Month: December 2016

There’s No Place Like A Home For The Holidays

That Irving Berlin song – Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep – from the 1954 movie classic White Christmas – is a great little tune I’ve heard every holiday season my whole life. I love it, and it only took a few decades for its meaning to sink in.

We’re a week away from Christmas and winter truly arrived last week with a polar vortex that brought record-breaking, dangerously cold temperatures to the Northeast and we felt it. Really felt it. So much so that I shed a tear for the poor animals who live outside when I could barely get from my car to my front door without legitimately feeling pain. Although we live in the city, our home is on 23-acres of conservation land where all kinds of creatures make their homes – deer, wild turkeys, birds, fox, coyotes, it’s quite amazing. I worry about them in the brutal cold.

winter-storm-noaa

On the first day of the nasty vortex, grey and dreary, winds whipping over 30 miles per hour, I stood in the window and watched a flock of wild turkeys pecking for food around the front lawn. They had to be cold. There I was in my house, all decorated for the holidays and cozy, and I was overcome with gratitude. I not only have heat, but a big wood-burning fireplace we enjoy using several nights a week. It wasn’t just the warmth, it was everything. I was bursting with  gratefulness.

Finally feeling the peace, Sir Husband and I are finding this a lovely place to be – on the other side of hardship – dreams seized and nurtured. Sure we still have stress, but normal stress, the manageable stuff that doesn’t seem so huge when you realize you are overjoyed to have heat. And other things, like food, clothes, jobs, and a roof over our heads with indoor plumbing.

I never realized how valuable those things truly were until I was standing in the hallway after a holiday carol service a couple of Sunday evenings ago while it was still fairly warm out (funny that 40 degrees is now considered warm.) I noticed two people right outside the window sitting down on what looked like a ground-level ledge of the building.

161211carolservices32We were in a big, old Catholic church built in the early 1900s. It’s stunning actually, and the floor to ceiling windows reveal the fairytale-esque city square that looks like it’s right out of a movie. It was hard not to be mesmerized by the magic of this extraordinary church let alone the amazing voices of the choir performing there that night. And there these two people were, sitting there huddled together talking. I thought it was two college students since we were in Harvard Square. But when I looked closely I could see they were layered in clothing partially-wrapped in sleeping bags, next to them was a full plastic garbage bag – of something. They were homeless and settling in for the night.

I stood there wondering who they were and why they were there, tucked into the nook of a big, brick church trying to stay warm. They looked unfazed actually, I could hear them chatting as if it were two people talking over a dinner table at home. I assumed they would be there all night and wondered if this was their “home.”

While we were inside completely moved by the choir’s angelic voices singing beautiful carols in Latin, German, and old English by candlelight …  Silent night…holy night…all is calm…all is bright … they were outside with only the clothes on their backs and a garbage bag by their sides.

Count your blessings instead of sheep. Because baby, it’s cold outside.

count-your-blessings

Happy holidays ~ See you next year.

 

 

(*winter scene photo courtesy of NOAA)

This Lost And Found Experience Revealed More Than I Thought

dentistNot many people clap and gasp with glee when they are walking by their dentist’s office. But I did. Why? Because I had completely forgotten who my dentist was after leaving town 14 years ago. For the last five months since moving home I have wracked my brain trying to remember and had all but given up. Then there it was. The office door with her name on a big sign, right next to the little neighborhood pub where Sir Husband and I stopped in for a glass of wine last Saturday afternoon.

Stress-induced amnesia will do that – leave gaps in your memory that feel like lost pages in a storybook. My kids say, “Don’t you remember  fill in the blank  Mom?” all the time. <sigh> No. I wish. Clinicians have called it a gift – my lack of memory. Maybe. Finding my dentist did feel like a little miracle. I’ve had a lot of miracle moments since moving home actually – sometimes the Universe does provide, especially when we aren’t looking.

I called the dentist as soon as they opened on Monday morning and lo and behold – they had a cancellation for the next day. It was meant to be. Most days there are so many reasons to be grateful, to see-hear-feel the good, but oddly we usually don’t. How does that happen? It’s there – gratitude – it’s everywhere. Even unexpectedly at the dentist.

life-is-rigged-in-our-favor

“So what happened?” my dentist said to me after giving me a hug and welcoming me back as I got comfortable in the reclining chair.

“Oh,..well…a lot…” I said. “It’s a long story.”

“No really, what happened?” She wheeled her rolling chair back a few inches, put down her arms and looked me square in the eye.

I was trapped. I had to tell her.

My past “story” the one that created the amnesia to begin with is not one I tell anymore. It’s over, and I have spent every, single day trying to heal. Repeating it just makes it come alive again – emotionally and physically – so why tell it? But I had to, she wouldn’t hear otherwise, and she seemed to genuinely care.

see-goodA few sentences in her face and eyes softened into compassion and concern. “I’m so sorry,” she said, wheeling herself back toward my head. “So sorry.”

Never in my life had I been so grateful to be lying there with my mouth open unable to say any more. And while she probed around my teeth, I felt something huge. Relief. At that moment – after I recounted the last horrific several years of my life – I realized I had healed. Okay yea, newly healed, freshly healed, like a delicate pink scar – but I recognized it. It was another miracle.

I had fought so hard for so long that I didn’t even realize that I was fighting my way through something. Truth Bomb guru Danielle LaPorte said this, “….When we’re hauling our psyche up to the next peak of clarity—isn’t healing always really f***ing messy? Do we not become unrecognizable while we are reassembling our identities?” It’s definitely a power moment when we realize chaos has morphed into comfort. “This is what healing looks like.”

That and my teeth apparently are“perfect.”  All in all, not a bad day at the dentist.

miracle-fairy

PS ~ All new blog coming early next year! Change is good! 

It’s Easy To Say Self-Care But Pretty Hard To Do

If there’s one thing to be said about my family, it’s that we are adept in a crisis. I hate to say it, but it’s our strong point. Maybe that’s good, although it comes from a long history of crisis control, which is not a good way to live.

griefWhen a good friend unexpectedly died recently, first the shock of her death overtook us all. My boys jumped right in to support of her son – their close friend – who lost his mom, and I did the same with her whole family. It was natural to us.

Then I realized a few days later, that I “took it on.” I mean seriously took it on – as if she were a member of my own family, or close enough that I needed to participate in a hands-on way. I felt “attached” to it, an automatic internal response to deeply feel the situation as if it were my own. Pretty overwhelming.

Sure I was emotional – it was very upsetting. Back in the day she was one of my closest friends. But we hadn’t seen each other in a while, although was in my heart and recently on my mind. And as sad as I was, she wasn’t my family. I could feel my own sadness without automatically feeling her family’s sadness too.

I thought about her son – who is the same age as my son – and how my son might feel if I had suddenly died. Everyone does that to some degree, we put ourselves in others shoes and our empathy naturally surfaces when we hear about tragedy. But I’m so used to having tragedy in my life, I only knew how to respond as if this was my own crisis. I actually didn’t have to take it on the way I did.

calm-lifeWhen I noticed this for the first time the day before her wake, the message was loud and clear. This is someone else’s tragedy and I could feel it differently. At arms length. I could think about this situation from an outside perspective, and even respond to it that way.

No to mention, I also had my own personal stuff going on that required my attention at the same time. I almost couldn’t deal with the timing of her funeral and my personal needs on the same couple of days. My sons too. They wanted to go, but they had their own priorities that could not be ignored. And they were ok with supporting their friend from afar, that was the best that they could do.

There’s a fine line between self-care and self-sacrifice. It’s a tricky balance that often feels difficult to achieve depending on our life circumstances, and conditioning. Not to mention it takes practice.

I recently read a “doctor’s orders” prescription for self-care:

Rest when you are tired. Do something fun every day. Breathe deeply. Absorb the Divine healing stream. Mother yourself well. And of course – enjoy life. (Because sometimes, as we are quickly reminded, life can be too short.)

The paradox is that while self-care may feel selfish, it’s the only way to care for or help others in their times of need ~ the last and most heartfelt message I will ever have from my friend.

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Embracing Flaws Isn’t A Character Flaw

be-beautifulI’m not a fashionista, but I try to look stylishly acceptable. No trends, no bare midsection, and my skinny jeans are stretchy despite their designer appearance. My shopping store favorites are Nordstrom Rack and The Loft, so when I picked up a long tie die cotton skirt at BJs, it took me by surprise. I went completely off the rack. But I really liked this muted purple skirt, not to mention it was on wicked sale.

I don’t wear it often, hippie isn’t my thing. But I like to throw it in the mix when the occasion allows. We choose what we wear based on all kinds of things – comfort, style, weather, fashion, destination, dress-up, dress-down, how it makes us feel. But one constant for me is no wrinkles or tears. That whole Flashdance ripped-tee era wasn’t for me.

img_2442For no reason the other day, I decided to take a break from my yoga pants and put on the tie die skirt. It’s comfortable and the purple hues remind me of fall. Even color or seasonal attire is another fashion motive. I was completely dressed when I noticed a tiny hole in my skirt. When I looked closer it wasn’t just one, it was two. Like sharp little cat claws may have made the pin-sized rips.

This is when being OCD really gets me. I felt this urgency to take off the skirt and quickly sew those two minuscule holes before I went on my way. That of course would involve taking it off, pulling out the sewing kit, trying to thread the needle, stitching the small jagged holes, on and on. I didn’t have the energy, or frankly the time. So I took a deep breath and said to myself, learn to live with the flaws.

never-perfectAs if this was some profound realization, I was proud of myself for stepping back and consciously letting it go. Learn to live with the flaws. Is that even possible for a perfectionist? I had control over fixing it in that moment and didn’t. Yikes – imperfection.

This may seem ridiculous, but learning to live with the flaws is a big deal to me because it comes at a time when I’m feeling the flaws in a lot of areas. My perimenopausal body feels the flump. My gray roots grow fast. My worn and faded condo walls are in desperate need of paint. I’ve had some difficulty with some writing assignments for a potentially permanent job. I’m in desperate need of self-care when obligations are calling first. I’m feeling a little flawed in how to think about it all.

But after overcoming that tiny torn skirt situation and wearing it with the rips, I felt this sense of achievement and even a little bit free. Does this mean I might be able to ease up on stressing the gray roots? Or the chipped nail polish? Will I give up on picking up carpet dirt specs, or wiping fingerprints off the bathroom mirror? I may however draw the line at not making the bed. For now.

Whatever really, bring on the flaws and imperfection, I’m just going to be me.

self-discovery

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