As many of you know, last spring my sweet husband died. Battmann would have argued about my use of that adjective. We met about a month after my 41st birthday. On one of our early dates, he handed me a small black jewelry box, unwrapped, no bow. Just the box. He said, “I bought you a birthday present.” Inside I found a pair gold hoop earrings, something I’d mentioned in passing I wanted.
I said, “you didn’t even know me on my birthday.”
“Yeah, well. I wanted to get you something anyway,” he said.
When I replied, “you are so sweet,” he growled, “I’m not sweet. I’m just sweet to you.”
It’s true. Most people wouldn’t have said Battman was sweet. He was the epitome of the strong, silent type, a steady, unflappable presence in all our lives. I’m also strong, but I’m the opposite of unflappable. Flappable is my middle name. His calm is only one of the personality traits that made us good together. Battman could and often did growl. He told it like it was, but everyone always knew exactly where they stood with him.
He was honest. He had more integrity than anyone I’ve ever known. He was the rarest of breeds, an honest mechanic who wouldn’t cheat anyone. He knew what a lot of people never understand–that you do not profit by dishonesty and deception.
He was smart and funny, one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. I was Gracie to his George. People who knew him well knew he had a kind nature under that gruff exterior. He loved his family. He helped them when he could–financially, emotionally, physically. He told stories about helping his younger brother move about twenty times, helping his older brother install parquet flooring. A few years after he retired, one of my sons called and said, “Mom, I just had to do something I’ve never done. Buy a car battery.” Battman supplied the family car, truck, lawn mower, golf cart and motorcycle batteries, usually at no cost or at his cost. When he retired, they missed that.
But missing free batteries pales in comparison to the gaping hole his death has left in all our lives.
The last day of his life, a Monday, started as any normal day. We got up and had breakfast, which we had done every morning since he retired. I hadn’t really sat down and eaten breakfast regularly since I left home in 1974. I tend to either skip breakfast or grab something and run. But I treasured the morning ritual of coffee, toast and conversation. After we ate, I’d walk to my office to check email, then head out to the garage to ride my exercise bike.
The previous week had been tough and busy. We had something do each day, including a family funeral, his birthday and on Friday, a cardiologist’s appointment where he had the best check up he’d had in 20 years. His cholesterol was down. His HDL was up. His blood pressure was great, and his resting heart rate was fantastic. (Better than mine by exactly one point, and I work out!) The doctor was impressed. When he told Battman if he added exercise, his numbers would be even better. The heart guy always had a little something that could be “tweaked, but Battman was ready. He pulled the picture of his foot x-ray out of his pocket and said, “we’re going to get back to walking as soon as the ortho surgeon releases me next week.” (He’d broken his foot in April.)
The only thing I remember about our conversation that Monday is that he asked how I felt. I said, “tired. I’m glad we have a slow week. How about you?”
He said, “I still feel really great.”
At the time, I didn’t know he’d told his son on Sunday at lunch that he felt better than he’d felt in years. It bugs me that I don’t remember anything else we said. Probably, he asked me how many packages I had to mail. He usually did. It wasn’t about what we said. It was about spending that time together before we started our days. I toddled off the office, and I heard Battman in the laundry room while I checked email.
I told him I was going out to get on the bike. He said, “okay. Don’t overdo it.” I rode the bike 32 minutes, came in and filled my water bottle. I didn’t see Battman in the living room or kitchen. The bathroom and bedroom lights were on. While I was in the kitchen, I called out, “whatcha doin’ back there?”
No response, which was not at all unusual. He often didn’t respond if he was busy working on the checkbook or involved in a project that needed concentration. I wandered down the hall. He wasn’t in the bathroom. The laundry basket was in the floor, and the khaki shorts he’d put on that morning were beside the basket. I went on down the hall, still not realizing anything was amiss, asking what he was doing. I figured he was changing into his mowing clothes, because he also mowed on Mondays. I walked into the bedroom and found him lying on our bed. This was the first red flag. He only ever laid down if he felt really bad.
“You okay?,” I asked.
No response. Again. This was not unusual. I walked over and touched him and said, “Battman (only I used his real name), are you alright?” No response. I can’t count the number of times that I asked that question when he was napping in his chair. He would roll his eyes back in his head and play dead. Then he’d crack up, always the jokester.
This was different. When his eyes rolled back, I knew he wasn’t playing. I grabbed the phone and dialed 911. They had me go open the front door, then the 911 operator walked me through CPR.
The fire department arrived almost immediately, followed by EMSA. Very quickly our house filled with emergency workers who, for twenty minutes worked hard to revive him. He never responded. The rest is technical stuff. Emergency personal called the hospital. Medical professionals made the call not to transport him and called his time of death. Police came out. The medical examiner contacted his doctor. The doctor agreed to sign the death certificate, but the bottom line is that Battman is dead.
Months later, the shock has given way to resignation followed by the determination to be resilient and embrace life. For several weeks I walked around in this surreal state. I went to the funeral home and cemetery and made arrangements. I sat at the viewing not six feet from his body for almost six hours. I attended the funeral. I’ve visited his graveside. I knew intellectually he was gone, but it took my emotional side a couple of weeks to catch up. When I’d run errands, a part of me expected him to be home sitting in his chair, laughing because he’d pulled his best practical joke ever.
At his funeral, we had Amazing Grace and Against the Wind, both songs he’d requested. I would have probably chosen Into the Mystic, a favorite of mine or our wedding song, These are the Days, both Van Morrison songs.
Over the summer, the lyrics from Vince Gill’s Go Rest High have run through my mind. He says, “I know your time on earth was troubled, and only you could know the pain. You weren’t afraid to face the devil, and you were no stranger to the rain. Go rest high on that mountain. ‘Cause, Son, your work on earth is done. Go to heaven a shoutin’ love for the father and the son.”
I’d never have had that song at the funeral, because it’s become a cliché. However cliché’ exists because it tends to be accurate. Nobody I know worked harder than Battman, and nobody I know deserves peace as much as he does. That line “your work on earth is done” gets me every time.
RIP Battman. We miss you.
**Author’s note. I wrote the bulk of this blog entry not too long after my husband’s death. A lot has happened over the summer. I’ll post more about that later, but I wanted to post this last tribute to Battman before adding further entries.
I celebrated my 55th birthday this week, making me an official senior citizen. According to a friend, I’m really only a “junior senior.” Still, I. as my great-grandma once said about her then 60-something oldest daughter, “ain’t no fried chicken.” (She meant spring chicken, but in my family since Grandma slipped in her excitement and made that error, we’ve substituted fried for spring.)
Last year, a good friend–an award-winning, respected author whose opinion I trust and whose friendship I treasure–wrote me a birthday letter urging me to write, telling me I am smart and talented and should be writing. This year she sent me the above card. I cried when I read the letter, but I didn’t remember that she’d urged me to make finishing my novel a birthday gift to myself. It must have stuck in my memory somewhere, because the day before I got the card, I had not only decided that writing daily was my birthday gift to myself, but I announded it on Facebook with an open invitation to my friends to hound and annoy me, to ask me if I’ve written daily.
This week has been filled with that kind of synchroncity–quotes from Julia Cameron that spoke directly to my thoughts. This morning, a best selling novelist on a morning show I love talking about how writing is hard and that it should be, otherwise everyone would do it. I needed a three-ring binder to organize my notes and research. Battman said we had some in the garage. As I searched in the general area he said I’d find them, one fell off the top shelf, literally hitting me over the head. I went to the store to buy a spiral notebook for notes and found one in paisley. I’m a paisley freak!
The letter from my friend is the first thing I see when I open the notebook.
My vow to myself is to either write or work on my book every day for the next year. It’s not always writing. Today, I worked on an outline. I’m on Day Six. Each morning, I open my morning pages with the count of how many days in row and “I’ve been here before,” because I have.
But it feels different this time.
Friday night, I attended a Robert Earl Keen concert with my son and daughter-in-law. I didn’t know a lot of his music. I liked the music, but I loved the concert. Robert Earl had as good a time on that stage as anyone in the audience. I watched his face on the large screen near us. As he sang, he smiled, closed his eyes, laughed. Clearly, a man of great passion.
I want that. I want to join that club of people who live creatively doing something they love.
I’m no songwriter. I’ve written exactly two poems in my life, both good enough to have been published in my college anthology, but I’m not headed for Nashville anytime soon. Prose is my thing. I want to write the stories that have swimming around in my head, in my heart for so long. And if my words touched a fraction of people as much as Keen’s touched the people in that theatre the other night, I’d die a happy woman.
And let’s face it, it’s 4th down and goal with seconds on the clock (that’s a football metaphor) for this tough ol’ chick. Okay. Maybe I have more than a few seconds, but you get the point. It’s go time. It’s now. Or it’s never. And never is just not an option.
I’ve had a rough time the past few months, mostly trying to figure out my place in the world. Seems like at my age that would be well established, but the truth is that our place shifts as we grow older. Our roles change, and sometimes it’s hard to accept. This summer has been a time of reflection and figuring things out. If you know me or have read this blog a while, you know I’m fretter. I worry and stew. I rehash conversations, actions and situations, turning them over and over until I can make sense of things. I’m not a particularly neat person in thought or deed, but I have to file things in my mind. I want things to make sense.
But I learned a while back that some things just don’t make sense. I’ve also had to figure that no matter how much I care about my friends and family, I can’t fix everything for them. Nor should I. Nor, in fact, have they asked me to do so. We all have our paths to walk, our lessons to learn. Nobody can wave a magic wand and make everyone’s problems go away. I’m not even all that great at fixing my own problems. I can offer advise and support, but when we fix things for people, we rob them of the joy of figuring it out on their own. We stifle them, delay their personal growth.
This summer, I’ve felt as close to a nervous breakdown as I’ve felt since my mom died. I’ve made both Battman and myself crazy stewing, talking, trying to get all figured out. But he’s just turned 70, and I’ll be 55 in September. Honestly, how many really good years do we have left? Do I really want to waste precious time stewing over stuff I can’t change?
I also remembered that I’m made of strong stock, that I come from a long line of strong women. My family needs a strong matriarch, not a whiny, hand-wringing, worrier. I want my grandkids to remember me as a rock, as a dependable person, not some silly goose who was always screeching and wailing. I’ve always wanted to be unflappable. I think that ship has sailed, but I can less flappable.
I’ve been praying that great old prayer: “Please help me to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Still, I was fretting, then my best good friend, who is struggling with health issues I just can’t fathom said, “if you’re still worrying, you haven’t turned it over to God.”
Talk about your lightbulb moments. Talk about your grace moments! Talk about your smack on the head moments!
Seriously, it’s as easy as that. Turn it over to God, and keep on keepin’ on. If there’s something I can do to help my loved ones, I’m there. I’ve got their backs. Always have; always will. But mostly, I’ve come to understand, I need to butt out, to love them from afar.
Don’t get me wrong. I have to turn it over daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes even more often. But overall, I’m learning to live rejoicing more. When I forget to rejoice, I strap on my headphones and listen to this great song on my iPod. I’ve even set it as the ringtone on my phone.
From the time we are old enough to see the world beyond ourselves, sorrow begins to seep in. The lost toys and hurt feelings of childhood give way to unrequited love, job woes, and if we live long enough, someone we care about will die.
Sorrow will find you.
Which is why is it’s vital to make sure we find the good stuff, to embrace joy as it comes, that we celebrate life’s small victories, that we savor life’s happy moments.
So while you make your way through this day, this world, stop to enjoy the scent of the flowers, the feel of the sun on your face. Smile at friends and strangers. Stop a moment to watch little leaguers practicing football, baseball or soccer. Say thank you often. And mean it.
Find joy. Embrace life. Celebrate the Summer Solstice. And every other day you wake up.
Fill your heart with gladness, your cup to overflowing. The deposits you make during happy times will ease your pain when heartache comes calling.
I feel sad today about my blog. I haven’t invested enough time and attention to it. I started off with great intentions, and I really like some of the pieces I’ve shared. But there were days, weeks, and, let’s be honest, months I didn’t write.
Some of that is because I thought it would be different. I got discouraged. I thought I’d share my stories, my thoughts and that I’d develop a readership. I didn’t expect to knock that other Oklahoma blogger off her perch, but I hoped to see more traffic to the blog.
I appreciate those of you who have posted kind comments, as well as those who have taken the time to email me that you like the blog. I appreciate those of you who shared the blog with your readers and friends, but I wanted to take a moment to let you know I’ll likely be closing the blog soon. I own the domain name until next February, but it’s gotten to be a bit of chore logging on to clear out spam. How is it that my hit counter shows three visits to the site, but there are fourteen spam messages to delete? My favorites are the ones in what I think is Polish.
I’m working on my novel, getting it finished, getting it polished. That’s taking a lot of my time and concentration. I feel very strongly that I’ve been put here on this earth at least in part to write this story. I’m the one with the information, the ability and the desire to put my family history down. I want to be good steward of the small amount of time I have to devote to writing, and I feel a sort’ve the same about the blog as I do cooking, what’s the point to do it just for myself?
I can keep a journal in a notebook and not have to deal with spammers. Plus, I can be more honest and open in a journal than I can be here. I’m continually worried about stepping on toes, so I’m very careful what I say. I edit my thoughts, my feelings, my words, and I don’t think that makes for one’s best writing.
Let me know what you think. Thanks!
A few weeks ago, I had the privi
ledge of attending The Oklahoma Book Awards as a guest of a dear friend who was honored that night with a Lifetime Achievement Award. It was a magical night. Not since I was attending writing conferences have I been in the company of so many writers, and it felt good to be among people who not only share my passion for storytelling but who have done the necessary work to bring their stories, their dreams to fruition.
One of the recipients told in her speech that she had worked the awards dinner ten years ago as a waiter. She said she waited on the fiction award winner and thought “who is this woman and how do I get her life?” That night the former waiter accepted the same award as the woman who inspired her so many years before. You’d have to be pretty stone hearted not to be inspired by a story like that.
Even before the book awards banquet, I was spending my time and energy working on my book, but I came away more resolved than ever to make my book happen. So, I’m plodding along. I have almost 200 pages. Some of the pages are rambling and incoherent. Sometimes I read something I wrote years ago and think, Huh? But other times I read something and think, wow, that’s pretty good.
I’ve had to learn that writing takes time, effort and energy. In order to write, other things have had to go. I still get upset and antsy over stupid stuff, but when I do, I do so with the knowledge that it’s not only an indulgence in lower level thinking but also a writing set back. I try more and more to let stuff roll off. I don’t always succeed, but, that’s life. We live. And if we have any depth of character, we learn and grow.
Not long ago, I got a really nasty comment on the blog. It was the kind of thing that would have devastated me five years ago. It would have set me back a year or more. I knew I’d grown as a human being and a writer when I shrugged and laughed. Even the very best writers have critics.
So, I’m plodding along. Hopefully, soon I’ll be able to tell you that I’ve finished the book and am looking for a publisher. Meanwile, thanks for reading the blog.
My youngest son and daughter-in-law live in southern Oklahoma. Their town is one of several tiny communities on the route my grandparents always took when traveling “down home,” a place on the map, but more important a place in my heart.
Because I spent so many weekends there as a kid, come Saturday morning,I feel an almost gravitational pull toward the area where grandparents were born and raised, where both my parents were born, where I have so many happy childhood memories. Most of the relatives are dead and in the cemetary north of town. Both my great-grandma’s homes are gone. Not even a hint of a foundation exists on either lot.
Still, I tell Battman, there’s just something that feels so right about being in that county on a Sunday.
Which is why a few years back, I jumped at the chance to head south and be there for the delivery of a new trailer home the kids bought as a newly married couple. Seeing the grandkids + being there for the big move in + spending a Sunday in one of my favorite places = win, win, win, so we packed a cooler of snacks and soft drinks and headed south, but just outside the metro area, the highway department was doing roadwork and had traffic backed up for miles.
We rolled down the windows, cranked up the radio and listened to Sunday Morning Over Easy, a really cool radio program one of the local stations airs on Sunday mornings. We listened to great music, chatted with one another, sipped on the sodas we’d brought along for the trip. At one point the biker who had been behind us pulled up along side, and we chatted with him.
While I wouldn’t choose to spend a Sunday morning in traffic, we made the best of it. That morning stands out in my memory as one of the more pleasant times we’ve had.
When traffic finally started moving, and I told Battman, “you know life is good when you’re married to someone who makes a traffic jam fun.”
He said, “we always have fun.”
It’s a fact. And for that I am truly grateful.
In Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut writes about life in 2081 when “everything and everyone is finally equal.” If you haven’t read it lately or ever, check this out:
Essentially, the government handicaps anyone smart, beautiful, graceful or talented in order to make them average. Harrison, an athlete, wears extra weights to make him no faster than other atheletes. A ballerina has weights, to make her less graceful, as well as a hideous mask, which everyone knows means she is exceptionally beautiful.
Harrison’s dad, a highly intelligent man, wears a headphone that crackles and beeps continually to prevent him thinking too much or too deeply.
When I first got my smartphone, I set it to notify me whenever someone commented on a Facebook post. Then I set it to ding when it’s my move on Words with Friends. I get a cha-ching when I sell something on eBay. A horn beeps when a text mesage comes in. The result of all these notices is that my phone is continually dinging, cha-chinging, honking and beeping. (It RARELY rings, however!) I’ve told Battmann all the racket makes me feel like I’m living in Harrison Bergeron’s world. Everytime I have a coherent thought or attempt a conversation, the phone beeps or buzzes, and I lose my train of thought. I’ve started calling it Diana Moon Glampers, after the Handicapper General in Vonnegut’s story, a woman who took her job of enforcing handicaps quite seriously.
At the end of the story, Harrison and the ballerina defy the government, remove their handicaps and dance unencumbered for the first time ever. It was a beautiful moment. Until they were shot and killed for their treasonous acts.
Fortunately, we live in an American in which we are still free to choose to live to our highest potential. And don’t get me wrong, I like my smartphone. I like getting email on the go. I like the ability to field research eBay items before buying. The phone has paid for itself in terms of avoiding buying mistakes. I enjoy the reconnections with old friends on Facebook. It’s interesting to know how they’ve turned out, and I like the shared history with people I knew in my youth. I’m a Words with Friends junkie. It’s fun and helps keep my mind sharp.
However, yesterday, in a Harrision Bergeron-esque act of defiance, I left my phone docked in my office and spent three uninterrupted hours sewing. It was the best day I’ve had in a while. Today, I’m changing the notification settings on a lot of my apps. I’m going to start leaving the phone on the dock more often. That cute puppy picture with a clever saying will be there when I decide to check Facebook at my convenience. My Words with Friends opponents can wait until I take a break. I don’t have to answer those eBay questions or offers immediately. The internet is not going away.
But my moments of creative inspiration might, so it’s time for me to make the technology I enjoy work FOR me instead of robbing me of my most important asset–time. I don’t want to be dumb about using my smartphone. More important, at the end of my life, on my deathbed, I don’t want to say, “whoops, I forgot to write that book. And, oh, I never finished that grandchild’s quilt. But I did know what people I don’t remember from high school had for lunch a lot of days.”
Someone once referred to me as one of those “unicorn, puppies, kitties and angel lovin’, pink and purple wearin’ “ gals.
It was not a compliment.
I like puppies. Kitties not so much. They make me sneeze. (Sorry to my kitty loving friends. Trying to keep it real here.) Unicorns? Eh? They don’t do it for me. Fairies in storybooks are cute, but I don’t think they are around us sprinkling pixie dust.
Purple? Not a fan. Pink’s pretty, especially on my darling granddaughters, but I’m not a blush and bashful kinda girl. Red’s my color.
However, I do believe in angels.
I have an oddball collection of angel figurines. I’ve bought them at estate sales, and friends have given them to me as gifts. My favorite is the one my best friend gave me on my wedding day. About a year into my marriage, her wings fell off. I glued them back on, only to have them fall off again. After several attempts, I gave up, figuring a broken wing angel is more appropriate for me anyway.
When Battman and I first married, I used silver and gold paint to stencil 25 or so small angels in our home, all in out of the way places, like above the guest bathroom door, below the chair rail in a corner of the dining room, near the baseboard in the entryway. I liked knowing they were there, and I enjoyed the reactions of guests who discovered them.
Only after someone noticed one on his or her own, would I share that there were others. It became a game for friends and family to search for them. We sold that house in 2001. I’ve often wondered if the new owners noticed the angels.
I like to think my angels made them smile, although it could be the angels annoyed the new owners. Maybe their reaction mirrored the one I get most often on the rare occasion I mention my belief–indulgent smiles. Perhaps they rolled their eyes as they rolled fresh paint over my handiwork. I’ll never know.
What I do know is that I believe.
I don’t care whether or not you do. I’m not going to try to convert or convince you one way or the other.
Years ago, when I was a struggling single mom, I drove an awful car that had about a 75 mile limit before it died. Just died. And wouldn’t start again until the engine cooled completely. I didn’t have the money to pay a mechanic to figure out the issue, so I just tried to stay close to home. Once in a while, I had to travel farther. That car left us stranded in some interesting places.
One Sunday afternoon, I’d had to meet my youngest son’s dad for the Sunday afternoon exchange after their weekend together. On the trip back home, the car stalled. I managed to coast into a parking lot to wait. My two older sons were with us as well. While we sat there, some of my students saw us and pulled in to ask if we needed help.
As I explained that we just had to wait until the car cooled, this man came walking across a parking lot, and made his way across busy street to where we were. This guy was a biker type straight out of central casting—ripped jeans, leather jacket with dozens of patches, full straggly beard.
After I gave him the details, he touched a black piece in the engine compartment, and said, “here’s your problem. It’s a computer module. It’s a cheap and easy fix. You can do it yourself. Unplug the old one; plug in the new one.” He told me I should go to the parts store and ask for this specific part, the name of which I have long forgotten.
The kids—my students, my sons—about six or seven of us were looking at the engine compartment and the part, not minutes, more like seconds. I turned to thank the man, but he was gone. He hadn’t walked back across the street. He wasn’t walking on our side of the street. There were no buildings he could have ducked around. Nevertheless, he was gone. It was as though he’d evaporated into the cosmos.
If I had been alone that day, I think I could convince myself that I’d just lost track of time, spent more time looking at the engine than I realized and that he made his escape without my noticing, but there are no greater skeptics than teenaged boys. They were as flabbergasted as I was.
We all sort’ve scratched our heads and wondered where the guy went.
One of them asked, “was that an angel?”
I said, “I think so.”
As soon as the car cooled, I went to the parts store, bought the part, fixed the car, and it never stalled again.
Several times that school year, those boys and I discussed that guy. Once in a while, one of the guys would ask, “where do you think that man went?”
I wish I had a good answer, but I have no idea where he went. I just know he didn’t have time to go anywhere unnoticed.
Battman and I have discussed theology a lot lately. I didn’t learn until this past week, he doesn’t share my belief in angels. I realized his smile when I speak of angels is that indulgent, tolerant smile I’ve often seen when I say I do. (Even though he’s a decent man, a Christian, as well read on the Bible as almost anyone I know and was an active member of his church for a lot of years.)
“That dude lived around there and knew a good shortcut,” he finally said last week, after hearing the story probably eight times in the last thirteen years.
Maybe so. The reasonable, sensible, intellectual (ha!) person in me tends to agree.
But a bigger part of me wants to believe he was a celestial angel. Even if he wasn’t, he served as my angel that day. He came along with the help and knowledge I needed at the moment in time I needed it.
I do believe that regular people have the capacity to be angels. Anytime we help someone in need, we serve as angels. Maybe that day a regular guy took a moment out of his day to help a frazzled single mom. At the very least, it was a random act of kindness.
However, I remind Battman of the scripture: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.[Hebrews 13:2].
I’m no Bible scholar, but I Googled it and learned that angels are mentioned in the Bible over 300 times. There are different types of angels—cherabim, seraphim and arch angels. A lot of it is over my head, and frankly, I don’t want this blog to be about religion or theology. I’ll leave that to better qualified people.
Shakespeare said, There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. [Hamlet to Horatio--Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159–167]
That’s a fancy way of saying we don’t understand everything. Nor are we meant to understand everything.
When Battman finally confessed thirteen years into our relationship that he doesn’t believe in angels, I asked, “why did you let me go around stenciling angels all over the house?”
He said, “because it made you so happy, so hopeful.”
Yes. It did. I’m a middle-aged grandma who has taken at least my fair share of upper cuts to the chin (metaphorically). Just like everyone else on the planet, I’m trying to get through life the best way I know how. Believing in angels helps me. It’s the same as embracing the capacity for good in all of us.
If that makes me seem silly to some people, I’m cool with that.
The Bible, in Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
This has always been one of my favorite verses. Even as a child, I liked the idea that there’s a time for everything. I’d love to say 2011 was a great year. Every day on the right side of the dirt is a GOOD day. It wasn’t a bad year. There were definitely great times. Fun with Battman. Lots of happy visits with the grandkids. Good holidays, family birthdays and other celebrations. Relaxing get-togethers with old friends. I’ve missed my oldest son, who is deployed to the Middle East. It’s been stressful, but he’s in a pretty safe zone, a blessing for which I am unfathomably grateful.
Our family had absolutely no disasters this year. Thank God. Nothing major happened, but we all know that sometimes it’s the small problems that do the most damage. And there was no shortage of minor issues–angst, turmoil, misunderstandings, insignificant disagreements, and I didn’t react well to much of it. I weathered much tougher years with a great deal more grace.
If you know me well, you know the issues. If you don’t, trust me, it’s not a blog entry you want to read, and it’s definitely not one a I care to write. In fact, that I’ve had nothing good to say is the main reason I haven’t written much lately. (I just deleted 17 ranty, whiny, venting drafts I never published, so it’s not that I forgot about the blog altogether, but since I didn’t have anything nice I wanted to say, I opted to post nothing.)
Battman spent hours listening to me whine, cry, try to make sense of things. He’s offered some good insights and suggestions, all of which boil down to “you care too much,” and “let it go.”
I DO care. I have a long history of caring too much. It’s my nature. I take things to heart. I’m too sensitive. All of that stuff makes me who I am, and I’m essentially cool with who I am. However, I knew I had a real problem and needed to make some changes, to find a way to let some things go when I saw this picture of myself before a family wedding:
I could say the sun was in my eyes, that I take bad pictures and that I was unaware my photo was being taken, all of which would be valid arguments. However, I admit it. I was aggravated. The reasons why do not matter. It had nothing to do with the happy couple. I wish them nothing but years of joy and happiness together. Theirs was a beautiful day, and in spite of that awful photo of me (GREAT one of Battman, though), I was and remain happy for them. Battman and I were both honored to be included in their special day. Suffice to say I’m less able to roll with the flow as I grow older.
I’ve begun over the years, without evening realizing it, to allow negative feelings to build inside me. Battman and a dear friend who stayed up most of the night talking me through a recent meltdown both said they saw a big change in me around 2003. I could write for days about the whys, but to write about the reasons gives them energy, and I don’t want to go back there.
I’ve had a lot of junk to deal with emotionally. Who doesn’t?
I just know that picture shocked and embarassed me. Here’s a 1999 wedding picture of Battman and me:
I cried when I saw the more recent picture. What happened to the happy girl in this wedding photo? Where did she go? That cranky looking gal is NOT the grandma I want my grandchildren to remember. She’s not the woman I want to be.
Yes, lots of silly, petty stuff happened in 2011. Yes, I spent a lot of time crying, talking to Battman, to my friends, to anyone who would listen. I seriously considered trying some of the anti-anxiety meds on the market, but research on their side effects made me, well, anxious! I wouldn’t have wished for the year’s turmoil, but I’m glad it happened. I’m stubborn. Who knows how long I might have tried to white knuckle through on my own, if I hadn’t finally started feeling like I might have a nervous breakdown? I needed to learn to cope to avoid winding up in the hospital or on drugs or both.
There are always going to be aggravating situations and people in life. Turmoil, anxiety, angst–they all exist.
Stressing out doesn’t help. Whining, talking and railing only feeds the negativity.
I realized I’m not on my own here. I have a wonderful spouse who is also my best friend. I have three great sons, all of whom have grown into good and decent men who make me so proud, three fantastic daughters-in-law, and the sweetest grandkids ever born. I have at least one good friend willing to listen to me in the middle of the night. (You know you are, and I love you BIG MUCH!)
Most important, I have faith. I realized that I can, should and must turn this junk over to God. I never stopped praying, but lately first thing each morning and last thing every night, I pray, and it feels more personal than ever. Next, instead of cranking up music on the iPod as I work, I listen to a positive message. I started with Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement speech. I think I listened to the speech twice a day for a week. (Yes, I realize that’s ironic, but the guy shared some good thoughts.) After pretty much committing the speech to memory, I found a tv evangelist on YouTube. I joke that he’s saving my life. I don’t agree with everything he says. In fact, I question much of it, but his positive messages energize me. They make me feel good. I’ve learned some valuable coping skills, and I’m able to face my days with a much better outlook.
I’m also journaling more. Reading my Bible more. Trying to smile more. Looking for good in people, trying to practice mercy more and judging less. I’m trying to be a better steward of my time and energy.
As soon as I started making these changes, I started seeing the world differently. God has sent people across my path with real problems, problems that make me ashamed of whining and crying about the stuff I’ve let bring me down.
I’ve committed to making more positive changes in 2012. I’m going to find a church home. I hope to find a worthy cause and spend some time volunteering. I’m want to spend more time writing and sewing.
I had to weather some storms in order to get to a place of deeper spirituality and emotional maturity. It’s a process for sure–a journey, not a destination. I’m working daily, striving to live with more happiness and peace, trying not to give in to the temptation to let petty crap bring me to my knees. 2011 might not have been my most productive year, but it was a year I needed to experience in order to grow. Dorothy learned in The Wizard of Oz, she had the power to go home all along. And I’m learning the importance of letting go of old habits and behaviors in order to claim the joy, the happiness, the peace and the love that have always been mine.
Thank you for reading my blog.
My wish for you all is that 2012 bring you exactly what you need. I will post again soon. (But only if I have something good to say!) Peace!
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