I thought I was the only one! Terminal uniqueness: My belief that no one else could understand how I felt, surely I am the only person in the world who has ever felt this way. There is an element of reverse arrogance in terminal uniqueness, i.e. I am so special because no one has had it worse than me and no one can possibly understand how I feel. If I believe I am terminally unique then I will separate myself from others and not share my feelings, this is the perfect storm for isolation. No thanks, I’ll just stay here by myself, stare at my belly button and cry.
Today I know that I am not terminally unique and my life is infinitely better because I have been a member of several peer support groups for many years. The miracle is that once I ventured out of my isolation I discovered how we are alike in our humanness . The “support” in support groups comes from this reality: your words are my words, we speak for ourselves and for each other. I have found compassion for others and myself in peer support groups
Why did I wait until my emotional pain was almost unbearable before I sought solace in a community of peers? My little dog Roscoe likes to roll over and beg me for a belly rub: vulnerability be damned! His behavior says “I trust you.” I feed him and take him for walks so I am a good, trustworthy human. Roscoe doesn’t care if I’m old, gray and fat. I however have trust issues. I’m not likely to expose my vulnerability until I can feel relatively certain that I am safe. Finding out if someone is trustworthy is risky behavior, trial and error of the heart. I stick my neck out and share my truth and I’ll be treated with respect and compassion or NOT; it’s the not that scares the shit out of me! But I persevered, kept going one tiny step at a time, and now I can share honestly with fellow members in my support groups.
It’s the shared realities and vulnerabilities that allow people to eventually trust each other. Easier said than done. Your outsides look a lot different from my outsides, but inside we can recognize a fellow soul. I am afraid, you are afraid. I am lost, you are lost. I don’t feel worthy, you don’t feel worthy. We can both laugh so hard our bellies hurt. We can love fiercely, celebrate love and grieve when a loved one leaves us. The tears that fall from your eyes are the same tears that fall from my eyes into the river that flows between us. Your smile is my smile. You bleed the same as I. We need never stand alone. Can you hear the bell tolling?
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. By John Donne
I resolve to make zero resolutions for the new year. Besides the one I just made! I am hoping for an underwhelming year. My mantra will not be ”I am so overwhelmed.” I am saying NO to lofty goals, NO to dreaming big and a really big NO to self-improvement. I realize this is heresy, but I am willing to be labeled a heretic. You might ask what will be my motivation to get out of bed if I don’t have goals and/or planning to do? I’m thinking I will want to get out of bed because I will be so curious what a day without striving and trying will be like.
I will need to talk to myself in a new language, the verbal whips of “I am not enough.”, “Try harder,” or “I should _____(fill in the blank) will be defused by a gentler vocabulary of self-talk. My sister Aileen has coined a new word “overwhelmtion”, the disease of too much to do and too little time to do it. It’s very contagious and there is no vaccine for it. Some people are immune to overwhelmtion, they follow a diet of nourishing self talk . What if I answered the social/polite question “So what are you up to? with “I have time to do the things I want to do and to explore new areas.” Would the conversation end? If I am not “too busy” do I have any justification for being on the planet. I am afraid that living life at a slower pace may bring me face to face with loneliness. “Too busy” crowds out loneliness, surely if I am rushing to and fro I must be a popular, important person.
Sometimes I feel like I am leaning so far into the future that I could fall flat on my face. I want to meander a bit, stop and look, maybe double back and eventually amble into this moment or the next. The future is really just a “now” that hasn’t happened yet. I don’t want to be famous——o.k. just a little famous would be alright. I want to be a good writer, a good mother and a good friend. I may not be a big splash, but I might be the rock that skips across the water three times.
So what will 2018 be like for this underachiever? I could get a part-time job with Consumer Reports rating how comfortable Mattress A is compared to Mattress Z and all in between. This is a big contribution to my and mankind’s need for a good nights sleep, but I get tired thinking about how many mattresses I would need to rate to meet a quota. I guess I don’t want to live up to my potential and my second grade teacher had me nailed after all. I don’t want to live up to any arbitrary measures i.e. too fat or too skinny, too smart or too stupid, and conversely scrubbing toilets is not “beneath”me. Allowing myself to simply be, and accepting my growth or lack of growth, is my Grand Experiment for 2018.
Wishing all of you a New Year filled with love and joy.
No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own / Three Guineas
Psst, can you keep secrets? You can’t tell anyone. Promise you won’t tell? Ok. Sometimes when I’m smiling, I put my smile on like a Mr. Potatohead piece. I reach in and pick a smile because I think a smile is what you expect to see. We both know that I shouldn’t be so sad, so I don’t share my grief with you. It’s two years since Roger died and I get tossed around, knocked off my feet with memories and sadness, but I keep my secrets to myself. You might not want to know about my grief and I am afraid you would tattle tale on me. I cry undercover.
Oh, I’m not done, I have more secrets. You promised you wouldn’t tell anybody and we even pinkie swore. Ok. I don’t want anybody to know how full of fear I am. A lot. My feet may be planted but I can be sprinting out of there in my head. What am I afraid of? Just about everything. What if I can’t do it, or you don’t like me, or I run out of money when I’m eighty? I try to keep my face as calm as I can and hope you can’t see the panic in my eyes. Of course I can handle it, whatever it is….yeah right.
Have I shared too much? There’s just so many secrets I’ve carried for years. I think a lot of people are stupid, and I may have thought you were stupid a time or two. Not very flattering to you or me. Is there a smirk in Mr. Potatohead’s bucket? Sometimes I don’t brush my teeth before I go to bed. I often use the same coffee cup for a week, I just rinse it out until it’s very brown. I talk to my dogs all the time. I would be mortified if my condo were bugged. My first confession was “I sassed my Mother 5 Times.” I wasn’t sorry but I had to come up with something for the priest, always trying to please any man. Speaking of men, I did things I deeply regret and I can’t tell you what I did because those are secrets I don’t want to share. You could twist my arm and I still wouldn’t tell you.
I’ve just scratched the surface of the window into my soul. My secrets have left a thick, stubborn layer of dust and grease on the window and the clean up is slow. Give me a break! I have lived and loved for 65 years and that’s a lot of secrets. I don’t think I need to share all my secrets, some secrets are best kept to myself. Delicious, juicy secrets are all mine. My best bud Susan and I went on a cruise together in October, you could ask her what secrets were revealed in our small state room, but I asked her not to tell!
It all started with pain in the back of my left knee. At first it was “There’s that pain again.”, but over the last week or so the pain clamored for more attention and I noticed some swelling in the area. I went to get it checked out after my co workers said it was possible I had a blood clot in my leg. The doctor looked at it, poked and prodded and decided it was highly unlikely it was a blood clot and was more likely a hamstring injury. He did order a blood test to rule out a blood clot but I wasn’t worried, nor was he. The next thing I know, an hour later, I’m told the blood test readings were not good and to go get an ultrasound….NOW. Thank God they found no blood clot, but the hour of fear I had before I got the good news made me sick! However, I do have hamstring tendonitis with fluid on the knee joint. Blood is supposed to flow smoothly through veins and arteries, and any blockage, a clot, is very dangerous because it could move to the lungs or heart causing a life threatening emergency. I dodged a bullet.
I think of the life advice frequently offered “Just go with the flow.” A clot can be defined as a coagulated mass; this sounds pretty icky! So what keeps me from going with the flow? What coagulated fears and anxieties block my flow? How can I dissolve these mental and emotional clots without pushing them on to do even further damage in my future? The best scenario for treating blood clots is to dissolve them and at the same time make the blood thinner and therefore less likely to clot. Unfortunately some of my coagulated masses of negative emotions didn’t get dissolved and are moving through now and blocking my life flow. I’m at the “now or never” point and more often it is true if I don’t do it now, I never will. I will do it later only works if there is a “later”.
So what’s the potion that could dissolve my emotional blockages, get my life flowing now and move me along to my best future? I’m wishing the Jedi knights could back me up and the force would be with me, but I stand alone and it is up to me to face my demons and coagulated masses of negative emotions and beliefs. I am going to phone a friend—Honesty. If part of the clot is resistance and denial, then Honesty would be my strongest ally. Being true to myself and defining my values cuts through a lot of emotional blockages. I have been broken by grief and grief is a sharp sword. Honesty is riding in on a white horse and I’m tired of people pleasing and pretending to be someone I am not. Maybe the “force” is with me after all.
Keeping my life energy flowing requires battling resistance, control and denial which can make my life flow sluggish. In other words, my blood shouldn’t be too thick or too thin, it needs to be just right. So how do I keep my energy and emotions just right? My still, quiet voice whispers Acceptance is the force I need, but my noisy, obnoxious voice is yelling “No way, I have to DO something!” Maybe too much “doing” is sapping my energy and creativity and my flow is getting thick with all my toxic rules about what I should be doing and what should be happening. Acceptance and Should are not friendly; if Should is in the room, Acceptance is not welcome and vice versa. The antidote to shoulding myself is a generous dose of Acceptance.
Coagulated masses don’t stand a chance against Honesty and Acceptance. I guess I will just go with the flow.
Nancy Lou-hoo. That’s how her Mom called for her when it was time for Nancy Lou to come home. We always made fun of the “extra” syllable. I grew up on an Iowa farm but I was lucky enough to have a “next door” neighbor; Nancy Lou was my age. We went back and forth between our houses, but we didn’t use the sidewalk —we walked across a pasture or cow yard to get to each other. There was a spot in the fence between our farms that I always crawled through. We played together often. Even now I can follow the path to her house….
We often met in the middle, especially after Nancy Lou’s brothers built a play house for us in the small meadow by the creek. The house was a concrete slab with reclaimed wood sides and a bench with a table . There was no roof but we didn’t care. We busied ourselves with decorating our humble abode. Of course our mothers donated a few cracked dishes, some vases and silverware they were going to throw away. Nancy Lou had a decoy duck that she brought for decoration. I remember when she was mad at me for some childish reason she marched up the hill to her house proclaiming “I’m taking my duck and I don’t want to play anymore!” I tearfully reported to my Mom “She took her duck! She took her duck!” Of course, Nancy Lou and the duck returned the next day and play continued. Nancy Lou and I
had our own rules and we were a team.
As we grew up our playhouse grew up to, it became the big culvert we could stand up in under the gravel road. We were in our “hood “ and the writing was on the walls of the culvert. We had the sex talk there, our expert was Nancy Lou’s first cousin “Toots”. I am not making this up! Toots had told Nancy Lou how sex worked and we had a hard time believing the picture she painted, and mostly I remember Nancy Lou and I saying “Ew, ew, I don’t believe it.” Puberty and high school highlighted the differences between us, Nancy Lou was cute and was a cheerleader and I was not. Boyfriends and the popular crowd separated us but our connection to each other was cemented by our childhood bond. We were never unkind to each other. We went our separate ways after high school. I left the area and she stayed and was married and had a family.
A few days ago my sister who lives back home called to let me know that Nancy Lou had passed away suddenly. A trickle of memories became a deluge and I remembered how we used to play in the basement when it was snowy, how her bedroom looked like a princess lived there, how she cried when her brother died from a brain tumor and I hugged her. It is impossible for me to remember my childhood without the one constant in my life, Nancy Lou.
Rest In Peace and I will meet you in the middle.
Nancy Lou Hruska
Born: December 5, 1951
Died: December 1, 2017
MerryThanksChristmasGiving.HappyThanksHalloweenGiving. Let’s get those holidays squeezed together so tightly the second the witches come down, the snowmen go up and Thanksgiving is just a blip on the holiday radar. Turkeys, no hurt feelings. I understand how important the holiday season is to retailers, I have seen estimates of $ 1 trillion for this years holiday sales total. I don’t even know how many zeroes a trillion needs. So it’s the season for money to move between the consumer and the retailer. Follow the money. Maybe we could invent a generic holiday in July and get tightwads to spend their money on generic products for a generic holiday. Either way consumers and retailers need holidays as reasons to spend money and keep our economy thriving.
The Christmas season rolls over the landscape like a Sherman tank. I have heard people say “I am not doing Christmas this year.”, but it seems Christmas may still be doing them. Who’s in charge of Christmas? The ghost of Christmas past or the ghost of Christmas future, the Grinch or Rudolph? It’s a conspiracy, the Christmas conspiracy! It’s those damn liberals. All I know is I want to decide what Christmas means to me and how I want to celebrate it. Lights, wreaths and action!
My Christmas “tree” is my big fake potted tree/ plant. I know it’s a bit lame, but I use it in front of my patio door to provide some cover from prying eyes, so why not multi purpose as my Christmas tree? My bottom line is Christmas lights and lots of them. I love the feel of a dark room punctuated with Christmas lights, it’s warm, cozy and feels safe to me. Gently lighting my way home when I get lost, I get the doggies, my blankie and cuddle.
Red and green , green and red means it’s Christmas. Make the green a circle and dot some red here and there, wrap up with a pretty bow and it’s a wreath. I think it’s the circle that draws me in. This year I have stretched the red to hot pink, and the green to lime green, but I am still in the red and green family. I liked the bright colors in the bag of tree ornaments at the thrift store, so I went with it. My garland is hot pink beads. It feels very festive to me and the opposite of the long dark days of December. So bring it on, Christmas!
Do I have the Christmas spirit? It comes and goes. Puppies help me feel like Christmas. Yet another sexual harassment report and Santa Claus gets fired! Very un-Christmas. I think it’s better if the spirit of Christmas lives in my heart, it goes everywhere with me and no matter which way the wind blows I can hold onto it.
A cheeseburger. As good as turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie? In paradise or not, I’d pick the cheeseburger. My thanks to Jimmy Buffet. Right now my gravy is a bit grumpy and lumpy. My best laid plans are revolting and I am very busy comparing myself to others and coming up short. Money or cheeseburgers, someone else has more. Good looks or social success, someone has more. I had plans damnit! My clothes are from the thrift store for crying out loud, never mind I love to shop thrift stores!
Thanksgiving, Bah Humbug. Santa is not real and neither is Thanksgiving. Can I “give up” on giving thanks? I don’t think so, because I know better. There is this thing called “gratitude “. I hate it because then I have to pay attention and question my self talk and attitude. I have to get real and humble and I don’t want to do that. So the poverty I saw in some countries while on my cruise was awful but…oh yeah I was on a CRUISE so I could just sail away. My home is not a shack and I have running water. Sure the Whitehouse is a dump compared to Trump Tower, but you gotta make do! It’s this comparison thing that gets me in trouble, “He who has the most toys wins.” If there is only one winner then there has to be a lot of losers. And it is too easy to see myself as a loser.
Fortunately I have several attitude adjusters that can help me get an attitude of gratitude, my little doggies and Rogers’ spirit. Doggies need to be walked, and years of walking with Roger have taught me to pay attention to the weather and the light. If it’s a beautiful day when I walk the dogs I can see it and feel it, and many times I tell Roger what a beautiful day it is and thank him for it. I surprise myself by being able to stop my mental chatter and ruminating and let myself be grateful for the beautiful day. I am grateful for the sun light or the gentle breeze and even the rainy, cold day because I am able to walk. I don’t want to be that person who takes for granted all that is wonderful in my life, and only realizes how much I have to be grateful for after I have lost it. A cold, wet and windy walk with Roger would be so wonderful!I I am going to practice gratitude until it becomes a habit, the habit of an attitude of gratitude.
I’m making my own paradise and I’m having that juicy, extra special cheesy cheeseburger and I’ll take a large order of fries too.
Many, many thanks to the Queen of gratitude, my sister Lisa who writes a blog HABITUAL GRATITUDE. Don’t miss it. She was recently named as one of the top 10 bloggers on gratitude.
Great job baby sister.