I’m An Adult Child – part 1

Living life from a basis of fear

Comparing myself to others

Never thinking it was safe to play

Surrounded by people who didn’t respect me or treat me well

Afraid of authority figures and tending to isolate myself

Frightened by angry people and any personal criticism

Feeling overly responsible for others as a way to avoid looking at my own faults

Being my own Harsh, Harsher, and Harshest judge and critic

Feeling tremendously guilty when I stand up for myself instead of giving in to others

Addicted to excitement in its myriad forms

Stuffing feelings, and not even able to remember or feel what they are now

Continuing to live with sick people who were never there emotionally for me in order not to be abandoned.

Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. I recognize myself when I read the Laundry List –  14 Traits of an Adult Child. And when I introduce myself at an ACA meeting, ‘Hi, I’m Robin, an adult child,” I’m embracing a reality I have always lived and struggled to hide and accept.

The Red Book has 648 pages, so it can’t be summed up in a paragraph here. What I’d like to do is offer a few bits and pieces as I work through them. Right now I’m working on reparenting myself: learning to be sensitive to my needs and my background experience. For me, I need a lot of validation – that my feelings make sense given my family history.

I encourage myself in many ways. For example, I remind myself when I start to slip into that spiral of self-doubt and condemnation that I’m actually doing a pretty good job; that I am not a bad person; that I have something valuable to share with the world. I repeat Lady Gaga’s words to my hurting hating Self, “You’re on the right track, baby! God makes no mistakes.”

I also tell myself that growth doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. Patience, my dear! I sing songs with empowering messages, take time at the water’s edge, and share my experiences with trusted friends both in and out of the program.

And like Joe Walsh, I’m taking it One Day at a Time.

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Thank you for Asking!

This is not a new survey. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I completed a survey of Unificationist Sunday Services as they are experienced by various members around the world. It was my first research project. I was inspired by the qualitative research of Brene Brown (The Power of Vulnerability), and dealing with a lagging interest in attending a service 90 minutes from home. I was also frustrated that my experience and that of my husband wasn’t part of the conversation. I wanted to find out what others had to say.

Engrossed thoroughly as I was in reading the responses as they came in, the work pulled me through a tough winter in Belgium, and helped me tap into a passion I’ve had all my life: giving voice to the silent or the unheard.  Grassroots stories from the field always catch my interest. All told, I logged in over 600 hours, spanning a period of 3 months. The people who responded had something to say and were glad to be asked.

The finished survey was sent out to everyone who had participated, and then published on the Applied Unificationism blog, but that was as far as it went. This week, I went back for the first time, and realized it might be time to make the website public. For anyone out there who’s interested or involved in similar research,  I hope it is edifying and finds fertile soil in your garden as well.

The Girls with the Grandmother Faces

I found this book in a box in Belgium when I went home to sort through the things I’d left behind three years ago. I don’t remember where I got it, but I hadn’t read it yet, and the cover looked intriguing and right up my current alley, so I took it with me on the plane back to the US. I’d like to introduce it to my over 55 friends, men included. Although it’s written especially for women, any one of us older folks can benefit from the ideas Frances Weaver writes about.

 

Right off the bat, I’d like to say something that has seriously stuck with me ever since reading it last week: We older women are no longer the center of our grown children’s lives! That was a bombshell. What? How could that be?? Frances tells the story of how after her husband died, she sold the big house and moved closer to her children, expecting them to gravitate around granny for all the holidays and vacation times. Wrong.  She waited and waited, and when all she got was excuses, she decided that it was time for her to live her own life, not theirs.

I have to admit this was a shocking and revelatory idea for me. A few days later I was visiting my daughter for the weekend and happened to spy her diary on the floor half under the bed. Against the chiding of my conscience, I picked it up and leafed through it, searching for any mentions of my name. Yes, I wanted to prove to myself how important I am to my daughter. I was expecting to read things like: My mom said this, and I was so inspired; My mom did this, and I was so inspired; My mom my mom, my mom…..you get the picture. I couldn’t find one mention of my frequent presence in her life, and realized that Frances was right. Thinking back to my own journals, how often was I quoting my mother or waxing poetic about her? Unless it was something extremely negative, she wasn’t in there very often. I had other things to write about. I was living my life, not hers.

They say we have to let our children go, spread their wings, fly the coop. I am reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s poem, On Children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The best thing I can do for Emilie at this stage in both of our lives is to be that stable bow, and to encourage her to fly while I do the same! Having come to that realization, I understand her response to my recent FB post about being 66 and feeling so happy about my life. She said, “Mom! I want to be like you when I’m 66!” No sweeter words necessary!

Back to The Girls with the Grandmother Faces, A Celebration of Life’s Potential for Those Over 55: A second big takeaway is that when we are older and find ourselves with more time on our hands, we need to “get back out there among ’em, drop the safety net, and move on our own steam.” Here are a few more quotes along those lines:

“Our world has more for us to do than we have imagined. Until now, we hadn’t the time, but now that’s pretty much all we have….With our eyes and ears open, we can find new and marvelous things to do, then pass the magic along to other women like us.” She’s talking about going back to school, getting involved in community activities, travel during off-seasons, and taking advantage of all the many senior advantages available. One of the things Frances took up (at the age of 55) was kite flying. It became an obsession, and she found others who enjoyed it too, and has a collection of kites and kite-flying friends from all over the world. Who would have thought of that?

She’s speaking directly to where I am at these days- wondering what to do with my time? I’m getting the idea from her that before I go out looking for a ‘regular’ job, I should try my hand at something creative that I’m already doing and loving. The author’s story is just such an example. After she became widowed, she booked a thirty-day cruise. Never having traveled by herself, she felt the need to find out if she could. She had so much fun, and felt so good, that she began helping a travel-agent friend sell group tours in return for an agent’s rate, and created a temporary job for herself as tour director. Then she went back to community college, which included a move clear across the country, and took Creative Writing, Poetry, and Spanish. Finding that she liked to write, and against the admonitions of her less adventurous friends, she self-published the “Grandmother Faces” book. Shortly after putting copies in her local Colorado bookstore, she was invited by a Denver publisher to write a travel book for older single women (like myself), which she did. It’s called, This Year I Plan to Go Elsewhere. It’s on my reading list!

Next, she was interviewed on a nationwide cable channel, and somehow or another, the department of tourism in Malta invited her to spend a week in Malta, all expenses paid! She was subsequently hired by a cruise ship line to be a guest lecturer, and for the next 10 years traveled all over the world. Reading her story has been electrifying. It sounds like the perfect scenario: travel, creativity, writing and speaking, and meeting all sorts of people.

I’m not divorced or widowed, but I’m living alone per an arrangement that is working well for both me and my husband of 35 years. Both of us are having to rethink and recreate our lives, and learn to live what we have left of our lives in a satisfactory and inspiring way. We are each learning to make and trust our own decisions. Having no one else to blame helps. Creative living requires an amount of risk-taking, but what’s to lose? “One risk often leads to greater discoveries of our own capabilities,” Frances writes. That’s been my experience, for sure. I’m thinking of a recent risky behavior I embarked on when I responded to an add on Craig’s List looking for a backup vocalist for a local musician. Thrilled and terrified at the same time, I picked up the phone and made the call. We agreed to meet at the open mic a few miles down the road, and both signed up to perform separately so we could appraise each other’s musical talents before deciding to work together. I had no idea what he would look like, nor did he have a clue that I was 65. That in itself was one of my biggest fears – that he would reject me immediately because of my age. It turned out that his music was deplorable, and his personality not much better, and he left the bar without saying anything, which was a relief. On the other hand, I had a good set, and realized I can do this performance thing still, even at my ripening age, and I met a fantastic bass player in the process.

“Recycling ourselves means getting rid of whatever serves no useful purpose, whatever our lives no longer depend on. Recycling also means discovering the unused, still-new interests, options, and opportunities that did not fit the younger version of ourselves.” Yes! My parents are both gone, and I was lucky I didn’t end up being saddled with their long-term care as many boomers are finding themselves. My daughter is a grown woman, and has left the nest. She’s making decisions for herself, and I have been learning to trust that she can take care of herself now and doesn’t need me sticking my nose into everything. I’ve got my health, and I’m basically free at this stage of my life. I don’t want to waste the precious time!

I’d like to suggest this book to anyone who has recently found themselves facing a new phase in life, wants to make a new start and needs some direction, or is feeling old and tired and knows there’s more if they could just figure out what.  A final quote that sums it all up for me comes from Jane O’Reilly, New York Times, July, 1986: “The most important mission of a woman’s life is not to hold onto her looks. Our mission is the same as a man’s….to grow up.” Yes. And no one else can do that for us!fullsizeoutput_3938

 

My Winter Pause

From notes I wrote on Jan 14th, 2015

Joy and Momo

Joy and Momo

7:49am with Momo and Joy on Laura’s patio, Miami, FL

I’ve been at Laura’s since Saturday, when I drove in with a rental car, lugging all my stuff. It’s been 3 full days. Yesterday we made a plan to do two sessions, so it was a real working day. M took his study to the fish office, so Laura and I had the ‘garage’ all to ourselves. That’s what they call it. I call it the Healing Center, or Laura’s office.

The first session was approx. 3 hours. It was a re-assessment and going over and creating a new ‘charged area’ list. The second session was called ‘unblocking’ ~ you pick a person, place, or thing, and the therapist asks you a series of questions about it. For example: ‘Concerning ________, has anything been supressed? Has anything been revealed? judged? concealed? validated?’ It’s a process of opening little holes in the tangled web of our most difficult relationships. It’s like chipping holes in a block of ice so air can circulate. It’s work, and often exhausting, although you’re just talking and sitting on a couch or a comfortable chair.

Today I did a little clearing of my favorite part of the house~ the back patio. I hosed it off and scrubbed the floor and washed down all the outdoor furniture. I like things to be clean, clear, and beautiful, and the patio is where I spend most of my time. I can see the sky, feel the breeze, watch the wildlife on the lake, and be surrounded by beauty. It’s funny, I don’t want to go to the store with Laura to shop, or to the restaurant with them, or to the movies that’s a 40 minute drive away. I said “No, thanks” to all the invitations, and just stayed here at home, most of the time on the back patio with Joy and Momo (the elderly German Shephard and her cat friend). Momo’s lying here on the little table next to my chair. The tip of her tail is flicking, so I know she’s ‘feeling’ my presence. If I just make a tiny humming sound I can activate it. We’re tuned into each other.

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I like it here. I can think. I don’t want to get into a car and go out into that world out there. At least not right now. I’m enjoying the space just to be. I’d rather get into a kayak and go out into the world of nature. It’s peaceful, and quiet, and I connect.

Laura's lake.

Laura’s lake.

People pay good money to be in 78 degrees in January, sitting somewhere with their feet up looking out over water and sipping a cool drink. A huge added bonus is that there’s a cat here right next to me keeping me company. She’s a real companion, and I’m not alone at all. Even though it feels so much like a retreat, I’m calling it a ‘pause.’ Laura comes  by, drops in, and brings me a hot tea, or a Vicks Vapo Rub for my neck. We sit out on the davenport together watching the early morning light or the night sky in the evening, sharing stories of our lives. Then I close my eyes and drift off. She heads back inside, and I’m in my space again.

Sunset on the patio.

Sunset on the patio.

Today’s been our ‘day off.’ She made her own schedule, and I made mine. We crossed paths briefly when she was in-between yoga and a lunch date with her husband and a client. “Wanna come in my room and talk while I get changed?” she called through the open door. We touched base, had a good laugh about how well the arrangement we made is working out, and then she was gone again.

Tomorrow is another ‘work day’ and I’m enjoying the unscheduled-ness of today. However, I still made a to-do list. Structure always give me a framework to hang the time on. It wards off the feeling that I’m wasting it, which always bums me out. It also reminds me of jobs that I need to do: writing to my daughter and her husband, repairing the bra I gave Laura, filing down my new partial, making a pot of lentil soup, washing out my handbag and repacking so as to be ready for my next step. I like the feeling of being on top of things. Maybe that’s part of what I need to let go, but for now it serves me well.

On the patio looking out at the lake, I love the sound the coots make when they run across the top of the water, or dive beneath it. There’s always somebody chasing somebody out of their territory, and I never get tired of watching their antics. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this right now. In exchange for some cooking and cleaning, I have a bed with a pillow and blanket, a good book and a lounge chair overlooking a beautiful lake in sunny south Florida. Meanwhile, everybody else is experiencing a cold front, freezing temperatures, and other inconvenient truths. I’m glad, very very glad, to be here.

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Then why do I keep worrying in the back of my mind about ‘tomorrow?’

“Leave tomorrow for tomorrow,” says Patty. Think about today instead. It’s a blessing. Don’t be so quick to run off. There’s work here. And sometimes that means just listening to your own breath.

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OK. That sounds good. I’m taking a pause for some fresh air…

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Saying Goodbye to Liege

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I’ve been saying goodbye to Liege today.

I had soup with a good friend, and we talked about the changes going on in our lives; It’s good to be on a parallel journey with someone. She’s leaving for Brussels, I’m leaving for the US, but we’ll be connected wherever we go, fellow travelers and seekers after the life we know we were meant to live.

Telling myself that I don’t want to see the inside of any more department stores, I took the river road home, avoiding the shops, and saw the sun glistening on the Meuse, the tree-lined park, and the bridges crossing the water. From up on the bike, I couldn’t smell the urine on the sidewalk. When I noticed it while we were walking, she said, “It’s the smell of LIege!” I never noticed it before today.

I stopped at the Quick for a coffee and a beignet, and thought, “This might be the last time I sit out here. How strange. How nice!”

At the corner SPAR, I greeted the manager, and told her I’m leaving. She told me she is tired, and wants to get out of the grocery business with her brother, but hasn’t found a way yet. We smiled at each other, and she took my card. “You’ll do well. I have a good feeling.” “You, too. Let’s keep in touch!”

My little village of Angleur. Jean fits here, but I don’t.
Life isn’t always what you expect it will be. I wonder where we’ll be in two years, or five?

Today I’ve been saying goodbye to Liege, and packing up my things. It will have been 2 years, 8 months, and 21 days since I arrived here. It feels longer, and at the same time hard to believe that so much time has passed.

I have to ask myself, “What is the lesson here for me? What have I done, and what have I learned?” It’s better than I think, but longer than I wanted.

I round the corner and ride up our street. The sun is bright and the day is warm. Belgium, showing off it’s best self in honor of my leaving? Maybe. Or trying to entice me to stay? Too late for that.

I take off my scarf, and look at the road in front of me. Our apartment is a good place for Jean. I’m happy that he is near the woods where he loves to run, and near his father’s house, where he often visits. Our windows face the path running up into the trees, and look out over the park. We’re on a street that doesn’t go through, so it’s always quiet~ except for the trains. I love the way they sound at night. They remind me that there are places to go. We can stop treading water, and jump on.

I’m saying goodbye to Liege, and I’m glad I’m still alive, and that I have somewhere I want to go. My mother is counting the days until I arrive. She has cleared out her other closet, and emptied half of her drawers to make space for the things I bring. She is waiting with anticipation. She’s getting old now, and tired. I can hear it in her voice. I am glad to have someone who is longing for my return, and to have the time to be there for her. We have many things to share~ two adult women, getting to know each other again.

What else should I write? I still have people to say goodbye to. To embrace and wish well. I saw another friend last week. We met in her front yard, her two small boys excited about their first day of school. She clasped my hand and sighed. Yes, she understood. Japan is her hometown and she is dreaming, too.

I still have an open suitcase staring at me on the floor, but my heart has already started moving. It’s pulling out of the station. A little rusty from having stood still for so long, but I can feel an engine revving somewhere…

I’m wondering if I can still fly…

Let me arrive, safely, with my body, mind, and heart intact.
Let me be ready to discover my SELF on this journey called LIFE.

Goodbye Liege. Thank you, and I wish you well!
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