Now, here is a touchy subject. Or not if you are one of those blessed with families who are determined to be supportive, encouraging, friendly and in strong hope of a well-nurtured union. I don’t even have them (anymore) having been divorced for over 30 years. It’s not so much a toss-up, in the cards, luck of the draw, or any of those other mild-mannered excuses. It’s hard work! My own parents wanted to be ‘good’ in-laws but still wanted to have their daughter. Suffice to say it’s not enough to abide by the old adage, “A son’s a son till he takes a wife but a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life”. We all need our parents, some more than others, in very different ways and for many reasons. And these change over the years as we ourselves change. (I nearly fell over when my ex-mother-in-law offered to and did pay for my son’s college tuition. I never saw that coming and am still grateful to her and have told her so.) Even so, the so-called extended family needs to understand that at times that extension does not include many dispensations or opportunities. Some traditions need to if not stop at least be tweaked a bit to allow for the traditions of the new couple and family. Grace must abound, and tongues ought to be held or tempers rise and occasionally flame into if not conflagrations certainly destruction. Yes, there is such a thing as creative destruction but that is commonly used in business, not a marriage. If love isn’t the central force and motivator in a family it becomes choked, starved, sterile. It can be restored and healing can take place but only when everyone is a player and takes part in the healing. There need to be ground rules, thought processes may need to be elaborated, understanding needs to be clarified.
And no one can do anyone else’s part. It is all for one, one for all.
So I went to one of these yesterday, given by a Congressman I did vote for. Not sure what a thing like that would be like with a legislator I didn’t vote for. Standing room only. The amazing thing to me was how many people were there who did not agree with the congressman. And they were vocal. He limited the meeting to 90 minutes, spoke himself for about 30 minutes outlining his own priorities, thoughts on America, particularly the astounding and ever-rising debt, the present administration. Pretty fair, I thought. Gave each attendee a folder (on all-recycled paper) with current bills, bills he supports, co-sponsors, information on the healthcare act that’s so controversial.
After his comments he opened the floor to the audience with about 3 or 4 of his aides holding microphones, questions limited to one minute which didn’t happen. Out of, say, 25 questions, 5 were hecklers, 8 were anti-conservative, one was more or less commentary of his own stance and ideas and the remaining were from people who were former military, worried about healthcare, America, polarization, impeachment of the president. I noted one Black gentleman in the entire room. Probably divided pretty equally between men and women.
Through it all the congressman remained calm, well-informed, pleasant, polite and only once or twice asked for respectful behavior. He appeared strong, convicted, realizing that presently there may be many things going on in our country we do not like or agree with but that it is still resilient. There is still hope for redemption, correction, renewal and growth.
For this cynic, I was encouraged.
One of my best attributes is also one of my greatest failings. I am a good listener. But if someone asks me to tell a bit about myself I need a necessary, built-in stop. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, another adage heard first from my ex-husband. This is not to say my parents did not attempt to instill me with wisdom, they just didn’t use cliches. They rather chose to either lead by example, or explain truth and wisdom whenever I fell into a self-made mudhole, which in my life happened more often than I like to remember. According to Wikipedia, if you ascribe to their site, “Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who wrote (c. 1150), ‘L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs’ (hell is full of good wishes and desires). An earlier saying occurs in Virgil’s Aeneid: ‘facilis descensus Averno’ (It is easy to go to hell).” (1)
So today I took a meal to an acquaintance who is finishing a round of chemo for triple-negative breast cancer. Today she needed to talk. Today she needed someone to listen. We began our visit with a question from her: Tell her a bit more about myself, was I working, where I grew up, went to school. So on my tapestry ride I forgot that this was not an everyday friend visit. This is a person with maybe numbered days. Well, we all have numbered days but hers may be less than hoped. Her stamina is not strong. She needs more rest. She began a few times (once ignored is inexcusable) to tell me her thoughts, hopes, considerations of her now and possibilities of the chance of a then. I needed to shut down. Give her the floor, the spotlight, not try to intervene, associate my experience with hers. On my last visit I told her how brave I think she is. Today she needed to tell me. So when I realized my overtime was up and stood to go, she apologized for her pain. I said something absurd like I could imagine. Really?? immediately I corrected myself. No, I cannot imagine, I demurred, and said that I would see her again.
I hope so.
(1) (–Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization). ^ Christine Ammer (1997), The American Heritage dictionary of idioms, ISBN 9780395727744 ^ Mrs E. B. Mawr (1885), “Hell is paved with good intentions”, Analogous Proverbs In Ten Languages, Elliot Stock
We all encounter them. From the most cowardly, to whom a challenge might be a hangnail or split-ends, to the most robust who have battled dreaded diseases, the worst persecution, or returning from war to find not only are you profoundly different but as a result so are who, what and where you left. Some face whatever their challenge head-on. Fearless. Some stop and, if able, consider options. Some run the other way only to find what they hoped was evasion turns into another challenge or, worse, a reversal of life. No, it is always best when presented with one to face it. Then, as you are, as it is. It likely will not diminish and by facing it your perspective keeps it real. It is manageable or insurmountable but there it is. Some pray. Some feel the prayer is all they need with no action other than the praying. That is seldom true. By praying we are asking a God Who loves us, Who knows us better than anyone else or even than we ever will to help us. And by taking our part in the facing of whatever it is He diminishes our pain, makes our efforts seem effortless. And then it is over. We have come to the other side of it, however and whatever it was. And we give thanks. We look around and feel somehow stronger, better, clearer. We have achieved conquest. We move on. Forward. Upward. Lifeward. “…having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13)
So a few months ago I thought I would list my house FSBO and look for a smaller house or maybe a condo or townhouse closer to my church, friends, volunteering. No idea how something so simple could turn so wretched. Print slick brochures, great pictures, low asking price. Clean house, take pictures off walls, spackle, paint, everything but my kitchen has been upgraded just about- new roof, all new flooring: hardwoods, tile, carpet in guest bedrooms. New a/c compressor, water heater, fence repaired, new waterproofing and vents under the house, termite inspection, no termites. That part was easy. The hard part? All those people who jet in from some alien galaxy that programs them to refuse to pay earnest money, calls every day several times a day making demands. Stuff realtors never tell you they have to deal with. Things change. When I sold a condo in the mid-90s it wasn’t like this. The 3rd person who saw it agreed to my asking price, a week later I’d found a place to move, the closing attorney handled both. Done. So I took the sign out of my yard and still have people asking about it. It’s a nice house and certainly doesn’t need much done at this point. Everything works (so far– knock wood): kitchen appliances, furnace. At this point pretty low maintenance. I already did everything else. It’s got pretty landscaping, irrigation (that I never use). The market is even cooperating. But all the boxes I had packed and stacked in my 2-car garage were starting to collapse on each other. I hadn’t even packed any books, just everything else. So I unpacked everything. Now it’s too much to think about packing up again! Pictures stacked against the walls– I haven’t the heart to rehang them. Even my kitchen appliances- electric can opener, most utensils, toaster- are still put away. Ok, so it’s easy to go without toast or find another way (oven works), but that can opener? The manual one doesn’t quite grab the rim of a can the same. And as for coffee, I use a French press. I made lousy coffee in the coffeemaker anyway. Maybe I’ll get a head of steam up come winter when it’s cold and I’m mostly inside. We’ll see. I do not give up on projects easily. But I’m definitely thinking of listing with a realtor. Let them deal with the buyers. I won’t even need to be home.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” People quote this wrongly attributing it to Shakespeare. I first heard it from my ex-husband who did not credit it to anyone. It was in Walter Scott’s poem, “Marmion” (1808). It’s kind of the moral of the poem, based on a love triangle where somebody actually dies. Suffice to say it really makes things bad when someone lies. It complicates everything. The person(s) lied to believe it because we don’t want to have the baggage of trust issues all over us, and basically we want to believe in people. So the liar has to perpetuate the lie, or completely discredit him/herself and own up to being a liar. Who wants that? Then it takes on a life of its own, this lie, kind of like a cancer. Its host, the liar, abandons reality in order to perpetuate this alternate universe, started by a simple, little lie. It’s easier to eat some humble pie, admit to the thing and get on with it. Maybe s/he loses credibility with a person or some persons. Maybe a lot of people. Maybe those people believe in second chances and the liar had a clean slate before. Then it’s easier to put the trust option out there again. But if this was a chronic situation, second chances having been had all around before it’s way harder. The liar might as well move, change jobs, or just dig a hole and wait things out. Do people forget? Some might. Some might not, but are willing to forgive, but they remember what happened so their antenna are up, you know, just in case.
What the heck. Being honest, telling the truth is a whole lot easier. At least you can sleep.
Typically something everyone looks forward to. Something where, for a specified time, life is carefree, happy, no worries. No one brings cares or worries along on a vacation, right? Everyone looks forward to a time to rest, relax, catch up on some sleep, catch up with friends or family members they’ve not seen. Of course. This is what is hoped. No one worries about fat grams, curfews, schedules, appointments, illness… nothing, right? This is assuming all components to the vacation are good, that they work well together, get along. Even if they don’t, hey, it’s vacation, right?? Who cares about what you left at home! That’s why you went on vacation. In fact, you don’t think at all. You aren’t meant to think. You are on vacation from thoughts, demands, yourself if necessary. Time, hours, days stretch before you in an endless horizon (oxymoron alert- a horizon by nature is its own end). Nothing is “out there”, nothing to trap you, to remind you that you forgot, to interrupt you. There are no interruptions because there are no plans! Life unfolds as it naturally would with no restrictions, no hindrances, no encumbrances. Love the days, the hours, the food, the people, the smells, the sounds, the warmth, the laughter, the beauty of it all.
It’s a vacation.
I had an amazing 2-day conference at the Cove, the Billy Graham Training Center near Asheville, part of which was preparation for the My Hope event later this year. More on the conference and time in a most tranquil place later. On my way home my cell phone rang. I did not recognize the number but the area code was local so I answered. It was my vet. My vocal cords refused to respond. My dogs are boarding there and hearing from the vet while you are away, not to mention on a Sunday morning, is never a good thing. The first thing he said was it was not an emergency, so I stopped holding my breath. My little special needs baby, Murphy, is 12. He has been having gall bladder issues, phosphorous/protein/kidney issues, dental issues… anyway, his bloodwork to prep him for a dental cleaning came back and it was not good. He had gotten some better recently but it’s taken a turn. Anyway, we will be changing his meds and hope it extends his quality of life.
We know when we adopt these precious ones the likely outcome– our lives outlive theirs. Very few but some pets make it to 15 or even beyond, but those unlucky ones who do not often are afflicted with something untoward. A cancer, or a kidney disease, spine issues, liver or heart problems. They are no different in this way from us humans. Things happen to them. The responsibility we assume when we adopt adorable little puff balls is staggering but we do not know just how much so at that time. This tiny, wriggling bit of fluff so happy with us? What could possibly happen to so much love, so much life?? A lot can happen. No matter how carefully we tend their little diets, vaccination and medical needs things happen. Even though we know nothing lasts forever we are never prepared when the “Time” comes. We age with them, we know every aspect of their health care and yet we are not nature’s miracle. We cannot give them more life. Some medicines might, or stepped-up care, but face it, They will simply not stay with us forever. So I am trying hard not to think about the end, more I am going backwards, remembering Murphy’s puppyhood, his little joys, chasing after bouncy balls, his attentive prancing dance when he greets me at the door.
And I try hard not to cry.
This isn’t something I suffer from much, not anymore anyway. I used to, when my son was young and I was a single mom. At one point I realized I needed to find part-time morning work so I could be home afternoons. Even being present sometimes isn’t enough. You always have the dynamic of the other family- the divorced parent and their relatives -lurking in the wings. That was difficult for me. They had lots of money and never hesitated to overindulge my son at their every whim. No wonder he sometimes preferred them to me and the spartan existence at home. This kept me up nights. Angry and feeling helpless. Besides, I made demands on him, chores like cleaning his room, changing his own sheets, cleaning his bathroom. Every Saturday he had to do these things before any TV, playing, or going to a friend’s house. And I was the only one! No back up. So one day, long after he finished college and had left home for his own life out of nowhere he calls me to say he is grateful I taught him to clean a toilet. I really have no idea why or what prompted this gratitude, but I took it at face value, so thankful that something, however small, paid off and helped him, even in some significant way.
So now if I have insomnia I have a little notebook I write in. Sometimes I just make a list, stream of consciousness, until all the anxiety goes away. Sometimes I write a letter to God. Sometimes I write things I am grateful for. Whatever, it seems to empty the cup that holds the fears or hangovers from the past, and fills it with peace.