BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Puppy

When the kids were little, they loved puppies.  They wanted to pick them up and hold them.  It took a lot of effort for them to learn not to hold them too tight.  The puppy would choke or struggle to get free.  We had to teach them to just sit still and hold the puppy very gently.  The puppy would then relax and welcome the attention of their soft, gentle hands.  The puppy may even fall asleep.  Sometimes, though, the puppy would want to get down from their lap.  This was disturbing to them as they WANTED the puppy to stay with them, they wanted the puppy to WANT to stay with them.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with holding on to the proverbial “puppy” too tightly; trying to make it stay on my lap.  It would be so much easier if the silly thing would just cooperate.  Sit still, go to sleep, stay here where I can see you and watch over you.  I don’t want to have to chase after you.

Wouldn’t it be lovely, if all of our “puppies” could stay in our little circle of control?

Unfortunately, parents get dementia.  Their bodies start to give out.  No matter how tight we hold them – they will leave our circle.  Kids grow up and have kids of their own.  They move in different directions and different rates of speed.  We all start to get OLD.

We wish and wish that time would slow down. We hope our parents go peacefully, with our blessing and gratitude for a life well lived. We hope that our children stay together and maintain a close relationship with each other.  May they always know that there is nothing like a sibling, always and forever – beyond all else.  We wish the grandkids stay little forever and, please, let me stay young enough to get down on the floor and play with them….

We have to hold the puppy gently, with kind and loving hands.  We have to let the puppy get down from our lap when he wants to – we can’t force him to stay.  The puppy needs to run and play and grow and so do we.

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Welcome back to comfort

Writing for comfort.  When I am away from my computer and I am not able to write – either because I am busy or I can’t find a topic – I really do miss it.  (For some reason, I don’t feel as comfortable just writing with pen and paper…).  In some ways, not writing makes me feel lonely; as though I am missing someone.  That someone is me.

When I was a child, I played alone a lot.  I talked to myself and had elaborate games in my own imagination.  I mimicked different accents and dialects and developed new scenarios for the characters I portrayed.  I lived inside my head and had dreams of being an actress on a soap opera.  Lofty goals.  As I aged, I realized the possibility of being discovered for my acting skills in a very small rural community in Montana were slim to none.  Still, I enjoyed fantasizing about fame and fortune as a diva on The Young and the Restless.

In college, I was living in a strange place, with no real friends.   I held tight to my life back at home by writing to friends and family.  Everyday, I wrote at least 3 letters.  I would fill the letters with anecdotes and details about my days.  In return, I would receive at least one letter a day from someone — usually my mom.  As I made friends, the need for maintaining contact with my old life began to wane.  I didn’t write as many letters but I used writing letters as an outlet for expressing my happiness, sadness or loneliness.  Writing became a habit and though I never really kept a journal – I “journaled” by writing letters.  To this day, if I need to express something I can do it best by writing TO someone.

I have written a play and receive royalties for it in September and April.  It is always exciting to open that envelope and realize that a drama club or group has performed MY play.  It has been performed in Canada, the UK and in several places in the U.S.  I’ve started several other plays but just can’t get beyond the first outline.  Not sure why — maybe the first play was just a fluky thing.  Perhaps if I wrote a play as if it were a letter I might have better luck.

Being retired has given me the opportunity of having more TIME although it feels as though I am just as busy now as I was when I was working and I wonder how I ever had time to do anything before!  I have a couple of writing projects that I’ve started but can never seem to finish.

One project is to write about my life just for general principle.   When my mom developed dementia, I realized that I don’t really know much about her.  She never really talked about herself.  I’ve been thinking about having to help write her obituary when she dies and it won’t be easy.  So many details we don’t know.  I wonder if my kids know me any better?

Do they know how much I love the sun and warm summer days?  Do they know how much I love tacos and salad and cold cereal?  How much I loved to play basketball?  That I can sing? (or that I used to be able to sing…)  My favorite color is green – not forest green but sage green.  I like Coke over Pepsi.  I hate onions.  I don’t like to ride a bike, I hate jogging but I love to walk.  I was chubby in college.  I wore braces in high school.  I was the shortest girl in my class in 8th grade and the tallest as a senior.   I was anemic and sickly as a child.  I never did work to my full potential in school because I never believed I was very smart (I now know better).

I am very proud of them – this, I think they know.  I love to play with my grandchildren – they know that too.  I love to laugh with them and to watch them laugh with each other.  I love it when we are all together and there is no strife or worry.  Those days are the very best, the days I cherish the most.  I find great comfort in writing about those days…

Across the window

The view out of my office window changes from day to day  depending on the season, traffic on the road, activities in my neighborhood.

The young family across the road are ranchers and they are a busy bunch.  I’ve watched their children grow from toddlers to little ranchers – driving four wheelers, chasing cows and changing sprinkler pipes.  All of the ranch chores are a family activity.  I’m so proud of them even though I only know them to wave hello across the way.

A little farther across the field is my cousin’s place.  He works a huge ranch, mostly by himself, from dawn until dusk and then some. I watch him every day and though we may not see each other face to face – I often feel as though I am a part of his life just because I get to watch it unfold daily.  His fields are the greenest on this end of the valley.  I know that is a source of pride for him and for those of us who border his property (though we have nothing to do with how pristine his fields are…).

This morning the view is gorgeous, as usual.  I am so lucky.  The fields are green, the willows are full-on yellow with new growth and trees are budding leaves.  Birds are darting to and fro and the cows are calmly eating the new, soft and fresh grass.  It is a very quiet, cloudy morning.  Not even a single dog is barking but it is early morning.  Our neighborhood commentator will start his daily barking ritual when the neighborhood starts moving.

Soon the school bus will round the corner and I will watch it travel across my window until it passes in front of the house to load up kids from up the road.  Shortly after, the rest of the neighborhood will begin to cross my view on their way to work.  The dog will bark at each of the cars as they go by.

As the day progresses, I may see my husband out in our yard.  He keeps it pretty green as well.  I will see him mowing, trimming trees and setting traps for the meadow moles that create havoc with their digging and mounds of dirt.  (Caddyshack at its finest…)

And of course, the ever present and magnificent Gray Wolf peak – somehow more beautiful and awesome with every season.

While the moving parts of my view change, the actual view itself doesn’t.   The mountains change color with the seasons but they remain standing – holding their place in the world.  Each day, when I sit down in my chair — turn on my computer and look up over the top of my screen — I breathe a sigh of relief.  It is still there.  The trees, the brush, the cows, the hills, the grass, the road, Gray Wolf.  I feel the same sense of awe that my father must have felt, and his father before him.  Home.  Peace.  Stability. Strength. Comfort.

It’s in the knowing

We all have triggers.  It doesn’t matter how old you are – how strong you have become – there are things that will set off a chain of reactions before you realize it is happening.  It is a natural tendency, a trained response.  In any addiction, those triggers are the biggest obstacle.  In any lifetime, addiction or no, those triggers plague us all.

Any self-help book will tell you that you must first learn to identify those triggers and then be ever vigilant to their influence.  Easier said than done, they are sneaky, devious and ambiguous.  If you are like most of us – there are multiple triggers and they are always hovering just under the radar -waiting to slide in, create chaos, then slip back out totally undetected.  Score!!  Slippery little buggers!

I can always tell when they have breezed through my world.  I suddenly feel as though I’m ten years old.  My knees are knobby, my face is pale and my hair is just this side of boyish.  I pull myself as far into myself as I can – trying to make myself very small.  Fear ripples through my mind and stomach.  I have to work very hard to hold down the panic.  Someone is mad at me and I have to rush to figure out why and what I can do to make amends.  Even writing about it makes my stomach turn.  The trigger could be someone actually being mad at me but, usually, it is just my fear that they are or will be.  I have said or done something unfavorable and am at risk of being judged an idiot or a fool.   I am like a little puppy – I must find my way back into the good graces of my pack.  This is the affliction of being a “people-pleaser”, you spend a lifetime trying to overcome that malady.

And here is the nub: we can certainly identify the triggers but affecting the change necessary to establish new responses is the true hardship.  For most of us, these responses are a lifelong routine, a means of emotional survival.  While those responses were developed by a child, they are believed to be a safety net as an adult.  We always fall back into the net — without thinking — because we know we can.  Stopping ourselves before we fall back is hard.  It requires a lot of awareness and butt loads of self talk.

I often have to talk to that little 10 year old girl with the knobby knees and tell her that it is going to be okay.  The world is not crumbling.   Sometimes people do get mad.  Sometimes people do judge.   Nonetheless, she still has a pack and the pack still loves her.

When we know better, we do better.  It’s the knowing that is the challenge.

Defining freedom

Freedom is important.  We all want it and most of us are willing to fight for it, even if it is something as simple as making a strong argument with someone else about why we “deserve” a vacation from work or school.  As children, there was nothing more freeing than that last day of school and first day of summer!  As adults, it is always a major disappointment when we have to continue working through those glorious summer months.  (Unless you are a teacher and then you DO deserve the summer vacation!!!)

Vacation isn’t necessarily associated with “freedom” but it is a similar feeling.  Vacation means fewer responsibilities (although if you are a parent, you are never truly “free” of responsibilities even for vacation).

Freedom as a “first-world” matter is very different than in many other parts of the world.  We complain of our obligations to job, family, or community as if we are imprisoned by those commitments.  We are so enmeshed in our grievances about our busy lives and schedules, we overlook two important elements.  One: most of our commitments/obligations are self-imposed.  Doesn’t that mean that we retain prerogative over those obligations?  Two: the bigger picture.  There are many more constraints and impediments to “freedom” suffered by others even in our own country, in your own state and city.

Can’t find a thing to cook in the pantry?  You have a pantry full of food – many don’t.

Can’t find a thing to wear?  Nothing fits?  You have a closet is FULL of clothes – many don’t.

No time to exercise? What if you had to walk around all day because you had no place to go?

Work is getting you down?  School is boring?  Too many meetings?  Too many functions to attend?  Calgon take me away?

Imagine wearing the same thing every day.  Or having only two or three outfits – total.  You’d have to wash clothes nightly and you’d have to wash them in the sink with an old bar of soap.  Imagine having only ONE or two pair of shoes.  Imagine being sick but not being able to go to the doctor.  Imagine eating only one true meal every day.  Imagine having an old car that barely runs – and not being able to go on vacation – EVER.  Imagine.

Freedom is important.  It doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone.

(Side bar: remember to donate clothes, shoes and food.  Next time you are complaining about how busy you are or how you don’t have something you really want — stop yourself.  You are free to choose and to see.  What more do you need?)

Melting

My mother is melting.  Each and every day.  She has lost so much weight and sleeps most of the time.  My sister and I report to each other how she is on each of our visits.  We feel a glimmer of hope whenever she speaks – even if she is only repeating what we have said to her.  She does not recognize anyone anymore.  It is rare to see her smile.  Like a pile of snow in the parking lot – she is slowly melting, getting smaller and smaller – and the runoff is slowly finding its way to the river.

This disease has given us the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We have been grieving for our mother for the last few years – as her view of us narrowed, our view of her expanded.  I’ve realized all of the questions that will never be answered.  I should have asked them earlier.  To be honest, I couldn’t.  The answer is there, isn’t it?  For some things, there are no answers or the answer is with the inquirer.

We prepare for the last few miles of the journey.  My mother is strong.  She always has been.  As a young woman, she moved to a foreign land (may as well have been) – far from family and friends.  She learned to cook on a wood stove and lived in squalor with her three children (eventually four).  She believed in her fairytale – someday, the prince would find and claim his kingdom and they would live happily ever after.  She cooked, cleaned, sewed, taught, sang, drove, washed, dried, mowed, raked, canned, gardened, laughed and cried throughout her very long and full life.   There are so many other things that we don’t know about her.

In her last leg of the relay, she sits in a chair with her face in her hands.  Or she lays sideways in her bed and sleeps.  We have no way of knowing if she is “thinking” or dreaming while she reclines.  What does she see and understand about where she is now?  Is she like a captive in her body, just unable to communicate?  Is she gone except for the daily routines and body functions of living?  Those are the exasperating questions for which there are no answers.  Her body just keeps going from day to day.  We stand by and watch as she melts, helpless to do anything about it.

Freedom

Divorce is an ugly word, a bad word.  Even though it is quite prevalent in our current world – it continues to be distasteful.  In most divorces, the theme is winner and loser.  In reality, both parties lose no matter the outcome.  And if there are children – they are the spoils of war and the biggest losers.

Even in the worst of times, we like to believe that when push comes to shove, the children will be the priority.  Unfortunately for a large percentage of divorced couples, that isn’t the case.  The children become pawns and whether you want to do battle or not, the struggle begins early in negotiations and can last until the children are grown – depending on the parties involved.

Counseling can help but, again, depends on the parties involved. You have to be open and willing to make necessary changes.

In many divorces, the grim reality is that the marital situation was difficult enough for one party to call it quits.  Getting a divorce will not change the circumstances of the difficulty, it will exacerbate it.  Not only was it challenging to live WITH that person, now living without them is going to be extremely contentious.  Every condition or event becomes a means of retaliation or a display of power.  Frankly, it is exhausting.  For the person who is trying to make their “escape”, it can be daunting and you constantly wonder if you should have stayed in a miserable marriage just to have avoided the turmoil.  Many people do stay, for that reason.

In my own situation, by the time I actually separated from my first husband, I was already “divorced” in my own mind.   Ours was a short marriage but, early in the relationship, I knew we were not a good match.  I thought I could just “suck it up” and play along but, in the end, I just couldn’t.  I made the decision to find a way out months before it actually happened.  Because I was mentally prepared for the break, I had already grieved for the relationship.  I could easily have left on friendly terms and fully expected he would also reach that level of acceptance.  We didn’t have any real property and I was very lucky to be the wage earner of our little family unit.  I thought we would separate, split the proceeds and find an equitable visitation plan for the kids and a reasonable child support amount – and both be on our merry way.  I was quite naive.

During our marriage, my ex-husband and I had talked about his parents’ divorce.  It had been a bitter situation and left him feeling very neglected and angry.  He talked about how important it was to make sure the kids were the first priority in any situation.  I believed him.  I thought that was going to be the case.  It was one point of view we actually agreed on and I had every intention of working with him to make sure the kids were left out of any dispute.  I really did think we could do this, we could work together for the good of our children.  But that was before the divorce actually became a possibility in our own lives.

Every issue became a conflict often having a core issue involving money.  In some ways, I was lucky because he moved away that first year.  We didn’t have to deal with each other very often except through letters and we had some scathing mail battles over the years.  In other ways, him moving away was hell because that meant that when the kids went for a visit, they were very far away.  I still get an awful feeling in my stomach when I think about it.  I would cry for days – and worry about their care.  It was horrible.

We had multiple disputes – about the kids visits, about splitting the cost of braces, about splitting the cost of band instruments, about things that should or shouldn’t be said to the kids.  Again, I was lucky that the visits were only a few times a year but the damage was done just the same.  In hindsight, I constantly wonder what I should have done differently to make it easier for the kids but I’ve long since realized that you do what you can do.  You can’t control that other person, you just do your best to counter the things that are said and done in your absence.  And you hope the kids will be okay.

Fast forward thirty some years and I still feel animosity towards my ex-husband.  I am still angry over the things he has done and I find it difficult to be in the same room with him.  Listening to him talk is like a flashback into the past and I feel the echo of the helplessness I felt back then.  For our children’s sake, we have to be together on occasions; birthdays, weddings, any life celebration.  We are congenial.  And when the celebration is over and we go our separate ways, I feel the same old relief.  I am not sorry we divorced.  It was the right thing to do for all of us.  Divorce may seem like a bad word but it really isn’t.  It is about freedom, growth, strength and wisdom – or it can be if you let it.

Nonsense

After 20 minutes looking through Pinterest, I feel sufficiently inept so I shall write my blog.  (There are a lot of talented people on Pinterest!)  We all have our strengths, right?  Right.  Write.

I do love to write.  I do it inside my head all the time.  If only there was a way to record those thoughts as they happen.  Yes, yes…keep a notebook with you at all times.  It just doesn’t flow as easily once you start to write it out.  I suppose I could carry a recorder but that isn’t always convenient and can be a little conspicuous.  Although, I talk to myself all the time – which is fine in the car, while cleaning the house or walking on the backroads.  It is frowned upon in the mall or in restaurants.   (Who knows, maybe those homeless people we see talking and gesturing to themselves are actually award winning authors who don’t have access to paper and a writing instrument!)

I read tips for writing all the time.  It is one of the best procrastinating methods I know.

Fear is the biggest deterrent.  Being judged.  Not being good enough.  Offending someone.  Feeling foolish and small.  (Another procrastinating method that leaves me feeling defeated.)

On a good day, I can write the morning away.  I walk away, leaving the blog post on the screen and return after breakfast – make small edits, then hit publish.  Tra-la-la.  Don’t think about it again.

On a not-so-good day, I sit with my fingers on the home row of the keyboard and watch the cursor blink.

Days like today, I write something nonsensical just to get something out there — to feel the flow and to try to get back into a routine.  Blah blah blah, so on and so forth.  More tomorrow…..

 

Monkey training

Just so you are aware; awareness doesn’t come easy.  It takes time and lots of effort to stay in the moment, to pay attention to cues and triggers, it requires consistent toil and discernment.  Typically, women are aware of everything outward; how others are feeling, what others need or want, what others may think of our efforts.  Constantly at the ready and anticipating every need – of others.  To transition that awareness to our own needs and triggers – takes both persuasion and surrender.  We have to convince ourselves that it is okay to turn the spotlight inward and then we have give ourselves permission to actually do it.  Craziness.

Think of all the women you know.  It doesn’t matter if they have children, are married or have significant others, or their age.  Of those women, what is the percentage who do far more for others, than for themselves?  What is the percentage that base their decisions or choices either on someone else’s opinion or on how that decision would either affect someone else or be judged by someone else?

As women, we are so lucky to live in this day and age – but we still have a long way to go.  Wouldn’t we all just love to be totally independent?  Never have to worry again about money, our spouses, our children, our siblings, our parents, our homes, our dogs, our weight.  Wouldn’t it be great to sleep peacefully at night without a care?  Or to get up in the morning and think only of ourselves?  What should I do today?  I think I will take a long walk with my three dogs.  Then, I will eat a leisurely breakfast on the porch and read a book.  Then, I will throw a load of laundry in and hang it out in the sun to dry.  I will eat cereal for lunch and dinner.  I will wear a cute flouncy skirt with no shoes and a pretty flower top.  You’re dreamin’ kid.

If we are honest with ourselves, knowing what we would leave behind in order to have that total independence, we know that is just a fantasy.  We would lose too much without those people in our lives for which we devote most of our focus.  However, we can gain some peace by being aware of who we are and what we deserve.

Yes, as mothers, we will always worry about our children.  We will ALWAYS want what is best for them and believe we know what that looks like and how they can achieve it.  But we should also strive to be AWARE that they are separate beings and we can’t, by force of will, make their lives for them.

As human beings, we will always want what is best for our spouses, friends, family, students, neighbors but we should be AWARE of our role in their success and happiness.  We are not responsible for it, we just wish for it – hope for it – for their sake.  Our capacity for happiness should not be contingent to theirs.

Too often we strive for perfection and/or approval.  We wear ourselves out trying to do the best, be the best and brightest.  We allow feelings of failure and fear to enter in when we think something or someone we care about is faltering.  Where is that awareness then?  Gone, gone gone.  Our mind races and we begin seeking solutions and ways to help change things for the better.  We go into overdrive – what can we say?  What can we do?  What will make the difference?  How can we make all of this better or make it go away?  Lack of control amps up our fear – which is quickly followed by defeat and depression.

Awareness means when you feel that shift into overdrive – you have to step back and breath.  Try this:  Put it in park.  Sit down.  Very calmly tell yourself: “Yes, this IS my circus and those ARE my monkeys…but this is NOT how I trained them!”  Slip on your flouncy skirt and flowered blouse and go for a walk.

More on gratitude

I should never have opened pinterest.  I am most certainly grateful for technology – that is today’s gratitute topic – but, man, does technology ever distract me!  Youtube, facebook, twitter, email, IMDB…  I have an iPad, an iPhone and a desktop computer!  I have Netflix and Amazon Prime Movies!

We purchased our first computer in 1994.  At first, I was intimidated by it.  Nothing made sense, all the buttons and discs and the lingo was a foreign language.  However, I knew I needed to learn how to use it.  We were also getting computers at work — it was going to be an absolute necessity to figure it out.  As with anything, the more you use it, the more proficient you become.  Slowly but surely, things started to make sense and I was able to work my way through most programs I had to use.

When email first came out, I resisted.  I was adamant that I would rather write a letter to send.  It was more personal and I felt like I could write more of my soul in a handwritten letter.  Eventually, I gave in and now I rarely write correspondence other than email.  To be honest, it saddens me.  To be even more honest, there is no reason that I can’t write letters…it is just so much more convenient to write an email!

I am grateful for technology.  I can text my kids and friends and get a response right away.  I can send/receive photos at a moments notice.  I can look up fun facts, addresses, maps, information, all with voice instructions, if I choose.  I can learn how to apply makeup, style my hair, apply wallpaper, build a table – with step by step video instructions!  I can get ideas for baby showers, birthday parties, bathroom remodels, outfit styles.  I can try to diagnose any weird symptom from swelling to redness to prolonged diarrhea, all with suggestions for treatments and home remedies!  I can watch any movie (almost), any time day or night. And let’s not forget the moment to moment “news” updates.

We have access to so MUCH, so fast.  We should be grateful but we should be humble and prudent.  Yes, we want to compete and maintain our knowledge of technology.  The world will leave us behind if we don’t.  But, we also need to remain vigilant in utilizing our own faculties — keeping the human factor intact.  In my own case, I will kill an entire morning looking at pinterest, facebook or youtube.  If I get bored during the day, I will check all of them “just for a minute” that ends up being an hour.  If I didn’t have technology, what could I be grateful for?  Exercise? Reading?  Writing? Talking?