LA Bound – Tale #1

And as I observed, I recalled something my mother once said to me.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been home from that amazing road trip now for about forty-eight hours and it feels almost surreal.  If you follow me on Facebook where we shared a variety of our experiences, then you know how large of an adventure it truly was – if not… check it out – all of our check-ins are public posts. So, in my last post – seven days ago – I danced around the idea that Erin and I wouldn’t get along for a whole week. I said that I may write and in fact, I had a list of topics that I intended to write about as well as a shorter list of task items that I thought I would make time for as I sat in the passenger seat with my laptop but… none of it happened!

I hope you’ll bear with me as I take the time to honor the highlights of our trip. I am certainly not a travel blogger but I will attempt to entice you to schedule your own adventure!

If you ever get a chance to do a road trip with an adult child or even a parent – I say “Do it!”. With the small exception of stress about weather or traffic – it was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve had in a couple of years. There were no expectations, responsibilities, judgments, or arguments. Well – that’s not entirely correct… twice, we clashed on perspectives to the point that we were slightly annoyed with one another but hey… for mom and daughter, that’s bound to happen! Except for those two very short lived snappy moments, Erin and I enjoyed each other’s company immensely.

I suppose we did have expectations of how far to get on a certain day and for half the trip we had scheduled stops to see family who conveniently lived near places we were planning to spend the night but that was fun too. It was great planning on our part to make time for people we don’t get to see but every few years – if that. Not only was it great to catch up with loved ones, but it gave Erin and me an opportunity to diverge our conversations after having only one another to talk to for an extended period. It broke it up a bit. And of course, we made some of it about the food…

We had ribs in Memphis, barbecued brisket in Dallas, TexMex in Santa Fe, Energy shakes in Sedona, and avocado jalapeno burgers in Los Angeles. I’m going to give myself a week of light eating before I get on the scale to see what kind of pound damage I did but even then – I won’t chide myself… it was worth it! Each time, we opted for recommendations from friends (thanks, Margaret! The Memphis Ribs were phenomenal) or ratings and reviews from Yelp (an app that personal ratings on restaurants and activities). We tried to stay away from national chains and searched instead for local treats. It worked great except for our first try in Nashville… Erin picked out a place to get breakfast downtown and it looked adorable. I think it may even have been recommended to her. It was a fun and hip coffee shop with a full breakfast menu but it was counter order and table delivery. The problem was only that it was so crowded, that when our order was delivered – we were still standing, holding our place card and looking at the guy with the mindset of ‘ok… now what?’ We were a bit put off by the people working on a laptop – taking up a whole table and never offering to share the extra space so we could sit down and eat. We ended up taking our plates out to the patio which, on any ordinary day in Nashville would be fine but that day… it was only 31 degrees. We ate quickly before the yolk in our eggs could freeze – and left.

It was a gray day in Tennessee. I’m sure it is beautiful in the other three seasons but without the sun to highlight anything, the gray of the landscape was muted even more by the cloud cover and frankly… it was difficult to find enjoyment in the scenery. I did find the topography in Nashville amazing tough… the hill cutouts (where they made room for overpasses and highway) looked like stone walls versus the typical layers of sediment that we expect to see when the earth is exposed. I’m a bit of a geology nerd in the sense that I am captivated by different geology formations – not that I really know anything about the science and so it was amazing to look at. We saw the Grand Ole Opry and did a backstage tour. Nashville isn’t really ‘my thing’ and I know next to nothing about Country music but Erin loved it. We got to stand in ‘the circle’ on stage which I recognized from American Idol or some other talent reality show and it was fun to know that people like Elvis had stood on that same strip of wood. I could definitely feel the vibe of extreme creativity and talent. In Memphis, we walked Beale street for a few minutes but the wind was whipping off of the Mississippi and biting our exposed skin – we had NOT planned for such intense winter weather on our Southern drive.

We spent that second night with family just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. They are the parents of my sister-in-law and we hadn’t seen them in a long while but after spending a week with them during a beach vacation a few years ago, we knew we would have fun and be comfortable.  I had a moment that evening as I watched my daughter engage in conversation with other adults and noticed how absorbed she was in the discussion, contributing in a meaningful way. It’s not that it was a surprise. She is quite intelligent and one of the things that made her a good server and bartender is that she pulls people in… she’s interested and converses well. And as I observed, I recalled something my mother once said to me. She looked at me one day and spoke of how amazed she was at the woman I had become, at how much information I had acquired and how I shared it – or something to that effect but I got it now.  Here, I was the mother observing a daughter who had transformed from a girl to a teen and now to this young woman who demonstrated influence far beyond the perimeter of what I had created. I instantly connected to those words my own mother spoke so many years prior and understood. It was a moment and there is a sense of amazement in it… again – it’s not a surprise but an awe… a revelation or an acknowledgment of life’s flow. It was quasi-emotional and I felt proud.

We woke up to a dusting of snow, which meant that the school system and many employers had called off the day. Blessings for us since there was practically nobody on the road as we headed for Texas. It didn’t warm up much. We found an authentic BBQ restaurant in the Bishop Arts District in Dallas where the Brisket melted in your mouth. I pretty much ate with my hands… pulling apart little pieces and dipping them in yummy barbecue sauce. In fact – I was simply piggy about it but I enjoyed ever delicious bit and… I had blue cheese cole slaw – a new favorite combination that I will definitely make at home! The Arts District look amazingly cute and enticing to walk through but alas… it was COLD. In fact – it was snowing as we exited the restaurant. People were standing in doorways taking pictures of the snowflakes as they settled on the ground and Erin and I giggled at them for being so easily taken in by a frozen rain drop. I made a mental note to go back to Dallas in the spring and wander around those streets.

To be continued….

 

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Roadtripping

I didn’t have any phone conversations and I can already feel a bit of relaxation starting to settle into my psyche.

“…you are my rainbow to keep. My eyes will always be watching you; never will I lose sight of you.” ― Vesna M. Bailey

I’m on a road trip. My middle daughter is moving to Los Angeles with a dream of becoming the next Shonda Rhymes. Consequently, we are driving from the east coast to the west so that she can wedge herself into the television industry as quickly as possible. It has been a dream of hers since she was fifteen and she’s worked extremely hard to make this happen. When she pushed the GO button we were all really excited for her but knew immediately that she would be really missed.

I kind of made the assumption that I would be driving with her as I knew her sister and boyfriend were less flexible with their work schedules, plus… I offered to pay for the hotels. And then – for a brief minute I thought that it may make more sense to ship her car out to LA and have her fly… less wear and tear, etc. I looked at all the options but quickly realized that it would be in exchange for an opportunity to spend a weeklong adventure with my daughter who may very well become a California gal. I hung up on the next auto transport person who called me.

Before long we had a roadmap outlined and I realized that almost exactly forty-three years ago (less a week) I made the same trip with my father, aunt, and siblings. I remember parts of that trip extremely well as it was the first time Dad let me drink coffee – and of course, I had to drink it black. It was the first time that I could remember that I had stayed in a motel and when everyone else was asleep, Dad let me sit up front and stay up late talking to him. We had lots of adventures on that trip and as I recall, they were predominately things going wrong so I’m hoping for less ‘adventure’ and more ‘memory making’ on this journey.

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Both Erin and I have made a couple of Facebook posts today about starting the trip – ok., maybe I made more than a couple – but there are people living vicariously through us!! One of the comments was so apropos to us from a woman who knows us well… “Be safe and remember that you still love each other at the end of this!” I had to laugh because out of all my children, she is the one most like me. People have been telling us this for years. It’s our demeanor that makes us the same… We are bossy, confident about what we want, assertive when we are going after it, and stubborn about what we know. We both like to be in control and we each get a certain kind of ‘hangry’ when we need food. Erin may be a little rough around the edges yet but I see my young self in her and know that she will mellow even if it is because the world beat her down a peg or two. Until then, she will fire up any pile of kindling that stands between her and her goals.  Would it be narcissistic at this point to say I admire those attributes? Even so… I am intensely proud of her and feel confident that dropping her into the center of Los Angeles and taking (literally) the next flight home – is an OK thing to do.

In the meantime, we are traveling across the United States in a little car that is the same color as the pavement and even though we have the headlights on, I’m a bit nervous that the thousands of semi-trucks on the highway may think we are nothing more than a reflection of a speed limit sign. It’s good to know that there are logistics systems continuously at work as I imagine that the trucks are mostly full of goods that need to get from one point to another (what else would they be?) but it’s a bit nerve-wracking.

We got through the first day without arguing about anything at all. Yesterday I practiced all day by repeating over and over… “ok Erin” and I used the technique successfully a couple of times today with great success. We have downloaded the audio version of the new Shonda Rhymes book to listen to when we run out of things to say to one another but we didn’t need it today. Actually, it was great to have her to myself for such a long stretch today. For the last year and a half, as she was living at home and working, I didn’t see her much. She worked in the restaurant business and as a bartender so we had vastly different schedules. Mostly, we saw each other in passing and communicated via text message. I got the chance to ‘catch up’ with her a bit today about the things we were ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’… much deeper topics than ‘please replace the milk you drank’ and ‘can you put away the dishes’.

It’s a funny thing about my children being so independent and adventurous… Frank is living in France… Sara spent a year overseas… Emily is talking about going to Australia to work for a summer after college. It’s easy to think that they are running away, fleeing home and getting as far away as possible although I know- logically – that’s not true. I have to remind myself, though… it’s that I did a good job. They grew up with the confidence to fly and isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents? Let our children fly? What a mixed bag of blessings it is really. Earlier this week I was reminded of what I always considered a ‘Hippie’ mantra… “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be. (Richard Bach)” I guess there is nothing more fitting about that sentiment than motherhood.

I took the time to specifically be ‘in the moment’ today – I didn’t pull out my laptop or my phone other than to look at maps and ‘check in’ at the various places we stopped. I didn’t have any phone conversations and I can already feel a bit of relaxation starting to settle into my psyche. I may or may not post over the next couple of days as we explore a few places off the main highways (she has a bit of a bucket list) and we are stopping overnight twice to visit with extended family members.

Thanks for reading… thanks for following my journey and please keep letting me know when it is helpful… I love reading those comments!

Feeding My Spirit

Of course, whenever something ‘bad’ happens, we are inclined to ask the question “why?”

One of the things I do to feed my spirit is read. Actually, I listen. My eyes have changed so much as I have aged that reading a book for too long of a period is hard on them and I’ve fallen in love with ‘listening’ to books. I listen while I walk, at the gym, while I drive… Sometimes I just put my headphones in and listen to a few minutes for a pump-me-up if I am in the middle of something inspirational.

Right now, I am reading Gary Zukov’s Seat of the Soul. It’s been out for twenty-five years and he was one of Oprah’s most interviewed guests so it’s not new but I never read it before. It’s another one of those books that when I am finished listening, I will have to buy a print version and sit down with a highlighter. It is a ‘night stand’ book – one of those books that you keep on your nightstand and read parts of when you are stuck or wanting a bit of a reminder about life.

It’s a little hard to follow sometimes because he talks a LOT about five sensory versus multisensory people and I think maybe you have to be in a place where you are open minded about the nonphysical ideology.

I find it fascinating that I am reading it now – that it wasn’t on my radar during other periods of my life when reading was how I gathered information and expanded my awareness. It’s also really interesting to me that it validates all the other stuff I have read. Remember my thoughts about coincidence?

“You cannot find your soul with your mind, you must use your heart. You must know what you are feeling. If you don’t know what you are feeling, you will create unconsciously.”~ Gary Zukav

I really like how he separates the idea of our ‘soul’ and our ‘personality’… in fact – I may use that with clients because I think it’s an easy concept to understand. I typically speak about heart and ego (Eckhart Tolle) but I like the ‘personality’ element. Our personality – the part of ourselves that we allow people to see – is where we live most of the time and its where all the stuff we don’t want exists (i.e., fear).

“The human emotional system can be broken down into roughly two elements: fear and love. Love is of the soul. Fear is of the personality.” ~ Gary Zukov

Did you read my post the other day about being right?? Today, I heard this:

“A power struggle collapses when you withdraw your energy from it. Power struggles become uninteresting to you when you change your intention from winning to learning about yourself.” ~ Gary Zukav & Linda Francis

And those of you who have been reading for a while may remember my ‘Soul Theory’… and the thoughts I have about spirituality and reincarnation…

“You may seek companionship and warmth, for example, but if your unconscious intention is to keep people at a distance, the experiences of separation and pain will surface again and again until you come to understand that you, yourself, are creating them. Eventually, you will choose to create harmony and love. You will choose to draw to you the highest frequency currents that each situation has to offer. Eventually, you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is. The journey may take many lifetimes, but you will complete it. It is impossible not to complete it. It is not a question of if but of when. Every situation that you create serves this purpose. Every experience that you encounter serves this purpose.” ~Gary Zukov

Of course, whenever something ‘bad’ happens, we are inclined to ask the question “why?” It’s in that question that I often lean on my beliefs that there is value in each experience but I still find myself looking for an immediate answer. I recall Dr. Brian Weiss’s work in Messages from the Masters where they too state “Love is all there is” … echoing Jesus and Gandhi. Perhaps then, the lesson in EVERYTHING is searching for how to love more. And… maybe sometimes, the love we are needing to learn is how to love ourselves!

I know some really phenomenal people who exhibit love wherever they go but are terribly self-critical. And maybe it’s just that we need to be reminded because we fall back into old self-destructive habits.

In a conversation this morning, I was talking about how hard it is to be consistent with the things that we know. Harlan and I are both challenged in this regard. He loves his ice cream and cookies (albeit they are cardboard, oatmeal nut, healthy kind of cookies) but we know that sugar isn’t good for him. He goes in and out of periods where he commits to avoiding sugar and then slowly it creeps back in until he notices that there is little to no thought about the amount of sugar he consumes.

I am the same with my dieting. I know – beyond doubt and especially the older I get that I have to limit my calorie intake. When I do… I like my body and it likes me – when I don’t … we both get to the point where we are hating on one another constantly (my body and me). Why do we allow ourselves to forget what we know? Why do we slip?

It must be like being on vacation with your family. While there, when the only thing to focus on is having fun with the people you love, everything is wonderful – you all feel connected and close. Then we come home – where there is work, responsibility, and commitment. The loving connections we experienced on vacation seemingly disappear into the wind because we aren’t great at placing our attention on everything all at once. In fact, we only have a certain amount of attention to give… could this be as simple as prioritizing the places we put our focus?

I know, I know … I think it myself – “what can I possibly give up”, “where do I find the time to add another ‘practice’ to my life?” I am the Queen of multi-tasking an honor that is shared by a gazillion of us… we try and make ‘everything’ a priority. That’s why we drop stuff.

Zukov’s book is about “intention” and I am excited to get through the rest as I believe this very question is addressed and now… perfectly ordained by the great Universe… is the time that I need (perhaps am open to) hearing how can be accomplished. I invite you to read with me and we can ‘discuss’ it in the comments or on Facebook… or I can share as I go along. What is your heart saying?

“An intention is a quality of consciousness that you bring to an action.” ~ Gary Zukov

 

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More Letting Go

I had a small epiphany… for a lot of things, letting go isn’t a one and done thing!!

The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life. ~ Gary Zukav

As I wrote yesterday’s post I was emotional. That’s usually a sign that I need to stop writing, process the emotions that are there and then… go forward. I was emotional because it’ hard coping with this ‘new normal’. When I am reminded of the life that H and I ‘wanted’ to live – I get sad because it’s not the life we ‘are’ living and I know it must be very difficult for H if it’s hard for me.

In this year of Cancer, I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned a lot about H but more about myself. I’ve learned about my friends and family. I’ve learned more about people and thoughts and feelings. It’s been an education on so many different levels.

There are a lot of little hurts that happen and accumulate when life is hard. There are people who aren’t ‘there’ in the way you may have imagined. There are disappointments about plans that have to be changed or canceled. There are misunderstandings because we may not communicate well when stressed. There are hopes and dreams that move from vivid to blurry.

I was ironing some napkins (don’t be impressed – they are cotton and I left them in the dryer)… and thinking about letting go… I use a lot of techniques already to ‘let go’ of old stuff – techniques that work well but… what about the stuff that isn’t necessarily old?

I had a small epiphany… for a lot of things, letting go isn’t a one and done thing!! Some of you may have already acquired this knowledge and bless you… life must be easier for you since garnering this tidbit.

I realized that every morning when I wake up I need to LET GO of the things that are still there that day. It’s not like the dismay that I had to release regarding ex-Hubby or the anger I felt over the betrayal of Abee… H’s cancer is there EVERY DAY. It burdens him and affects our life every day. I realized that I need to practice letting go more religiously.

I thought of the sentiment ‘Let go and let God’… I think… let God what? Is God going to heal H? is God going to introduce me to someone else to grow old with? Is God going to give H more strength and comfort TODAY so that he has a quality of life? I know there aren’t any answers to these questions and even the devout Christians that I admire and love will tell me that God has a plan for this – jeez… I even believe that the Universe (God?) will help us find value in this experience. And so, without specific answers to these questions, I realized today that I need to practice – as in doing over and over again – the act of ‘letting go’.

When I think about what I am letting go of – I think it may be a couple of things….

A specific outcome

I want H to live, to retire with me, to travel with me, and comfort me. I hear the word “I” a lot when I think about how this ‘should’ play out and I feel guilty about that, although I know it’s quite normal. I have no idea what H’s journey is – what karmic agreement he has with the Universe and/or what God’s plan is for him. I get caught up in the things that we talked about – the things that ‘feel’ good to me and I want our story to have a theme very different than the one that is playing.

The need to control

Because I want all of those ‘things’ – I believe I can help them come to fruition if only I was in control of his health…

I use the analogy of fixing H a salad for dinner if I am going to be home late. I get home – see the salad still in the fridge and freak out because he didn’t eat. My mind does this … I see the salad – it means H didn’t eat – which means he didn’t get the nutrients his immune system needs – which means his immune system won’t work – meaning cancer will grow – which means he will die – leaving me alone and unloved.

Yup… that’s what my mind does in a manner of nanoseconds. H doesn’t stand a chance because I see the salad and go right to I’ll be alone and unloved. (hear all that abandonment??) And so – in an effort to prevent all those negative feelings – I try and control for them. I make a salad with lots of nutrients and ask him to eat. Sometimes, he doesn’t want the salad, sometimes, he just doesn’t want to eat.

I realize that I am trying to control his health – and can’t. Just that simple… I need to let go of my need to control his health.

My feelings

I need to let go of my feelings. I tell people all the time not to judge their feelings – I wrote about it the other day and yet on my walk today I realized that I feel guilty about having such strong feelings because I’m not the one who has cancer. I’m not the one struggling physically although I readily acknowledge that it has a dramatic effect on both of us because we are partners.

The realization that it isn’t a one and done venture is most important here. The feelings I had yesterday when I saw him struggling to get up, I worked at letting those go yesterday. But the feelings I had today when he complained of pain that is unexplainable… I need to ‘let go’ again. I need to be better about remembering to ‘let go’ – to imagine myself as a funnel – to detach from the fear and observe it moving in… and out… away…

My fear

Death is a bizarre thing for those of us who keep living… one minute you’re there… the next – you’re not. Sometimes, we experience the absence of the person who died in a physical way, a physiological pain. I’ve heard about it from parents who lost a child and from children who lost a parent, from spouses who lost their lovers and I remember the feeling acutely… a minute that never ends – only lessens in intensity. I’ve realized that I am afraid of having that experience again. It’s not here yet and maybe it won’t come. Hopefully, it won’t come… because I remember how intense it was and I realize how hard I am resisting its return.

My new mantra… “I am letting go of my fear, my feelings, my control and the outcome and I will trust that the lessons here have value”.  If you know me… remind me of this!

 

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New Normal

We were told that we would establish a ‘new normal’’ and that seemed realistic enough.

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”― Muhammad Ali

It’s been a quiet New Year here. H’s energy hasn’t been up to par since he had radiation in November and so when he isn’t at work – he tries to get in as many naps as possible as that is the body’s way of healing itself. He gets frustrated though with the low energy level and so we went for a walk yesterday to try and get the blood moving again. He made it a couple of blocks before he needed to turn around. Muscles atrophy quickly when you don’t use them. He has some pain as well that isn’t resolved – or explained. For the most part, it’s managed but it also gets frustrating. I guess there isn’t any other way to describe what it is like to live with cancer and while I imagine there are a variety of adjectives we could apply, frustrating seems to be the most comprehensive.

We were told that we would establish a ‘new normal’’ and that seemed realistic enough. This time last year, we all thought H was knocking on death’s door. He was in terrible pain, had lost thirty pounds, and looked ghostly (although I thought he was a handsome ghost). We were reeling from the emotional impact of a recent diagnosis and he was recovering from hip surgery, where they placed a steel rod through his femur to stabilize his pelvis which looked like swiss cheese after radiation killed cancer there. Continue reading “New Normal”

The ‘Right’ Trap

If you and I don’t think alike, that doesn’t make one of us right and the other wrong – it makes us different!

“Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open.” ~ Ralph Marston

I come from a long line of smart people who for one reason or another make it a habit of defending their point of view to the death. It is a habit I picked up early in life. I learned to debate and enjoyed the bantering with my father and brothers when the opportunity presented. I joined the debate club in school and excelled. It became a way of engaging that was familiar and comfortable. The whole point of a debate is to woo listeners to your point of view (POV) – based on facts and evidence of course. Often, the evidence presented is heavily weighted to justify the point of view you’ve taken, which – doesn’t necessarily make it ‘right’ but a solid perspective.

I was often accused of the offense of needing to be ‘right’ – of arguing my point until the listener acquiesced.  In reality, I wasn’t concerned with whether or not my POV was ‘right’ only that it was defended well. If I had the ‘facts’ wrong – so be it. I’ve always enjoyed learning so if I had a chance to educate myself, I was better for it. Being right was never the objective – just persuasive. I suspect that’s what made me good in sales… another trait that is evident in my family.

The whole idea of right versus wrong is a human one… it is born of morality and therefore does not have a definitive origin or definition. The same is said of the words good and bad. We ascertain definitions of these four words via our culture, our religion, our feelings, our relationships, and interests to name a few of the origins. Therefore, from person to person, the parameters of what constitute those words can vary; and consequently… cause interpretation problems.

H and I went to see Rogue One today and during one of the intense fight scenes toward the end of the movie, I thought I saw Chewbacca in one of the fighters. It was a nanosecond shot and of course, I couldn’t rewind to make sure I saw it. Continue reading “The ‘Right’ Trap”

Before Xanax

First, let’s be clear that expressing ‘happy’ emotions isn’t the part we need help with…

Never let your emotions rule, but always let them testify. ~Robert Brault

I believe I’ve written about emotions in the past yet the idea of describing how necessary it is to allow one’s self the opportunity to express emotions keeps playing over in my mind. Often, the reality is that I need to hear the message and so in that – writing is helpful, healing. It’s probably no surprise to any writer that in reflection, one can identify content specifically situated to deliver a deeply personal note. Perhaps that is always the Universe’s intent.

In any regard, I am in the business of teaching people the importance of emoting. One of the first things I teach is that we are born knowing how to laugh and cry – expressing emotions are innate to the human experience. Our bodies are designed to experience emotions and yet after birth, many of us are taught NOT to express them instead of how to express them effectively.

I cringe at all of the times as a parent that I told one of my children to “hush up”, “stop crying”, “suck it up”, or the worst… “I’ll give you something to cry about”. Continue reading “Before Xanax”