Friday, January 30, 2015

on riding the wave

Let's face it, life is sometimes hard, love sometimes hurts, people can be unkind, things aren't always fair. Sometimes it seems like the universe is clobbering you, day after day. You face an endless stream of things going wrong and you get to the point that you want to scream "UNCLE!" out to the cosmos. Some lasting life lessons can emerge out of the worst circumstances and out of our biggest mistakes too. You just have to ride that wave to arrive at something better.
It's hard to remember during these tough times that you are tougher. Dig deep to find something to be grateful for every day, to find something beautiful every day. Pull up the courage to be different (it's not only ok, it's great!), and to do something nice for someone else. Realize there are things you just can't change so give yourself a break, do things that help you let go of stress, simplify where you can, love generously, play hard, sing loud, dance wildly and hug often. Remember to take care of yourself. Nothing lasts forever. Wounds heal, night turns to morning, rain gives way to sunshine, and Winter gives way to Spring.
Last year I was healing from a deep betrayal when I was suddenly confronted with a subpoena to appear in court as a witness in a nasty lawsuit. The summoner was threatening, the pre-trial deposition was horrifying and reduced me to tears, lawyers were cruel and manipulative and the whole deal was a disgusting show of human greed.
Just a few days before I was to appear in court as a witness, a couple of friends invited me to a party at their house. I was so stressed I could barely take a full breath or unclench my jaw, but I went anyway. We shared food, sang songs, played games and ended the evening in their backyard. We circled a bonfire where piles of dried Christmas trees blazed, filling the night with dancing sparks and pungent, lovely aroma. It was exactly what I needed in that moment and I didn't even know it. I silently gave thanks for these good friends and for those brief hours that allowed me to escape the nightmare I'd be facing when the sun came up again.

And the sun did come up and with my husband by my side, I walked up the courthouse steps and faced the ordeal. The point of that tale is that the nightmare did end and the unexpected good that came out of it was a new-found strength in myself, an even tighter connection to my husband, the answers I needed to understand the cause of the heart-wrenching betrayals of the previous year, and a truly memorable evening with good friends.
The lesson here is that even though life may be really hard at the moment, there is still some good that can be discovered. Your ordeal isn't going to last forever so you can take a deep breath and know that you're going to get through this. You get a second chance and you get to begin again. And if you're really lucky, you'll get to watch your miseries float away in a blaze of glowing Christmas trees.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

corner view: experience

Corner View is a weekly appointment - each Wednesday - created by Jane (Spain) and curated by Francesca (Italy), where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme.  The theme this week is "walk of my dreams" and comes from  Kristin (Germany).

Oh these faces, these people. The places they've been, the things they've seen...oh the stories they could tell if we just take the time to listen.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

things worth sharing: 1/25/15

Some things I thought were worth sharing today. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!

1. This Old Man (life in the nineties) by Roger Angell    
Funny, wise, poetic and completely honest. Here is one of my favorite parts: 
I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse. I know how lucky I am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab a sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds. The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind……On the other hand, I’ve not yet forgotten Keats or Dick Cheney or what’s waiting for me at the dry cleaner’s today. As of right now, I’m not Christopher Hitchens or Tony Judt or Nora Ephron; I’m not dead and not yet mindless in a reliable upstate facility. Decline and disaster impend, but my thoughts don’t linger there. It shouldn’t surprise me if at this time next week I’m surrounded by family, gathered on short notice—they’re sad and shocked but also a little pissed off to be here—to help decide, after what’s happened, what’s to be done with me now. It must be this hovering knowledge, that two-ton safe swaying on a frayed rope just over my head, that makes everyone so glad to see me again. “How great you’re looking! Wow, tell me your secret!” they kindly cry when they happen upon me crossing the street or exiting a dinghy or departing an X-ray room, while the little balloon over their heads reads, “Holy shit—he’s still vertical!”
2. Favorite quote  I came upon recently:  Reading is socially accepted disassociation. You flip a switch and you’re not there anymore. It’s better than heroin. More effective and cheaper and legal”.  ~ Mary Karr 

3. Recent book release... John Lennon: The Collected Artwork 

4. Turn off your TV and watch this instead...Firefly:  Think Robin Hood leaning space cowboys, traveling the universe, under the radar of the corrupt Government Alliance. Set 500 years in the future, this series by Josh Whedon ran just one season on Fox, who unfortunately ran the episodes out of order and with long lapses between segments, so the TV viewing audience was thoroughly confused. Now, however, Firefly has become a cult hit. Starring Nathan Fillion ( think Richard Castle, from Castle or Joey Buchanan, from One Life to Live), and a cast of characters you’ll really enjoy. Turn off your TV and watch this instead this week. I picked it up at the library…you can’t beat free!  
5. What the critics wrote about the Beatles in 1964:  Visually they are a nightmare, tight, dandified Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near disaster, guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of "yeah, yeah, yeah") are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments…. “(Newsweek,  Feb 24, 1964)  You can read even more here for a really good laugh. 


Friday, January 23, 2015

chipping away at your demons

For me, the biggest limitations in my life are all in my head. They’re pretend, make-believe, figments of my imagination. I bet that the same goes for you.

If you pay attention, you’re probably going to find that you have distorted, maybe even completely incorrect, beliefs in your head. Ideas planted there by others when you were young, or by unthinking and insensitive people as an adult. I find that for myself, those false ideas created some mighty walls in my psyche, but I’m learning to spot them.

The really stubborn ones are those comments and criticisms that are foisted upon us as a child by some adult in your life. Those get planted deep. The barbs you receive as an adult are different, in part because they’re newer and create a new, fresh wound. Once you recognize them though, you can start to chip away at those demons that stand in your way.
We’re not meant to sit on the edge of our dreams and we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we let someone else’s ideas about us stand in our way. So pay attention to those fleeting thoughts. Observe when you get anxious about trying something new or pushing outside of your comfort zone.  When you recognize that thought that makes your heart pound a little harder or causes you to break out in a sweat, vocalize out loud: “There it is!” or “There’s one!” The very act of saying the words out loud will halt the negative thought that’s rearing its ugly self. Do that enough times and you’ll find that the frequency of that particular message will begin to slowly dissipate from your inner dialogue. In any case, in that moment, you take away its power. Then what? Well, then you push yourself forward. You are in no way alone in this. We all have these inner struggles.    

One I’m working on now is dealing with some hurtful words that were said to me after doing something that was really tough for me…on a stage…in public. Hurtful words said not once, not twice, but multiple times by someone who selfishly, wasn’t thinking about their impact. Ouch!  Certainly it's not all about that moment but that insensitivity was more than enough to jar me. So what am I doing now? I’m recognizing the words and feelings when they pop up and I’m chipping away at the demons that were planted that day. I’m working to take away their power.

My hope for you, is that you can chip away at your own personal demons and begin to take your power back too. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

corner view: walk of my dreams

Corner View is a weekly appointment - each Wednesday - created by Jane (Spain) and curated by Francesca (Italy), where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme.  The theme this week is "walk of my dreams" and comes from Nadine (Belgium).
Though they're just 2 1/2 hours from where I live,
 I can't take the walk of my dreams as often as I'd like to.
But in times of stress, when I need a bit of an escape,
I close my eyes and in my mind I go here... the beautiful NC mountains.
I walk the paths I've walked so many times before...
...and I can breathe a little easier.

Friday, January 16, 2015

those shiny resolutions beginning to fade?

So, it's January 16th. The excitement and promise of the New Year has likely begun to wane a bit. The shiny resolutions and promise to turn over a new leaf have probably begun to fade. You've probably slipped off course a time or two. Forgive yourself. No excuses, no explanations, no regrets, no guilt needed. Decide that you Can Do and just begin again!

Every little success breeds more success and every bit of growth changes you for the better, so if the goal you set turned out to be a bit too big, push on! Set up small challenges and push yourself to accomplish it. Little by little, one step at a time, you're going to get there. If you stumble on your path (and you will), just pick yourself up and move on. When all is said and done, at the end of 2015 and it's time for self-reflection again, you'll recognize that you've blazed a new trail for keep on!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

a circle of love, now complete

Remember the amazing “Corner to Corner” project that I was included in, and posted about just over a year ago?  You can read about it in my original post from December 2013 here

Well the Corner to Corner journey has finally ended. During the last three+ years, the tenugui has traveled from participant to participant, holding small gifts for the receiver and wrapped with a growing string of notes from each receiver along the way. The final gift has been delivered and now the string of notes has been sent back to the originator of the project, Joanne in Japan.

According to Francesca in Italy, who has been tracking the package and organizing the project, the tenugui has traveled as far north as the Arctic Circle and south to New Zealand. The beautiful cloth, tiny gifts, hand-written cards and home-made notes traveled to Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Faroe islands, Switzerland, UK, US, Canada, Belgium, France, Basque Country, Poland, New Zealand, Germany, Norway and Japan. What an amazing journey!

 It’s been so much fun to get to know the participants of the “Corner to Corner” project and “Corner View” participants just a little bit better and to read their posts as they received their gifts and notes, and then sent the tender package onto the next person. It’s a creative circle of love, now completed.

Corner to Corner illustration by Susanna in Netherlands, whose art I just adore!

Friday, December 19, 2014

on the importance of tradition

We picked out our Christmas tree last weekend. We’ve been putting it off and putting it off, just not feeling the season for a variety of reasons. Having just made the decision yet again to put off the tree search for another couple days, we passed a festive looking lot and I had a sudden change of heart. It was actually a fun experience, walking among the strongly scented firs and chatting with the farmer who’d cut them just days before and trucked them down the mountain. Popping a small candy cane in my mouth, we brought the tree home and began the process of hauling the seasonal boxes down from the attic, fingers crossed that the leak in the roof hadn’t damaged our treasures.

The holidays seem to come more quickly these days. I don’t know if it’s because the years are flying by with more haste as we get older, or it’s because the stores and TV commercials start their holiday push before Halloween is even past. Maybe it’s both.
So we wrestled our new tree into its stand and Dave began winding the strands of lights between the branches. The cats gathered, batting at the bouncing limbs and hanging wires. Dave utters words of frustration at them to try to chase them off, but they remain to “help.”
This weekend we’ll bring the remainder of the boxes down from the attic and our now adult kids will join us to hang the old ornaments. Some are handmade treasures made by their once small hands, some are memories we’ve brought with us from our own childhood trees, some selected as souvenirs on vacations taken a long time ago, and some that used to hang on the trees of generations past.

The mantle is decorated, trains set up on the hearth and old library table, crystal dangles from light fixtures and greenery is tucked here and there.  All the while, eggnog and holiday munchies are enjoyed and favorite holiday music hums from the stereo. It’s a good time and the best part is that we all are together and we’re all sharing in this tradition that grounds us. From year to year, no matter how busy we’ve gotten or what hurdles we’ve had to deal with, these traditions help us to find our way back.
We’ve been given another year together and for that I’m so grateful. There have been changes since the last Christmas, my kids continue to make me proud and inspire me, we’ve added new people into our family fold, we thrive, we struggle, we grow and grow older. There were failures, there were great successes, there were heartbreaking losses as we had to say good-bye to family members who have passed away and joys as babies are born. The holiday traditions carry us from year to year as we repeat our annual routines, retell the old stories and remember family members no longer with us. The holiday traditions bring us warmth, memories and security in otherwise fragmented and all-too-busy lives. 
We have no way of knowing what 2015 will bring us. By this time next year, we may have made it through challenges and changes that we can’t foresee today. What won’t change though, are the family traditions that anchor us, even if there is a bit of groaning and grumbling when it’s time to bring home the tree and haul the boxes down from the attic again.

Friday, December 12, 2014

on why I'm now a big fan of facebook

A high school classmate passed away very recently after courageously battling cancer. When he found out that he had reached “stage four” of this awful disease, Dennis reached out on Facebook to a dozen or so of his childhood companions and together, this group bonded, supported, listened and held hands (virtually) across all the miles of physical separation. He never posted about his illness on his personal page, keeping it all private and within the group messaging. Tough conversations were had. Dennis kept everyone updated during months of chemo, radiation and hospitalizations, and was comfortable asking his childhood friends for advice when he was making final plans for himself and for the future of the family he would be leaving behind. He remained upbeat, never complaining but staying in touch, because this was a very real emotional lifeline that he grabbed onto. 

He appreciated this group of friends so much, sending them encouraging messages and sharing his thoughts about what is truly important in life. One such message went like this: 
"Today is a great day for blueberry pancakes! My only wish is that I could share them with all my kind friends. May everyone have a pleasant Wednesday, understanding you all are playing a part in my journey. Anything that comes up today that causes you stress -  wipe it away. It's my gift to you. Things always get better with time. Understand that what is stressful today you may not even remember a year from now. I wish you all a peaceful and relaxing day. Hugs to all!"

This group of pals were in touch with each other through their Facebook group several times a week and daily when the need and desire was there. They cheered Dennis on through his chemo and radiation treatments, all the while sharing. They shared stories, memories, songs, photos from their childhood and hometown, and photos of their current lives. They consoled him when he received word that surgery was no longer an option and when Hospice was called in during his final weeks. They “chatted” on the day that he was moved into the Hospice Home, never to return to his own.  Even from his Hospice bed, he messaged back and forth with this amazing support group.

Less than a month before he passed away, Dennis sent this message out to the group: "I feel blessed that I have reconnected with great people like you. I am learning so much from others. If you give people the chance they will amaze you. Every time I receive a ping from FB it's from someone that really cares, like you!"

When he fell silent for a time, the group kept talking, sending messages of good hope and love to him,  in hopes that he was still receiving them. Finally, with no words left, Dennis posted a “thumbs-up” emoticon and was gone. The next message was from his wife, letting the members of the group know that he had passed away and just how much their little group meant to him on this final journey. The messages remain for those left behind, to revisit and remember their friend. "Thinking of everyone today. I love you all, I wish you peace and a day filled with love. I hope your loved ones show you today how much they care."  

As young kids, we never imagined that the internet and this phenomenon called Facebook would be available to us no matter where life led, but what a gift it was to reconnect and be able to stay in touch, across all the miles, and to help a childhood friend when he needed it most. RIP Dennis.