Back to the future

Dick Eastman shared this video on his blog yesterday, and I’m captivated by it. It’s been modified on a computer so that it plays at normal speed and you can hear the sound. It looks like real life – not the speedy herky-jerkiness of most old films that make the people seem like cartoons. These folks look like real people. It’s a window into time. Dick says:

“As you watch this video, please think about this: every single person in it is no longer alive, and strangers 100 years later are watching them from devices the folks in the video had never seen or heard of before, called “computers” and “smart phones.”

I think that’s exactly what fascinates me about it. We’re watching ghosts. Only they weren’t ghosts then. They were people, just like you and me, living their lives that day, just like any other day. Worried about their kids, or their job, or thinking about the weekend, or whatever. They mattered to other people – their families, friends, co-workers. They had names and addresses.

In no way could they know what the next day would bring, or the next hour, or even the next minute. Just like us. They couldn’t see into the future. They certainly couldn’t have imagined that a 56 year-old woman in Michigan would be watching them walk down a street in New York City 107 years later on a little screen, while sitting at her desk, taking a break from work.

In 1911 so much was ahead that would affect their lives – the Titanic sinking, WWI, the influenza epidemic, all just in the next few years. And beyond – could the black man driving that car envision a time in this country when all people of color would be free and able to vote? How many of those women in their hats and long dresses were suffragettes? Just 9 years until they were able to vote. Much longer for the black driver  – did he live to enter a voting booth legally?

It’s all so strange to think about – individuals and history, and the reality that we’re all here for a short time and that the world will go on after we’re gone. Whatever troubled those people in 1911, or gave them joy is gone with them. The baby in the stroller had a whole life ahead. Just a little younger than my grandmother – I wonder where she lived and whether she married, whether her children and grandchildren carry on now. Perhaps she died in childhood. Many children died then from diseases we think nothing of now.

What will the world be like in 2125? What will the people then make of our lives 107 years earlier, in which every moment is documented on social media? That’s if there still are humans then, and a planet for them to inhabit. We can no more imagine life in 2125 than these folks in 1911 could envision 2018.

I love to think about things like this, but it sort of sends my head spinning, too. In 1911 there were roughly 1.6 billion people on this planet. In 2018 it’s 7 times that. Six billion more people. Walking around, living their lives, just like you and me. Some will be born today. Some will die. Most of us are known only to a handful of people  – more now, I guess, thanks to social media – not very important in the big scheme of things. Important, though, to ourselves and to our family and friends and our communities.

Ultimately, my life still comes down to what is facing me today – my mom, my work, my bike ride this evening. What I had for breakfast, what I’m going to have for lunch and dinner. How much sleep I got last night and how much I’m going to get tonight, what comes in the mail, and whether I’ll hear from a friend or family member online or via text. What I think about or read or watch. Who and what I care about.

Tomorrow will be much the same, probably. And after that, and after that…

The same was true for the people in the video, because that’s life. It’s in each moment, each activity, each thought, each emotion. They had their joys and sorrows, and so do we, played out in each moment of our time on this planet. Life doesn’t happen in hundreds of years, not really. It happens now, moment by moment.

That’s the challenge: BE HERE NOW. I struggle with it everyday – I want to know what’s ahead. I worry and I plan until anxiety starts to rule my life again, and then I have to step back – literally – into the moment, and breathe. Breathe.


We can’t see the future. We head into it blindly moment by moment, day by day. That’s the way it’s always been, and probably will always be. It’s scary and exciting, and the only way to do it is just to take a step. And another.

And another.

And breathe. Just breathe.



Give me a break


I haven’t had a vacation since December and the last 6 months have been very stressful. So I think this is a great idea. I need a break. I’m taking the 2 days prior to the 4th of July off next week, which  means I have a 5-day weekend coming up. It won’t be a complete break as I will still have all my mom/household chores, but 5 days of sleeping in and leisurely afternoon bike rides will be fabulous, and I’m really looking forward to it. The weather is forecasted to be really warm and sunny, so reading on the patio might be on the schedule, as well.

Really, though, I’m not making plans for those 5 days beyond the appointment I just made to have my hair trimmed on Tuesday. I’m giving myself permission to do only the necessary daily chores for those 5 days, and the rest of the time to just do what seems fun and/or relaxing. For me that means riding my bike for as long as I wish to in the sunshine and warmth of a summer afternoon, and then sitting in a comfortable chair reading. I don’t have nearly enough time in my “regular” schedule to do either of those things as much as I’d like to, so this will be my chance.

So – two breaks in one – I’m giving myself  some time away from work and I’m giving myself permission to do nothing “useful” for those 5 days if I don’t feel like it.

It’s probably going to eat at me a little that I’m not cleaning out the garage or weeding the flowerbeds, but I will persevere. My mother will probably make a few “suggestions” of constructive uses of my time, but I will tune her out. These are my 5 days. I’ve earned them, and I’m going to enjoy them.

I used to be really great at “wasting” time, but I used to have a lot more of it, too. There was time enough when I lived alone to get everything done AND do the fun things. That’s not true anymore. Stuff has to get done for life to be pleasant for the most part – cooking, cleaning, dishes, laundry, cat care – I feel better about life and about myself when those basic things are taken care of. Ditto mowing the lawn, feeding the birds and watering the flowers.

Over the Memorial Day holiday I had a list of 10 “big” things to do to get ready for summer and I got them all done. I felt good about that, and I didn’t regret spending that time that way. I like to be productive, mostly. It’s possible to do too much, though, and to get burned out, and that’s what I’m trying to avoid.

The older I get the more I understand the value in pacing myself. There is always going to be a TO-DO list. There is never a point at which everything that can be done is done. My mother’s needs alone are like a giant swirling abyss I can get lost in if I’m not careful.

So I’m tired and I’m giving myself a break. Before I break.

And I’m going to enjoy every lovely minute of it.



My wild, messy heart


I’ve been thinking a lot about connection and belonging, since listening to this TED talk by Brene Brown a few days ago. Belonging is not something I’m particularly good at, proven over and over throughout my life. I almost always feel more comfortable on my own. I was an only child, so entertaining and comforting myself were skills I learned early on.

I also learned early on that when you are connected to people, family especially, their problems are your problems and you can get caught up in the chaos forever. I discovered young, too, that if people think there’s something different about you or if they think you may need help, they will shy away. Having spent much of my life experiencing major depressive episodes 2 or 3 times a year, I found it was best to have fewer connections so that I could slip in and out of my life as necessary without losing too much each time. So, while friendly, I kept most people at arm’s length.

Depression made belonging to a group or club difficult, too, as there were times I couldn’t go to meetings or complete an assigned task on time. I usually ended up quitting fairly quickly, even if I enjoyed the people and the club, and finally I just stopped joining things. Ditto friends and lovers. Hard to maintain a relationship when you can’t be counted on to be the same person everyday.

Now my mother consumes my time, not depression, but the effect is the same. I have very few connections now. The ones I have are solid, but not usually a part of my daily life. They are busy people, too, and it’s hard to keep in touch or get together. That will probably not always be true, especially for me after my mother is gone, so those connections will remain and get stronger, I’m sure, and for that I’m grateful.

But then the question becomes where will I belong? Really the only group I’ve ever felt fully a part of is my family – my mom, dad, and grandma. For better or worse, I belonged to those people. I belong with my mom, now, just the two of us left. I know that’s where I’m supposed to be and that she is my “home.” Our family was not always a refuge for me, but it was always where I knew who and how to be and that I was loved. They took care of me and I took care of them, and continue to take care of my mom, and that’s what connection and belonging is all about.

Commitment. That’s really what it boils down to. Shared commitment to each other. Shared interests, common viewpoints, similar, if not completely shared, goals. I see you, you see me, we are the same. In order to have that kind of connection, you have to be clear about who you are and what you want, and you have to be willing and able to show that to others.


For me, and for most people, that’s a very scary word. Without it, though, you can’t really connect with another person, and you can’t really belong. At least, not authentically. If you can’t let people see the real you, then that connection doesn’t really have much meaning and it will break fairly easily. That’s what I’ve experienced most of my life, as I was mostly hiding, not living fully, and not connecting fully – or at all – in most cases.

That’s not me now, though, so the question becomes where do I find “my people?” After the last of my family is gone – my mother – where will I belong?

I think Ms. Brown has the answer in the quote above:

True belonging is not something we achieve, accomplish, or negotiate with others – it’s something we carry in our hearts.

I belong to me, first and foremost. I belong to the universe and the stars, the Earth, and the human race. I belong to my ancestors, and to my family as long as they live in my memory. I belong to my friends – the people I love and the people who love me – and to all the people I don’t know personally who have helped me on my path.

I know and love who I am – messy heart – and all, and I’m not hiding anymore. Here I am, all of me, ready to rejoin the world, life.

I belong.

How do you mend a broken heart?

This has been a pretty intense week. All about life and death, really, nothing less.

On Monday my mom had an episode of some kind – I’m not sure if it was a stroke or a seizure – and she fainted. She was out cold for 2-3 minutes. She stopped breathing twice, and for several seconds I thought she was dead. She woke up, though, and over the course of that day came fully back to herself, though she felt a little like she had been hit by a truck. By Tuesday evening, though, you would never know it had happened.

On Wednesday I went to have an echocardiogram, cuz when I was at the doc for a physical last week she thought she heard a murmur, and was concerned that maybe I have a partially blocked artery. I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and in the past 2 years or so I’ve managed to control both with exercise and diet, and bring those numbers down. So I thought I was in pretty good shape, and honestly, I’m not that worried about something that’s going to kill me in 30 years. Cancer is what concerns me. I’ve had 2 middle-aged friends die in the past 2 weeks from cancer, not heart disease. I don’t know anyone who has died from heart disease, in fact; everyone I know died from cancer.

Laying there listening to the blood whoosh through my heart was sobering, though. I had a psychic tell me a long time ago that I had a broken heart; that’s what I was thinking about while the friendly young women was moving the sensor around my chest. Could there really be something wrong? Is my heart broken? I’m only 56. How could I be having heart trouble? I don’t have the results of the test yet, but I’m hopeful that it was nothing and that I’m as healthy as I think I am.

Then yesterday, I got word via Facebook that a friend who has been battling cancer for a few years had taken a turn for the worse and the doctors had sent her home to die. She was only 50, a recent grandmother, a bright spot in our little community – just a beautiful soul. Last night she died, with her very large family around her, and I just feel so bad about that. I will miss her, even though I didn’t know her very well. She always made me smile.

So near-death, worrying about death, and actual death in the space of 5 days. My head is spinning a little and my heart is breaking (figuratively) for Leslie and her family and friends. Through it all I’ve really been trying to just take it all in, let it be, and then let it go. So much sadness and loss in the last 2 weeks; but life goes on. My mom will die, people I care about will die, and I will die. That’s the reality of this Life, and there’s no getting around it.

Don’t take a minute for granted.

Leslie Anne Miller Knoop 1967-2018

Rest in peace.

Rest in Peace


Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Julie Farmer.

The first two you know. The third one you probably don’t. She died this week, too. Unlike the other two, she didn’t choose to die. Cancer stole her life just as thoughtlessly and heartlessly as a thief in the night. She was 47 years old, beautiful and kind, and the mother of three children. She wasn’t rich or famous, but she had lots of friends and family – people who loved her and stood by her until the end, which was brutal. She was brave and loved life, even as she lay dying.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain took their own lives. For whatever reason they felt they couldn’t go on. We will probably never really know. To look at them from the outside, they seemed to have everything. We look at them in the media and think how lucky they are, how easy life must be for them. Money, and work they loved and were good at, travel, excitement. Awards and accolades, fame, luxury. They had everything we think we want. In the end, apparently, none of it mattered. It wasn’t enough.

No one understands depression and suicidal ideation better than me. Believe me, I get it. I’ve considered suicide on a regular basis since I was a teenager. I have deep compassion for anyone who makes that very final choice. Depression whispers in your ear – it’s hopeless, it will never get better, there’s only one way out. It convinces you that the problem is not that life is hard, and that it’s hard for everyone, even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside – the problem is you. You suck. You can’t cut it. You’re a loser. What’s the point?

Depression lies.

It’s like cancer, in that it steals your life, your mind, your joy.  Maybe Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain discovered that all the money, fame and success are not what makes life worth living. Those things are nice and they bring us momentary happiness and the buzz of millions of endorphins. None of us would turn any of that down. But it’s not what lasts. It’s not what gives us the strength to keep going when things aren’t so great.

To truly find joy in life and to make it through the hard times, you have to have one thing: LOVE.

Love for yourself, first and foremost. You’re fine. Life is hard for everyone. It’s not just you. You’re not perfect. No one is. We’re all just doing the best we can. Don’t compare yourself to others – you’re only seeing the shiny clean outside wrapper, not what’s going on inside. There is no such thing as a perfect life.

There is only your life and mine and what we make of it. You don’t have to save the world. You only have to save yourself. Don’t worry about what you imagine other people think about you or your choices. The only person you have to answer to is yourself. This is your life. It’s the only one you get and it’s short. Be kind to the part of you that’s broken, that tells you you’re less than or that you’re doing it wrong, or that you’re unloveable. Love that part of you and then let it go.

Love yourself and then you can really love others. In this life love is the only thing that matters. It’s not a cliche. It’s simply true.

Love yourself. You’re here on this planet and you’re doing the best that you can, and you’re awesome. You’ll be gone before you know it, so enjoy the ride. Don’t get off before your stop. You’ll be there soon enough.

Too soon.

RIP Julie.

Julie H. Farmer 1970 – 2018