After my trip to Iceland, I was feeling like I could do anything! Well, not exactly, but I felt so proud of myself for setting aside my many fears and I wanted to keep it going.
I’ve always wanted to go to North Carolina’s Outer Banks (I’m a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks). So I looked at my bank account and decided I could do it-I booked a trip for my family in the spring-my folks are coming too. And for those who know me-this is huge!
As school began for my son and I enrolled new children in my program, I was feeling like I needed to get out and about more and exercise and have quiet reflective outings. Being so busy during the week, I just needed the peace.
I used to love hiking and having conquered that volcano hike, I decided to go hiking-by myself! I used to have so much fear about being in the woods by myself, but I found it to be peaceful and restful. I made sure I had proper gear as the season got colder, even preparing for winter hiking-which I LOVE!
One hike led to a mountaintop lake where I sat down on a weather worn log and refueled. I started thinking of my young adult self and how many opportunities I missed out on because of my fears…there were too many to count.
It all boils down to anything unknown…travel, food, new people (men in particular whether in the workplace or proximity), animals, even going to an appointment in a new building. My fear of the unknown has been hampering my experiences and relationships for much too long.
So now I practice embracing the unknown…I say practice because it’s a process and I’m not always successful. Though I am proud to say I’m making progress and finally beginning to live a richer life for it!
The trip was AMAZING. It was also eye opening and challenging in ways I did not expect.
First things first: it was the coolest place I never knew I wanted to see. The history, the landscape, the people…it was a unique experience, and so worth the anxiety I had felt at first.
And next, traveling with my brother…I definitely got to know him better…unfortunately he’s not nearly as enjoyable as I would have thought…that’s life though, right? But a trip this really is how you truly get to know someone and learn how to work toward common goals. I have no regrets, though let’s just say that a trip like that with my brother was a one time event…
And finally, I am so proud of myself! I really had to stretch out of my comfort zone just to get on a plane…and I spent an entire day walking the city BY MYSELF! They went off to the northern peninsula and I stayed behind. I wasn’t scared at all, like I’d thought I would be. I didn’t get lost and I felt really comfortable-what a surprise!!
I’m just going to dive in-lots of growth and triumph lately!
I’m going to Iceland in a couple weeks! Back in May, my brother was texting me a bit and mentioned that he was going to Iceland in August. Without even thinking, I replied, “ooh! Can I come?” To which he replied that indeed I could. This may not seem like a big deal, but for those that know me, it is. In fact, I shared on Facebook that I was going and several friends thought it was a joke! I have a lot of fear, always have. I don’t travel much because I get anxious with the unknown and like to be in control-I’m a terrible flyer! And I’m not sure if Covid is the reason, or maybe I’m realizing I’m getting older, but I found myself shedding that fear faster than a snake sheds it’s skin! I surprised myself, and I’m truly excited to go on this trip! I feel like Iceland is the coolest place I never knew I wanted to go-and I get to go with my little brother! We need to spend some quality time together-life is short!
I’ve finally been able to let go of michael, (mostly). It’s funny, I’ve been hanging onto this friendship for so long, so tightly, and reading a book finally got me to shift my thinking. I read The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd while on vacation, and it had quite an effect on me. The vivid descriptions and poignant thoughts and experiences of the characters spoke to me in a way that was hard to explain…of course, the characters’ experiences were different than mine, but the author still had a way of capturing some of the feelings that go along with my own unique journey. It also sparked an idea for a new children’s book, though I haven’t gotten it down on paper yet! Here are a couple quotes from the book that have stayed with me (the very first one gave me goosebumps when I read it):
“I marvel at how I was before I met him, how I lived molded to the smallest space possible, my days the size of little beads that passed without passion through my fingers.”
“I wonder if perhaps they (the mermaids) saved me. I know this much, the mermaids came to me in the pink hours of my life…for them I dove with arms outstretched, my life streaming out behind me, a leap against all proprieties and expectations, but a leap that was somehow saving and necessary. They caught me after I hit the water, baring me not to the surface but to the bottom, and only then, pulling me back up.” “yes, here I am returning, the woman who bore herself to the bottom and back, the woman who wanted to swim like dolphins leaping waves and diving, who wanted only to belong to herself.” “What I loved in him most was my own aliveness-his ability to give me back to myself…”. “At first it was difficult for me…to realize i would only know you as a memory or a longing…YOU BROUGHT ME DEEPER INTO LIFE…”
Over the winter, my liver function was terrible, and after a lifestyle overhaul, I’m finally feeling better (and fitting into my clothes better than I have in years). I’d been having gut issues for years, and when combined with my terrible diet and super sweet tooth, and my alcoholic youth, my liver was angry. My blood pressure was sky high and would not come down despite being on four different medications. After running blood tests, the doctor told me I either had to prepare for my liver to shut down completely or change the way I was living…so I stopped eating butter and sugar. That was the simplest and least overwhelming step I could take right away. Next I started drinking more water, again, simple and not at all overwhelming. As the pounds began to drop, I added frequent but light exercise…I found that the workouts felt easy and that gave my mood a boost. That led to adding more healthy foods, I lightened my sugar and butter restrictions a bit as a reward. Gradually, working out has become easier to build into my life, and I actually look forward to it, sometimes crave it. I’ve switched to protein pasta and cereal, and it’s been good. I also changed my grocery-shopping mindset-I now spend more money that I used to on produce. I used to skip out on the $4 honeydew or the $5.99/lb cherries. Now I let myself buy them as a treat. It’s cheaper than the ice cream, soda, or chips I used to get and so much more satisfying! And though I am still a work in progress, I feel strong and healthy and it’s wonderful!
Awhile back, I was talking with my therapist about a bright spot in my childhood. I was 9 or 10, maybe younger. Because one of my issues had been feeling invisible, it was so memorable…one of my mom’s boyfriends (yes plural but there were only a few) took an interest in me. A prior boyfriend of hers had done the opposite and I think this guy may have sensed that.
His name was Paul, and I remember one time he wanted to take me hiking. We first went downtown to the bakery (an incredibly rare occurrence) and I got to pick out any doughnut I wanted: I chose lemon filled covered in powdered sugar! Then we went for a drive, probably just to north Springfield or Perkinsville, but it seemed like another world.
Anyway, we had a pleasant little outing and I felt special. It was a welcome feeling. But of course my therapist asked me questions like, “did he touch you at all?” And “did you feel like it was a secret?”
I did not like that she said that, though I suppose it was reasonable for her to ask since I clearly have lots of issues. My point was, actually is, that every kid needs somebody, well, not just kids, everyone needs someone to be their light, their joy, their champion, their remedy…And yes, sometimes, it may look like “grooming” so adults who cultivate relationships with children should be mindful, transparent, appropriate, and responsible in their interactions. Because as Mr. Rogers tells us:
My point is that it feels good to have your world brightened by another person, and in turn, lighting up another’s persons world feels wonderful as well. To be the person that ignites a fire in someone can be intoxicating, to help someone grow and change is invigorating, and when you see the chain reaction that comes from it, it makes you feel powerful, competent, and alive.
That’s what I am trying to do these days with my books and in my professional and personal life, slowly but surely. My dear friend Michael and I had to part ways, but I find comfort in the light I brought to his life and the color he brought to mine. My close friend Laura passed away 8 years ago, and I try to be the authentic type of friend to others that she was to me-honest, flawed, human. And there are numerous children over the years who still cherish their outdoor adventures and fields trips and investigations with me. I am the auntie who always gives the coolest books and brings doughnut holes. I am the mom that thanks the teachers for their work with my son, even in high school, and I am the client who tells the plow guy “thank you” every time he has to clear the snow. I’m also the customer at the grocery store who walks her cart all the way back inside after shopping even though they have people who do that. I am trying my best to be “a rainbow in someone’s cloud” when I can…
They wanted to know what we think of when we hear “self-care”. For me, that’s an easy one…at least it is now. I grew up feeling like it was my job to be a people pleaser, boat steadier, and peace keeper (most of you know this already), so self-care wasn’t on my radar at all.
And it’s funny, when I thought about self-care, I figured an evening out with friends after a tough week would suffice. And for some folks, maybe that would be enough. Buy a new outfit or get your nails done, and you feel wonderful for a few days…right?
Nope. I’ve discovered that people like me (sorta anyway, because there is only 1 of me)…we need lots of self-care built into our lives in order to feel like ourselves for more than just an evening or a weekend. and so I say, self-care is an attitude, a disposition, a way of living.
For me, this means (almost) daily exercise, a weekly scheduled day of rest, dedicated friend time, and saying a guilt-free NO when I need to. I had to give myself permission to put my own needs first.
To me, self-care used to be a list of special things to do when I felt stressed. Now, self-care has become a list of things to keep me feeling mentally healthy, happy and capable of coping with stress that may arise, a tool of resilience that I never knew I needed.
My hope is that you will think about your own self-care… i actually created a self-care action plan for a workshop awhile back. If you’re interested, send me an email and I’d be happy to share it with you.
We buried my aunt today. I chose to say a few words at the small family service…here they are:
Since Betty’s death, I’ve been hearing the word dignity as it related to how she handled her illness. I kept thinking that it was not a word I would’ve used…it conjured an image of a stuffy polite little gray hair who was always prim and proper. (No offense Betty, but I think things like “tough ol’ bird, or “spitfire”)
So I decided to think about what that word really means, and I found confirmation that dignity is indeed the best possible word when described by Maya Angelou…
“Dignity-the word itself-has come to mean different things to different people, as many words do. It doesn’t just mean always being stiff and composed. It means a belief in oneself, that one is worthy of the best. Dignity means that what I have to say is important, and I will say it when it is important for me to say it. Dignity really means that I deserve the best treatment I can receive. And that I have the responsibility to give the best treatment I can to other people.”
And to that end, she not only died with dignity, she lived with it too. She was always a kind neighbor, dedicated in work and volunteering, a thoughtful friend, and especially a loving aunt….oh, and she was one sassy sister, right bob?
So I say to Betty: thank you for setting the example for all of us, to live and die with dignity, and for always showing up. It’s not only the special occasions that showed me who you were…it was being part of those everyday moments: cooking with you, giving you a ride, or eating pie together. And thank you for choosing to make us family-because you didn’t have to-especially considering what a delight I was in the beginning especially. And finally, thank you for making me one of your friends-when you came to tea time and invited me to join you and your friends for girls night-you made my heart happy.
I’ve started writing a few times only to delete and begin again…over and over. I’m sitting in my kayak, floating on my favorite small lake. The sun is shining, the water is calm except for the occasional wake from others. And my thoughts are scattered.
Back in May, my gramps passed away. He was 99 years old, and it was his time. Covid-19 was not the culprit, though it impacted his death: only brief end of life visits from close family, one person per day…no service of any kind, and no one was allowed to attend the burial despite the outdoor location because it was a veterans cemetery and the guidelines prohibited it. I’ve decided to write a book about him to help me cope, also though, to honor the extraordinary man that he was. It’ll take awhile, though….
My aunt is dying. She has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She’s 79 now, diagnosed a year ago and still kickin’! She appears weak, fragile, and a little scattered at times, but it doesn’t slow her down. And her attitude is just as feisty as its always been. In my adult years, we have become much closer and if she left this earth tomorrow, I’d know that we spent our time well, and that she knows how important she is to me.
And I have a new baby nephew and I would very much like to meet him…Covid-19 is keeping me away though. I don’t want to risk giving him germs or getting any myself on the way to visit. So I stay away. My fear is that the virus will skyrocket again and it’ll be a year or more till I can meet him…but caring means staying home, right?
And I published my third children’s book! It was a collaboration with my mentor, Louise Dietzel…and it turned out wonderfully! The children love the pictures and the adventure that they get to have along with the story, and Louise teared up when I brought copies to her-she was so pleased. It is not yet in bookstores, but can be found here for now. My illustrator created a website featuring our books which led to me writing a descriptive sentence that I am quite proud of: “Stories that nurture the hearts and minds of young children and that strengthen the spirit of the adults who love them.”
That’s enough for now I suppose…I’m surprising myself these days…eating better, exercising, focusing on building relationships with friends, and by being just…ME!
Sooooo…I’ve been avoiding lots of things lately among this stay-at-home period. One of those has been my blog, and for those of you who actually like to know what’s going on in my brain, my apologies.
I’ve had to work really hard to stay focused on what’s right in front of me. Otherwise, I become overwhelmed and a sort of paralysis settles in. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t spend some of my extra time being lazy…I love a good “fuzzy blanket and cup of tea” kinda day! I’m going to run down a list of some of the tools I’ve been using to stay well and healthy in a minute.
I just want to take a minute to say THANK YOU! There are so many people who are still working to meet the needs of their community and I’m so grateful. Not only are their services vital, their uninterrupted routines give the rest of us worriers a sense of security and hope, reminding us that life goes on and will return to normal again at some point. So THANK YOU!
So here is what helps me when I begin to spiral in this age of unknowns and unpredictability…
Advocacy! Helping my fellow providers helps me
Reaching out to my favorite people (not just my family, but the friends that make me feel alive and energized)
Connecting with nature
The ritual of making a hot cup of tea
Reading a good paperback
Watching tv-helps me turn off my thinking brain
Forcing myself into a routine…this is a challenge, and now that I’m doing it, it is getting easier
Skipping the news helps
Yoga and exercise in general
Mindfulness-I tell myself “right now everything is ok” (I only allow myself to think forward if it’s positive, like my next book or my beach vacation)
Allowing myself lots of naps and downtime (adjusting to the thoughts and worries that try to creep in and fighting them is hard work)
So as this virus is pretty much the only news right now, colleges are shutting down, the NCAA is banning fans from events, meetings conferences are being cancelled…I’m struggling to avoid a depressive episode.
I know it’s important to stay informed and up to date on recommendations from the CDC and the VHD. And I know how incredibly contagious this is, and dangerous to those immuno-compromised…I know that some of my loved ones fall into the category of highly vulnerable.
I also know that if I think about it too much, I will become paralyzed. I will overthink to the point of hyperventilating, panic attacks, and an overwhelming sense of dread…
So forgive me if I tuck my sea turtle head back into my shell…it’s how I survive and function amid the chaos in the media and my community…I have no choice.
You see…I care for young children. All they care about is getting to their favorite toy, or climbing a tree…they want to feel safe and secure with their care provider. If I’m a mess, they will be too.
So this turtle will stay the course and keep herself safe…please don’t judge me. I am doing the best I can.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper; but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
Chicago PD…this was part of a eulogy for a young addict who was killed. Her brother said it, as he felt he let her down. He follows it up with this:
“It’s a lie …you can’t just recite a passage, say a few Hail Marys, and then wash away your sins…we shouldn’t be able to…we should be required to carry around our sins for the rest of our years…all the pain and guilt too. We need to feel them so we can do better next time, so we can be there the next time someone screams for help.”
And what he followed it with resonated, though I don’t necessarily agree. I think we need to carry our mistakes, our guilt, our sins while we process them and learn from them. But I think once we have learned a lesson or gleaned some kind of meaning, you have to set it down. If you hang onto it, you become stuck…so carry it for awhile, learn from it, and then let it go…