My Dear Friends,
It has been far too long since sharing with you. Perhaps, like myself, you have been engulfed by the undertow of negativity and sadness and division that is so public and hurtful currently. Perhaps you are amidst life changes that have called your attention to tasks that are new and overwhelming. Maybe you are just busy and enjoying your world so completely that some everyday tasks have become obsolete and you are thoroughly immersed in your world of daily joy?
Whatever it is that holds your attention in the here and now, I wanted to break in briefly to say hello and see how you, how we, are all doing? And to propose a thought.
The thought is this: In answer to the question posed by the article title, can one person make a difference, I posit an absolute affirmative YES! To provide substance and encouragement this is true, I ask you this-what is your daily routine? Seriously, Jo, you want to know that? I do, in fact, want to know your daily routine. Stay with me here.
As a retired professional from two careers, (pharmacist and licensed professional counselor), I have been reflecting and pondering the question of “the difference of just one” all summer. Here is my daily routine: wake-up, get dressed, eat breakfast, check email, check texts, read something inspirational, “move”, (indoor walking or movement of any kind, but intentional movement), and then assess the “daily chore” list, and plunge in to laundry, maybe one spot of the house that needs organizing, checking in with my friends,( often the people that need what I have to give on any particular day either come to my mind or I come to their minds), and before I notice, the time is 12:48pm, time for lunch, a little break and then continuation with tasks begun earlier in the day. Here is THE point. I have been known to say, I do nothing all day. That is simply not true. I propose it is not true for any of you either. I challenge you today to look at each moment of your awake time, without judgment or criticism. I ask you to look at your routine and notice, did I connect with “one” person, just one, in the course of my day today? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that every single one of us connect with at least one (mostly likely more) person every single day in some form. I am also going to predict that our connections make a difference. I propose the following hypothesis: Whatever we do, in what can be considered by some “our common everyday life experiences”, we affect change.
It is the Jimmy Stewart and It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas movie idea I am conceptualizing here. Regardless of how structured or relaxed your daily routine, I believe we all connect with someone, somehow. And if we are here, on earth, breathing and interacting, then pulling our contribution out of the life equation, whether small scale or large scale, will make a difference. Therefore, it is logical and easy to conclude our presence, yes ONE person, yes, EVERY person makes a difference to someone, somewhere every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY!
YOU make a difference. GO and make a difference. YOU make a difference in this world. And so do I.
How do you live between “need now” and “not yet”? I confess to not having a formula. I admit openly struggling with waiting in the middle. Waiting for anything requires patience, tolerating the uncomfortable, finding something “to do” while you wait, and a way to monitor your thoughts and alter your thinking to seek out ways to ponder the positive instead of drowning in the negative. The human brain is expertly geared towards negative thinking. Requesting the brain to operate outside of its common default system is work. The work of “changing your thoughts” is the work of learning to live life in the middle.
I am living in the middle right now, and I do not like it. I suspect none of us “like” it. What we tend to prefer, generally, are guarantees, “sure things”, absolutes, constancy, and a life that is predictable and secure. So, what do we do when some area of our life is none of those things? What can we do to ride the wave of uncertainty while in the middle of the storm? There are volumes of works by a variety of authors already written addressing how to wait, how to live with uncertainty, how to live life in the middle. I have read several. I am finding it much easier to read “about” living in the middle than I am actually doing the work of “living” in the middle. It is hard. It is uncomfortable. It is stretching my comfort zones in ways I have not felt before. I feel like a wet rag doll, who, after having survived the ravages of a good cleansing in the washing machine, is being stretched and yanked and plastered against a hard surface to insure I dry with all my parts properly aligned, ready to be fully functional when the wait and the drying is completed. It hurts at times. It is frustrating. It is not what I want, but it is what I have. Perhaps, within that thought is the clue to an answer-it is NOT what I want, but it IS what I have. What do I have? Let’s start there.
Instead of looking at what I do not have, what DO I have that can provide a sense of security in this time of unknowing? I have the security of an address, a bed, warmth, food, running water, a strong partner walking right by my side doing all he can to shorten the waiting in the middle timeline, daughters, sons-in-love, grandchildren, supportive and understanding friends, spirituality, prayer, a functioning mind and body, this computer, and a way to outlet the feelings by writing. I have a four-legged furry little man, Comet, who may be my best teacher right now. Comet is content. He is warm, fed, has the same address, access to the same supportive people, he has what he needs. Do I have what I need? Yes, currently I do. My discomfort is rooted in the “what if” that may never arrive. Comet lives fully and completely in the present moment which is, as of this writing, safe, secured, and real. I need to follow Comet’s example. Easier said than done you might say? I completely agree. Yet it does seem to be a path offering a true and reasonable way through the middle. Aha-another clue, “through”. I must be accepting of the fact that the way out will mean going “through”. The world in the USA of 2019, by and large, is no help to those who must go through. Our world today wants to resist through by any and all means possible. I am leaning in the direction of resistance and avoidance myself-and it is NOT working! So what can I do? I can choose, that is exactly what I can do. CHOOSE ! I can choose “the way of Mr Comet”, the Labrador Lane!
What does that look like in practical, realistic terms? It looks like a woman who gets up daily and spends time in quiet and stillness. It includes journal writing and blogging my way through. It means I reach out to those I can express emotions to without judgment. It means I look at the things I DO HAVE-the good ole attitude of gratitude. As cliche as that statement has become, it remains one of the most effective ways to renew perspective. It means, like Comet, resting in knowing the true needs of living are, in fact, met every day. I get up, I get fed, I am warm, I am loved, I have health, I have my own version of furry protection, and if my needs are met, that can be enough. I can choose to enjoy and be thankful for my needs being met. That is not true for so many-even in the USA. Getting what I NEED can be enough. Getting what I NEED will be enough. I will express sincere gratitude for being a human whose needs are being met each and every day. As I close today, I feel the grumblings of hunger telling me it is time for lunch. I have only to reach in my bag for the lunch I prepared and eat it for my hunger to be abated. It is what I need. It is what I have. And it is enough. Life in the middle, good or bad? Perhaps it is neither, it just is-and accepting it is my life right now looks like “the way of Comet”, the Labrador Lane. Life in the middle through the Labrador Lane-someone should write a book like that!
She turned five today! FIVE ! I “know” how that happened, but I have NO IDEA how that happened. I am 100% certain it was yesterday when I cuddled her softly in my arms and fed her the 4pm bottle in her famous “cow” onesie pajamas.
Today, she is training me. Grandma, now this is the way you load this. Oh, and Grandma, I need to show you how to do that. Oh, and Grandma I really need to tell you something, it is very important!
She wears My Little Pony dresses along with Cinderella, Sophia, Elena, Elsa, Anna, Merida, Aurora, Snow White and more and lives in full character according to the costume choice of the day. She needs me less, I seem to need her more–ah, the paradox of the journey of life. First, we care for them. Then, gracefully, we slow down and they become our champions and victors. I realize this first big milestone and turning five seems small-yet the symbolic nature of the journey it launches feels enormous. My “baby” (who is 34 now and the precious momma of this doll ) had a “baby” five years ago and with this wonderful birth, I became a grandma. I joined the ranks of a vastly large number of women who have the honor and privilege of watching the life cycle happen outside of our own body. The first grandchild opens the door to a kind of love I have never known nor even suspected existed. The power of this love is transforming. It is magical. It is potent!
And now, the precious one that crowned me as a member of a generational honoree to the Grandma Club is changing not just my life, but so many others. She has friends of her own now. She is choosing, at this earliest first pass into adult living, what to wear, how to think, colors she likes, foods she refuses, who is God in her life and who she may grow up to become. It’s the most interesting, challenging, joyful, and heart strings yanking experience of my 60 years on earth thus far. I have begun to tell people, if you thought momma bears had claws, you should take a good long look at grandma bear claws! Be very afraid of grandma claws-they are twice as long and ten times more fierce! They protect with the fire of a furnace at full throttle, powered by years of motherhood exploding into a blaze of heat powered by a love that is deeper and wider than the Grand Canyon.
This child, who is still very much a child, is also wise in ways that are profound-she has converted me. She is teaching me. She is leading, I am merely following. And I am stunned into a shock I never saw coming due to the intense attachment and awe and compassion this five year old little lady calls me to dare to achieve. Her fresh, honest, innocent opinions are cunningly accurate. She sees with eyes not yet clouded by the harshness of the world. She sees life as it certainly can be and without doubt, IS, in fact, for her. She shakes me back into the present moment, the only moment, really, where life actually happens. She is free from hate and not yet scarred by too much hurt. She is optimistic and adventurous-yet coy and sometimes unsure.
The thing I am noticing most about her right now, though, is what feels like an instant burst of new independence. I can fix my car seat straps, Grandma. I can open that package, Grandma. I can use those scissors safely, Grandma. I can use the remote for the television, Grandma. I remember exactly where I left that piece of clothing, I will go get it, Grandma. She represents a new generation of human evolution that makes my head spin. She is smart, intuitive, clever, observant, and correct with many, many thoughts and decisions. She knows the geography she travels and remembers everything-and I mean everything.
This is why I am sad today. I am losing my new best friend to her own journey-a journey I long for her to take. At the same time, I miss the little things of the past five years. It was nice to be her “special” one before there were friends. It was a rush of joy to hear her squeal at first sight of awareness I had arrived. I miss the little girl who was-and adore the little girl who is. But I wonder, as she grows, who will I be? What role will “grandma” have in a world flooded with technology and toys and education that leaves me standing in the dust of yesteryear.
She is just five-and yet already becoming what she will eventually be. I can see it happening daily, sometimes hourly, and the pace of change is overwhelming. I once thought the notion of a generation “gap” was ridiculous. I have changed my mind. Not only does the gap exist, I fear it is greater today than ever due to the explosion of new ideas, beliefs, gadgets, information access and the speed at which life moves. She will need to move with this speed. I will become slower and slower at keeping up.
My prayer is that there will always remain a place for me in her heart. I pray that as I age and gray, she will remember the joy of our earliest times. I pray for her future. I pray for my daughter. I pray for me. I pray for generations of women to stick together and fight the fight of life as a team. I can see we don’t do that much in American anymore-we individuate-so much so that perhaps we leave behind wisdom and connections it would serve us better to maintain. Maybe her momma and her daughter and me can live connected. Life happens too fast for me these days. She is already five! And five has never looked so different to me than it does today. There is a generation gap and I live in it now. I pray for the ability to accept it with grace and embrace it with vitality. Because she is already five and I feel I am losing her to the world. I knew it was inevitable. What I did not expect was what it would cost. She is worth it all, though. She is worth it ALL.
Dear Readers, I come to you today with so many thoughts whirling inside my very busy head. The graphic I chose to accompany this blog was an image from earlier times in our metropolitan area here in Saint Louis and was posted for a different reason. I find, however, that its core message, “May Peace […]
When an author goes underground it can mean life is far too dramatic and chaotic to survive it and write about it at the same time.
2017 has been that kind of experience for me. I do not have a clue where to start, so I will start where I am.
It is the third day into the New Year, 2018. I rose, on this third day, from the ashes of a life that had to die. 2017 was the year of death of the relationships I “hoped” I had with “mother” B. and “sister” J. I emphasize “hoped” I had, because I have always known I think, but never wanted to “own”, the truth that relationship with these two has never existed in the Cinderella way I had imagined it to be. In my mind, in my soul, in the deepest place of longing within myself, I always wanted to believe they cared-that relationship with them was not only real but meaningful. In the end, what I know from where I stand in reflection of 2017 is this, you cannot build a bridge alone. What I know from where I stand today is that genetics does not mean friendship. What I know from where I stand today, is that there are people that need to be “right” more than they need to be kind. What I know from where I stand today, is the hope I have held for relationship with mother and sister for 59 years is dead.
The hope died July 20, 2017. I have been involved in the process of transformation, officially, with professional assistance, since 1987. Unofficially, I think it is reasonable to conclude that self-awareness and growth is my nature-it is who I am, not just something I do. I have shared this with a particular friend I have known since 1975. We reconnected, thanks to the wonder of Facebook, and of course began with sharing the typical “what have you been doing all these years?” I told him how I had finally found my way to the professional counseling world after 35 plus very long years in the health care profession as a Pharmacist. His response was affirming and wonderful. He said, “Jo, you should have asked me what to be when you grew up. I could have told you in 1975 that your best destiny would be in counseling and caring for others.” Interesting, still to me, is how well others know us-better than we know ourselves. That is a story for another day. And it’s a rabbit hole of avoiding the subject at hand. Facing the death of hope is hard, really hard. I have found it more difficult than processing the physical death of my dear daddy in 2005. Some might call me naive. I have been accused of Polly Anna-ism. Perhaps both are true. It’s just hard to be sad, deeply sad. That’s how I have spent 2017-deeply sad.
On July 20, 2017, I made one of the more impact filled decisions I have ever made. I buried the hope of relationship with mother and sister at the cemetery at Jefferson Barracks where my dear daddy lies in state. That particular day was surprisingly easy and quick. I look back now and realize that is because I was in the first stage of grief-shock. Waking up was a bitch my friends. ( I apologize for the “b” word but it is the best word to express the “rest of the story”). The pain of reality was so overpowering that I had to take a solo sabbatical to Fort Myers, Florida for my birthday, August 27, 2017, to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. God, my daddy, and truth, found me in Fort Myers this summer. The trip was difficult, riddled with anxiety, and extremely effective. I came home changed. I returned with a sense of grounding. I would need this grounding to weather the monsoon of emotions the remainder of the year would present. Facing the reality of the death of hope is the deepest wrenching of my gut and spirit I have ever endured. My mind and heart were in two different places often. I had to talk with dozens of phenomenal people, including my dear, incredible brother, over and over and over until what surfaced was the core belief that in order for me to be a good person, I had to make mother and sister like me. (I believe they do, as they can, love me but I know now that like and love are VERY different things). They have never “liked” me. Today I accept that is not my fault. It just is !
What I also know today is this:
I am NOT and NEVER have been responsible for other people’s words, ideas, mistakes, beliefs, choices of friends and relationships, actions (even towards me), and the consequences of those actions-including and especially mother and sister.
I know I cannot make people change or be anything different than who they are or who they want to be.
This applies to all people, both biologically and non-biologically connected. Accepting the reality of this truth and applying it to the reality of my situation with mother and sister has taken 32 long and consuming years of obsession with them. Those 32 years of longing and hoping for something that not only cannot be but, in truth, never was, has been an all-consuming and immense energy-requiring task for the record books.
THE GREAT NEWS IS THIS: It is the third day of the New Year and I write today as a free individual, a good person, indulging the joy of the present and looking, with joy, into the future. The torment of 2017 has included death of hope with mother and sister. The torment of 2017 has also provided the ashes from which I rose to learn to glow in 2018.
I have many to thank for helping me survive 2017. I would not be breathing, I would have given in and given up, without ALL of you. I hope to list you all. Thank you God, Leo Joseph Appelbaum, Jr., Ken, Lauren, Brian, Addie, Lincoln, Carolyn, Brandon, Flynn, Leo, Linda, Kathy H., Colleen, Donna, Maureen, Jeanne, Steve, Paula, Dennis, Perri, Greg, Toni, Claudine, Ginger, Clarence, Karen, Larry, Fran, Jolene, Danu, Al- Anon, ACA, Bill A., Melinda, Beverly, Irene, Eileen, Cindy, Michelle, Michele, Alex, Krista, Becky, Jon, Debby, SCC Singers, Priscilla, Sierra, Beth, Frannie, Fr. Freddy, and anyone and everyone who has encouraged me to keep walking or even so much as smiled at me and brightened my day. I rose because of ALL OF YOU and I celebrate 2018 with all of you. An interesting special thanks goes to the lovely Salvation Army bell ringer( whose name I will never know) that sang Christmas Carols with me outside of Dierbergs this Christmas Season.
To anyone who listened, smiled, understood, loved, hugged, patted my back, grabbed my hand, survived their own muck as an example for me, to, MOST IMPORTANTLY, God-I owe you. I rose because of you. I stand on this cusp of this New Year loved because of ALL of YOU.
I rose and I stand where I am today because good people love me and I love good people. Family is not required to be biological. Family is the source from which your soul can drink. And my cup overflows thanks to all of you.
Love is what I need and God makes sure I get that gift. The sources God provides surprises me, and probably will continue to do so. I write to all of you today to extend my deepest gratitude and love.
Dear Readers, It’s been a rough journey for me lately. It feels like something is in the water that makes me sad. My heart hurts, my soul is empty and my eyes are tired of crying. What’…
Dear Readers, It’s been a rough journey for me lately. It feels like something is in the water that makes me sad. My heart hurts, my soul is empty and my eyes are tired of crying. What’s goin’ on? Will someone tell me please? What’s goin on ’round here? Every now and again life is […]
It’s been a rough journey for me lately. It feels like something is in the water that makes me sad. My heart hurts, my soul is empty and my eyes are tired of crying.
What’s goin’ on? Will someone tell me please? What’s goin on ’round here?
Every now and again life is harder. Now is one of those times. I learned recently that I grew up with a devious destructive thinking and behaving pattern leading to making all choices, large or small, from the perspective of helping someone else. To be clear, helping others, is a wonderful thing. It can morph into a harmful thing if you never let the “someone who is helped” be YOURSELF ! I have. All my life. All 58 years worth-and counting. I was in session today trying to make some sense of what the hell is going on inside of me. I have had one of those spiritual awakenings that you pray and pray for, then when it comes to you, you immediately want to scream ” TAKE IT BACK”. It hurts too much. Let me explain a little more about the situation.
I have been struggling with food as a numbing and soothing agent for pain since I was a child. I still do not understand completely how or why food is such a powerful and “temporarily” extremely successful soothing agent-but it sure is! For me it is, anyway. The right combination of fat, salt and sugar sends me into glorious comatose and zoned out places where I really do not feel. Once the food digests and the coma wears off, however, the crash back to reality is awful. And until about 5 months ago, I could not endure reality without numbing it with food. What changed? I am not at all sure about that either. What I do know is this: I reached a “no turning back” soul corner and turned it. I found reality. I found it in an emergency room where I sat with my mom and sister on a cold day in January. Mom was admitted to the hospital to find the source of unexplained bleeding. She is 81. She has had diabetes for years and congestive heart failure. By all statistical evaluation measures, she does fairly well at 81 considering her health history. On that cold day, the last day in the month of January though, everything changed. I saw my mom-REALLY SAW HER for the first time in years! She is slowing down quickly. She struggles to remember facts and absorb information. She looked like a helpless child who just wanted someone to hold her. It was a dose of reality I knew was coming-just not yet. Yet is now here! And it hit me hard. Maybe that event forced me to look at the woman who mothered me, now no longer in the “mother”seat, and decide what to do next. The tables were turned, without my permission or consent, and I had a choice to make it- Live in reality or run from it. Reality hit me hard. I chose to look it square in the eye.
She will die someday. We all will. However, I know now that her day to die is closer than it has ever been in my lifetime. There is something powerful about death that forces you, if you are willing to enter its truths, to take a good, solid look at living. I have been in the process of doing that since that last cold day of January. What I found within myself knocked me to my knees and the fall was hard! I found the “me” that has never taken care of ME! I realize I need to proceed with caution here as it has become both fashionable and fad to talk about ME-me time, what about me, where is the value and care for me? ME. ME. ME. I want to be clear here that this is NOT about that-not in a narcissitic manner anyway. What this IS about is the rising up out of the ashes of death of never taking care of myself because I have first, until recently, always thought about every single decision I make from the perspective of needing permission or getting the “okay” to take care of personal and serious needs of my own ONLY IF it does not inconvenience someone else’s life. After living like that for 58 years, I am totally, utterly, completely drained and exhausted. There is nothing left within me to give to anyone. That, my dear readers, is not living. That, my dear readers, is cohabitation of my mind with everyone else’s thoughts and plans for living EXCEPT my own. A dear friend of mine asked me Sunday, “Jo, do you, have you ever done anything just because YOU wanted to do it?” She continued, “Not because the church needed you or your husband wanted it or it served another, but just doing anything because YOU enjoyed it alone and completely indulged that thing for a few hours of pleasure.” I had nothing to answer. I could not even tell her what I would pick to do if given the time to do “said” thing. I was devastated, empty and lost inside my own body. And for the first time I did not numb the reality of the pain with food. I just sat and cried and let it hurt. That was Sunday and today is Tuesday. It still hurts dear readers. And in my session today I shared how empty and lost and lonely I really feel. I FELT REALITY-perhaps for the first time in my life.
Here is what my mentor had to say about that: “Reality can be extremely painful. When you finally decide to live emotionally and totally present to every experience “as it is” you feel everything. Sad things become intense. Happy things too.” When you stop numbing emotions and feel them as they are, raw and open and exposed, they have strong energy.” That made sense to me and described with precision what I believe is happening to me.
I understand now why people use drugs and drink alcohol and eat a whole carton of ice cream and drive insanely and shop compulsively and run away from reality. Reality is painful. The choice to numb it has challenges of its own, however. Numbing emotional pain instead of facing reality does not take it away-it merely delays it. A past employer of mine, when I was young and in college lost his father to suicide. My employer was 30 at the time. He said to me, “That is one hell of a way to force you to grow up.” I understand that from the inside out now and with the collected wisdom of a 58-year-old. Reality can be a “beast” of a teacher! So what now?
Well, I will talk about it-thus this sharing with all of you. Write about it. A suggestion that came from session today is to read a book titled, “The Comfort Queens Guide to Life” by Jennifer Louden (available at http://www.amazon.com). Breathe. Breathe. And breathe some more. Mediate. Pray. Read Scripture. Ask for hugs and support from those I trust. I also took a baby step to find a “something” to try that I can do alone, for no other reason at all but to enjoy it, alone. I signed up for a creative writing class hosted at the local community college and taught by the adult education Learning for Life program. I also have a fantastic friend I have known for 40 plus years who has clung to the food crutch the same way I have and avoided reality. My friend and I have vowed to let go of our food crutch together and reclaim life as a team.
I don’t know where I am going, but I sure know where I have been! And I cannot go back there. I want to move forward. I want to live in reality and when I say YES I want it to mean YES and when I say NO I want it to mean NO. I want to be honest with myself and with others. I am saying “enter reality into me” whatever the cost. I am coming out of the dark into the light. I shall be free. I believe there will be a light and a reward coming. I believe this will be a better road, eventually. And I will share it with you dear readers.
Do not be afraid I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you. You are mine. You are my friends. You are my cheerleaders. You are my sojourners on this same path. I have a proposal. I would like to invite each of you to join me in spirit and joy and story and become real. The Velveteen Rabbit did it. It was not easy but worth it. I believe it will be worth it for us too.
Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you. You are mine! And I am humbly and tremendously grateful!
I am sincerely yours,
My Dear Friends, It has been far too long since sharing with you. Perhaps, like myself, you have been engulfed by the undertow of negativity and sadness and division that is so public and hurtful currently. Perhaps you are amidst life changes that have called your attention to tasks that are new and overwhelming. And […]