To get closer still, I have to take a look at me. My insides. Not the parts under my skin. I still have all of those, and in the right places; parts that are the same as everyone else. I’m talking about the parts that make me, me and not you. Self-examination, yuck! Any kind of examination is terrible, but examining myself? No thanks. For some things I’m my worst critic. I have empathy for my friends when they struggle, but not for me. I don’t want to search, because if I find something that shouldn’t be there or missing, I just might have to fix it. What would I do about adding patience, preventing anger from rising so quickly, figuring out how to replace goodies as my reward, my unhappy fix? These are some of the issues I’m aware of; should be fixed but I’m used to living with them, sometimes referred to as baggage. It’s commonly known that baggage gets heavier and heavier the longer it’s carried around, so over time I’ve distanced myself from these issues, tossing them into my tolerable-life-patterns U-Haul, so no touching, no examination required. Shorten the distance, address the issues, make a difference.
There’s people I know (Facebook Friends) and people I’m close to (Plain Old Friends). It’s communicating through social media verses physically close enough to touch someone. After knowing how much it means for my friends to ask and really what to know how I am, I’ve started asking what’s going on with you and suggesting ways I can help. When I see them (best) or over the phone (second best) I’ll ask, how are you and after the automatic standard answer of good, are you really good, or just saying so? What’s going on in your life? Are you happy? I really want to know, so don’t feel bad about being unhappy about the same stuff over and over. It takes time to find a long-term solution to unhappy. Maybe we can come up with a solution together, and if not, how about a hug? For me, when there’s things I’m not ready to talk about, just knowing someone’s thinking about me is huge. Why wouldn’t it be the same for my friends? A quick text message or e-mail to just say thinking of you lets them know I’m still here. Shorten the distance, touch a life, make a difference.
Bette Midler’s song From A Distance explains how seeing from a great distance creates a false view of the world. By not shortening the distance I miss social, environmental, and other world issues. Without stepping in closer I can miss what’s going on in someone’s life, and even closer still, missing what’s going on in my own life. Taking a closer look results in one of two actions. The easy one is ignore, pretend I didn’t notice, convince myself it’ll take care of itself or someone else will fix it. The hard one is doing something about it. After making a one-time donation to St. Labre Indian School in Montana, and starting to receive information about the needs of the children, I decided to continue supporting the school. The latest request for support was to purchase a milk ticket for one of the students. I asked my grandson if buying one would be a good idea. He said, we should buy one for all the kids! Financial support is great, but there’s also volunteering, becoming a foster parent or mentor, or donating all the unwanted, still usable stuff accumulating in your basement. Shorten the distance; get involved, make a difference.
I’ve been heading down the sadness road for days now. I’ve gotten better at being aware that I’m on that road and at not allowing myself to continue unchecked. But why sad this time? It’s been a really long time since I’ve done any of the things I love to do. Outside work is time consuming, but it’s more than that because I have plenty of time. This morning I said (to myself), what’s the matter with you, you have plenty to keep you busy. But that’s the problem. I don’t want to be busy. I want to be productive and love what I’m doing. I’ve stopped creating cigar boxes and crocheted necklaces because I sell hardly any. I could keep making them, but what would I do with them? Finding something new to love to do is risky but I need to challenge myself. I have a couple things in mind, just have to get started. With no one but me to give me a push, I’m in deep trouble. Once I get going I’m fine, but I’m the worst just jump in and swim person ever. Got to figure out how to go for it, take the plunge, keep trying.
During a newscast I heard the words challenges and chosen used together. I immediately thought, exactly. Challenges have changed over the years, moving away from doing them because we have to, to doing them because we want to. There will always be survival challenges, not life and death ones, like finding food and shelter, but the survival of our hearts and souls, like conquering grief, injuries, addictions, and disease. Having non-work hours in my day creates great opportunities to challenge myself; my body by getting off the couch and moving, my mind by learning something new, my heart by looking for opportunities to help others. I’ve accomplished many optional challenges so far but I haven’t challenged myself lately. Can I learn something new, try something harder, add a good habit, drop a bad habit, be more loving and patient? For others it may be to get a job or a better one, or one with more time to spend with my kids. Maybe it’s drop 20 pounds, stop smoking, figure out how to love myself. Challenges, not required but chosen, making me a better person, vibrant, stronger, successful, so I can look back and say I challenged myself and conquered.
From This is Us: “If I don’t learn to face my grief, that it would be like taking in a deep breath and holding that breath for the rest of my life.” In order to take a deep breath you have to fill your lungs to capacity, making your shoulders and chest puff out as big as they can. Try it, you won’t like it. It’s a tense position, one I can’t image maintaining as I go about my life because it takes too much effort. It also takes a tremendous amount of concentration to make your lungs not do something they do without thought or effort 24/7. While you’re holding your breath, you’re depriving your body of oxygen, something it absolutely needs to live. All of these issues make holding your breath the perfect analogy for holding onto grief. What a life sucker grief is! Uncomfortable; stressful; demanding; suffocating the fact you are still alive. I’m pretty sure scientists haven’t yet figured out how to eliminate the need to breathe. So take in the deep breath of grief, but let it out as soon as you can. Let it go, breathe, survive, fully live the life you’ve been given.
In December 2015 my daughter posted a photo of her son heading to his school Christmas concert wearing his grandfather’s childhood tie. Her caption: “He kept telling everyone he was wearing his Grandpa’s tie and didn’t want to take it off, the pride was so pure. Definitely had a few of those beautifully crazy conflicting moments of heart-wrenching sadness and incredible joy. The amazing thing is, the joy won. Thinking a little on it, it’s clear that it’s easy to focus on all the things you don’t have, but the more you make an effort to remember all you do have, the easier it gets – and the lighter your heart’s burdens become.” Doesn’t seem possible but I’ve found when joy and sadness hit me at the same time it leads to the most intense joy AND the most intense sadness ever; beautifully crazy, the perfect description. Why does joy win when there’s conflicting feelings over what I have and what I don’t have? What I have is touchable, real, present, and therefore I just have to reach out and hold on. I don’t have to let my mind keep me in a place where I’m surrounded by nothing tangible.