Day 365

Whew.

What a bittersweetness I am feeling. In fact, writing my very last blog has overshadowed and superseded the reality of turning 61. I truly nearly forgot.

When I am close to finishing a book that I have really enjoyed, I experience a homesick-thirsty feeling. If I have about 10 pages left, I dole them out carefully. I save those last few pages to read until I can sit quietly, not feel rushed, and not be interrupted. I want to cherish and be entrenched in the ending. Occasionally when I finish a book, I actually miss the characters for a period of time.

My heart is heavy as I write this blog. It feels similar to finishing a great book. 

A few of you have been with me from the beginning. You have been incredibly faithful. My gratitude is fathomless. I am deeply humbled by your kindness. 

I will miss speaking to you every day.

Though I am ready for a bit of a respite, this is not the end. My plan is to begin the tedious task of going back and reading through the nearly 138,000 words I have written and begin an editing process. A thought from the beginning was to compile this into a book. I will begin that journey. 

My website will remain the same and I will give periodic updates, so stay tuned. I have had many thoughts about if and how to continue. I may write a “Weekly Wednesday” blog to keep my connection.

To stay tethered to your hearts. 

What day is it?” asked Pooh.

It’s today,” squealed Piglet.

My favorite day,” said Pooh.

Losses and Gains

Today I feel like I am sending my kid off to college. I’m happy for them to have the experience and know it is part of their growth (as well as mine), but also feel a bit of a panic as I see that it is becoming real. 

Wrapping up this year of blogging feels pretty darn real and my emotions are mixed, for sure.

I want to write today of the losses and gains I have experienced over the last 364 days. As in every journey we begin, there are both. It is inevitable.

American politician, sociologist, and diplomat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stated “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” And friends, losses and gains are facts.

What I lost:

Sleep.

Relationship. I missed many a night sitting in bed eating popcorn and watching Black List or St. Elsewhere or Sherlock with my husband. Thank you for your patience and support, dear Mike. I’m coming back so get the popcorn popping. 

Socialization. In a previous blog I have mentioned my annual cousins retreat. Last fall at our gathering, I had to slip away for a couple of hours to write my blog. I probably missed some very meaningful conversations, or at least some great laughs. Whatever travel has happened during this year has involved me disappearing for a period of time to write.

Workout routine. Well, something’s gotta go. There is only so much time in a day. Along with sleep deprivation, my previous steadfast workout routine suffered as well.

A little pride. In the beginning of a project, no matter what it is, you have a Pollyannish bent. I assumed that thousands would flock to my site and Kathie Lee and Hoda would be sending me airline tickets to appear on their show in New York. Though that has not happened, I’m still believing it may. 

What I gained:

Perspective. A true definition of perspective is this: The art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point. In simple terms, the way we regard something; our viewpoint. I like the long version of the definition. “…the right impression of height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other…” Everything that comes into our lives has its own weightiness. It is in measuring and balancing those things that make or break us. 

Knowledge. I have done a lot of research and reading, which has been fun. Knowledge also includes new words. I hope you have learned a few new ones, too.

The “every day remarkable”, meaning I began to see, hear and observe every day things as blog posts. It opened my eyes to the extraordinary ordinary.

New conversations. When I met new people and they asked about my life, I told them about the blog. When I ran into old friends and they asked what I have been up to, I told them about the blog.

Discipline. That one is a given. If anyone ever asks me how I was able to keep up, my answer will be exactly the way we should approach life, one day at a time. 

More photographed time with Mama. I was mindful every time I was with her that I may write about her in my blog that day. Very often I would snap photos of us together. I didn’t use all of them, but I have them. And they will always be a treasure to me.

A larger heart (not literally) from the love and kindness and support of dear ones. You know who you are.

Eleven pounds. Yep, sadly that is true. It is quite possibly a combination of reasons; decreased sleep, a stressful year with Mama, the loss of consistent exercise, as noted in the “losses”, and perhaps too many late night chocolate milks and kettle chips at my desk. 

An important aspect of healthy living is embracing the good with the bad, the sickness and health, the gains and the losses. 

I embrace every moment and every day of the journey, and I am grateful. 

Senioritis

As my one year anniversary date draws nearer, I find myself experiencing a touch of senioritis. Senioritis is a colloquial term used in the United States and Canada to describe the decreased motivation for studying by students who are nearing the end of their high school or college years. 

To some degree, that does not accurately define what I am feeling because I am 100% motivated to finish this project. I think where the term seniorities fits for me is in the sense of excitement about honoring my commitment, combined with a tinge of sadness. 

Seniors experiencing this malady want to skip school, blow off assignments, hang with friends, and party hearty. I believe there is another part of senioritis that is rarely discussed. A very real component of the ailment is uncertainty and unfamiliarity. There is a degree of fear when a senior realizes what they have known; their daily schedule, their safety net, even the seemingly-confining boundaries of home will soon be changing. 

I think that is where I am right now. I am ready to finish strong but a significant part of my day, my life, will change after August 21. Though we often balk at routines, we need them. We like them. We have an intimacy with them as our tethers to comfort and security. 

However, as in all things, time heals, smoothes, prepares, anticipates, presents, and acts. The wane is beautifully answered by the wax.

Occasionally Never

I read a little saying today. Part of it I knew—Never reply when you are angry. We all know this is true. It is wise to never reply in an angry state, whether that be an email or a phone call or even a sharp little spat with your spouse, which can be a stellar tour de force.

The other two sentences in the saying, I am less familiar with. One is this; Never make a promise when you are happy.

That is a tricky one. My first thought is why not? Being happy is a good thing, right? On the other hand, after I mulled over these sayings, I get it.   

Occasionally we have those moments of delirious bliss when we believe that we are walking on sunshine and, as my friend once said, unicorns are pooping out rainbows. In those rare times we may falsely believe this is real life. And in that delirium may make a “cross-my-heart, hope-to-die” pledge to someone.

By the next morning we may be back in the tunnel wondering if that glow at the end is a way out or a train heading toward us. We will most likely at least be back to normalcy. Those famous last words may be haunting us by then and all we can think is “What have I done?”

The other is Never make a decision when you are sad. Basically the same concept, reversed. When we are in a dark place, frantically reaching for a rope to hold onto, we will do anything to find light. Desperation and hopelessness are definitely not the mindset for making sound decisions.

If complete honesty were a reality, every one of us would admit that we have been in all three of those places – angry, (jubilantly) happy, and so very sad. These are delicate places that must be held lightly as if cradling a tiny bird in our hands.

However, there is one thing about this little saying with which I take issue. We have also been taught that the word never is to be used only in the literal sense. In fact, we have all muttered the phrase “Never say never.”

So perhaps there is indeed a time to reply when angry, pledge a promise when we are happy, and make a decision when we are sad.

On that note, always be discerning. This time, that word truly fits.

Bay at the Moon

This evening we were finishing up the daily crossword and came across a clue none of us knew. The clue was “Serenade the moon”. By process of elimination the word had to be “bay”. We googled it to check the meaning. The full explanation of this is the phrase “Bay at the moon”. If you bay at the moon (or howl at the moon), you waste your time and energy trying to do something which is impossible or trying to get something which you cannot have. 

We all like the phrase and decided that we are going to begin to integrate it into our everyday conversations. Though, truly, to bay at the moon has a rather negative and sarcastic tone. It feels that to work it into conversation, would mean someone wants something that is most likely not going to happen, or desires something that probably cannot be attained.

Well, that certainly is a downer, which is unfortunate because the mix of words in the phrase is so great. I love the word ‘bay’ and I, of course, love anything to do with the moon or the word moon. For example, the moonlit bay or moonlight bay. That reminds me of the old Doris Day song: 

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay 

We could hear the voices ringing

They seemed to say

“You have stolen her heart

Now don’t go ‘way”

As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay

But this time, the combination of the words bay and moon mean someone is hurting, someone is disappointed.

In my 60 years of living, I have sure been there. Hurt, disappointed, hopeful and then see those hopes dashed. 

But I am not alone. Whether we are 90 or 10 and every age between, we are going to face those tough days. 

If you think that is not true, well…you may as well bay at the moon. 

Healthy Thursday

On this Healthy Thursday post, I want to emphasize the huge importance of mental and emotional well-being. I love the acrostic pictured above.

Those three small words at the top are the most important part of this message – Before you speak, THINK.

How quick we are to speak. The book of James in the Bible states this “Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.”               

We are all guilty of this – hearing someone talk but not really listening. We are busy thinking of what we will say next; how we can sound smarter or more experienced or wiser. Sometimes we just need to listen.

How amazing and beneficial would it be if we truly aspired to this methodology? It would change relationships, families, communities and the world. 

The next time you are ready to have a big conversation with a friend or co-worker or family member, ask yourself these five questions:

1. Is it true?

2. Is it helpful?

3. Is it inspiring?

4. Is it necessary?

5. Is it kind?

When you THINK before you speak, you may find you have very little to say until new habits are formed.

True, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind words may be a new language to learn.  

You will discover that this new way to converse is not only incredibly empowering to others, but paradoxically, when we lift others up, we feel better and we ARE better.

This stuff is contagious and it is most certainly something we want to catch.

Serious Sunday

I trust no one who claims to have no fears. Caught off guard and unguarded in a late night conversation, even the most self-assured, staunchest stalwart confesses to anxiety. The equalizing point is the uncertainty and fear of the unknown.

This is when we claim and cling to what can be known. There is a God who loves us. There is a power in this truth that lifts and guides us. We usually shelve and store away Jesus’ words to take no thought for tomorrow because God lives there and will care for us.

The truly brave are those who understand that fear of the unknown is 100% normal and that we are indeed vulnerable to danger. However, those courageous ones also know that we can sleep at night and have a sense of peace when we let God be God.

Beautiful things happen when we live in the oxymoronic freedom of vulnerability.

I am a 60 year-old woman (allegedly). I am supposed to be boisterous and fearless and “world-wise”. But it seems that as I age I become more aware of my lack of knowledge in certain areas, but also my desire to learn. I want my fear to be the notion that I am in full control and have arrived.

The state of being in the freedom of vulnerability is a great state in which to be. Ohio is not too bad, either

Healthy Thursday

I read one of those “news by the numbers” articles. The one that caught my eye was 700.

The number 700 – – the number of new neural connections that are formed every second in the first few years of a baby’s life.

These connections are made when we speak, smile, hug and sing to our babies.

That is so important that it bears repeating.

SEVEN HUNDRED new neural connections EVERY SECOND when we speak, smile, hug and sing to our babies.

I know I’m getting old because that is often when we take notice of things that concern us.

About a month ago, I was with mama in the radiology department of a local hospital. She was getting a shoulder x-ray. We sat in the waiting area with many others. I noticed a young mother feeding her baby a bottle of milk. She had precariously propped up the bottle so that with her free hand, she could hold her phone and scroll through it. In my mind, I said “Oh, honey.”

That young mother was missing golden moments with her babe. That precious little one was gazing up at her mama’s face but instead of a smile and a song and a gentle stroke of the cheek, what babe saw was her mother’s face turned away, staring at her phone. It truly saddened me.

I had a fleeting thought to (very gently and kindly) go this young mother and tell her how important these golden moments are. I wanted to tell her that in a blink of an eye, this little one will be in third grade and then 16 and then gone to college and out from under her watchful eye.

I feared it would not be taken well. I feared that she would tell me to mind my own business. I remained silent.

But this is my blog and I can say whatever I want to say. The wise King Solomon stated that there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. This is a time to speak.

I implore young mothers, grandmothers, parents in general, aunts and uncles and friends to peer into the faces of these dear gifts of life. Speak, smile, hug and sing. These moments are yours. They are priceless. An opportunity lost is forever gone.

There is nothing, NOTHING more important at those moments.

The conscious choice must be made.

Blitheness

You may be thinking…”What is blitheness?”

Blitheness is the state of being blithe. Did that clear things up?

The word blithe means joyous, merry, or happy in disposition; glad, cheerful: a blithe spirit.

We all know that person who boasts of holding positions that are always and only fulfilling. To which we say (at least to ourselves) “Seriously?”

Even exciting assignments and positions involve drudgeries. Let’s see…laundry, filling out forms, following steps, getting ready to go out for the day. Duties can be irritating.

But, why are some people thrown off by irritations while others remain lighthearted about them?

That question can most likely apply to every one of us. A specific duty may on one day be met with lightness and ease while the same duty on a different day may irritate. To a degree, that is simple human nature.

According to the Shaker lifestyle and mantra, in God’s realm, it is not the number of our petty duties or the lengths of our to-do lists that make life difficult. The answer appears to be the spirt in which we address our day’s details.

That is not to say that we always “grin and bear it” (that saying seemed befitting here – wink, wink). The adage of grinding our teeth and pushing through will not change our spirits. Those attitudes often fail us.

The hope is to be able to laugh in defiance at the often self-imposed daunting lists and to keep a perspective that allows blitheness to develop. The word develop, of course, insinuates practice.

Chores and duties will always be with us. That fact is an example of “accepting the things that cannot be changed.”

However, a blithe spirit; a serenity, will bring an ease and a lightness to the tasks.

Cheerfulness, like gloomy pessimism, is contagious. Blitheness is one germ I won’t mind catching.

 

Brain Awareness Week

Yesterday ended national Brain Awareness Week. I want to jump in on this important subject while it is still fresh.

I read a book about eight years ago entitled My Stroke of Insight. It is a non-fiction book by American author Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained, published neuroanatomist who experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996. She was 37 years old.

On the morning of this rare form of stroke, she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. It took eight years for Dr. Taylor to completely recover.

“In a period of four hours I watched my brain deteriorate. I watched as my brain functions – motor, speech, self-awareness shut down one by one.”

Dr. Taylor talks about the (temporary) euphoria she experienced. Our left hemisphere is all about the past and the future. It thinks in language. She was slowly being disconnected from the left brain talk that connects us to the external world. Her left brain chatter went silent. That nagging left brain dialogue that is running constantly; second guessing things, beating ourselves up for things, worrying about the future…all of that was gone.

Periodically during that four-hour time period, the left brain jolted her to alertness enough to send her the message to call for help. Then the euphoria would return again. Fascinating.

It is a truly amazing read. I highly recommend it.

A powerful concept that Dr. Taylor provides is that we are feeling creatures who think, not thinking creatures who feel, yet this is what our society believes and values. In turn, this is the heart of many of our issues.

Although our bodies work unconsciously, we can consciously choose to turn on our higher mind and think past fear and anger.

According to Dr. Taylor, your anger should only last for 90 seconds. Here is the science:

To feel an emotion we need to think a thought which then stimulates a message to our brain, which in turn creates a physiological response in our bodies. The time from thought to triggering the brain to a physical response to releasing the response is less than 90 seconds.

If you have anger for more than a minute and a half it is because you are replaying the story in your mind. Every time you replay the story you re-trigger the circuit and the response. Every time you choose to think painful thoughts, you create a physical response in your body. By replaying the story, you not only keep your mind in a negative space, but your body experiences the pain created by the anger again and again (and again and again).

Using mindfulness to calm our minds and knowing that emotions wash over us in 90 seconds, we can stop, breathe, and then choose to think differently, ensuring we don’t make poor, muddled choices or create a lengthy period, or even a lifetime of unhappiness.

Dr. Taylor says that we have the power to choose moment by moment who and what we want to be in the world.

Oh my goodness. Ninety seconds. I have certainly wasted time over ‘valid’ negative emotions. And I have become quite adept at it over a 60 year period.

Let the backpedaling begin.