closer the time came to put them on the more your anxiety would rise just thinking about having to put them on. So the question is, why would you start your day full of anxiety when there is no need to do so? Instead, you just go find a pair of comfortable shoes and suddenly both your physical and emotional selves are soothed. That is how it works for me. It is silly for me to try to wear something that is going to totally mess up my day and make it impossible to get anything done due to my obsessing about it.  Who cares if I wear black everyday and why should it matter to anyone else if I do so anyway?”

“Thank you,” I tell him. “You have given me some valuable insight into my son and what you have said makes total sense. You have scratched out another line on THE LIST OF THINGS I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IN LIFE and for that I will always be grateful.”

At that moment the clerk called the man over. He had been on the phone searching for a particular pair of black shoes for the man and had found them.

“How many pairs do you want?”

“Five”

As I turned and walked away it was then that I noticed…the man wore black sandals out of which popped his painted black toe nails.

“Why black,” I wondered. “Why not brown, or yellow or green? And as I walked back to the car I began obsessing about…why, blue not black or, why, yellow and not green? And that’s when it hit me….none of it mattered…. and neither did Andre’s blue shirts. All that mattered was the I continue to try to seek and relate to Andre in ways that acknowledged the uniqueness of who he is and that I continue to honor those things that made him feel comfortable in his own skin. For in the end the why’s really just don’t matter.

Last night I walked into Andre’s room and headed to his closet.

“What are you doing mom?”

“I getting rid all of your shirts that are not blue. No sense in filling you closet with them is there? We both know you won’t wear them anyway, right?”

“Yep”

“Okay, well if you ever decide you want to wear another color let me know, okay?”

“Sure mom. And thanks for doing this. I feel like you really heard me and even better you showed me that you did. Who cares if I don’t wear red, yellow or green. Who cares?”

Indeed.

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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Amen!

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Just Relax And Enjoy It

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Last night I had a real honest to goodness date. I had my hair done earlier in the day and was dressed to kill. I had butterflies that were flitting here and there within my innards and I even wore eye liner. From my head to my toes; I looked hot for a woman of my age.

The date was with B. I was worried that things would be strained and that the only thing we would find to talk about would be the kids. I also wondered if I would need to have a drink to loosen up because I didn’t know if I could do what my therapist instructed… ‘Don’t project. Don’t think about motivations.  Don’t over-analyze. Just live in the moment and see and feel what is in front of you. Just enjoy what there is to enjoy and let the other stuff go.”

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We drove to a little French restaurant another town over. The weekend clarinet player was doing his thing and the vibes going around the room were cool and groovy with a dash of sexy thrown in. Good clarinet music is almost as magical as sax if the musician knows the right mix “Give it to me baby,” songs and this dude was at the top of his game. This backdrop set the stage for a lovely evening of laughter, flirtation and lightness. It was the kind of night that second dates are made of.

After dinner we drove to a little massage place that we love. It’s cheap…$19 for a half-hour and you keep your clothes on. Okay, the soft touch is missing but the crunching of bones isn’t. By the time we walked out of there I felt like I had been run over by a truck and a massive headache had quickly overtaken me. That demure little masseuse definitely had the whole whooshie finger thing going on.

It was a lovely evening full of everything that makes a date special, yet, I have no illusions. I am no Cinderella and B is no Prince Charming. But it was nice to laugh, find some common ground, share memories, and just enjoy ourselves without all the anxiety that sometimes interjects itself when you are working to better your marriage and yourself at the same time.

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Maybe we will make it to a second date or maybe we won’t. But one thing I do know is just sitting with the moments and recognizing what is good is a much better way to live than analyzing what isn’t. Being mindful of living in the present and letting go of the past made our date as close to perfect as it is ever going to get, and today, that is good enough for me.

So be it!

 

 

 

Living With Joy

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The last couple of weeks have been busier than usual. These days I find that I practically live in my car which is why I would love to have an old VW bus to decorate to my heart’s content as a travel around the world each year. Between school car pools, sports carpools, and the like, I put over 50,000 miles on my vehicle last year and I am going to be putting on more this coming year. Why? My new “job.”

My son, West, says I cannot call it a “job” since it is a volunteer position.

“Not the same as a real job Mom!” he exclaims.

I beg to disagree.

I have started working for an end-of-life provider. My job is to go visit people, spend time with them, read to them, do dishes…whatever makes their lives a little more comfortable. This is right up my alley.

Many years ago when I worked in a long-term ventilator care unit I spent time with the dying. I thought there was nothing more tragic than dying alone so when I knew someone was on their way out I used to spend time with them so when they crossed over they were not all by themselves. We don’t come into the world alone and I don’t think we should go out of it alone either. Just my humble opinion.

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Admittedly, I will probably not be with any of my new friends when they die. But I hope that I can make them laugh a little, help them cry a little, or tell their life stories if that is what they need to do. I am fine with it all and I am exciting for this chance to give of myself in whatever way is needed.

This week has also brought our family to its knees. My sweet niece (I’ll call her Sally) is an amazing woman married to a wonderful man (I’ll call him Joe). They have four young children. This holiday weekend Joe was seriously injured in an accident and has been designated an Asia B in regards to paralysis. This morning he is once again in surgery his second in three days. It brings home the fact that life as we know it is often fleeting and can change in an instant. It reminds me that those I love are so much more important than the everyday irritations that life brings our way. Irritations that distract us and take up time best spend on other things like the people that bring meaning to our lives.

Think of this… if you live to be 80 years old that would be a life span of 960 months or about 29,000 days long. For me, that means if I am lucky, I have a little less than 8,500 days left on this earth.  When I can see the “actual”  number of days I have left suddenly it seems like a shockingly brief period of time. And when I think back to the number of days that have been spent worrying about things that never came to pass I cringe. Life was never meant to be a struggle yet so many of us live like that is all it us.  Struggle is what Joe is facing. Everyday ordinary life is not a struggle for most people in the United States.

So today, lets all try to live our lives joyously, whole heartedly and with gladness in our souls. Let’s tell our loved ones why we are proud of them and what we love about them. And lets all try to make a difference rather it be big or small. For life is meant to be lived fully and when we practice living fully we find happiness within ourselves… Amen to that!

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