Reaching out

I chose a word of the year rather than making resolutions this year, cuz I find that don’t feel resolute about anything anymore, really. I think everything’s up for grabs and changing even more rapidly than normal since the start of the plague in 2020. Who knows what’s going to be next? My money’s on locusts. We’re having flooding and hurricanes and tornados and anything else Mother Nature can throw at us, our society is expanding on one hand and contracting on the other – depends on who yells the loudest on any given day.

The rules about work and love and health and relationships and aging seem to be changing ever more quickly, and I find that I no longer know what they are, let alone how or whether to follow them. Admittedly, I haven’t been that concerned with society’s rules for most of my life, I don’t see any reason to start now. I am now classified as older (some would say old – just ask a Millennial), and have been an unmarried, childless woman for all of my adult life. I was a bookish, needy, dramatic kid; an introvert and just generally struggling to figure it all out.

There have been lots of places in my life that I didn’t fit into at all, and some that I didn’t fit into very well, and when I was younger I tried to mold myself into someone who would fit into some of those places, but that was uncomfortable and pointless and I gave that up quite a while ago. I decided that I liked myself well enough just as I am/was, and if other people didn’t like me that way, it was fine, because probably I didn’t like them much anyway, either. This didn’t happen overnight, but thanks to pharmacology and a good therapist, I was finally able to make that leap.

I’ve been lucky in my life in that I have had it pretty easy as human life goes. I’ve dealt with some tricky stuff, but all on the low end of the Continuum of Human Misery scale. I’m grateful for that, and honestly, I hope that luck holds out for the rest of my life.

So now, having said all that, I find myself at the beginning of a new year. Not just any year, actually, but the end of my working life. I will be retiring at the end of 2023, and I’m pretty excited about that, and also just a little apprehensive. Not about not working per se; I’m ALL about that. I started working (at a real job–not babysitting) when I was 14 and my mother will tell you that I’ve been ready to retire since I was about 16 and the bloom was off that rose. For the most part I was happy in my jobs (until I wasn’t) and I especially loved being self-employed for a while (until I couldn’t) and I was especially lucky to land at Acme Health Services almost 23 years ago, where I have made life-long friends and enjoyed working with committed compassionate folks.

And so now here I am, and I’m thinking, “Great!” and then “Now what?”

So my word is STRETCH. I aim to expand my thinking, my horizons, and my possibilities this year, so that I can step into next year really firing on all cylinders and blast off into the next phase of my life. Ha! I intend to redefine my perceived limitations and reach beyond them. My guess is that at times it’s not going to be comfortable, but it will be exciting, and I feel like I’m ready to welcome something new. (Maybe not – I’ll let you know. 😁 Sounds good, though, doesn’t it?)

PS – I think maybe we all need to stretch a little; start seeing the planet and each other a little differently. Reach out to meet and welcome the GOOD. Seems many of the old ways of being and doing are not only not working anymore, but are downright dangerous to our wellbeing. I’m hopeful that all this darkness is the fertile ground of the womb, and that something is trying to be born in us, and that’s why it all seems so painful. We need to stretch to aid in the birth. Makes sense to me, and I hope it’s true! Cuz the reality is that sometimes the dark is just darkness. (I’m an optimist, though. I’ll stick with the birth thing. Makes it possible for me to keep finding my way with my dim light.)


Finding new life

I’ve always had a job, sometimes more than one, and I’ve always worked hard and done my best. At some of them I failed miserably (I was a horrible waitress and a horrible business person), at others I performed well-enough to meet and occasionally exceed expectations. (I’ve always been pretty good of learning new things on the fly). Most of the time my work has been average, and not valued very highly.

It’s hard to accept being average, though most people are. We all think we’re special, and as individual human beings each of is certainly unique, and special in some way.

For sure.

I’m talking more about being average talent-wise, and specifically at the jobs we do.

This includes most of the work I’ve done at my current gig at Acme Health Services, where I’ve been for 22 years. Most of my co-workers and the leadership here are medical professionals, and the work I do is not prioritized, not really on their radar, and not really valued in the same way as someone providing health services.

That’s okay. I get paid, and I’m comfortable with who I am and my level of expertise. I’m not the best at what I do. I’m probably not even the second best. I own that. what I lack in talent I make up for in commitment and effort. I try really hard and I take my work seriously. I do my best to meet the needs as they are described to me, and for 22 years, I think I’ve done a good job for an organization whose primary focus is elsewhere.

When I was young I was sure I had special talent. I imagine that we all do. We want to believe that we have something special to offer the world; that we will make an impact. It would be really cool if we could all be that person, but it simply is not the way the world works. Some people really stand out.

Most don’t.

That’s okay. It’s great to have your ego stroked. It feels really good, and it affirms your efforts. It’s not fundamental to growth or a good life, however, and in some ways it can be detrimental. If you feel your value as a human is all wrapped up in one ability or attribute, what happens when/if you lose it? Then who are you? My current job is very important to me, but it is only one facet of my life and my history, even my work history. It’s not who I am in total, any more than having brown hair or being a good speller defines me. We’re all complex beings, and most of us work because we have to – primarily. Food is important, and having a place to live is nice, too. You don’t get those things usually unless you have a job. (Yes, sometimes having a job doesn’t guarantee either of those things. I understand that, but that’s a topic for another post.)

I’m struggling with this right now because I’m at the end of my career, and my abilities and my ideas are sometimes reflective of another time. Not always; sometimes I surprise myself and others. I’m willing to defer to younger minds with fresher skills and perspectives.

I really am.

What I’m running into, though, is feeling as though nothing I’ve ever done has been useful or even serviceable. The lovely young people I work with are very open with their opinions about what was happening before they came on the scene, and fairly condescending in the way they treat me due to their assessment of my previous work through the lens of a completely different time and world.

I’m sure this happens to most people as they age in their professions, and the world tries to move on without them, thinking they no longer can keep up. I want to believe that my years of experience and expertise is of value – not to mention that I am still here and there’s creative life in this old brain yet – but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Not new, I know, and I know I’m not alone in this. I know that, too. It’s the way of the world to move on to the next generation’s way of doing things – that’s how we progress as a society and as humans. I get that, and I applaud it. I’m all for change and I envy these young people their ability to effect it. (Having said that, I wouldn’t be young again, especially now, if you gave me all the money in the world!)

I wish I was in a financial position to step aside and let them have at it. As long as my mother is alive I’m not, however. I’m guessing I have to stick around for a couple more years, at least. So I want to be of use and I want to remain relevant, and I have to find a way to convince my new co-workers that I’m still both of those things.

Wish me luck!

Photo by Pixabay on

Here’s looking at you

Pema ChΓΆdrΓΆn tells a great story:

A Buddhist monk in training approached his teacher and told him that when he meditated, his back hurt. He went on to say that this clearly indicated that he wasn’t cut out to be a monk, and that he was a failure at everything he had tried and…the teacher interrupted and said, “So what you’re telling me is that your back hurts.”

“Yes!” said the young man, “I have failed at meditation, and so cannot fulfill my dream of becoming a monk, and…” The teacher smiled and said kindly, “What I am hearing is that your back hurts.” “Yes!” said the monk, “I’m a failure…”

“So,” said the teacher, “Your back hurts…”

Life is harsh. Bad things happen. Disappointments pile up as the years go on. It’s difficult enough without piling on more drama. Everything that happens to us can become fodder for embellishment – it’s the “what it means” part of any life event, even the most mundane, that makes life harder than it needs to be. Our “poor me” stories, carefully fashioned, most since childhood, not only damage our integrity as adults, but also undermine our ability to cope with life’s ups and downs without added pain.

The worst part is that we do it to ourselves. Buddhists call this the “second arrow.” The first arrow is whatever life throws at us that is causing pain. The second arrow is the story we pile on top of it, causing 10 times more pain.

Something happened, so I’m a failure. I always fail. I’ll never have what I want. It’s not fair, and it’ll NEVER be different.

An easy way to spot the arrows: the words always and never. These are two of my favorite words, unfortunately, and I am an expert at turning even the smallest inconveniences into epic tragedies, with long-term consequences. This weakness caused me much pain throughout my life, but it’s not as easy to stop as you might imagine. Even though I’m much older and wiser, I still catch myself assuming the worst about everything.

I’m not a pessimist, and I don’t believe in fate, per se. I am very much an optimist, but when bad things happen, I do whatever needs to be done to remedy the situation (if there is something to be done, which, of course, is not always the case), and then I start spinning the story about what it means.

I’m cursed. Nothing ever works out. I will never have the life I want. Blah, blah, blah.

Ridiculous, of course. I am blessed in so many ways, and I have incredible luck most of the time. I know that, and yet, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, I get lost in it. I fire the second, third, and fourth arrows and I succumb to them.

I’ve been struggling with a deep depression these last few weeks, and I’m particularly apt to pull out the bow and quiver when I’m in this state. I start berating myself for being so self-absorbed when there are people suffering legitimately horrific losses like a tornado that happened near here recently, the shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, the Russian assault on Ukraine. I feel guilty for feeling badly – or worse, not feeling at all, which is more likely with depression – when I have no real reason to.

The reality is simply that I’m depressed. Period. It’s something I’ve dealt with most of my life, and it will pass, sooner or later. It’s bad enough without piling on guilt and frustration and impatience. Instead of bemoaning my fate and mentally reciting my Litany of Loss over and over, I should be patting myself on the back for getting to work everyday and continuing to meet my responsibilities at home, even though my energy level is at rock-bottom, and what I’d really like to do is crawl in bed until it’s over.

Life is hard for everybody in some way. Give yourself a break. Be patient, and treat yourself gently and kindly. Fire those arrows into the air and let them fall harmlessly to earth. Better yet, hang up the bow and the quiver altogether. Find a way to keep going through whatever it is you’re facing without causing yourself or anyone else additional (unnecessary) pain.

Everything has a season, and life moves quickly. This too shall pass.

Hang in there.

Just. Be.

Yeah, not easy to remember, is it?

As someone pointed out in an email I received recently (thanks Alison), there seems to be themes to our lives. One of the most dominant in my life has been an obligation to family, and the need to prove myself worthy of my existence. Belonging and obligation, and the tension between security vs. freedom, has dictated my actions and dominated my thoughts since I was very small. My mother, particularly, has always been a concern, and it has been difficult for me to maintain boundaries with her suffocating need for love and attention.

Somewhere along the line, thanks to therapy mostly, I was able to untangle that web and make my life, and what I wanted for myself the priority. It became more difficult to stick to those boundaries when my dad became so ill and ultimately died, but I did it. I made a conscious choice to live with my mother then. I did not feel like I couldn’t say “no,” as I so often had when I was younger. I felt it was the right thing to do (still do) and I would make that choice again and again.

My time with my mother has been much longer and far more challenging in many ways than I ever dreamed possible when I made that move 10 years ago, but that’s just the way things are. It’s not her fault, and we’ve both gotten a lot better at maintaining boundaries.

Lately, though, I’ve been slipping back into old habits, and haven’t been taking very good care of myself while taking care of her. I have put her needs before my own, sometimes by necessity, but most of the time just because it was easier. Of course, for a couple of years COVID limited my life, as it did everyone’s, but even since things are starting to get back to normal a bit, I’ve been very conscious of her needs and less of my own. Trying to be super-caregiver, or super-daughter or something – I don’t know what.

And so I was starting to feel something that I felt a lot when I was younger: resentment. For me, with the r-word also comes depression and anger alternately. So I was starting to be a little unpredictable emotionally and downright explosive at times, and that wasn’t doing either of us any good.

As a full-time caregiver, with a full-time job, and 2 houses to maintain, life can start to feel like nothing more than a list of things to do. The reality is that there is always something to be done. I could be productive, working on that list 24 hours a day, and there would still be things left undone. That’s just the way it is, and I know that, but it got away from me. The resentment, depression and anger were eating me alive and still, I just couldn’t let go of the idea that everything depended on me, and I had to just keep going.

Fortunately, those feelings are not so common anymore, so experiencing them again as I had so often in my earlier life, sent up a few red flags, and forced me to figure out what was going on. So I’ve had to sort some things out and get back to finding time for the things I know keep me on track, including mediation, writing and journaling, activities with friends, and the really big one: time alone to just be.

I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, least of all my mother, or myself, for that matter. I don’t have to justify my existence or be the perfect anything. I’m fine just as I am – flawed and totally okay in equal measure – and I can relax in the knowledge that I have what it takes to get through life each day and enjoy it. I can just be me, without explanation or apology, and with love and good humor.

The list will wait while I take a walk, or go for a bike ride, or read on a Sunday afternoon alone in my room. I see to it that my mother has things to keep her occupied while I spend some time online or play a game, or write in my journal. There is time before work to meditate, and going to my room early to read for an hour before bed is not taking anything away from her or anything else. I get up early and I go to bed early, and while she makes it clear that she would rather I stay up to watch TV with her, I just give her a hug and say “good night.”

We don’t have to spend every moment together, even though she doesn’t like to be alone. That’s something she has to navigate on her own. I do like to be alone, and one way of being is not better or worse than the other. I compromise to meet her needs when necessary, and I expect her to do the same. We’ve managed to hammer out a pretty good “happy medium” for both of us in the last 10 years, and the only time it starts to get “unhappy” is when I start prioritizing her expectations over my own.

It’s okay for each of us to be who we are; to love what we love and to do the things that make life worth living. Everything in life comes down to balance, and when I’m out of balance, as I have been, I have to get back to being mindful of and honoring my own unique way of being.

Deep breath

Let it be.

Deep breath

Just be.


The view from here

I’m not a fan of winter, particularly, but I don’t hate it anymore. My perspective has changed. This is a good thing cuz where I live, winter lasts a looooong time. We still have snow on the ground here. It snowed as recently as yesterday. Spring will come, but it’ll be a while yet before it’s warm enough for me to enjoy being outside.

I don’t like to be cold, so there’s that, but the biggest reason I don’t like winter is that I don’t get to ride my bike outside for 7-8 months. In the past, that meant I didn’t get to ride at all for nearly 2/3 of the year. The remaining four, or five months were wonderful, but soon enough it was time again to hang up the bike for the winter, which made me so so sad, and ornery, and fat.

When I was younger, I just didn’t exercise for 8 months, and that seemed to work out okay. I bowled in the winter, and that was fun, if not particularly healthy, given the number of cigarettes I smoked and the number of beers I drank in 2 hours once a week. As I got older, however, it became apparent pretty quickly that those halcyon days of keeping the weight off without exercise in the winter were over.

So, I went to the gym, and if it wasn’t cold enough to freeze body parts, I walked in the evenings. I bought a trainer to ride my bike indoors, and for a couple of years, I was pretty good about sticking with it, despite the fact that it is quite simply the most boring activity on the planet and has nothing to do with why I love to ride my bike.

Then the plague happened, and two things changed everything for me really quickly: 1) I was working from home full-time, and 2) the government sent me some stimulus money. Working from home gave me extra time, and the money allowed me to purchase a “smart” trainer that connects to my computer and the internet and responds to programs that make it seem like I’m riding on a real route.

Game. Changer.

So I tried a bunch of different programs, and the one I stuck with is Zwift. I bought the trainer in September of 2020 and when winter came that year, I found I didn’t care! I could still ride and enjoy it, and I didn’t have to go out in the snow everyday for work! Now I’m back in the office 3 days a week, but I still manage to ride 4 or 5 days a week.

So I have been thinking about how that one thing changed my perspective so completely. It has inspired me to think about other things I can change within the frame of my work schedule and caregiving/housekeeping responsibilities so that I feel less trapped. When I get sad and ornery now it’s mostly because I miss the freedom I had before I moved in with mom 10 years ago. I never dreamed I would be there this long, and it’s causing me to chafe a little (sometimes a lot) at the bonds of the commitment I’ve made.

I often feel I have no time to myself, and to some extent that’s true – I certainly don’t have the time I did when I lived alone. However, I laid out a schedule a week or so ago, and I discovered that if I make a couple of small adjustments, there is some more free time to be found in my days. So right there, my perspective changed, and already this week I feel lighter and freer. I can’t travel, and I miss that, but being able to fit in other things that I’ve been missing has helped change my frame of mind.

Perspective is everything. Byron Katie suggests that for every thought we have, we question it. Is that true? Who would I be if it’s not true? Changing my perspective about things I take for granted – I don’t have time, I don’t have the freedom, I don’t have whatever I feel I need – makes me wonder what else I’ve been perceiving incorrectly: people, the town I live in, the work I do.

Everything, maybe. It’s worth thinking about.

How about you? What can you try to see differently?

Word by word

Get. To. Work.


I came across this quote yesterday in a book about writing. It struck me because it’s not only how I feel about writing, but also about life, in general. I’ve written here before about my desire to be of use in the world, an impetus behind my life I’ve recognized consciously for many years. For me, writing has often been a way of being of service, at least in my mind. That is my intention – for what I write to be of use to the people who read it. I have had a lot of blogs over the years, and my drive to write them has always been the same, to share my experience of life on this planet, in the hope that someone will benefit from it. I do the writing, and I figure it’s the Universe’s job to send people who need to read it.

Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was quite young, 2nd or 3rd grade, I remember trying to figure out how books were made, cuz I wanted to write actual books! I wrote story after story and taped or stapled the pages together, made covers out of cardboard, illustrated them, and agonized over just the right titles to go on those covers. I wrote scripts for puppet shows, and put them on for my playmates in the neighborhood. Admission price was a penny, but if you didn’t have a penny, that was okay. My goal was to entertain, not collect pennies. I’m not even sure why I chose to charge admission. I suspect that like making books with cardboard covers, charging admission made it seem real.

I wrote stories about EVERYTHING, and I read them to my dolls, the cat, and later the dog, who was a lot more attentive than the cat. Most have been lost, but I still have one about a priest who lost his faith, that I wrote when I was 11 or 12. I can’t imagine how I presumed to think that I had any idea what it was like to be an adult, let alone a priest, and how I ever came up with that idea is lost to me now.

I just loved to write. I loved stories. It was fun to make things up and write them down. I thought for sure I would grow up to be a successful writer, like P. L. Travers (Mary Poppins), Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables), Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Louise Fitzhugh (Harriet the Spy), who were my favorites, along with many others. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I wrote everything I could think of.

I still love and do both of those things, though time is limited now, and my taste in books has changed, although those are all still favorites. I have always thought of myself first and foremost as a writer, though that has not been the way I’ve made my living, except for a brief stint as a journalist many moons ago, which I didn’t enjoy very much. I didn’t stick with it, though the training was valuable.

Writing is simply the way I process life, the way I look at the world. I still love it like I did when I was a little kid. I’ve blogged, in one form or another, since the internet was text only, though in the beginning it wasn’t called blogging. Most of my writing online then was on news groups and bulletin boards. I’ve taken time off over the years, but for the most part of the last 30 years I was writing on a blog somewhere. I still write short stories, and poems, and I’ve knocked out large parts of several novels that never were finished for one reason or another. Writing has always been life for me – there is no separation.

So, having said all that, I also realized yesterday when I read that sentence, that I’ve been absent from this blog for a long time, and I haven’t been journaling or writing at all for too long. It’s time again to get to work. My life is complicated these last few years, and time is at a premium, but if I’m not writing, I’m not living.

It’s really that simple.

What work are you neglecting? What will cause you to get back to it? The world needs all of us now, doing whatever it is we were meant to do, playing whatever role toward healing this planet and our humanity you feel you were given. The best gift we can give to the universe right now is simply being true to ourselves. Trust your gut, and get back to it. You may or may not be paid for your important work, and you may not feel like it’s good enough. None of that matters. Find what you love and just do it. Whatever it is. Trust that the universe gave you that love for a reason and follow it through.

Be brave, and get back to work! It probably won’t make you rich and famous, but it just might make you happy, and that’s all that really matters. Let me know how it goes!

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.


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. πŸ˜„

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. πŸ˜‰ 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 ( for the insightful post that got me thinking about this yesterday. 😊


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.


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.


I think I had better start there.


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. πŸ˜‚ 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?