Early Check-Ins

There are many moments of every day when most of us have to engage with others and check-in with those we care for or are accountable to, but I believe that the person we most need to touch base with is the one we all seem to address the least…our own selves.  I don’t have growing young children who need my care and supervision, I don’t have a demanding husband who requires dinner at a certain time or his dry cleaning picked up, I don’t have unwell or infirm elderly parents for whom I have to schedule appointments or medical services , & I don’t have  snarky boss to answer to.   I don’t have the daily dramas or upsets that many others suffer.  I do babysit my granddaughters, and have a boyfriend who lives with me, my parents are well and happy and vibrant, and I’m self-employed, which sure can be stressful at times, but I really do like all the different jobs I do, so I simply don’t have many of the same stressors that other people do.  This does not imply that all is rosy all of the time; certainly I’ve got issues in my life that I very much want or need to tend, and sure, one or two sometimes cause me irritability or occasional sleeplessness, but it does mean that I am perhaps more able than some to sort out the things that demand more of my attention, and sweep away the things that don’t really matter quite so much. I am accountable to so few people.  I have started this new year in a new mind-set, that so far I think is working out nicely…I am checking in with myself more than I’m checking in with anybody else, and I am adjusting and editing and modifying as needed…I am becoming accountable to me.

We live in a world where it is very easy, almost too easy, to allow what is outside of us to dictate the level of happiness inside of us.  I am a student of many philosophies, which sounds haughty, but what I mean is that I read, a lot, about so many different ways to be and ways to think, and while the authors vary, the message at the end is almost always is the same…it is all in us at all times…none of it is outside of us.

This is not to say I don’t get mad, or upset, I do.  BUT I don’t let it linger and implant and grow…or better said, I try very hard to process information, make a choice how to act and proceed and be done with it.  I get annoyed and then I ponder the annoyance and then I try to let it go.  It’s a process and it isn’t always easy to do and I often fail.

Sure, sometimes I find myself over thinking about some issue, or some wrong that I think ought to be righted, and when I discover this is happening, I check in with myself.  The ability to let things go that have hurt me turns out to be one of the healthiest changes I’ve made so far in this new year.  Some people cause hurt to others and don’t even know it…they go on about their days without even realizing their actions hurt my feelings or made me suffer in some way, or maybe they just don’t care, however small or big the hurt might be, but by dwelling on it, the only person who continues to hurt is me.  What on earth is the good in that??!!  So when I am hurt in whatever way, I must not let that hurt linger.  “Snap out of it!” in a Cher in Moonstruck kind of way.  Check in with myself:  how did this make me feel?  Do I want to keep feeling like this or do I want to move on?  How can I better handle this feeling if ever it happens again?  Am I at all culpable?  These may seem like silly questions to ask yourself, but they are questions that you need to answer if you want to let peace and happiness be your way of life.  It’s looking like today is going to be beautiful weather.  If your soul and heart and mind are stormy you’ll miss out on this perfect gift from Mother Nature.  I hope you have an early check-in with yourself today and I promise, you’ll enjoy your stay.

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Agreeing Selves

When a person tries to practice mindfulness, I think it mostly means to pay attention to what is going on in your mind or your body, at that moment, and not thinking about the past or fretting over the future, just being one with “what is,” at this time.  Some mornings I awake & feel like I’m the most kind and most loving woman on this earth, or at least in my town, or at least on my street.  Some mornings I wake up angry, and while I can’t say exactly what I feel mad about, I feel like I’m the harshest critic and least compassionate woman on this earth, or at least in my town, or at least on my street.  Some mornings I rise up feeling so excited, with the enthusiasm of a small child on Christmas morning, for the new day ahead of me and all that wondering of what good I might do, or what good might come my way, or what good might happen to somebody I love, and I start those days with the innocence of a person who has yet to be hardened by the realities of life, and I feel like I am the luckiest woman on this earth, or at least in my town, and absolutely on my street.  BUT the funny thing is that some mornings all of these women wake up with me…I am all of these selves under one skin, and that sometimes makes life a little bit complicated.

If I am to practice mindfulness on those days, when I’m all these women at once, what I am mostly mindful of is that my brain wants to go several directions at one time…forward/backward/now…and it’s chaotic and loud and unsettling in there, it’s SO very unsettling.   When I was young I sometimes hid behind the humidifier in the hallway of our house to look at the tv in the living room without my parents knowing.  I once watched my parents watching a movie that frightened me near to death called Sybil.  I don’t remember too much about it but that it was about a woman who had multiple personalities, and she could BE any one of many different people at any given time.  It scared me as a kid and it still scares me now as an adult, how very many of me live here in my head, as recently as right this second!   I wonder, now that I am growing older, that this is maybe not such an unusual condition after all.  It is perhaps far more pervasive than we imagine.  The more women I meet and get to know, the more I start to think that we all are playing too many different characters on any given day, and mindfulness becomes a little bit perplexing and certainly ambiguous when there are so many women to account for.   Some days I feel like I am many different people all rolled up into one; and some mornings I am not sure which one will greet me when I open my eyes to get on with my day, and if I am not sure that I like my morning me, well, there are hours ahead for changes, and I have all day to play my own mind game I sometimes call, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?!”agreeing-selves One of my favorite prints by an artist whose work I collect, man from Iowa called Brian Andreas, is called “Selves to Agree.”  I bought this particular one in 1998 and no matter what day I look at it, currently hanging in my living room above my bar, I am reminded why I love it…  “I think my life would be easier, she said, if I could just get my selves to agree on something.”   I could have bought it in 1988, or yesterday for that matter, it always speaks to me.  There are some things that parts of me tolerate or wholly accept, which the other parts of me totally abhor.  Some moments have my brain thinking loathsome thoughts and making sweeping conclusions about what must be done and when and why…Boom-Boom-Boom inside my brain, BIG thoughts and BIG decisions…but in a split second, there are other parts of me that pay no mind to any of it, and the Boom-Boom noise and intense energy falls on the deaf ears of the peaceful mellow parts of me…the one who is always having a joyful mind frolic on the dunes, and getting through most of her day without a care in the world.

That these parts of me all reside in between my ears is sometimes problematic, in that, like many women, it takes only one cog in the wheel or pebble in the shoe to throw me off the deep end and unable to sort them all out and find balance.  I don’t know if everybody suffers this way, or if it is just women, or maybe just me, but sometimes I just want to sleep for days until they sort it all out among themselves.  In a Rip Van Winkle-esque way, I wonder sometimes what it would be like to just wake up one day and find it’s all settled, and all those nagging words from all those different voices are quiet.

Yesterday morning I got on with my day with a zip in my step and super positive vibes from a job well done the day before, but before it was even noon, I felt super angry about a situation that came totally unexpected into my life.  Like turning on or off a light switch, just one emotion to the other, flipping from euphoric girl to sorrowful wretch, BOOM!  that fast…BUT this morning awoke in a rather blissful state, as if yesterday’s upset didn’t even happen.  It’s funny, how much like the weather, today is balmy and mild, while tomorrow it’s expected to be bitter cold, dreary gray and snowy, we too can be completely different from day to day…our attitude, our thoughts, our demeanor, our tones of voice, our goals, our expectations…ALL of it can change day to day or even hour to hour…So love yourself, I guess that is the message for today, whichever SELF you woke up with this morning, just love her, and take comfort in knowing that even if she isn’t the one you like best, somebody else might be around by dinner…

Golden Ring

Today my father has been alive for 75 years, and he has been in love with my mother for 51 of them.  There are few women alive on this earth who are loved like my father loves my mother. You might not know it, because maybe you were not so lucky as I, but it’s a very big deal to grow up around this kind of very big love.  I have been thinking about this for days; mostly because the other night I was watching one of those Hollywood “news” programs and there was a “big story,” and quite a fuss made over a star seen for days without his wedding ring, and it made me laugh…I have watched my father love my mother for all the years of my life and I have never, not once ever, seen him wear a wedding ring.  For almost 51 years my dad has owned a ‘golden ring’ as a symbol of his love and faithfulness, and yet I never saw him wear it.  I’m here to tell you that wearing a ring means nothing, despite what the tabloid entertainment shows might tell you.

That your presence makes a person want to be the best version of themselves, that your presence makes a person’s life richer than it would be without you, what you do, and how you act, and the person you are, is all that matters.  “it’s not much, but it’s the best that I can do”  so sings George Jones to Tammy Wynette, “only love can make a golden wedding ring” and so it goes…one of my favorite songs of my childhood called Golden Ring, and it’s been in my head since that breaking couples news…My parents, my kind, generous, and loving parents loved, and still love, country music.  Not this ‘country pop,’ I mean real country music, “old-fashioned” I guess it is now…Johnny Cash, Gary Stewart, David Allan Coe, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard…oh the list is long, and George Jones was, and still is, a favorite at their house, but this blog is not about country music, and it’s not about Hollywood couples news, it’s about my parents and my dad in particular.

I have never heard my father raise his voice to my mother.  I have never heard him say a mean thing to her or a cutting remark, even “just joking” as so many people say, when they say hurtful things, expressing what I think are their true feelings, and then trying to hide them by saying they were “kidding.”  Not my dad.   I can count on one hand the number of times I heard them “fight” during my childhood, and each time, if my memory serves me, it was my mother being uppity over how she specifically wanted something to be; the placement of a kitchen cabinet during construction of one of our houses comes to mind, and the pattern and direction of a fabric on a project my mother was doing in her sewing room is another one that comes to mind…so maybe it was only two fights…and my father being calm, always calm…he never cursed, yelled, slammed doors, stormed off, zoomed out the yard and drove away, went to a bar, vented to his friends…never told her she was being ridiculous…none of those things you often see in movies, or read in books or hear from other people, that happen after a “fight” or an argument…he just waited for her to mellow, and went right back to his slow and steady and peaceful way through life.  It seems, in the memories of my childhood and my thoughts as their adult daughter, that no matter what the circumstance or situation, he simply loved her more…we may differ in almost every way politically in my family, truly them versus me in most of the circumstances, but love always wins.

I had, if not a perfect and idyllic childhood, one that sure was close. You might think I am exaggerating but I’m not. Sometimes I feel a little bit like I have survivor’s guilt, having that kind of childhood with that kind of parents when so many people I know did not.  He is the best of men, and that I had the good fortune to be born as their daughter is something I have never taken for granted and for which I am truly grateful. His sense of what is right, and how to do right always, in all ways, is one of the many things I admire about him.  To grow up and grow old with parents truly in love, and parents who worked hard and parents who were not lazy, or drunks, or liars, or abusive, or, well, just not good, is as big a deal as any, as far as I can tell.  The older I grow and the more people I know, and stories I read, or tales I hear, I become more and more aware of how remarkable it actually is to have parents like I do.  I know I’ve been lucky.  I’m thankful for them every day.

My father has never told me he was going to do something, and then didn’t do it.  My father has never taken advantage of a person, or used a person in a way that only benefited himself.  My father has never started a project and then just didn’t feel like finishing it.  My father has never gotten my hopes up for something, and then let me down by not following through.  That is just not his way.  He does what he says, and does everything well, and he has never failed us; not me, not my sister, and not my mom.  He was the only “father” my own daughter ever had, and there is not a day of my life that I am not so appreciative, that my child got so blessed too, even when it wasn’t initially my own plan for my own life, she got just as lucky in the “dad” lottery.  He does not look his age and he doesn’t act it either…he is vibrant and busy and strong, and just as hard working now, four years into retirement, as he was all of his years working 50 and 60 hours a week as a carpenter.  He often said he was “just a carpenter” and never did anything but build and fix and make and do, but for me, my sister, and our mom,  he was everything.  He has always been as good a human as one could hope to know.  I have been disappointed by much and many in my life, but not my dad.