Why In The World??


DSC02421Over the past few weeks I’ve heard and participated in various conversations about the dilemma of asking for help. If we’re sick and need to take time off from work and are our only means of financial support what do we do? If we’re living from paycheck to paycheck and have been working for someone for years and still aren’t getting paid vacations, why can’t we broach the subject with our employer? If we live alone and can no longer climb a ladder to change a lightbulb, do we live in the dark?

Being needy is a very embarrassing place to be. It brings out our shame. We should be able to take care of ourselves, right?

When I was a child I learned not to ask for help. My father trusted no one and wouldn’t even loan a hammer out to a neighbor. I was supposed to figure out how to solve my own difficulties. If I couldn’t find my own way, I felt like a loser in my parent’s eyes. One of the biggest elephants in my room is asking for help as well as accepting it when it arrives.

I know I’m not alone. I watch friends struggle with the same problem, hoping they’ll show me a magical way to get help without feeling like a failure. But they are no better at it than I am. We all sit together and ask, why can’t we do this one simple thing?  Especially when the help is there to be given with such generosity.

I’ve often blamed it on being a woman because most of us have been caregivers to our kids, husbands, needy relatives, or aging parents. I thought men never struggled with that kind of thing. In the old traditional way of thinking, before feminism came along, men were the superheroes who could do everything. They went to work to put food on the table, pay for the kid’s new shoes and the root canal his spouse needed.

But have you ever wondered why men don’t ask for directions if they are lost? Why don’t most of them cry openly? Women do not own shame. It belongs to everyone. Men, Women, the  young,the old and even the dog who just peed on that fine oriental carpet in the living room.

But why? Why aren’t we enough? Why do some of us jump in to rescue others who need a hand, but refuse to admit that we could use a helping hand ourselves? Are we all in competition of some sort that says we have to be the very best at everything? Do we expect too much from ourselves? There are various explanations for this phenomena.  I’m interested in hearing:

What you’re thoughts are about asking for help and the shame that often ensues?

I will be sending out another newsletter next Tuesday, the first of March.  If you haven’t already signed up to have it delivered to your inbox, go to the top of this page, on the right hand side to sign up.  It’s free and I never share your personal information.

Cleansing Body, Heart and Soul

IMG_1331Have you ever noticed that when you clean out a closet and take a few pieces of clothing to the Salvation Army that you feel good?

You may feel lighter and that you’ve done a good deed. The same thing happens for me when I clear my desk of all the papers that have been building up over the last few months. Some of those papers go in the trash. Others will be filed away. My energy level goes up and I feel my shoulders relax. I’m at ease.

For the past six months my studio/office has gone to hell. Often feeling overwhelmed by the things on my todo list, I let everything else pile up. The higher the pile gets, the deeper the pit in my stomach grows. My shoulders rise to the level of my ears and begin to hurt.

I’ve grown tired of looking at the stack of books I’ve read and want to review, the bits and pieces of paper with notes written on them that I no longer understand, and the many hardcopies of my memoir that keeps changing even when I think I’m done.

I can’t decide whether it’s best to keep all those paper copies or send them through the shredder. I’ve been saving them just in case I need to go back and reconsider a passage that I’ve deleted in the current revision. I do have all of it backed up on my computer and its connected storage gadget, as well as on Bill’s computer. Do I need all these copies? My studio is over my garage, a separate building from my house. The catastrophizer part of me says:

IMG_1335“God forbid the whole internet goes down or there is a fire and both buildings burn. Isn’t it a good idea to have a few paper copies, as well as all the digital backups? Should I put a hardcopy of the memoir in a strongbox and bury it somewhere in the garden just in case both buildings burn?” I tell myself, “Give me break,” then continue to let things pile up, secretly wishing for a fire to burn it all up so I can relax. 🙂

The new year is before me and I have about a week before I start working with my new editor. I desperately need to clean up of the studio so that I can work more efficiently.

Clearing my space will equal a cleansing of my heart and soul. I will know where everything is. My physical body will walk upright, rather than stooped under the weight of the “stuff” I’m saving. My energy level will rev up, all my worries will fade, and my next revision will be even better than the last. Holding this space for my work, is the best thing that I can do for myself, the manuscript, and it will keep my muse from taking a vacation.

IMG_1336So far I’ve got a bag of books that will go to the local library for their used book sale in the spring. My desk where I sit writing now, is cleared of unnecessary papers and even my computer desk top is looking spacious. I’m sorting through the pile of papers that either need trashing or filing. There is now only one of receipts and such, that need to be filed away. And I’ve already made several trips to the garbage can with stuff that I don’t need.

I feel great.

The next cleansing I’ll do is a 10 day sugar detox. I did a 21 day sugar detox last April, lost 18 pounds and felt terrific. I’ve done really well until late fall and the arrival of the holidays. I not only started eating sugary things again, I felt deprived and started eating things made from wheat, which I’m supposed to stay away from because I have an intolerance to gluten. Thankfully, I’ve only gained four pounds back which I feel I can get rid of easily.

But while I was busy satisfying my sweet tooth and eating yummy home made bread, I felt sick. Brain fog and exhaustion took over. Once I caught on to what was happeningand stopped eating that crap, it took four days to feel better.  I’m now off gluten again and most sugar. My energy levels are up again and my brain is thinking clearly. The 10 day detox, coming up next week, will be a time of getting rid of all the residual toxins that are still causing cravings.

When that’s done I’ll be good as new and will most likely begin letting piles of stuff grow again. This time around I hope I’ll do something about all that stuff before I need a fire to clean the place up.

What are your ways of cleansing your, body, heart and soul? I’d love to hear about them!

The Buddha In The Fur Coat

IMG_1280Life is good, but it isn’t always easy. One day the car breaks down and you’re late for your appointment with the IRS, who says you owe them money. On the opposite kind of day, you win the lottery and rush out to buy a new car. The in-between days find you smelling the roses, with a bunch of crappy, little things all going wrong.  You have to work harder to find your center.

My buddy, Sam, developed a hot spot on his tail a week or so ago. He’s been riddled with all sorts of allergies since we adopted him back in August of 2003. The worst are food allergies. A little over a year ago, with the help of a new vet, we found food that he likes and doesn’t make him sick.

But there are all sorts of other things that he’s allergic to. At this time of year when all the leaves are down and the air is filled with leaf mold, Sam itches like crazy. He tries to be patient with it, but the result is often a hot spot, that has gone bald because of his constant scratching, licking and sometimes chewing. It gets infected and then we have a problem on our hands that requires antibiotics.

I’m kind of allergic to this time of year and have been a bit out of sorts myself over the last few weeks. It’s my usual holiday state of mind. There’s too much to do, too many expectations, and the whole world seems to be melting down around me. And beyond Ferguson, the state of the Middle East, and all sorts of other issues going down, it’s been a particularly difficult year for the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.

First there was the disappearance and tragic death of Hannah Graham. Now we’re dealing with the Rolling Stone’s article about the “rape culture,” at Thomas Jefferson’s university, just two blocks from my house. The editors are now backpedaling, saying that some of what was originally reported isn’t true. Thankfully, the powers that be at the University are not letting the issue rest and are working to make sure all students, especially women, feel cared for and safe in what has become a questionable environment.

Whether you’re connected with the University or not, what’s been happening around us is affecting all of those who live here. When Hannah Graham’s body was found, a friend, who lives elsewhere, asked how such a horrendous thing could happened in such a beautiful and peaceful place like Charlottesville. My response was that bad things happen everywhere. Beauty has nothing to do with it. It’s just the way things are and we each react to these events in our own way. But when it’s happening down the street,  events like these can cast a shadow over an entire community. We like to think that where we live is the best place in the whole world and that things like murder, racism, and acts of brutality, don’t happen here.

The other day I overheard an acquaintance, say, “It’s so cold out, even the ‘bums’ aren’t out today.” She was referring to our area’s large homeless population. I was horrified. I wanted to shake some sense into her head. I told her to go and sit with those “bums.”  She might learn something about what it’s like living on the street and why those people are out there.

The morning that had started out so nicely, had just been shot down and I became a raving grouch, leaving a wake of unpleasantness behind me as I stormed home. I was not being helpful … to myself or anyone else. I was being judgemental, just like the one who spoke ill of the “bums.”

When I got home Sam was sitting all curled up on the couch. Trapped inside what some call the “Cone of Shame,” he was the picture of peace. Despite his itchy tail and being a bit grouchy himself, he wagged his tail, looked at me with his big brown, all knowing eyes, and said, “It’s okay, Mom. It is what it is.”

I sat down next to him, and wrapped my arms around him. He’s one of my greatest teachers. The pain resulting from being unable to make the world a better place, slowly released me from it’s grip.  I began to feel sad for that acquaintance of mine. She’d probably been taught that homeless people are bums … perhaps by her parents.

When I finally stood up, ready to go on about the rest of my day, Sam winked at me and gently licked my nose.

Who are your greatest teachers?

Forgiving Myself

IMG_0850“Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe that, more than anything else, this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is the key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”
–  Ann Patchett (from The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life)

I’m stressed because I can’t do it all.

Traveling and being away even for short periods of time

can screw up my whole routine.

Then I have a melt down.

I’m overwhelmed with things to do.

I’m told I’m a perfectionist.

I am.

I’m told I’m too hard on myself.

I am.

I’m trying to figure out how not to be those things

forgiving myself along the way.

Writing Memoir Is A Mixed Bag


Check out my guest post on Madeline Sharples, blog, Choices.

It’s about the difficulties of writing the hard stuff and the final reward of being able to see life in a new way.