Rebirth at birth

Her smile still makes my heart flutter…36 years, and about three hours ago, a kind nurse handed me an enormous, pink, minutes old baby girl and said, ‘I’ll leave you two for a bit‘…and left the room…I was so tired. I still to this day don’t know that I have ever been as tired as I was that cold January morning after the birth of my baby. I was so tired that I was terrified I was going to fall asleep and drop her. She was in the crook of my left arm and I was scared to death that if I fell asleep she would just tumble right down to the floor, and so I did not sleep and I did not rest, I just looked at her, and she smiled. She slept, and I don’t remember that she opened her eyes at all, but she smiled, and it felt like hours that I was alone with her, but it could have been only minutes…her finger nails were perfectly rounded long nails, and I joked for weeks that it was like she had stopped for a manicure on her way out to earth. I did not yet know her and she did not yet know me, but she smiled.

Nine weeks after I became an official adult, I became a mother. That the universe saw me fit for this monumental task, raising a human, is still something that blows my mind…Nothing about my life at that time was good, at all, but she was…She was a perfect baby. She would mew like a kitten if she was hungry, and if my memory serves me rightly she was many days old before I ever even heard her cry. Looking back now with clearer vision, and 36 years of personal growth, I was not all that much more than a child myself…the me, who used to be, was reborn when she was born. I think a person becomes somebody else, like it or not, when she becomes a mother.

The rebirth at birth is not immediate, but what is immediate is that, for me at least, everything that mattered BEFORE mattered less AFTER. Once I heard my sister tearily whisper, “it’s a girl,” everything that I thought was exceptionally important BEFORE was less important AFTER. It seems to me that a woman has her rebirth after the birth because, whether she is ready or not, motherhood is her job, the most important of all the jobs she will ever have, for the next many years. PERIOD. You may think many things about going back to your “old” self, those first weeks, but those thoughts, well, they are mostly wrong because the “yourself” is now that person’s person, and the “self” is no more…the obligation you have chosen is essentially saying to the universe, “I shall put this other human before me, and myself is now second and my old self is now gone.” PERIOD. I would suspect that most women do, get reborn after birth, and they quietly, without complaint, move themselves to the back of the line while they move this tiny human to the front.

What nobody really tells you then, during those first few weeks, is that it never ends. The “it” being mothering, motherhood, this new you. You think it will, that the “job” one day will be over, you will have completed your mission so to speak, your obligation, but it won’t be done, ever. When I was a young mother I didn’t realize this as profoundly as I do now, now that I am older & wiser, hardened, and yet softened, by time…

My mother still puts me and my sister, my daughter and my nephew, and now the daughters of my daughter, in front of herself…and my mother, without ever complaining about it, has moved herself to the back of the line, time and time again for all of the years of my life…Now that my own baby is today nearer to 40 than 30, I see more clearly how my mom and I are rather alike in so many ways, ways that one does not always notice when one is still young…but now I am older, and she is old, and I better understand how we are much more similar than we are different.

I worked hard, over many years, to create the kind of relationship with my daughter that I wanted. I am pretty sure that I annoy her, a lot, this now 36 year-old daughter of mine, because that is the nature of most mother/daughter dynamics, but decades after her arrival to earth I think we would both agree that the mother/daughter gig we’ve developed and cultivated is a lot better than many. I have made profoundly purposeful efforts over these years to do and say things that would make us have the type of connection I wanted, and I’d like to think it was a success. We often laugh together while we drink wine and chat, just like I do with my girlfriends. We have cried together when we are having a rough go of life, just like I do with my girlfriends. We take power walks and vent about those who annoy us, just like I do with my girlfriends. She is my friend but she is first my daughter, and in many ways, whether I succeeded or failed at mothering, or being her mother, it is to me, like the icing on the cake, that these last 12 years I’ve lived next door.

She is my neighbor, friend, and child, and the mother of my granddaughters, which, when I add it all up, is probably the most extraordinary thing of them all…she brought those girls into my life, and kind of made me born again, again, into yet another version, and I like to think a remarkably better version, of me…My rebirth at her birth, made me better woman that I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. My rebirth at her birth made me awfully less self-centered than I think I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. My rebirth at her birth made me much more grateful for my own mom than I think I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. Today is a celebration of the birth of my daughter, whose smile lights up a room and still makes my heart flutter, but in many ways I am celebrating too, the woman I became, because she came to earth.

How’s It Gonna Be???

The song starts out, “I’m only pretty sure I can’t take anymore” and this blog will begin similarly…or like in Hangover II, I want to stomp around in the street wildly asking “WHAT the F**k is going on??!!” but what is going on, at least to my mind, is that this year is starting off totally crap for too many and I for one am going to do a bit of a reboot today, thus pretending that tonight is New Year’s Eve and smudging the heck out of my house and myself and doing a 2022 restart!!!

These last two weeks have been brutal for too many people I actually know, and for too many people I know of, or have heard and read about…there have been falls, bone breaks, break-ups, heart failures, heart breaks, financial losses, job losses, friend losses, and vacation cancellations, marriage cancellations, and coughs, colds, and covid-covid-covid. It is a rare morning that there is not bad news in a text message on my phone, on the television, a program on NPR, or some miserable story or statistic on google, and I feel like THIS IS NOT HOW 2022 is GONNA BE!!!! Is it????

Now, to be clear, from March of 2020 through today, some people have had their lives totally ruined or upended, or well, ended, as in they are no longer of this earth…I am one of the people who has, thus far, gotten off with barely a scratch…VERY LITTLE that is bad has happened to me at all, but because I am such a deeply “feeling” person, I am constantly feeling all the feels of ache and angst that others are suffering, and I for one am exhausted. Oh to be a doctor or nurse right now…I can’t imagine. AND I do have a friend who is a doctor, she is exhausted. AND teachers!! Good grief how exhausted they are!! What a “first world problem” I know, for me, to say that the bad news is exhausting and I don’t mean to minimize the suffering of others, but I am thankful that for whatever reason, my life has not nearly been as hard as the lives of too many…there are literally women my age with minor children who have lost their jobs, their rentals, their cars, and are couch surfing trying to keep their families together, and there are men who have committed suicide over the financial messes they got in since they lost their jobs or businesses because of a global pandemic that some took very seriously and some still think is no big deal…but it is only “no big deal” I suppose if you have not yourself suffered or feel the suffering of others though a deeply compassionate heart.

Then there are others, of course there always are, who have THRIVED…people who worked for a friend for cash, but “cashed in” on the months of unemployment bonuses intended to help people not become homeless or hungry, or the “skilled” business people who know how to work the system, oh yes let me get a PPP loan, and apply to have it forgiven, and because I know how to do the tax trickery, let me also buy a sports car, or buy a vacation home, or hide lots of money away for my retirement even though that was not AT ALL what the government intended with this loan that I miraculously now don’t have to pay back…Yes, some people who could do for others out of deeply empathetic emotions, instead do for themselves, only and always, and some people who know what they are doing is wrong but, because they will likely not get caught, do it anyway…there is always one…or more…

It’s been nearly two years of wiping down shopping carts, unless you are my daughter who literally has been sanitizing her hands and wiping down shopping carts for her entire adult life. It’s been nearly two years of backing away from people who cough and sneeze and while I suppose we always did this in line at a store, or waiting for a table in a restaurant, it’s different now…I suppose this is how it’s gonna be for a long time in many ways.

There are couples who used to make their relationships work just fine because they had a rhythm of their home life, tasks and obligations and habits that helped them to live together in harmony…AND THEN OUT OF THE BLUE, or so it seemed to many, the man who wore the Bespoke suits and accumulated thousands of air miles is wearing the same sweat pants for four days in a row and accumulating high scores on Free Cell…and the woman who organized her household and chores and children with the efficiency of a Swiss train schedule is now positively overwhelmed as a teacher/nurse/babysitter/chef/maid/laundress…AND now their relationships are suffering because their roles have gone wonky and they don’t know how it’s gonna be…

My advice, or at least what I’m going to do, is RE-DO 2022. I am literally going to “pretend” that tonight is the start of a new year…I am going to make some wishes and write them on pieces of paper and light them on fire in my prayer bowl, I am going to light some sage and smudge my own self with an eagle feather and I am going to start at my front door and walk and “pray” smudge the perimeter of this house, I am going to make my deals with the universe at bed time, I am going to make wishes and pray for those suffering, and I am going to do my best to answer the question, How’s It Gonna Be??, with the only acceptable answer I can think of…BETTER.

The Screen Door Slams…

If you are a Jersey girl like me you might think I am fondly referencing Thunder Road, but no…I am feeling an ache for a time, not so long ago, when every morning I heard the screen door slam as two joyful, laughing little girls bounded into my house, in their pajamas, before their mother had even made their breakfast or had her coffee, to look for their Elf, Everbloom Woodsong. If you have small children or grandchildren you might have read a book called Elf on the Shelf. In the story, on Thanksgiving night the Elf arrives from the North Pole and the Elf goes back every night to advise Santa about the behavior of the children. Let me tell you, it is an extraordinarily effective tool for behavior modification. For a month, as the Elf returns to the North Pole on the night of Christmas Eve, to help Santa with all that work, and does not come back to your home until next Thanksgiving, the children are positively stiff with worry or fear if they misbehave in the presence of the Elf, at least my wee-ones were!

Two little girls, who live next door to me, who are the daughters of my daughter, and the lights of my life, got a book and an Elf on a cold Friday in 2010, named her Everbloom Woodsong, and for seven holiday seasons they blew through my door first thing every morning for a month to look for Everbloom…she only once forgot to “go back” to the North Pole and it was because of bad weather! Ha-ha! We found Everbloom hiding in a Fiesta ware pitcher once, over top the stove, we found her in the wine rack once pretending to be a bottle, we found her reading books, we found her hanging from the loft balcony railing, we found her on the sofa, under the table, sometimes in the bathroom! That Elf worked really hard to trick those girls but they always found her, and they then could go home and get on with their day!

The eighth holiday season, only one little girl came one morning after Thanksgiving, and then a few days later, and then a week went by…and I felt an ache, a pull, a pain really, feeling that this bit of childhood magic was one that had had its last days…so on a cold November day, before the 9th holiday season arrived, two little girls who live next door to me got a letter, a beautifully penned letter on white glittery paper, adorned with snowflakes and sparkles, from the North Pole, to Barnegat, NJ on planet Earth, that was from Everbloom…telling them that so many babies had been born since they met, and that she was really needed at the North Pole, and how they were older now and would surely understand, and that maybe, someday, when they were grown and if they were mothers themselves with their own wee ones, they might meet again one day…I saved that letter, framed it, and it is now a decoration and part of my holiday joy. I look at it every time I go up my stairs. It makes me smile and frown at the same time. I miss many things about my granddaughters little voices, their wee joy and wonder, their laughter, that they used to treat this house like an extension of their own, the way they came here and went back and forth so many times over the days of their lives, but more than anything, on a gray winter morning near Christmas, I miss the sound of the screen door slam…

Where have all the good times gone?

Fact of my life: I had more fun and more laughter, and more ear-to-ear smiling in the last six months of 2012, which were the first six months of knowing a man I fondly started calling “the drummer boy,” than I had had in the 26 years of adulting, prior to meeting him. No matter what happened later, or during or since that first six months of knowing him, this is a fact that I could not deny when faced with a heavy decision that I couldn’t take lightly during the last few months…to give up and turn away or to press on and try again…When your life skids out of control, like it hits a patch of black ice and you horrifyingly spin-out, and you are not shy to share that your life had become totally and painfully unmanageable, it’s not always easy to get realigned and back on your path with grace or dignity of any sort…there are people who know your life was wonky for months and people who know how hard you cried and how sad, scared, and sullen you were for many weeks…so I can’t just wave my wand like Hermione, or do that nose wiggle like Samantha, or fling my high ponytail like Jeannie and make it all go away.

WHAT I can do is live fully today with how things are today. I can move forward with my head held high and know in my heart I have done the right things, taken the right course of action as a good and compassionate human, and know that for me, for this moment in my life, I am perfectly imperfect and okay with that. If my choices and decisions turn out to be wrong, then that is another lesson for me to learn in the future, and if my choices and decisions are right, then I am glad for them and glad that I followed my gut and did not let the opinions of others, or difficult circumstances during a difficult period of several weeks, sway me too far from my empathetic and compassionate and loving soul.

When you have gone through a difficulty or tragedy or sadness, or an event that is all of those things, it is rather easy to dwell on the bad parts and linger there, but it is not a good place to be, a cesspool of resentment and rage really, who wants to stay in THAT??!! Not me. When your brain is in a kerfuffle and you are struggling with choices to make and actions to take, thinking about all of the good times and how they outweigh the bad times is an effective tool for decision making, at least for me. When you are sad you can easily allow yourself to hold onto and linger with the sadness but then the good times memories get quashed and squished and are harder to access…best to file away the sad and refocus on the glad, in my experience anyway!

There are so many GOOD MEMORIES in my mind that are so much better, and so full of love and laughter from so many GOOD TIMES that they easily outnumber the bad feelings that are still quietly lingering in the background of my brain from a recent bad chapter in this, in general and overall, pretty great story… It is the right thing, for me, to move on with an open heart and an open mind, and to be honest, set and follow some new boundaries and some new “rules” for myself and how I interact with others, and how I care for myself, but to be clear it’s the right thing for me to move on with a positive mindset to create more good times and make more good memories, putting the bad feelings to bed in a way, really inducing a coma for them if I’m being totally honest…just be gone!! with a wave of a wand, a wrinkle of a nose, and a fling of ponytail…POOF!!

We, this drummer boy and I, are certainly are not the first couple, and won’t be the last, to go through a very bad event or series of unfortunate events and decide to try to repair what is damaged and strengthen what is still good, like that great lyric from PINK, we’re not broken just bent…we are certainly not the only couple who are two pretty good people who went through a pretty bad time…we are certainly not the first couple to have to have some difficult conversations to find our common ground again in order to move on…and we are certainly not the first couple to have to have a heart to heart HE-Said-SHE-Said about things that caused raised voices and were argued about.

I’ve lived long enough to know, whether people share their personal lives and personal business out in the open, or if they keep things totally locked and private and to themselves, “in house” so to speak, that more goes on behind most closed doors than anybody wants to admit…I just keep my door open I guess. All the good times you might see other couples having posted on social media, your neighbors or your friends going out and having fun, or famous people you read about in google news, are not always what they seem…sometimes good times are illusions that tell a tale and not a truth.

I suppose I want to be comfortable with the ugly parts of adulting and the sad parts of growing as a person, or the difficulties that often arise if you stay alive long enough…I am ending this year with a wide open heart for all of the good that comes to your soul with welcoming in a new year. I am totally comfortable with envisioning myself years from now, laughing, but rather horrified, at what a crap of a year 2021 was, and being bright eyed with how delighted I am, my future self that is, that 2022 and on was so much better, and so filled with good times, and filled with more memories made of more fun and laughter…the good times are there for the living and the taking and the doing. I shuffled my brain, reorganized my files so to speak, to make some room for more merry memory making!

Other “F” words

Forgiving and Forgetting are the words on my mind this morning. THE “F” word does not trouble me nearly as much as these other two…I have no problem muttering under my breath for somebody to go F*off, F* yourself, go F*ing die, but “I forgive you” or “let’s just move on and forget about this” well, those are doozies for me!! I F*ing loathe them!!! But they are necessary in the art of letting go and growing and they are the F words of my own “Super Soul Sunday” today.

I finished a memoir last week, written by a young monk who basically said, well, the way I summed it up for my own understanding was, what good is dwelling on somebody who hurt you, or lied to you or did you wrong, when instead you can just forgive and move on?? We hurt our own selves every day and we lie to ourselves every day and we do some things wrong almost every day, yet forgive our own selves and just try to move on and do better, so why do we make it hard to give that same kindness or empathy to somebody else??? This was a very small book that packed a big punch! On the author’s web page he is described thusly: “Timber was born Jewish, ordained Buddhist, uses a Hindu mantra, and his morning meditation is a Catholic prayer. His altar at home features a statue of Jesus, one of the Buddha, another of Saint Francis of Assisi, and they get along just fine. On paper, Timber Hawkeye is a bestselling author, a podcast producer, a publisher, and an international public speaker, but in person, he is just another friendly face in town.” He signed my book when I bought it and wrote: To RStar, discover the freedom and the beauty of letting go…and I took this to heart.

I was away for a few days last week after Thanksgiving; friends invited me to spend some time at their vacation home in the Virgin Islands. I was grateful for a chance to not HAVE TO DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN BE. I read and wrote every day and did a lot of contemplating about a lot of things. I realized that I prefer the happiness of my personality when I remain positive and hopeful and optimistic and cheerful even in the face of difficulties or sadness. I realized after finishing this book, that I do really work hard to practice the two F words of forgiving and forgetting, but sometimes the opinions of others or the words between my own ears make me steer away from that freedom, of forgiveness, and I do not want to be a woman who dwells on bad stuff, or sad stuff, or old news of old wrongs or pains. This kind of behavior does not serve me.

When somebody hurts you, and they apologize with sincerity, and you accept the apology there are two pretty important steps that come after; forgiving and forgetting. You can disagree with me all you want, but I feel pretty sure that these are necessary for moving on, whether you ever speak to said person again, or not, these steps are part of the healing process of a hurt, and if you don’t take the time to do one, or both, there are thoughts and emotions that linger and they can EAT YOU ALIVE for the rest of your life. Staying angry at a person who has wronged you is, as I misquote the Buddha, like holding onto a hot coal and thinking the other person’s hand will burn.

Accepting a humbled and heartfelt apology is a challenge in and of itself, but in order to not dwell on any event that caused suffering you have to let it go…literally, the only way to not suffer is to not hold onto the hurt and once you say, I accept your apology, you can’t then go backwards over and over and discuss the event again, it just stirs up the sludge that has settled…forgiving and forgetting is healing.

I suffered some difficulties over the summer that left me bereft, and I needed to start this new year with a clear head. I needed to move on from the thoughts of what had happened and I needed to change the narrative…things could have been exceedingly worse than they were, and so for me, forgiving and forgetting is how I let go. I am just turned 54. I might have one week left on this earth or I might have forty more years, who knows??!! WHY would I spend one more minute lingering with any thoughts of what went wrong over a period of 13 weeks or so of one summer, when I have lived many summers that were much happier, and I potentially have many summers ahead of even more happiness??!! Thoughts that do not serve me of events and behavior that can be forgiven and a summer that can be forgotten seems like something that I can control and choosing to control these thoughts, forgive and forget and let go, feels good. I am a happy person and I am a cheerful person and the only person I can control is me. The things that somebody else did wrong are things I can’t control, but how I deal with them is. The things that people said or the opinions that people have, are things I can’t control, but how I listen or comprehend and then act accordingly, or not, are.

Forgiving and Forgetting, well that doesn’t mean that I was not angry, or sad, or hurt, or mad…forgiving and forgetting FREE ME. That might be the best F Word of all…FREE. I am free to choose happiness. I am free to choose to look on the bright side. I am free to say, I forgive you and I accept your apology. I am free to look back on nearly a decade and ask myself, “Was it a relationship of 50% joy and 50% crap?? Was it a relationship of 90% some kind of wonderful and 10% dreadfully woeful??” Is this the barometer for everybody?? No, but is it the barometer for me?? Yes. We all have choices every day to make…do we merge or yield, keep smoking, stop drinking, take up jogging, stay at this job, move from this house, cheat on our wife, lie to our husband, quit, love…choices that either free us, to make room for more happiness, or freeze us, stagnation and in a constant state of dwelling on bad news. I am choosing the F words that make me feel mighty fine…forgiving, forgetting, freeing me to keep choosing joy and creating it wherever and whenever I can…the glass is nearly full all of the time for me, and I don’t intend to let a total crap of a chapter in a whole book of life turn me into a glass half empty kind of person…I let go.

Extended Warranty

There is not any sort of warranty of the heart, of love. I know of a woman who after three bad failed marriages, finally found her dear one and moved into his stunning beach house, and was so excited for her last chapters of life to be finally filled with laughter and travel and cooking together with this man who swept her off her feet only to, less than two years later, find out that her fatigue was not just mid-life tiredness, but ovarian cancer and within a year she was not of this earth. I know of a young woman who married her dear one and had their baby nine months later and before that baby was one year old that husband died, right next to her, in his sleep, leaving the baby fatherless and her dreams broken. I know of a woman who married her dear one who she had loved from high school and they worked so hard to pay for their wedding, then build their dream house, and before they had lived in it a year, she decided she didn’t love the house or him really at all. I know of a woman who had been picking out engagement rings with her dear one the day before she got a phone call informing her that she was dating someone else’s boyfriend and did she know he had another whole life on the side, and was expecting a baby?? Despite their hopes and intentions, there was no guarantee that anything any of these women planned for was going to go as planned. We all get these spam phone calls day after day, that our car’s extended warranty is about to expire and we will suffer the expense of unknown and unexpected repair costs…but what about the warranty on love, on people, on relationships, on our hearts…is there any way to help defray the cost, or the suffering, from those repairs???

I poured my heart out last summer when I was going through an upsetting situation and experience with the man I loved. I was confused and sad and completely blindsided by some things that happened with him, and to us, and I kept thinking to myself, “I didn’t sign up for this” but, I did, in a way, didn’t I?? WE have no warranty in relationships. We jump or slowly fall into them, but it’s with these wide open hearts and big dreams and giddy tickles in our spines…We dive into a pool that has no sign warning us if it’s deep enough to jump, or should we just slowly step in, one toe at a time…We simply have no way to know what might happen, what will happen, what could happen, what might work, what could go wrong…NOTHING IS CERTAIN and there is nothing we can do about it.

We get into our vehicles every day, planning to go to work or the grocery store, and that day could be THE day, and there is nothing we can do about it…we can plan our days & our futures, but all we can honestly do is live for today, each day, right here and right now. NOTHING WE TRY TO DO, no scheduled maintenance, no best intentions, no hard work, no precise planning, can stop what is going to happen that is beyond our control. Period.

I had planned on a way to solve my problem this summer and nothing, at all, went the way I planned. So I had to roll with it, rather than fighting what was out of my control. Guess what?? That’s all any of us can do every day…there is ultimately nothing that we control, despite our best intentions. I asked people for help last summer, people I thought I could trust and on whom I should have been able to depend, and they looked the other way, so I just plowed ahead with what needed to be done. This scenario of last summer can be replayed over and over in my head, but to what point?? Things went wrong and I did my best to handle them, and no matter how much I might wish otherwise, what is done is done. My last summer is not much different than those women’s ovaries, husband, house, or boyfriend…meaning, they all had plans, and those plans didn’t work out, period. We only can respond the best way we know how, to what happens in, and to, our lives, because otherwise, we beat ourselves up to death with wishing for what could have been different or should have been different, but it’s pointless… because what happened did, and is now over…all that can be controlled is how we respond to these repairs that have no warranty…

We might do proper scheduled maintenance on our trucks but end up smashed into a telephone pole…because things happen, no matter the efforts we take. It sounds so elementary to compare a truck to life, but…you might tend with so much care to your marriage, or to your house, but an unexpected cancer diagnosis or a faulty circuit breaker box can take away your spouse and your house, no matter how faithfully your performed the maintenance. BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN to our trucks, our houses, and our relationships, despite our efforts to care for them. That’s it. There is no warranty that any of our plans will go as planned. There is nothing that we can do about anything except to try to live within the understanding that we want to be good people, and happy, and functioning members of a civil society, but that’s it…all we can do is the work to be the best versions of ourselves that we wish to be. My dad has always said it best, tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon. Period.

Giving thanks where thanks is due can be every day of the year, not just on a Thursday in November with turkey and pies. Despite all of your efforts to work hard, pay your bills on time, get yearly physicals, not participate in habits that damage your health, this year could still be your year to go from this earth…you don’t know and nobody else knows either…there is no extended warranty for us. None of us gets a phone call telling us that we can have another five years for this low today only price…you could answer your phone or look down at a text in your car today and those would be your last five seconds on this earth…things happen…you don’t know and can’t plan for it. All we can do is try to do what feels right to our spirit and hope for the best. Literally, nothing else can be done. This week of Thanksgiving, do that dear readers. GIVE THANKS. If anything in your plan, has gone as planned, give thanks. If you have a dear one and things are nice & lovely, give thanks. If you have a safe home and food on your table and in the cupboard, give thanks. If you have good health in your body and good relationships in your circle, give thanks. There is no extended warranty, find thanks for whatever is…now…

Rumour has it…

I read a quote recently that said something like, “sometimes people who need help don’t look like people who need help” and that walloped my soul and whacked my mind…we all wear masks in a way don’t we? Most of us play a role; some part we perform that is not necessarily our true self, or who we think we are…it’s the parts we auditioned for…earning husband, doting wife, obedient daughter, athletic son…cookie cutter parts of the “right” way to be, and some of us play multiple roles throughout the days of our lives. I’d say most of us try every day to engage in some meaningful way with others, and sometimes while we play our parts we are dying inside from any number of maladies…as the holiday season nears, please dear readers remember that everybody is likely fighting some sort of battle, and not all wounds are noticeable on our outsides, and scars are very easily hidden behind masks…Everybody hurts, sometimes, as Michael Stipe has told us all. When we hear bad things about other people, or bad things that happened to other people,or something that person did-experienced-said, whatever, most of us pause for that briefest of moments with one of those “so glad it’s not me” thoughts or relief, but rumours and stories are easy to misconstrue or to misinterpret and I am just reminding you, all of you dear readers, that what we all see on the outside of each other, or hear in a retelling, is not what always is.

I have always been a rather open person. If I put it out there then I understand I am open to criticism, however, I don’t have to absorb the jabs or duck from the punches…I can let the opinions of others go in one ear and out the other…I can heal on my own time by my own rules…I can be happy some days and sorrowful others…I can take as long as I need to tend to my upsets and if I choose, I can rapidly sweep any tears away and move on immediately with a new purpose and renewed sense of what will, or won’t, work. I can set new boundaries and nobody has to know where I stand but me, and I can slam the door on my “openness” just as fast as I kept it ajar…I watched the interview with Oprah and Adele the other night and I felt deeply connected to much of what Adele said, and how she was so open and honest about how writing made her address her feelings, and how being a mess in the public eye has its challenges, but it also lets other people see, and know, that it’s okay to be a mess and then you dust yourself off and start all over again. I loved how genuine she seemed about her roles as a woman in her personal life and not just the public mask she gives to the world. Oprah quoted her, that she is not shy or embarrassed to fall apart and I loved that, because on the surface, she sure looks put together; extraordinary talent, exquisite looks, enormous wealth…things any one of us would covet and she too was a mess, fell apart, and had to pull herself out of the ruts she felt she was stuck in…A PERSON WITH MILLIONS OF FANS probably cried herself to sleep just like you or I did…A person with more money and success than any of us can even imagine, and will never achieve, probably had days where she felt like a total loser and a shit of a mom, and sat on her sofa wondering how things could have gone so wildly wrong, and could not believe her good life could feel so bad…A PERSON WHO SEEMINGLY has it all, felt exactly like the rest of us have felt.

She has millions of fans. I have, I think, less than 300 followers, so amuse me a moment while I compare myself for a brief bit to Adele, but… I feel like it’s a good thing to BE OPEN and BE HONEST when things are going to total shite, and not just being open and honest when you are bragging about your honor roll kids, expensive vacation, over priced new car, or spectacular engagement ring, or perfect spouse…all of which are lovely, and fun to see on social media and via text or in real life, BUT life is not always rainbows and butterflies!!! Life is all too often dreadfully sad or scary or infuriating, AND IT CAN LOOK LIKE A PINTEREST PAGE while it is spectacularly imploding!!! I think it is a gift to everyone when you are comfortable enough in your flaws and failures to take off your mask and let the world see you. It gives those who might be too scared the freedom to break free from all the mask wearing…rumour has it that she really is a mess, rumour has it that his credit is maxed out, rumour has it that …LOTS of stories are behind the masks…let us try to be kind to those who are hiding still…

This dear readers is just a gentle pre-season nudge to remember that all of us, shall I write “all??” rather than some, or most, well, I think it’s true; all of us have suffered at one time or another with either a bad habit, a bad break up, a bad job loss, a bad addiction, horrendously bad decision, a terrible illness, an awful relative…SO much can be said about a person when all you see is what is on the outside…but rumour has it that what you see is hardly ever what you get…her highlights may be flawless and her manicure never chips but she sits and cries in the parking lot at Target wondering where she went wrong..his success is apparent by his fleet of work trucks and philanthropic generosity, but he goes home alone and sad to an empty house every day and wonders why he can’t find a meaningful or loving relationship…they get honor roll marks, they belong to all the right teams, but there is no laughter in their kitchen, there is nobody to help them with their homework or to wish them sweet dreams because their dad is already passed out and their mom is out at Macy’s buying things they can’t afford to fill the empty spaces in her soul…These are the people in your neighborhood, it’s going on right under your nose behind nearly every mask…What shows is not what is…the rumours that we hear about people and their lives are just words, their reality sometimes bites, and bites hard and causes wounds that can never be soothed, and for which there is neither a pain reliever nor an antibiotic that can heal…

If you are lucky enough to have no secrets, no scars, no mask, then please do spread that pure and purposeful clean living to others…Don’t be a judgmental jerk, be a giver of good vibes, positive advice, beneficial tips, opinions with kindness…There are people who are very much in need of love, support, resources, or guidance, and you don’t know they are so deeply in need because it doesn’t show… it seems to you like they have it all, but it’s not real…they need some help but it’s hidden from view. If you share your gifts of “how to make it in this world” or “look how I turned things around for myself” it might inspire someone to take off their mask and turn over a new leaf, make a change, make a choice, do something different that supports their future better self. I suppose my point in all these words is that, as the holidays near, just make that tiny nudge to always remember that a little kindness can go a very long way, a daily dose of gratitude is the best medicine you can take, and a smile to someone suffering might literally make their day or holiday season. If somebody falls, don’t look away and laugh, look them in the eye and reach out your hand to help them up….rumour has it that the holidays can be happier for the not happy, if you generously gift some of what you have in abundance, to those who are in need…

Don’t Look Back

In anger…oh, a new day is breakin’…you’re not going that wayyou’ll miss what’s right in front of you…artists write and sing about not looking back for a reason…it serves no positive purpose. We’ve heard it in songs and read it in books and it makes sense; unless you need to see what tripped you and made you stumble or fall, or to measure how far you’ve come from said stumble, what’s the point of constantly looking back?? I’m hard-pressed to find one. I try not to dwell on things, hold grudges, dredge up the past too frequently, or focus on what once was, rather than what could be…I really try not to beat myself up with all of that I wish I had known then what I know now stuff, or I could’ve handled that better-I should’ve handled that better self-flagellation…it’s like a little self-help book in my head that never closes, working hard to keep the words in between my ears good words. Looking back to errors in judgment or words you wish you could erase is just beating yourself up for no useful reason. I am focused on perpetually moving forward and moving on, “press on” my mom says when I do stupid things, flub up, or fail…press on. I think of myself as such a hopeful and positive person that it simply feels “off” to stay angry, or sad or upset for too long, it does not sit right with my soul and it certainly does not do right for my smile.

Do I forgive and forget too easily? Maybe. Do I sleep better than most everybody I know? I think so. EVERY night I talk to the universe and I say my little “prayers;” if I was a jerk I am sorry, if I acted selfishly I am sorry, if I was an a$$hole I am sorry, if I purposefully did something wrong I apologize and let it go…I suppose it’s no different than praying to God, or Gods and Goddesses, just the vast universe that is everything…putting it out there, in case there really is a greater power, something more than this, and letting me be free of any upsetting thoughts and pressing on. *I am truly sorry if I was not my best self today and I will try to do better tomorrow* seems to me to be as good a prayer as any. When my life has been VERY very bad or sad, the reality for me is that it’s been far more ‘very good’ and ‘very joyful’ than anything else. The highs have outweighed the lows in every year of my life on this earth. I don’t want to dwell on any long ago past upsets or more recent wrongs, I don’t want to remember stinky-sucky-sad feelings or upsets, they are over, done, gone… there is no point whatsoever in remembering things that don’t feel good and that don’t bring about good thoughts. Every single second, the second before, or the day before, or the week before, is gone…over…every single second is a new second to turn things around, turn a frown upside down as the kids used to say, move on, move up, flip a flop, make your fail into a fixxer upper. I alone am in control of the words I let live in my head and I alone am in control of my feelings and emotions so why on earth would I want to think about things that already happened, and make me sad, when I can just be present and happy and looking ahead to what joys might next come my way?? I am moving forward…growing.

I used to volunteer at the jail, when I was in college, every Tuesday…it was my day off, my daughter was in school, so it seemed like a good use of time…I worked with incarcerated men and women and every Tuesday when I got into my car at the end of the day I would sit in the parking lot and smoke a few cigarettes and cry my eyes out. Every Tuesday before I drove home was a Camel Lights-sob-fest, but it got all the heavy thoughts in my mind, out of my mind…it was a mental cleansing, something of a mind eraser. I would cry for the people who were stuck in a cycle that they simply could not seem to get out of, I would cry for a system that seldom seemed very just, I would cry for the people who had nobody who cared about them, nobody who missed them, nobody who wanted them to get better, do better, be better…I cried for people who looked back, hour after hour at how they could have done something other than what they did…their whole existence was looking back. I cried for the women who had lost custody of their babies, and I cried for the men who teared up when they told me how it hurt them, how much they had disappointed their grandmothers, and it all broke me, every story, every Tuesday…broke me into bits. Broke me into a woman who wanted to change the world, broke me into a woman who was sure she would get a job in the criminal justice system and find a way to make it better…and while I never got my dream job or changed the world, those broken feelings also built me into a deeply compassionate and empathetic woman, those feelings of despair that I had for others blossomed me into a person whose gratitude, daily deep gratefulness and thanks, became the thing about me that makes my world so bright, even when presented with various forms of darkness.

If every time you made a bad decision you let it eat you up inside and beat you to death with sad feelings and negative thoughts about yourself, that would be so stupid right??!! I mean, seriously, we are flawed humans, most of us make some bad choices at one time or another, and to be clear, some many more, and more frequently than most, but none of us are perfect…but why let imperfection keep you stuck in a bad mindset?? Just step off, get lost, let it go…not one good thing comes from focusing on the past or negative experiences that already have happened. Not one good thing…

Last week I had surgery on Thursday and turned 54 on Saturday. When you are stuck on the sofa you have plenty of time to reflect on important things if you choose to…Every year I like to think I can be a better version of the me that I was before. Each birthday is an opportunity to take an inventory; is my mind sharp, is my body strong and limber, how is my house and yard maintenance, how is my body and mind maintenance, how are my relationships…these are not moments to dwell or dig up old news, these are moments to reflect upon and from which I go on…I find great joy in the idea of being a better version, in some way, or all ways, of myself in the year ahead than I was in the year I leave behind. So on the sofa, with my leg on an enormous pile of pillows, I thought about how will I be a more positive me, and it was not a waste of time, it might be the best time I spent with myself in months…during my minutes, or maybe hours of thinking deep thoughts, I thought a lot about what my friend taught me years ago, that maybe she read in a book or maybe learned the hard way herself; that the narrative between my own ears is the only story that really matters and the only words that really matter, and I concluded that my positive outlook, my optimistic way of looking at the world, my way of pressing on, IS ABSOLUTELY the way I want to be.

Do I forgive and forget too easily? Maybe. Do I want to be happy and live happy and try, if possible to spread that happiness to others?? Yes. Am I going to sometimes look back and rehash bad thoughts that should not be remembered?? Probably. Am I looking forward to moving on into a new year with fresh starts and wisdom generated from wounds that are now healed?? Absolutely. Am I going to keep thinking about upsetting situations and events of the last year? NOPE. We have an expression in yoga class, “finding comfort in the discomfort” and for me that is Ardha Chandrasana, a pose that I simply am fearful of, and dare I write, I hate it, because I am always scared I am going to fall backwards, and fear is uncomfortable, and that is not only applicable for yoga class it is applicable for LIFE!!! Fear is uncomfortable. Fear of falling backwards is uncomfortable. Finding ease in the unease and comfort in the discomfort matters, I believe it matters more than I have a vocabulary to explain. Now, maybe to you it doesn’t matter. That’s totally fine. That is one of the beauties of this life we get to live, we choose what to think about and what to act upon, or not. We choose. When I regret something I wrote, said, or did, I recognize it for whatever it was, an error in judgment, or a mistake, and I move on…EVERY SINGLE DAY is a new day. LITERALLY EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED THE DAY, WEEK, MONTH, OR YEARS BEFORE IS OVER. A person can think over and over and over, about things but all it is is infecting your own mind of thoughts of the past. Don’t look back is my thought process right now, a new day is waiting every day.

Next stop “Relaxation Station” …mind the gap

I do not relax well. I want to be a person who can comfortably be comfortable doing nothing, but…I am not. I want to be a person who can sit and read for as long as she likes, but when there are other things that need to be done, or let me rephrase, I feel that they should be getting done, I can’t relax to read if I feel that NEED/DESIRE to tend to tasks at hand. I want to be a person who can sit and binge a Netflix show, or series, or sit and crochet while I watch Sense and Sensibility or When Harry Met Sally for the bazillionth time, but I am a person who simply can’t seem to EVER relax enough to be comfortable doing nothing but RELAXing.

Dear R*, You are going to do exactly what the doctor tells you to do today. He already told you, at your last appointment, that you will need to plan to miss several days of work and rest with your leg elevated for at least four days, preferably six. He joked that he hoped your had Netflix. You will do what the doctor orders and your leg will heal better than if you are an idiot and do too much too fast. That is all. With love, R*

I am having a surgery later today on my “bad” leg and when it is healed I hope to never have to use the expression “my bad leg” again, but I am old enough to know that if I don’t do the work of healing, the surgery to fix a problem will not be as successful. I suppose it is much like the lady I sometimes see at Wawa buying cigarettes whilst holding her oxygen tank under her arm like a purse and the hose blowing up her nose…it takes a doctor AND a patient, to make healing successful. It is not some self aggrandizing “look at me, I’m not a lazy person” thing, and it’s not, at least I think it’s not, some mental disorder, this odd inability to relax and do nothing, it’s just not me to be fine with being still.

What is curious is that, since I joined yoga, just about four years ago now, I have learned that my breath and my breathing and my thinking about my breath and breathing can completely control my mind. I take breathing at yoga class VERY seriously. When the teacher instructs me to pay attention to my breath I pay attention to my breath. I don’t let my mind wander, I focus on breathing…so my point is, I have the control of my self to spend 75 minutes many times a week focused on my breath and I think this practice will help me to focus on healing my leg…if my mind starts to wander to laundry that could be done, or cleaning that could be done, or office work that could be done, just like in yoga, when my mind starts to wander I pull it back to focus on my breath, so to heal these next days, when my mind starts to wander I will pull it back to focus on my healing. I might do an exercise where I close my eyes and breathe and do my yoga practice in my mind…I am kind of excited about that…to be supine, with my eyes closed, focused on my breath, and see the poses and the motion and the flow in my brain…to be active while being inactive. I simply am not a person who is ever comfortable, what?? Being Comfortable??!! RELAXING??!! It is absurd. BUT for the week I have to be comfortable doing nothing; nothing but sitting or lying down with my leg highly elevated, for a minimum of four days, and preferably six…Relaxation Station, I’m getting off at your stop!!!

To be clear, in the cold and dreary winter months when my work is significantly slowed down, and I really do have a lot more “free” time, and if it’s raining, raw, or snowing and I am home during the day, I do indeed LOVE to be here and not have to do anything. When those days happen I am so content to cook or crochet or watch a movie or write or, my favorite thing, go on a loud music cleaning frenzy, I mean this is stuff that makes me SOoooo happy, and I am VERY COMFORTABLE BEING HAPPY. Doing things that make me happy when I am “Stuck” home is not feeling stuck at all, but they are also activities that are not resting, and resting is really what I have to do, starting later today when my friend drops me back off here at home. To Relax, or relaxing, is just not something that I am generally comfortable with, but today it is a must…so I am going to go for it with full enthusiasm, I’m going to embrace the laziness, I’m going to avert my eyes if I see a cob web, I’m going to pretend that both my legs have to be elevated, so that I am less likely to say something like, well, I’ll just vacuum for a minute, or some crazy idea I might have to do something OTHER than relax. I won’t be able to use the stairs for a few days, so I shall not be writing while I am relaxing. I have a basket of new yarn and ordered Apple tv and I guess I am just going to go for it…Relax, Be Comfortable doing nothing. It will be fun to see how I make out…It will be fun to see if I can be comfortable just being, and my yoga of the mind is something that I am a bit tickled by, so it could be I might get off at this stop “Relaxation Station” more often in my future!!

Next Stop “Karma Station” …mind the gap

Dear R*, Today is going to be a good day.  This morning you are going to take two yoga classes and when you come home you will do some house work and some yard work, you will un-decorate from Halloween, and in the evening get a good hot shower and smell like Dr. Bronner’s tea tree soap as you quiet your mind from the day, and when you lay your book down on the night table to go to sleep, you will know that you have done all that you could today to do unto others and to be the best version of your best self. With love, R*

My friend took me to the movies a few weeks ago to see Dear Evan Hansen, and I really liked the idea from the story of writing myself a letter every day. I guess, in a way, I do this anyway; I do write every single day, and have been a journal writer since I was 14 and a blogger since 2006, and I also talk to myself, in my head, day in and day out…my whole existence is practically writing letters to myself!!! LOL!!! I once read a quote that said something like, never piss off a writer, she’ll put you in her book, and while I am not a “writer,” I do write, and I only write about what I know, and what I experience personally, and what I think about the experience…I’m not at all creating anything, or imagining alternate realities, or developing deeply complex plots and colorful characters with lots of descriptive details…it is rather self absorbed actually, the way I write, I know this, just writing what is in my head, but it’s what I do, and honestly, I can’t seem to stop even if I wanted to!!! I know that every day I try to be the best me that I can, and when I fail, which is often, I know I can do better tomorrow. I assume that everybody thinks this way, that making plenty of deposits in their karmic bank is a “goal” but I have lived long enough, and been disappointed enough, to know that this is not the case…LOTS OF PEOPLE DON’T know about karma. Writing a letter to yourself every day, even just in your head, keeps you accountable, in a way, at least to yourself.

For my whole life my dad has used an expression about “making plenty of deposits in your karmic bank” and I kid you not; almost every single choice I have to make in life, for as long as I can remember, has been made with this thought, mantra if you will, in the back of my mind. LONG before I learned yoga I learned karma and I know, ABSOLUTELY know that if more people understood the laws of karma, people would be better towards each other. The laws are rather easy to follow, and the funny thing is, in a nutshell, for people who claim to be christian or claim to believe the bible, karma is not much different than doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, which I think might be bible-ish, no?? Yet I have known too many people who go to church and went to Catholic school for example, or sent their kids to private Catholic school, and yet, when it was time to STEP UP AND DO UNTO OTHERS…blah blah blah, they did not step up. In fact they just looked the other way…and those people, well, in my world it means pretty much you’ve struck out, because karma takes care of everything…and when some awfulness befalls them or someone they love, and they think, oh how could this happen to us? the only answer that makes any sense at all to me, is karma…You made a terrible choice to treat a person terribly and look what that got you…So for me, and since I can only speak and act for my own self, the best version of myself is when I treat others as I would want to be treated and I forgive when I would want to be forgiven and I move on when I would have wanted someone to move on…I do not dwell on mistakes and I do not dwell on wrongdoings and I do not dwell on woulda-shoulda-coulda…I believe that every action has consequences and I believe in karma. It’s my station, it’s my hub, karma is my home base.

In general, when I write, I don’t ask others if they mind if I share, because my experience is my own, and I have said and written for decades that I am an open book, I have no secrets, and the one secret I once held (for decades I might add) I finally told, over ten years ago…so to say that my heart and mind is pure, that there are no lies hidden within me, there are no issues that I hold back, there is nothing but openness and truth in my world and I intend to keep it this way until my last day on earth, is the truth that is me. What I understand to be true is MY TRUTH; my reality of events or circumstances is colored by my own perceptions, bias, history, and opinions, but it is still my own.  The truth and the reality of another person is their own; their own history, their own opinions, and their own experience is not mine to judge or twist or manipulate the details thereof, but I can write about how their truth impacted my truth…does that make sense to anybody but me?? I guess what I mean is that I can write whatever I want, about my experiences, and there is nothing that anybody can do about it…it is mine to write.

I had an experience this summer that broke me open and caught me by surprise but now it is November, my birthday month, one of my favorite months of the year, every year, and so the summer is now my past. It is now part of my personal historical record and part of my story and my truth, but it is over, over and done and how I go forward from the experience will color my future, because, like it or not, experiences change us, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse…experiences teach us lessons, experiences give us wisdom, experiences prepare us for what may come next and profoundly influence how we move on, and get on with each of our days. I think about my karma & my place in the universe & the implications of my actions with every decision I make and every experience that I have had moves me to act in my next act…I make choices and decisions often because of what I think the karmic implications may be…karmic deposits are a HUGE FACTOR IN MOST OF MY CHOICES and for those who do not “get” what this means, well I guess you just will never understand. When people behave badly, or lack compassion, or are greedy and selfish, or cold and unfeeling where there should be empathy, there are karmic debits that come from that kind of action, or lack thereof. People either understand karma or they don’t. I live my life with the understanding, or belief, that my karmic deposits are an integral part of who I am, how I live, and how I want to be in this life, BECAUSE I 100% BELIEVE that what you put out into the universe you get back…if you do good and think good your life will be good…

When I think about what might be the last moments of my life, I am pretty sure that I will have few, if any, regrets.  When I want to tell someone how I feel or what I feel, I do, and when I want to celebrate a person or thank a person, or express my love and appreciation for a person, I do.  When I am angry or hurt I try to express and discuss those hurts and then move on, rather than dwell…so all of that end of life narrative or dialogue, “I wish I had,” is not something I expect to experience.  I believe that living as fully in my truth as I can is exactly why I will never have regrets, or wishes that I had acted differently or behaved better…I really try to make those deposits in my karmic bank. I feel like if tomorrow is my last day on earth, no one who loves me, or who I love, will wonder how I felt, I feel like no stones were left unturned, and no wrongs needed to be righted, nothing needed to be explained. FOR ME, this is how I have to live. It feels “off” to me, when I don’t live this way…when I do something because I think it’s what somebody else thinks I should do, or I make a choice because somebody tells me it’s what choice they would make; when I am guided by that, well, I feel like I am not myself. I have to be able to close my eyes at night and feel at peace.  I simply must be able to do that in order to be who I am.  SO I make choices that make this happen, FOR ME. When someone disappoints me, I let it be known, and I modify my behavior and make changes so that my expectations and boundaries are such that I will not again be disappointed, and when I have disappointed someone I listen to what I have done, and process it and try to correct my behavior for next time. When someone hurts me, I let it be known, and when I have hurt someone I listen to how my behavior caused pain and I process it. There is no other way to live, no other way to be, as far as I can tell, than to be fully engaged with myself this way and the laws of karma.

“I’m not aware of too many things, but I know what I know, if you know what I mean…” If it seems “silly” to write yourself a letter every day, then don’t do it. By all means, just keep doing whatever it is you have been doing…but if like me, you feel like you could do better, be better, well, there is no harm in making a letter to yourself, identifying where you need to make adjustments, recognizing where you have totally F**ked up your karma, and understanding how you can modify your behavior, your thoughts, whatever…BE AWARE. BE ACCOUNTABLE. BELIEVE IN KARMA, it’s not difficult…here’s your stop, mind the gap…