Sued51's Blog












How would I know, you might ask? Observation? Imagination?

I have mentioned before that I have six brothers and NO sisters. The older I get, the more I feel this as an empty hole in my life. You know how things come in threes? Easter Sunday three things made me consider the value of sisters.

Sisters

Sisters

In the morning I was going through yet another box of old photos at my mother’s house. The photos in the box I was going through belonged to my grandmother and great aunt. I had never seen many of them before, and they showed my grandmother and her sisters when they were in their twenties: on vacation, joking around and dressing up for Halloween (they are a bit older in this photo). There were smiles all around. Very different from the elderly women I remember with the weight of years on them. Looking at the photos, the closeness and the camaraderie came through. The photos made me smile and made me miss my great-aunts. Well…the great-aunts that I never got to know.

After dinner with my family, I went to the home of a friend that I call my “pseudo-sister.” We have known each other for 37 years, since we were 18 years old. When I walked in, her mother and her mother’s sisters, all in their 70’s, were singing together and recording it on someone’s iphone. They were laughing and, admittedly a little tipsy. It really made me smile. One of them had come up with an old photo from when they were girls, copied it, and gifted it to the others in a little Easter basket. They were all clearly enjoying the day despite whatever health problems they have.

After they left, when my friend and I were alone, we talked about our youth. Somehow the conversation turned to Julianne Phillips, the ex-wife of Bruce Springsteen. I mentioned the show she starred in: “Sisters.” It turned out my friend had never seen it! (We’re always learning new things about each other.) I told her how I used to watch it faithfully. I thought about that as I drove home. Did I watch the show to see what having sisters was like because I felt I missed it?

I think the real-life I observed in my grandmother’s photos, the moments between my friend’s Mom and her sisters were probably more realistic than the TV show, but perhaps not? Sisters steal each others’ clothes, and boyfriends too in a not-so-perfect world. And they snitch on you and tease you just like brothers…(though not in this clip)

The Daily Post had a topic the other day: what’s on your bucket list? I couldn’t write about it, because I haven’t made one. I don’t allow myself to want trips or things that I’ll never have the money to buy. What I want to experience before I leave this earth are not places to see or things to do — they are feelings that I want to feel. I can’t change the fact that I don’t have blood sisters. But I am grateful to have my pseudo-sister. And I can continue to cultivate new relationships and continue to search for soul-sisters…

Now that’s what’s on my bucket list.




Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Imperfection

 

Does this happen to you? Books seem to appear just when you need them? And they all tie together?

A co-worker dropped this off at my cubicle with the caveat: “My friend loved this book and gave it to me…it didn’t do anything for me, but I thought you might like it…if you don’t, pass it on.”

I will admit that my co-worker and I have had book discussions, so she has some idea about what books I like to read, but…I REALLY needed to read this book…NOW.

I have been struggling to embrace and accept my imperfections for a while (including the blurry photo at the left, which I took several times. I figured as long as you can see it and read it…it doesn’t have to be PERFECT). It fulfills its purpose as is.

I recently had a get-together with some wonderful supportive friends who love me and see me as gifted, talented and creative. I read some poems for them, including one I had recently, with trepidation, brought to a workshop. I was sharing with them some of the comments (which actually were mostly good and quite helpful). I told them “when it was finished” I was going to submit it. They thought it was fine the way it was. We laughed about how nothing was ever “finished” for me. I now know why: I believe that there is ONE thing I will create that will be THE thing that will prove my worthiness…if I keep working at it and never finish it…then the magical piece of work might still exist (like believing in Santa Claus…or the Elusive Comic Book!) I guess it is my way of believing life can change overnight. Though this appears to happen to some people, it is for the most part, not true. It certainly is not something I can will or force to happen. Life happens when you live it.

This book helped me understand why I can’t create a body of work. Perfectionism is a big, bad monster for me. I am “hustling” for my worthiness as Brene Brown says in her book. (I LOVE this phrase…I picture myself walking the streets, begging people to appreciate me.)

The book is broken into ten guideposts that represent ways of thinking you need to let go of in order to embrace your imperfection and believe in your own worthiness. Guidepost #2 is “Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism”.

And my favorite (V8…knock in the head) moment while I was reading the book was when the author wrote, “I think everyone should read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist — I try to read it at least once a year. It’s a powerful way of seeing the connections between our gifts, our spirituality, and our work…and how they come together to create meaning in our lives.” WHAT?! I recently wrote a blog about that book!

I just love when the dots connect!

BTW…I submitted the poem last week…with some of the workshop suggestions. 😀




 

The cats know when I need them...

The cats know when I need them…

This prompt is timely. I am having one of those days today when I feel like a cartoon character hanging off the cliff by that one skinny little branch…

I usually have to do a LOT of different things to get out of it. A combination of activities usually does the trick.

My number one tactic is to pet and play with my cats. They always know when I need them.

Another tool is to read uplifting materials…and yet sometimes the opposite helps: singing the “blues” as the title says. I listen to sad music, cry and get it out of my system. A couple of songs that are guaranteed to make me cry: “Sparrow” by Simon & Garfunkel or Lyle Lovett singing “Texas Trilogy.” (Below is the original version…couldn’t find a YouTube video of Lyle Lovett performing it. The last song in the trilogy, Bosque County Romance, is the one that sets me off.) A sad movie can do the trick as well.

Walking is always good or yoga, or meditation using a positive message like “God loves me” or “Serenity” or “Abundance” can help.

Writing about it: blogging and knowing that others feel the same makes me feel less alone. Writing/reading a gratitude list. I still haven’t completed the whole alphabet but I work on it periodically.

Sometimes looking at old pictures of happier times can make me smile. Taking new pictures is sure to get my attention off of myself and my life and onto an activity I enjoy.

Finally, just going about my day and being present during simple tasks can sweep the blues away and allow me to toss them in the bucket and look forward to tomorrow.

It IS Friday after all. 🙂



{February 24, 2014}   Daily Prompt: Shake it Up

My First Birthday

My First Birthday

When I read the Daily Prompt today, telling we bloggers to write about our 12th birthday, I initially deleted it. After over one-half century of birthdays, I remember very few. My twelfth being one of  those I have no memory of whatsoever. But I remember my 13th…vividly.

One of my best friends, Terry threw a surprise party for me at her house, and boy was I surprised! To the point that my legs completely gave way and I ended up on the floor greeting her dog before I said hello to any of my friends. This was a subject of a lot disgruntled complaining by everyone after the fact…”we go to all this trouble and the first thing she does is pet the dog!” This situation was repeated in my early twenties when my best friend and roommate, Julie gave me a surprise party and I proceeded to cry about the fact that my current crush was  not there. Julie was angry for days and thought me ungrateful.

I felt quite guilty both times. But at my present age, I understand myself so much better. I have never been able to deal with being the center of attention, even though a part of me has always wanted it. It is the introvert in me. Both those times I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t handle it. I was unable to express how unbelievably grateful I was to be so loved. I felt totally unworthy.

And now as I look at my life and mourn its lack of celebratory moments, I finally understand that though some of it was a result of circumstances, some of it I have to take responsibility for. I am going to write a part two of this post to talk about what I mean by a lack of celebratory moments, but in the meantime, as the adult that I am now, I so wish I could tell Terry and her mother how much I appreciate what they did. It was a significant moment in my life. My first “boy/girl” party and a moment that set the tone for the rest of my life…actually one of the best birthdays I ever had. Terry’s mother surrendered her house to a bunch of young teenagers; she must have been cleaning up M&M’s for months afterward (we had an unbelievable M&M fight).

Acknowledging what they did now is the best I can do.




The Daily Prompt mentions dishes, but I don’t mind doing dishes or any basic cleaning. Most physical cleaning chores can be performed in an almost meditative way.

Files

My most disliked chore is anything to do with paperwork and any chores involving sorting, filing, and organizing. I find making decisions about what to keep and what to throw out difficult, tiring and tedious. This leads to stacks of paperwork and canvas bags full of papers that have to be periodically sorted. I have the best of intentions, but I just can’t find time for EVERYTHING I am interested in.

As a writer, I keep every draft of a piece of work (still too often a hard copy), because I can have a tendency to over-edit, or rewrite a poem so extensively that it becomes a COMPLETELY different poem. At any given time I can go back to the original draft and send it in a different direction and create a different poem. And I have to admit, I can become fascinated with analyzing the process.

I know, I should be embracing the electronic age. Technology has been around long enough and has progressed far enough that I should be rid of this paper by now, but I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Weaning myself away from paper products, be they books or notebooks, is hard work. And unfortunately, I suffer from the same problems on my computer…too many emails, too many files, too many versions of things…SIGH




It’s a project, like refacing kitchen cabinets or refinishing furniture. Re-examining events in our lives, interpreting them, reinterpreting them…even if it means what I used to call “deluding yourself” and trying to enjoy the new look. Convincing yourself that it looks good after all the work…

Yesterday I started writing about Christmas memories in response to the daily prompt…it was a simple light-hearted post about my best and worst Christmas memories…but I didn’t finish it before I had to go to work. Then last night I had some bad luck. I tried to wake up today and have a good attitude. When I went back to the draft of the Christmas post…suddenly the worst Christmas seemed to be a metaphor for my whole life…UGH!

So now I’m ONLY writing about that hoping that if I write it down and re-interpret it, put a funny face on it, it might change things????  So here goes…the worst Christmas from a child’s point of view…

I think the secret purpose for Christmas stockings was that they kept us occupied long enough for our exhausted parents to get just-a-little more sleep! The rules were that we could get up whatever time we wanted and dig into our stockings, as long as we stayed quiet in our rooms at least until 6:00 am. So we would creep to the living room in the wee dark hours of Christmas morning, grab our stockings and race back to our rooms like squirrels with nuts. (In those days when my parents had very little money, that would literally be what was in the stockings…candy, nuts and fruit, an early breakfast.)

On this particular Christmas — one when I was still quite young and believed in Santa Claus — when I dumped my stocking on my bed, what did I find, but coal and crumpled paper. What???!!! I raced to my older brother’s room to see what he got. On his bed he had a load of candy and other treasures. “You got that?!” I said. He looked me in the eye and said, “Yes…what did you get?” The tears began to well up in my eyes. “I got crumpled paper and a lump of coal!” “Well,” he said matter-of-factly, “I guess Santa thought you were bad.” Now, I was a goody-two-shoes type of child who always tried to do the right thing and follow the rules, and yet…I BELIEVED this! I ran to my parents room crying my eyes out, disobeying the rules that you stay quiet until at least 6:00 am on Christmas morning. They grudgingly got up, not understanding what had me SO upset. They followed me to my brother’s room and figured out what was going on…he thought it was a funny joke to take my stocking stuff and replace it with junk. My parents retrieved my gifts and soothed me, but there was a pall cast over my day. Telling that story today I think that pall is still on me…

I opened the stocking of my life and found coal, despite my best efforts…and what did I do (and what am I still doing?). I cried about it. Only now, I cry to God. Is this REALLY what I deserve? When I don’t cry, I simply try to convince myself that the coal and paper are good…it means I have heat. But I know both reactions are unhealthy.

As I write this, I am determined NOT to keep handling this the same way. Today I am deciding to take my empty stocking and go off and search for my DESERVED treats. They have to be out there somewhere…Progress not perfection…it’s okay to share the struggles because we all have them.

I will just keep sanding…sometimes it takes patience and a lot of coats of stain to make them look good.



{December 10, 2013}   A “Fun” But Scary Web Site

I saw this on another blog. I was curious and I couldn’t resist checking out the web site mentioned: See Your Folks.

My father died 3 years ago, so there was nothing to input there. My mother is in her 80’s, and I see her at least once a week. The website is supposed to tell you how many more times you will see your parents. My answer was not a number. It said:

Your mum is living 6 years beyond the age she is expected to die.

Source: World Health Organisation Life Expectancy Data (2011).

Isn’t that a slap in the face? Isn’t that a gratefulness wake-up call???

 

old family photos

My Mom and Me




inspirational books, midlife books

My Navigation Manuals

I mean this in more ways than one. Literally, it IS time for me to rewrite the brief, third-person “about” page I wrote when I started this blog almost 4 years ago, when I had no idea what I was doing beyond reaching out desperately for a purpose in my disconnected desert of a life. But…I am also at the stage of my life when I have been struggling to find out who I really am (better late than never!). If you are into labels, there are many — menopause, mid-life crisis, empty nest syndrome — and just as many ways that it can play itself out in life. Sometimes it is a brief sense of vertigo where you lose your footing for a moment but get right back up with just a scraped knee; sometimes it is like suffering a stroke and having to learn to walk and talk again. We don’t choose the path; it appears before us. It is almost always a time of loss of some sort, but it can also be a time of renewal; it depends on how you approach it. As Christiane Northrup, M.D. writes in her book, “The Wisdom of Menopause”:

At midlife, I, like thousands of others, had to give up my fantasies of how I thought my life would be. I had to face, head-on, the old adage about how hard it is to lose what you never really had. It means giving up all your illusions, and it is very difficult. But for me the issue was larger than where, and with whom, I would grow old. It was a warning, coming from deep within my spirit, that said, “Grow…or die.” Those were my choices. I chose to grow.

I’m making that choice as well. I have had days when I literally felt like I was fighting for my life; dark thoughts were demons I allowed to hide and survive in the “gloom and doom” inside for too many years, and they came at me with ferocity. But I proved equally fierce. The time had come to break open the caves and let in the sunlight, sending them racing off to live somewhere else. To this end, I have been meditating and reading a lot. The aforementioned book is one that has helped me. “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach is another. And these books appeared on a “free table” at work, calling my name; others were given to me. I MUST CONCLUDE I HAVE A COMPANION ON THIS JOURNEY WHO IS HELPING ME ALONG. And I am comforted by that.

For years I have been questioning why the things that used to bring me joy do not anymore, as if it were a sign of an illness or disease, distressing myself all the more, not knowing how to “cure” myself. Reading Christiane’s book made me feel more relaxed about it, made me feel it is not something “wrong” with me, but a normal part of a growth process. Sarah Ban Breathnach gave me the “discovery journal” and “personal treasure map” as navigation tools for my journey. She says it better than I can:

Pray your journey be a long one. Savor the stops along the way. They make the search marvelous. Meaningful. Memorable. Find and honor your own pace. There are still so many harbors to be seen for the first time. You’re headed for someplace you’ve never been before. Keep your thoughts held high….Set your course for Authentica. Legend has it that once you reach her shores, you’ll not leave the same woman.

I’m set to enjoy the journey. For those new to my blog I hope you’ll want to join me and enjoy it as well. For those who have been with me for a while…I hope you are enjoying it…there are still so many harbors to be seen…don’t get off the boat!




hug couponI have known people who, when they feel depressed, reach for the sad movie or the sad song. Until recently, I have to say I didn’t really understand it. Didn’t it make you feel worse??? I wanted to ask, “Don’t you think you should be watching something uplifting to make you feel better?” I chocked it up to perhaps there being something wrong with me…a lack of a capacity to feel deeply??

But light has dawned on marble rock, as I have been known to say. I finally did it myself and understood it.

I had been feeling down and discouraged lately; almost afraid to socialize for fear that the smallest, most trivial encounter might reduce me to tears. I felt ASHAMED at my state, at my self-pity. Watching something about someone inspiring only made me feel guilty and MORE ASHAMED: I am NOT Malala. I felt fresh out of courage, devoid of strength, a sorry excuse for a human being. YIKES! I had to do something to dig myself out of that place.

And so I went to “ON DEMAND” and chose last week’s episode of “Glee,” the tribute to Cory Monteith aka “Finn.” I could embrace the sadness; the tears came (in my mind) for a young life ended too soon in more ways than one: the actor AND his character.

Who wouldn’t cry?? Are these tears of self-pity?? No…they are natural, legitimate tears (I can tell myself)…and I can get rid of them. Guilt-free tears…a novel concept for me.

Hmmm…I guess sometimes when you need a hug and there’s no one around, hugging sadness will do.



{September 1, 2013}   The Rest of the Story…

If you have ever heard one of Charles Osgood‘s journalistic pieces on the radio, this line is familiar. For those who don’t, he tells the back story of someone who we all THINK we know about and we learn something we didn’t know: the rest of the story. This is what came to mind for me when I recently learned the story of one of my old neighbors.

Just knowing your neighbors’ names, some of their likes and dislikes, and chatting every once in a while might delude you into thinking you know them at least a little bit. But you could be TOTALLY off-base.  I recently had a thought-provoking experience of this nature I wanted to share.

I lived in my neighborhood for 7 years (give or take). I knew most of my neighbors’ names and felt very comfortable there. My husband and I recently started renting out our home, and lo and behold, I got the mind-boggling news from the renter!

These particular neighbors had a lovely home with no children, but two beautiful dogs. I would occasionally see the wife outside in the yard, playing with the dogs, or either of them walking the dogs around the neighborhood. I never noticed until after I heard the news that I don’t remember seeing them together.

One thing I did know, ambulances have been there a few times; the husband had tried to commit suicide a couple of years ago. This knowledge did not make me suspicious; if anything, I felt some sympathy. Years ago I had a neighbor who committed suicide and I witnessed his mother’s pain firsthand. (One never knows the burdens that others carry.) Given this knowledge, I wrote this journal entry back in March:

…Last night at 8:30ish there were ambulances and fire trucks at (name omitted) house again. He has tried to kill himself before — every time I see the light I think he may have succeeded — it’s a sad thing. Could be a poem???

poetry journal

Following the date trail… in my writing journal, I had written this poem (with a couple little tweaks…I also added a note at the top for reference):

I see the telltale lights

Blaring through the winter woods,

The box of the ambulance outlined in red

Hulking in front of blinking blue

And more blinking red;

They’re all here.

I am mesmerized by the jarring color

in the grey doldrums of reluctant winter.

We’ve changed the clocks to get more light later,

But too late for my neighbor?

I want to push the old saying

Out of my head, “Third times a charm”

But it is like a mantra

that won’t stop.

I stop short of murmuring it out loud.

He tried to end his life twice before –

Is this his time?

This long snowy winter of hard times,

Broken trees, fixed incomes

And social isolation.

The lights have slunk away quietly: with

Relief or resignation?

I turn back to my TV and let it go.

How WRONG I was!!

My renter told me the wife was found dead on the front lawn (not sure if this is true, but it is what she told me). Although she had cancer, it was not clear that this was responsible for her death. She heard from another neighbor there was a history of domestic violence and her family regarded her death as suspicious. A toxicology report is pending (or inconclusive). After hearing this I researched her on the internet, found her obituary (sure enough…March 10th, the day before my journal entry), and a news story about how her family was fighting to change the laws so that when a person dies — in cases where there is a previous evidence of domestic violence — the surviving spouse does NOT have custody of the body (in this case, the ashes). The article said that a couple of years ago the husband was up on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder and his wife had testified against him.

I felt shocked and sad that I did not know what this woman was going through. I felt terrible that I wasn’t friendlier to her.

Ironically, I went over to their house a couple of weeks ago (before I knew any of this) to see if her husband was home to help me start my lawn mower. His car wasn’t there, but I rang the bell. I thought I heard a sound inside so I called out her name, thinking maybe she was home. Maybe it was the dogs. The neighborhood was eerily silent and my voice seemed loud. No one answered. Now I know why.



et cetera
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