“Can’t Someone Else Have This Baby?”

There was a movie out a long time ago starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson that I saw years ago; can’t think of the name or the year it came out. In it, they were in a rather rocky marriage. The scene that stays in my mind is when she was going into labor, and they were driving like mad to the hospital.

She said “I can’t do this! I can’t have this baby! Can’t someone else have this baby?”

Well, I now know how how that feels. Not that I am having a baby; no. It’s because the Crankee Yankee and my dad and I are in the process of updating Dad’s and Mom’s living trust. Back when they originally had this done, they put it together for every possible contingency. If Dad died, the trust went to Mom. If Mom died, it went to me.

However, Mom died in December of 2015. Dad now lives with us, and the other day the three of us met with our financial planner. Fortunately, he knows and has worked with the lawyer who drafted the trust. As it is full of legal-speak, it made my head hurt. So our planner kindly made a list of what I need to do and when.

I am comfortable with words, but numbers; not so much. After fifteen minutes, my head hurt. After a half hour, I wanted to leave my head on the table and walk away.

Thankfully, the list I was given was something I could handle. My issue is that, even at age 65, I don’t feel that I am old enough (or responsible enough) to captain this. I found myself mentally bonding with that Meryl Streep character, wanting someone, anyone else to do this, not me.

But when those times in our lives come when we have to step up to the plate, as uncomfortable as that may seem, we have to dive in and own it. My parents set up this trust so that I would not have to search for all pertinent information, or deal with probate, etc. It was done to save me time and trouble; all documents and information are covered.

Setting up a trust is gift to those who come after us. It saves them from trying to hunt up paperwork, deeds, etc. It gives them all the information they need to deal with everything from end-of-life issues to selling property.

While I sat there in our financial planner’s comfortable and well-designed office, inwardly grumping about all those pesky (but important) details, I was grateful for my wise parents’ foresight in setting this up.

…..But still I have that vision of a hugely pregnant Meryl Streep groaning on the way to the hospital saying, “Can’t someone else have this baby?”

I get it now. Truly.

Just Breathe

No, I’m not talking about wearing an oxygen mask. I’m talking about letting out that breath we have been holding for minutes, hours, days; even longer. We all handle stress and anxiety differently; some of us hold our breath because we are afraid to let that breath go.

Sometimes it’s a knee-jerk reaction; that sharp intake of breath when you are chopping carrots and your knife slips and you nick your finger. Holding your breath makes it somehow less serious or scary.

Often it’s a fight-or-flight scenario; you are hurting and you feel you must punch something (or someone), or you literally run away to a place that feels safe to you.

Or, if you are like me, your throat closes up and all you can do is sob and leak endless tears. You simply cannot get words out, never mind a deep breath.

Shortly after my mother died, I decided I needed to see a therapist, so I made an appointment. When the day came, I walked into the therapist’s comfortable office, sat down on a soft couch, opened my mouth and started to cry.

If you measured my words that day to the amount of my tears, it was about 5% talk and 95% tears. I paid $100 for the visit, went home and never called back to set up another appointment.

I was like an oyster who deliberately let a tiny irritant into its shell, and then suffered the pain of layering it over with all the nacre it could produce. This made nothing better; it only created a very un-pretty pearl.

But over time I have been able to let out bits of that pain. I never know when I will feel comfortable enough to do this; all I know is that for a short time, it is ok to talk.

It’s been said that there is no finite period for fear or grief; it is different for each of us. I read somewhere that there was (or is) a tribe of people who, when a loved one dies, drape themselves in the leaves of a certain tree. They grieve until the leaves disintegrate and fall to the ground. This means that their grief is officially over and it is time to go back to their lives. If only it were that easy!

But I do know this: we all need to breathe. We have to in order to stay alive. I still don’t have the desire to see a therapist, but I have included deep breathing into my life. When I feel myself slipping over the edge of grief and worrying about who next will leave my life I. Just. Breathe.

Sometimes that’s all you need to do; breathe. It doesn’t change what has happened to us or what may happen to us. But we can still just breathe.

It’s a start, and you have to start somewhere.

 

How Lucky Are We!

As you may know, here in the Northeast we have had not only a ton of snow, but unusually high winds, which meant that a lot of people lost power. Generally, the outages don’t last long, but sometimes they can last for days.

The Crankee Yankee and I only lost power for six hours. In those six hours we did some serious thinking, not only about our own situation but so many other’s. We grumble about no Internet, TV, lights, heat, etc. We can usually make an ‘outage party’ by making a smorgasbord of this and that in the refrigerator. We layer up in warm clothes, don our headlamps and prepare to “tough it out” until those hard-working and under-appreciated workers from the power company slog through the bad weather to get things up and running again.

But just imagine those who are alone, those who are hungry and cold, those who have no resources? It makes me ashamed to complain about anything. We are privileged to have a roof over our heads, food in abundance, hot and cold running water, people who care about us, and so much, much more.

When my mother wrote and self-published her genealogy work on our family, she met and talked with so many elderly relatives. She heard stories from them of what it was like back when everyone farmed, hunted, fished, built their own homes, took in their old folks when they could no longer live alone.

There were tales of those who traveled by horse-drawn wagons who got caught in snowstorms. The men would stay up all night, keeping a fire going. When they didn’t have enough heavy clothes or blankets, the men warmed planks of wood over the fire and placed them over the children to keep them warm during those frigid nights.

If the hunters could not find game and the fisherman caught no fish, everyone went hungry. Where my mom grew up, her grandparents raised chickens and livestock, had gardens, and every man she knew hunted and fished. Her family lived on their own produce and deer meat was generally the staple protein.

I often think of those times and wonder how I would manage in a similar setting. It makes me grateful beyond grateful that I live in a time where I have a roof over my head, a refrigerator full of food, heat and light, and the conveniences to which we have become so accustomed.

I think of those who have so little, and, even in this country; go hungry more often than not. I think of those which no resources—no home, no family, no shelter, no access to food or education. I am ashamed when I hear myself complain about missing  a TV show or a hot meal.

It may be that, years from now and long after I am gone, all people and animals will have what they need all the time. It may be that people will go back to the old and cherished beliefs such as helping those who need it—without judgement. Who am I to judge anyone? I know my own heart and mind, but I cannot know what is in someone else’s heart and mind.

These days when so many people stand in humility with cardboard signs, asking for food, money or work, I do my best not to judge. I know that there are many who scam people for money; in my opinion, that is on their soul, not mine. If I get that nudge to give someone some money, I do it. And when I do it, I look them in the eyes and talk with them.

How do I know what their circumstances are? Who am I to judge? In my life so far I have been given so much. How lucky are we that we not only have what we need, but sometimes get the opportunity to give back? We may never know what that stray dollar or quarter may mean to someone.

 

 

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.

Wayne W. Dyer”

This quote brings to mind the three day seminar I took years ago. It focused on facing old hurts and fears, bringing them out into the light, talking about them and how they made you feel, and, finally, how to purge them forever. I swear I have never had a harder three days in my life.

My usual reaction to hurt and fear is to hole up, keep away from others, suffer in silence and finally, never speak of it again. That works for a while, but sooner or later, those old ghosts come to call.

In the seminar, we were all challenged to expose at least one of our past traumas to the entire group. I remember sitting on a hard chair on a small stage with the whole group watching me. The past hurt I had chosen to expunge from my life was when my first husband cheated on me. I never saw it coming, and because I didn’t, I felt stupid as well as hurt.

The process of getting through and past this trauma was a lot like what I imagine Navy Seal training to be; first, you are broken down to dust. All the things that make you you are laid out for the world to see. It was like being filleted alive with an audience watching.

Once you are broken down, the process of building you up begins. My immediate reaction was not to trust it; why should I after that brutal break-down process? But slowly I realized that you must incise that hard boil of past pain and hurt, and let the poison drain out once and for all.

I can’t say that it was fun, but it did work. Once all that backed-up hurt and anger bled out, I could see the situation clearly for the first time. I realize now that it was my pride that had been hurt, not my heart.

After that, I was able to let go of all my anger, fear, sorrow and hurt, but most of all that feeling that it had somehow been my fault. I can honestly say now, eighteen years later, I feel absolutely nothing about it. It’s just as if it happened to another person. When I think of my first husband, I feel nothing—no emotion at all.

When I first read this quote by Wayne Dyer, “how people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours,” I thought of that seminar. I realize now that my ex-husband (or “wasband”) is the one to carry that memory and perhaps burden of what he did to me; I don’t. I don’t because I was finally able to let it all go, thanks to that seminar.

One of the most important things I learned during those three  days was that holding on to the past keeps you from so much. In my case, it kept me from forming any relationship with a man; my trust was gone. It kept me from trying new things; I was afraid to fail. Worst of all, it made me put up walls between me and the people I truly loved.

Putting up walls made me weak; exposing my fears and hurts to the light of day made me strong. The great wall I felt I had built around myself turned out to only be a sprinkle of tiny stones.

And anyone can walk over those.

 

Can We Just Agree to Disagree?

My mother hated talking about or hearing about politics. Her family and friends knew this, and if someone still talked politics, she would simply leave the room. She made her opinion clear and, for the most part, people respected it. Mom was anything but wishy-washy.

I have seen the damage done when people either don’t speak up or they choose to harp on about subjects that offend family and friends. Personally, I don’t want to offend anyone with my views on certain subjects; I tend to keep those things to myself.

If someone asks, I may share my views, or I may not. If I know ahead of time that someone I care about has different views than I do, I just steer clear of the issues. Friendship is more important.

I used to have a computer tech who did residential computer work installing new systems, etc. He said that he had lost ten friends because of his choice for the presidential election. They were so offended that they “unfriended” him on Facebook. His response to them was this: “If ten years of friendship is lost over my choice for president, then we weren’t good friends to begin with.”

I have endured many verbal assaults because I was too worried about hurting someone’s feelings and didn’t speak up. What I didn’t think about was how it affected me. I don’t like discussing controversial things with friends; we may think different ways about some things, but that shouldn’t affect a friendship.

So how do we let our friends and dear ones know that we don’t wish to engage in conversation that will divide us and not nourish our love and friendship? I’m beginning to think that Mom’s way was the right way all along; make your position clear. When we know that someone’s spiritual or political views differ vastly from our own, we can agree to disagree and let the subject go.

In the long run, what’s really more important?

 

 

 

Keep Away From the Things That Bother You

I have a short list of things that really bother me, and for the most part, I try to keep away from them. Here they are (in no particular order):

  • spiders
  • animal neglect
  • stuff on the ocean floor
  • apocalyptic theories

I KNOW that these things not only bother me, but if I allow them into my head, they will haunt me. Have you noticed how the Internet constantly posts these little teasers about everything you can imagine, plus stuff you don’t want to imagine? For example, I often see teasers for “Scariest Bugs in the World,” or “You Won’t Believe What Divers Found in the Great Barrier Reef!” Frankly, I don’t want to know, much less see it.

(What possible good did it do me to stupidly click the scary bug button? Now I know that the biggest and most poisonous spider (the funnel spider) lives (and thrives) in Australia. That’s way too close for me.)

As for neglected animals, the story line always starts with some tearjerker about an abandoned mother cat and her kittens, BUT it all turned out well in the end. I don’t want my vulnerable heart wrenched over it—but am glad that things turned out well.

Then there are all those apocalyptic theories of how the earth will end. Well, as for me, I hope that, if I am on earth when this happens, I am right on top of whatever blows it up; I don’t want to be a survivor. (Plus, what the heck can I do about what may happen?)

But the Queen Mother of all my phobias is the ‘stuff on the ocean floor’. That is, anything that should be above the water or on land (cars, washing machines, stoves, etc.), but most especially downed planes and shipwrecks. I had to watch “Titantic” with one hand over my eyes until my companion told me it was ok to look.

I’ve felt this way since I was old enough to think. I have had psychics tell me that I went down in my plane in one of the great wars. I can’t prove or disprove it, but I know that the sight of a plane or boat at the bottom of the ocean makes me break into a cold sweat, and I have trouble breathing.

Is this a past-life memory? Who knows for sure. But in this lifetime so far, I have learned to simply to stay away from these triggers of mine. That way, they don’t take root in my head and keep me up at night.

Remember that old joke about the man going to his doctor with shoulder pain? He says to the doctor, “Doc, it hurts when I do this (raising his right arm above his head).”

The doctor says, “So don’t do that.”

So, when it comes to my own ‘what bothers me most’ list, I do my best to just stay clear of them. In fact, if I am on the computer, I make sure that during my time on it that I pull up something beautiful or amazing or funny, like Hawaiian sunsets, sea shells, gems, or cute pictures of cats.

Works every time.

The Man With a Sign

The other day I was driving and saw a man holding up a cardboard sign. As it happened, the light turned red and I stopped right beside him. I had seen that the sign read “Out of work, trying my best, please help, God bless you.”

In that instant I felt I was standing there, holding a sign with the same message. What would it be like to be that desperate that your only option was to hold up a sign and hope for help? How would it feel to have tried the best you could to get work and not been able to get a job? How much of your pride would you have to swallow to beg for money, food, a chance?

I understand how many of us automatically think that someone like this may just be scamming people for money and preying on their sympathy. I realize that some who beg may just be going to use the money for drugs and/or alcohol. But dear God, what if they really are in such need that they are willing to put that need out in front of us all?

I can’t judge every person; I can barely manage myself. I can’t know what anyone on the street or in dire need feels like. I have been so lucky to have grown up with love and kindness, food and shelter, comfort and care, education, clothing, and so much more.

All I can be sure of is that whenever I feel the need to give, I do. I don’t give much; I don’t have that much to give. But based on that tug in my heart, I rolled down my window and spoke to the man. He turned to me, and I saw a face steeped in a mixture of sadness, shame and resignation. I passed him two dollars and told him, “things will get better for you.” He thanked me, smiled and said that things couldn’t get any worse. I told him that I would keep him in my prayers that things would improve soon for him.

It was only two dollars. It was only one man with a sign. The light changed to red just as I got to where he stood. Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in being at the right place at the right time. I don’t fool myself that two dollars will help much, but I do believe in acknowledging that man. In the past, I would have kept my eyes forward, and been embarrassed for him, but sweating for the light to change so that I could just go–and forget.

With so much negativity, callousness, selfishness, arrogance, anger and fear all around us, we must not lose hope. We must not forget that one person can affect change. We can’t forget that anything, good or bad, can happen to us at any time. Life often changes in an instant, and I can’t judge anyone because I am not them.

But I can do what my heart tells me to do. And maybe that’s enough for now.