Just. Keep. Swimming.

I hear the expression, God just wants us to be happy a lot. It bugs me to no end, and anyone who knows me, knows that. I have two problems with it, 1) I don’t believe there is a God who cares about us in that way, and 2) I don’t believe that the purpose of my life is to be happy, in the way people who say that so glibly mean.

The first point – whatever, your mileage may vary. The second, for me, is not really negotiable. If it’s what you believe, knock yourself out. You’re certainly not alone. You will never convince me, though. It may be true for some, but I don’t believe it’s true for most of us, and definitely not for me.

I was lucky enough to encounter a teacher early on in my life, before I had really thought too much about what my “purpose” was. Mostly I was interested in making money, having a good time, and riding my bike. I was a thinker about many things, but I avoided the “purpose” question, cuz I had a vague feeling I knew what mine was, and I didn’t want to accept it yet. Then, in a conversation while shopping with a friend one day, she said something to me that would alter the course of my thinking, and ultimately my life.

I don’t remember how we came to be discussing life purpose specifically, though those types of deep conversation were a common part of our friendship. In the course of this conversation she said she believed the purpose of life was to be of use. Those two words hit my brain and my heart with the force of truth, and I have spent the rest of my life dancing with that idea and the truth of it.

I didn’t want that to be true. I wanted life to be easy and fun, and I liked the idea that life was intended to be that way. I also understood immediately that for me, that meant service to my adoptive family. Somewhere deep in my soul I had known that since I was born, but boy, did I not want to know that. When I look back now, I can see that I had been living that truth, but I saw it as temporary, not my actual life.

When I was in college, I took a year off between my sophomore and junior years. I told people it was because I didn’t really know what I wanted so needed a pause, but the truth was that my parents needed me, so I went home. My mother had had a breakdown and couldn’t be alone, and my dad had to work. So I came home to stay with my mom while he was gone. I returned to school the following fall and graduated 2 years later.

Soon after graduation I had a job lined up in North Carolina, where I wanted to live, but before I left, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. My mother couldn’t cope with that alone, so I went home again to see him through that and turned down the job.

That time I didn’t leave. I’m here still, in the small town in which I grew up, and now in that same house, with my mother the last 9 years. I’ve had a good life here, if not the life I had imagined. I had all the important stuff – interesting and meaningful work (especially the last 20 years), good friends, family close by, including my grandmother, who was my best person in this life. All good. I had fun with friends, and I traveled a little bit, which I really enjoyed. It was not the life I had dreamed of, but it was good, nonetheless. At some point, my decisions were ruled more by the chronic depression I had lived with since an early age than my family, and then at some point in later years, I realized that I was here by choice, not by default.

I bought a house here in 2009, and though I’m not living it in currently, I have no intention of selling it. I will live it in again, at least for a while. When my mother is gone, I may decide to go somewhere else. Or I may decide to stay. I honestly don’t know. I try not to think that far ahead. It’s nice to think about options, though, cuz right now I don’t have many. That’s just the way it is for now, though, and that’s okay. I’m of use to my mom, and that matters to me. I’m finishing my service to my family and then I’ll be free to do something else.

Maybe. Who knows what the future will bring? What matters to me is that I’m living my life as intended, and I’m happy doing it. Mostly. I have moments of resentment, of struggle. Then I come back to the truth of who I am, and what my purpose here is, and I just go on.

That’s all there is really. Wherever you find yourself, whatever you believe your purpose to be, just keep going. Be true to yourself and to what you know your life purpose to be and though it may not look like anyone else’s around you, just go on. Live in the moment, and for the moment, and rest there. Be happy in the knowledge that you are doing what you came here to do. Be grateful for the opportunity. Even if it’s hard. Even if it’s not what you thought you wanted or what your life would be.

This is it. I really believe that you can’t miss your life. You will learn and do what you were meant to as long as you are open to it – as long as you listen to the truth in your heart. Life isn’t about circumstances. It isn’t about moods, or even feelings like happiness and sadness. You can be happy doing difficult things and during difficult times, and you can be sad in the midst of what others and maybe even you consider to be fun. There is certainly a place for fun and laughter and silliness in life, but it isn’t the purpose. We’re here to learn, and to grow in maturity and understanding, to live in community and to LOVE. The rest is decoration. (Don’t get me started about social media..)

I’ve noted here before that Dory from Finding Nemo is my hero. To my mind, she is a model for a good and successful life. She lives totally in the moment, and her motto is, Just keep swimming.

Yep. Just keep swimming. You’ll get where you’re going – where you’re meant to go – but you have to keep swimming. All you have to do is go on. There is nothing more required.

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Then and Now

I experience a high level of anxiety much of the time. This just started again about 10 years ago. I say again, cuz I had it in spades when I was a kid. All anxiety, all the time. I’ve been thinking lately about the common denominator between then and now. Let’s see, what do those two times have in common? Ah, living with my mother, feeling trapped much of the time, and being anxious to get to something/somewhere else.

Hmmm…then and now.

If you had asked me when I was starting college and tasting freedom for the first time if I would ever make a choice to be in this situation now and I would have laughed in your face. Are you kidding?! NO WAY!

Yeah, so here I am, 42 years later and it turns out there was a way. So now go back 10 years when my dad got really bad and everyday was a struggle, and then 9 years ago, after he had died, and it became apparent to me that my mother could not live alone. I thought I was agreeing to live with her a couple of years. She had been ill all of her life, I figured she would follow my dad fairly soon.

Uh yeah.

Now, 9 years and counting, and I’m still here cuz she’s still here. Thriving, in fact. In much better shape mentally, emotionally and physically than she was when I moved in 2012. Her doctor compliments me for taking such good care of her. How’s that for irony?

The difference between then and now, is the ways in which life has shaped me, and the way I think about myself and my place in the world in those 42 years. Most importantly, I believe in karma, and I firmly believe that she and I are in a karmic dance of epic proportions. It was no mistake that she raised me, and it’s not a mistake that I can’t get away from her. 😄

Family caregiving is quite common in the world. This is, in fact, Family Caregiver Appreciation Month in the US. It’s so important they gave us our own month. Though, that’s about all they give us. 😉 It’s certainly not celebrated in our culture or valued. Whatever. I don’t worry much about what other people. I’m doing what I’m doing, and that’s what I focus on.

This Sunday will be the 9th anniversary of my father’s death, and Monday will be the anniversary of the day I moved in with my mom. What’s a journey it’s been. It has changed me, and it has changed her. Both for the better, I’m sure.

And yet, I wake up most days with a feeling of dread, and my dreams are anxiety-driven and wake me up in the night. If I’m so sure that I’m doing the right thing, and doing it well, what’s the anxiety about? I wish I knew. I think it might partly be that there’s no end in sight and I know I’m not done until the end. Freedom is really the only thing that’s been my driving force in this life, and that is not something I have – at all – now. That is hard, for sure.

So I can’t treat the cause, and I don’t want to take medication, so I have had to find other solutions. Exercise makes a HUGE difference. Not only does it feel like a good investment in my future – a time when I will be free again – and my health, but I sleep better and feel better when I get a bike ride in, or a walk, or when I get a strength training session in before work. I have limited sugar and alcohol in the last year, and I find that makes a big difference, too.

Also, I just realized recently that routine – previously my arch enemy – helps. I loved working from home during the pandemic and I was pretty bummed to have to go back to the office a few months ago. At some point, though, I realized that I like the routine of 3 days in the office and 2 at home now. The days I go to the office feel more normal than being at home, as that’s what my life was mostly prior to 2020, and the days I’m home are a little break, which is nice. Who knew? I was surprised, I’ll tell you.

I find though, that the more time I spend away from home, away from my mother, the calmer I am. I’m lucky I can be away from her now, as that probably won’t be forever in our dance together as she declines, but I’m grateful for that bit of normalcy again now. I used to journal and I used to meditate, but I’ve found that those things make me anxious now. I can’t explain why, but there it is. Whatever. I try not to beat myself over the head about what I should do. I gave that up a while ago. I’m doing what works. I’m getting through the days, and that’s what matters. I’m taking care of myself and my mom. It’s what I do.

Then and now.

PS – thanks for Kathy at Lake Superior Spirit (https://upwoods.wordpress.com/) for the insightful post that got me thinking about this yesterday. 😊

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Whose life is it anyway?

I had a conversation this morning with some co-workers about hunting. I support people’s right to hunt whatever is in season if they so choose. It’s legal here and it’s something many people enjoy. Great. Go freeze your butt off and hope you don’t get shot. It’s your life.

I could not imagine a situation in which I would be able to kill another living creature. If I had to do it to survive, maybe, not for sport or fun, though. We’re all just on this planet living our little lives, and that includes the flying, crawling, swimming, fuzzy things, too, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t feel that my life matters more than anyone else’s, including non-humans. It’s okay that I feel this way.

Because this is MY life.

I’m tired of folks teasing me cuz I’m not like everyone else. My supervisor thinks it’s funny that I’m freezing in my office. She’s not cold, so the fact that I am doesn’t matter. One of my officemates gives me a hard time because I don’t spend all day chatting. Mostly I sit at my desk with earbuds in, listening to podcasts and working. I have never considered work hours to be social time. He says to me a couple of times every single day, “try to keep it down over there, would you?” Ha Ha Ha Ha.

So funny! Not.

I’m over it. You be you and I’ll be me and at least one of us will be a lot happier. I get to be the way I am, and you get to be the way you are. We’re all different – it’s a feature, not a bug, as they say in the software development world – and your different is not better or worse than my different. This is a big world and there’s room for all of us and our differences.

Somehow we have become a society that believes that it’s okay to judge each other and the ways we are living our lives, even if we know very little about another person or their history. Not only do we judge, we are suddenly very vocal about it, feeling that we have the right to explain to someone else in the most strident terms the ways in which they are doing it wrong.

There have always been bullies in human society, unfortunately. People have always judged one another, I guess. Some societies are very oppressive still. America isn’t supposed to be that way, though, is it? Aren’t we all supposed to be free in the pursuit of happiness? If what I’m doing doesn’t hurt you or someone else, what makes someone think they have any need or right to criticize me? Does me being me de-legitimize you being you? No, of course not.

So…

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the argument I had this weekend with my mom about how hard she is to get along with. Hmmm. Because, of course, the thing that bothers you most in other people is the thing you’re doing that’s driving everyone around you crazy that you don’t realize you do! Once again, a feature of our human psyche, not a bug. 😳 Ack.

She is, of course, just who she is. It’s her life, and she gets to be who she is. High maintenance? YES. She always has been. So, challenging, but not wrong. I can rattle off a long list of ways in which I often feel she is absolutely doing it WRONG, but of course, it’s not wrong for her. She is different from me, and it’s her life.

Rats.

I think I had better start there.

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I was thinking of the photo above the other day. My mom and I were out for a drive, and we went past this spot. It isn’t as pretty this year, as the trees haven’t all turned yet and the reflection in the water wasn’t as clear. I was lucky to get this shot years ago. It was a beautiful colorful autumn that year, a rare sunny, almost windless fall day, and the water was still. The most important element of that photo, though, is that I went for a walk with my camera that day. I showed up and was rewarded with a lovely sight and a pretty photo. The water and the sun and the trees would have been beautiful with or without me and my camera, but I was lucky that I chose that day to be there.

I’ve been thinking about showing up, and persistence, and commitment. It’s funny how the universe has a way of showing up for me when I need help understanding something, or when I lose heart. Most recently, everywhere I turn there is a common theme, including a few podcasts (I listen to A LOT of podcasts) on keeping on, persistence and trusting yourself and the process, a couple of blog posts on acceptance, and a couple of quotes I came upon randomly. Must be everyone is thinking about the same things, including how long is this stupid pandemic going to last?

I’m kind of tired of showing up, honestly. I’ve been showing up in my job, and for my mom, for a long time now, and I’ve been on alert with the pandemic in my job and in my life, along with everyone else, for the last 18 months. I have also been trying to show up for myself by exercising regularly, eating healthfully, and trying to get enough sleep. Time is in short supply when you work full time, and are a full time caregiver, so I can’t do all that I’d like to, but I do the best I can to maintain my physical and mental health. Fun is in even shorter supply, but I’m trying to fit that in too, by meeting up with friends and getting out in the evenings occasionally, now that we’re not all huddling in our houses trying to keep COVID at bay.

Quite often lately, however, I question why life has seemed to be so hard for so long. Then, of course, I realize that compared to many, my life is easy-peasy and I get over myself. 😂 I’m very fortunate in many ways, and it’s very important for me to remember that. My situation is not even close to the range of really horrible human life circumstances on this planet, and I completely get that..

Still, I’m tired, and I would love to know how much longer I have to keep on showing up so much. It involves a lot of big tiring words: discipline, tolerance, acceptance, persistence. It requires simply letting everything be. Expending any amount of energy on wishing or hoping for something different than what is, simply is not helpful (but very hard to avoid doing sometimes). As someone just said on the podcast I’m listening to while I’m writing this, you have to accept that it is what it is, and just crack on.

Yes, exactly. Easier said than done, of course, but there it is: Just. Crack. On.

None of us knows what the future holds, so I won’t know how much longer I will be in these current circumstances until change shows up, probably without warning, as usual. Until then, I think the key is rest. Good sleep, healthy food, exercise and more vacation time from work around the holidays, I hope will keep me healthy, sane, and showing up as I need to for the foreseeable future.

For now, I’ll just keep cracking on.

What keeps you going?

Toleration Moderation

I’m tired of nasty people.

Really just sick and tired of people whose mothers apparently never taught them, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” Maybe mama taught them, and they’ve simply forgotten. We’re suffering a nationwide, maybe worldwide, case of amnesia. We’ve forgotten how to just be nice.

If I’m supposed to be learning from people spewing vitriol at other people – strangers – because they object to something about that person, it’s just not happening. It causes me to shut down, not learn. I reach a point at which I’m no longer even engaging with the person. I’m heartbroken, disgusted, infuriated, and I’m gone.

I stand firmly with Kahlil Gibran on this. If I’m supposed to be learning from these people how not to behave in the world, then I’ll pass. I want to learn by example from people I respect. I want to feel good about people again. I want to feel like the universe is a friendly place again. I want to feel like we’re going to be okay.

I fear we’re so far from okay right now, especially in this country, that we will never find our way back, or forward, for that matter. Now that we know just how awful some (I hesitate to say most, but that’s what it feels like lately from where I’m sitting) people can become at the least provocation, how do we feel safe talking to strangers again? How do we engage with friends and family members who have shown us who they really are? How do we become less divided if we can’t even talk to each other for fear we will be abused?

Is there a middle anymore? Doesn’t feel like it. I can’t imaging bridging the divide between myself and someone who feels it’s not only okay, but their right, to snipe at someone they don’t know online, using the most offensive anger-fueled language they can think of. I’m supposed to be tolerant of that? I’m to learn kindness from that? Someone spewing abuse at someone for doing their job? Really?

No.

Just NO.

It’s not okay, and it can’t be tolerated. It doesn’t teach me anything. It breaks my heart, makes me angry, makes me afraid. These folks are not my teachers. They are destroyers, not creators. They are not people I want to emulate. There is a way to get your point across without being mean. It seems though, among many lately – especially online – that meanness is celebrated. The meaner the better. If you can demean someone online, using the cruelest possible language, especially someone in power – someone you don’t know – the better you feel about yourself.

That’s the very definition of bullying, isn’t it? It’s like the whole country is back in school, and the bullies are running the show. How did that happen? When did it start?

How do we stop it?

I’m in the not unusual position lately of knowing who I would like to be – tolerant, compassionate, kind, disciplined, responsible – but I can’t see my way to that person in relation to others. What would Buddha, or Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would Jesus do?

It just kills me that many of these folks claim to be “patriots,” and that many also profess to be Christians. Pretty sure Jesus would be shaking his head, too. The Founding Fathers and Mothers, too. Really – is this what countless men and women have fought for? The right to be mean?

No, sorry. Nowhere in the bible does it say it’s okay to be mean. The Golden Rule doesn’t say, “do unto others before they do unto you.” Jesus didn’t say “be nasty to your neighbors as to yourself.” The great leaders – those who inspire us – are all about love.

Those are my teachers. The folks who are kind, compassionate. Those with empathy.

The rest have nothing I want to learn, and I am most decidedly not grateful to them.

Looking ahead

My optometrist, the guy I have been going to since I was 14, has retired. I don’t blame him – life is short, he’s worked hard all his life and deserves a rest – but it means I have to find someone new. Ugh.

I’m not as good at new as I used to be, and frankly, I wasn’t great at it to begin with, especially when it comes to people. However, if I want to get new glasses, which I definitely need, I’m going to have to make my way into the Land of Change. Ack.

This is a small town, so there aren’t many optometrists to choose from, so my decision, once I decide to make it, should be relatively easy. So why do I keep putting it off? I’m a big girl. I’ve experienced A LOT of change in my life, especially in the last year and a half. It should be getting easier, but I think it’s the opposite. I feel increasingly that I have very little in life, and very few people, that I can really count on. Nothing seems solid, and while I would like to be more fluid, I just am NOT. I want to feel safe, and NEW never feels safe.

Sometimes it’s exciting – new bike, new clothes, new book, new restaurant – but it’s never safe, and that seems to be my overriding desire now. When it comes to people and life, uh…for me, lately, new seems very scary.

Now, I know there is no such thing as safety in this human life, but that doesn’t stop me from desiring it. Just like knowing sugar is bad for me. I have to make a choice to resist. Same with safety. Being safe isn’t going to get me anywhere. Change is a constant and growth is the goal. That’s what I believe about life, but it’s not the way I really want to live. LOL! I don’t have any illusions about that. I’m not a free spirit. I’d like to be, but like brown hair and freckles, that’s not what I got. I may have been like that at one time, but life has worked it out of me.

It’s like that for everyone, isn’t it? Life will break you, no matter who or how you are, and as it turns out, that’s a good thing. What’s the Leonard Cohen song about the cracks being where the light gets in? It doesn’t feel like you’ll survive the breaks, and it’s certainly not a given that you will. If you do, however, for better or worse, you will be changed, and it’s ultimately up to each one of us how that change shows up in our lives.

Life has taught me that most of the time I have to be brave to have what I want. There have been plenty of times when I wasn’t brave, and those times have occasionally left me with regrets. When I was able to overcome my fear of change, good things happened mostly, even though at the time they may not have appeared to be what I wanted or intended. Life=Paradox.

So now I have to be brave and call a new optometrist and make an appointment. And then I’ll have to actually go to the appointment and meet a new person and learn to trust him. Today that seems overwhelming, but it might not seem so tomorrow, so we’ll see. <—- (See what I did there? Optometrist. Ha!)

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Who’s with me on this?

So the last 18 months have been a real cluster, haven’t they? Cuz life isn’t hard enough, right? Let’s throw a pandemic into the mix!

And where the hell have I been? Well, I’ll tell you. Right. Exactly. Where. I. Was. 18. Months. Ago. Still at Acme Health Services, still caring for my mother, and still just trying to keep going. Nothing has changed, and yet EVERYTHING has changed, hasn’t it?

Working in public health has definitely changed. We have been Public Enemy #1 since March of 2020, and it gets worse day by day. For the first time in my life, I’m afraid to tell people where I work, and I’m afraid to be at work. We have beefed up security in all of our buildings, but I am watchful in the parking lot, and fearful for my co-workers who are working outside the office in off-site vaccination and testing clinics.

I’m not even going to mention the abuse our agency has been taking on social media, and on our information and scheduling phone lines. Oh, I just did, didn’t I? Well, it’s unbelievable. Previously unimaginable to me how vile people can be to people they don’t know; people who are just trying to do their jobs. As I am the social media manager, I’ve had to field most of the crap-slinging on Facebook, and it has definitely gotten to me. I don’t take it personally, cuz the people who are commenting are hurling abuse at an entity they feel is ruining their fun, not me personally. I get that. Still it has had an effect.

It has changed my view of my fellow human beings profoundly.

That whole “everybody’s doing their best,” thing I used to write about all the time? Yeah, not so much. I know better. For a while it really did a number on me. I took a lot of vacation time this last year, including 3 weeks in July. I needed those breaks in a way I have never experienced before. I’ve been working since I was 14 – 46 years – I have never felt that depleted at any job, including this one in the last 21 years.

I’m ready to leave my job, and my country, but I’m not sure it would necessarily be better anywhere else, and I can’t leave my mom, anyway. She is steadfast in her desire to stay right where she is. She’s got it good, after all. She doesn’t leave the house, and she has a full-time housekeeper/servant. Mostly she lays on the couch, watches TV and plays solitaire on her phone. Why worry?

I worry.

A lot.

I worry about the future of this country. I worry about my future and my health. I wonder how I/we go on from here, knowing now how divided we are and how utterly horrible, self-centered and gullible people can be. I worry about our beautiful mother Earth, and how long greed will rule. I worry about whether I’ll be able to retire given the recent news about Social Security and the fragility of the stock market.

There is plenty to worry about, and not much hope to hang on to. The things that used to bring me joy are gone for the most part, either because of the pandemic restrictions or due to the time constraints of having 2 full-time jobs. Now the weather has started affecting the one thing I had through the summer to look forward to – being out on my bike – but I’m making the transition to indoor riding on Zwift and BKool again this fall, and that’s almost as good.

I’m hanging on as best I can, to life and to hope that things will get better, not worse, which of course is just as possible. Everyday I get out of bed and try again. Try to be kind. Try to be effective in my work. Try to keep my mother happy and healthy. Try to do my best in every moment.

I’m not always successful, but I try.

And really, what else is there? The saying is that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, just that you keep getting up. So that’s what I’m doing. I fall 20 times a day, and then I get back up and try again.

How are you doing?

What’s in your wallet?

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19 years ago, at 7 am in a near blizzard, I got in my 9 year old Subaru Loyale, and drove 50 miles to bankruptcy court. My lawyer, whom I had met with once, several months prior, was supposed to meet me there.

He was an hour late, citing the weather. He got no sympathy from me. Even the trustee was unimpressed. He pointed out to him that I had come farther, and that I had been on time. I missed my scheduled time because of him, so I had to wait until the end of the regular schedule for my hearing.

I think the trustee felt sorry for me that my guy was such a loser, but that didn’t stop him from levying a $37,000 judgment against me. I had to borrow the money to pay the judgment from my parents, who had to take out a second mortgage on their house to get it. It was 3/4 of the total amount I owed. So much for starting over.

I paid my parents $500 per month for the next 7 years to repay that debt. They wouldn’t let me pay interest. I had a good job, and after a few years I was able to get a secured credit card, so was able to start rebuilding my credit. In 2009, I was able to get a loan to buy a house, and I felt like I was in the clear.

Then my dad died and I moved in with mom. Dad had been ill for a long time, and by the time he died, the house was in severe disrepair. Those repairs, along with the steep property tax owed for the next few years, forced me into credit card debt once again. Given my history, I didn’t make that choice lightly, but neither mom nor I had any savings, so I had no other recourse.

I had built good credit over the years, though, so 3 years ago my credit union offered me a high limit, low interest credit card that I used to transfer all my debt from the other high interest cards.

This past Saturday I made the last payment on that card. As I write this, I have no credit card debt. In fact, the only debt I have now is the mortgage on my little house, cuz last fall I paid off the car I bought 5 years ago. I don’t really consider my mortgage a debt, per se, cuz if I wasn’t making a house payment, I’d be paying rent, so to me it seems like the same thing.

No debt. I can hardly believe that’s true. I feel free in a way I haven’t since I left high school. Student debt that took 12 years to pay off, credit card debt, car payments on 6 or 7 cars over the years, the bankruptcy judgment, more credit card debt; owing someone something has been a constant in my adult life.

Owing, or being in debt is a powerful metaphor. Not only do I believe in karmic debt manifesting in this life, but I think psychologically I always felt I had to pay my way here because I didn’t really belong. As a child and then young adult, I felt that there was nothing here for me; that my presence on the planet was a mistake, and that I had to make up for what it took to sustain me.

I don’t feel that way now, thank goodness, so I’m hoping that my new found freedom from debt is permanent. The tide has turned. The money that was going to debt payment is now going into savings. After 20 years at Acme Health Services, I have a nice pension fund building. I’m hoping to refinance my house soon, and in a couple of years, transfer it to a reverse mortgage or sell it.

So I’ve kind of backed in to a good financial situation. I’m not rich, and I’m probably not ever going to be unless Publisher’s Clearinghouse is involved, but I feel good about my financial future in a way I never have before, and that’s a very good thing. On that day 19 years ago, I never would have imagined this day would come.

I found my way through the blizzard, and I can see my way forward clearly. It took 58 years, but I made it. Hallelujah!

 

 

Signposts

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Winston Churchill has been a hero of mine for quite a while. To me, he embodies the word “resilience,” and that’s something that has meant a lot to me over the years. My goal throughout all of my life, through some pretty rough stuff, has simply been to keep going. No matter what.

I didn’t want to. There have been plenty of times, deep in the cold morass of the blackest depression, especially, that I’ve thought of giving up. In the middle of bitter disappointment, abject failure, burning rejection, aching loss, I asked myself, “Why?”

Why keep going? What is this all for? What will change?

I didn’t give up, though, and it turns out the answer to all those questions is: ME.

Life hasn’t changed – it’s still hard, and will always be so, but I’ve changed. Turns out I’ve always been resilient, though I didn’t think of myself that way. When I look back at my life, though, I see it. I kept getting up. I took some pretty hard blows, but I got up every time and went on. Bruised and bleeding, for sure, but I got back on my feet and I went on. Every. Time. Sometimes I had help, sometimes I didn’t. Either way, I was the one who had to find the strength to go forward and I did.

As I’ve gotten older I find that I get up faster and that I see those difficult times differently. That’s what’s changed. I see the benefit, the opportunity for growth, quicker than I used to, and while I probably still don’t welcome hardship, I am able to embrace it more fully and faster than I used to. For that I’m deeply grateful.

Last weekend brought me to my knees, literally and figuratively. It pressed all the buttons, hard. In thinking about it now, though, I realize a couple of important shifts.

First, I didn’t get angry. Amazing, cuz that’s my first reaction to most everything unpleasant, typically. I didn’t this time, though cuz I didn’t take it personally. I joked about being punished for taking time off, but it really was a joke, not something I truly believed. It was all just stuff that happened, and I got that right away.

Second, I didn’t make more of it than it was. I did what needed to be done, for myself and then later, for my mom, which is normal. I’ve always been good in a crisis. Afterward, though, I didn’t obsess about it for days and days, and that’s new. It was nasty, and not something I hope to go through again anytime soon, but it’s over. Life goes on.

Resilience.

Never give up. Never, never, never, never. We all have the capacity – that resilience. All creatures are resilient, but for humans it’s different, in that we have a choice. You have to make it over and over.

Everyone I know goes through really rough stuff, again andagain; really gnarly rotten stuff. We all have our own curriculum here in Earth school, so the obstacles are different for all of us, but there are always obstacles, no matter who you are, or how in control you think you are. There is no way to do it “right” so that everything goes well for you. There just isn’t. There’s no point to that. We don’t learn from easy.

We don’t get stronger. We don’t get better, unless we’re challenged. That’s another thing unique to humans. That’s just the way it is. Getting angry, or bitter, or blaming someone else, or numbing out in some way is not helpful. Those are not ways of going on; they are ways of getting stuck.

Stand up. Dig deep and find your own resilience. It’s in there. Shake off the past. It’s over. Look ahead. Check in with yourself right now. Figure out what you need to do to keep going and do that thing, whatever it is. Take care of yourself and soothe your wounds. Reach out if you need help.

Then go on. Take a step, and then another,  and before you know you’re on to the next thing. The other thing – the past – that’s a part of you now, part of your life resume. It’s not all of you, though. You got through that. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!

There will be more, and you’ll do that, too. Cuz you just keep going. That’s all there is. There is no other way. No matter what. Through all of it – the highest highs and the lowest lows – all that this amazing human life has to offer.

Never give in – never, never, never, never. Thank you Mr. Churchill, for showing me the way.