Growing Up

They didn’t really do anything to be punished for, except be themselves, right where they’re at, and that’s not exactly who you wanted them to be. Growing up is hard to do.

Linda is who she is. She pushes my buttons, but I know it’s not intentional. Mort pushed mine too, but I’m over it now, and we seem to accept each other, and give each other space~ at least for now. There is life after challenge, but I know there’s also challenge after challenge. No honeymoon lasts forever. The interviewer did a poor job of interviewing. Maybe she was afraid, and maybe she’s not the best supervisor. There are good ones and bad ones. I felt surprised and then dismayed at the prospect of having to work with her for 11 weeks. I am doubting that I could even do it, and wondering what will happen if that’s all the choice I’m given. More challenge?

What is it about Ms. P that is so difficult? She’s like my mom, the way she is super positive, and doesn’t seem sensitive to my moods. The way she misses the moments to hear her children, instead bringing the conversation back to herself. The way she misses the fact that something’s bothering me. It makes me angry, and I feel unfriendly, blocked and confused about how to relate.

What do I want from people? Do I expect them to be perfect? Yes, I guess that’s partly true. Just like I wanted my mother, and then my husband, to comfort me, to come find me, pull up a chair, and ask me to tell them all about it. I’m behaving like a child who wants more attention, and wants to be noticed more. That doesn’t mean I’m bad, but it does sound like a growing up issue. And I definitely don’t want to be dependent on others to make me feel ok about myself.

My therapist reminded me that I’m going to keep running into these situations, and these people. Like the teacher at the workshop who never stopped talking. My anger and resistance didn’t help. I don’t like it when he launches into his stories. They are always way too long, and too energized, and I feel I have to agree, or something similar, when he ends each sentence with, “Right?” It feels like someone is invading my space, demanding a response, like Mom still does sometimes. I could say it feels like a boundary violation, and that’s probably what it is. How then do I protect my boundaries? I want more space to reflect, and to feel my own unique response, not to have to be in agreement with someone else. I want to be asked what I think, not told. As long as I think I’m being coerced or ordered, I feel taken advantage of, and sullen. Mom calls it ‘sulky.’ When I’m sullen and sulky, I want to be given room to respond, not have to fight for it.

I’m angry at Ms. P, and anyone else who stimulates these childhood feelings that I had when I was growing up. I want to figure it out because it reminds me of my own style. I’ve become the very thing I find so distasteful in others. I know I do the same thing to my daughter, and my husband~ talk too much, take too much of the attention for myself, and overwhelm them with my strong enthusiasm, when they need something else from me. Maybe that’s why I’m seeing it so clearly in others: it’s something I have to look at in myself. So here I am, confused, angry, and feeling stuck about the whole thing.

My advice to myself, as hard as it is to accept, is that maybe it’s time to drop the unrealistic expectations of what a good friend, a good husband, or a good teacher, should be. They may be a better friend, husband, or teacher than I realize, just by being themselves. After all, they’re giving me a chance to look in the mirror. What you see may be who you are, Robin.

Maybe I’m not letting myself be myself, and so I can’t allow others to do so. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at myself. Do some therapy maybe? That’s what I’m doing, and just when I’m feeling better and I think everything’s going really well, I hit a brick wall and can’t keep going. I’m stuck again, and I don’t think I’ll ever be a good person, able to deal with life well, able to let go of the unhappy thoughts and feelings that keep pulling me down, or the expectations that keep disappointing me, able to have a sense of humor about it all and just like myself and the world. I feel like throwing in the towel sometimes, and hiding under my pillow. That’s what I did yesterday. Then I picked up Pema.
pema1

Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times, has been my guide for a while now. She always has something to say that applies to what I’m going through. This time I found it in the chapter called Growing Up. Here’s what I read:

“The reason that we’re here in this world is to study ourselves…All wisdom can be found in our own experience…By looking directly into our own heart, we find the awakened Buddha, the completely unclouded experience of how things really are. In all kinds of situations, we can find out what is true simply by studying ourselves in every nook and cranny, in every black hole and bright spot, whether it’s murky, creepy, peaceful, inspiring, or wrathful.”

I thought right away of Emilie’s struggles with her downstairs neighbor. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew she had some work to do on herself, just like I do. I’ve been studying myself with a therapist and guide for almost a year now. The system we are using goes something like this: an intensive period of private sessions over the course of several weeks or longer, and then a period of getting back into the water and seeing how well my stroke has improved. Water is a good metaphor for my life. It reflects back to me just exactly who I am.

One of the things the therapist pointed out is that I don’t have the habit of recognizing and holding on to victories accomplished and lessons learned. I tend to fall back easily into old habits of self-condemnation and judgment. She describes the life of spiritual healing as a spiral. We keep going around, and the challenges keep repeating themselves, as disruptions, like snags in the line. As we learn to recognize and deal with them appropriately, they get smaller, and the spiral tightens as well, so it’s quicker, and less painful, and we get less de-railed and find ourselves on a new level. Like swimming –  the more you practice, the better you get. Deep water doesn’t look as scary anymore, you get stronger and can cover longer distances, and you get a pair of goggles so your eyes don’t get affected by the chlorine. The right tools are really useful.

“Meditation gives us the method…I was told from day one that, just like Bodhidharma, I had to find out for myself what was true…However, when we sit down to meditate and take an honest look at our minds, there is a tendency for it to become a rather morbid and depressing project. (Ha ha~ that’s where I’m at now!) We can lose all sense of humor and sit with the grim determination to get to the bottom of this stinking mess. After a while, when people have been practicing that way, they begin to feel so much guilt and distress that they just break down, and they might say to someone they trust, ‘Where’s the joy in all this?’”

“So, along with clear seeing, there’s another important element, and that’s kindness. Honesty without kindness makes us grim and mean, and pretty soon we start looking like we’ve been sucking on lemons…The sense of being irritated by ourselves and our lives and other people’s idiosyncrasies becomes overwhelming. That’s why there’s so much emphasis on kindness…Sometimes it’s expressed as heart, awakening your heart. Often it’s called gentleness. Sometimes it’s called unlimited friendliness. But basically kindness is a down-to-earth, everyday way to describe the important ingredient that balances out the whole picture and helps us connect with unconditional joy. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, ‘Suffering is not enough.’”

Yesterday I felt like I’d been sucking on lemons, and I’m sure my face looked like it too. I usually can’t hide what’s going on inside. I definitely felt mean and unfriendly. I snapped at Linda quietly, and vacated the room as soon as I could. I was sitting in that dark familiar cloud of aversion. I was doing just what used to drive mom crazy~ I was sulking. It’s what I do when I’m angry at someone and I don’t know how to express it. It feels like there’s a rope around my neck and when I try to speak, the words comes out strangled. I want someone to save me, and when no one does, I become more sullen.

More from Pema:

“Discipline is important. But why do we have to be so harsh?…The challenge is how to develop compassion right along with clear seeing, how to train in lightening up and cheering up rather than becoming more guilt-ridden and miserable. Otherwise, all that happens is that we all cut everybody else down, and we also cut ourselves down. Nothing ever measures up. Nothing is ever good enough. Honesty without kindness, humor, and goodheartedness can be just mean. From the very beginning to the very end, pointing to our own hearts to discover what is true isn’t just a matter of honesty but also of compassion and respect for what we see.”

“Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe. When we discover the Buddha that we are, we realize that everything and everyone is Buddha. Everyone and everything is equally precious, and whole and good…There’s an interesting transition that occurs naturally and spontaneously. We begin to find that, to the degree that there is bravery in ourselves – the willingness to look, to point directly at our own hearts – and to the degree that there is kindness toward ourselves, there is confidence that we can actually forget ourselves and open to the world.”

Yesterday was awful. I couldn’t really see the blue sky or feel the sun. Even though I’m sure they were both calling out loudly to me, I couldn’t hear a thing. I felt angry and nasty, and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. So I went in my room and lay on my bed and looked at the ceiling. I had been right in the middle of a job when I hit the familiar snag, and knew I couldn’t leave the potatoes on the stove, or the lentils cooking. The water would boil down, and they would burn if I didn’t get back out there and finish what I’d started. I’d gotten disrupted by a black cloud in my heart, but I only had about 20 minutes to fix it. How could I enter the room when all those people were out there now? I read on:

“The only reason that we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.”

“The more we relate with others, the more quickly we discover where we are blocked, where we are unkind, afraid, shut down. Seeing this is helpful, but it is also painful. Often the only way we know how to react is to use it as ammunition against ourselves. We aren’t kind. We aren’t honest. We aren’t brave, and we might as well give up right now. But when we apply the instructions to be soft and nonjudgmental to whatever we see right at that moment, then this embarrassing reflection in the mirror becomes our friend. Seeing that reflection becomes motivation to soften further and lighten up more, because we know it’s the only way we can continue to work with others and be of any benefit to the world.”

Sitting on the edge of the bed, hand on my heart, I was telling myself that it’s OK to be angry, mad, sullen, sulky, hateful, wrathful, sad, or lonely. “Accept it all, it’s all OK,” I was talking to myself like I would talk to a little child who was pouting and angry, but trying to make sense of it all. “Be kind to yourself,” I was saying gently, as lovingly as possible.

I was on the verge of getting up, wanting to be brave and asking God to give me strength to go out of the room without putting up my usual defenses~ the frozen mask and the stiff walk~ when there was a knock at the door. My friend entered, and I was saved. The question now is, how do I save myself?

“That’s the beginning of growing up. As long as we don’t want to be honest and kind with ourselves, then we are always going to be infants. When we begin just to try to accept ourselves, the ancient burden of self-importance lightens up considerably. Finally, there’s room for genuine inquisitiveness, and we find we have an appetite for what’s out there.”

I’m out of the room, and the clouds have lifted. I felt myself return to balance, and ran outside to see the sky. Yes, it’s blue again! But life happens, and I’m going to keep my heart open this time, and try to see what it is without judging the hell out of it. 🙂

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Why I’m glad I married young

My daughter Emilie wrote about her choice to marry young, and I’m proud of her and Joachim, and how it’s turned out. I’m a grateful Mom! 🙂

Matching-Mentor.com

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Emilie S. Emilie S.

Josh just recently wrote an excellent article about waiting to get matched/married. While I whole-heartedly agree with 99% of what he wrote, I wanted to share my story as a counter-balance to show that marrying young can work and can also be a wonderful thing.

My husband and I just celebrated our ninth anniversary last month. I was 4 days shy of my 17th birthday the day we got matched by Rev. Moon in Korea. While I would never recommend getting matched at that age, I don’t regret my choice in the slightest. It was the right move for me at that time, and I was really clear about that. No matter what age you are when you get married, it’s important that you feel clear and confident about taking on the challenge and responsibility.

In the US, the average age of first marriage is 27 for women…

View original post 590 more words

An Experience of God

I’ve been standing on the outside looking in for too long now. Being unemployed has it’s advantages, and I’ve been appreciating them more lately, but I’m ready for training, and learning something new. I want to have a mentor, be part of a team involved in meaningful service work. I’ve been teaching communication skills for many years, and yet I still have so much trouble knowing how to deal with people who have a different point of view, and an emotional investment in maintaining it at all costs. I want to learn more about conflict resolution, and how to bring it about so I can help my family, which is experiencing great emotional conflict. So, I’m inspired by the field of ‘appreciative inquiry,’ and pastoral counseling education.

I also believe that having a strong interest is enough. I mean, why not give people a chance if they are motivated, and want to learn. In Korea, many students weren’t able to take the major they were most interested in because they didn’t test high enough for it. People were taking courses they weren’t interested in. There’s nothing worse than to see a student studying something he or she is entirely uninterested in.

Motivation is such an important factor in the learning process. More so than qualification. As a teacher, I had to first motivate students before teaching them anything. And although some of them were already proficient in English, they didn’t necessarily do the best or get the highest grade. The motivated students, even those with poor communication skills to start, got the same chance, and sometimes went whizzing past the smart-alecs in the class who already thought they knew everything.

I’m motivated, so I think I’m a good candidate for this CPE internship. I’m telling myself this on the eve of an interview. I’m strongly motivated to be in this field of spirituality, where every day we enter the world of emotions, the world of pain and suffering, the world of death and dying, loss and grief. These are things that society does not teach us how to deal with. Young people think they have forever, but when you get older, you’ve seen so much more, and you’ve started to question everything again, and you know you don’t have that much time to learn.

When I met the supervisor on the phone, he told me he’s interested in the theology of suffering. I had to think: What does he mean? Why do we suffer? What is it?

The first thought is that we learn when we suffer. We tend to try to avoid suffering at any cost. Who wants to sign up for something that they know is going to be painful. Of course, we sign up for sports teams or yoga classes and burn those muscles and hold those postures til they hurt, but painful relationships are different. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to work out. However, when we have to stretch ourselves, go outside our comfort zone, and feel the pain a difficult relationship can cause, often these are the most memorable and growth-producing times of our lives. The people that I have the hardest time with at the beginning often turn out to be the most endearing, lasting, and real connections in the end. They make you struggle. You have to go deeper into your heart to embrace them, to accept them, not to shout at them, or judge them, not to walk away from them. These are valuable people. They make you leave the surface life and enter into the world of insecurity and struggle, and the struggle ends up being about you, not them. You face yourself and grow. In the classroom, the most challenging student often ended up being my favorite by the end of the semester~ or at least the most memorable. It happened a lot. I had to work hard to figure out how to respond. I was forced to change in some way, and it was usually for the better.

When someone willingly carries a burden for you, suffers for you, or makes a sacrifice on your behalf, it softens your heart. You don’t always know when someone is sacrificing for you. But when you do, and it often changes the way you see things and the way you behave.

I had an experience with a student one year in Korea. It was after the semester was over. He came up to me, and told me he had dropped out of the class after just a few weeks. I went back and looked at his record. And I said, “Oh my God! Why did you drop out? You could have passed. You were OK. What was it?”
He said, “I didn’t think I could do it. I wasn’t as good as the other students.”
“Did you ever come and talk to me?”
“No.”
“Why not?”

Telling the story makes me want to cry. I wanted to help him, I was right there ready to help him. It wasn’t like I knew him from the rest, but I wanted each of my students to succeed.

It made me think about God. That this is how God must feel towards us. If we never go to ask Him for help, He can’t give it. I realized that if the kids don’t tell me what’s going on, I never know.

I told that student, “Don’t ever do that again. Your teachers are there, but they can’t read your mind. They’re waiting for you to make your part of the journey. You have to take the steps. If it’s hard for you, you have to go talk to your teacher, you have to tell them, ‘I’m afraid’ or ‘I’m not able.’ I would have told you, ‘You’re doing great!’ and I would have helped you and encouraged you, taken you under my wing and seen you through. All you had to do was come and ask, and accept the help.”

That’s just exactly how we are with God. God needs us to take that little tiny step, like going up to the teacher after class, and saying, “Listen. I want to do this. But I can’t.”

And God will say, “What do you mean, you can’t? Of course you can. You’re my baby. I love you. You’re doing great. You’re doing just amazingly great! And the fact that you came to see me, you just won thousands of points over all those students who don’t. So, just hang in there. You can come to meet me every day, or every week, whatever you want. I’m here. And I’ll be here. I’m never ever gonna not be here.”

That experience made me realize how precious teaching is. You get to experience a little bit of what it’s like to be God and encourage people (I’m not trying to be presumptuous here); and you also get to learn how important it is to take responsibility for your own life. It doesn’t mean you have to do the whole job. You just have to start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.
And ask for help when you need it.

Wonderful students

Wonderful students

LEAVING CHURCH, a memoir of faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

I like to copy key passages from my favorite books. The practice started about 9 years ago when I first held in my hands “Awakening to the Buddha Within,” by Lama Surya Das. It had been loaned to me by a friend, and I knew I had to get what I needed as quickly as I could before giving it back, so I copied everything that struck me as memorable and meaningful, filling all 127 pages of an entire notebook. I’ve been carrying my little ‘Buddha Book’ around with me ever since. It goes everywhere I go, and it’s helped me through some scary, lonely, and sad times. I open it and read the words that jump out at me, and they invariably give me a new view of the situation, and a way to go through it.

Since then, I have copied favorite lines from many books, especially books I knew I had to return to someone. There have been many, and I’ve noticed that the book I need to read seems to just show up. It’s usually one I’ve never heard of. My most recent discovery is a book by Barbara Brown Taylor, introduced to me by the former Episcopal priest of my mother’s church here in Largo. We’d been talking about my having taken distance from my own faith community, and all the questions that have been surfacing ever since, most still unanswered. She came by the house the next day and dropped off a book for me to read. She loaned me her guitar as well, but it was the book that I couldn’t put down once I had taken it up. It was called, “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” and reading it I felt someone had gotten inside my head and heart and told my story for me.

I’m on a second book by Barbara Brown Taylor now, called “Leaving Church.” It’s equally inspiring and affirming of my own experiences, and once again, I feel she has taken the words right out of my mouth. She tells the story of her love of God, her calling to minister, and her experience of leaving her post as an Episcopal priest to become a college professor. I’d like to share some of the passages that have moved me today.

In chapter 17, she quotes a friend and former parishioner, who said, “The good news of God in Christ is that you have everything you need to be human. There is nothing outside of you that you still need~ no approval from authorites, no attendance at temple, no key truth hidden in the tenth chapter of some sacred book. In your life right now, God has given you everything you need to be human”

With this thought in mind, I would like to share some of the excerpts that have spoken to me, and explain why when I can.

leaving church

Excerpts:
“It remains possible to see Jesus not as the founder of a new religion but as the exemplar of a new way of being human~ a new Adam~ who lived and died with such an authentic faith in God that he gave his followers the courage to try to do the same thing.”

“Jesus preached the coming of the kingdom, but it was the church that came.”

“The way many of us are doing church is broken and we know it, even if we don’t know what to do about it. We proclaim the priesthood of all believers while we continue living with hierarchical clergy, liturgy, and architecture. We follow a Lord who challenged the religious and political institutions of his time while we fund and defend our own. We speak and sing of divine transformation while we do everything in our power to maintain our equilibrium.”

“God does not live at the seminary. God lives in the world.”

“What if people were invited to come tell what they already know of God instead of to learn what they are supposed to believe? What if they were blessed for what they are doing in the world instead of chastened for not doing more at church? What if church felt more like a way station than a destination? What if the church’s job were to move people out the door instead of trying to keep them in, by convincing them that God needed them more in the world than in the church?”

I think of something along these lines when I see a family picture of a small group sitting around the Thanksgiving Day table loaded with all the trimmings. There’s something sad about it, and a cloud crosses my mind as I think of the people that meal could have been shared with~ and the multiplication of joy that sharing it would have brought. In church on Sunday, I feel the same. What are we really doing for God here? Our service is insular~ week after week the same faces, year after year listening to the same message. Why are we all sitting here, passively being fed, when there are so many people out there in need of spiritual life? Once Rev. Moon suggested that we meet as a congregation only once a month, and the other 3 Sundays with friends and neighbors in our home. That makes more sense if we really are all priests, or mini-messiahs.

In the book, Ms. Taylor writes about her father’s death: “I discovered that faith did not have the least thing to do with certainty. Insofar as I had any faith at all, that faith consisted of trusting God in the face of my vastly painful ignorance…Since then, I have learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty and to seek companions who have arrived at the same place.”

It’s comforting to think of ignorance as ‘holy,’ especially when you have lost your moorings and can’t say what the truth is anymore. The more we know, the more we realize that we don’t know. I’ve definitely become less certain about the BIG questions than I was when I was a young missionary, full of zeal and Bible quotes to back myself up. Now, all I know are the questions~ Who is God? Who am I? I’m searching for the answers, and it’s often very scary. I’m looking for people who have been here where I am, and have something good to say about being in the dark.

“In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says to the large crowd trailing after him, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.’…I think it was his way of telling them to go home…If he could not shake the crowd off, they were all going to get themselves killed, or worse. They were going to venerate his path in place of finding their own. They were going to expect him to tell them things that they could only discover for themselves.” When I read this I immediately thought of Reverend Moon, and how so many of us spent so long following his vision, when perhaps we should have been out finding our own. It can be a rude awakening to realize that you are still behaving like a child who has never taken the risk of walking out the door and discovering who you are.

When asked, “Tell us what is saving your life now?” these were the writer’s answers:
1. Teaching school.
2. Living in relationship with creation.
3. Observing the Sabbath.
4. Encountering God in other people.
5. Committing myself to the task of becoming fully human.

Let me try to answer the same question, What is saving my life right now?
1. Swimming in the pool, warmed by the sun and looking up at a fathomless sky, being outside and held up by sparkling water, beautiful and blue.
2. Judy’s help, support, laughter, and understanding.
3. Callie, curling up next to me, and giving me love bites.
4. Writing letters, and recording my life to share with myself and others;
5. Breathing~ Deeply. Slowly. Being with whatever I would rather be running away from. Slowing down in order to recover.
6. Books: Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark, and Leaving Church.
7. Laura, who’s always available when I need her, and who usually gives me helpful advice along with encouragement about how much I’m growing.

I’m really missing the teaching school part. It was the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I’d like to find myself in that place again, but I don’t know how at the moment. I’m trying to be in this ‘pause’ space without panicking, and just give myself time to look around at the inner and outer landscape. Becoming fully human is a work in progress, and it certainly isn’t easy. Running away from my sister today was a step toward being more honest about who I really am right now, and throwing off any pretense of being anything other than terrified. I don’t think I want to be the ‘good girl’ anymore. I want to be ALL of ME~ the good, the bad, and the ugly 🙂

I’m not sure how much I am able to experience God in other people. I have no trouble with animals. Gazing into Callie’s eyes is so calming. Stroking her, and receiving her purr-full response, and sometimes a kiss, makes me think of something so much larger than myself. But people? Wait. I just remembered Shallah at Culver’s hamburger place. We connected over the counter. I thought of her the next morning as I was brushing my teeth, that I could adopt her as a second daughter, and visit her occasionally, taking her little treats and words of kindness to help her through her 2 jobs and school.
And Ruthie, in the bed next to Mom at rehab. She is 99, and just suffered a stroke. Her grand-daughter was there visiting, and we pulled back the curtain dividing the room so Ruthie could see us, and observe the pleasurable social contact we were enjoying. Even though she can’t speak, she can see. I bent over to give her a kiss goodbye when I left, and she grabbed my hand. Something passed between us. Is that what Barbara means? Being touched by people, feeling my heart move…knowing you are seen and loved, even by a perfect stranger, who you see and feel love for in return?

I’d like to sleep out under the sky, and feel the night as it passes. Instead, I’m locked in and shuttered tightly against the fears I imagine out there. Maybe I will have the courage to take my sleeping bag out to the gazebo one of these nights. We’ll see.

Writing letters was an idea I got right before mom went into the hospital last week. I thought I would write one a day for a week, sharing thoughts about my life with people I haven’t been in contact with since leaving Belgium behind and coming to Florida. I remembered that only what we give comes back to us. As Barbara put it so well, “…we had nothing that belonged to us but what we gave to God and God gave everything back to us again so that we could share it with one another.”

My sister found and saved a letter I’d written to Dad when I was 14. That letter came back and is so precious to me now, bringing with it fully preserved a piece of my young beautiful heart, loving my father openly and simply, without guile or pretense. When I was a teacher at Kookmin University, I collected many stories from my students and thought I had saved them on my USB when I left. There were hundreds of them over the course of several years, but I only have the ones I sent to people to read, as all the rest were lost. It was a lesson I need to remind myself of. If you love it and want to keep it, share it. What you give will come back.

I’ll be taking the book over to Mom to read while she’s in rehab. A good book is like spending time with a good friend. The time goes by so pleasantly, and you don’t even notice it passing. She read Learning to Walk in the Dark, and loved it just like I did, so I think she’ll also be inspired by Leaving Church. We’ve both never really been church-goers. Even though I spent 35 years attached to one, it never spoke to ALL of me. Now that I’ve stepped out of the safety of it’s confines and limiting-ness, I have to admit that I feel like a piece of shit, with nowhere to hide. However, as Pema Chodron writes (and I’ll tell you more about HER book next time), “We can explore the nature of that piece of shit. We can know the nature of dislike, shame, and embarrassment and not believe there’s something wrong with that. We can drop the fundamental hope that there’s a better ‘me’ who one day will emerge. It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our basic sanity arises.” (from When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

Have I caught your interest?

Some of My Favorite Things

Looking through my photos for reminders of things I love…

Playing my guitar

Playing my guitar

Taking pictures

Taking pictures

Writing about what's on my heart and mind

Writing about what’s on my heart and mind

Wide-open spaces

Wide-open spaces

sunsets over water

sunsets over water

Cleaning and organizing

Cleaning and organizing

Creating Beauty

Creating Beauty

Putting myself into paintings

Putting myself into paintings

Tea Talks

Tea Talks

Fashion Modeling

Fashion Modeling

Saving Flowers

Saving Flowers

My inner goddess :)

My inner goddess 🙂

Sunsets on the beach

Sunsets on the beach

Window Flowers

Window Flowers

Wheels and Flat Ground

Wheels and Flat Ground

Amazing Trees

Amazing Trees

Sharing the classroom with my students

Sharing the classroom with my students

Thrift Store Finds

Thrift Store Finds

Encouraging young artists

Encouraging young artists

Street Meets :)

Street Meets 🙂

Elegance, at any age

Elegance, at any age

Kookmin University

Kookmin University

All things Pucci

All things Pucci

Wearing ORANGE

Wearing ORANGE


Secret Gardens

Secret Gardens


Time Out

Time Out

PASSAGES in CAREGIVING

Passages

PASSAGES IN CAREGIVING,Turning Chaos into Confidence, by Gail Sheehy

I never thought about becoming a caregiver. Most people probably don’t. It just happens. I told mom that I wouldn’t want to do this for anyone else.

In any case, when I realized what my new role was, I called upon Gail Sheehy to explain the ins and outs of the caregiving passage. Hers is my new favorite book, and it’s helping me to understand the game, put some of the challenges in perspective, and most important of all, realize that the caregiver needs to take care of HERSELF as well.

An important way to do that is to cultivate your social network:
-“Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.” (from a study by Rebecca Adams of the University of North Carolina).
-“The best antidote to preserve the brain is an extensive social network.”
-“It’s how many people one knows intimately and feels comfortable confiding in.” (Dr. David Bennett)

I’m getting a great deal of support from my two sisters, one who is here nearby, and the other who is in North Carolina. I confide in both of them almost daily by phone, and they understand the stresses and the joys of the job. They’ve both spent a lot more time living with Mom than I have.

But, I realize that although it’s been 5 weeks since I arrived here in Clearwater to live with my mother, I haven’t reached out yet to any of my friends from my previous life in Belgium, or Korea. I NEED to get started cultivating those relationships again, so I made a list today of the women I feel comfortable confiding in. I know making a little effort to write to them will bring me a lot of returns. First, I won’t have to open my email and see nothing there. That’s always so discouraging 😦

I’d like to write more about what I’m learning here, but I’ll have to save that for the next time. It’s way too late, and getting enough sleep is a high priority on a caregiver’s list of self-care. If you’re reading this and you’re a caregiver in need of support, check out this book. It’s full of ideas, and resources, and stories from people who have been there, and survived.