Birthday Musings

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It’s my birthday and the last full moon of 2019. I couldn’t sleep this morning, so I went outside to say hello to the moon and fill up with her energies. A bit of birthday recharging. For me, the past few years have been full of change, raw emotion, clearing, collapsing, picking myself up, and moving forward. But in a dragging myself through sludge kind of moving forward. When I came back inside, I sat down to journal all the things running across my brain. To my surprise, I feel different.

When you’re younger, people will ask you if you feel different on your birthday. “So, how does it feel to be 10? Double digits!” “How does it feel to be 20? A new decade!” Typically, the answer is that you don’t feel very different. Today I feel very different.
I’m excited about the next year! I haven’t been genuinely excited about what was in front of me for a long time. I am ready to move forward into whatever is waiting for me. I’m not one hundred percent sure of what that is going to be. And I’m okay with that. Bring on the change!

I’m also excited about the things that will be staying the same. It’s time to stop wondering when and where I can move and make what I have now a home. To change the place that had become a prison into a warm, inviting, loving, peaceful space for me and all those that I love. Now is the time to clear out those things that no longer serve me – physically and emotionally. I reject the labels, attributes, and desires that others have given me. I’ll create my own, thank you very much.

My next year will be intentional. I will spend time getting to know me. Deciding what I want to keep and what I want to leave behind. Where I want to put my energy and where I will find rest and peace. What are things that honestly give me joy, and how can I do more of that? What do I want to learn? How do I want to grow?
I’ve spent the past few years running to nowhere. Frenetically trying to change the things around me. There are great things on the horizon. I can feel it. It’s time to let them come to me instead weaving around them like a punch-drunk boxer. It’s time to stand still. Meditate. Think. Plan. Pray.

God loves me, I should, too. Happy Birthday to me!

Giving Thanks

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Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States, which means that this week, many people have been ruminating on the things they are thankful for. I have my own list:

My family – every one of them, because we are always there for each other even when we may be fighting. They give me stability.

My friends – Over the past three years, I have learned who I can count on and for what. They make a difference in my life.

My job & coworkers – I really love my job, and I work with some of the best people I know. These are people that care about each other, the planet, and other people, too. They want to make a difference.

My life – It was not so long ago that my world came crashing down around me, and I wasn’t sure where that was going to lead. When things began to settle, I had some grand plans that didn’t work out, and I was forced to slow down and re-examine everything I knew about myself and what I wanted from life.

Like many others, my family gathered together for our Thanksgiving feast. I made the decision before I left my house to be more present. I left my phone in my purse in a back bedroom, and magic happened.

My sister wrote the blessing but couldn’t read it without crying, so my Dad did it for her. The rest of us were crying, too, since her list was similar to what is above. There is something about speaking aloud how important we are to each other and how we stand by each other no matter what. You could see how our children are in different stages of understanding the importance of that fact. The importance of family. The importance of knowing that you can turn to each one of the people around the table, and they will listen and even help if you ask. Ok, they will help if you don’t ask. This was followed by much laughter and stories and love as we ate.

I had conversations with my nephews and niece that filled my heart with so much love that I believe it will carry me to the end of the year. I had people tell me the difference that I made in their lives, some from when they were very young. For one person, it was knowing they had me on their side, and that made them feel they would be ok. Another person sees my decision to no longer color my hair as being secure in who I am and not giving a damn what other people think. A trait they want to emulate.

I make an effort to let the remarkable people who are in my life know the things I appreciate about them. This year it was my turn to hear that from some of them. And hear them I did.

Overwhelm (to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything)

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You know that feeling you get when you have a list of things to do that feels so long that you just don’t want to do anything? Well, then you are part of a large club! Nearly everyone I have spoken with lately seems to raise this issue. We all know that we need to give something up, stop doing one of these things, curate our activities, but which one goes? How do you decide?

Work is a necessity. It’s how the bills get paid. It gives us money for the fun things in life. Wait a minute… I cut the fun stuff out so I could breathe. At least that’s how it seems lately. I volunteer for my daughter’s marching band. My job is to run the concession stand at football games. I enjoy it. It makes for two hectic months for me. And people have suggested it’s too much. I should step down. Did I mention that this is something I enjoy doing?

I have one more year after this, and no one seems interested in taking over. Fewer people are volunteering. Maybe because it’s not fun for them. Perhaps it’s because of the OVERWHELM. Maybe when everyone in their family is at their activities, they steal those quiet moments for themselves. To breathe, to make another to-do list. To try and overcome that feeling of having too much to do and not enough time.
I have many people who care for me so much that they try and help by telling me what I should be giving up or how I could better accomplish what I need to get done, even how to prepare for some future event. Unfortunately, much of that comes across as their need to help because I can’t do it myself, which is also overwhelming. No one likes feeling as if they are not good enough.

I haven’t found a solution. I have given up many things that I enjoy but still have a few that I cling to for dear life. I sometimes trade sleep in order to do them.

On Being Yourself

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Have you ever sat down and just thought about who you really are? All the things that we’ve experienced and people we encounter influence the person we become. Sometimes we don’t even realize it until we go through a Big Thing that makes us examine ourselves and ask those questions.

Am I really … selfish, controlling, inattentive, stubborn, cruel, fill-in-the-blank?
Who do I want to be?
How do I want to be?
What’s important to me?

I’ve been through the first three a few times in the past two years. Some negative personality traits could sometimes be answered in the affirmative but not always. The second and third stumped me quite a bit which led me to the last one. After multiple iterations, I’ve come up with a short list of what is important to me.

  1. Being kind to myself and those around me
  2. Putting my heart into everything I choose to do
  3. Actively listening to people and the world around me
  4. Living a life that I would be proud for my children to emulate
  5. Enjoying each and every moment I have and the people that are in those moments with me
  6. Being thankful for all of it

This list has been stable for the last couple of months, so I think I’ll keep it. It helps me to answer those who and how questions. I am a kind, loving, creative, thankful and blessed individual.  I can be a bit quirky or a bit abrasive depending on your point of view. I most certainly can be hard-headed at times, but when given some space, I tend to come around to reason. I want to be available to the people who are important to me. I want to be fully present with them in the moments we have together. I want to live in the light in such a way that joy and love can be seen by others.

I want to be myself.

You really need to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, ‘I am proud of what I am and who I am.’ – Mariah Carey

Gratefulness

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For two years now, I have been keeping a gratitude journal. Every evening before I go to bed I write down at least one thing I am thankful for that day. Certain people show up over and over again, especially my children. At the end of last year I reread every entry and was so full of joy that I just sat on my bed and cried. It felt nice to cry tears of joy instead of sadness. It’s nice to see how rich my life is despite my situation. It felt so wonderful that I continued it this year.

This morning I woke up thinking about gratefulness. It is the day for it in America. It’s Thanksgiving. A day to gather with your family and friends and celebrate all that you have. Not the material things but the things that carry you through the good times and bad. Those relationships that get you through your darkness. The laughter and love that surround you when you are with special people or even if you just think of them when they are far away.

I have been blessed so much more than I ever could have imagined. My choir sings a song called Grateful by Hezekiah Walker and it’s stuck in my head today.

I am
Grateful for the things
That you have done
Yes, I’m grateful for the victories we’ve won
I could go on and on and on
About you works
Because I’m grateful, grateful, so grateful
Just to praise you Lord
Flowing from my heart
Are the issues of my heart
It’s gratefulness

I thank God for all I have in my life right at this moment. It’s a beautiful moment. It’s a joyful moment. It’s a time to be grateful.

“The root of joy is gratefulness.” David Steindl-Rast

Tragedy

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Tragedy. This is what is being said about the latest school shooting. Even writing “the latest” gives me pause. It suggests there will be another. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida want to be the last. As a parent, I’m afraid they won’t be.

When Columbine happened, the country was in shock. Lately, there has been much discussion about the country becoming numb to these horrific events. For me, this one became more personal.

I was sitting in a doctor’s office with my daughter, reading People magazine while we waited. There was an article on the shooting and in it, there are pictures of the victims with a couple of sentences about them. Yes, I shed tears as I read each one and then I read these words:

“The freshman color-guard member and talented artist…”

I couldn’t read further. I couldn’t breathe. Tears started running down my face. That description could be my daughter. Exactly my daughter. Except it wasn’t. It was a description of Gina Montalto, 14 years old. Her picture shows a smiling young woman, full of promise. It’s one thing to “know” it can happen anywhere. It’s another thing to feel it to the core of your being.

My daughter asked me a question and caught me crying. I showed her the article. She gave me that look that says “You’ll cry at anything.” I read her the description of Gina. Eyes wide, she understood.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I found myself crying for a young woman I never met and a family I don’t know. Because sleeping soundly in the next room is my freshman color-guard member and talented artist.

Support (to sustain [a person, the mind, spirits, courage, etc.] under trial or affliction)

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We all need support in some form or another especially when we are under trial or affliction. This past year has been a trial for me and I’ve been asked numerous times if I have a support system or network. I’ve started answering this question with a firm “No.” Why would I do that?

The words system and network do not accurately describe the support that I have. To me, these words suggest that each person supporting me is a node in a net. They connect to me and maybe one or two other people. Their sole purpose is to help me during this time. I believe this is why so many people, women, in particular, have a hard time asking for it.

The act of supporting another human being requires some time and energy. Two things that I find myself in short supply. Now that I need it, I know I am asking others to give me some of their precious time and energy. We all have a finite amount of both, limited as we are by 24 hours in a day and a need for sleep. It’s why people say things like “I don’t want to be a burden.” If long-term support is needed, it could become a drain on those very people that are there for me. They will need support themselves. This is why I use a different description.

I have a support basket. The love and care that has been given to me are woven by each person in my life. They support me but they also support each other. So my west coast best friend will listen to me and then call my mom who will call my brother who will reach out to my east coast best friend who will check in with my work friend who will check on me. They have woven their support around me and cradle me in their love. The nicest part for me is that I don’t worry about burning out a single person because they are leaning on each other.

I can curl into this basket of encouragement created by my parents, my siblings, and my friends to heal my wounded heart and mind. It helps me to release what I no longer serves me and focus my energies on creating a fulfilling future. A place of strength and happiness and a basket full of love.