Recap, going forward

Sometimes a little introspection helps before stepping ahead. I have not been hearing much in the way of resolution-making.  It seems more of a collective sigh the end of this year rather than gathering steam for plunging into the beginning of a new year.

I have heard more of One Word. Picking a word to carry into the new year. In emails, a book I recently started reading, blog posts– oddly each of these has brought up the one word concept instead of making a to-do list for the new year.

So I am going to try this. It took me a few days to decide, but my word is patience. I have none. Or very little. And to make it interesting I am making this word an acronym.

P- prayer. This is where I stop talking (rare for me), get still, find a place to be alone. I focus on breathing (ok, so maybe prayer for me is more like meditation but it works). I get focused. Obviously this is not going to work when I am sitting at a red light that turns green and no one moves. Or I am in bumper-to-bumper traffic all lanes moving 10 miles under the speed limit and I am 5 minutes late. No, that would be where I breathe deeply, force a smile on my face or start singing. A form of prayer. Maybe. Depends what I am singing.

A- Adapt. I have never been one to be aggressive or selfish. Nor have I ever demanded everything is done my way, not even when I had a business. The best way to lead a team is let each member realize their own importance and combine ideas and efforts. So adapting… I will be resilient. Like at that traffic light. Find reasons to not be impatient.

T- trust. This is probably the biggest one. I question everything, everyone. I doubt. I counter. I take opposing sides just to prove to myself the side I believe in works. So trust. I mostly will have to learn to trust myself. Have faith. Confidence. But humbly.

I- Initiative. I cannot allow inertia to win anymore. So maybe yes, it is comfortable to curl up with a great book and hide from the world. I can’t do this (not all the time anyway). If opportunities come my way I need to consider them, take advantage of some, realize which make sense, when to stop taking initiative.

E- Effort. I am lazy! I love doing things the easy way, or encouraging others to do what I could do. Put more into little and big things. Whatever committees I am on put everything into my part. Even housework. Don’t skip dusting.

N- Nurture. Not just everyone else but me, too. Take a little time to rest, recreate. Allow responses to form rather than spouting off replies impulsively. Be considerate, thoughtful. Allow myself time. And family. Be there for them even when they are not there for me.

C- Careful. I don’t mean this in a fearful way. Taking care with what I say, how I respond, feelings that burst forth before I have understood a situation. So I want to be careful of others’ feelings, careful of the words I use. Restraint. Careful of my facial expressions. And listen. Much more listening.

E- Endurance. I have to stop running away. Away from feelings, confrontation, sparring for a purpose, values, beliefs. I have to begin to stand. For what I believe,  for what is right. And sometimes that means waiting.

So this is my word for 2018. Patience. And all that I see within it. It seems an awful lot right now… my Dad always said it’s not that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, you just don’t have enough time to chew it.

One year. I have a whole year, 365 days. I can do this.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  —Ephesians 6:13

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

 

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Real

So this year’s Christmas Day is dwindling  to a close. All my rantings of a week ago that many were kind enough to “like” and others to ignore have taught me (again) a very important thing. Anxiety, worry, doubt do nothing for whatever it is that causes the worry. What it does is steal that precious moment in time, and the next, and the next, until you are shaken out of the the potential joys of that moment. And those moments are lost. And whatever foggy stupor you have allowed to cloud  that future thing that has you so worried prevents you from living the realness of those lost moments.

My son and I sat in the quiet for a very short time together this evening, his last evening of his visit here. He is propelling himself into the future portion of his holiday trip, the remaining visits they will make before returning home.  I sensed his mild unease at my stillness as I soaked in his presence which is so rare for me now.

Did he remember a book he had when he was little, I asked, “The Velveteen Rabbit”?

Yes, he replied.

Was it the horse or the bunny who asked what it was like to be real, I wondered.

The bunny, he said.

So I looked it up.

” ‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.

“‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

“‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

“‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

“‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’

“‘I suppose you are Real?’ said the Rabbit, and then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“‘The boy’s uncle made me Real,’ he said. ‘That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.’ ”

So lovely, brilliant, healthy, attractive, charming child of mine, always know that you are Real. Forever. Nothing and no one can ever take it away. You are greatly loved, by One who will never leave you.

And I will try hard to remember it, too.

 

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The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams Bianco. George H. Doran Co., Publishers. 1922.

Visitors

Not like Amahl’s visitors but visitors just the same. My son and his girlfriend are coming to spend Christmas day with me as a starting point for a marathon of visiting family.

I know I should be flattered but I kind of blew it when I raised my son. I knew he was “on loan”, enough churchy friends were more than happy to remind me, many times. I was fiercely independent but unfortunately that doesn’t buy food or pay bills. So I got a job.

Several jobs, actually. One year I laughed so hard at my 1040 form because it literally fluttered with W2 forms, I’d had so many jobs. But the most important one I saw as an inconvenience.

I often hear flattering compliments when people meet my son. How handsome, how nice, pleasant, polite, interesting… and I laugh and say yes, he grew up in spite of me. There may not be another mom in existence as hard on herself as I am but honestly? I truly believe this. While my parents were alive (and we were on speaking terms) they were the ones to go to my son’s plays, pageants and parents’ days. Oh I always went to the teacher’s meetings but I missed all the fun stuff. My dad was good about taking pictures but it’s not the same.

So my son’s life growing up was not unlike mine. My mom enjoyed DAR, junior league, bridge club, garden club, book club and filled her free time with golf. My dad commuted from NC to NY Sunday nights and was gone all week. Usually once a year they took a trip out of the country and as a family we did spend a week at the beach.

Carbon copy for me, only for all their activity I substituted all those jobs.

You miss so much when you are trying to fill someone else’s shoes. I wanted very much to please my parents. Finding that this would never happen I became disillusioned, right in the middle of raising this precious child of mine. It’s amazing how sons and daughters think their moms and dads are heroes.

Until they don’t.

When my son went to college everything changed. He needed me for… nothing. He had his own car, knew what he wanted to study, even had an (only one) episode of trouble his freshman year like everyone does and got through it without me. I think there is nothing so awful for a parent to discover….. that their child no longer needs them. Maybe never did.

But there it was. Even his breakups he didn’t need me. He gets through everything without me. So when he said he wanted to come here for Christmas this year I truly did not get it. Why are they coming? To make fun? Out of a sense of obligation? Sweep me in a collective family visit dustpan? He feels guilty for some obscure reason? I honestly have no idea. The dynamic now, between him, his dad’s family (not unhostile towards me), his girlfriend (with whom I have never established a connection) is total disharmony. So I think I must be something to be checked off the list.

I even went so far as to try and make this dinner fun, texting my son to tell me what they might like for dinner. They got a pretty good laugh because he came back with complete un-festive things, off-hand, non-special ideas. So I texted back and asked about vegetables.

Nothing. No response.

I have no idea where they are even staying.

Makes me want to just scream at them: “Why are you even coming here??”

But then I’d look totally nuts. And his girlfriend is a social worker. Wouldn’t want her having me put away.

Wish me luck. No idea how this is gonna fly.

Any ideas??

Wonder

Weather anyplace is unpredictable. Having lived in several states I think at some point, because of the hot, cold, wet, ice, whatever somebody’s inevitably said “Don’t like the weather here? Wait a minute…”

That’s true anywhere. So crystal clear fall and wintry days are a gift! Terrier-mix rescue dog Lulu is bouncing back, slowly, and relishing her walks again. Not long ones, but she lets me know how much. So this afternoon while she and husky-mix rescue dog Lily were napping I took myself out for a long walk. Icy air and a breeze with an edge but the sun soaked into my sweater. The park where my dogs and I walk has a path around it little over a mile. So I walked to this park and through part of it on the path to the other side to finish my walk home.

Most people I met on the way were walking their dogs, or jogging, or ambling slowly with a friend. But each person, as they looked up their entire faces opened like sun shining through clouds when they smiled.

Maybe just an acknowledging smile, or a smile and a nod. But whatever occupied their thoughts for that moment evaporated like a morning fog and a smile shone through.

I guess it’s just a wonder to me that total strangers can have a momentary connection, a warmth shared. Some faces lifted already smiling. Others mildly surprised to see someone there, others with determined concern. But every one relaxed into the kindness of a smile.

To me it is a wonder those connections happen no matter where I’ve lived. It’s a wonder that everywhere I look I hear and see bombardments telling me and everybody else life has to be exciting, a constant party. I once fell for all that. Over-involved and it was never enough. And the more there was the less fulfilling.

I think it’s the same wit h overcommitment to anything. Work, volunteering, neighborhoods. It is flattering to some to be asked to do things but there is a limit. It can’t be all or nothing. And people will take advantage without realizing or even if they do, thinking they are doing you a favor. It is not hard to say no, and it is essential sometimes. And sometimes you realize you should have said no after you agree to do something.

For me life changes too quickly to become overcommitted. What a burden! No wonder. Pedestrian. Pedantic, as my dad would say.

So I am going to see what it is like wandering around dragging some encumbrances, I’ll call them. No idea whether I can contribute or not. Not flattered, either. I’m going to smile about it though.

When just one smile, I can see a wonder.

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Surprises out of not

My son was here last weekend for a pre-planned visit. Well I say pre-planned but his planning is generally only a week or two out from his date of travel unless he goes someplace for work. I was grateful to see him and for once there were no heated arguments or harsh words.

Nor should there be. He is in his 30s. On his own since college. We need to be able to get along. However, he has had a living-together arrangement for about 5 years now and I seem to irritate him often since this began. If I ask about what she does. If I comment on how much he eats at restaurants or on the run. If I ask about his exercising. This time was the best so far and as my dad would advise me, “it takes two to make a fight”.  So I stayed calm, did not ask questions on incendiary issues. Seemed to work out ok.

I think this is easier said than done. Dysfunction existed since before therapists made it so popular in the 80s when everyone appeared to not only have a therapist but talked profusely about it. Yet this is a catch-all word and I think diminishes that which it means to expose. The fact that even though everyone is different, even though each of us has (and is entitled to) opinions of our own, somehow hostility, anger, condemnation creep in and before long there’s an explosion, hurt feelings, blaming, misunderstandings that have become barbed wire walls near impossible to get through.

Some of this comes from historic feelings. Relationships that have “buttons” that are activated by a gesture, facial expression, or certain words. And most are imagined or inflamed by our feelings, then clung to like life preservers. Like the flip side of happy memories, these are the nightmares we often gloss over, push to the recesses of our minds or somehow justify hoping they won’t come back and haunt us.

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But they do. I remember in the early 80s when my divorce was just over. I anesthetized those feelings rather than work through them. I mired myself in work, avoiding the personas I had now become: divorced single woman and parent. I could not bring myself to face this alone, which was what I was. Rather than ask God’s help, find a good church where supportive people usually abound I stuck it out on my own and made things much worse with many many mistakes. So like Charles Dickens’ Marley I forged a few chains that I persisted in dragging around rather than try to find the key which would unlock them and free my life from them and their accompanying false guilt and self-imposed perpetuated humiliations.

I am not at all intending to say this would negate the facts: I am still today a single, divorced parent. But through these thirty-plus years, so many mistakes, tears, temper tantrums, epiphanies, set-backs, understandings, disillusionments,  clarifications and owning up to it all by taking responsibility I have survived myself, my vain, futile efforts to struggle and overcome myself on my own only to find it works better when I ask for help. Not just other people’s help. I have found through all the difficult times, hating myself for yet again another hangover, or wondering whether I could make the mortgage payment, have enough to pay household bills and buy groceries, pay for medical bills, eye doctors, vet bills and dentists, there was always enough. Never to where I became complacent, but enough to where I learned to be humble, grateful and generous when I could be. More depth of understanding and compassion because I had been there. And got out of wherever was potentially harmful or self-defeating.

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And overwhelmed that, through it all, the darkness and the joys, no matter how hard I tried to avoid Him, God was the One giving me this strength, provision, encouragement. Turning to Him did not diminish me. On the contrary, like the prodigal son I truly was welcomed, freed from self-hatred and deprecation, loved, forgiven and cleansed. Don’t get me wrong, I still stumble, sometimes even go flat on my face or my rear, but I can pick myself up, tell Him, and ask Him for forgiveness, restoration, guidance.

I will never have arrived, at least not in this life. No one ever does no matter how much we have, achieve, learn or become. Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Rev. Billy Graham saw this on a road construction sign and had it inscribed on her gravestone:

“End of construction. Thank you for your patience.”

So however many days I am given in this life it may seem sometimes that I’m being hit with a jack-hammer, or covered in rough gravel, or bathed in hot tar, or steam-rolled to perfect smooth flatness then painted with boundary lines from trial-and-error efforts at how to be and in all this process obstructing or slowing other traffic. I will be continually learning, growing, struggling, changing, hoping, aspiring like all of us will. As long as we are living this is what we do. Sometimes I’ll be mired in darkness deep in a valley, or standing on a sun-soaked mountaintop. But I pray wherever I find myself I keep Christmas in my heart.

May God grant each of us grace and humility, peace and strength, and love to carry us through. In Jesus, Amen.

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Lulu

So when my special-needs rescue dog Murphy died I really thought rescue-mix husky Lily would recover. Eventually. After about 2 years we even moved 4 hours away but she kept looking for him. So when we were at the pet store to buy food and treats I stopped in front of a little black and white dog in a crate at an adopt-a-thon.

Lulu.

She sure looked an awful lot like Murphy. So we got permission to foster her. She and Lily got on well, so we adopted her. A few weeks later she scared the lights out of me looking for all the world like she was having a seizure. But she didn’t convulse, she didn’t lose consciousness. I did not believe it actually was a seizure. Her vet disagreed. So I got a second opinion. The next vet suggested a back muscle spasm. He took an x-ray and did not see an evident problem.

Things went along fine until 5 months later when she had another one. The vet gave a prescription for a sedative in case they really were seizures and same guarded prognosis.

Just before Thanksgiving this year we were walking and a little girl asked to pet Lulu. I said yes and her mother asked a question. As I spoke to her Lulu yelped. She seemed ok, we finished our walk. But then Lulu started yelping at strange things. She yelped if Lily came too close, if she jumped down from a chair, if I picked her up, so we went back to her vet. More x-rays, blood work, maybe a ct scan they said. Next day they said the blood work was fine but she has an anomaly in her back. Right where her tail joins her spine. So more prescriptions and special food.

I looked this medicine up: it is a pain blocker. Ok, so she can’t feel pain but shouldn’t we be working on the thing that causes the pain? Or an anti-inflammatory medicine to help the pain without disguising it?

And what about this “anomaly”. Has she always had it (she was several years old when I adopted her), and if she has did it just get worse? Will it go away? Is it the disc or the vertebra? Is this a thing she was born with or did it happen some other way?

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Lulu feeling better chewing a salmon treat

What is it about phone conversations? I thought of none of my concerns until I’d hung up. I know vets are busy and it’s hard enough to get them on the phone the first time. So I will wait with all my questions until Monday when he said to call and give an update.

So she has made progress. She is not yelping anymore, even growls at Lily again which is a good thing (Lily can take it). She can go down steps but has some trouble going back up. She has not lost interest in her food or her toys. But it is not easy just hanging around the house. She loves her walks and Lily really needs to get out, being a large dog. Chasing the squirrels in the backyard is ok but only takes a few seconds. They both love their long walks at the nature preserve (a couple of miles) or nearby parks.

But the vet has said she can’t have any real walks for about a week, no matter how good she feels. I have tried a couple of times, we walked in the neighborhood and got to about 100 yards from the door and stopped. Lulu gave me an “uh oh” look. So I carried her back home. We are learning our limitations, but I know she really hopes this doesn’t last forever.

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