Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: June, 2016

What’s in your bag?

Sometimes, you just have to be resiliant. There are many things in this life that are unsettling. Loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of ambition and/or the desire to thrive. Some people are better equipped to deal with loss and change. Why is that? Did they have better, stronger, more caring parents who taught them these things? Is it a personality trait? Is it a learned strength and power? Are we all capable of possessing that strength? Of course we are – but each of us carry a bag chock full of self-doubt and trepidation. When we try to deal with life’s difficult transitions — the bag gets heavier and heavier, so much so that we can’t think of anything but that damn bag!

When I travel, I usually like to travel as light as I can. I will take a smaller purse and a carry-on rather than a checked bag. Even if we are driving and we have room for a big suitcase, I try to minimize everything I’m taking…I don’t want the hassle of hauling around a huge bag of stuff that I may or may not use. This is the perfect approach for that other bag. But how do we eliminate the contents or, at the very least, pare down the number of contents?

Visualize pulling everything out of the bag – make a display of the contents on an imaginary bed: fear, anxiety, pain, insecurity, anger.

Let’s see…fear can be useful because it can help give you an edge – prepare you for “fight or flight” – but maybe not SO MUCH fear. Perhaps we can leave the fear of not being good enough behind – put it in the closet, it will be there when we return.

Anxiety is something we never really NEED but we certainly keep it close at hand. Let’s take most of anxiety and put it with fear. We can keep the anxiety over “time management” with us – then it will prevent us from being late to any appointments or meetings.

Pain is not so easy to leave behind unless it is something that we have been dragging along for too long (that would be resentment) and let’s just stuff that behind anxiety. We’ve been hurt, the offender has not once asked for forgiveness – but it has been taking up room in the bag for far too long. Fresh hurt will not be tossed aside so lets just put it in the bag but keep it in a Ziploc and maybe it won’t leak out onto the rest of the items in the bag.

Insecurity. I don’t know about you but this takes up most of the room in my bag. Usually, it will join with fear and anxiety and swell up like grape nuts in a bowl of milk. VERY heavy and hard to swallow. Since it is the biggest and most difficult to handle, we will slowly eliminate small portions from the bag. So let’s gingerly remove insecurity about the way we are perceived and neatly store it with the others in the closet.

Anger. That is the sneaky little bugger. Most of the time, you forget it is in the bag until it comes roaring out with a vengeance. By then it is so big that it draws the bag down on your shoulder, the weight seems to double and you have to set it down to catch your breath. It is a little easier to leave anger behind because we can pretend it was never in the bag – but remember that it is in the closet or it will blow your hair back when you open that door again.

Okay. Now the bag is lighter and more manageable. This is how real grownups deal with their issues. We feel better, much more agile on our feet. We go about our day with a new found freedom. And at the end of the day, we go to the closet. Damn, should have just put them directly into the bag marked “good will”….


Be the circle

Through the telescope of memory, we see what we wish to see. Time, that wicked villain, has caused all memory to fade and become distorted. Our mind, as an act of kindness, either fills in the empty spaces with a pleasant fiction or eliminates the dark corners that we really don’t want to see.

Do you remember much of your childhood? I remember isolated moments: Getting an F in health in 6th grade, being afraid of mean girls, several different boy crushes, feelings of major insecurity – the usual stuff. Memories of my teen years come with a little clearer view – but not much. My first broken heart, a few small victories, learning to navigate some of my fears, running and hiding from the remaining fears.

For the longest time, in reminiscing about the past, I felt neglected and as though my parents didn’t care about me. I couldn’t remember any intervention on their parts, I recall very few conversations with them during that period. Then I thought of how my own children were in their teens: the opinions of their peers were far more important than anything I might have to contribute. In their eyes, my knowledge was very limited. They humored me on occasion, but for the most part, I was background noise. So, it wasn’t that my parents didn’t care as much as I didn’t “let them in”. My peers, my life concerns, my anxiety were all twirling before me like a cyclone of dust and that is all I could see and feel at the time. I had control of my view finder and I kept it on the same few slides – wishing and hoping that if I looked long enough, the slides would change. They didn’t. Needless to say, I would NEVER choose to re-live my childhood. That shit was bad enough the first time around.

In my youth, I was very close to my siblings. We spent most of our free time together, laughing and talking and always the best of friends. We shared everything – our dreams, secrets and hopes. Then, as happens in life, each of us developed a life of our own – independent of the others. We married, had children, worked and lived in different towns. When we saw each other, we were kind and friendly but we didn’t see each other very often. We had hoped that we would be close – forever – raising our families together. It just didn’t happen that way. And even though we love each other, we didn’t maintain the close bond we once had.

Over the course of time and rumination, I’ve realized two things: One, this is a natural course – growing up and moving on – but the relationships don’t have to end unless you abandon efforts to nurture and maintain those relationships. Two, I understand more clearly how hard this was for our parents. While we were growing forward, they were standing still. Yes, they threw themselves into the care and time spent with grandchildren, but they were losing bits and pieces of themselves all along the way and they didn’t know it or maybe didn’t know what to do about it. (This gives me pause and is a reminder that I need to pay attention to my own life and growth…)

Now, my own children are going through similar life transitions. They are all building their lives with their own loves (each of whom are strong individuals, from different backgrounds), beginning to have children, working and living lives of their own. As a parent, I keep trying to pull everyone back into the circle – to remain in contact, to temper differences. I remind myself of my dad – trying to be like a family newsfeed so that all members know about each other, care about each other, reach out and support each other – trying to prevent an unnecessary separation by neglect.

Life is a busy place. Unfortunately, the focus becomes time management. Instead of “pulling in” the people we love (and we trust to love us) and putting them at the top of our priority list – we stealthily list them as superfluous. We know they love us and they will “understand” if we don’t call or text. We are confident they will give us a pass. Eventually, we no longer confide in each other – we don’t share joys, fears, anger, frustration or day to day trivia about ourselves and our lives. The chasm gets wider and wider by the day. The circle is no longer a circle but independent enclosures with gates and locks.

It takes less than a minute to write a text (I just timed it and I use proper grammar, so if you use abbreviations it would be even less!). It takes approximately three minutes to send a short email or note in the mail. A phone call is tricky because finding time when BOTH the caller and the callee are available is hard to predict. But in this day and age of moment to moment technology, it is better than nothing. Maintaining a connection with those you love is important, something that requires a little effort. You get to decide if that effort is worth it – do you want a circle?

Raging water

Just about the time you think things are rolling along smoothly – they don’t. Someone you know gets a diagnosis of cancer or files for divorce or passes away unexpectedly. You shift in your seat. If you think you’re exempt, you’re not. Life isn’t a calm boat ride around the lake, it is a raft ride down the rapids: with all kinds of weather disruptions, flooding, shallow water, twirling eddies and intense water falls. Some of us get sick, some of us lose our jobs, some of us lose a loved one, some of us lose ourselves – and we recover, over and over again, as best we can.

We can say, “Why me?” but in reality, there is no ME or YOU or THEM — it is a part of life that we cannot avoid. We may think there are those who are never touched by grayness or despair, but we all partake in one battle or another.

The shootings in Orlando are a prime example. Who among the victims or their families would ever have predicted such a thing? And make no mistake, they were all innocents. Someone chose to destroy their rafts and send them over the falls – someone made that judgment for them.

No one is exempt from tragedy – of one kind or another. You can hunker down in that raft and pray it doesn’t spill you (or someone you love) out into the raging water – but it may. You may hit a sharp rock and pop the raft – losing everyone at once. You may hit a big wave and lose only one or two – they may make it to shore or to a neighboring raft. One can NEVER predict.

How do we survive this crazy ride? We try to stay afloat. We try to avoid the really treacherous water. We learn how to swim and how to hold our breath. We prepare for the worst and bask in the glory of the best. And if we see a fellow rafter go into the water, we pull them aboard our own raft, if we can. How will we survive if we don’t?

Shut it

It is a gorgeous, sunny day. I’ve spent most of my morning tinkering on the computer –¬†perusing Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, one thing leads to another and I’ve wasted most of my morning (although I have done two loads of laundry at the same time!). What a time killer!

I am having avoidance issues – so much going on right now and I’m trying not to think about it… My brother had surgery last week and then developed complications. My brother-in-law has surgery today. My mom’s house sale fell through…money is getting short and time is running out to get the house sold. The chasm of separation between my sister and I is getting wider and wider. I’ve already basically lost one sister. My kids have their own issues – which, I will respect their privacy and NOT air those details here. In my mind, all of these things are churning around – like clothes in a washing machine, one will surface and then go rotate back under the water¬†– only to be replaced by another. Guilt and shame keep throwing their two cents in — SHUT IT.

It is a gorgeous, sunny day. The sky is clear. Summer has arrived and I love it. Should I be doing something different? Should I be doing more? Am I a bad sister/mother/daughter/wife/person? SHUT IT.

It is a gorgeous, sunny day. The air is a little hazy but it really does feel like summer. When I was younger, this would have been a perfect tanning day. I would bask in the sun, rotating myself like a rotisserie chicken to assure a dark, even tan. It would be a good day to read a book on the porch. How lazy is that? There is so much more than needs to be done, cleaning, planting, visiting…SHUT IT.

It is a gorgeous, sunny day.

Slow down. You don’t have to feel so frightened. You don’t have to feel so frantic. Keep things in perspective. (Codependent No More – Melody Beattie)

In other words, SHUT IT.