Covid-pression

Covid has changed so much of our lives and, sadly, not much for the better. I have to be honest and say some polly-anna part of me thought we would come out of this better people; it appears many have not.

I thought we’d value friendships more, find beauty in the small things, experience next level gratitude. Some have, I suppose; but not without their own trials.

Covid tested all of us. At some level or another we have experienced depression, compression, oppression and it’s all erupted into violence, sadness, selfishness, thoughtlessness. When the going gets tough – I thought the tough went shopping; however, it appears the tough are few and the whiny little bitches of the world have amplified their shitty little messages.

But let us not wallow in the negative. As I tell my students, we can only fix our own little corner of the world. And that is what we must do. If we were all working on making our own little corners better (instead of joining the jackasses), then we are making a difference and that difference will be amplified. Remember that commercial, you tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two…. That is what we have to do – but spread good, positive, loving messages.

I’m shaking off my covid-pression (whatever one I’m experiencing this week – cuz it’s always different) and taking back life.

I was looking for a place to volunteer on Thanksgiving. The best thanksgivings I’ve spent have been serving at shelters. At one place I volunteered, families got all dressed up and came together. They sat and chatted with strangers like they were old friends. It beat the hell out of stuffing our faces and sitting back with a belly ache watching the tube.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been painting, baking, hiking, planning trips – and it feels great! It just takes breaking the ice in some way. And the rest will follow. I think it was the idea of volunteering and the memories of our previous years spent serving others which lifted my sense of covidpression.

We have so much to be thankful for – still! We have so much power within ourselves to change our own story and to be part of changing others’ stories.

Wishing you love and contentedness during this season.

What if We Chose This Life?

Ivy Getty’s Wedding

Have you seen this photo? I admit it took my breath away. For a moment, I thought it was a scene cut from the Great Gatsby. But there’s no Leonardo to be found. This is real. This is someone’s real life. Of course, in some abstract way, we know people are wealthy and have these lives and obviously get married in an extravaganza such as this. But, for a second, I forgot.

So enmeshed in my humble life, satisfied with my little home and my lovely garden, grateful for my girls, and proud of my job – that my mind neglected to remember that some people have larger lives.

I don’t think I’ve been to a concert venue as large as this scene since the Richfield Coliseum. (So long ago, it was before event centers were named for companies and instead for the cities in which they were built.)

Ivy Getty is a part of THE Getty’s. Granddaughter of John Paul – I know the name from The Getty Museum, which I’ve enjoyed on a number of occasions. They used to offer music on a Saturday evening while the galleries and gardens were opened late. Some people know John Paul Getty descended from the JPG The First who was (once) the richest man in the world.

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Many years ago, I heard the theory that, prior to our birth, we choose our lives and the events that happen in our lives.

I railed against the idea. There’s a hellava lot of things that has happened in my life that I would have never agreed too. “I would not have pressed that button!” I insisted.

But now, years down the road, all I’ve been through, all I’ve learned, there have been benefits. I’ve gained levels of empathy that some people can’t comprehend. (A person with a P.H.D in Religious Studies once asked how I could forgive someone who had harmed me when they never asked for forgiveness or showed remorse.) I have a deep gratitude for the things I do have and put people before material things.

I am by no means perfect. I falter in my empathy. I’m occasionally short on patience. When rushing, I can be careless in thought and deed. But mostly, I have sought higher levels of understanding about our purpose and place.

And more often than not I think – maybe I did choose this life.

If we are to believe we are here to learn lessons, to become better beings from incarnation to incarnation, to free ourselves from the evils of humanity – pettiness, jealousy, greed etc, then isn’t it probable that we chose hardships that might teach us acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude.

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If you’ve read this blog for long, you’ll know I was raised in poverty, became a single parent, struggled to put myself through school while raising my children. It might be easy to fall into step with the green-eyed monster and wish for money and power. Wouldn’t that have made life easier? Many of us think it would have or will. However, the financially gifted have their own issues.

John Paul Getty III was kidnapped. His grandfather didn’t want to pony up the dough. So the kidnappers mailed him Junior’s ear. Then a negotiation began. Can you imagine the richest man in the world refusing to pay a ransom for his flesh and blood? Can you imagine your grandpa refusing to give up a paycheck for you?

Streaming services (in addition to the pandemic) has cost higher paid actors their expected income. Health care they were once promised has been affected. We have a whole generation of “stars” who may not be able to live the lives in which they have become accustomed.

In other words, the wealthy have their problems.

One of the reasons I suspect old money doesn’t like to mix with new money or either of those with us peasants is they fear being used, liked, or appreciated only for their $$ and connections. Anyone ever use you? During my college years, I had a few who seemed to only desire my editing skills (such as they are.)

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I am grateful for the lessons learned. I’m grateful the things that happened weren’t worse. I’m happy I am able to help those I can. Thank you, Universe, for healthy offspring, a brain that works, friends that are true, the capacity to love, the understanding to forgive, the acceptance, empathy, and desire to strive to continue to become a better person. (I imagine these are gifts bequeathed to me from challenges faced and overcome.)

I wish Ivy (Love that name!) Getty and her crew the best. May their marriage be loving and their children healthy.

Gratitude is my Kool-aid

As I composed a text regarding people’s past pain, something popped up in my newsfeed that gave me pause.

A conversation recently reminded me of previous chats with someone who always decried what their parents did not do for them. Some people live in their past pain. They blame their parents or past relationships for how they interact in the world or for what they have neglected to accomplish.

There is no doubt that our primary relationships affect us in many different ways. However, I’ve always maintained that once you discover the problem, it’s up to you to correct the issue.

Someone once told me – if the kids get to 18 and they’re still alive, then the parents have done their job. As a parent, I say – if only it were that simple!

As a child, my parents did not do everything right. However, I think they did the best they could with what they were given. I survived. I moved beyond their lack and created a successful path.

As a parent, I tried my best to do everything in my power to make certain my children’s needs and desires were met while trying to teach them appropriate boundaries. No parent is perfect and I probably made mistakes. But my kids are pretty damn great humans!

Some people live in their pain. They live on their parents’ mistakes, blaming and crying foul, and using that as an excuse for their failures.

I feel they’re wasting their time, wasting their lives in this pain. Move forward. Move on. Get the help you need and become the person you want to be. All of our parents did the best they could given their own lack. It is up to us to learn from their mistakes and find what we need in this life.

Now – the post which gave me pause to rethink my position came from Jeff Brown.

The practice of empathy tells me I should heed his advice and allow those feeling the pain of their victimhood their own time frame. Emotions, in some theories, don’t have a timeline. When we are in pain, it’s hard to consider moving beyond it. It does take time.

I do have to ask – are we victims of our parents’ deficits?

One person told me they felt their whole life had been affected by their lack of a father. They believed their life would have been much different, much better had their father stuck around.

I said – what if he was abusive? what if he was an alcoholic? what if he was in and out of prison?

The person balked at my questions. They grew angry with my insinuation.

BUT – is it not true?

We idealize what we do not have. We think things would have been better had we had this or been given that. Life is never that simple!

Many people recognize and appreciate the hard work of their single mother or single parent instead of wishing for what they did not have.

I’m among those who live with and on gratitude. I do not and can not live in the past. Those who live in the past or live on the pain of their past can not move forward to a successful future.

Gratitude for what we have, for what the lack teaches us, helps us appreciate our life and our opportunities. Most of us wake up every morning healthy, able to see the blue skies (or grey skies as of late), and hear the birds singing. We are able to walk across the floor, flip on the lights, work and play. We may experience sadness, heartache, but these things teach us valuable lessons about ourselves and our lives – if we’re smart.

Gratitude, if you’re unaware, is the act of being thankful for those things we do have. If you’re new to the practice, keep a gratitude journal. Write down every morning or every evening (or even carry it with you) and log the gifts the day has given. Start recognizing what you have. Focus on you and not those around you who seem like they might have more, do more, be more. We don’t know others’ true stories or true feelings. We need to recognize that too!

Gratitude

I am four, standing in the doorway of a pawn broker’s shop at the corner of E.152nd and St. Clair Avenue. My brother is kicking the door frame while my mother throws words over her shoulder. There’s a younger sister in the stroller next to my mother, and another in her belly. My mother is young, younger than I will ever remember.

She’s pawning her wedding ring – again – because we are out of milk and bread – again – .

I am giddy. Standing in front of my refrigerator. Grateful for a life in which my children will never go hungry.

Memories are said to play favorites. The more you think of one thing, the better you’ll remember it. The less you think of another thing, you’re likely to forget.

I rarely visit the past. Maybe I’m trying to forget. But there’s enough snippets left to keep me basking in gratitude for the life I have.

Success Stories

I didn’t grow up with a lot of positive role models. There were not many (if any) people in our neighborhood who were looked up to as success stories.

I can see my neighbors, even now, from the concrete steps of our four unit blond brick building on S*** Avenue in Collinwood. Across the street, Francis. She had Lucille Ball red hair and sat on her porch from 9am to 9pm, beer in hand. Next door, a single mother who worked at a bar and brought work home with her – in all sorts of ways. Next to her, a retired old man who sat across from Francis with his own beer in hand. His wife, Goldie, was a sweet woman whose toes twisted around one another, feet mangled, she said from twenty years of high heeled waitressing. On the other side, a retired railroad worker, no patio, so he sat in his kitchen hand wrapped around a cold beer.

There were bars on every corner. T & M’s could be seen from the porch. Strangers and neighbors stumbling out with the music pouring onto the street.

The teenagers went to high school, married the boyfriends who beat them, and set up house on the next block. A few got away, I’m sure. But I can list many more who died young or ended up in prison. My teenage crushes are dead now. One was shot in the head, the other crushed under the wheels of a truck. I never got into drugs, thought those who smoked and drank acted silly, stupidly, dangerously. Girlfriends recall tales of waking up half naked, uncertain if anything happened. That wasn’t the memory – or lack of memory – I wanted.

Mostly, I felt limited. I felt outcast. I didn’t seem to belong with any particular crowd or group or gang. I wanted something more, something different, and I didn’t know where to turn. Getting out and getting away seemed the only answer for me. I didn’t know what might meet me beyond the borders of the familiar, but there was no safety and no options in the familiar.

Someone once said – it was very brave of you to travel across country on your own and start over alone. I hadn’t considered it was “brave.” I’d believed it was my only choice, my only chance. She offered, the world is a dangerous place for a young woman to do such a thing. Sometimes home is a dangerous place. Limiting yourself is dangerous. Not fulfilling your potential is dangerous. Living a life in which you’re completely unhappy is dangerous. Sometimes, saving yourself, however scary the unknown is, is your only choice.

 

Resolve, Rambling Roads, and Roses

San_Fernando_Valley_from_Mulholland_Dr

It’s past midnight. I’m up late. I’ve spent the last however many hours writing after a particularly good day.

Why was it good? I’m not sure. I didn’t watch the news. The sun was out. My roses are blooming. I helped someone – at least I hope I did.

I read something about women and impact. [I know this seems like it’s rambling, but it’s going somewhere – don’t all rambling roads lead someplace interesting?]

Today was a mix of everything. My past, my future, my desire to make a difference, and my predilection to learn new things and gain a great understanding of myself and the world around me.

I had a hard childhood. But it made me strong in order to confront the things I’ve had to face, the things I may still encounter. I have purpose. Those two things go together – challenges construct strength which in turn creates a compelling purpose in life.

That strength has left me at a disadvantage in a single way – I don’t know how to ask for help. And sometimes I come off as someone who has it all under control in an off putting way.

People like to see others fail because we all do at one point or another and that misstep humanizes us. Weakness makes us human. So if we don’t reveal weakness, we lose credibility, authenticity.

However, where I grew up, if you showed weakness, you were bully bait.

So I have a hard time reaching out. I admire people who are strong, but can still ask for assistance. I’m still working on that balance.

It is my purpose to help others. To make an impact.ย The only way I’ve ever known how to do that was through writing.

So, I’m up late writing. Trying to make an impact.

Sometimes rambling roads fold over on themselves, touch and twist away, then even end where they began. It was a good day. And I am thankful for all that has passed.

 

Fortunate For Few

I realize I am fortunate, but not for reasons some may think.

Some people think I’m wealthy. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ Did they miss the whole teacher thing? However, I acknowledge many people have it more challenging.

But it’s not wealth, material things, or luck that makes me fortunate. Some people have those things and are unhappy.

I have some family, a few friends, a job I love, and those make life feel easier. However, like everyone I have my issues. Sometimes it feels as if I’ve had more than my share, but maybe we all feel like that at times.

Unexpected bills come up, broken this or that, car repairs. I’ve lost a few friends, been ripped off, scammed, and menaced.

But…

I go to bed every night looking forward to the first hints of sunrise sneaking through my blinds, the whistle of the tea pot (seriously, my coffee/tea pot broke – I’m brewing it old school), that first sip of hot tea in the chill of the morning, then the launch into the day – whatever that may bring.

Outside my window, the birds sing in the trees, the sky is usually blue, I’m healthy.

Gosh – that last one – health: we don’t think about that until we’re not! We don’t think about how easily and naturally our bodies flow until there’s an injury, a stoppage, a pain.

We need to acknowledge the good things in our lives, no matter how small.

The bad things seem to outweigh the good only if we focus on them. Focus on the good things, every tiny, little, great thing that makes our lives beautiful.

Gratitude!

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