Taking Time Out

After the Rain, December 1, 2016

After the Rain, December 1, 2016

This is what I wrote in my Newsletter on December 1st. I’m passing it on to you, my blog readers, so that you’ll know that I won’t be posting for the rest of this month.

Oh my gosh, it’s December 1st, and with Thanksgiving and all the holiday preparations, I haven’t written anything ahead of time for this newsletter as I usually do.

I do have news, though. And that is that I’ve decided to take the month of December off from the internet. I will not post any blog posts until January. I’ve gotten overwhelmed and lost in the drama and emotional results of the election. I need time to find myself again and reconnect with my muse and spirit. I want to concentrate on positive things and prepare myself should political holy hell break loose after the inauguration.

I will be checking my emails and reading blog posts, and if something of interest shows up, especially on writing and books, I’ll post it on my author page on Facebook and on Twitter. I will send my next newsletter of January 1st, and my first blog post of 2017 on January 3rd.

I send you warm wishes for a peaceful and happy holiday season, and may the New Year bring us all together so that our world will be a gentle place where we can all live in love, safety and peace.

“We’re always in some kind of mood. It might be sadness, it might be anger, it might be not much of anything, just a kind of blur. It might be humor or contentment. In any case, whatever it is, that’s the path.

When something hurts in life, we don’t usually think of it as our path or as the source of wisdom. In fact, we think that the reason we’re on the path is to get rid of this painful feeling. In this way, we naively cultivate a subtle aggression against ourselves. However, the fact is that anyone who has used the moments, days, and years of his or her life to become wiser, kinder, and more at home in the world has learned from what’s happening right now. We can aspire to be kind right in the moment, to relax and open our heart and mind to what is in front of us right in the moment. Now is the time. If there’s any possibility for enlightenment, it’s right now, not at some future time.” -Pema Chodron

We writers count of reviews of our books as a way spread the word and get our thoughts and feelings out into the world. If you have read or are about to read my book, SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, please leave an honest review of it on Amazon. It’s very easy to do, and can be just a few words. I’d really appreciate it.

Are You A Story Teller?

A page out of my visual journal, using cut out words and pictures.

A page out of my visual journal, using cut out words and pictures.

I’m a storyteller. You’re a story teller. And so is every one you pass on the street. I’m also a writer and tell stories about my life here on my blog. But the stories I write here are not the ones I’m talking about in this piece.

I’m talking about the stories that can fill up my head on a hourly basis about who I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, what the world should be like, and how things are going to turn out even before any event begins to unfold.

Those stories are usually about fear, wishful thinking, how things are supposed to be, and blame. They’re inventive ways of dealing with the possibility of being disappointed, building hope, or preparing for things we’re afraid will happen … like being humiliated, or just plain terrified. They’re often about the end of my world or about how I’m  going to be the world’s next biggest and brightest star.

Like when I was about eight years old and truly believed I was going to win a beautiful palomino pony because I sent in the very best, most awesome name for that pony … Star. When it was announced that some kid in New Jersey won the pony instead of me, I was angry and complained that somebody had made a seriously terrible, horrible mistake. No name was as good as the one I sent in!!!! I was being cheated.

Stories like that have at times stopped me dead in my tracks and kept me from moving forward. Crazy as it sounds I thought that if I worried myself to death that which I was worried about would go away.

When we’re busy and not paying attention, our minds have a way of running and sometimes ruining our days, for  at least a while. A beautiful afternoon walking the dogs can turn into a nightmare because I hear thunder in the distance and I’m sure we’re not going to make it home before we’re struck and killed by lightning.

I can also go the way of being so full of myself that I just know that my memoir will be #1 on every best seller list within two days of launching it. Yeah, right!

Stories of that ilk can make me laugh when I look back, but if I’m constantly building dramas in my head and being neurotic and narcissistic, it can be a real problem. These days I’m trying to break this very silly habit and retire from the drama.  Our world is full enough of that stuff and I don’t need to adding more.

So instead of playing truth or fantasy with myself, I’m working hard to stop making these ridiculous tales up. If I’m worried about something, I work at letting it go by asking, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” And I tell myself that life is a great adventure and worth every moment, even the ones we wish wouldn’t happen.

The good news is that scientists are finding that we can send our stories packing and change the way our brains operate by labeling our stories when they show up. I label mine silly stories, lies, wishful thinking, or horror stories. Another way I let them go is by putting them on pages in a visual journal, like the one in the photo.  Once I can SEE them, they become just what they are … thoughts, stories. They wash away into the gutter just like fallen leaves after a hard autumn rain.

I want to live in the moment, getting rid of expectations and judgement, letting go of fear and desire. I want to  live life as a thrilling escapade. Though it can be extreeemely difficult, it’s a step toward believing I can and will handle whatever comes along.

I can’t predict the future. So Why should I waste my precious time worrying and being scared? Life is all about learning and experiencing joy, sadness, pain, anger, fear, hatred, and oodles of love. Why not relax and let it happen?

Do you tell yourself Silly Stories? How do you wash them away?


Wishing you a beautiful, awe filled day!

Reno Week #2

The living room turned storage space.

The living room turned storage space.

Wouldn’t you think that once you learn a lesson it would stick?  Letting go is one of the biggest lessons I’ve tangled with all through my life.  It’s probably because I’ve spent my life trying to control everything around me.  As the family caretaker when I was young, I was in charge of keeping the peace. Most of the time it didn’t work. My parents didn’t stop fighting because I went out of my way to be the best little girl on earth. And my brothers never listened to me when I told them to stop slinging mudballs at each other. But I kept trying.

When I grew up and had kids of my own I got fairly good at controlling them … until they became teens and started developing attitude.  Then they flew the coop and  I was left holding the empty control bag. I turned to everyone else around me. Who could I control now?  Why wasn’t I being awarded the best controller medal of the world?

But time, a few therapists, and life in general has taught me that there is absolutely nothing I can control.  Life has a way of doing it’s own thing. I can try as hard as I might to make the sun shine on a rainy day but it won’t happen.  The world is what it is and I find it best to work at having a good time rather than spending all of my energy trying to make everything run smoothly.

I ticked off one more try at it this past week, which resulted in a meltdown. For a meltdown it wasn’t as bad as they can be and I apologized profusely to everyone in sight. I felt awful for making an ass of myself and spent a couple of hours hating silly, stubborn me. I thought, “No more home improvements for me! I’ve had it!” When the end of the day came and everything looked wonderful and just as it should.  Nothing was shattered or broken. The sun was still shining and the birds were singing.  But I had hurt myself. I’ve been there before. Every time I react without pausing to think through something that isn’t going my way, I end up making a mess of myself and sometimes those around me.

I figured in order to keep it from happening again,  I had to approach all of this from another angle. Somewhere in my head I heard the suggestion that I should stay away from the construction zone as much as possible.  The next morning I went to the house to put a load of laundry in. I worked in my studio and didn’t go back until later in the day to put the laundry in the dryer. I stopped to look at what was happening, but made no judgements. I smiled and went my own way again until I went back to fold the laundry, again admiring the work that had been done.

I did somewhat the same thing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  What a difference. I was happy. Things were on schedule and the world hadn’t ended because I wasn’t paying attention. I even took time for having tea with a friend, reading, walking the dogs, and napping.

But the thing is, I should know better by now.  So once again I’m making a promise to myself and the world that the next time steam starts pouring out of my ears, I’ll pause and stop trying to keep the world from coming to an end.  Maybe I should take a notebook and fill it up with the same sentence over and over again: “I will not react before I stop and think about what is happening.”

Just to let you know the latest word, the crew boss thinks they’ll probably pretty much wrap up the kitchen part of the  project by the end of this week or early the following week.  I’m elated and have promised  to keep my cool at least until then. The laundry room is now tiled and the electricians and plumbers are hard at work.. The appliances should start going back into the kitchen today. I’m totally surprised and in awe of how quickly this has gone and so far am extremely happy with the results. And though I embarrassed myself pretty badly this past week, I’m proud of myself for stepping back and accepting the fact that I am just one imperfect human being amongst all the rest.

Parenting And The Unfairness Of Life

Amaryllis, © Joan Z. Rough

I will be turning seventy years old next week, and one of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that being a parent doesn’t end when your child walks out the door, goes to college, and then gets married.  Being a parent is a life long proposition.

There is a huge amount of letting go one must suffer through in order to live life with ease, once the kids are gone. But no matter how much I let go, I find that I’m still alert to the tone of their voices and body language. And by indelicately stepping over the line from time to time, I disturb their peace, as well as my own.  But like a little kid touching a hot stove, I tend to learn what not to do by doing it anyway.  At last, I’ve figured out that they are learning about life the same way that I am. If someone tells us the stove is hot and we touch it anyway, we get burned and learn to trust the signals we are given.

As parents, Bill and I have been very lucky. Our two grown children, have had happy and meaningful lives. When there are narrow roads filled of boulders to navigate through, I worry a bit as any mother would.  But I’ve learned that being mindful of boundaries, both theirs and mine is of the utmost importance. During difficult times, I might think about them more often than I usually do, and send positive energy their way. But other than that I usually feel my job is done and know they are perfectly capable of getting through their troubles. But there are times when their pain is so great, that I want to sweep them up into my arms, rock them like I did all those years ago, when they fell and got hurt. I want to tell them that everything will be alright, that the pain will soon be gone and the sun will shine once again.

I’m in one of those spots right now.  It seems that life can take turns that are not fair.  Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy, was not fair to all of those who lost their lives, their homes and are living without electricity as winter comes on.  I can send a donation to the Red Cross and make myself feel better, but it’s still heartbreaking and unfair.  So much of life is like that and I often join the ranks of those yelling and screaming about it. But it’s one thing if it’s a political issue. When it comes to the weather or illness, no amount of breast beating, yelling, threatening or screaming can stop what we deem to be not right.

About a month ago, Mark’s adopted daughter, Casey, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.  She has had a double mastectomy and is preparing for some eight months of chemo and radiation.  She is twenty-four years old and none of us, including her Doctors know what will happen.  Every day, I hear myself repeating that it isn’t fair. That one so young can be struck by such a horrible disease, makes my heart break.  But it also aches for my son, her mom, Jane, her sister, Trish, her brother, Dustin, her boyfriend, Ian, and all of the people who care so deeply for this beautiful young woman. Everyone who knows her is grieving and we all pray that she will be well again and be able to live out a long and happy life.

For most of my life, I have wanted to save the world from suffering. I find it almost unbearable to see those I love in pain.  Once in a while I’ve been able to bring a smile to a sad face, but it lasts only a few moments. Right now I feel paralyzed. I wish I could do something to help all of those I love ease their way through this life as it is. I wish I could remove cancer from the land and bring an end to all pain.

As a mother and a parent, I grieve for my son, a parent himself, going through what could turn out to be the unspeakable pain that no parent should ever have to go through … The fear of losing a child.

Healing thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated for Casey, as well as for all those who also have had their lives turned upside down by cancer.

May peace be with all of us through difficult times.