Category Archives: life

Here’s What I Think

Today’s regularly-scheduled blog will be pre-empted to make space for this motivational but highly opinionated post.

It takes a certain kind of person to be a politician, and probably not the kind of person most of us would choose for a close friend. But, as my mom said, it takes all kinds of people to make a world, so there you go.

As for me, I think I’m like a lot of world and American citizens. I am pro-choice and pro-life. I’m for gun rights and for gun control. I think everyone should be free to love whomever they choose. I don’t want anyone telling me what I can or can’t do in my own home and I’m sure you feel the same. I am strongly opposed to war and strongly supportive of the men and women who risk their lives to protect us. I support our police officers and I insist that there is a better way to hold police departments responsible for the abhorrent behavior of the appalling few. I don’t think anyone should be able to tell you when, where, how, how much, with whom, or in what fashion you worship. I believe in women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, Native American rights, workers’ rights, student rights, rights for left-handed people, rights for everybody, because this is America, dammit. I believe in states’ rights, but I don’t want to live in the country of Arizona. I support immigration reform — border security AND refugee resettlement AND work permits.

Am I not everywoman?

Maybe not, but here is one single solid truth: after tomorrow we will know who our new President is going to be. It will be done, for better or worse. And you and I will still be neighbors. We will still have our own opinions and the freedom to share them. We will be the ones who have to live with each other after all the rhetoric and shouting and trash-talking by the candidates is over.

Please be kind. Please remember we are all someone’s mother or father, daughter or son, sister or brother. Please, please remember the Golden Rule.

Remember we are Americans and we all belong to the same race — the human race. Be a good human.

Now get out there and vote!

(Just kidding; left-handed people shouldn’t have the same rights as normal people 😏)

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Good at Tests

Have you ever been faced with a truth about yourself that at some point becomes patently obvious, even though moments before you never would have considered it? That’s a shocker, and it probably doesn’t happen on its own. There was some catalyst, seen or unseen, that opened your eyes and made you different than you had been before.

It’s very surprising when it happens.

Take this quiz.

For each of the following questions, please answer yes or no.

In your love relationships:

If you showed your partner what you really want and need from him, do you think that you would lose his love?
Do you feel compelled to do everything for your partner, but resent it deep down?
Do you end up working so hard in your relationship that you ultimately collapse?
Do you feel you can never really depend on your partner?

At your job:

Is it difficult for you to collaborate with others on a project?
If you work in a group, do you tend to do the lion’s share of the work?
Does it make you nervous if you have to rely on a coworker for some of your work?
Do you wish that someone would take care of you so you would never have to work again?

About your body:

Do you think a lot about getting sick?
Do you often get strange aches and pains that don’t seem to be due to a known illness?
If you get sick, do you find that you feel kind of relieved?

This is a portion of a personality quiz in Gail Saltz’s book Becoming Real that I’m reading and my results were very shocking and disconcerting. There are things happening in my life that helped the results of this quiz speak to me, but it definitely has been an eye opener. Take the quiz, answer honestly yes or no to each question (because they won’t all apply to you) and I’ll tell you tomorrow what Gail thinks it means.

True Story

Well, that is surprising.

I’m working my way through a book entitled Becoming Real by Gail Saltz, and her premise is that we have all been telling ourselves stories since childhood to help us deal with life stuff. With things that are difficult or impossible for children to process, she says we create stories about ourselves and our lives that help us get through. For example, perhaps if you had a parent that was absent a lot for one reason or another, you would make up a story about how when you were “good” your parent would spend time with you and when you were “bad” you would be neglected. In other words, it was something you were doing wrong, not your parent.

Fast forward to adulthood, and you’re still living that story. You’re in a relationship with someone who neglects you and you’re still telling yourself that if you were “good” you would have the type of relationship you really want. But one day you realize that you keep repeating the same behavior and living the same story over and over again. That’s the day, hopefully, that you decide to get brave and face up to the fact that you have outgrown your story and it’s time to let it go.

So. Of course I have a story. I probably wouldn’t have picked up the book if I didn’t. I don’t even remember when I bought it, but it’s been a while. Want to know my story?

I have superhuman powers. Not the one I really want, which is flying. Mine is that I can deal with any problem and smooth it over until it looks pretty damn good. No matter how bumpy and crumbly the cake is, I can come up with enough frosting and wield my knife so skillfully that it will look just right.  At least on the outside. I am a problem solver, even for problems that can’t be solved and even for problems that aren’t my problem.

But that’s not the surprising part. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

My Mother’s Gift

July 13, 2015

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my mom. Moms are interesting characters, because although there probably isn’t a single person who is more important to you, she probably wouldn’t seem like much to anyone else, except maybe your siblings. Maybe your cousins and your kids. If not for the people who love their mom so much — or do NOT love their mom so much — that woman would probably disappear into obscurity.

I’m sure you’ll take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that my mom is special, because everyone’s mom is special. But it’s true, she’s very special. My mom is 78 now and living in a memory care home. But she was a fiercely independent person who took great pride in being a hard worker. She hated to ask for help or let anyone know she was struggling. She loved to have her family around her, especially her grandchildren, and she loved when everyone left again. When my dad died suddenly in 1985, Mom had to learn to do all kinds of things that Dad had taken care of. She had to transfer ownership of a business, sort out life insurance, and deal with the mess left when someone disappears from your life with no warning. And she did. She handled it all. She told us what she wanted us to know or what she needed help with and she kept the rest to herself

So it was quite a shock for all of us, including my mom, when she got sick. She was diagnosed a number of years ago with a disorder that causes a progressive decline in mental ability, called Dementia with Lewy Bodies. The effects of the disease haven’t been sudden, and the decline hasn’t been steady. But lately it’s been pretty dramatic, and recently my mom asked me if I was her daughter.

There was an expression that my mom used a lot, especially when her grandchildren were little. She would say “I’m making some memories.” So I’ve been feeling very sad and more than a little bitter about the fact that my mom spent a lifetime making memories only to have them stolen away from her. Not to mention worry over my own memories and all the other information I keep in the vault at the top of my neck.

But one of the greatest gifts I received from my mother is the ability to find light in the midst of the darkness. Believe it or not, blinded by the grief of having to see her go through this and losing pieces of her along the way, I flailed my arms around in that darkness and found something to hold on to. Here’s what I figured out: We don’t make our memories in a vacuum. Those experiences you’ve had, the good and the bad, they happened to you and the people with you. Or maybe you were alone but came home and told the story or showed the pictures. Someday, someone else might laugh or cry while they tell your story to another person. And a shared memory can live on, past the time that you are able to enjoy it. It can be your gift to the Universe.

Don’t be afraid that you might one day lose your memories, and don’t be stingy about sharing them with others. I’m sure my mom wouldn’t have done one thing differently if she could see into her future. And I feel pretty sure about the advice she’d give you right now. “Life is flipping short; go make some memories!”

Back to Kindergarten

July 27, 2014

Compromise was something that I didn’t consider a challenge for me. I believed myself to be a champion compromiser, to be sure. A smoother-over, a feather-unruffler, a furiously efficient enabler, that’s me. I felt like I had made a career of compromise.

Here is the question for me: Is it compromise if one party feels compelled to acquiesce all the time? Or almost all the time? If I think that nothing can run smoothly unless I am willing to tamp down on my wishes and plans in order to allow another to fulfill his (or her) plans, how is that compromise?

When you are part of a young family, compromise is the name of the game. Someone has to be willing to give in. It becomes a sort of a ping pong game, with each person taking a turn getting to be the compromiser or compromisee. And the lesson for kids is invaluable. None of us gets to be the King Decision Maker all the time. It’s give and take. That’s life, get over it. Or as they say in kindergarten, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

Later, when the little chicks have all flown the coop, you become a couple again. Hopefully. And that give and take should be even more simple now. Hopefully. No childish obstinacy to deal with anymore. No unrealistic expectations about how fair life is supposed to be. We’re all grown-ups now. Right?

Maybe some more time in kindergarten boot-camp is called for.

Visualize compromise as a person reaching her hand out across a vast divide. She is leaning forward as far as she is able to go and stretching out her arm and fingers in an attempt to touch the fingers of the other person, who is doing the same thing in order to grasp the hand that is offered. Maybe they are even standing on one leg in order to close a little more of the distance. That is a picture of two people giving their utmost to achieve a common goal.

There may be times when one or the other of the two has an easier time with the stretching and the reaching. One partner may be willing to exert more effort; one partner may have difficulty making an equal effort. That’s how successful long-term relationships work. They are flexible, they ebb and flow, and partners understand the give and take. Some mornings you’re the happy barista. Other mornings you might be the sullen customer.

Sometimes we get stuck feeling like we always have to play the part of the happy barista, even though it would be nice to be served our coffee once in a while.

Sometimes we get trapped in a relationship that is all give on our part, even though we all need to be takers some of the time.

Sometimes we find that we have become master contortionists, twisting ourselves into pretzels to try to accommodate a partner who can’t be bothered to even offer a glance.

At some point we have to ask “Why?”

How did I get to a place that I was sure that our world would fall apart if I put myself first? It’s been such a complicated journey that retracing it would be like unraveling overcooked spaghetti. Here is where I find myself and here is where the new journey must begin.

The Five Epiphanies

July 23, 2014

I’m sure we’ve all had them, those messages from the Universe that clarify life’s mysteries. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Pare it down, shave off the excess, get rid of the fluff.   Reduce that sucker right down to the lowest possible denominator to figure it all out. Right? Something like that.

Some people might call it a message from their Higher Power; AKA, God. That could very well be; I guess it depends upon your mindset. I like to think that once in a while I figure some stuff out myself.

 Epiphany the First: What’s In The Box?

My first epiphany came to me in the form of a dream. I’m not a great rememberer (not a real word, apparently. Tsk) of dreams, so the fact that this one stuck with me was a big deal. Okay, here goes.

In my dream I’m climbing a very steep hill. A road going uphill. I come to a fork in the road, and one fork continues up at that steep angle and the other goes down hill. I take the uphill fork, and by now I’m tired. But I keep walking up the side of this road, my feet dragging. When I get to the top, there’s a door in the ground, like a hatch (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) and the door is very heavy. It takes all my strength to lift it. When I lift it and drop it to the ground I look inside. In the hole is a large metal box, like a treasure chest. Again my strength is tested as I lift the box by the handle and bring it aboveground. There’s a lock on the latch, and when I touch the lock it opens. As I’m squatting on the ground, holding the open lock in my hand, I wake up.

Wait! I woke up without seeing WTF was in that box?! That is NOT the way it’s supposed to work! But . . . that IS how it works. We don’t get to take a free look in the box. We have to figure out what’s in the box. That’s your job. That’s your special purpose. That’s life, so go find your treasure.

 

Epiphany the Second: Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Yoda.

I don’t know how many of you have ever considered how wise Yoda was. If you are unsure, go now and watch your DVD of the Star Wars trilogy. The first three. No, not One, Two, and Three. Four, Five, and Six, the real first three. And if you don’t own a copy of Star Wars, shame on you.

Yoda’s wisdom is legendary. How about this gem: “You will find only what you bring in.” Wow. Here are a few more for you, translated:

“Already know you that which you need.”

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

“Always pass on what you have learned.”

“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”

“You must unlearn what you have learned.”

There is one Yoda quote that is by far my favorite. I try to live by this one:

“Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

 

Epiphany the Third: There Is No Try.

So with due credit to Yoda, I present the third. “Anyone can do anything they want, as long as they want it badly enough.” Don’t get cute here and try to come up with ideas that disprove the truth of this epiphany. The fact is that we are all very good at creating excuses for why we CAN”T do what we want to do. But we are surrounded by examples of people doing what seems to be the impossible. What makes them different from us? Determination. Stubborn pride. Obsession. Stick-to-it-iveness. I made another word.

So what do you want to do? Learn to fly? You can learn to fly. If you want to learn to fly badly enough, what you’ll do first is figure out how to pay for flying lessons. That could be quite an ordeal in itself. That could take years. Then you may have to overcome a fear of flying. My point is that if you give up on the dream because it’s too expensive or scary, then you weren’t determined enough. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, because difficult is not the same thing as impossible.

 

Epiphany the Fourth: Everything You Read Teaches Something Valuable.

The hardest part of writing for me is that it takes up time that could be spent reading. I’ve always been a big reader. Ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you. I need to have something to read, always. If there wasn’t anything else available when I was a youngster, I read cereal boxes. Is that an addiction? I don’t think so, but it has been at times a coping mechanism, an escape, a worry reducer, a distraction, a small talk avoider, a sedative, a conversation starter… I could go on and on, but that’s getting a little tiresome. You get the point: I like to read more than many other things.

My books and I, we have an agreement. They keep me company and make me smarter. I put them on my shelf when I’ve read them, reread them from time to time, and only loan them to people who will take good care of them. I’ve gone through phases and have decent collections from a variety of authors like Stephen King, Ken Follett, Jodi Picoult, and Nora Roberts (What? I have an affinity for Irish witches and Yankee shipbuilders. Don’t judge.).

Many Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew novels were consumed in my youth. I learned the value of being curious and prepared. My dad was convinced at some point that he could figure out the formula for writing a romance novel. He picked up a few and quickly grew bored with that idea. That was how I happened to read The Flame and the Flower, which was the start of my love affair with historical fiction, romantic or otherwise. I probably don’t need to explain what I learned from those ladies of the heaving bosom and gentlemen of the splendid manhood.

The thing is, you never know when some minor factoid that you pick up in your reading is going to come in handy. Could be at a party, or a job interview, or a date. It could lead to the start of your next great friendship. Or a career change. Or maybe it’s just entertainment this time, nothing wrong with that either.

If nothing else, you’re flexing your brain muscle, kicking those synapses into gear. Use it or lose it. Plus you never can tell when you might need to know the nutritional information on your Cheerios.

 

Epiphany the Fifth:

This may be rather anticlimactic, but I haven’t had a fifth epiphany yet. I say yet, because I’m sure there’s another one floating around out there waiting for my grab. I keep learning and messing up and figuring it out, all the time. So there has to be another moment of sublime mental clarity in my future. At least one more, right?

Just like a certain painting or a piece of music can speak to you in a secret language, whispering to you about beauty and perfection and oneness, so too can an idea reach out to you. And you’ll say, “Of course, that’s so obvious!” and do a face palm. But it’s only obvious after you’ve figured it out, after you’ve lived some life, after you’ve messed up an embarrassingly large number of times. Then you’ll be a guru. Just remember what Yoda said: Always pass on what you have learned.