It has been too long. I have faced some challenges the past few weeks that have had me, well, occupied. I am tempted to fall back on platitudes like, “Life is difficult”, from one of my all-time favorite books, The Road Less Traveled.
Life is hard. You never know what lies around the corner. I have learned that there is one thing you can count on. Change. Change is inevitable. Which, is a comfort now that I understand it. If I am feeling sad, that will change. For sure! And, when I am happy, I know that will change too. The lesson? Go with the flow?
For the past 30 years or so, I’ve been on a path. It wasn’t a bad path, it just wasn’t my path. The path was chosen for me. I was led down the path by someone who seemed to care about me, but didn’t listen to me. They talked so loud they couldn’t hear me and rarely asked me what I wanted. Or, after a time, I didn’t even know what I wanted. I was already on the path that was expected. I figured it was the right path. But now I understand it wasn’t my path.
I am on a different path now. I chose this path. I am being led down this path by a power greater than myself. I’m not sure where the path goes so it’s a little scary. For the first time in my life I am on my own. But, I have support. I have two beautiful children who have grown into beautiful people and love me, a sister who is always there for me, a community of women who support me, and friends who care very much. I also have a strong belief in my God. So, whatever adventures lie ahead, I’m ready.
This is a big change. And for someone like me who has resisted change at every turn, it feels like a new way of life. To have faith that whatever happens was meant to be. To understand that I am right where I’m supposed to be. So, instead of wrestling with life, trying to make it go my way, I surrender. I trust.
I deserve to be happy. I deserve the love I’ve been trying to give everyone else. I am enough.
Until we meet again,
Faith: unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence; trust, conviction, reliance, surrender
Surrender: to yield to the power; give in, abandon, cede
I had planned for this to be my first post of the new year, but it got…complicated. I have tried to make it more concise, to avoid the inevitable tangents that I am prone to. And, it still is a new year, with a new president, and a new, you?! At the beginning of 2019 a friend turned me on to a television show called Tidying Up. It’s a series on Netflix that hints about how the out-of-control mess (dirty clothes, unorganized closets) in our lives may be symbolic. It might be a sign that our lives are in disarray. That perhaps in addition to cleaning up our closet, that a review of our current life situation might be in order.
I decided to give it a try (cleaning out my closet) and well, it changed my life. I briefly wrote about this in a previous post. The beginning of 2019 was also when my back started to give me trouble, my relationship with my mom was giving me trouble, and more. Fast forward to the end of 2020 where the election of a president was in the balance, a global pandemic had taken over our lives, and my back troubles were determined to be chronic. I was also trying to figure out how I fit in my family, my workplace, in my now adults kids lives. No, I haven’t figured it all out but I am more open to change.
Change – verb: to make different, alter, modify. Replace something with something else.
And, I did, replace one thing, my trying to change someone, into me trying new things like baking, arranging flowers, and shopping at thrift stores. Being a compulsive, some would call obsessive person, I do everything obsessively. I bake almost every day. I buy flowers almost every day. And my latest obsession…uncovering great “finds” at thrift stores has led me back to square one.
I need to rethink things, again. My house is overflowing with stuff. My poor son came home from college to find his room filled with my “finds”. Marie Kondo taught me to hold an article of clothing in my hand and ask myself, “does this thing” (shirt, pair of pants, painting, small dresser – yikes!) spark joy for me?
So, how do I get started? So much disarray. My therapist says it’s my attempt to stay busy, to keep my mind off the mom relationship that was so important to me, to keep my mind occupied instead of worrying about the future. So, how to get the spending, the wanting, the obsessing under control? A new years resolution you say??!! Well, you know what’s next, at least I think you do.
Resolution – noun: a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Am I ready to make a firm decision? My intention is to: (see how I artfully avoid the word “try”?)
Live within my means. Live within the moment. Live with what I have. Live with peace. Live with acceptance. Live with joy. Live with an open mind. Live with a willing heart.
My intention is to live with and be with people I care about. Be with people who care about me. My daughter always teased me when I was in my dark period saying, “you aren’t going to meet anyone sitting on this couch!” Then she started saying, “you aren’t going to meet anyone in a thrift store!” She was wrong! Believe it or not, I met the nicest guy, let’s call him E, at a thrift store. E seems like a sweet man. He reads my blog, and well, after this pandemic thing clears up, we might even have a meal together. Stay tuned my joyful friends! More will be revealed!
Happy new year to you all! I have already written a post for this first of the new year, but am doing a take two. The first draft was too…scattered. The tangent still looms large in my writing. So, this year I will focus!
After January has past and the review of the previous year; the best songs, the best TV shows, the best food trends, etc., have faded, after the resolutions have been attempted and forgotten, what is left?
A gift. A new year. Yes, an opportunity for a fresh start. What do I want for the new year? Joy! Joy, of course! More joy for myself, more joy for my friends, more joy for my family, more joy for friends I have yet to know. (Talking to you E!)
joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
Joy is almost impossible to define, but you know it when you feel it. It is brief. It doesn’t come with a hangover like great pleasure or a vacation. It does not go up and down like our moods. Joy can surprise you at any time, anywhere. Joy is free. Free to enjoy, (no pun intended!) free to give. Seems like joy, the word at least, was everywhere this year! Time magazine was feeling the joy. All Recipes featured joy on their cover, and even Martha was joyful this year!
Of course, I was feeling the joy! Boy o boy, was I feeling the joy!
And, what I learned last year is how easy it is to spark joy in others. And, what I learned last year is how rewarding it is to spark joy in others. I now know the warm feeling that comes over me when I hand a homeless person outside the grocery store holding up a sign “need money” a $20 bill, and a bag of snacks with a blanket and a warm pair of socks inside. When he takes the money, then peeks inside the bag and says, “Oh, thank you! You made my night!” True story and I have been thinking about it for two weeks now.
That is what I want. Just joy!
So, my joyful friends, my challenge for you this new year is to give it a try. You don’t need a $20 bill, or a homeless person or a blanket. You only need another person and a kind word, a helping hand, a smile.
I know you are all busy. We don’t have enough time these days. And, what has really suffered is kindness. No time to be kind to each other because every second of our rushed day counts, right. Shave off a few seconds by rushing out of the line at the grocery store to, well, do what? To get home and rush through cooking dinner to rush to baseball practice, to rush home and…well, you get the idea. And, when we fall in bed at night after rushing through our day, and stress about falling asleep fast to get up and do it again, it is too late. Too late to be kind to the cashier, too late to say thank you or I’m sorry. Too late to hug your kid and tell them you love them. You don’t get that day back. There are no do-overs in this life.
But, there is tomorrow. Each day is a new day. Each new day is an opportunity to do something different. To try something new. You can spark joy right now! Yes, do it! Turn to the person next to you and say “Hi, good to see you!” Text a friend and say, “Hey, just thinking about you!” Pick up the phone, call your sister and say “Have a great day!”
You, my friend, have just sparked a little joy! How do you feel!?
Today was epic. This election cycle I became involved in politics for the first time in my life. During the democratic primary I supported Pete Buttigieg. I supported Pete’s run by donating my time and money. At “visibility events” I stood on busy street corners encouraging commuters to honk their horns for Pete. I baked muffins for the volunteers who joined me those mornings back in the spring of this year. I called potential voters, I texted potential voters, I sent letters. Volunteering for Pete gave me a feeling of pride, of being part of, of making a difference. Yes, I felt like I made a difference. The people I met, “Team Pete” were some of the most dedicated, honest, positive people I’ve ever met. Pete will be part of the Biden-Harris team!
In an earlier post I was pretty tough on young voters. Turns out that young people, especially young people of color, substantially shaped the outcome of this election. My son and daughter, 21 and 20, cast two of those votes.
Joe was not my first choice, nor my second. Immediately after the democrats nominated Joe Biden, Team Pete gathered for a photo shoot. The signs we held said “United for Biden”. Pete’s “rules of the road” are a set of values that guided Team Pete as we supported him.
Joy was one of those values. I am joyful today. I am full of hope for tomorrow. I know that change is hard. Change comes slowly. My expectations are in check. I am proud to be an American today as corny as that sounds.
I am proud of our youth, my two especially. When people tell me that their vote doesn’t matter, I tell them that if every person who said that voted, it would matter!
It has been a while. I missed you all! (hey sis!) Truth be told, I don’t like to talk when I am not talking about something joyful, positive, fun. And, as previously discussed, I am prone to “toxic positivity” which, my therapist tells me, is dishonesty. I am not being honest with you, my joyful friends, if I don’t share all of me. The good, the bad, and the ugly!
So, my hammertoe, (yes, yes, a previous post, but you’ll have to find it on your own) is actually not so funny after all and is a symptom that my nerves are not talking to my muscles, and now the muscles are going on strike. I look down at my foot and say, “heel, lift off the floor” and nothing happens. Not good. And, my not so friendly new doctor said, it could be permanent. No joke. Not funny. I am afraid and sad. And, I cry. I don’t like crying. I don’t like not being in control. I don’t like my kids or my friends or anyone else for that matter to see me crying. I am crying now.
So, I understand the concept of expectations now and how they are the crux of a lot of my relationship problems, but here’s the rub. I still have them. I can’t turn them off. But, I can NOT react.
I had a doctor’s appt today. I may (or may not) have mentioned that my back doctor retired. Was it me? Oh, no! So, after I talked to the Podiatrist about my hammertoe, and my corn, (keep up people!) he referred me back to my back doctor.
He is now a she. She did not tell me what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that this is all fixable. That not being able to raise myself up on my tippy toes with one foot, was easily fixed. No, my dear aging friends, it is not fixable. In fact, the “deficits” are probably permanent. No joy in Mudville today.
An interesting tangent though, so indulge me. I found myself blaming my recently retired doctor for what is happening. If we had only done something sooner, my physical therapist, why didn’t she ask about this? Then I remembered reading something about blame. The article said that when something bad happens to us, my diagnosis, it triggers an emotional reaction like embarrassment, fear, a feeling of inadequacy. Blaming someone or something for what happened relieves that negative feeling, pronto. Mine was fear, I wanted to make it go away, NOW! So, without even as much as a second thought, I started getting mad at that poor old guy, it’s all his fault. My physical therapist, I trusted her, and now look what happened! What should I have done? “Take a deep breath – or several” then, “reframe it as an opportunity to learn.” Oh, great! Another opportunity for personal growth…arghhhh! Then I’m supposed to keep things in perspective. What, another gratitude list?? Yes, another gratitude list.
Back to this morning. My “hope to be returning to college soon” daughter knew I was going to the doctor and that I was nervous about it. She had even given me a piece of selenite, a crystal, to “keep all the gross energy away!” So sweet. My sister knew about it because I called her on the way to the doctor. So, the “play”, that is what I am calling my expectation filled life, was supposed go something like this. “Joy opens door and enters house. Daughter runs down stairs, “How was you appointment Mother (enthusiastically)?” But, Joy opened the door to the house and daughter shouts from the next room “What is the password to the movers website (irritatedly)?”. Joy proceeds to make some lunch and daughter does not inquire about doctors appointment.
Expectation #2 – Sister, the best sister ever, you might recall from a previous post, did not call me back. At least not yet and it’s been four hours!!
Truth: My daughter had given me that crystal and a beautiful hand written note after she and I talked about how I was feeling a week or two ago. I have the note on my bulletin board and was holding the crystal in my hand in the waiting room. Just yesterday, my sister sent me an amazing greeting card for an upcoming anniversary, she does that kind of stuff. On the front it said “You are the sweetest, most amazing person I have ever known!” Seriously…it doesn’t get much better than that.
So, the fact that I stopped, took a breath, and didn’t react to my daughter, and the fact that I will not mention my letdown to my sister for not calling me back immediately, has allowed me to, yes, make another gratitude list.
I am grateful for:
– Having a sensitive caring daughter
– Having a sister who is thoughtful and has my back no matter what
– My good health (it could be a LOT worse!)
Growing old is not for sissies! But, growing old can be filled with joy if we just slow down and notice it!
Update on those pesky expectations, expectations part II?. Since my last post, I have been observing myself. Me, me, me. I said, “I”, 35 times in that post. Just a reminder, this is my blog and it is about me. Very self-centered, yet hopeful that my experiences, my tangents, my joy, and yes, my insanity at times, will somehow spark joy in others. Oh goodness, that is a tangent in its infancy, so back to the topic, expectations.
It was surprising when I was in this observing mode, monitoring my expectations, how often I am future thinking. My daughter (poor thing, never signed on for this!) will be going out and I’ll say “So maybe dinner?” or “Then I’ll see you tomorrow?” My expectation of seeing her, spending time together, needed to be affirmed. Remember how I abhor change? I realize it’s because I fear the future. If everything I have now is good, then why risk upsetting the apple cart. But then, I realized that change, challenges, pain and the like, are almost always followed by emotional and spiritual growth. No pain, no gain?
So, if I don’t expect anything, good or bad, to happen in the future, then I am free to follow my heart, my intuition, to take a risk. Maybe it’s age. I’m over trying to please people, to fit in, to live up to some unrealistic expectation, both theirs and my own. Honestly, I feel lighter (not like I lost the COVID 12 lighter), freer, more at ease, and nothing has changed except my expectations. I know I will see my daughter and we will spend time together. No need for anyone else to assure me of that. I know that the collaborative project at work will get done, or not! It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is my serenity. I had lost it. And, I was in a lot of pain, physical, emotional, spiritual. All this trying to control what is going on around me, people, places, things, to fit this expectation of what my future WILL BE, that is, if I have anything to say about it.
Imagine trying to move giant pieces on a chess board, pushing and pulling all those pieces around, so heavy. Now imagine me not pushing, not pulling on my life, on the people around me. Imagine me, sitting under a tree, noticing a butterfly, a soft breeze….oh gag! That is not me. Imagine me, faith restored, yes faith. I am not in charge, I am not able to control the future no matter how I try. So, I let go! I trust and have faith that something bigger than me, is in charge. A power greater than myself, that restores me to sanity. That brings back the the serenity that was lost.
I googled “how to lower expectations”, looking for a list, a tool kit, a paint by number solution, and found this cool article instead. It talks about spirituality, social pressure, attachment (that’s the real problem, by the way…another time, another tangent, another post?). And, yes, in the end it provides a list, “How to Defeat Expectations” in four easy steps. Check it out. I’ll end with this.
“Your glass is not empty or full; it’s already broken.”
Buddhists have it figured out, at least this one has. He said,
“You see this goblet? For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably…But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over…and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, “Of course.”
When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”
until next time.
faith: strong belief or trust in someone or something that is not based in proof. Optimism, reliance, hope, conviction.
expectation: a strong belief that something will happen
hello my joyful friends,
This post is about expectations. Yes, what to expect when you have expectations. The answer is, drum roll please, disappointment. Yes indeedy…not the answer you were “expecting”, right?” Insert that crazy face with the tears squirting out of his eyes here! I crack me up. Truth is, I read that book about pregnancy. Guess what? Having a kid was so much harder than they portrayed in the book. What they told you to expect, much of it wasn’t true! Or at least, in the heat of the moment when the shit hits the fan, literally, I cursed the solutions they put forth. But, they sold a ton of books. We all want to know, at least I do, what to expect.
Here is how I began to understand the expectations game. I had been griping to my therapist about this friend, you know the drill, “last week she did this, remember? And, this week she did that…can you believe it”?! (insert image of therapist rolling her eyes). Then the therapist said, “She is not a nice person is she”? “No, she is not” I exclaimed. Then, the therapist looked me right in the eye and said, “Then why do you keep expecting her to be nice?” Insert image of me huffing and puffing and searching for words and eeking out a statement that didn’t even ring true to me, “Well, everyone should be nice, don’t you think”? She didn’t respond, one of those long pregnant (ha, ha, ha!) pauses.
So, my values, the moral code by which I try to live my life, is not the same as my “unkind” friend. She is a friend, a good friend. She is a rusty, trusty friend. (see previous post) Overtime, I have come to accept our differences. I understand that she operates under a different set of principles and “kindness” is not something that she sees much value in. She, on the other hand, would threaten to break the nose of anyone if she knew they were hurting me. She’s the one I want on the line when I call AT&T for the 5th time complaining about my bill. See, I like when she’s not nice if the cause is worthy. I now admire her powerful personality. She speaks her mind with no filter. She doesn’t seem to give a hoot what anyone thinks of her.
I am not, I repeat, not a better person than she is because I am kind all the time. I bake cookies and spread them throughout the land, I call it “sparking joy”. I do not speak my mind unfiltered. I think long and hard about what I am going to say. I filter out the unkind stuff and boil it down to a very tidy, politically correct, could not possibly offend anyone, statement. After I speak, I scan the room to see if anyone looks mad or sad or well, anything. It is exhausting! Sometimes, when I am hurt or disappointed with my kids, I decide to just “let it go!” Take the high road. Everything is just fine, I am just fine…but. I have to work hard to be sure that my “letting go” is coupled with acknowledgement of my feelings of hurt and anger. My therapist called it “toxic positivity” which is more like denial, dishonesty with me. (shout out to Brené Brown, writer extraordinaire).
A recent study indicates that the secret to happiness is low expectations. Rob Rutledge, scientist and doctor stated, “Happiness depends not on how well things are going but whether things are going better or worse than expected.”
My job now is to lower my expectations. Of myself, of my kids, my coworkers and well, my friend. I don’t expect a cute smile and an air hug when she walks in the room. I don’t expect her to be nice. I expect her to be her, and she never disappoints. Now its your turn. Lower your expectations and see if you aren’t more surprised and delighted with life.
Now go spark some joy!
spark: a trace of a specified quality or intense feeling
friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations (confidante, soul mate, workmate, ally, comrade, associate, pal, chum, bezzie, homie, bro, fidus Achates).
hello my joyful “friends?”
Had a hard time thinking of a pithy title for this one. Friends. Stirs up all kinds of thoughts, memories, conversations, some good, some not so good. Sometimes I think I don’t have many “friends”. I guess by definition I do. There’s a whole bunch of people in my life that I have a mutual bond of affection with. Couple of workmates, a pal or two, no soulmate, a fidus Achates? Gotta look that one up. But, how many of them do I see on a regular basis? Or, how many of them have I had an intimate conversation with recently? (intimate: very personal and private, shared secret knowledge). This month, I have two good friends, two people with whom I have had a personal and private conversation with. I know these two people “have my back”, no matter what.
I also have friends who I have known for a long time and trust. Most of them are women that have kids the same age as mine, we’ve known each other for 15 or 20 years. But, without the events, play dates, park outings, beach parties, we don’t see each other much any more. Let’s call them “historical friends”. I have 7 that I can think of right now. Two who I see more often, maybe every couple of weeks. Busy, we are all busy!
And then there are your furry friends! Always up for a good cuddle, always there when you need someone to talk to, who won’t judge you, who won’t try and give you advice, and who love you no matter what! Well, you gotta feed them, make sure they have water and a nice patch of grass, or in my case a nice clean box! I have two, Oreo and Paws. I’ll let you figure out which is which. I mean seriously, some people are making a fortune playing on our emotions. The internet was creating solely for viewing cute cat videos, right?
Then you have your work friends, church friends, club friends, neighbors (they get a special name, I guess because you never know…) and many other types of people you see or know on sight. I ran across this article, 4 Types of Friends where the author boils it down for us…must friends, trust friends, rust friends and just friends. Pretty funny! My friend Marie is pretty rusty, just turned 93. She wanted a coconut cream pie. Wow! She lives on a fixed income, has no kids, is very hard of hearing, and is one of the most grateful people I know.
Don’t even get me started on the “verb” friend. Friend is a noun, and if you do not participate in social media, that is as far as it goes. I am proud to say that I do not have a Facebook page. I do not look at anyone else’s Facebook page. I do not chat, except at the grocery store with my “just friends”, nor do I snap, unless there is a really good tune playing on the radio! I don’t do anything “instantly“, I move too slowly for that, what with the hammertoe and that pesky corn! And, the only “gram” I frequent is in cracker format when making a pie. I do make a mean key lime pie…oops, I feel a tangent coming on!
My point is that sometimes I feel lonely. Sometimes, I feel like talking to someone and there is no one around. Sometimes I feel sad and that no one cares. But those are just feelings. The joyful truth is that I have a whole bunch of people I know who would love to talk to me, who are probably feeling lonely too because they don’t think they have any “friends”. Get over your fear, friends! Fear of being rejected? Fear of looking silly, needy, or fearful of being judged? Well, get over it. I reached out to a friend last night and she said yes! She said, and I quote, “I love spending time with you.” Gulp! She’s a new friend, a good friend, and I know she has my back.
Then there is my big sis! I will admit, I am teary writing this. She is so special. She is always, and I mean, always, there for me. She has been my cheerleader during this renaissance period. She supports me even when she doesn’t agree with me. And, she’s also joyfullyaging’s biggest fan. She thinks I am “hilarious!” Of course, she had to clarify that statement by noting that I am “not funny at all in person!” Ouch! She is my best friend. She is my rusty, trusty, friend. There will never be another friend like her. I love you sis!
I end every day with a gratitude list. Today I am grateful for:
My friends, all of them
My family, shout out to my big sis
My readers, shout out to my big sis, and you Michael! (Michael liked one of my posts! Eeek!)
Joyfully Aging means that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So, today, with my crazy feet (neuropathy, hammertoe, corn), and my bad back (bulging disc, sciatica, hip bursitis) I went for a walk. Got new tennies, size 11 with the wide “toe bed”, didn’t know what that meant until I needed one, and a new item from the Dr. Scholl’s aisle. It’s called the Tri Comfort Insole and nobody is paying me to talk about it. So far so good! I was also sporting my latest gadget for my hammertoe, the Gel Hammertoe Crutch and no, they are not paying me either. This handy dandy device basically props up the toe that wants to grip without me telling it too. Bad toe!!
Back to the walk. Walking is now an exercise in mindfulness. All this foot pain is God’s way of getting me to be more mindful.
Mindfulness: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
And let me tell you, I am aware, very aware that I am walking. It takes all my concentration to keep my balance, tuck my tail under and tighten my core, all while trying to maintain to the world that I am simply out for a stroll. Of course, there is no foot traffic on my street, so unless my neighbors were all staring out their windows and snickering at me, I was the only one who was looking at me. So self-centered!
The lemonade part is that by walking more slowly, pretending to be looking at the yards, I saw things. Flowers, a beautiful view, a couple of lizards. I also experienced things, the sounds of bees, the wind blowing, the distant sound of traffic, and a few dogs, making their owners aware of my presence.
Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
This is what my pain management team has been trying to get me to do, also some friends who are into that stuff and some other folks who I am involved with regarding spiritual matters. According to Psychology Today, mindfulness is “paying full conscious attention to whatever thoughts, feelings and emotions are flowing through your mind, body and breath without judging or criticizing them in any way.” The article goes on to say that mindfulness is about “understanding how the mind works. To see how it unwittingly ties itself in knots to create anxiety, stress, unhappiness and exhaustion.”
See, before the “crisis of consciousness” that I talked about in an earlier post, I was anxious, stressed out, unhappy and exhausted. I judged myself and everyone I came into contact with, and I was filled with negative thoughts about myself and the world. I came home from work each night and ate food, plopped myself down on the couch with the lights off, and watched Netflix for a few hours, relocated to my bed and slept till the next morning when it was time to do it all over again.
Today I was able to take a walk, experience nature, accept my various aches and pains for what they are, inconvenient, uncomfortable, and, it could be worse! My life today is based in gratitude, helping others, being mindful of myself and of others. Today I try and enjoy each minute. I try to see positivity anywhere I can. Today I turn away from negativity and negative people.
Today I am committed to being mindful. How about you?
Commitment: the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.