I often blog about life lessons I learn on the train raveling to work. A few days ago I got ready for work and it took me awhile to decide what to wear. I put on a bright green sweater which I didn’t love but decided to be brave and wear it anyway. I got on the train and read a book. Now I know when I read for the entire trip, I don’t interact with anyone, so I don’t have the opportunity to learn a life lesson. Sometimes that’s OK because it is peaceful to just read while the world hurries by. When the train stopped I closed my book and disembarked. A man in a neon vest who had also disembarked approached me and said, “Excuse me. you’re look great! You’re beautiful.” Well that got my attention. I smiled and said thanks. Then he asked, “Are you married?” I said no, my husband died a couple of years ago. Then he said, “My wife died and I am looking for a companion. I am 62…” I could tell he wanted to know how old I was so I said “I am 64 and I am not looking for a companion.” That did not discourage him. He continued to tell me a few things about himself and said again, “I am looking for a companion.” And once again I told him that I am not. I walked away and as I left he asked, “How many kids do you have?” I held up four fingers and kept walking. And his last words were, “You’re beautiful.” I gotta say the whole encounter lifted my spirits. What’s my life lesson? Not sure, but I think I’ll call that green sweater “my lucky sweater.”
My son and his family left Atlanta ahead of Hurricane Irma and have done very well in Virginia. Having heard that things are OK in their apartment building, they are going back home tomorrow. I’m so glad they left Atlanta. It was challenging to watch The Weather Channel and see that storm headed straight for their house, and there was nothing I could do about it.
On the other hand, I haven’t heard from my daughter ever since she sent me the “I hate you” text a few weeks ago. I heard that she might be in some trouble, and she hasn’t contacted her son lately, so I don’t know how she is doing. I don’t want to know the details because I will worry. And I’m sure I’ve heard a version of the same sad story many times before. To connect this to the hurricane, I feel like I’ve been watching a storm headed straight for my daughter, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I hope she finds a safe place for shelter.
I have spent a lot of time watching the news about Hurricane Irma approaching Florida. I was in Florida in June and am so sad to hear about the upcoming disaster in the beautiful, friendly state. I was on my way to Florida in March for a nursing conference when I got stranded in the Atlanta airport for 8 hours due to bad weather. I got a hotel and was unable to re-book my flight to Florida. So I ended up visiting my son and his family in Atlanta longer than planned. It was great. But now as I watch the Irma news, I can’t help but worry about my son and his family in Atlanta, which is close to the hurricane. Apparently the stores in Atlanta are sold out of water and gas lines are long. Tornadoes may occur. Power outages are expected. My son said he is all stocked up with provisions and I shouldn’t worry. His wife is 8 months pregnant. He has a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old. So yeah I’m going to worry until this thing is over and they’re all OK. I’m not overwhelmed with worry because the odds are that they’ll be fine. But this just reminds me how precious life is and how things can change in a heartbeat. And how it’s easy to watch a disaster unfold in the comfort of my own home. Having someone so close to the action is in fact not very comfortable. Best wishes and prayers to everyone.
Last year, as I adjusted (still adjusting) to single life, I often went to Facebook to pass the time. It was a bit addictive. Whenever I was on Facebook I beat myself up for wasting precious time reading about mundane events in strangers’ lives. Occasionally I would come across one of my friends’ posts, which was worthwhile. As the presidential election got into full swing, the negativity on Facebook drove me away. I made a commitment to stop using Facebook. I just did not need that constant negative, angry input or the cussing and soft porn in my life. I achieved my goal and have not been on Facebook since the election. Well, I am sad to say that I went from Facebook to Candy Crush. No, there’s no negative, angry input in Candy Crush – it’s just fun. But I still beat myself up about it because I could be doing other, productive things. I use it as an escape, a way to let my mind go on cruise control for a while. No need to make decisions or get anything done or learn anything or grow as a person – just play Candy Crush. A stress reliever. Well, like Facebook, I have found Candy Crush to be addictive. I think about it during the day and I dream about it at night. As I play, I keep saying, “One more game and then I’ll go to bed.” or “I just want to win this one and then I’ll clean the kitchen.” I notice that when I play on the train, I am missing uplifting, inspiring conversations with fellow strangers on our way to work. I tell myself I need a break from grading papers, my mind needs a change of scenery. What seems like hours go by and I haven’t done anything. It’s like sleeping through life. Time to wake up! So…. I did it! I deleted Candy Crush from my iPhone 10 minutes ago. I can do this! OK, to tell the truth I’ve done this before, and then I re-installed it. But this time I am blogging about it and I will NOT re-install it. Now the challenge will be what to do when I feel like playing. Will I replace it with something else that is more productive or something even stupider? What I’m really hoping for is that boredom and loneliness do not notice that I have gone cold turkey and they won’t come knocking at my door whispering, “Juicy!” or “Delicious!” and lure me back in. I think my first step will be to make a list: Things To Do When I’m Bored or Lonely.
Well, I completed my first week of school a few days ago. If you are new to this blog, I teach nursing at the University of Utah and started full-time in July. It’s been three years since I had a small tumor removed from my brain, and still have vision and energy problems. I went from part-time to full-time to prove to myself that I can do it. Plus, I just love teaching. The fatigue that is my companion was in high gear last week. I was able to meditate on campus a couple of times, and that helped. This Monday the fatigue was almost overwhelming. I came home and began to seriously question my decision to work full-time. I went to tai chi and felt pretty crummy. As I practiced the form, I noticed that I was focusing on the fatigue. The good news is that I caught myself thinking negatively and became very aware of how uncomfortable it is to focus on a negative thought or feeling. It sticks like glue. I said to myself, “Oh yeah! This is the negative thinking I tell everyone to avoid!” I managed to snap out of the funk (I simply started smiling) and went home and crashed on the couch. On Tuesday I woke up feeling great! I never felt fatigued all day. It was so awesome. I felt “normal.” What a gift. And a mystery, because I can’t figure out what triggers the fatigue or what triggers the energized day. I learned that it is much more fun to focus on feeling great instead of focusing on feeling crummy. Focusing on negatives seems very unproductive. What’s the point? I also learned that it ‘s amazing how uplifting and exciting one good day without fatigue made me feel. Now let’s see what the rest of the week brings.
A couple of weeks ago when I drove 2.5 hours to our Reid Ranch family reunion, my 11-year-old grandson drove with me. He is delightful. Very good at engaging conversation. Very smart and creative. We talked the whole time. On the way home he asked if he could play a video game in the car. I said OK. Well, gone was the pithy conversationalist. He was in his own world. This comes as no surprise of course. But I was surprised that even when he put the game down, he still was not talking. And if I asked him to answer my phone when it rang, her would say, “Just a minute.” It is hard to put into words the transformation that occurred when he played the video game. It’s like the real him went into hiding. The opportunity to bond and get to know each other better evaporated. I am not judging him, just making an observation. And a new rule: No technology while riding with Grandma! Or as I call it, Notendo. (Get it? Nintendo with a NO at the beginning…No Nintendo).
Friday I blogged about my daughter and thought I would write a follow-up post today. I am still having trouble gaining insight and finding meaning in the whole thing. I am feeling blocked. Perhaps that is why I am fussing over it. Finding meaning in something puts a calm to it. I’ll get there. While I was out to dinner Friday with my son, I received a text from my daughter simply stating, “I hate you.” Just out of the clear blue sky. I talked to my son about it a lot, which helped. When I got home I blocked her number. I also increased security at home and padlocked the gates. I’m still processing all this. Is it about my parenting? I know I made mistakes by enabling her and trying to make things easier. That’s not really the best approach. Seems like the more I give, the less it is appreciated. Is it about love and how sometimes it hurts? Is it about dealing with mental illness? I think I’m feeling a bit defeated, but at the same time I am glad the war has finally ended. Stopping the struggle and letting go actually feels pretty good. Today I spent lots of quiet time getting in touch with my feelings and thoughts. It was a nice break, but tomorrow is the first day of a new semester and I am looking forward to moving on. Seasons change and so do I.
The goal of my blogging is to gain and record insight from my experiences. I look for meaning in life events and in everyday occurrences, like births of grandchildren (life events) and riding the train (everyday occurrence). This week my family spent 3 days at Reid Ranch here in Utah for a family reunion. We had a great time doing activities like archery, horseback riding, tossing horseshoes, boating, volleyball, roasting marshmallows, playing card games, swimming, and eating fabulous food, all included in the price of the stay. When asked what my favorite activity was, I of course said, “just being with my family.” We talked and talked. The interesting part, that I have’t gained much insight from, is that on the second day my daughter got “in a funk” (her words) and took all of the pills she had on hand in an attempt to either kill herself or to get attention. She was up all night hallucinating and cleaning the kitchen. Honestly, it just irritated me more than anything else. She told me what a bad mom I was because I didn’t go to court with her or give her everything I’ve got. She does not seem to recognize all I have done for her. And when I give her money, it seems to let her know that no matter what, I will bail her out. I don’t do that anymore and she is very angry about it. She snapped out of her funk on the third day and apologized to several of her siblings and their wives, and seemed OK. When she got home she went to a car wash and somehow damaged her car. The police were called, charged her with disorderly conduct, and impounded her car. Since she needs a car to work, she has lost both of her jobs. She sent me a text where she called me a terrible name and pretty much blamed it all on me because I won’t help her. So… what insight am I gaining from this? I am still sitting with it all. Parenting is a challenge, and parenting someone who is mentally ill is very challenging for the whole family. I’m always wondering if I am doing the right thing.
Last week my friend at work told me she was going to Wyoming to view the solar eclipse. I told her, “Oh I’ve got to get you a T-shirt.” My son Sid has created some beautiful artwork and I wanted to give it to my friend. Well, she loved it and now her brother has ordered 130 more shirts! So Sid said I am in the running for his Salesperson of the Year Award. Which is cool because he doesn’t have salespersons and he doesn’t have a sales competition. So I’m pretty sure to win the award.
I’m at the stage of life now where I find myself reminiscing about the past. It’s sometimes called a “life review” and is what many people do as they age. I remember happy events in my life but then I notice that I get sad because those events and people have come and gone and I can’t get them back. I was thinking about my kids yesterday, remembering them as little children. It made me sad to think that I can never interact with them as small children again. I miss their little giggles, funny faces, cuddles, and learning together. I also miss being with them every day. As I checked in with my emotions, an epiphany hit me: Why be sad about sweet memories because we can’t go back? Why not enjoy the memory and appreciate the experience as an enriching, joyful, unique blessing? I began to smile and feel all the joy of sharing my life with those four awesome beings. A wave of gratitude engulfed me. I know I have said this before but here I go again: I am a blessed woman! It is exhilarating to connect with a memory and just enjoy it instead of losing myself in sadness for what was. Sure I miss my little ones, but missing them should not get in the way of totally enjoying my memories of them and being thankful for them. This experience was also a great reminder to me to live fully in the present moment every day. Now I enjoy and love my kids as adults, and appreciate the joy of having grandchildren. This is a great stage of life. Bring on the memories!