Christmas, 2013.

Another Christmas has come and gone and I think I’m doing okay.photo  It’s been seven years since D asked for a divorce.  This is the sixth Christmas I’ve spent as a woman alone.  Someone commented recently on my blogger friend’s post that there’s a great deal of difference between being alone and being lonely.  I’m a bit of an expert on the topic because I’ve been both.

I’m happy to report that this year, except for a couple of brief hours on Christmas Eve afternoon, I was merely alone, not lonely.  The lonely times are becoming shorter and shorter as I learn that being alone can be a blessing if I choose to make it so.

I think it’s all about acceptance of what is.  My mantra has become “It is what it is.”  I can often shrug off troubles by photo-4repeating this simple truism a time or two.  I admit it doesn’t work all the time but it helps.  I’ve learned to do when I start to feel lonely.

Paul Newman once said that he was able to deal with his son’s death only by doing for others.  His words gave me fresh perspective about how I was living my life.  I’ve become more conscious of others, especially around Christmas. I’ve finally figured out that it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as making toffee for friends and family.  (See photo above.)  Or taking a few seconds to text or email a friend who’s having a hard time.  Or a phone call. For me it’s taking a moment to think beyond myself and my concerns.

That’s easier said than done when you’re in the middle of the pain of rejection.photo-2 You can’t figure out who you are, let alone what you should or want to do.  I cried for months. I’m glad that’s over. I’m ever so slowly learning to trust other people again.  But I step cautiously.

As usual this post has taken a different direction than I expected.  Sometimes I think my fingers divorce my brain.  Or maybe my fingers tell my brain what to think.  I’m not sure what happens.

I started out expecting to tell you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza and Happy New Year.  The photo below shows Santa riding past my house on the Pineville fire engine.  You can see his arm.  The rest of him is blocked by a weird-looking little green elf.  Only in the American South.  Made my day.photo-3

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Things don’t make me happy.

I don’t need … things to make me happy.  A nice quiet place to unwind at the end of the day, beautiful views, a few good friends.  What else is there? ~ Nicholas Sparks

I chuckle as I look at the beginnings of this post.  First the title approached me all on its own.  Days later I found this quote which seemed to support the title.  Then I remembered Dr. Seuss’s “things” and I couldn’t resist bringing them along.  I think they lend levity to what could be a serious, even heavy, topic.  My love of Dr. Seuss grows day by day.  Who else has consistently encouraged children (and their parents) to make up a word that sounds right when you can’t think of an appropriate, existing word?  Love it!

Back to the topic at hand.  For several months I have been thinking about my years of accumulating “things.”  Why did I ever imagine I needed so much stuff?  And why do I keep things I no longer use? (I can honestly say I’m making progress on this one.)  When I moved here I was aware that one person didn’t need this much space but I  needed room for my stuff.

I spent a great deal of time alone when we lived in the mountains and I often got very lonely.  I would go shopping just to get out of the house.  And the house was so big that I could always find a new rug, a piece of pottery, a painting to enhance its appearance.  I occasionally bought clothing, but more often it was something for my showplace of a house.  It’s as if I were trying to fix a gaping wound with a band-aid.  (I got that last sentence from my oldest daughter.)  There was a hole in my soul and I was trying to fill it in all the wrong ways.

Now as I sift through my belongings I feel sad, embarrassed, greedy, overwhelmed, selfish.  I could go on with the adjectives without even consulting a thesaurus.  Suffice to say I don’t like who I was, but I’m now making positive changes.  I cringe when I think about those years and realize I could have been supporting several third world families on the money I spent on stuff.  What was I thinking?!

So here I sit in a house that is less than half the size of the previous one, yet it’s still big enough for a family of five or six.  (Talk about a carbon footprint!  Egad!)  I’m trying to bide my time until the real estate market rebounds so I can sell this place and find a more appropriate home.  I try not to think about the fact that the money could have been better invested since I truly believe I did the best I could under the circumstances and given the emotional trauma and pain I was in at the time.

I think I’m finally on the right track.  I consider very carefully before I buy anything.  I make better choices than I once did.  I don’t buy things for the house.  The house and I are becoming happier as the clutter decreases.  They say that it sometimes takes a jolt, a shock, even a tragedy to force a needed change on some people, so I guess they’re talking about me.  As I inch toward the person I really am, the person I’m meant to be, the trauma and pain continue to diminish.  One day, maybe I’ll be able to look back and thank D for this divorce.

Writing this caused me to cry a little, but not too much.  And now I feel better.  If you’ve read this far, thank you.

“The tongue…kills without drawing blood.” ~ Buddha

I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it. ~ Flannery O’Connor

I try not to look back with too many regrets but occasionally I can’t help wishing I could ride a time machine into my past and take back some of my more poisonous words.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing a link between my brain and my mouth.  Back in elementary school I would usually bring home a near-perfect report card except for one small area which never seemed small to me.  I almost always got an X in a section that said “Refrains from speaking and acting hastily.”  I wondered for a long, long time what that meant. I remember asking my mom about it.  She told me she thought it meant I talked too much.  She’d had some experience with my incessant talking. 🙂 She didn’t know any education jargon so it’s reasonable she would have thought that.  I’ve learned since that neither speaking nor acting was the key word here; the important word was hastily.

When I was a child riding a school bus every day, our buses, supposedly for safety reasons, had a governor that kept them from going over a certain speed.  I’m thinking my tongue could use one of those.  I still blurt out whatever comes into my mind sometimes.  I’m glad for some of my blurt-outs but sorry for others.  If I’m to be honest here, some of them are probably not so accidental.  For me, now, it’s a matter of impulse control.  And as an adult I can have pretty good control when I want.  But I’m also known for speaking plainly and without sugar-coating my words.  I naturally avoid pretense.  I’ve always been that way.  I think there’s a fine line between being tactful and lying.  Always tell the truth! was hammered into my head as far back  as I can remember.  How does a child always tell the truth without insulting some well-meaning aunt or grandparent?  My role models didn’t always hit that target.  Their inadequacy further complicated the issue and would probably make for an interesting post at another time.

This post has taken a somewhat different direction than I originally thought it would.  (Just like when I’m talking.) I had intended to cite some of my more heinous breaches of polite language.  Instead I will close with a word-to-the-wise about my tongue–a reminder, if you will, that I can choose to wound or heal, soothe or agitate, make laugh or make cry.  I can choose.  That’s the important message.  If the pen is mightier than the sword, the tongue is mightier than either.


I will speak with a straight tongue. ~ Chief Joseph, Nez Perce   

I will try very hard to speak with a straight tongue. ~ Pat