The law won

I love you

I was astonished to hear about the college admissions scam, in the way I’m always slightly surprised when I remember that some people who seemingly have everything are willing to risk it all to have more. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I’ve thought about it a lot in the past 2 days since the story broke, and what I really can’t wrap my head around is why the parents, especially the celebrities, didn’t think they’d get caught? Why would you risk going to prison for something that could have been accomplished in other ways? Spend money on a tutor to help your kid bring his grades up, for example. Spend your money on a better prep school. Instill in your child the idea that school is important and that you have to study to get into a good college. Teach them that money can’t buy everything and that some things are worth working hard for.

What it all really comes down to is privileged people thinking they’re entitled to something the rest of us aren’t. Not a new concept in the US, certainly, especially considering the person who currently holds the highest office in our government, but as Americans, that’s just not the way we’re supposed to do things. We’re all equal, right?

Right?

Ask your black neighbor if they’re surprised by this turn of events. Ask a poor child or any person of color, in fact, if they’re surprised by the assumptions of wealthy white people that they matter more then the rest of us.

I doubt it.

I’m not surprised by the attitude – I’ve encountered it personally many times living in a resort community most of my life – but as I said above, I am surprised at the level of risk involved for what seems to me to be a small reward. One day you’re a fairly wealthy actress/celebrity living the dream life, and the next the FBI is at your door. Prison awaits you, and you know that, but you risk it all and go ahead and break the law to get your kid into a particular college?

Wait a minute…what?

Exactly. You had it made and you blew it. Accept that your kid was too lazy, or not a good enough student to get the grades to get in. Accept that you’re like everybody else. Accept that life happens to you in the same way it happens to every other human being on the planet – there are consequences to your actions, and not everything is going to go your way. Life will humble you sooner or later. There will be a reckoning.

I guess maybe you don’t understand that if life has, indeed, gone mostly your way cuz your parents or you paid your way through the hard stuff. But just because karma hasn’t caught up with you yet, doesn’t mean it’s not going to. Sooner or later it’s going to have its way with you and you’ll find out that it’s true for everybody. Karma is an equal opportunity experience. It doesn’t discriminate. It is though, I believe, especially tough on people who don’t quit while they’re ahead.

I have compassion for all involved, cuz they’re going to pay a big price for their cluelessness, and their kids are going to pay an even larger price in some ways. The humiliation is epic. This is an opportunity for self-examination and growth, though, so if they recognize that they will ultimately benefit, but it’s going to be tough sledding until they get to that point. It’ll be painful and that’s too bad, because it really didn’t have to happen, but I suppose most crime is that way.

But I also have to say that it gives me hope to know that laws still matter in this country, even for the wealthy and celebrated, and that karma works. It does my heart good to know that there is order in the universe, after all. Not always, but sometimes, and for me right now, that’s enough. Cuz for 2 years I’ve been watching someone in power run roughshod over our democracy and our laws and it’s made me quite sad and feeling hopeless about the future of this country.

But this week, our laws worked, and someone who thought they were above the law was proven wrong. That makes me happy and hopeful that we might just survive as Americans and as humans going forward.

This week the law confirmed that we are all equal in this country still, and that is as it should be. Thank goodness.

 

Simple, not easy

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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

So Valentine’s Day was last week, and everyone’s feeling warm and fuzzy about romantic couple love, but I think just as important and maybe even more important, in that I don’t think you can really make a relationship work without it – is the love you show yourself.

It took me a long time to get this. Growing up, my mother and other important adults were critical of me so I got the message that I was unworthy of love, and that message stuck in my head for a long time. I got other messages, including those on TV and in magazines, and from other people throughout my life that reinforced the original message, so I had an idea about myself that I felt had been proven over and over again.

There is something wrong with me.

50 years later I look back and I see that nope, nothing wrong with me at all. Never was. I was different from other people, certainly, but only in the way that we are all different from each other in our particular ways of being in the world. Just being myself, walking my path, trying to figure life out just like everyone else. No more or less deserving of love and compassion than anyone else.

It’s a shame it took so long for me to get that, but I have now, and for that I’m grateful. I push myself to do things that mean something to me, including spending time with people who are important to me, but all the goals and ideas I had about what my life would be like – should be like – have been replaced by only one:

Appreciate and experience as fully as possible every single moment of my life, and offer the best of what I have within me to myself and others.

That’s it. Simple, but not easy, I assure you. It’s a process, and while I’m getting a little better at it over time, I’ll never be “finished.” Two things have helped a lot:

  • I’ve developed a mindfulness practice, including meditation, in the last few years that helps keep me grounded and appreciative of what’s here now.
  • I check in with myself and how I’m feeling – what my body is telling me – before agreeing to do anything outside of work or caring for my mother – some things I say “yes” to cuz they’re what I want to do or need to do to stay true to myself, and/or support my mental and physical well-being. Other things I say “no” to for the same reasons, or simply because I don’t have time or energy and I don’t do well when I’m overwhelmed.

Again: simple, but not easy. As a recovering people-pleaser, saying “no” is especially difficult. I think of it as a muscle I’m exercising and making stronger – just as I’m building muscle in the gym 3 times a week. It’s good for my health, and my longevity, and it’s worth it, even though sometimes it’s uncomfortable.

Throughout my life people have taken me for granted, taken advantage of my willingness to do almost anything or become almost anyone in order to be liked, and not really taken much notice of who I really am or what I want. That’s fine, really, as I didn’t always know, either, and that was more about them than it was me, anyway. Those people have exited my life now, most because they chose to, but some because I pushed them out the door and closed it.

I have a couple of really good friends now – folks who truly know me and like me – and I don’t worry about the rest anymore. Life is not a popularity contest. Further, I’ve come to realize that ultimately, the only person I really need in my life is me. I’m the only one who’s been there the whole time. No one knows me as well as I know myself. Therefore, no one can love me as well as I can love myself. All of me – the good, the bad, and the really unattractive – it’s all there for a reason, and it’s all deserving of love and compassion.

I’m still learning – I hope I will be until my last breath – and I’m still struggling. I probably always will be, cuz I’m less than perfect. (Pro tip: we all are.) I’m completely okay with that, though, cuz the alternative is really unpleasant – trying to be “perfect” and being stuck in people-pleasing, self-loathing hell as I was for so many years. In so many ways I feel reborn everyday lately, cuz so many things seem new and fascinating and wonderful to me, including myself.

What a joy it is to be alive and to experience all that this precious life has to offer for as long as we can! Nature impresses me. Art and poetry and music impress me. Laughter impresses me. Sometimes other people, but mostly not so much. We all have something to offer, me included. None better, none worse. All impressive, none impressive. Everybody just getting on as best they can. That’s enough.

It’s going to take all of us, giving our best, impressing ourselves, offering the best that’s within us, uniquely ours, to solve some of the problems we, as a global community, are faced with. It starts with me, and with you, and it’s not at all about who has the best stuff, or the best job, or the slimmest waist, perfect kids, how many things we can do at one time, or whatever. That’s not what’s impressive about any of us.

It’s what’s inside. Look there. See what you find.

Are you impressed?

Dispatch from the other side

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I struggle a lot with my expectations of people. I’ve written about it here before. It’s an ongoing thing; one of the lessons I’ve grappled with since I was very young.

When I was young and people let me down, I assumed it was my fault. I thought there was something about me – I didn’t know what it was – that alienated people and I accepted that as fact. I grew up believing I was unlovable. Again, I didn’t really know why, but I took my cues from the way important people treated me – my mother, other adults, kids, and the reality that my birthmother gave me away. That seemed like proof-positive to me that I was indeed, unlovable, certainly unwanted.

I felt that way well into my 40s. Less so, perhaps, but when people treated me badly or let me down I just chalked it up to me being hard to love. I’ve lost enough friends to populate a small town. It got so it wasn’t really even a surprise anymore, just another loss. My lot in life.

My fault.

Three years of therapy and 10 years on some powerful drugs went a long way to convince me otherwise, and alleviated the depression that went along with those thoughts and feelings. I’m perhaps not the easiest person to love, but I’m not unlovable, either. No one is.

We are all worthy of love.

So now I realize that it’s not just me, but my expectations are still too high. I keep getting tripped up by them, even though I know better. Because people let each other down. That’s just what happens. As the young, mostly unhelpful, but very nice policewoman said to me last weekend:

Most people really only think about themselves.

She’s right. I would like that not to be true – about myself and other people – but I think that’s really it. It isn’t so much that we don’t care about other people – we do. In theory, and sometimes even in practice. It’s just that for the most part – for whatever reason – we don’t go out of our way for others, even people who matter to us.

Mostly.

I can think of a couple of situations in my life in which someone rose to the occasion for me and really tried to make a difference. I’d like to think I’ve done the same for others a few times, at least.

Mostly, though, we just plod along, and try to get through on our own as best we can. At least, that’s been my experience. I can think of quite literally hundreds of situations over the years in which people have let me down so completely that the thud reverberated for weeks in me. It goes the other way, too. I can think of times I let people down, especially when I was deep in the abyss of depression. No one’s perfect, and when it comes right down to it, we are all fundamentally alone.

It’s become increasingly clear to me over the years that being disappointed really has nothing to do with my friends, or co-workers or people in general; it’s all about my expectation that I should matter to anyone other than myself.

That’s the mistake I keep making. And here’s why:

I’m a people-pleaser. Always have been because of the way I grew up, mentioned above – always trying to figure out how to get people to like me/love me. Scanning every word, every movement, every expression for a hint at how to give them what they want so that maybe they’ll like me. A chameleon, changing shape and color to be pleasing to the person I was trying to connect with.

I was astonished as an adult to realize that other people don’t do that, for the most part. Some do, most don’t. No one cares what I want or need, at least not to the extent I’d like them to, even people I’m close to. They’re not trying to please me in the same way that I’m killing myself for them. While I’m knocking myself out to figure out just the right birthday or Christmas gift, or rushing to answer an email or get a card out to someone for an occasion, or worrying myself sick over why I’m not hearing from someone for a while, they’re just getting on with whatever. Not thinking about me, not worrying about me, even if they care about me. They put themselves first.

Imagine that.

I alienate people cuz I expect more than that.  I really think it’s just that simple. I kill friendships by caring too much, trying too hard. I wear people out, and I must have seemed very needy until I finally wised up. Now I think I’ve gone in the other direction, actually.

I’ve been thinking about the metaphor of the snow “wall” in my driveway (I love me a good metaphor!) and I think that’s what it represents to me – the ways in which I’m cut off from other people, mostly through my own choices and life circumstances in the last few years, but not entirely. A few people in my life have had a part in erecting that wall from their side.

Whatever.

I’m doing better at pleasing myself and worrying less about pleasing others, except when it pleases me to please someone I care about. I still get caught up in expectations, and I still get let down when I least expect it, but that’s probably just the way it’s always going to be. That’s just who I am. An idealist. And that’s what being vulnerable is all about, isn’t it? Keeping our hearts open is risky, cuz we can be hurt, but it’s also the only way to connect and heal the rifts caused by life.

It’s the only way to melt the wall. 

It won’t happen quickly, but it will happen. Life goes on. This too shall pass. We’re all just doing the best we can, including me. What’s called for is forgiveness; not blame, not anger, not shame or retribution. Just forgiveness for our broken humanness.

As with everything else, at least for me, it’s a work in progress.

Mirror, mirror

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Failures abound in my life. When I look back I see plenty of them. The successes are not so easy to identify. They don’t exactly jump right out at you. In fact, there aren’t many of them, and they’re pretty well hidden because they weren’t as big or as public as the failures.

I accept that the mistakes and failures were wholly mine, and the successes, such as they were, have usually been the result of direction and/or assistance of someone a lot wiser than me. I’m not necessarily proud of my life, but I’m not ashamed of it, either. It just is what it has been; I can’t go back and change it. I wouldn’t be who I am if I had made different choices or taken a different path; which, ultimately is kind of circular thinking, cuz I made those choices and have walked this path because of who I was at any given point in my life on the way to becoming the me I am now.

Ow.

I think you have to be high to really get your mind around concepts like that, and I don’t do that anymore. So I’ll just let that sink in a while…

But here I am, and in this moment, everything is as it should be. I believe that. Not perfect, but right. Not that I was destined to end up here in this place, or in these circumstances, but I don’t think you can “miss” the life you need unless you are totally clueless, and I don’t believe I am. A friend from college recently wrote, “You always had a presence of mind and spirit that attracts me to all similar people…and there aren’t that many!” I was really touched by that, and it made me realize that I couldn’t have and shouldn’t have lived my life too much differently. The outer circumstances could have been different, of course, but the “inner” circumstances have been the same for a long time.

For better or worse, I am and have always been, 100% me.

I have needed the particular lessons I have learned presented to me in a particular way, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to walk my path, by myself, without significantly damaging anyone else along the way. Looking ahead, I can see that the journey must continue this way, as well. There will be more failures, more mistakes, and few successes. Maybe none at all. Because I take the successes for granted, but the failures get my attention. Life has humbled me, and that’s a good thing, because I have gained a respect and appreciation for it that I would have lacked otherwise.

I value independence over connection. That has always been true. It was a problem when I was younger, because it was assumed I would get married and have children, and the older I got without ticking those items off the to-do list, the more worried people around me got. But nobody asks me why I’m not married anymore, and lots of people don’t have children in my generation. I was never very good at being young, and now I’m not anymore. I’m a bit past the middle of my life, presumably, and I’m really happy to be here; where most people have the good sense and the courtesy not to second guess my choices.

I’m trying to learn to find some middle ground, and I’m learning to appreciate the connections I have now, though they are fewer than in the past, they are richer. I’ve been a good daughter and a good employee. Sometimes I get everything right, sometimes I miss the mark completely. I keep trying, though; I keep getting up and going on.

Over and over again.

That’s who I am. Someone I can count on. Someone others can count on. A person of integrity. Someone who has not let life defeat her.

And that’s who I need to be. That’s all I need to be. No one else. Not who anyone else thinks I should be.

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Do you see yourself, as you really are, or do you see someone who falls short of who you think you should be? Are you looking in your own mirror, or someone else’s? Whose reflection is that looking back at you? Your mother? Your grandfather? Your best friend? Someone you follow on Instagram?

Make sure you’re seeing you for who you really are. All of who you really are. Look hard and really see that person. Celebrate yourself, all your trials and successes. All the joy, all the pain. Look in the mirror and congratulate beautiful you for making it this far. For keeping on, despite the setbacks and the pain. Despite what someone else thought or did to try to convince you otherwise.

Again and again and again and again. 

I, myself

All acts and facts are a production of spiritual power,
the successful ones of power which is strong enough;
the unsuccessful ones of power which is too weak.
Does my behavior in respect of love effect nothing?
That is because there is not enough love in me.
Am I powerless against the untruthfulness and lies
which have their being all around me?
The reason is that I myself am not truthful enough.
Have I to watch dislike and ill-will carrying on their sad game?
That means that I myself have not laid aside small-mindedness and envy.
Is my love of peace misunderstood and scorned?
That means that I am not yet sufficiently peace-loving.  –Albert Schweitzer

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I would love to believe that my life begins and ends within the boundaries of my skin; that I’m connected to nothing and no one, and that I bear no responsibility for anyone other than myself.

But that’s just not the way the world works. For better or worse, we’re all part of the same big world. We’re all connected in so many ways to each other and everything else on this planet.

There are ways of being in the world that do not contribute to its wholeness or well-being. I would like to crawl up into my head and say, “Not me!”

I’m doing it right. It’s the others. It’s them over there. They’re screwing everything up. And they should have to experience the consequences of their misguided, stupid, irresponsible, thoughts and actions. Not me. Not my responsibility. I’m doing it right.

But it is me.

As long as anyone on the planet is hungry, the responsibility is mine. As long as children are abused, the responsibility is mine. As long as other living things are devalued and not respected, the responsibility is mine. As long as the planet is being abused, the responsibility is mine. As long as anyone is homeless, unable to pay the heating bill, unable to get the drugs they need, unable to be educated, supported, loved, cherished, the fault is mine.

Because I am you. And her. And them. And us.

All of us. We. This world, and all the two-legged, skinned, finned, furred, feathered and green things in it. Whatever is lacking is whatever is missing in me. And I’m the one who has to fill those holes.

It begins with me. And until I really understand that, I’m not doing it right, after all.

Frugal living

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A couple of years ago a friend and I were in an antique shop. She collects miniature tea sets, and they had a couple; one in particular that she really liked. I suggested she should buy it, and she said, no, it’s not good to get everything you want.

I think of that statement quite often. It’s one of two things in my life that someone said to me that changed the way I thought about something instantly. It’s not good to get everything you want. Wow. I came across a quote by Bertrand Russell this week, in which he claimed pretty much the same thing: “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

I think it`s absolutely true about stuff. It is human nature to become spoiled by instant material gratification. I think much of what is wrong with American capitalist culture stems from consumerism, and the ease with which those with money can get stuff. We lack appreciation for the way things are made, and for the people who made them. I definitely see it in young people in my small, generally quite well-off community, and the way they take for granted easy access to instant communication, computers, cars, clothes, etc. If material needs are met too easily, human beings tend to become bored and unappreciative of the stuff they have; always wanting more, more, more.

What about less touchable things, like how you’d like something to play out, or how you’d like someone to treat you? Those kinds of expectations trip me up all the time. I find my mind wandering off into the future, conjuring up scenarios about an event or situation. How I think it’ll all go and how wonderful (or not) I expect it to be. Or I think I know how someone will react to something, or what they’ll do, or even who they are.

It’s silly, really, that I would still be allowing myself to indulge in these little fantasies. Certainly if life has taught me anything, it’s been that I can expect nothing. Nothing ever turns out the way I think it will (for better or worse). People are hardly ever who I think they are (for better or worse). In fact, the more I expect a certain outcome or action, the less likely it is to be anything even remotely resembling what I was expecting or hoping for.

All situations teach us. What we learn is sometimes dubious, but we learn, nonetheless. Have I been made stronger by my unmet expectations, or do they debilitate me? I think the answer is: both. I have been forced to look within myself for what I need to keep going, and that’s a good thing. I can take care of myself, and I’ve learned to be a person I can count on. Definitely good.

And sometimes I am surprised. Several wonderfully surprising things happened in the last few days; things I wasn’t expecting, or even imagining. Four people went out their way to do nice things for me. It made up for the myriad ways my expectations fell short, and then some.

So, an indispensable part of happiness? Yes, I think so. I aspire to live frugally on surprise. Expect nothing. I think ultimately all I can hope for is keep striving to be the person I needSituations change, people change. Nothing in this life is static. I can count on nothing but my own ability to adapt, so that had better keep getting stronger. Counting on anything external – including other people – for one’s own well-being is certain disappointment.

I’d rather be surprised! It’s not easy to let go of those expectations. It requires staying in the moment – being fully with what’s happening now – with no thought of what’s past or expectation of the future. No small thing. It’s an arduous journey, but worth the effort.

Note to self: Go slow. Take snacks. Rest when necessary. Pay attention. Welcome everything.

We’ll get there sooner or later. All is well.

 

Shine a light

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On my way to work this morning I passed a semi-truck with Christmas lights strung across the grill and the windows of the cab. It was still dark and they were wonderful – so colorful and sparkly. So unexpected. The truck could be from almost anywhere, (we were on a US highway), and headed who knows where, but for one second, our paths crossed, and the driver, who I will never meet, put a smile on my face, because he took the time to do something fun and offered it to the world as a gift.

I love that! I like people like that. I would like to be like that. I am lucky to have friends who are like that, and that spontaneity, sense of humor/fun and generosity of spirit is exactly what I love about them most.

People often disappoint me. I get discouraged when I make the mistake of reading the news or hanging out on Facebook or Twitter too much. Or when I overhear a situation in which someone is being treated without respect, or bullied, or thought to be “less than” for some reason. Or when I encounter someone – usually in traffic – who appears to think only of themselves, and in doing so treats the people around them as though their needs don’t matter. There is no shortage of reported instances – especially in the United States lately – in which people are less than kind to each other.

This is when I start thinking of other people as “them” or “those people.” Of course, I know there is only US – ALL of us. There is no “them.” We are all human and sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrible. It’s a package deal. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, though.

I have to take a step back and think: do I do all those things I listed in the paragraph above? Absolutely. Not intentionally, at least as an adult, but I do, and that’s true of most of us, probably. I am the least perfect person I know.

Life is hard, and harsh and sometimes we humans buckle under the weight of life and act less kindly or patiently than we hope to. Sometimes I say or do things that make me cringe, and I disappoint myself, cuz that’s just not who I want to be. In the heat of the moment, though, especially if I feel threatened, some ugly black thing slithers out of me before I know it.

Perhaps that’s the worst part about being human. It’s in most of us, I wager: that ugly black assemblage of past hurts and slights and mistreatment. It’s so disappointing. With a few notable exceptions, I guess, we all have our moments. And I’ll bet even Mother Theresa and Ghandi had those moments at some point in their lives, too. They were human, and it comes with the territory.

But, there’s so much more.

The best part of being human – putting Christmas lights on your truck to spread some cheer, just because you can – is in us, too. We’re all trying our best in difficult circumstances, but sometimes we do better than that. Humans are creative and loving and kind, too. This time of year, especially, there are instances of the best humans can be and that’s heartening.

I’m not any of those “best” things often enough anymore, though, and seeing those lights this morning helped me realize that. Decades battling depression and the stress of the last few years have dimmed that light in me.

I accept that I’m a work in progress, and I have to remember that about everyone else, too. We’re all just doing the best we can, but sometimes someone does something good that reminds us that we can do even better.

My lights are dim, perhaps, but they’re not out completely, and I’m going to make it my goal this next year to figure out how to get the spark going again. We can all do it. Give expression to that fun, loving, creative part of ourselves and see what comes out. Figure out what we have to offer the world and give it freely.

Whatever I come up with probably won’t make a bit of difference in the world, but I hope it makes a difference in me. I hope it takes me another step closer to the person I’d like to be. I hope, too, that whatever I have to offer has the impact on someone else that the anonymous truck driver had on me this morning. In that way maybe we can change the world, one person at a time, one light at a time.

Let it begin with me.

Growing pain

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I had a revelation about my personality last night, thanks to the pretty little girl above, Clare. Well, not exactly because of her; it was really more her claws. Her needle-sharp, very long claws.

She sets up camp on my legs in the evening when I’m watching TV. I have my feet up on an ottoman, and that provides her with the perfect platform. This is fine with me. Grace is not often snuggly, so Clare’s propensity to contact is and has always been welcome. She’s a “person” cat. She is either sitting with (or on) me or mom if we are stationary. She’s warm, and silky soft and she purrs so loudly I’m sure the neighbors can hear her. She’s my baby and I adore her.

Less welcome are her claws, which she uses to “knead” my legs when she’s getting settled. A common enough cat thing – every cat I’ve had it has done it, though Clare is the first cat I’ve had that does it on me. It hurts. Really. I try to encourage her gently not to use her claws, and sometimes when I say “soft paws,” she pulls her claws in and then no worries. But that happens rarely; mostly it’s full-claw massage/torture.

Did I mention it hurts? Not a big thing, but not a small thing, either. I don’t make her get down because I love having her sit with me. But it hurts, and leaves marks. I just endure it. I’m clear about why I allow it to happen: because I love that she wants to sit with me. So the pain is worth it.

The revelation I had was about how I allow people to hurt me, and for the same reason. I like to have friends. So, for much of my life, to my mind, that was the price of admission. If you’re going to have people in your life, you’re going to get hurt. Hopefully not a lot, and not seriously, but sooner or later it will happen. Right?

Yes, sometimes. The problem is when it happens all the time, and the relationship is not worth the pain. I’m getting better at recognizing those relationships, and ending them or making an attempt to change the dynamic by letting the person know what’s bothering me. In recent years, I’ve also developed a Spidey-sense about the kind of person who is likely to treat me as less than I deserve and I avoid those relationships from the start. So that’s all good.

My revelation was about the past:

I just wanted people to like me, and I thought if I made it hard for them by complaining about how they treated me, they would leave me.

Easy, right? Duh. I mean really: DUH. Abandonment. Major button for me – for lots of people. Not weakness. Not a character flaw or moral failing.

Here’s what amazes me most about that revelation: I was in therapy for 3 years, and I don’t remember ever understanding that part of me so clearly or in those terms. It must have come up, but I didn’t really get it, I guess. I certainly didn’t see that it was so simple. To me, now, having that understanding seems like a big piece of the puzzle that is me fell into place.

It is now, and has always been, my choice. Just as putting up with the way my mother treated me when I was younger and occasionally treats me now – I choose to overlook it and do the right thing by her because I can. I wouldn’t allow a friend to treat me that way, but she’s my mother, so she gets a pass. She struggles with her own demons – it’s not about me. That is something I got from therapy. I’m clear about that. So I’m strong enough now and sure enough about who I am that I can look past the hurt and just get on with it.

I’ve been patting myself on the back this morning over what I perceive as growth and maturity and insight – all those wonderful “adult” words. Such a nice thing – out of the blue. Not even something I was thinking or puzzling about particularly. I love it when that happens!

Do we ever get all the answers? Figure it all out? When we die, does someone hand us the answer key to the test? I certainly hope so.

Seems only fair.

Only 7? Cool!

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Who knew? I guess we all did probably, but man, are they hard to remember. Then you’ve got the 10 Commandments, and the 7 Deadly Sins. Yikes! There’s a lot to keep in mind.

In my experience, these seven rules work pretty well. Fairly simple to write down and post on Pinterest, I guess, but not so easy to live by. For me, one of the hardest is #5 – Don’t compare your life to others, comparison is the thief of joy. That is just so true it glows. Facebook and Instagram make that rule even harder than it ever was to keep a handle on. Those two bandits sneak right in and grab your happiness so quick it defies logic. Look how much fun (money, sex, family, friends, whatever) everyone’s having – what’s wrong with me?

The truth is they’re probably not having that much fun or whatever, either, but if they really are, good for them! Has nothing to do with me. Unless it’s someone I know and care about and I can be happy for their happiness or good fortune, those happy, shiny people photos don’t mean a single thing to me in my life at all.

I went to the doc yesterday for a 6-month check-up and it didn’t really go that well. My blood pressure is through the roof again, I’ve gained a little bit of weight and my cholesterol and triglycerides are climbing again. I feel okay and have been doing well mentally and emotionally the past few weeks, but the numbers don’t lie, and I’m going to have to do something about it. That just really p*sses me off, cuz I had been doing really well with all that stuff, and now here it is again. I. Can’t. Catch. A. Fecking. Break.

It made me angry, and anxious, and I didn’t sleep very well last night – I’m going to have a stroke! I’m going to die! – but this morning I feel a little more reasonable and I know what I have to do and I accept that I have to do it. We all know someone who smoked and drank everyday, ate whatever they wanted, never exercised and yet still lived to be 100, right? Yeah, well, that’s not going to be me. Bad genes, mostly, but also a general winter laziness and fondness for sweets are my burdens to bear. Never mind all the fat people who do what they want and still live forever, I have to exercise and lay off the pastries if I want to live to be 100, and I do.

Thinking that I’ll be okay because I’m doing better than someone I work with who weighs twice what I do, or someone who doesn’t exercise at all ever – I rode my bike over 1000 miles this summer, after all – is not serving me well. Forget joy, comparing myself to other people in this way is likely to steal my health, if not my life, and I need to just get over it. Do what needs to be done. Period. Suck it up, Buttercup. Figure out a way to get some exercise this winter. Say “no” to the goodies in the break room everyday (and the lovely blueberry scones that call to me in the grocery store bakery every week).

Surely I can manage those two things again. I wish I didn’t have to, cuz geez, I hate going to the gym, and OMG, do I love sugar cookies (and scones). I have to do what’s right for me – in all things – and just not think about what other people are doing. It’s right for them – great! Not right for me. Oh well.

That’s life.

 

 

All or nothing at all

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I’ve been working hard this year on accepting what is. It hasn’t been easy, as most of what is is not what I would like it to be. Resisting is not only demoralizing, but exhausting, however, so I’ve been trying to just let things be and rest in the NOW.

As is. All of it.

I say “trying” because I’m not really very good at it. Mostly I’m overwhelmed at how wrong everything seems and how unhappy I am with most of the circumstances in my life, and then I feel ashamed because I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people; those in North Carolina who just lost their homes, for example, or several people I know who have died suddenly lately and left families and friends grieving their loss.

It’s kind of a spiral I get caught in fairly regularly, and though I try to just be still and grateful in order to stop my brain from spinning out of control, it doesn’t last long, if it works at all in the first place. Feel bad, beat myself up for feeling bad, feel worse.

Over and over again.

And now here it’s Fall. The end of everything that I enjoy about life, and the beginning of suffering through cold and ice and no color and no life for 8 months or so. Last winter was so bad for me I get choked up when I think about going through it again.

I keep trying to think of a way out – a way to “fix” what seems wrong, or a way to “disappear” that wouldn’t hurt anyone else. Sometimes I feel desperate for change.

But, I know, there is no way out.

There is only a way through, and that’s what I’m working on. Acceptance. Day to day, minute to minute. I have to remind myself constantly that all I really have to worry about is right now. Friday morning. Not winter. Not next month, or next week, or even tomorrow.

Just today.

It’s Friday and the sun is shining.  I’m not in danger, I’m not ill, I’m not homeless. I have a job, money, and plenty of food. I’m alive.

Easy to accept the good, harder to embrace the rest. It’s all there, though; it’s all life. A package deal. Never all good, never all bad. A mix of both, always. All or nothing. Not in equal measure, but both always there. I hate the expression, “It’s all good,” cuz it’s not all good. Clearly. But it’s all now. Present in every moment. All the good and all the bad.

Here. Now.

Life. Accept it.