Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: August, 2015

Let the smoke clear

The smoke has cleared. Huge, gray rain clouds coasted in and forced the smoke into submission. Now, the clouds hover overhead threatening to let loose again. All are holding their breath in anticipation, we need the rain.

Years ago, someone close to me was seeing a counselor. At one of their sessions, they talked about feeling low and sad. The counselor provided a different perspective (I don’t remember her exact words but I’ll give it a whirl) something to the effect….lows are just as normal as highs but most of us believe we will always feel “good”, “content”, “happy” and if we don’t, we worry there is something wrong with us. On a normal day, and with a normal low — yes, try to ascertain what triggered the low — then let yourself feel it. Maybe you’ll cry, maybe you’ll get angry or more sad but then let it go. Move on. Don’t ruminate too much over the reason and don’t berate yourself for having a low moment.

Of course, long term depression will require more effort and time to sort through. But most of us do have those days where sudden sadness swoops in and it is almost unexplainable. Of course, there is a thought or memory that has been triggered by another thought or memory. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a smell, a sound, a song. Most of us have learned to bury those feelings – don’t let them take hold. They won’t stay buried. I’ve realized that, for me, the act of trying to keep them at bay is what drags me down the most.

Let the rain clear the smoke. Then, let the puddles dry. When you can see across the valley clearly, then you can move.


Just blather

What is there to fear? Why are you thinking of running and hiding? Where is this coming from?

Worry, loss, lack of direction. We all need something to do and a reason to do it, some sense of accomplishment.

In truth, this isn’t caused by being retired, it is exacerbated by it. The job I retired from was not a “career”, it was a way to have an income. It has been a very long time since I’ve felt like I was actually accomplishing something. I’ve known for a long time that I needed to find something to do with myself that I could feel good about, give me some kind of satisfaction. It was difficult to attempt while I was working, all energy was depleted by work. I now have the time and I need to get myself moving. The direction is my choice. Why do I suddenly feel as though I am in quick sand?

Perhaps it wasn’t the job that was holding me back. (Although, it was not a very healthy work environment!)

Get up. Move. Open your passageways. You can’t run forever. And why would you?

My birthday

Today is my 57th birthday. Weird. I don’t feel 57, I feel more like 50. I’ve read a lot of motivational books (self-help sounds lame) about aging, emptynesting, finding your passion, being strong but not cranky, letting go of the beauty myth, and vaginal dryness. (Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention!) I can say that while I miss my 25 year old body, I would never go back to that period of time in my life. I do enjoy this “age” – even with the dryness, hairloss and sagging, bagging and dragging. Those of you who are in the same age range can probably relate – it feels good to have the confidence and knowledge we didn’t have in our 20’s, doesn’t it?

What do I want for the coming year of my life?

  • Continued good health
  • Time with friends (especially my sister)
  • Time with kids and grandkids
  • Learn more about technology without getting so frustrated and feeling so inept!
  • Find peace in visiting with my mother
  • Walk and write as often as possible

All doable – yes?

And here are some observations from me from recent weeks…
When you go to a funeral, wear something nice even if no one else does. You’re being reverent for the family, no matter what.
If you speak at a funeral, speak clearly and briefly.
Take a breath before you react and remember to check your body language. Sometimes silence is the strongest response.
Not everyone is how they appear – we all have active (and sometimes unconscious) defense mechanisms. Try not to take things personally.
Every contact with family is important – no matter how small. Touch.


The cursor has been hovering over the “buy” button – waiting for that gentle click – for the third time in two days.  The little girl is sitting at the computer staring at the screen – her knees are knobby with scabs from a recent clumsy fall, her hair is cut short for convenience and hasn’t yet been combed for the day, her skin is pale and chalky.  She is wearing an old hand-me-down sweater and socks with no elastic, one is gathered at the arch of her foot.  She is nervously rocking in the chair – should she?

It is a goodly sum of money to spend on such frivolity and with nothing to actually show for it?

Simple, one click – “BUY” – enter the credit card number.  Tada! You are now a member of an online writing class.  EGAD!  Then you will actually have to write! Not only that, someone will be reading your writing!  What if what you write is fodder?  What if you have a sudden, unexplained writing block?  What if everyone else in the class writes really good stuff? What if you can’t figure out google group?

Click. Just click. Something is holding me back. Oh wait, it’s me.

What does she see?

She sits on a little bench just inside the door. I wish I could watch her when she doesn’t know I’m there. Does she talk to people or just watch them? Does she ask any questions or only respond to them?

On this day, when she sees me, she says, “My daughter!” I join her on the bench and tell her about my visit to the beach with my grandsons. She responds with an appropriate, “Is that right…” It takes all of two minutes for me to run through my news and I can tell that she is glazing over so I start asking simple questions. She suddenly says she doesn’t know when lunch will be served. I ask her if she is hungry but she doesn’t know.

We walked very slowly to her room. I had to search for things to talk about – but in honesty, that is how our relationship has always been. It is much harder now because I am carrying the full conversation. There is no gossip for her to share.

We visit her and wonder – what is she thinking? Is she frightened? Does she wonder where we are or why we haven’t visited? Is she angry, sad, lost or aware?

As I watch the other residents – I can see that they are all in the same boat, just at different levels. Some of them are better able to communicate and some are more mobile, some just sleep most of the day. My mom cannot communicate. She will start a sentence but not be able to finish it. You can try to guess what she wants to say but it ends up being futile. She eventually gives up and you must too.

I don’t believe she sits in that place wondering where we are – at least not for any length of time. She may have fleeting memories or moments but they fade fairly quickly. I do think she wonders what she is doing there and what is going on around her – she has asked as much. But she asked the same questions when she was at home.

Trying to look at it through her eyes makes it more tolerable and less disconcerting. She is glad to see someone she recognizes, to hear a familiar voice. That is all that really matters. She isn’t counting the number of times you visit or tracking the amount of time you stay. She no longer sees the flaws in anything. She sees this moment in time and so should we.

Lip prints on the monitor…

Yes, I was happy to see my computer this morning! I have an iPad but just can’t write as comfortably. I also have a really handy-dandy little journal with accompanying pen – but I was on vacation with family – two happy little grandchildren – who has time to write? Funny though, I did miss it…

After spending a week near the beach – eating good food, having fun walks, good conversations, playing in the sand and water with the grandson’s – I am ready to come home and rest. I made lots of observations and plan to get back to daily writing. I do find joy and solace in writing even if it is writing about something minor and inconsequential.

I miss the boys – I thought I heard little Charlie’s voice this morning! We had a great time playing and hugging. He can’t talk yet but he understands and he is so cuddly! Not just in the morning but all day long! Jack is 3 going on 7. He knows lots of fun facts about the ocean and science. And he is a great storyteller.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – if I could, I would have all of my grandsons (thereby my children) living within a 30 minute drive so that I could stop by for just 30 minutes, talk to them, give them an altoid and a kiss and be on my way. Or take them to the park to swing. Or to the creek to wade in the cold water. Or bring them home with me to visit and bake cookies. (I could also take my daughters/sons out for coffee or lunch or to the movies). I wouldn’t be overbearing, I promise…

But, alas, that is not to be so. I’m grateful for photos, videos, phone calls and quick texts. Thank goodness for technology.

When my husband retired, we took our children and their significant others on a cruise. We knew that it would be our one chance to ALL go together before everyone got married and got busy with their jobs. Since then, we’ve talked about all of us getting together again and that was our original plan for the trip to the beach: rent a big house and have everyone converge and spend some time with all of us under one roof. Unfortunately, life got in the way. Not everyone could get away from work or travel this far. Maybe next year, or the year after…

As a parent of adult children, you eventually have no choice but to accept that you take what you can get. Sometimes, you get to see all of them together at the same time, sometimes you get to see them in shifts. That’s just the way it is.

If one wants to look at it in a positive light – I am very proud of all of them living their own lives. They don’t really need me – and they aren’t supposed to, at this point. This is the circle of life – everything the light touches – oh wait, that’s the Lion King….iksnay on the upidsday (you had to be there).

Say it

Finding your voice. That is the hardest thing. It isn’t just about saying what you feel, it is about knowing what you feel. Over the course of our lifetimes, we are encouraged NOT to feel. Don’t worry about it, don’t cry, try not to think about it, don’t make a fuss.

Finding our voice is complicated by many factors. I always tout the saying, “Say what you mean and mean what you say” but that isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most of us are taught to consider the feelings of others. We also have to consider the outcome of the situation if we say what we really mean. We’ve learned to gentrify our statements. We also choose our battles in order to keep peace and avoid conflict, no matter how small. Eventually, our voice becomes a whisper.

This is what we glean from society and our culture. Be nice and everyone will like you. Those of us who work, don’t want to sound bitchy or be a prick (depending on your gender). In relationships, we don’t want to be the nagging spouse. In general, we all have a desire for calm, smooth sailing in every arena. Unfortunately, the end result is that we lose our voice. We suppress it to the point of not having an opinion of our own – not being able to make a decision. We relinquish our vote on all matters, large and small.

None of us likes to do this. It doesn’t feel right and makes us feel sad. Eventually we realize that in an effort to make things run smoothly and not cause a ripple, we have totally emptied the water from the pool. We either become resentful or we become complacent.

The good news? It is never too late to start re-filling the pool. It takes practice to use your voice again. Use phrases that begin with I – I want, I prefer, I would rather, I understand, I disagree, I agree. Take time to think about things that require an opinion or a decision. If you aren’t sure – don’t just concede, take the time to consider. If you disagree, don’t just relent. State your case. A little ripple can be a good thing.

We can have a strong opinion, we can express opposition to an idea, we can refuse a proposed plan. We can say what we mean and mean what we say – flower it up any way you like – but say it and mean it.

Do overs

I would never want to go back and re-live my entire life but if there were certain periods that I could do over without changing the outcome of other periods…I would go back to my college years. Naturally, I would take the knowledge I currently possess and I would choose a course of study that I find fascinating at this moment. (I mean, if I’m dreaming, may as well be specific with dream requirements!)

**As a sidebar, let me reiterate that I love my life. I wouldn’t change it – I have a wonderful husband and four marvelous, smart, attractive children. I know that I am where I am BECAUSE of the life I’ve lived and the choices I’ve made.

I was so young and naïve when I went to college. I’m sure we can all say that about ourselves. I attended a small teaching college, even though I had no interest in becoming a teacher. I was only interested in playing basketball and the assistant coach of the football team, who once coached and taught at my high school, was encouraging me to try out for the girls basketball team. My mom filled out the paperwork, I got a couple of grants and I was off to parts unknown, all by myself, scared shitless.

Initially, I took the usual general courses and made the basketball team. The classes weren’t difficult and it was fun being out on my own. I could eat what I wanted, sleep when I wanted and just come and go as I pleased. Amazing. The only thing that was missing was a goal, a purpose – a final destination. I didn’t really believe in myself, I had no concept of my own potential. Nothing grabbed my interest, I did not apply myself and my GPA showed it.

This was the late 70’s. I hate to admit it but my goal was to meet a man to marry. In my mind, it didn’t matter if I got a degree because I would just be staying home and raising kids anyway. Perhaps, if I went back for a do-over, I should go back a little farther to assure that the little girl in me learned there were other possibilities and that she was capable of so much more.

If by some strange miracle, I could go to school today – with the knowledge I possess and not change any other life outcomes, I would take women’s studies. I would become a consultant/speaker and do presentations for women about women. Important topics like teaching young girls to be strong and not so damn mean; to believe in themselves; to live up to their potential; how to find a voice in a world where only deep voices are usually heard. So much has changed in our world since my younger days but we still have a long way to go. I would love to be the voice that I never heard when I was young.

Calm yourself, Iago.

It is amazing to me how many one-liners from old movies come to mind when I am stressed and when I am writing.  I keep hearing Jafar (on the Aladdin movie) saying, “Calm yourself, Iago”. Also, from the cartoon Robin Hood, “Rockabye Sheriff, just you relax…” (Obviously, I’ve watched way too many Disney movies.)

This week my mind has been a bit jumbled – I am fretting too much about the little things I cannot control.  Why is it that we expect EVERYTHING to run smoothly along – with no ripples?  Silly to even think it, really – there are so many variables, how is that ever possible?

Life is like minding water.  Some times there is so much water, you have to worry about it running over the banks and flooding.  Other times, there is barely enough water to keep things flowing downstream.  There are times when the flow of water will change direction, run over the banks and create a new byway.  Trees, brush and any number of organisms will be displaced. Water will follow the path of least resistance, once it has burst from its bed, it will flow at will.  Yes, you can redirect it – you can get ahead of the flowing water, if you hurry, and create a diversion and try to make it go the direction you prefer. You can also create a dam to slow it down but there has to be an outlet or it will roll right over any barricade.  The truth of the matter is the water will flow.  Depending on momentum – you may or may not have any influence on the direction or destruction.

Conversely, if water doesn’t move it is peaceful, quiet, still.  Much easier to tend.  A lovely little pond with very small ripples now and then. However, still water stagnates. Moss begins to grow, lots of other organisms – eventually the water is no longer clear and clean and it begins to smell rancid. Nothing can be done about that either unless chemicals are added and you constantly rotate the water.

The lesson here? You can’t control water. Oh sure, you can make all kinds of blustering noises and run yourself ragged along the shore – but in the end, you’ve done nothing but wear yourself out.

Let the water flow. Listen to it as it trickles over the rocks. Watch as it gains momentum and becomes white water heading straight for a fall. It will eventually be calm again. One never knows what is around the next bend. “If you need me, I’ll be over here. I know karate.” (Joe Junior on While You Were Sleeping)

Focus Danielson!

You can only control your focus.  Focus on what unites, comforts and stills your mind.  (The Little Book of Letting Go – Hugh Prather)

I do like to have control. Even when I know I don’t or can’t. My first response is always to slip into overdrive, start scrambling the fighters and predict what will happen next, how can I prevent it or help it prevail? In my mind’s eye, I look like Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ripley, in the movie Alien. She was one tough bitch and she made things happen. But in reality, more often than not, I get in there and try to push and shove — only to realize the only one who is moving in such high dramatic fashion is me. Mind you, this all takes place inside my own head. But because the focus is on controlling someone or something or the outcome of events – it feels like a live show.

So I wander around the house with the song “Let it go”, from the movie Frozen, going through my mind. Before long, my mind starts to argue about the lyrics and we nosedive. So much for letting go. I swear, there are times when my mind just moves too fast, out of control, running amok and rarely at my behest.

Trying to FIND something that unites, comforts and stills MY mind – isn’t easy.  My mind is constantly in motion.  Yoga, deep breathing, meditation?  Who can sit still that long?

    • I love sunshine, warm weather.  This is the perfect time of year for me. Get out and enjoy it.
    • I like walking, take a walk before it gets too hot..
    • I like cleaning (sick I know).
    • I like to shop, just as a distraction.  Rarely, do I spend much money.
    • I do like writing and it is therapeutic.
    • The hummingbird feeder needs to be filled.
    • The weeds in the landscaping need to be pulled.
    • Plenty of silly little sorting projects that need to be done.

Wax on, wax off…