What Love Really IS

Note: I wrote this a few years ago. I’ve updated a few things, but the essential message remains.

When I was young, I made all the usual mistakes young people make, especially about love. It’s taken me years to understand and appreciate what love truly is; it’s no fairy tale, it isn’t Romeo and Juliet, and it isn’t a made-for-TV romance. It’s far from glamorous, it isn’t perfect and it isn’t clear-cut all the time. In fact, I’m still figuring it out.

What I do know about love is this: love is both wonderful and messy, it’s unexpected, it’s less or more than what you think it may be or should be. It can have you soaring above the earth, and yet keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. It is agreements and disagreements, promises that don’t all make it to reality. It’s worry and fear and concern and care along side dizzying joy and the blinding happiness.

It’s sitting with a parent in a hospital, waiting for them to wake up after surgery. It’s gripping your partner’s hand and feeling all that strength pour into you when you have no strength of your own. It’s holding your grandchild in your arms for the first time and seeing all eternity in those brand-new eyes. It is the voice of a dear friend reminding you that everything will be all right. It is rescuing an animal and giving it a home where it is loved, safe, cared for, well-fed and is healthy and happy.

Love steals away our very breath; love gives life and purpose. Love is fragile as a spider web, yet strong as steel cables. Love can make you soar like an eagle, or drop you face-down in the dirt.

When I was young, I couldn’t wait to be in love! I imagined romantic scenarios, and dreamed of the time I would meet the love of my life. But it turns out that love is often unscripted and capricious, and it isn’t always plain to see. I met the Crankee Yankee  when we were both in our mid-20s. He was getting ready to marry his first wife, and I was still dating guys to whom I attributed all those things I wanted but actually weren’t there.

Years later, when both of us had been divorced a good long while, we resumed the friendship we had always had over the years. It seems to me now that I had loved the Crankee Yankee for a long time and didn’t realize it. (Funny, he said the same about me!)

When we finally started dating, it didn’t take us long to fall in love. Neither of us had wanted to marry again; we both had said emphatically “Never again!” But you know how that goes; never say never.

What I know about love right now is that the best and loveliest sounds I have ever heard is my loved ones laughing; the Crankee Yankee, my granddaughters, my dearest friends. The loves of my life are my safe harbor. Love makes me vulnerable; I know I can lose them at any time.

But while we are all here together, I am grateful to the heart and soul for all that love in my life. Do I deserve it? I don’t know. But I do know that I am breathless with appreciation, giddy with all this magic in my life, and amazed and humbled all at once.

Love is a risk, a challenge, and often a plain old pain in the hinder. But living without it would be like being without air. Even now I am breathless with gratitude.

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Bucket Lists Can Change

Oh, the bucket list! All those things we swore we would do when we had the time, the money, the this and the that. When I was in my twenties, my bucket list read something like this:

  1. Ride an elephant.
  2. Visit the great pyramids in Egypt.
  3. Become an oceanographer.
  4. Become an archeologist.
  5. Visit Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany and Italy.
  6. Visit all the islands of Hawaii.
  7. Visit Tahiti; while there, visit the famous pearl museum.
  8. Collect seashells from all over the world.
  9. Collect beautiful minerals from all over the world.
  10. To marry the love of my life.
  11. To always have cats.

Well, as life will have it, we don’t always do everything in our bucket lists. At my age, I no longer want to:

  1. Ride an elephant; too high up for me.
  2. Visit the pyramids; too hot and dusty, and the camels you ride on will spit on you.
  3. Be an oceanographer as I am too creeped out by the stuff in it that shouldn’t be there; planes, ships, cars, etc.
  4. Be an archeologist; too dirty.
  5. I used to love flying until 9/11. Now I am too nervous to fly anywhere. But who knows; that could change.

However, I’ve hit some of the list. I have been lucky enough to:

  1. Collect lots of beautiful seashells from many places.
  2. Collect crystals and minerals; I have lots of great ones.
  3. I did go to Rome, Italy when I was sixteen, and had stopovers in Lisbon, Portugal and Dublin, Ireland.
  4. It took a dismal first marriage (or, as my mother would have said, “a training wheels marriage”, but I finally married my second husband, the Crankee Yankee—the true love of my life.
  5. We now have five cats.

I have yet to visit Scotland, Germany, England, Hawaii, and Tahiti. But those trips may come later on in life; who knows?

Even if I haven’t made each item on my bucket list, there have been (and no doubt will be more) new adventures, life events and changes that have been both scary and wonderful. I now have three amazing granddaughters; two from the Crankee Yankee’s daughter, and one from my first husband’s daughter. I have discovered the pure joy of being a grandma; or in my case, a “Lulu,” my grandma name.

I have been privileged to live in the Northeast and the Southwest, then back to the Northeast again. I’ve had some crappy jobs and some great jobs. I’ve taken up some great hobbies so far in my life; reading, writing, jewelry-making, playing ukulele and didgeridoo (neither terribly well, but fun just the same), hula and cartooning.

I have some great friends, old and new. I have walked through good times, bad times, joy and laughter, fears and tears. I have loved greatly and lost greatly; my grandparents, some aunts and uncles, some dear friends, my mother-in-law (from both marriages) and both my parents. I have walked through those shadows we all fear, and have come out on the other side with new knowledge.

However, so far there has been far more joy than sadness. I was privileged to be present both at deaths and one birth; a baby girl. Both events are precious to me. At my age, the bucket list is more flexible than it used to be. Instead of fiercely declaring what I want to do, I now keep options in my mind.

There is time, there is space for new adventures and possibilities; who knows what they may be? I’m keeping my bucket list open for now.

 

DCIS Surgery Update

Thank you to all who commented and sent me emails wishing me good luck and prayers for my DCIS surgery yesterday; it means more that I can say. This is the best thing about the connections made in the “bloggosphere;” we become our own *ohana and cheering squad.

Yesterday’s DCIS surgery went very well. Many thanks to:

  • the friends and relatives who emailed me with messages of love, hope and support; it meant the world to me.
  • My metaphysical teacher and my Reiki teacher who sent me plenty of healing Reiki.
  • the nurse who kindly and patiently went through all my paperwork with me.
  • the nurse who laughed her head off over a boob joke I told her.
  • the radiologist who carefully inserted the tiny wire in my breast as a marker for the surgeon; his kindness and care made all the difference.
  • the nurse who carefully took my vitals and hooked me up to the jungle of wires and such and made me comfortable.
  • the anesthesiologist who told me with a smile that he would be watching over me all during the surgery; it comforted me so much.
  • my ***surgeon who took the time to sit with the Crankee Yankee and me to kindly reassure us that everything was going to go well and that the outcome would be fine.
  • the nurses who wheeled me into the OR and made sure that I was comfortable.
  • the post-surgery nurses who took care of me, fed me, and reassured me.
  • my wonderful Crankee Yankee who waited all day for me, worried for me, and took care of me once we were home.

And then there are all of you who took the time to contact me to let me know that they prayed for me, sent me positive energy, and kept me in their thoughts. The knowledge of this was a warm and comforting blanket all around me. This is true and lasting kindness.

I believe that the words we hear both in our conscious and subconscious take root in our minds and hearts, making us believe that truly: ***”all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Thank you so much.

*”Ohana is an idea in Hawaiian culture. The word ʻohana means family in the Hawaiian language, but in a much wider sense, to include not only one’s closer relatives, but also one’s cousins, in-laws, friends, race, and other neighbors.”

**I had asked my surgeon for a favor: when he finished the surgery and while I was still sedated, would he please whisper in my ear the following:

  1. “Everything went well; I got it all out.”
  2. “You are going to heal perfectly and be well.”

He did and I am grateful to the heart.

***From Wikipedia: “Julian of Norwich. Our Lord God shewed that a deed shall be done, and Himself shall do it, and I shall do nothing but sin, and my sin shall not hinder His Goodness working. … It behooved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Choices

A friend of mine sent me this the other morning. As I am going into surgery for DCIS and a lumpectomy this morning, I found that these choices were very helpful as well as comforting.

“Losing Energy” is all about the negative choices we make each day that can hurt us, slow us down and keep us uneasy or depressed.

“Increasing Energy” is all about the positive choices we can make every day that can enrich us, encourage us, help us and keep a clear view of our lives.

I hope that you get as much out of these as I have.

Losing Energy – A List of Choices
accidents
addictions
allergies
anger
being controlled
being scattered
being unbalanced
being unfocused
boredom
broken boundaries
busyness
claustrophobia
compromise
conflicts
crisis
criticism
emotions
excessive self-review
excessive phone use
failure
fear
feeling threatened
feeling victimized
fights
guilt
having too many people around
high expectations
high humidity
high temperature
impatience
inertia
insults
jealousy
lack of sleep
lack of stimulation
laziness
lengthy meetings
life changes
long ‘To Do’ lists
loss of esteem
loud noise
low self worth
manipulation
medications
negative encounters
negative news
negative self-talk
nosy people
not knowing
overeating
over-stimulation
overwork
pain
perfectionism
physical changes
poor diet
procrastination
resentment
sadness
shame
shyness
sickness
stress
tardiness
technology
unfinished business
unscheduled events
worry
Increasing Energy – A List of Choices
acknowledge yourself for something done
align yourself
appreciate someone
be more accepting
be near or in water
breathe more deeply
brush your teeth
celebrate
center yourself
comb/brush your hair
complete some tasks
create or appreciate art
cry
cuddle with someone or something
dance
daydream
do puzzles
do rituals
do something different
do things differently
dress up
drink more water
drive
eat
enjoy quality time
enjoy something pleasurable
enjoy the sunshine
exercise
forgive someone
gardening
get hair or nails done
give to a charity
go shopping
go to a show
ground yourself
have a massage
have a relaxing meal
hold hands with someone
hug
journal
laugh
learn new things
light candles
listen to or play music
meditate
play
play with pets
pray
read
relax
receive compliments
reorganize
retreat
say ‘I Love you’
shower/wash your hair
sing
swim
take a holiday
take a nature walk
take time for yourself
take vitamins
visit a friend
walk barefoot
write a self-appreciation list

Sometimes We Are Standing on Our Own Hose

A dear friend and I had breakfast together the other day. We were talking about many things (you know, “*Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–And whether pigs have wings.”).

We were also talking about how we as people often mess up both knowingly and unknowingly. My friend mentioned that when she was young and in training to be a nurse, she was watching a surgery in the operating theater. At one point the doctor doing the surgery yelled for “suction! More suction!!

As she watched, an older surgical nurse looked down at the floor and noticed that the doctor was in fact standing on the hose. That was why there was no suction.

This story made me laugh and made me think; don’t we all sometimes stand on our own hoses? Think about it; there we are, running our own marathons through life, doing all we can to keep everything right, and so on. But the harder we try, the more we push, the farther back we fall.

From “Alice in Wonderland,” here is the treadmill we often find ourselves on: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” 

It seems that the more we chase our dreams (or just live through each day), the more there will be demands on our time and resources. We have to make a conscious decision to step off the treadmill now and then.

This reminds me of being a child again, riding in the back seat of the car. Dad would be driving, Mom sitting beside him, and now and then she would turn her head to me and smile. I wasn’t driving the car; I was just a passenger. There was no pressure on me to be careful, to choose the best route, to get to some place on time. I was just along for the ride. And at that time, it was just fine.

Years later, when I was driving my own car, things changed. I could no longer daydream; I was driving and had to pay attention. I had places to go, work to do, chores to perform; I was in the process of carving out my own life. Like many other people, I rushed to work, rushed to perform my job well, rushed to get home, rushed to clean, cook, maintain my car, feed the cat, and so on.

There were many, many times I sabotaged myself. I rushed here and there; always on the move. I remember my grandmother telling me to slow down and to enjoy my life. I always agreed with her, but still I couldn’t just slow down. It was as though I felt responsible for keeping the world turning.

I didn’t realize it then, but I do now: I was stepping on my own hose. The Penn-Dutch have a wonderful saying that I should have had tattooed on the palm of my hand back then: “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.”

Ain’t that stepping on our own hose!

*From “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll, (from “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There,” 1872)

 

A Letter to the Medical Profession

Dear Medical Profession,

I really wish that you all would kindly remember that we non-medical people do not know what you know.

For example, when a person is preparing for surgery (as I am this coming Monday), it’s a good idea to have them speak to one person, not two or three. As you know, prior to surgery the usual prep is to stop taking certain medicines and/or herbal remedies. As you also know, patient records are available in your hospitals, and you can check what meds/herbals the patient is taking.

Why am I bringing this up? Here’s why: I had two people call me and go through my meds. One said to stop taking multi-vitamins. The other said it was all right. One said to stop taking aspirin. The other said it was all right. What is wrong with this picture?

Also when speaking with said patient, please remember that you are dealing with a person who may be fearful about their surgery. Please also remember that they are not familiar with all hospital policies.

I know and appreciate that you are hard-working and good people. I also know that you are often over-burdened with your job. Things happen that are not your fault, yet you get blamed for them. This is not fair; I get it, and I don’t wish to be part of the problem.

All I’m asking is that you please put yourself in the shoes of the patient who is bugging you with questions and concerns. Please know that most of us appreciate all you do, and are grateful for your help.

But when a person is facing surgery, they may just be scared and want reassurance. We are apt to make you repeat things, ask you annoying questions, shout at you when you don’t deserve it, and generally make asses out of ourselves. As you know well, patients are often not patient.

We have watched too many doctor shows where “routine” surgeries go badly. We have talked with people who have had bad experiences at hospitals. We are scared, and we then act like whiny kids because we are scared.

I know that this is a lot to ask of you all. Just please remember that we patients do not what you know, we don’t know how things work in a hospital, we are nervous and a little understanding goes a long way.

Sincerely,

Your patient