Simple, not easy


“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who are important to me, but all the goals and ideas I had about what my life would be like – should be like – have been replaced by only one: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


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.


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.


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.

Float like a butterfly


Sometimes I just need the library. Like having a craving for a specific food, sometimes only the library will do. Occasionally a bookstore, but mostly the library. I love libraries. When I was in college, we had a 4-story library on campus with wide floor-to-ceiling windows in each corner on every floor. I spent hours in those corners when I lived on campus. It soothed my overwhelmed psyche just to be with the books, to feel so close to the sky, and just to be quiet. The dorm was anything but quiet, but that was okay, cuz I could go to the library.

We have a beautiful big library in my little town. It’s quiet and it smells good, and sometimes the sun is streaming in the windows and it’s warm and bright. And of course, there are the books. Rows and rows of them; more than I ever would be able to or would want to read. It humbles me always, to be in the presence of all those thoughts and words.

I am reminded that there’s A LOT I don’t know. I’m reminded that the world is big, and is filled with every kind of thing imaginable. Mostly I think all those precise rows help me to believe that there is order in the world, and that it’s as evident as the Dewey Decimal System. Cuz mostly I don’t feel that way — I’m not sure that anything makes sense sometimes — but look at all these books! People wrote down all kinds of ideas and thoughts about things they wanted to make sense of, and they’re offering their thoughts and their sense of the world to me.

Nearly 150 years ago, Dostoyevsky wrote:

My younger brother asked forgiveness of the birds: it may seem absurd, but it is right nonetheless, for everything, like the ocean, flows and comes into contact with everything else: touch it in one place and it reverberates at the other end of the world.

Nowadays we call that the Butterfly Effect and it is central to chaos theory, which, in effect, comes down to: “simple laws can generate extremely complex behavior, and deterministic systems can behave randomly.” Or, a butterfly flapping her wings in Australia can affect the weather in Canada.

Dostoyevsky apparently thought that if we could just see how everything fits together–that the whole earth and all of its inhabitants are all part of a single whole–that it would change human nature. An optimist. Or maybe he knew that the all-embracing love would not be enough; or that we as a species would not be capable of that kind of love. Perhaps he was heart-broken because he could see the future and he knew we weren’t ready for it.

I don’t know, but to me it is heartbreaking in that I think we’ve moved farther away from that love than ever before in the history of our country, certainly; and in the world as well. That just seems so sad.

We are creatures capable of understanding the beauty and structure of the very smallest things and the mind-bendingly biggest things. We understand our world from the quantum level up to the enormity of the universe.

But we still don’t understand ourselves.

And that renders all the rest of it meaningless.

Summer madness


This greeted me this morning on Instagram, and I realized that the reason I’ve been feeling so cranky lately is because I’m wanting something other than what I have.


I know better than this, right? Live in the moment, accept what is. But here I am again, wishing and hoping, looking to the future to save me from the present. Oh well, I’m not perfect. Surprise, surprise.

Summer is my favorite time of year, and where I live it’s short. Three glorious months of sunshine and warm weather. The list of things I like to do in the summer is long, and almost all of them involve being outside. In my present living and working situation my time is limited and by necessity I spend most of my time indoors.

Not what I want.

I really enjoyed my 5-day mini-vacation before the 4th. The weather was fabulous and I took long bike rides every afternoon, spent most mornings reading on the patio, and had campfires (s’mores!) a couple of evenings. This past weekend was nice, too, and I enjoyed a couple of nice rides, which really is my priority in the summer, so I was a happy girl.

Now today I’m back at work, freezing in my ridiculously over-air conditioned office, trying to keep up with today’s Tour de France stage via live feed from Cycling News, and feeling sorry for myself that I’m not retired and free to enjoy this lovely summer day doing something fun outside.

Not what I want.

Tonight when I get home I may have time for a short ride, but the bulk of the evening will be spent cooking dinner, doing dishes, and hanging out with mom inside watching TV. Tomorrow night groceries, cooking, dishes, TV. Rinse, repeat. Everyday until the weekend, when I’m freer to be outside more because I’m not working and mom hasn’t been alone all day. If the weather holds I can have a nice long ride each afternoon, as I did this weekend.

Not horrible, but not what I want.

I want to be free. I want to ride for a couple of hours after work every night like I used to. I want to walk home for lunch and sit at my table outside in the backyard and eat while reading. I want to go out with friends and sit at a table outside and drink a beer and laugh and have fun. I want to go down to the park and enjoy whatever band is playing on Thursday night and look at the boats and people in the marina while I listen. I want to go to the beach and spend all day there soaking up the sun and swimming in the lake and reading.

I don’t want to sit in this cold office and do work I don’t like for difficult people. I don’t want to cover the front office at noon and deal with all the questions I don’t know the answers to that people come in or call with. I don’t want to hear about all the fun things my co-workers did last weekend or last night. I don’t want to deal with the tourist traffic to get home to make lunch for mom and scarf my lunch so I can get back in time.

I don’t want to have every minute of everyday scheduled with things I do for other people and don’t enjoy. I want to be free.

But I’m not. I’m not free, and I’m not having a lot of fun. Wishing and hoping and thinking about the future (when I’m retired and my mother is gone) doesn’t change that. And in the big scheme of things it’s not even that important. Lots of people work in jobs they don’t like and have family responsibilities. Most people, in fact. I have always worked and there seemed to be enough time for other things. I was lucky to have the freedom I did before.

And I totally get how lucky I am that my biggest complaint right now is that I’m not having fun.

So, poor me. I need to gently remind myself to just be here now. This is how it is, and until it changes (and it will, for better or worse) I need to find contentment in the moment right now, cuz really that’s all there is. The future is not guaranteed. Anything can happen.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.”

Exactly. I’m driving myself mad for no reason. I can’t leave my mother or my job, and changing anything right now would be counterproductive. So acceptance is the only way. It works the way it is, and that’s what matters. The rest is gravy and that just makes you fat.

On with the day, and the summer, and the year. one minute at a time. Appreciating what is.

Got it. Whew!



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.