One day at the gym I discovered I had forgotten my workout slippers, so I jumped in the pool instead and swam 14 laps – so many more than when I started. I shared that good news with friends and was congratulated along with my sister saying, with a hint of sarcasm, is forgetting something to be concerned about? My reply was, not yet because I see it as only being able to hold 88 things in my head not 89! I remembered this today while on the treadmill and thought, what would it take to really be concerned, and looking down said, walking into the gym without my shorts on! It’s a humorous thought, but a scary one too, because it’s possible. Sometimes I wonder if forgetfulness is something more common or is it only our inflated world of expanded information. Who knows what the long-term effects are from GMO foods and additives like coloring, artificial flavor, and preservatives. But it doesn’t matter because there’s so many things that can kill me. This isn’t a gloom statement but a motivational one. Get out there and live, while always holding one thought in your head – never give death a helping hand.
My granddaughter made a Thanksgiving crown with four feathers, listing things she’s thankful for – her brother, her mommy, bouncy balls, and strangely enough, plain yogurt topped with granola! She’s almost 4 so toys are very important, as well as those closest to her, but the yogurt? It’s her favorite lunch! I’m not a fan of Thanksgiving but every year I can’t help to think about being thankful. I’m thankful I can be thankful for the life I’ve been given and not resentful or bitter; two things that will not give way to thankfulness once they’ve been allowed to take up residence. Thankful – all I have. Resentful – all I don’t. Thankful – enjoy. Bitter – miserable. I have never reached the point of having no appreciation at all and I never want to. I believe even if I had just one person in my life, and nothing else, I would still have appreciation, because I’d have someone to hold onto. Could I be left with no one? Yes, but I doubt it because I believe someone would step up to take my hand or I could take theirs. Never alone when there are people in this world who care about other people.
I wish every kind of love was free. I know of one kind that is – unconditional love; no matter what, I love you. I’ve come close, but not close enough. Easier for my children than my husband. The love I experienced came with a cost, all because I chose to put myself into another person’s hands, trusting he wouldn’t drop me, but he did because people are inherently flawed. Flawed, and yet I held him to a higher standard than myself. I questioned bad choices, words, and actions – how could you do, or say, this to me, and yet me, just as capable as him of doing the same to him. When he’d dropped me, it was painful, but I wasn’t without a rope, one I could untie or use to climb back up. The greatest pain wasn’t over something he did, but something he didn’t. He didn’t come home, so I was ripped away, not dropped, no rope, or hands to climb back into. The love was still there, but it had changed into something different, something unrecognizable, smeared with unfathomable pain. The greatest price I’ve ever paid, and yet loving him was the best choice I ever made.
The words, nothing in life is free, are seen in slightly different varieties in many quotes, but I don’t agree. I believe there are some freebees out there. Great memories are free. It’s not like they’re sitting inside a gumball machine that needs a quarter to spit one out. You don’t even have to spit them out, only re-live them in your mind. A smile is free. It’s not like there are several sizes to choose from sitting in a jail cell waiting for you to break one out by posting bail. You just tell your brain to break one out and you don’t even need a reason. Saying hello is free. It’s not like all the varieties, like the kissing both cheeks, handshake, or a quick hi to someone passing by, are lined up nice and neat in a vending machine that requires a couple dollars to let one go. You just have to let go of your inhibitions or indifference and blurt it out. Forgiveness is free when it’s not asked for but given anyway. The air we breathe is free; too bad, because if we had to pay for it, we might take better care of it.
I mentioned before that just about all my self-worth revolves around accomplishing. I took this up a notch by asking about my legacy; are there any important accomplishments I have left, or will leave, behind? “Have left” takes remembering what I was a part of and where I spent my time, but nothing comes to mind. I thought I was important enough to warrant consulting on the implementation of a new accounting system ready to start when I retired early, but I was easily replaced. I thought about the woodworking I’ve done, like the burl I carved; beautiful but not important. The blogs I write are important for here and now, but most likely won’t be carried into the future. I’m not a story-teller, social magnet, furniture builder, musician, or bigger than life like my husband was, so it’s hard to imagine hearing things being said about me with wonder, joy, and respect that have been said about my husband, but that’s OK because I don’t want to be him. What I “will leave” is not only important but astonishing, and it’s all wrapped up in four things: my children and grandchildren. There will never be anything greater than that!
Why can’t I admit I have doubts, insecurities, struggles, and fears, or don’t know the answer or have the skills required, or I’m not following, so please back up. Because each one makes me appear weak, vulnerable. Why do I fear criticism? Because without the adjective constructive, it’s just judgement. My son shared an article on Facebook about being real with co-workers about life at home and at work. How always presenting yourself as highly skilled, knowledgeable, strong, fearless, and in control doesn’t support a safe, productive environment. Only in vulnerability do we reveal imperfect human beings, where trying, learning, and progress are prized, where mistakes, imperfections, and failures result in encouragement, not ridicule. What would life be like if honesty was always the best policy, where we don’t have to run our answers through a filter – how are you . . . fine (not really, do you really want to know?). Do you think you’ll meet the deadline . . . definitely (not really, but . . .?). How was your weekend . . . great (not really, but . . .?). We don’t need to provide standard answers to hide vulnerability when honest ones could bring empathy and support if we only open our minds and hearts to the ever-present imperfections of life.
Regarding death: “How could this happen?”. (A Million Little Things) Death happens all the time. What makes us think of death as a surprise and believe we have the right to live one more minute? Another minute isn’t a given but a gift. Life isn’t deserved, it’s desired. Life doesn’t come with an 80 year warranty, but it’s wanted. Death is really about expectations; not expecting a healthy person to suddenly die. Life is so full of managing living it’s hard to squeeze in even the thought of dying, therefore I conclude I won’t, pushing it so far into the future it’s not real. Death is really about not being ready. When I learned I was pregnant, I expected a baby to be born 8 months later, so I was ready. When I was born, I expected to live, so I got ready with hopes and plans revolving around living; always residing in not yet expected, not yet time to get ready, until my husband died. I believe it would have helped me greatly if our living included death contingency clauses, not regarding unknowns like sorrow, but rather the parts of his life and our life, that would become all mine when he left.
Social media sites bring new meaning to Mark Twain’s “Comparison is the death of joy.”. Teddy Roosevelt used the word, theft but it doesn’t matter for if comparison and joy were included in the rock/paper/scissors game, comparison would trump joy. The comparison range used to be limited to the physical realm, but now the world, so it’s easy to find myself lacking and what’s joyful about that? My house is smaller than yours, my wrinkles more abundant, I only have 72 friends, and I’m not a size 2. What I see now pretty much portrays the great stuff. What I don’t see are the struggles, the imperfect parts of life that everyone experiences, the parts that are camera shy, more comfortable hiding in the dark. It’s not that I want to see it all, but I need to find a way to remind myself that what I see is only snippets of their reality, I don’t have to meet or exceed all I see, I’m not lacking, and I can find joy in their joy. It’s not about what others have, do, or look like, but all those things about me, comparing them to what I want them to be.
I spent 26 years in my careers working with debits and credits; positive and negative numbers that are used to record financial transaction in the world of accounting. Many transactions had multiple debits and credits that didn’t zero each other out, but rather offset each other. They existed together, with their sum equal to zero. Life is full of debits and credits too; positive things that exist and happen and, unfortunately, negative things too. They exist together, but their sum rarely equals zero. The birth of my grandchildren are two terrific positive things life gave me after my husband died, but his death was the greatest negative. They both exist in the sum of my experiences but the one doesn’t offset the other. The one doesn’t wipe out the other. When I arrive at the end of my life, I don’t want to look at the balance scale of my life and see that both pans are at the same level – the wonderful equivalent to the terrible, as if the sum of the joy is equal to that of the sadness. I want to see clearly, that one pan is heavier than the other – the one with all things positive!
Re-reading what I wrote in August, “What’s wrong with here?” prompted what’s wrong with me, with now? Here; this place, this home, this moment in time. I could answer everything (he’s not here) and nothing (beautiful, comfortable, content) at the same time. Me; my lifestyle, my appearance, my friends. I could answer everything (he’s not here) and nothing (independent, it’s what I was given, amazing support), side by side. Now; single, retired, alone. I could answer everything (he’s not here) and nothing (more so than widowed, still active, not lonely), in competition. Everything’s wrong focuses on he’s gone, not on purpose, not anyone’s fault, but he should still be here with me; that which gets in the way of seeing all that’s right. I live where we planned to live in our retirement, in a comfortable home, not wanting for much. I was always capable of upholding myself, and still do, even though I’m heavier without his support. I no longer look my best for him, but for me. I have friends who listen, care, and support me. I no longer want widow to define me, love the gym, and am rarely lonely. All that’s right with here, me, now.