Revise your story

I’ve written about finding myself in a hole, here, feeling the darkness, and climbing out, step by step. Some of the progress was circumstantial: my situation changed, and with those changes, my outlook looked up.

But it wasn’t all that tidy. Long before the big changes occurred, I began stepping toward righting myself. Why? Because at the time, I didn’t know how, or if, life would hand me the turnaround I wanted, needed.

And if not? Then what?

I couldn’t stay where I was. I began the trip back to normal without knowing what life would look like. I just knew I couldn’t stay in the hole, in the dark.

These are the next things I did, after recognizing I had to begin the climb on my own. If you find yourself in a similar hole, maybe some of these steps will help. Nothing here is magic, or ground-breaking. But when I’m struggling, it helps to have a path laid in front of me. That’s all I’m offering here…just outlining steps so you don’t have to do it yourself. No right, no wrong, just suggestions.

  • Make a plan, whether big or small. To come out of the darkest time, I had to have a plan. I couldn’t be sure what I would do eventually, but I had to start working toward next. And that’s what I would suggest for anyone trying to see daylight. Whether you’re between jobs, relationships, coming out of depression, trying to adjust to a new place or time in life…make a plan.

But be easy on yourself. Recognize that when you’re in flux, a lot of what you’re working with may change. Will change.

When I find myself in disarray, I need to rebuild structure and order in my life. I like to set goals for myself, targets that are reachable, but nothing that demands action tomorrow. Time pressure isn’t helpful in a vulnerable state.

There are reasons for this. Setting goals that are a few weeks, or even months, in the distance, gives me something to work toward and plan for. But if you’re in a fragile place, you don’t need the pressure of immediacy. I’ve found this type of medium-range goal planning is comforting.

By putting my goals a few weeks out…or even a little longer, if that’s feasible…I give myself something positive to work toward, without stressing myself in the moment.

This type of planning allows time for other events/forces to unfold.

The last time I found myself in limbo, I did exactly this. I put some targets on a calendar and made a tentative plan, based on what I would do if…

If certain things worked out this way, then….

If things worked out that way, then….

By thinking through options and possibilities, I worked through scenarios that helped me plan.

  • Share your plans with a person or two you trust. Ask for feedback. Having someone think with you is helpful…helps you see possibilities you may be missing, and can be a reality check. This is especially important if you’re in unfamiliar life territory.
  • Write your goals. Make lists, keep a journal. Writing is good therapy, and putting plans down on paper or on screen will help you focus. It’s also useful to be able to look back, to see progress, or to remind yourself of thoughts or plans you lose sight of.
  • Mark any significant dates for the next year on your calendar, and use those as sign posts for progress, for interaction, for incentive. When you see a date on your calendar a couple of months out for meeting family, for attending a special event, for something you can be excited about, the calendar gives you hope. Don’t discount this as reason to get through the day, week, or month. Let your calendar be a daily reminder that life is happening all around you, and you have a part to play.
  • Decide what you want to change, and what you can change. Is it location? Job? Habits? Name the goals, then put realistic dates on your calendar…when will you achieve your goals? Or what stages will you mark as advancements? Or achievements?
  • Learn a new skill. Nothing boosts the ego and wakes up the mind like a challenge. This is a great way, and a focused way, to work toward life goals. Learning a new skill can help you step toward your goals. Join a class if possible. Leaning with a group is a good way to connect with kindred spirits, and can give you new sources of support.
  • I am sold on the power of doing something for someone less fortunate, or for a good cause. Nothing makes you feel better than contributing. Again, this will work only if you’re healthy enough in mind and body to get out and connect with others. Take this slow. Don’t overcommit your time, money, or self. If you have healing/growing/recovering to do, you need to protect yourself.
  • Find outlets for creativity, and for physical activity. You need to nurture your body and your spirit. Don’t neglect your need to be active, and to exercise your creativity. Whether you’re inspired to create, or driven to release your energy, you’ll benefit from movement and stimulus. Nothing is more deadly than sitting still and drowning in despair.
  • Find someone to be accountable to. You could make this a mutual thing, or just ask someone to provide this for you. Knowing that you’ve committed to sharing your progress will give you another incentive to make progress. Decide how often you’ll connect, and any other parameters you want to set. Be serious about accountability; it can be a wonderful aid to get you through difficult tasks.
  • If you can afford it, work with a life coach. Life coaches are not therapists. The function of a life coach is to help you find your voice and motivation, and to hold you accountable to the goals you set. In my opinion, you want someone who will hold a mirror to your life, and be a voice of encouragement. I would stay away from the drill sergeant type. You want someone who will be honest and firm with you, but you don’t need someone who will use guilt or other negative styles of communication.

I didn’t suffer with clinical depression, and I can’t address that condition. Clearly, individuals with mental health issues need more than a list of helpful suggestions to right themselves. 

But you don’t have to be clinically depressed to struggle, to feel lost, to feel stuck, and sad, and down. That’s the mindset I’m addressing.

Even if you seek help from a coach or counselor, you have to begin with yourself. Recognizing you have to do something different, then taking the first small steps to begin…that’s the hardest part. Finding your resolve, getting off the sofa or out of the bed, beginning

You can do it. Only you can do it.

I’m not a counselor, but I’ve been there, in the hole. I know what it’s like to sleep poorly, waking up with thoughts racing every hour or two, to dread going to work or getting out of the house because you feel like you have to put on “the face” of normalcy. I know finding the desire to do anything can seem like a mountain.

It is a mountain. But you can climb it. If you can’t find the heart to do it for yourself, find someone else who inspires you, or choose someone you want to inspire. Do it for your spouse, your kids, your legacy, if you can’t do it for yourself.

Sooner or later, you will be doing it for yourself. You will be inspired, and inspiring. You’ll have a story to share, a success to celebrate, and a renewed life.

No one can predict your outcome. No one else can write your story. Find your brave, even if it scares you. Especially if it scares you. Open up to those you trust. Give others opportunity to help, to support and encourage you.

Hear my voice, if you can. That’s one of my goals…I want my voice to be an encouragement. Not because I have it all figured out, but because I know how hard this is. Eventually, you’ll know you can do it, because others have done it. You can be strong, you’ll find your way. And in turn, you will be a voice of encouragement.

Each of us has a place, each story has value. If your story has derailed, dig deep. Begin your revision. This is my time, and this is your time. ~ Sheila

Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts. ~ Rick Warren

 

 

 

 

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Surprise!

Surprises happen.

We’ve been working, recruiting, doing taxes, traveling, more working…well, it’s a common plight…life requires income, and income, I find, requires work. At least in my experience.

Anyway, I’m home for a few weeks, looking forward to getting re-acquainted with my kitchen and my bed. One of the perks of traveling for work is that I’m always happy to come home…kind of the reverse of needing a vacation. I’m just happy to be in my own space since work usually takes me elsewhere.

First things first. I couldn’t concentrate on other tasks until I reclaimed my space. After a couple of months of one and two day turn-arounds, the house was a bit needy. I try to leave things tidy, but after awhile, you just have to stop and do some upkeep. So things got a wipe down, and where appropriate, a scrub down. Those dust bunnies don’t take a holiday just because no one’s home.

Then it was on to the calls. I have a few repairs to line up, and in this climate, anything that is exterior has a short summer window of opportunity. So I’ve put myself on a list for some summer painting, and some deck maintenance. A little hedge trimming is in the works too, probably sometime next month when we have some warmer weather. And most painful of all, I’m replacing one of the huge picture windows that are framed into the front walls of the house.

Cracks in the glass

Cracks in the glass

Well, I’m not doing it, I’m merely financing it. The window guys are doing it. And let me tell you, the whole thing is just a bit frightening.

We came home to find that this window, a double-paned giant, had developed a crack on the inside pane. I’m pretty sure the dust bunnies aren’t playing baseball inside the house when we’re gone, so I assume this was due to temperature change, age, or some force of the universe that’s both invisible and unidentified. There’s no sign of any impact, and no damage to the external pane. So I guess it’s just one of those things. Anyway, no help for it, it has to be replaced. With a three to four week wait time for the glass to arrive, I’m just hoping it holds and I don’t wake up to shards all over the floor before the replacement is installed.

But that’s really not the painful part. At least so far, the glass is holding, even if the cracks are scary. No, the really ugly part is the cost. Twelve hundred and fifty dollars this will cost me. $1250.00! Good thing I’m working!

And then! Then, when we got home, there was a little love note on my door. My friendly home heating buddies had stopped by and left a bill. Eight hundred and thirty-two dollars for fuel oil the last two months, and we’ve barely been here! Oh, we left the furnace on, with one zone of the house heated to keep the pipes from freezing. But still! Do you think someone has noticed that we’re gone a lot and helped themselves to our fuel oil? I mean, really, this is ridiculous!

Fuel oil robbery?

Fuel oil robbery?

So, after that battering…I mean, I know utilities and repairs are expensive, but this was a harsh opening of the door…after that, I needed some time to enjoy being home and get cozy. If I’m bleeding out from financing this gem of a place, I better get some return.

So, I’ve tidied, and I’ve nestled in. I went shopping in my basement and replaced the winter decor with spring (ever hopeful) that the new season will arrive on time. In honor of springing ahead, I’m prepping for Easter, longer days and brighter colors.

Now if I can just figure out where my fuel oil is going!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote these thoughts a couple of weeks ago, but now, I can’t post this without adding that these are trivial issues today. My father-in-law is in the ICU, has been for the past few days. He had a cold last week that sent him to the emergency room on Tuesday, and to ICU level on Wednesday. What’s a broken window and a fuel oil bill? They’re irritants and expenses, but they are not the stuff of life. Life is the stuff of life. Funny how easy it is to forget that, at least on a very small and personal level…I’m not talking about recognizing that the world has many ills and tragedies that unfold hourly…but about the unwelcome reminder that life is fragile, when one of the 7+ billion humans on the planet that I know by name and love by heart is seriously ill.

Back among the living

Last week was a hard one. First there was my travel saga…not to make too much of that…it ended well. But the long trip home set me up for a rough couple of days. I was exhausted from the cross-country flying, and probably picked up a bug in the friendly skies…all the close quarters and shared air. By the time I got back to Ketchikan, all I really wanted to do was crawl in bed and sleep for a week. By the time I’d been there a couple of hours, I was feeling chilled and sick. Not a good homecoming at all.

On Wednesday I tried to get up three times. Finally I forced myself  to be upright long enough to see off our friends who had stayed in the house while we were gone for the holidays. If they hadn’t been retiring and moving out of state, I’m not sure I would have made the effort to rouse myself. But in the circumstances, it seemed right that I crawl out of the covers for a formal goodbye. I kept a safe distance…didn’t want to share a parting gift of germs with them…and as soon as they left, I dragged myself back to bed. I knew I had a few hours yet I could be horizontal. For the moment, it was my life goal: To. Be. Horizontal.

Rob was scheduled to get home that evening, so I set an alarm to make sure I’d wake up in time to pick him up. I revived enough to do that, but didn’t last long after we got home from the airport.

On Thursday I was supposed to go to Metlakatla. My alarm went off at 5:00 AM and I started playing the game. I reset it for 5:30, then 6:00. Then I finally turned it off. I couldn’t have gotten myself out the door if the house was on fire. I’ve rarely felt like every cell in my body was drained, but that was how I felt that morning.

I never sleep in, but after a couple of mid-morning attempts to get up, I gave up. I finally surfaced between noon and 1:00, and we ran a few errands. We had to make it over to Metlakatla Friday morning since Rob was covering call for the clinic over the weekend, and I needed to connect with some staff on Friday. So Thursday afternoon was my chance to pull myself together and get ready to be there for a few days. I managed it, but barely.

By Friday morning I was almost back to normal. And good thing too. I could not have walked out the door a day earlier. Maybe I just needed some time for my body to catch up with all the bouncing around I’d done in the past few weeks.

I mention all of this to say…wow!…what a hard thing it is to be sick. I’m so rarely under the weather that I’m sometimes guilty of forgetting that not everyone is so fortunate. It’s easy to take good health and energy for granted when that’s mostly all you’ve known.

I remember when my dad was going through chemo and radiation treatments. Even when he was not visibly ill, he was fatigued. He rarely had much energy, and he couldn’t eat normally. And of course so many things work as part of a vicious cycle for cancer patients. I would visit and try to encourage him to eat a little more. Or to be interested in something going on, or going for a ride, or anything. There were days that he could participate in life, and days he couldn’t.

It was frustrating, for someone filled with energy, to try to infuse someone else with life, with interest, with desire to do something, to do anything. Last week, lying in bed feeling like the world could disappear and I wouldn’t care, feeling like talking and even listening required more energy than I could muster, I thought about my dad. I remembered some of the times I tried to share my energy through encouragement, through optimism, through my hope for him.

It’s humbling to realize…I didn’t have cancer, or some other debilitating disease. I’m sure I just had a virus, and ibuprofen and some extra sleep were sufficient to get me back on my feet. But for people who have serious illness, or depression, or some life-crippling condition….a little sleep and a few over-the-counter pills are not going to cut it.

Last week was a reminder that I need to appreciate my own good health. But I also need to be understanding and patient with people who are struggling. I would never criticize anyone battling illness. But I’ll confess that it is sometimes frustrating to feel like you’re trying so hard for them. And they just don’t pick up the cues and perk up. It’s disheartening, when you have energy to burn, and you can’t ignite a spark.

Thinking about my dad, I know he understood that I was just trying to help, and that I was so longing for him to feel better, if only I could have done it for him. But I couldn’t grasp how much he was doing, just by sitting in his chair, by being dressed, by eating a little bit, by talking a little bit. I couldn’t grasp how that little effort was taking all the energy he could find, and all he could spare.

Well, I’ve been sick a few times in my life. Not for long, and never very seriously. But in recent years, when I’ve had days that knocked me flat, I’m reminded, again, that I need to be respectful of the boundaries. That I need to understand…when you don’t feel well, no one can feel well for you. No one can hope you into energy and strength and wellness.

I suppose this is on my mind because I was just flattened, and reminded. And because Rob was on call and saw a lot of sick elderly folks. Most of them probably had flu, and will likely recover. I hope so. But my 53-year-old self has bounced back, and recovery will likely be slower for the older ones.

I am pausing to reflect on this now, and to store it away for “some-day,” when I’m on the elderly side of life, or ill…I’ll be the one needing patience then, and kindness, and understanding that just wanting isn’t always enough.

It’s perspective, isn’t it?

Word for 2014

The past couple of years I’ve been challenged to select a single word to set the tone for the year to come. So far I’ve chosen “revision” and “momentum.” This year I’m choosing “consistent.” I’m pretty good at beginning projects and making commitments, and I’m often even good at follow through. But not always. At times I get sidetracked and lose my focus. Some things (like blogs) need consistent attention and nurturing to succeed.

I also fall into the trap of taking care of commitments to others, while commitments to myself languish, unloved and un-nourished, sometimes for weeks at a stretch. That’s just the nature of life, to some degree. After all, work projects and tasks have finite timelines that impact others…I can’t set those obligations aside when I’m tired, or not in the mood, or distracted. Unfortunately, that happens all too often with my personal projects.

Mind you, success can be defined in many ways, and success can be as variable as reaching a definite goal, or just staying on task toward a goal; or keeping a regular time to pray or meditate or read; or finally marking a big to-do off your life list. Everyone can define success for themselves.

Closely connected to this year’s choice of “consistent” is recognizing: just because a project is personal, that doesn’t mean I should give myself a pass on meeting the goal, self-imposed though it be. In a very real way, when I make my personal goals take a backseat to other priorities, I’m giving myself less than what I give to others. Somehow I’ve created the false idea that work for others is more important than work I accomplish for myself. Well, sometimes that other work is more urgent. But personal goals shouldn’t be devalued because they’re personal. Particularly if goals are strategic, as in: moving your life in a new direction.

That sounds selfish, but I think it is another way of saying that I need to mind the important more than the urgent.

If you would like to join me in this approach, it’s simple! To choose your word and receive support and reminders to follow through with your goals, go to http://www.myoneword.org and sign up…free and easy! This is a different approach to the traditional new year’s resolution route. Instead of creating a list of goals, narrow your focus to one word.

What is most critical to your journey this year? Just the process of choosing a word can be revealing. I don’t always choose the first word that comes to mind, but I do consider what rises to the surface…what does my first impulse lead me to? It’s a good way to take stock, and to choose one direction rather than getting tangled up in an itemized list.

Surveys say that new year’s resolutions don’t last very long. Most people abandon their list by mid-January. Having one word to keep in mind is a minimal approach, but your word can encompass as many tasks as you choose throughout the year. It’s really just a different way to approach the same desire: to make the coming year better, to reach your potential, to find your best.

On this last week of 2013, I’m thoughtful. And I’m hopeful. And I’m challenged.

How about you?

Sunday morning praise

Raining today…again…always this time of year it seems.

Rain drops keep falling

Rain drops keep falling

But instead of looking out the window at the raindrops and feeling the gloom seep in, here’s a better way to begin my day:

I hope the sun is shining wherever you are. But if not, maybe this song will inspire you to feel around in the nooks and crannies of your spirit and remember, or discover, what is well with your soul.

I have to do that…consciously, deliberately….think about, write out, contemplate the good in my life. It’s easier to acknowledge the bad, the disappointments, the frustrations. Because those things bubble up without effort, needing my attention, demanding time. Or at the very least, demanding worry and angst.

I write a list of my life’s good things, and I don’t have much to catalog that’s perfect. That list will be for another life, another life time. But I record the small victories, the abiding sweetness, and that’s what I celebrate today. I offset sadness with joy, fear with hope, and the paralysis of uncertainty with movement of action. Any positive action is better than sitting still, wondering what to do next.

  • A dear loved one is struggling with illness, likely to be in the grip of final struggles. I am grateful for the time we have to be family to each other.
  • My search for direction continues. I am grateful that each opportunity comes when I least expect it. I’m learning new skills and find new inspiration every day.
  • I wonder…are we fiddling while Rome burns? The government theater on stage is disheartening, discouraging, demeaning. How has it come to this? I remember that there are good people everywhere. You just have to open your eyes to see. Hope here! Integrity and gratitude grow out of character.
  • Just when I’m feeling discouraged about life in general…Stephanie calls to tell me that baby Jack has his sixth tooth! Children are renewal of life, and I have two precious little ones to celebrate every day. 

    The little guy

    The little guy

  • Relationships can be thorny and challenging. I’ve had my time in that hole. I find support every day from my husband and partner in life. We don’t always agree, but we’ve learned to hold fast to the good.

Holding fast requires daily investment. What am I feeding myself today? What words do I practice?

I write about this often because I need constant reminders. I’m a positive person, but I struggle against the battering ram of daily life. And isn’t that the common plight? We are all hope-seekers, longing for reassurance, for comfort, for the peace of knowing: it will be alright. Sooner or later, all will be well.

Holding fast is hard. But doable, one challenge at a time. And the key is having a grateful heart every day.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”     ~ Melody Beattie

Three little words…

And those would be…you guessed it! Electronic health record! Life has been busy this summer, working between two clinics, both in the midst of major technology changes. I’m learning and growing with the rest of the staff. In one setting I’ve been more a facilitator, in the other, I’m a super-user. I’d like to have a cape to go with the title. Then I would know I’ve really arrived!

If you don’t know this technology, you will. Coming soon (if not already) to a health care facility near you, and pretty much everyone in this country, electronic health records take medical charts from paper, print-outs, and dictated notes to digital documents that will securely hold lists of meds, diagnoses, treatment plans, test results, diagnostic images and demographic information, all neatly and legibly…no more scrawled physician’s notes to decipher, no more jumble of physical charts.

No matter how much advance planning is done, the transition from paper to digital, or in the case of the second clinic, from one digital system to a new and more robust one, is painful. Painful, painful, painful. Workflows are different, responsibilities shift, new terminology abounds, tasks change. People get upset. Some are excited and adjust beautifully, others see it as the end of the world as they’ve known it. I see it as inevitable, and know that like any new process, a few months from now no one will think about it anymore; it will just be the way work is done. No drama, and hopefully minimal frustration. But that moment of recognition is still somewhere on the far horizon.

So this is my world, for the moment. Or it has been. I’m on a break, warming up in sunny California, escaped to a few days of RVing and slow living. I go back next Monday, ready for the “go live” in one clinic and ramping up to welcome new provider staff to the other clinic. Part-time contracting is interesting, and it can be rewarding. But this summer it’s also been just a wee bit hectic.

So, I’m glad to be back in my own little corner of the digital world, excited to pick up the threads of the blogs I’ve missed reading, and checking in to see what everyone’s been doing while I’ve been largely pre-occupied. I’ve missed my friends, and hope I’ve been missed too. Funny how you can spend all your time in front of a computer and still feel like you’ve been away!

Empathy

This video makes me think as I go about my hustle-bustle life, working in the health care arena every day…easy to see patients as data points and staff as names filling in the call calendar. This is a reminder that they are each individuals with hopes, joys, sorrows and fears; weary, excited, disillusioned or naïve. Patients and staff bring their whole selves into each encounter. As much as medical professionals try to be professional…they are human beings first. And patients may be easy or difficult to address. But they are people, not numbers.

May we remember to give grace to the person across from us, walking beside us…even to the one who is unreasonable or demanding or simply not comprehending. You never know what is going on underneath the surface…what their life story is at this very moment.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” 
― Dietrich BonhoefferLetters and Papers from Prison

Happy day

Today is a happy day. This is our 32nd anniversary. Not a particularly noteworthy number; but though the number itself isn’t special, this year had its own markers that make it unique in our shared history.

The past year took us through big events: Jack’s birth, Alex’s divorce and move, our nephew’s wedding; trips with family, trips to family, family coming to us. We’ve cycled through months of work and weeks of RV time; we celebrated holidays and slug days, weathered stress and counted joys. As we continue to redefine this time in our lives…empty nest, part-time workers, full-time adventurers, finding our joint and separate passions, I learn all over again. The lessons of life, always the same, but presented with new context each time, can be summed up in a few words:

True love isn’t found. It’s built.

Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad. ~ Jeffrey R. Holland

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.

Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys. ~ Rita Schiano

Pride is concerned with who is right; humility is concerned with what is right. ~ Ezra T. Benson

There isn’t enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there.

Once in a while, right in the middle of ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.

Our fairy tale is an unlikely one. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the story is comedy or drama, or if it will end happily ever after. But there is something that keeps us connected, keeps us together. I like to think we’ve weathered enough storms that the future will be all sunshine. That’s unlikely to be true. Life has a way of mixing it up, good and bad all together, sometimes so intertwined that you can’t be sure where one ends and the other begins. But in the thick of it, I know I will look at him, and he will look at me. And we know, we two, what that look means. We know, without words, even without touch, what is passing between us.

So number 32…nothing really remarkable. Except that we made it. And with each passing year, this relationship, with its joys, flaws, sorrows, routines and surprises, grows more rooted in my heart. And through it, I learn, all over again, the lessons of life.

Happy anniversary to my one and only: R.

Nomads on the road

R & S

“M” is for Melting

This post is brought to you today by the letter “M,” a seemingly random alphabet selection, but actually quite relevant, as it represents my current body condition. Yes, I’m melting, just a few seconds at a time. At the youthful age of 52, I’m experiencing hot flashes. And let me tell you, for the first time in a long time, I want air conditioning! Not constantly, of course. I’m coming to know the sensation of a slow heat infusing my skin…really an interesting feeling, especially as I’ve been chilly most of my life. I’m the one with a light sweater when most of the rest of the world is ready for short sleeves. My last office was nick-named “the womb” because I kept it oh-so-toasty with a little space heater. Well, I do live in Alaska. And even in the southeast rainforest part of the state, there is a lot of chilly weather here. You don’t have to live in the Arctic to be cold in Alaska.

But that may be changing…who knows if my own personal summer will outlast the calendar pages? (Borrowed that phrase from a friend…the best description I’ve heard for this experience!) Well, it’s about time. I’ve been waiting for this…and now it’s finally happening. And I have to acknowledge: I’m just a wee bit sad…a little nostalgic. Not for a monthly event, but for what it represented. And even though I haven’t been able to kid myself for a while that I’m young, somehow, this transition seals more than just a chapter. Like the passage from full and busy motherhood to empty nest, something has changed, gone, and I won’t get it back. I can’t recover the time of life, the physical part of myself that is changing, literally moment to moment.

So I read about this phase of life…should I be taking hormones? Or look for natural supplements to mitigate symptoms and support good health? I have a nightly rhythm with my sheets…on, then off, then on again. Oddly, one of the biggest impacts I’ve noticed, aside from the actual sensation of the flash of heat, is the disruption to my sleep cycle. Hard to sleep soundly when I can’t decide: cover; no cover; cover; no cover. NO COVER!

Most houses in Ketchikan do not have air-conditioning. Just not necessary. And normally I would agree. Except that it’s June, and we’re having a real taste of summer here. Doesn’t happen every year. Some summers whiz by on a Tuesday, and if you’re stuck in a meeting, or out of town that day, you could miss the whole thing. (This has actually happened to me…pretty much went four seasons in a turtle-neck a couple of years since we moved here.) Well, this summer we’re doing a little better. And I’m thinking of where I can drive myself each afternoon when it really warms up. My car has air-conditioning. Safeway has air-conditioning. Wal-Mart is air-conditioned. I’m sure you see a pattern here. I’m looking for a little relief from the heat. Can’t believe those words just typed themselves onto my screen.

So far, Rob is still intact. I haven’t dissolved in a heap of emotion. I haven’t turned into a raging maniac. You hear stories about this transition. I don’t want to spin out of control, to feel I’ve unleashed the Kraken. Mostly I just want to be myself, the me I’m familiar with, good and bad, warts and all. I don’t want hormones, or lack of them, to define me. Can I be bigger than menopause? Ah, another use for the letter “M!” Well, you might as well have two for the price of one! And the alliteration is good. Melting menopause. Menopause melting. Works either way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go stand in front of my fridge. It’s the best I can do for air-conditioning at this time of night when my retail options are closed.

Healing on a beach

We came down to Mexico last week…an escape from late winter in SE Alaska, and a chance to see the sun and feel the warmth of a breeze instead of the buffeting of the wind. We had no plans, as usual. Most of our vacation escapes are low key…reading, resting, just being. We don’t need a lot of entertainment. We need time with no structure. IMG_0005

We vary our days between sitting by the pool, walking the beach, sleeping in and reading or catching up with on-line chores. Rob is studying for his upcoming boards test. I work on projects…designing a business card, writing a proposal. Nothing earth-shaking.

Somewhere in the resting, the recovery, we share. We talk a bit about what we’re reading, how we’re growing. We do this in our “normal” life too…of course we do. We connect on quiet Saturdays, or Sunday afternoons. But there’s something about the slow pace of a vacation week. Or maybe it’s the rhythmic presence of the ocean. Things begin to come out. We soften, open up. We become vulnerable.

We have been healing for a while now. I know the date we broke apart. It was September 12, 2010. That was the day we separated, in heart, although not quite at that moment in body. That came a little later that fall, at the end of October. What a time of awakening that was! It was a time like no other in my life, an experience that became precious to me: for the insight, for the honesty, for the truth that came out of it. IMG_0007

The funny thing is, I couldn’t tell you the exact date we came back together. It was in May of 2011. But the date isn’t branded on my heart. We just returned…to each other, to the relationship, to trying. We’re still trying.

The whys and hows aren’t important now, and anyway, wouldn’t be important to anyone but we two…I don’t need to share every detail. But I will share this: it was worth it. Every moment, every hurt, every loss. Because out of it, I grew, and he grew. We became better and stronger. As people and as a couple. It was a hard-fought battle, and to tell the truth, there are times we’re still fighting it. Maybe we always will be.

But this is my pearl of great price: I have wisdom now that came from that time of suffering. It isn’t wisdom of pride, it is wisdom of humility. I don’t have it all sorted out, neatly packaged, nicely arranged. I do my best, I make mistakes, and I forgive. And that’s all. That has been enormously freeing….just that, to know that I’m doing the best I can, and to let go of everything else. I’ve taken down my defenses. I’m standing with my hands open, my heart bare. It feels good to give, and to be open, regardless of what comes. To just do the right thing.

Just when I think I’ve come to the end of the reconciling experience…that we’re neatly put back together, that I’ve gotten my growth out of this…something else appears. It isn’t necessarily about the relationship itself, but it is as if, once I faced myself and those issues honestly, whole new worlds began to open up. Sometimes I’m inspired, and sometimes I’m so humbled.

I began this blog in the midst of heartache, at a time when I needed to stake a claim to the good of life, and to the positive. I needed to say “I will not be poisoned by bitterness.” The joy of reaching out, finding others, discovering – it has been a significant part of the healing process for me. As is my style, the next post may be some light-hearted thing…a funny cartoon, or a recipe. I’m not someone given to the depths. But now and then, just now and then, I have to acknowledge: I’ve been down, and I’ve been out. And I’m so grateful to have come through, to have found grace and peace and joy. And even now, I know, there are no guarantees. But there is hope. If there is one message I have to share, it is this: don’t give up on anyone or anything. Don’t write the end of the story before it writes itself. It may surprise you. I would never have believed, on September 12, 2010, that I would write these words today. Life is good, not perfect. Love is wonderful, not perfect. Nothing is perfect. But it’s all good.

“Yes, I decided, a man can truly change. The events of the past year have taught me much about myself, and a few universal truths. I learned, for instance, that while wounds can be inflicted easily upon those we love, it’s often much more difficult to heal them. Yet the process of healing those wounds provided the richest experience of my life, leading me to believe that while I’ve often overestimated what I could accomplish in a day, I had underestimated what I could do in a year. But most of all, I learned that it’s possible for two people to fall in love all over again, even when there’s been a lifetime of disappointment between them.” Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding

“I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.” John Newton