Thursday, July 5, 2018

God’s opinion of me makes man’s opinion of me irrelevant. - Tim Storey

At the end of her series, Super Soul Sunday, Oprah Winfrey always asks her guest, “What is the lesson that has taken you the longest to learn?”  

I  never had to think more than about 2 seconds about this one.  

To love myself. 

I recognize life is just a giant classroom and lessons are learned over the space of a lifetime, and naturally we, (most of us) become a bit wiser as we enter our golden years.  But this one eluded me for so long.  It has to be the one that has taken me the longest to learn - 60 years.  However, this is also the one that has changed EVERYTHING.  I am most grateful  I have finally learned how to love me in these elder years, because I need heaps of loving now.  My bones ache, my self-esteem can be mercurial, I move a little slower, and I don’t exactly look like I did at 25, or even 50. And, I’ve noticed another later in life phenomenon that has the potential to send me into an "I am useless, tailspin".  I call it the invisibility factor.  Younger people don’t really see or hear you anymore. Even loved ones at times!  I watch passively,as they stare through me and talk right over me.  Ms. Cellophane.  Why is it we elders slip under Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak never to be heard from again?   It doesn’t demolish my self-esteem anymore like it did before I fell in love with me . For the most part, I am a little buddha now with a Mona Lisa smile. There are few things that will test self-love in this life school like the aging process.  But, I think I am doing well on the finals and I don’t fret (for long) about much.  I recognize, I’ve  been on the Dean’s  Loved List all along.  And, really, you don’t have to be heard to be truly seen. 

I do  think there is a blessed movement going on out there; a campaign and call to action - love yourself!   My talented teenage niece read her awesome creation on just this topic at a national event in California this past year; an incredible poem beseeching her young friends to do just that. I was in awe of her wise insight into an issue that has plagued all of us at some point in our lives to pose this question:

 “Why am I not enough?”  

 Maybe we’re finally realizing that loving ourselves is probably one of the greatest self-help journey’s we will ever make and when we arrive, the world will begin to change.  I am not talking about a narcissistic , shallow, self-absorbed kind of love; singing the little Johnny one note - me, me, me.  Don’t misunderstand me, I think we do need to nurture and accept our physical bodies and appearances, but I am looking at nurturing the kind of love story that says, I am worthy of more and then, my actions and beliefs back that up. My new credo is:  I don’t tolerate neglect, abuse, judgments, or attacks (real or imagined) on this Creation (me).  Any and all of my personality traits, struggles, mistakes, and defects are mine to own, change, accept, in a spirit of love and kindness. No one else is in charge of these things.  I am worthy of this simply because of who made me and where I come from. The opinions of others is irrelevant compared to God’s opinion of me.  And, God thinks I am unconditionally fine.  I have come to know, often, unkindness from others is a result of their own inability to love themselves.  I can acknowledge that and feel empathy for them from afar.  I don't have to accept it into my life.   

This is what I have learned and here are some of the ways I show love to myself these days:

Forgive.   Loving people forgive... themselves too.
You can’t ever really forgive anyone until you recognize we ALL make mistakes.  They are life lessons and how we grow and I have grown tall (well, metaphorically at least) and strong. 

Protect your beautiful spirit.  Loving people are not doormats.  Move away from people and environments that try to diminish, beat you down, or drag you into their personal mess.  Loving people don’t do that to others.  You would not tolerate it if it was happening to someone else you loved, like say, hmmmm....your grandchild. I pretend sometimes and become my own unconditionally loving, Mimi.   Don’t put up with it from your mouthy inner critic either. Be nice and be around other nice humans. Make America Nice Again!   

Appreciate the body you’ve been given.  Loving people take care of themselves.  They go to the doctor when they need to, sleep, eat healthy nurturing foods and move in ways that make their body feel good- whether its running, swimming, weightlifting, yoga, or dancing in the moonlight on the beach.  Focus on the amazing creation your body is and marvel at its ability to breathe life into itself and digest food to nurture cells. Isn’t that much more important then playing the numbers game with the scale or the pant sizes in the closet?  Appreciate your brain's ability to think and reason as well as the eyes that enjoy the view. Be more mindful of the mechanics rather than the mirror.   Be grateful, even for the aging process.  Some never had the privilege of heralding in the wrinkles or the little grey ones.   Thank yours for a job well-done at end of every day.  It is clearly God's finest work of Art. Marvel at it.

Don’t Compare: No one is better than you.   Loving people know this.  You are just as special as anyone else on the planet.  God doesn’t have a favorites list based on gender, skin-tone, country of origin, behavior or talent. Judgment, pointing in either direction, is a destroyer of the creativity planted in all of us at birth.   Each of us has our unique gifts, no greater or less than anyone else’s.  Its up to us to discover and nurture them into fruition. It's like the prize in the box of Cracker Jacks. Sometimes we have to work a little longer to pull it out, but its always there. 

Drop the labels and distinctions:   Loving people don’t love themselves BECAUSE they have a PhD, MD, Esq. or any other title; or, have a book on the NY Times bestseller list, or even because they have achieved world wide celebrity.  They love themselves while they are on the path to becoming.  And, even if they don’t reach their goals, they love themselves for having the tenacity and courage to rise and fall, and pursue their goals and dreams while living in a space of delight, doing what they know they love and are meant to do.  They fill their soul, not their ego or pockets.  

On another Super Soul Sunday just the other day,  I heard a world renowned minister say, “Love is sacrificial, redemptive, and unconditional.”  It is indeed.  I would add-  and its life changing when we learn to grant all of these gifts to ourselves too. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A tribute to Roselyn, my Encourager and Chief - You will be missed.

Curious we spend more time  congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.  - Neil deGrasse Tyson

My mother-in-law passed away last week.  Although most of us who loved her so were incredibly sad, we also rejoiced that she no longer had to tolerate dialysis 3 times a week (for the past 8 years) as we watched her world become smaller and smaller the last year or so with her inability to participate in family events, meals out, parties, and engaging with others outside the square footage of her house. I still struggle to seek the positives in times of loss, but, I am immensely grateful that she was able to remain in her home until the last few days of her life, thanks to a loving daughter who became a mother to her mother, primary caretaker, transporter, meal-maker, and companion. In the back of the minds of most of us aging boomers, we pray to be able to remain in familiar, comfortable surroundings with the kind of support she had.  It's not always (rarely) possible, I know, but, if anyone deserved to have whatever she wanted, it was Roselyn Mahoney. A life full of so many joys as well as deepest sorrow, her faith was steadfast - all the time.  At her vigil service the other night, the deacon ended it by saying, "If Roselyn wasn't in heaven, there is no hope for the rest of us." Her life was a gift to many, an unforgettable person who touched others in different ways.  Listening to a collection of stories from her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, cousins, and friends, she represented various roles to all of them and left her unique impression;  A nurturing mother, a surrogate mother, a mentor, a wise counselor, a loyal, trusted friend, and a partner in crime. The word that I heard scattered across the conversations at calling hours and in tributes, was TEACHER. She was a 2nd grade teacher at a Catholic school for many years and former students remembered her as making a difference in their lives, but even into retirement, teaching was one of the things she did best.  She taught her great-grandchildren piano and love of music, how to bake, to love reading, and most especially, even the littlest ones,  card games.  Every opportunity she got to spend with them, were teaching moments.  She encouraged their curiosity and modeled learning as a lifelong endeavor because she knew that it would bring meaning and joy to their lives. She consumed the Wall Street Journal and Cleveland Plain Dealer and cut little articles out to share with her family.  An article about conditioning for dance for Miss Sydney, a craft idea for Cameron, and College articles for Alex.  And, for me, she consistently fed me articles about starting your own business, writing for a living, and putting your gifts into practice.  It was through this gentle guidance (without being pushy) that I came to realize, she was not just a teacher, but an ENCOURAGER.  

She sent notes to EVERYONE for EVERYTHING; thanking them, grieving with them, congratulating them, uplifting, and "just because".  Those notes, I'm sure have become treasured gold for many.  I have a stack of them myself.  She seemed to have an uncanny sense for when you needed it most. My most treasured note was the first anniversary of my beloved husband, her precious son's, death.  She slipped over to my house with flowers and a white envelope staying just long enough for a long hug and to wipe a few tears.  She requested I wait until she left to open my envelope.  Inside was a four page letter letting me know I was Mark's gift to the Mahoney family and I would always be one of them. And, she really loved me. She also gently reminded me that our focus and joy could be found in the anticipated arrival of a new baby- new life coming soon.  My first grandchild, her first great.  The ENCOURAGER, beckoning me to move forward into life again in anticipation, sharing that joy with my extended family. 

In the 24 hours since her funeral service, I'm profoundly feeling that all too familiar, gaping wound of loss.  I've learned the best salve to start healing a broken heart is to focus on the gifts. She gave me many. Giving birth to the man who became my soul mate and love of my life is a good place to start. And, an example of unconditional love as I struggled early on with the doctrine of a church that I wasn't certain I wanted to join. She neither pushed, judged, or condemned.  She just exemplified Jesus. I sat back and watched for awhile and began to see Him in both her, and my father-in-law, play out in real time.  Attraction rather than promotion. I wanted what they had, and later joined. I received an ENCOURAGER note then too. That choice became an important bond in my marriage as well as a deep comfort later, after his death. She loved my daughter dearly and was delighted to finally have a girl grand-daughter along with all those beloved grandsons.  When she became a great-grandma to my three girls, I felt blessed on their behalf.  She has been an integral part of their growing up years, actively interested and participating in their activities and lives. So many gifts from one loving woman.  

The last decade or so especially, as I've struggled and  floundered in my own attempts to find where I fit now; alone, a widow searching for answers to my big questions:  How do I bury the old dreams and plans, the way I saw my later years, not become bitter, and find a new purpose and vision?  What IS my purpose?  She became the ENCOURAGER once again. I loved spontaneously stopping in, visiting with her and listening to her life. With every story she shared with me of her own life, her young dreams and later, unbearable heartbreaks, I learned two things. One, we are here on this planet to reassure one another that we are not alone.  Second, life isn't stagnant, its ever-changing and we are called to encourage and uplift others in that process.  And, that, is a holy calling.  

I will miss my ENCOURAGER for so many selfish reasons. She understands, I am only human and she is now a saint, and of course looking down on me with even greater patience and tenderness.  When I find myself getting all pity-partied up, I try to step outside out of my own orbit, and close my eyes.  I can see her sitting with her baby girl, Elizabeth in her arms, her son, Mark at her knee, husband Tom, with his hand on her shoulder, and her mom, dad and beloved brothers rushing forward to greet her exclaiming, "She's here!"  It's hard to not just smile at that picture and take the gifts she so freely gave me and pay it forward.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Live your Obituary

Yesterday I set the timer on my phone to indulge in 15 minutes of Facebook. This practice keeps my addiction to mindless procrastination to a minimum.  I was reminded of something I wrote for a local newspaper a few years ago.  I think those "on this day" memories are the best thing about Facebook. What a great retrospection of my blessings, progress, or in some cases, I confess, regression.  However, it's all good.  It's like a home video of my life, mostly highlights, but occasionally a little venting, opinions, and whining just to ensure authenticity.   As I've gotten older I have given some thought to dying, which doesn't scare me near as much as living does some days.  Recently, I've put in place a few preparations and practices; I gave my daughter a copy of my last wishes, and my prayer every morning is to heal any relationship or wound that is mine to heal so I can enter heaven with a clean conscience. Somehow I thought I had to be clear about the "mine to heal" part, as if God didn't know I am the consummate people pleaser, often making amends just to be liked, or because I have an aversion to discord. I am a bit of a believer in reincarnation and I don't want to have to come back and experience all the judgments, unkindness, and rejection I have doled out to others. In my fantasies, I imagine Donald Trump coming back as a black, Muslim, immigrant woman in a poor family in Alabama. Hey, I just said earlier, I am in conversations with God on this judgement defect.   Besides, the question of past and future lives is a topic for another day.  I know it's a controversial one for many Christians. But, my crazy brain keeps telling me its worth exploring, if nothing else to help me be accountable for my actions while I am living.  I mean, when Jesus came back after the Resurrection and before the Ascension, his own disciples did not recognize him. Same Divine soul, different body. Enough. Here's my article from four years ago.

My Obituary 
by Becky Mahoney

I think someone jostled my endocrine gland during my recent surgery sending a surge of crazed hormones to event plan a really fine pity party- just for me!  I’ve been to those kind of parties before and do not enjoy the hangover. So, I pulled out my own mood altering, drug-free, drugs; inspirational websites, books, plenty of prayer, a little meditation, and some of my old journals and writings. Those tools usually set my gratitude into motion again.

I stumbled on something I wrote in 2006.  Then, it didn’t seem to be such a big deal, rather a time gobbling exercise.  It was a homework project assigned by my therapist. One thing you should know about me, I don’t think there is anything honorable about suffering, and martyrdom is not a stylish label I’m interested in wearing.  In simpler terms, I am not adverse to availing myself of some professional guidance and clarity when the road ahead gets foggy.  I consider it an option to reach out to someone who might help me turn off the fog machine. Life is too precious.  This time though, I recall being a little miffed. I was paying the professional to fix my life.  He expected me to do homework?  Furthermore, it was just plain creepy.  He told me to write my own obituary.  I had no idea what a timeless gift this wonderful mentor gave me.  

I waited until the night before to complete my assignment.   Two typewritten pages, front and back. Wow, I thought, I better be designating big bucks in my Last Will and Testament to publish this one; in the New York Times of course.  Because, if you read my imaginary obituary, my life will be notable.  Maybe not notable as in, Mother Theresa, or Nelson Mandela, but certainly it was in the plan to make greater contributions than Kim Kardashian or a Real Housewife. 

The first sentence read, “Rebecca Sue Puhr, Klein, Heidtke, Marino, Mahoney, passed on to her real home for regrouping before her next life.”  I know what you’re thinking. Cut me some slack.  In spite of all those names, I’ve been married only twice and the second one died.  It’s the history behind all those names that have turned my obituary into a four page commentary on a life well-lived.  It went on to read,  “She was 82 years old, still bleached her hair blonde and wore bright, shiny lipstick, just so she could leave lip prints on her loved ones and totally annoy her son-in-law.  At her visitation, it is reported that people waited in line for hours just to catch a glimpse of the veiny, yet still shapely leg, dangling over the side of the casket; the tiny foot sporting a hot pink stiletto.   Rebecca entered the world an old soul, both eyes wide, inquisitively searching for the meaning of life from her first breath.  A tiny free spirit, willing to try anything once, she was the first in her kindergarten class to eat escargot and climb to the top of the monkey bars.  A true adventurer, the price of great exploit was never too high for her, and she willingly accepted any discipline, rightfully  doled out by authority figures as a result of her risk taking.  It was all about curiosity and exploration. As a young girl, she was grounded for a good part of her teenage years.  She joked, “The dog got out more than I did.”  And, so it continued, my obituary-  painting a picture, tracing a path, charting a future. 

The questions posed by my therapist to evoke thought, were this simple.  What do you want your life to look like when you get to the end?  What do you want others to remember about you?  What will you leave behind?   This obituary has been a guiding force in my life ever since.  It’s a poignant reminder of where I came from, what has formed me, what I can change, and what I want my legacy to be. I can choose.   Who knows what the next 20+ years will  bring?  Maybe I’ll add another last name. Maybe I’ll make the NY Times Bestseller list.  Or, maybe I will just be remembered as an adventurous spirit, who loved people and life and did her best. 

You know, that Rebecca Sue Puhr, Klein, Heidtke, Marino, Mahoney lady, well, she is quite a character and I’m really glad I got to know her.  Now back to the business of doing my best to become her.  By the way, the last line in my obituary reads, Surrounded by family and friends at the moment of her passing, its reported they heard a soft whisper, “WooHoo, this is awesome!  See ya, I don’t think I’m coming back for quite some time!”

Write your own obituary- create your own life. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.- ”
Thich Nhat Hanh



I’ve just started a decades old project at the suggestion of my daughter.  Scrapbooking my pictures of my magical two months in Italy and France from TEN years ago.  That little Sneaky Pete daughter of mine I’m sure had an ulterior motive. Either: a) Just the practice of designing and laying out a page and doing something creative would show that elusive Muse I miss her and want her to come home. Or,  b) Help pass the time while I sort out how/if I want to continue with this forced retirement. Or, c) Remind me to focus on how immensely blessed my life has been and get cracking on living and breathing the kind of gratitude I had a decade ago.  

No matter the reason, I am now having a ball enjoying long walks down memory lane and feeling the
emotion that accompanied my trip of lifetime.  I can close my eyes and remember how awed I was to stand before Monet’s Water Lilies Collection and discover they weren’t 16x20 size like the knock-off I have at home, rather, massively long landscape canvases stretched across a pure white Museum wall.  I recall the exhilaration of parasailing in Nice, France and getting dunked into the French Rivera. And, standing in Cathedrals at the tombs of the great Masters of Religion, Architecture, Art, and Science sparking my imagination and offering up their stories. My most profound experience on the trip, was the memory of walking
around the tomb of St. Francis, my hand outstretched towards the circular  stone and iron monument.  As I moved around the tomb, I felt a mysterious vibration and goose bumps popped up all over my body. I was stunned into silent reverence and left there imprinted and changed.    You can see his tomb here and read the story of his burial.

Beginning the project of putting in order over 15,000 digital images and then remembering where I was; which cathedral, museum, or site has been a great adventure in itself.  It’s forced me to pore over my journal, souvenirs, and do internet searches on the history.  This has to be good for my much older brain!  

Mixed in with those trip photos are images of my grand-
daughters through the years; parties, day trips, much smaller vacations, and holidays.  How could I not smile and be reminded of my very blessed life?  I’ve spent far too much time over the last few years healing from too many surgeries, regretting being forced into retirement of sorts, and feeling sorry for myself.  It’s become apparent, especially this past year, the missing key that drove my delight in life and trust in God.  Gratitude.

Gratitude changes an attitude and allows us to see the sacred moments.  

I started to recall some of the most devastating events of my life, times when gratitude seemed impossible, but somehow, with God’s help, I eventually uncovered it.  When my mother died, far too young, I was intensely angry.  I loved her so much despite the fact her alcoholism resulted in a very chaotic, toxic childhood for my brother and I.  However, seven years before she died, she found recovery.  I discovered gratitude for being able to get to know a sober, bright, funny, caring,
and GRATEFUL mother.  She was a gem.  When my  39 year old husband died after an 18 month battle with cancer, for a time, all meaning in my life seemed destroyed.  Miraculously the end of that same year, my daughter and son-in-law announced they would be presenting me with my first grand-child.  The gratitude for that great blessing led me to see how lucky I was to have found the love of my life and enjoyed him for the ten years of our relationship. 

That time was magical, and I now recognize that we were given so much more in our limited number of years than most couples experience in the lifetime of their marriages. That gratitude heralded in two more lovely grandchildren.  Oprah Winfrey often says, “The more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased.  That’s because, for sure, what you focus on, expands.  When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.” 

This scrapbooking project has become the watering can to grow my gratitude.  It was still there, just  hidden beneath the mud I’ve been wallowing in. It’s beginning to break
ground, and revealing signs of life.   I used to complain back in the day of long hours of working, sometimes two jobs, attending school full time, and keeping up a monster house on my own, I didn’t have enough time to do so many of things I had loved when I was a young mom - writing, sewing, cooking, crafting, reading, exercising, and yes, even scrapbooking.  I’m a sucker for photographs. 

I heard a voice reminding me of that and the whisper that followed, saying, “Good grief, lady. Watch what you pray for.
I have given you a great gift these past three years - TIME. And, the resources to take care of your needs.”  That’s another mystical gratitude story for another day.

I’m trying.  Somehow I sense gratitude’s even more important in these senior years, when the body, mind, and finances start diminishing.  However, I can be grateful for the surgeries to ease the pain, online games to keep my mind sharp, and the economy for greatly improving making jobs plentiful.  I only have to be retired if I want to be.  Most of all, I am grateful for the time which has allowed me to do so many of things I love.  And, for my deceased husband’s love in leading me to his Social Security until I do decide to retire, and apply for my own!  Who knew?

I’m also considering going blonde again.  Look at my smile in these photographs! I think it might be true.  Blondes do have more fun! 

Let gratitude be the pillow which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.  
Maya Angelou

Monday, February 19, 2018

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream - CS Lewis

My youngest grand-daughter and I made Vision Boards a few weeks ago.  She is still young enough to not yet be addicted to social media and enjoys engaging in real time with her Mimi and creating new craft projects.  January is always a reflective time for me in deciding on a word of the year and form some habits that I hope will follow me into the new year.  What better way than to start at the end and imagine what I want the future to look like?  You have to see it to achieve it.   I explained to my girl that we would be browsing through magazines to find words and pictures we loved, but before, we would sit down and pencil out a few goals and wild imaginings.  Afterwards, we dove into our magazines and I explained it didn’t matter how far-fetched any photo or word seemed, if we were drawn to it, we should use it. Yes,even a photo of Disneyworld or visiting the Clearwater aquarium to see Winter the dolphin.  She and I had just watched the movie, A Dolphin Tale.  Excitedly, she started clipping pictures from Guidepost,  Whole Living, Home and Away, Redbook, AARP, and old  American Girl and Ikea catalogs.   Bless her creative little soul.  She still found suitable photos in my predominately geriatric selections, although I did question a church steeple she placed on her Vision Board.  When asked about the picture, she said, “I want to be more involved in church.” Awwww. My well rounded little Christian girl. This from the same little girl who at age three, asked about the meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent, and learning she would get ashes on her forehead and needed to give up something for six weeks, decided she would give up church.  The ashes were bad enough (yuck) but forgoing her favorite candy or Cheetos made her sacrifice of church sound like a wise decision!    I was happy to see the years had turned her heart.

Vision Boards were a big part of personal and professional development back in my career days attending Dale Carnegie training programs, and many motivational seminars.  Different exercises, similar to Vision Boarding  followed me into some overwhelming periods of my life that called for a few months of unbiased guidance from a professional therapist.   These tools were often called by other names but the intent was the same. One such Vision Board of sorts was, “My Obituary” in which you wrote your own.  What did you want your legacy to be?  I let my imagination fly free with this one.  My three page obit is going to take a chunk of change out of my estate.  Another exercise was, “ A letter to my much younger self.”  With this therapeutic writing task your advice to the you of yore reinforced that progress was possible and envisioning, focus, and practice, worked as a change agent in promoting growth.  See... you were not the same person you were at sixteen. 

The point of all of these activities was to set an intention because when you do, and you allow your focus to be on that intention, magic happens.  I’m not saying there isn’t some elbow grease involved, but when your mind's eye is narrowed in on your dreams, that’s the place where the mystery begins.  The Universe, God, Energy Force, whatever you call the Higher Power that keeps it all seamlessly spinning responds with divine assistance. I don’t necessarily believe that we get everything that we ask for or think we WANT OR NEED to make us happy.  A deeper belief of mine is that everything is for our higher good, and it is all about divine timing.  

My sweet girl completed her vision board and took it home to proudly show off to her mom, dad, and sisters.  I completed mine a few days after she left.  The 64 year old grumpy pessimist I am constantly trying to silence, snickered wickedly and said, “None of this is going to happen. You’re too old.” Fortunately for me, I have been pampering my inner child these past few years, and this happy little optimist, responded by duck taping the old grouch’s mouth.  I finished my Vision Board. My mind was flush with hopes and dreams.  I envisioned a condo and a healthy, fit, me living in it and writing my little heart out.  The spiritual path beckoned to me to keep following the bread crumbs along the trail.  I needed a new car to replace my fifteen year old one.  I wanted a Honda HRV.  I decided to open my heart back up to the possibilities of new friends and even love.  Reading a book a week as well as living in awe was important.  I put it all out there. Fearlessly and confidently.    

I noticed with every photo I pasted onto my board, my spirit grew lighter.  And happier.  I believe in miracles.  I always have.  It’s a much better way to live having dreams, wishing on stars, and embracing the notion that anything is possible.  It keeps us optimistic and a much more pleasant person to be around.  While the body may be aging, the spirit is eternally youthful and filled with possibility and God’s  love and support.  Ask and you shall receive.  With faith as a grain of a mustard seed.  On earth as it is in heaven.  

Why not believe?  What have I got to lose other than that grouchy old gal?  Someone please hand her a pair of rose colored glasses!  So, I did. 

Never, ever, ever quit - Winston Churchill

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Word (s) of the Year 2018 - Wabi-Sabi

Sabi - The beauty of age and wear

I’ve been selecting a word of the year for the last seven years.  Most of my life I made  lofty New Year’s Resolutions which left me in a shroud of shame and feeling like a dead beat for the rest of each year.  Lose ten pounds turned into thinking about food all the time and gaining ten pounds.  Be kinder turned into being a doormat, and writing my memoir left me with such severe feelings of vulnerability and writers block  I could barely sign my own name on a greeting card.    As I grew older I recognized I was the one breaking my own heart and stopped resolving, after one final resolution.  I resolved to ban shame from my life. Whether it came in the form of other human beings that needed to use it as a tool to feel superior, or from some warped idea on my part that it could be a motivator.  

I read an article which suggested rather than making a resolution that was accomplishment based, identify how you wanted to FEEL in the upcoming year. For example,  instead of resolving to lose weight, identify why you want to lose weight.  What is the emotion at the bottom of that? Maybe it is to physically  feel better. Your word then instead might be Healthy or Alive.  Or, maybe buried below that desire to lose weight might really be to feel accepted or loved.  Identifying how you want to FEEL opens up a whole new pathway and focal point for your year, guiding you into subtle changes that promote healthy living.    If you don’t identify the FEELINGS beneath the resolve to lose weight, but you are really wanting to feel healthy, alive, accepted or loved, simply losing weight isn’t going to get your there.   However, if your Word of the Year is to feel Healthy, you might actually ask the question at the start of the day, “What can I do today to promote my good health?”  Or, “Will taking part in a yoga class with like-minded others, help me feel accepted.”  You see the difference? 

It does take some soul-searching, but I can tell you at the end of every year, my Word has changed me.  Some years more profoundly than others, but I like to think of my word as divinely inspired road signs on my quest to be the me God created. And, I’ve learned it's  an endless journey, in His time, not mine. 

It all began in  2011.  My word of the year was BLOSSOM. My first experience in the New Year of blossoming came a week in.  I contracted Shingles. On my face. Every morning, across the left side of my face, a new patch of crusty looking sores opened up like time lapse photography of a flower; from bud to bloom to black death.  Blossoming for sure, but not how I saw my word revealing itself.  Horrified and confined to the house out of fear of emotionally scarring anyone who laid eyes on me, I had plenty of time to reflect.  My word was working.  Stress was at an all time high, and taking care of myself was not even on the to-do list.  What did that say about my professions of really loving myself? What a phony! By the end of the year, I understood the meaning of loving myself.  We nurture the things we love and under that care, blossoming begins.  I also learned it was possible to bloom wherever I was planted.  That was up to me. 

The words continued through the years: 

Blossom, Freedom, Fearless, Create, Authentic, Transformation.  

Each year the word would arrive almost through a series of mystical, ah-ha moments, or in a few cases, a couple of spiritual bonks on the head. 

Wabi-Sabi - the first time I became aware of the word, it was printed on the front of a greeting card.  I liked the sound of it, although it reminded me of the word Wasabi, that hot green stuff served with sushi.  Maybe it meant “hot stuff” I thought.  But, then it appeared a few more times in the form of messages and the definition was made clear. A few words leapt off the pages, leaving the rest a blur.  FINDING BEAUTY and ACCEPTING PEACEFULLY.  It referenced a way of life that sounded not only appealing to me, but necessary.

How many times in the past few years with the immobility of surgeries, health issues, money issues, and too much time on what I saw as very empty hands,  had I felt defeated and depressed.  How much time was I wasting pining for how I envisioned my Golden Years.   Financial security, good health, a mate, or someone to share adventures and explore the things I didn’t have either the time or money because of work, obligation, and busyness in what I viewed as my productive years.  Golden Years my ass, which also seemed to be growing faster than I could kick it back into gear.  I felt invisible with a voice that frequently seemed to be muted by no one interested in hearing it.  I thought I could deal with a few of the imperfections resulting from aging - the grey hair that was creeping up the hairline by my ears, wrinkles carved into the sides of my mouth, an aching body, and even the skinny bank account.  But was I really?  I had worked hard, been on my own more of my life than with any real help, never abused the system, paid my own way. Then I stopped.  Life is rarely seen as fair, by anyone. Everyone has their own cross, grief, and despair.   The real sucker punch to my heart was the feeling of uselessness that accompanied a ghost like existence. 

There had to be a pathway to acceptance without giving up.  There was. Wabi-Sabi.  

I think my intention is already kicking in.  Yesterday as I sat across from a very special, older friend, who I always looked at as living those Golden Years I craved, I said, “You know, I’ve simmered down some lately, and am looking at this time on my hands as a gift from God.  When I was working so hard, striving and zoned in on accomplishment, I used to wish for time to pursue things I love; like being creative, taking care of my spiritual body, and enjoying the grand kids and family activities.”  I have that now, and I am focusing on being grateful for all of that.” My next thought was, where did that come from?  Yes, it’s begun.

I can’t wait to see if this year ends with a real Wabi-Sabi lifestyle.  If it doesn’t, I pray that I will at the very least, peacefully  accept the natural cycle of growth and decay. Here’s to 2018 “hot stuff”.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Those two words hugging the hashtag kept me awake last night.  It isn’t so much the idea of coming out of the shadows and being open about my life.  That has been evolving for the past 8-9 years when a beloved therapist encouraged me to start a blog and begin to write again. My new voice - often opinionated, occasionally melancholy and lately tinged with rage, I’m blaming (thanking) him for.  His reasoning to me was:

1) I was good at it, and, I thought he knew what “good” looked like because his wife was a writer, and I had no self-esteem of my own, which, was in part, why I was there.  

2) He felt it would be healing for me; and it turns out he was right. My “go to  therapy” to try to make sense of things, has always been words; poured out on paper giving me relief and way to look at my thinking at that moment.  That has made me as transparent (and vulnerable) as living in a glass house with no window treatments. 

3) He said, it could help others to see they weren’t alone and give them permission to be brave and know that someone else had not only traveled a path of pain, but ultimately, thrived in spite of. 

Write I have; about growing up in a crazy dysfunctional household, toxic relationships, addiction, and character defects of my own that have made life difficult- often because of my own poor choices. Yet, choices made out of a survival instinct instilled  many years ago, based on old false information about who I was and what I thought I deserved, I am learning, doesn’t define my life.  I also wrote about the love and the joy and the gratitude that is a daily part of my life, mostly because I did the work, made myself vulnerable, got honest, and began to live authentically.  And, it sure didn’t hurt to discover a Creator that I’ve grown to know and continue to develop a personal relationship with.  It is the first time in my life I have EVER felt unconditional love.  Under that umbrella, it feels safe to be honest and tell my story.  There are no repercussions coming from that kind of love. 

Amazingly,  I did hear from others, predominately women, but also some men who felt safe to share their own struggles and secrets.  It has been worth it for that reason alone.  I wrote despite the fact I could tell, it made some of my circle uncomfortable, I recognize those feelings are not their fault.  They quite simply were either raised in an age where you kept your feelings to yourself, handled any and all affairs privately, and kept the family secrets at ANY cost even if a member of that family commits illegal or damaging acts that harm others.  

Growing up, I was taught kids are seen, not heard.  As a teen I was told, if you dress a certain way or put yourself into precarious positions, you deserve what you get.  As a young adult I was told men are powerful, don’t get a reputation as a troublemaker or jeopardize your future and career. Go with the flow, even if that flow felt uncomfortable.  I was told, by both men AND women, as a single mother raising a child, and later a  young widow trying to financially take care of my needs as well as grieve the loss of the best man I’d ever met, just don’t rock the boat.  

So, here's a truth I haven’t come clean in this one very sensitive area of my life. 

#MeToo. #MeToo. #MeToo.  

One of the biggest reasons I haven’t, is because of other women.  In my experience that has been worse than the harassment and abuse of  men, in the long run.  For whatever reason, women judge other women quite harshly.  Is it jealousy?  Competition?  Fear?  I don’t know. But, I believe it has been one of the biggest detriments in eliminating this scourge and ending the abuse of women. We may have moved forward a few inches in breaking the glass ceiling, but the caveman is still dragging us around by the hair like property. And, other women are saying, we deserved it.  Woman are still standing by their man, even when they know said man is an abuser.  That is their choice, and I am not judging their decision.  I don't know what it is based on.  Insecurity.  Threats. Fears, for sure.  What I am saying is, it's not cool to disparage the women these perpetrators have victimized. It's not cool to say, it was consensual, when it may not have been.   

Most recently, I witnessed a row of abused women, front row, at a debate between two presidential candidates- one female, one male.  These poor women were paid to protest (by the male candidate's campaign)  their documented abuse at the hands of the female candidate's  husband. This was after the other candidate, the male,  was caught on tape laughing about his history of abusing women!  I felt like these women sitting there, were just abused again!  By both candidates, but even worse the woman, who refused to acknowledge their shame and suffering. I think about the number of times I’ve heard, the words, “Boys will be boys. That was just locker room talk.  Well, she put herself in that position.” OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF OTHER WOMEN!  I think about the number of times I’ve witnessed the villainization of a family member while the tribe continues protecting the predator within the victim’s own family! 

Some examples of real life stories that just may give you some insight into the "Mean Girl" syndrome...

She’s referred to as the slutty girl in high school. Bouncing from guy to guy.  Maybe she’s been raped in a household that turns their heads and do not have the capacity to show her what real love looks like.  Defend her.  Don’t demonize her.  

She’s the lady who keeps moving up the corporate ladder. Rumors swirl predominately from female co-workers and she is judged as probably  “sleeping with the boss.”  Maybe she isn’t. But, maybe she tolerates the "man talk", because her biggest dream is to provide her child with a good future and education and she needs her insurance for an ill spouse.  There is always a back story.

I was married to a man with the most empathy I have ever seen in a human being.  He kept me honest.  Whenever gossip swirled and that part of me that wanted to feel superior reared its ugly head, he said, "You just don't know the rest of their story." 

Ladies...Open your heart to the rest of the story. 

It has to stop. #MeToo might be a beginning in understanding the MAGNITUDE of the problem, but if we really want to take our power back and empower our daughters, grand-daughters, nieces and other young women to break free from what seems to have become a social norm, this practice of accepting and trying to justify the behavior of powerful  men; intimidating, harassing, threatening, touching, violating us,  then we as women have got do more than just come out of the closet and say #MeTo.  We have to stop judging and start being champions and defending each other - in our homes, in our relationships, in our jobs.  

I’d like to see the new hashtag read, #MeToo #SheIsMySister.