Sunday, March 18, 2018

I Hope You Can Limbo

I was in the middle of a debate. I had some convincing arguments prepared and a thorough list of pros and cons. It was concerning an important issue. Well, it was important to me anyway.

The debate was going on in my head. It was me versus me.
Doubting. Re-evaluating. Worrying.

I thought that getting out to run errands would give me a needed break from the stressful swirl of thoughts going round and round and round.

My favorite radio station was turned up. The sun was shining. YES! I felt my spirits lifting a little.

But my better mood was short-lived. I soon realized that I was missing even the best songs because my emotional brain wouldn't turn off. The same old debate continued. Ugh!

The next thing on my to-do list was to drop off some clothes at a nearby donation center.

I rang the bell so the attendant would open the big garage door. I heard the familiar noise and the door started to rise. Then it abruptly stopped, about three feet up! I just stood there, holding my cardboard box, not sure what to do.

The manager of the center walked out from a side door. As he approached, he looked me in the eyes. With a straight face and serious voice he said "I hope you can limbo, Ma'am."

Then he took my box out of my arms and we both started laughing. I replied, "Well, I think I can still limbo, but I can't go that low. I'm no spring chicken!"

"Oh sure you can! No problem! But we will still fix that door."

That very brief exchange was like a bit of magic for me. Somehow, I was able to put my mini-crisis away for awhile after that. I remember thinking Yep, that was cute. Laughing feels better! I've spent enough time overthinking. It's time to lighten up and let it go for today. 

I've recalled that small moment several times since it happened a couple of months ago. Did you know that a good life principle can be taken from a silly comment about the Limbo? I'm sure that sounds ridiculous, but...

One must be fairly flexible to squeeze under that pole, right? (How low can ya go?) When the going gets tough, the tough get flexible!

Being rigid increases the risk of getting stuck in obsessive, negative thinking. Some stretching might be required to a make a shift in attitude. But it's important!

There is a time for us to face our difficulties and deal with them, no matter how challenging they are. Adulting ain't for wimps!

But we all need to take a break sometimes to laugh, play and enjoy life.
It's called balance, Baby!
(I'm preaching to myself most of all.)

Flexibility and balance.
Both are necessary for good physical and mental health.

Then there are those unexpected gifts:
the people who cross our path right when we need them. I'm so grateful for those folks who are willing to share a smile and remind us that we can still limbo.

Limbo photo: Copyright: <a href=''>william87 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Valentine Traditions and a Tender Tale

Oh Kyle! I still remember you. My mind can see what you looked like when we were both ten. You were soooo cute! Secretly, I was smitten.

I think you glanced at me a couple of times. You might have even said hi. Did you like me the way I liked you? The Valentine you gave me is etched in my memory. So is my tearful walk home after school that day...

The bittersweet thoughts about my first big childhood crush came rushing in today. I've recently had other random thoughts about Valentine's day, since the 14th was just last week.

While the main focus of February 14th is romantic love, we (as a culture) have personalized it to represent any kind of affection we want it to! Fancy cards, chocolate and other gifts are sweet for anyone to give and receive, right? Whether they are lovers, family members or friends.

When I was in elementary school, I so enjoyed all the traditions of the season!

A few days before the big V, our teacher would let us spend a couple of hours decorating white paper lunch sacks for our annual card exchange. We were so creative with construction paper, glitter and markers! We labeled the bags with our names in big letters. It was fantastical fun for second, third and fourth graders!

Mom or Dad would take us to the discount store and let us choose our favorite kiddie cards. Looney tunes? Or maybe Disney characters. We'd get a package of twenty-five, just to be sure we had plenty.

We'd spend most of that evening at home, carefully writing a classmate's name on each tiny card.
Then we'd take our labors of love with us to school the next day, and drop them in our friends' fancy sacks.

School is school, so we had to restlessly endure a few lessons before lunch on Valentine's day. But afternoon was party time!

There's nothing quite like twenty cupcake-devouring munchkins, full of sugar and high expectations! We anxiously opened every single one of our miniature envelopes. Various reactions followed.

When I was in fourth grade, I'd chosen a special card for my would-be beau. I'd agonized over what to write on it. Just my name? Should I add "I like you."?

Honestly I can't remember what I wrote, but I recall being very nervous about how he'd react.

During the class party, I would frequently sneak peeks at tall, lanky, shaggy-haired Kyle. I couldn't tell if he'd seen my brave declaration of like or not. He didn't behave any differently than usual.

When I opened my card from him, my heart was racing! It had a boy baseball player on the front, with the message "I'm crazy about YOU, Valentine!" He'd printed his name on the back.

I'm not sure what I expected, but I felt a rush of emotions when I looked at the small token of friendship. Maybe because I'd been attracted to him for many months. Also, I'd been obsessing about the "what ifs?" of that day for twenty four hours.

Thankfully, it was time to go home immediately after the festivities. My face was hot and I had a huge lump in my throat as we were all cleaning up our classroom.

The bell finally rang. I avoided my friends and escaped from the school as fast as I could! As soon as I crossed the street, the dam inside of me broke. I sobbed during my entire walk home. I'd never been overcome like that before. It was very confusing!

Dear Handsome Kyle, I know now that I was too young to be so caught up in my affectionate thoughts of you! At ten, I was far too immature to manage feelings of being rejected by the boy I like-liked! Sure, I'd liked other boys before, but you were something extra special.

My pre-adolescent emotions that year caused me to have my first stressful, miserable Valentine's day.

A million people could have told me to chill, because there would be plenty of time for boyfriends when I was older. But their wise words wouldn't have made a difference. Human hearts are not as easily managed as pink paper ones. Not when one is ten, nor when one is fifty-five.

I know you probably don't even remember me, Adult Kyle. But I thank you for the sentimental  memories. It was all good experience and just a natural part of growing up.
I hope your Valentine's day was wonderful this year.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nude Exercising and other Healthy Activities

Copyright: <a href=''>panicattack /
 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Recent news flesh, oops, I mean flash: a gym in New York City is now offering a nude exercise class! Check this out!

We all know that exercise is very important to keep our bodies healthy.  But how do we keep our minds and emotions fit- especially with so much stress and bad news in our lives every day?

Well, haven't you heard that laughter is the best medicine? I truly believe it's helpful in every way, even physically! I've laughed so hard at times that my belly was aching. I'm sure that type of workout was as effective as doing crunches.

I remember one such occasion that happened many years ago. I was doubled-over and could barely catch my breath! I was cackling and snorting while watching a hidden camera scheme on Oprah.

The prank involved an actress who was posing as a receptionist at a fitness club.
She was sitting at a desk in a little room. Her job was to assist members in signing up for an upcoming class (raquetball, I think).

When each person walked in, she said something like this "Hi. Are you here to sign up for the raquetball class? "Yes." Well, I have a huge favor to ask of you! I just got a call about a family emergency and I need to leave. Can you please just have interested members fill out this form? It would help me so much! Someone will be here to replace me in about 10 minutes."

Most of  them said "Okay, sure!" As the receptionist was rushing out, she added "Also, do not let anyone open that door that right behind you! A nude aerobics class is going on in that gym, and we guarantee our members complete privacy!" The helper's wide-eyed reactions were just the beginning of the funny stuff.

So, each person was in this tiny cubicle with nothing to do but wait. No one came in and time just seemed to drag. Hmm, boredom and intense curiosity is not always a good combination.

There was a little window above the gym door, positioned very high, near the ceiling. The scenario was similar with each hidden camera victim. Most of them looked out of the cubicle first, to make sure no one was coming. Then they grabbed the chair and took it over to the gym door, climbed up on it and tried desperately to see through the window! But the chair just wasn't quite tall enough, not even on tippy toes! Ugh!! A few of them heard something while they were perched up there. Oh you never saw anyone leap down so fast!

Some of the sneaky peekers even got on their hands and knees to look under the door. When they stood up, oh, what bitter disappoint on their faces! They still couldn't see the exposed exercisers! 

I'm still unsure, all these years later, why those scenes were sooo hilarious to me! But I think it's because I've always thought that relatable humor is the funniest. Those common traits of human nature that makes us laugh, not only at others, but with them too.

So here I am. It's still early in January and I have a whole new year ahead of me.

I've recently written about some of my struggles and lessons learned in 2017. I wanted to start my new blogging year off on a lighter note.

Hearing about the NYC nudie exercise class was just the inspiration I needed! It sparked such funny memories and encouraged me to lighten up (both physically and mentally).

The Oprah show fiasco also reminded me to avoid judging others. We can't always predict what we might do in a new situation! I hope I'll always do the right thing, even if I think no one's watching.
It's true that I am a very curious person, but fortunately, I don't have time these days to get bored...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Unexpected Christmas Carols

"Pressure. Pushing down on me. Pressing down on you. No man ask for. Pressure. That burns a building down, splits a family in two, puts people on streets."- from "Under Pressure" by Queen,  released 1981

"As I turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat, this wind is blowin' my mind. I see the kids in the street, without enough to eat. Who am I to pretend not to see their need?" -from "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, released 1987

Those don't seem like joyful Christmas songs, now do they? But hang in there with me.
I have a plan.

How about the old classic "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"? That song was not written from a cheerful time or place.

According to Wikipedia, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem "Christmas Bells" in 1865, which was the basis for the famous carol.

Longfellow had been grieving the loss of his wife, who had tragically died in a fire in 1861. He also had been shaken when his son had been severely wounded in the Civil War in 1863.

Initially, when Henry heard the bells ringing
on Christmas day, he was overcome with misery.

But as they continued to chime, his grief was replaced with a sense of hope!

And isn't that what we want Christmas to represent to us?

The message of hope for all people, as told in the Biblical story Jesus' birth?

A renewed sense of joy for the grieving and comfort for the suffering?

The giving of gifts to those in need?

I'm so glad I learned the true story behind the traditional "I Heard the Bells" song which was written more than 150 years ago. I find it so inspiring!

But I didn't expect to be so inspired by some of the famous musicians from my high school years. Both Queen and Michael Jackson were biggies back in the day, which for me was the 1970's and 80's. I still get down with my bad self when I hear their tunes!

I'll just betcha didn't realize that they produced touching, despair-to-hope, love-your-neighbor-as-yourself Christmas songs. But they did.

Please read the lyrics and listen with an open mind, all the way to the end of each song.

This Christmas, I am not in need of food, shelter, or clothing. And I've been given renewed joy, hope and faith. I'm so grateful!

However I do have some needs right now. One of them is forgiveness for hiding behind a wall of self-centeredness for quite awhile. I kept my pity pool behind that wall too. You know, so I could wallow in it occasionally.

I've avoided dealing with folks who I feared would be too demanding of my time and energy. For a long time, I felt that I just didn't have much to give!* So I've been asking for divine help to love others more freely and unconditionally.

Yep, I need to make that change. This Christmas is the perfect time.

*See my previous "Facing My Monsters" posts.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Facing My Monsters- Part 2: Angels and Serenity

Angels are sometimes defined as messengers from God. Many of us have been taught that they are also divine helpers for people in need.

I've read stories and watched movies about angels intervening in times of crisis. No one realized, until afterwards, that they were supernatural beings because they were disguised as normal people.

I had three tiny angels to comfort me and give me strength during some of my lowest times. My grandchildren are ages five, sixteen months and 11 months, all girls.

Young children and babies are all about innocence, sweetness, joy, wonder and laughter. My grandbabies brought those treasures to me on a regular basis. Those treasures proved to be mighty weapons too- against despair, anxiety and depression.

I don't believe that my granddaughters are literally angels, but I certainly do believe they are precious gifts from God. Mere words can never express what their presence, and their presents, meant to me this summer.

So after the exhausting battles had been fought and the monsters beaten up, then what?
My victories left me feeling relieved yet badly bruised.

I just knew that those beasts could no longer control me. But I wasn't sure how to move forward.

I found myself grieving for the dreams I'd lost and regretting all the time wasted during my life. My heart, mind and spirit were in a lot of pain from the wounds inflicted by those demons. I had old scars from the years of their abuse, and new injuries from the recent months of intense fighting.

I knew I needed to find healing and peace of mind, but how? One day when I was particularly miserable, switching back and forth from crying to temper tantrums, I finally surrendered to God.
"Please help me. I know I've resisted putting my trust in you. I don't know how much faith I have, even for this minute! But I just don't want to feel like this anymore, so I'm asking you to help me. Show me the way out of this dark pit."

I soon realized that I needed to start with the well-known Serenity Prayer. I made it my goal to sincerely pray this every morning, to start my day. Its simple message contains the most basic things  everyone needs when facing any of life's challenges.

It truly helped me! I had to humbly acknowledge that doing things my own way hadn't been working. I needed to refocus my thoughts and energy on things that I could actually change (the past isn't one of them). Confusing thoughts and emotions set on the "high" setting do not contribute to wise decision-making. Yes, I needed wisdom from a power higher than myself. I still do! Every. Single. Day.

I'm experiencing more serenity, more often, as time passes. I didn't fully appreciate peace of mind until I'd really lost it for a while. And I have even more empathy now for people who are plagued by anxiety and depression on a regular basis.

In closing, I want to acknowledge some important helpers in my life.

I want to thank my personal "demons" for making me a much stronger and wiser person. I know you're still around, but I no longer fear you because I understand you much better. You've now been subdued.

I want to thank my three special "angels" for bringing me unbelievable joy and renewal of faith in all that is precious and sweet in life.

I so appreciate a couple of very close friends who have been patient, caring confidantes during my personal crisis. You know who you are.

Finally, I want to thank God for answering my feeble plea for help when I was a total mess. Serenity, acceptance, courage and wisdom are the exact tools I needed to start repairing my broken spirit.

My sincere wish is that my story can help someone find a glimmer of hope for better days ahead. Even if that someone is a messy, broken person like me.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Facing my Monsters- Part 1: Exposure and Battles

Have you ever battled monsters? Or your "inner demons" as they are often called? I have. Recently.

There comes a time when each of us must face our monsters. That is, if you are no longer willing to allow them control of your heart, mind and soul.

You must leave the little boat that you've grown accustomed to; even though you've always despised it.

The long journey down Denial (not the river in Egypt) is finally coming to an end. It's kind of exciting to anticipate a new destination!

Oh, but Denial has served its purpose for you for a long time. So there are feelings of dread mixed with hopeful anticipation of something so much better.

It's time for the confrontation you've avoided for so long. You force the creatures out from the darkest corner of the closet. You drag the dirty beasts out from under the rug. You're scared to death, but also angry as hell! You know, from your deepest internal truth, that the risks of this fight are worth it. You are no longer willing to let those demons haunt you.

This summer was not the first time I've battled my personal demons, but the ones that challenged me this time were some of the oldest and ugliest creatures in my life. I'd only seen them partially before, because they were experts at hiding and camouflage. This time was different. I finally recognized them in their full hideousness.

Those monsters used all kinds of weapons to intimidate me. Sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, rage, crying spells, lack of appetite. Sure enough, I almost gave up the fight a few times. I was really tempted to lift that old rug and say, "Alright, Monsters. I'm too weary of all this. I'll sweep you back under here. I guess you can stay."

But I knew from experience that those beasts living under the rug just loved to taunt me and haunt me. They'd even trip me when I least expected it! I'd lose my balance and sometimes even fall on my face. It had been going on for too long!

So, I screamed at them, with even more resolve: "NO!! You can't hide anymore! You'll stay out here in the open until I defeat you!! COME ON!!

The personal demons I was battling don't need to be named specifically. I've said before that I feel compelled to write from the heart, without being obligated to reveal all my private baggage. I'm bold enough to assume that most of you have faced demons of your own. Or maybe you need to.  Just about everyone has some! True? Different fiends for different folks.

Not only do I believe in monsters, but I also believe in angels.

I'm so thankful that I didn't have to fight the scary monsters alone. My help came in the simplest and most beautiful ways. Three angels were sent to me. They would always appear at those times when I most needed rest. Their divine assistance provided renewed strength for the next hellacious fight.

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Scary Campfire Story

Copyright: <a href='
kapu'>kapu /
123RF Stock Photo</a>
Isn't it interesting how one little thing can trigger a very old memory? Then a chain of connected thoughts often follow. Oh the wonders of the human brain and emotions!

My friend and I were recently discussing our gardens. He said that badgers gather in his every night to dig for roots and worms to eat. He sent me a couple photos of them.
I was immediately transported back to my childhood in New Mexico- the first time I went to Girl Scout camp.

I was in third grade. Our group of 8-9 year olds arrived about 4 pm that early summer's day. It was just the beginning of our 24-hour stay in the beautiful wooded campsite. It was located on a few acres of land that had been donated by a nearby dairy farm.

That was the first camping trip for most of us. It was certainly the first time to have such a daring experience without our parents. So exciting and a little scary!

A couple of minutes after our school bus entered the gates of the campground, the twelve (or so) of us were startled by a high-pitched animal sound. My best description for it is a combination of a crow cawing and a rooster crowing. We were informed that we'd be sharing the area with wild peacocks.

Peacocks? Fantastic! But we weren't so thrilled about the rattlesnakes that might be there. Those were common in New Mexico.

After we unloaded our gear, our fearless camp guide gave us a tour of the grounds. Her detailed narration was punctuated ever so often by the screeching birds (that sound continued to make us jumpy for the first hour or so).

We little scouts were in awe of our surroundings! We spotted a pea hen sitting on her nest in a secluded spot. Acorns were everywhere. The scents of pine trees and cow manure. A peacock even strutted by us, in all his green, indigo and turquoise glory.

We had mixed feelings about the lovely latrines. But we knew they were better than risking poison ivy on our bums!

At one point in the tour, we stopped for a short break. Our leader said we could explore, but only within certain perimeters. We had to stay with our partner too, because we were on the "buddy system".

My cohort and I were just exploring near some bushes. Suddenly we saw something move! It was on the ground, under the shrub. It looked right at us and jumped toward us! Then it vanished. We both screamed and ran to the adults. The conversation went something like this:

"There was something in those bushes!" Camp-Buddy and I were stifling sobs. We were truly petrified.
"What did you see? Calm down a little. Can you describe it?"
I think it was HUGE snake! It's head was this big!!" (Little hands guesstimated the size.)
"It was brown and it had stripes on its head!"
The grown-ups seemed concerned. They looked around the area but didn't find anything. After they asked us a few more questions, the campground employee said "It was probably a badger."

When I was nine, I was familiar with some typical forest creatures, but not badgers. So my imagination was in overactive mode the rest of the day and into the night.
The cracking of a twig underfoot, the rustling of leaves from a sudden breeze, anything and everything unnerved me. That mystery monster was certainly nearby, ready to bite, strangle or at least jump on me or one of my friends!

Thankfully, I still managed to have some fun during my first wilderness expedition. I also learned some valuable skills and facts.
Most importantly, now I understand why peacocks make that loud, unsettling noise. It's the voice of sheer terror! You'd screech too if you had to live near rare humongous snakes, that had heads as big as raccoons!

Copyright: <a href=''
>donyanedomam / 123RF Stock Photo</a>