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.

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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.

Yes!

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.

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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. šŸ˜„

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. šŸ˜‰ 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. šŸ˜Š

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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. šŸ˜³ 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. šŸ˜‚ 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!)

Uncategorized

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?