Life Lessons

This May Be The End..

It’s been a while since I posted a blog post. I wonder constantly if I have anything of importance to say. I wonder if my writing is even literate enough (I did fail English after all). I just wonder if anyone cares. There are so very many voices out there. Do we really need another one? I’m not fishing for anything by the way.

I do get asked why I put all my flaws out there in my blog and on FB. It’s simple really. I want to help one person not feel alone.

Growing up I dealt with very low esteem, manic and depression as well as OCD. None of which was ever diagnosed until much later in my life. I was left to figure it out on my own. And I, quite honestly, did not figure it out well. I beat myself up constantly. You are a loser. You are lazy and pathetic. You are ugly and can’t even take care of yourself. Get it together you slacker. Self-hatred didn’t begin to cover it.

There weren’t books or the internet. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was thought to be quirky but not in a fun way. I lived with obsessive thoughts for years that prevented me from enjoying much of anything. I lived in a constant state of anxiety for decades. And the worst part was I thought it was just me. I was somehow the only person ever damaged. I was terribly alone.

When I stared this blog I had no idea what it should be. I was still lost. But it gave me a voice that I could use. I could barely write back in the beginning. I have changed directions many times. I do get feedback and people from all over the world who have read my words. I don’t have many followers but I have few and that’s more than enough.

I just want with my whole heart and soul to reach that person who is sitting alone, lonely and scared. I want them to know that they are NOT alone. The things they are going through are not because of laziness or having no value. I want to scream there is help and you can get better! One person needs to hear that and I want to be the one to let them know. It’s ok.

That’s why I write this. But so many people are doing the same thing in video format. That’s a lot easier to comprehend. I’m thinking my “mission” has come to an end in this antiquated format.

I have enjoyed my time writing. It has helped me in a million ways. I could not have gotten through the dark years without it. I thank each and every person who ever read a word I wrote. It means the world to me. I’ve been touched by such lovely words from friends and people I’ve never met.

As I leave, possibly for the last time, please know that if you are struggling there are people who can help. Mental issues are nothing to be ashamed of. There is help. If you do not find what works, keep looking. Please don’t give up. Your life is to precious. Stay strong even if you don’t want to. It can get better!

Thank you again all!! Have the most blessed 2023 ever!

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When will it end…

Here’s my thought process on the way home from a typical day at work:

Did I say anything that upset anyone? Usually think of at least two possibilities.

Did I do everything right today? Then I start counting all the mistakes I knew I made. And think of a few more I hadn’t considered.

When I started to get overwhelmed (as I always do) did I show my frustration? I know I got pissy because I always do. Then I start thinking about who I need to apologize to.

Did I forget to do anything? I have my planner which has to do lists for my job so I don’t forget anything but I almost always end up forgetting something.

I rethink every single conversation of the day…were my words right, was my tone friendly, was I overly friendly, did I show how exhausted I am, and what could I have said better?

That’s just on the way home. By the time I actually get home, one or two things are really starting to fester. Now I’m obsessing and I can’t enjoy anything because I’m in replay mode and the repeat.

If I’m lucky the thoughts will finally subside. Then I fall into bed exhausted and fearful of what tomorrow will bring. Then about 1 am I wake up with a start, heart beating out of my chest and the thoughts of conversations or actions from upwards of 40 years ago start racing through my head.

Sleep is a distant memory by then.

I’m so tired of living like this. Worrying about every detail. Fretting over what I did wrong today? Scared that I upset someone and they won’t like me? Overwhelmed by all the obsessions.

That is truly how I live every day. I worry, then I worry some more, then I think of new things to worry about and end up worrying about what I forgot to worry about.

I am working at getting better. It actually was much worse. But it’s still bad and I need to stop before I get lasting sick over it all.

My mind asks the question….so you want to be a good person, how do you set boundaries and still be a good person?

I am proud to be a Christian, but does that mean I have to be a doormat for everyone’s feet? Can I still care for people and not be a people pleaser? How do I get control of my life and lose the obsessions?

This is my new journey. There are so many things to consider. It is not like I want to stop being a people pleaser so I can become a jerk….but my mind only sees the two options. I know there are more.

I’m miserable at times because I just cannot seem to lighten my unnecessarily heavy load. I put this one me and I need to fix it.

If you live like this, I’m sorry. It’s difficult as well as misunderstood. I’m going to try to figure a way to get better.

This is my quest…

60 Years of Age

This year I turned 60 years of age. I just cannot believe it to be so. I remember as a child, someone who was 60 years old was actually old. It did not seem possible that I could ever be that old and yet here I am.

It is amazing how quickly the decades passed. The days seemed to chug along and then in a blink of an eye a year had passed. During the dark days, time seemed stalled but the reality is it was just a blip on the screen of life.

I tried to distance myself from those I grew up with. My teenage years were a wasteland and I felt it best to separate from those years. I watched from afar some of those people who knew me as a youth. In my mind, they somehow managed to survive those years better than I did perhaps.

Time has a way of changing one’s outlook. In the past years I have connected with some of those friends of my youth. It has been a splendid gift. Many have travelled extensively. Many have lovely extended families with grandchildren. Our lives are not the same and that’s ok.

I have a self-imposed mental jail that still holds me back a bit. I’ve never been out of the United States. I have no children and now no grandchildren. I never finished high school and that carries a stigma that only I care about. I just feel damaged in comparison.

Here is the funny part of aging, it is an equalizer. No longer does it matter what happened in high school. No longer do the blazen mistakes have the same feel. When we see each other or talk it is as if no time has passed. Then as conversations progress I learned that my perception of how others lives played out was inaccurate.

Love, loss, joy, pain, confidence, insecurity, certainty and doubt has been a companion for all. I forget sometimes that no one gets out unscathed. We all have scars and we all have glorious memories. That realization is my gift from age. Equal we are albeit not the same. And that’s ok.

60 has brought more health concerns, more financial concerns and worries my 20 year old self never imagined. 60 has also brought peace from the past, a more realistic view of the nature of life itself. 60 has allowed the walls to crumble and has broken me free from the defeatism I wore as a badge for so long.

60 says… you have made it this far. You walked through some fires to get here. You learned lessons about what really matters. You have reconnected with the past in a positive way.

My faith is stronger than before. My purpose is more defined. My pains are my lessons learned. 60 and beyond, God willing, have some scary possibilities but the gift of peace 60 has given me is a gift worth living for.

You are the one that gives the number it’s significance. Yes, 60 is important but it looks nothing like I thought it would in the tender years of life. I’m thankful to be here even if I think it did come to fast.

I thank God everyday because one thing 60 has taught me is time does move extremely quick and today needs to be appreciated. Happy birthday to you all, another year goes by. May it leave an imprint on your heart that is full of love, joy and peace!

Two Types of Days

Every night at about 3 am I wake up. Until recently, I would wake up with a racing heart and cold sweats. My mind must have been reliving some memory from my past where I did or said the wrong thing. Sometimes I was not even aware of which event I was remembering yet I felt my body full of remorse and regret. I started to hate going to bed because these events were so difficult to overcome.

During the day, I am trying to live more intentionally by trying to leave the past there, in the past. I want to live a more positive life that is not full to my brim with regrets. Of course I have them and that is how life works but if I can focus on the lessons learned and try to be a better person then I can use those experiences for good.

Last night I woke up with an idea in my head. Unfortunately it’s not exactly an original idea but one that suddenly made sense to me.

As a Christian, I have basically two stories. The first story is dramatic and traumatic. It’s the story that details the things that sent me down wrong paths and allowed bad decisions. This story became the background for the next story.

Let me preface by saying that I became a Christian in my teens but could not, or more accurately, would not live like a Christian. I may have for short spurts but I liked the world and all that it offered. I loved excess and was greedy….self-centered and entitled and just didn’t want to change too much.

Years and years pass and I start to feel the heavy weight of regret. By this time, just recently I may add, I start missing and wanting more peace in my life. I start doing Bible studies, listening to trusted conveyors of the Word (that’s very important….just because someone mentions God does not mean they can automatically be trusted) and trying to apply lessons learned to a new me.

The way our world is today became the catalyst for much of this thinking. I do not want to be part of the world’s problems I want to do better. I started to change. More positive thoughts started to replace the negative I had grown so accustomed to. I felt joy deep in my soul. I was a little afraid of it as I waited for something bad to happen. That is just a remanant of my old thinking.

Then I realized that the second story was my Grace story. The story that gave me grace that I did not earn and washed away my sins. Not in a way that they didn’t happen but in a way that allows me to break from their oppression and use them to help others.

When I was coming up in my young adulthood, I really thought I was the only one who made the mistakes I made (self-centered much!) and I longed to learn how to be better. There just wasn’t anything that helped and my frustration was shown in anger and acting out.

Then comes the digital age and people started talking about things and I quickly learned that everyone has their dramas and traumas. That’s when I started writing this blog with the hopes that one person would not feel the aloneness that I felt.

Now I understand the Pre days and the Grace days. You learn in the Pre days and give back in the Grace days. You use the Pre day lessons to help others in the Grace days. There is zero waste because every experience can be used to create empathy for others. It can be used to help soothe a battered soul. Those experiences can help touch someone who has no one. That to me, when I finally realized it, rocked me off my feet.

I’m not sure anyone really cares about my extremely long-winded blog posts but if it brings even the smallest bit of comfort to one person it makes the Pre day worthy of my Grace days.

Grace is a gift from God that I did not nor could I ever earn on my own. His grace is given freely to those who accept it. I never felt that I could accept it fully because of my tainted past…but that’s the whole idea of it, you can’t earn it but you can spread it.

May you experience the joy and peace of your Grace days. Let nothing be wasted. This world is in need of some serious grace and light. Let’s be that!

I’m Just A….

I really thought I was more self-aware than this. I thought myself more evolved but apparently I was wrong. The other day in casual conversation someone asked me what I do and I said that I was just a secretary.

After I made that statement, the person I was speaking with instantly lost interest in the conversation and found a better, more interesting person to converse with. After overthinking the scenario for a few weeks I came up with some thoughts.

I was the one who steered the conversation away. I realize that by adding one simple word, the dynamic of the conversation eroded. Had I said I was an administrative assistant or even a secretary without the just, I would have given a totally different impression. By adding the word just before my title I stripped away any respect that might have been implied. I, myself, disrespected my position in life.

Especially in the “old” days it was not unheard of to say “I’m just a mom” or “I’m just a waitress.” Somewhere along the way, probably without malicious intent, we were told that those jobs didn’t matter. They were lowly jobs. No one ever said “I’m just a brain surgeon” or “I’m just a rocket scientist.”

I have contempt for the question what do you do anyway. It implies that “what I do” is the total of my parts but that’s for another blog post. The question is probably almost as old as time. I believe that it sets people up.

The thought processes in society have evolved a little since I was coming up in my work life. We know the value of parenting, customer service work and those jobs that are required to keep the “train” on the track, so to speak.

When I worked as a house guide at Biltmore and I told people that was my job, I could see interest and respect in their reactions. I relished that because I have not always held such positions. I am no longer doing that and am back to my true calling, as an admin, and reactions are not the same. I think it is because I am not sure of my own value at times and it comes across.

Somehow I feel like what I am doing is not that earth shattering. Will I leave a mark on the world like Billy Graham or Mother Theresa? No. But it does not mean that I will not change something or someone. My scale of impact is much smaller but not any less important.

My husband does a lot of good things for people. He helps where he can, whomever he can. His scope of influence is fairly wide. Mine not so much so. But here is the thing….by the work I do at home, it provides him the freedom to do what he does. So theoretically I am an unspoken part of his influence. The person behind the curtain.

The same at work, if I can take care of the daily tasks so that my boss can do boss things, have I not aided in their ability to make a difference? Therefore, I’m not just a wife or secretary.

Why do I bring this up? I think too many of us discount our contributions to the world because they are not big and flashy. We see ourselves as just a small cog that is easily overlooked. But that perception is incorrect.

A parable in the Bible speaks of this… is the eye more important than the ear or the ear more important than the mouth and so on. No…they are all important as are we. They all work together doing what they do best in order to have a positive outcome in the world. If even the smallest cog stops working, the entire process is threatened with shutdown.

This post is not so much about just me. I am at an age where I realize my value but that usually only comes with age. I suffered the insecurities of my worth for too many years. I hope anyone who is reading this will take a moment to truly contemplate your contributions to the world.

So today, know you are valuable. You are making a difference, one you may never even see. But you are. Please do not ever discount what you do (I still need to work on that too from time to time). How you perceive yourself is how others will see you.

Of course, what other people think of you should never impact how you value yourself. I have learned to stand tall no matter where I am in life (most of the time anyway). I try not to be prideful but I take pride in what I do.

I just ask that you value yourself and your abilities. Life would be so different for so many without your gentle touch.

A Midsummers Night Play

I was lucky enough to grow up in a time when, as a child, you could go to a ball game or an outdoor event and run around and have fun. The adults would meet up and exchange news and connect. It was a heady time with popsicles, water ballons, sticks as swords and toys made out of anything you could find.

We have lost that over the years that I have become an adult. I’m just as to blame as anyone. Those days, for me, where when I was really young. As I got older, I started to have more fear and anxiety. I began to prefer being alone, it was just easier for me.

Apparently that happened to a lot of people. I know once my parents divorced those times did not happen as often. More and more people had to work, kids were home alone and those days started to fade away.

Then came 400 channels and a reason to not leave the house. When you could stay home and watch movies or play video games, I lost interest in playing outside. More and more people stayed inside. Then there was the worry of bad things happening that appeared on the nightly news.

I get it…nothing stays the same. We evolve, if you will, and priorities change. Over time, you don’t even notice the new normal. But then something happens and you remember how it was.

The last two night I spent giving away lemonade at an outdoor performance of William Shakespheares A Midsummers Night Dream. I will be completely honest, as I always try to be, I do not understand Shakespeare. I have tried but I have no idea what is going on. I am just not cultured enough I guess. I did enjoy the performance though.

But I digress. What did I notice? The performance was on the front lawn of a local church set in the middle of a small neighborhood. The admission was free. There were a few vendors with unique items. Before the play there was music and it was fun. I was busy pouring lemonade before the play started but once it started something happened.

As I looked out at the crowd of families with children, couples of all types and an array of different generations, I was transported back to my childhood. The children were not looking at iPad’s but were engrossed by the fairies in the play and the action. The adults, not on their phones, were laughing and smiling as they obviously knew what was going on.

People sat on the ground or on a camp chair. The audience was part of the play and it was magical. As the sun started to set, twinkle lights glowed warmly from the bushes in front of the church that was the backdrop of the play. Tiki torches were lit as the Midsummers Night grew closer in the play.

Short breaks were taken as a bus drive by and a car with a loud radio but it was all part of the adventure. I looked out at the audience from my lemonade stand and other than a few sleeping children in their parents lap, I saw only smiles.

My heart was warmed that in this day and age, in this time we live, you can still experience magic. And you do not even have to know what is going on. It was an amazing couple of nights.

I hope that there will be more magical times for all of us. They may be happening and I am unaware. If that is the case, I will keep my eyes open to such opportunities. What a lovely feeling to be connected to people again.

For two nights at the end of July, it truly was a Midsummers Night Dream!

Time Well Spent

Life is a funny thing. So much time in our lives is spent making money, consuming things that require more money and making even more money. I understand that we all need money. But as I look back on the past 60 years, I want to see where my time was well spent.

If you have read anything here before, you know my priorities were not always correct. I spent as much money as I made and even more. I thought the pursuit of things was what made one happy. That was an empty pursuit and left me empty inside.

As I approach my 60th year, I am contemplating my time. Sadly, decades were wasted. Of course lessons were learned but happiness and joy were elusive. Recently that has changed as my mindset has changed. No longer are things important. So what is important now?

Time with loved ones. It’s easy to take this for granted. Our greatest gift is being with people who are supportive, loving and kind. Cherish the moments because once they are gone only your memories will provide joy.

Time enjoying things you love. Reading, hiking, swimming, photography or any outlet that brings joy! Feeding the soul is a worthwhile endeavor.

Time with God.

Time with a good meal.

Time of rest.

Time with nature.

Time with music.

Time in silence.

Time with purpose.

The list could go on and on. The one thing I noticed in this list is it all begins with time. Our time on this Earth is, unfortunately, finite. That is why we must try to control, even a little bit, of our time. We still need to live but the times well spent are the times that will be remembered at the end of the journey.

I want to remember times of laughter. I want to remember kind words. I want to remember hugs. I want to remember all those things that nourished my soul. The money never did that. The money provided shelter, food, warmth, etc. All necessary to exist but my relentless pursuit of possessions did not bring joy, it was time not well spent.

The time well spent provided those intangible things that are left on your soul like stardust. Memories to be recalled in the dark times. Strength to be recalled in the weak times. I discounted those experiences in my youth thinking things would fill the holes in my soul.

Now I try to drink in every moment of time well spent. I remember smiles, laughter, kindness, generosity and creativity. As I continue down life’s road, I plan to make my time left well spent.

Dinner with Friends

Last night we had the opportunity to visit with friends from another time. What a delight it was to be able to connect to that time in our lives with people who were an important part of it.  As life does, our paths went in different directions.  Our experiences were not the same.  But it felt as if we never parted.

Time, trials and joy imprint our souls and change us. I get that…

But the comfort that comes with familiarity covered me like a cozy blanket.  We talked and laughed about things we had done.  I thought about the person I was then. She is still here, if only as a cautionary tale, but she seems like a very distant memory.

Talking and laughing and getting a little weepy with a piece of personal history felt so good. I have made many great connections in my new life. My blessings abound from the people that I know now. But there is something magical about old friends.

Last night I came face to face with my history. It was a time when I was trying to just get by without the knowledge that comes with age. We were all struggling to find an equilibrium that made sense. It was, although not really the same, like being in a foxhole together. We were all in a fight of one kind or another. It created bonds that cannot be broken.

When you leave a certain situation, it’s easy to try to forget about it. As we all know, that is not really possible. My unhappiness in my old life, no matter how bad I felt, was decorated with some of the best times of my life. The people I knew then were my inspiration to get better. They created a comforter for me in my insecurities. They allowed me to stumble and fall without fear.

My focus for the last few years has been to evolve, to be better than I was and to make up for the stupid I did back in the day. I have been so blinded by that imperative in my life I have forgotten the other side of a past life. The good side.

Last night while having dinner with friends I remember it wasn’t all bad. I wasn’t all bad. There was fun, laughter, hard work and joy. I always say it’s the fire that makes you who you are. It is also the light that makes you who you are. Just like in the natural world, you have to have night for the morning to come.

I so enjoyed the few hours, that felt like a few minutes. It reminded me that my younger self was doing the best she could with what she had. It reminded me of all the imprints on my soul from friends and family. Maybe now I can look in the rearview mirror and not see just the chaos. Maybe now I can see the light that was there through the amazing people I knew.

I think I’m finally ready to embrace my past for what it is. The stepping stones to today. I am truly blessed to have been able to have friends who inspired and shaped me…past and present.

Having dinner with friends nourished my soul in a way I did not expect. It’s a reminder to appreciate those amazing people in our lives. It’s easy to lose touch but hang on tight to the lights these lovely people bring into the world. This world needs all the light it can receive.

What Good Looks Like

Growing up in the 60s and 70s was a different time. Things seemed a certain way. Gray areas weren’t really talked about. I grew up thinking that good people:

Wore nice clothes.

Had clean houses and nice cars.

Had perfect teeth, clear complexions, thick hair and were pretty.

Were smart and did good in school.

Had artistic abilities or were athletic.

I thought you could tell a good person solely on the way they looked. I assumed also they had to act a certain way. I thought nice people never got angry or used profanity. They were just always nice.

As I got older, I still believed that concept and assumed that I did not fall into any of the categories so I thought that I could not possibly be a good person. So I tried harder and longer and always fell short.

Then I reached a certain age and the reality hit me. Those external parameters do not predict the goodness of a person. The outside cover can be very deceitful. Oh how pretty it looks but the inside can be so ugly.

Luckily I learned that good people:

Are genuine…they are the same inside and out. Their heart is pure.

They are human which is to say they can get mad or upset. They can cry and feel out of control at times.

They can swear, sometimes a lot. Maybe they have a wicked sense of humor.

They may have tattoos and/or piercings. They just may look different than you.

Money does not automatically make a person good. Fancy clothes and things are fine but a person’s real heart is their true value of richness.

Beauty does not dictate one’s goodness. I have learned not to covet beauty but rather look for cultivated inner beauty.

Good people can have all the things I discussed above. Having those outward visuals are not the only indicators though. As I get older and as our world gets nastier, I find myself desperate for good and kind people. I see them everywhere now.

The young girl at the check out. The waiter at the diner. The person on the other end of a customer service phone call. They don’t have to fit a similar mold. They are strong and warrior-like because they have been in the fires of life and walked through.

Their experiences created in them not only strength but empathy and genuine concern. Many good people have seen some bad things but they did not allow that to corrode their hearts.

Anyone can be unkind. It’s the easiest thing in the world. But being kind and of good heart is, as I always say, is a super power. A super power that is not limited to certain socioeconomic level or to people who look a specific way.

I admire the strong humans that can show true kindness, long for justice and are ready to fight for what’s right. Gone are my unrealistic expectations of not only myself but those around me.

No longer will I judge that book by its cover. The trueness of a person’s heart is beneath the surface, past the battle scars. As I work on my own warrior kindness I shall celebrate all who choose to not allow life to bring them down! I admire all the superheroes I know and all the ones left to meet.

Stay strong and stay kind. We need that more in our world today!

Restock

Have you seen the videos on the internet that show a person restocking their refrigerator or their pantry with top-of-the-line glass and acrylic containers? The OCD part in me absolutely loves these videos.

If you have seen them, do you notice the sounds? I get some unspoken pleasure from listening to the eggs being placed in the acrylic egg container. Or the sound of a plastic bag being opened and poured into a glass container. I love when they pour milk out of its original carton into a glass bottle. I can watch those all day.

But as I watch these videos I cannot help but wonder a couple of things. The first being…is it really all that better to move the milk or cereal or whatever it may be into a different container? Most items come in their own container. Of course, part of me thinks it makes perfect sense while the more practical side is confused.

I will admit I used to pour our half and half into a glass bottle. I will give you a lot of items do taste better in glass. I also have learned recently that many fresh fruits last longer when stored in glass. But is it necessary for everything?

Conflicted I am about the true feasibility of all the extra work. The older I get the less likely I feel energetic about doing all those many dishes.

My other problem is definitely with the containers. I am not sure this point has been discussed online yet, but it is an original thought to me. If the makers of these videos were completely honest I think the content would look a little different.

For example, the only glass containers I have for storage are used Mason jars, cleaned sauce jars and we even drink from jelly jars. These actually work fabulously and cut down on waste. Are they as pretty? I think so but would really change the feel of those videos.

I have a few plastic containers with lids. They are very helpful to have around but can be expensive. My life hack, that most people already know, is that Cool Whip containers work well (not so good in the microwave though) and they sport lids.

I, personally, do not feel the need to store cereal or pasta in a separate container. They already come in one. Truthfully, I bet I would do it if money was no object.

I do buy sugar and rice in plastic containers then buy smaller packets to refill them. So after I talk it out a bit, there is some sense to it all. I sometimes wonder if they are not just another useless distraction. Yes, they probably are but I still enjoy them in all their unrealistic glory!

Using the concept in ways that help cut down on waste is truly a good thing. And not much else gives the feeling of comfort as M&M’s slowly being poured into a glass jar. Music to my ears!