A day for reflection.

photo-1My ex-husband and I first met Jim and Joe (not their real names) at least twenty-five years ago.  Happily, they have continued to include me in their lives by inviting me to their parties and life celebrations.

Very few of the people I met through or with D have kept me on their social lists.  That includes family.  I have come to understand it isn’t that most of them are cold or uncaring; they simply don’t know how to be inclusive in situations that they fear (real or imagined) may get a little “sticky.”  My fiery temper during our separation and divorce didn’t help.

But this post is not about me, it’s about the remarkable and always inclusive Jim and Joe.

Since gay marriage is still not legal in North Carolina, J and J went to New York a while back and tied the knot after almost thirty-five years together.  Legal or not, they’ve been married all those years.  They never needed a piece of paper for those of us who have loved them and recognized their commitment to each other.  Yet I find myself feeling joyful on their behalf now that they have taken this big step which wasn’t available to them before.

I was not surprised when I received this most recent invitation from J and J.  I had attended their “twenty-five-years-together anniversary.”  But I felt a warm glow when I saw the announcement that they had wed.  And I felt extraordinarily happy that I was considered one of many friends with whom they wanted to share their good news.

At three o’clock on a beautiful autumn day, surrounded by family and friends, J and J had a ceremony on the front steps of their lovely home.  We friends gathered on the lawn in front and celebrated with them.  There were chairs for those who can no longer stand.  A very eloquent gentleman made comments and then J and J reconfirmed their vows of commitment, each in his own words.  We cheered!

As I drove home, I noticed dark clouds gathering on the horizon and the wind was tossing yellow leaves into a whirling dervish dance.  As I drove through one leafy frenzy after another and another, I thought of the many frantic dances my friends Jim and Joe have had to perform as they were growing up feeling different.  As they met with intolerance at every turn.  As they quietly accepted that they had none of the rights that other committed couples shared. I wondered if they did the same dance over and over for each situation they encountered, or did they vary the steps sometimes.

I keep coming back to the last statement “the eloquent gentleman” made about J and J.  He said, “Jim and Joe have taught us all how to live our lives.”  As I shout “Amen” to that, I realize the answer to my pondering in the last paragraph.  Sometimes these wonderful human beings danced a waltz.  Some days they did the twist.  There must have been days when the hokie pokie seemed appropriate.

Now that I think about it, I doubt their dances were ever frenzied.  And the type of dance is irrelevant.  Whatever the dance, they did it together and with purpose.

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Pretending to be normal.

201200003769_003The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. ~ Alfred Adler

Definition of normal:  not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle; conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; free from mental disorder — Merriam-Webster

I stashed this picture and the beginnings of a post in my files a long time ago, knowing that one day I wanted to write about it, but having no idea what I wanted to say.  It seemed important to me at the time.  Also, I love the cheerful, happy women in Suzy Toronto’s work.

At the time, I think I was exhausted by trying to be normal.  At the same time I wondered, “Why would I want to be normal?  I want to be more than normal.  I want to sparkle. I want to shine.  I want to leave my mark!”  The sad truth is I couldn’t get to normal, so how was I ever going to sparkle, let alone shine?  What on earth was wrong with me?

I have mentioned before that my family is rife with alcoholics/drug addicts.  I don’t remember having talked about the other family scourge–depression and/or anxiety.  I think that if I made a list of relatives who suffer from depression, it would be longer than the list of those who do not.  Most of my life I would have put my name on the those-who-do-not list.  Even after having taken an anti-depressant (SSRI) to help me through my divorce, I still would have considered myself a non-depressed person.  I have, in the past two or three years, admitted that I sometimes have bouts of depression.  But did I consider myself a depressed person?  Never!

This last bout of functioning-well-below-normal depression has changed my mind.  “And why is that?” you might ask.  I’m still trying to figure out the answer.  This time it went on and on for a very long time–close to a year, I think.  I was anxious.  I was worried.  I was tired.  I was so very, very sad.  I was short-tempered, impatient, critical.  The biggest clue of all was, I think, that I started to have numerous physical symptoms.  Test after medical test turned up nothing.  I started to realize that the chest pain I went to the emergency room for was probably an anxiety or panic attack.  The digestive symptoms I was having may have been due to what was eating me rather than what I was or was not eating.

I have spent a lifetime resisting the depressed label.  There are a couple of reasons for my attitude toward this particular illness: 1) I don’t like to admit to being less than healthy (as in it seems like a weakness to me), and 2) there is too much stigma still attached to any type of mental illness.  Number two is changing slowly but there’s much educating to be done before it becomes just another illness.

I believe that my reasons for thinking the way I did probably come from my attitudes toward my parents as I reached adulthood.  I saw my mother as weak because she played the poor-pitiful-me role her entire life.  I needed her to pull herself up and take control of the family.  I realize now that she couldn’t.  I saw my father as the drunk who didn’t provide well for his family.  I know now that he suffered from depression, too, and was likely drinking because of the anxiety and depression.  His drinking then exacerbated the problem.  I now believe that both parents did the best they could under very trying circumstances.

I’m happy to report that I no longer have to pretend to be normal.  I feel normal.  I’m not sure I’m shining just yet, but I’m beginning to notice a few sparks on a fairly regular basis.  I’m planning to sparkle soon.  About two months ago, after taking a long, but gentle look, at myself, and recognizing that I have spent most of my adult life depressed and anxious, I decided to be kind to me and I put myself back on antidepressant medication.  One month ago I told my doctor what I had done.  She asked many, many questions about how I had been and how I was on medication.  She agreed with me.  I did the right thing.

photo(9)Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting that anyone reading this post should do what I did.  If you think you are depressed, please see an appropriate professional.

Does it get any better than this?!

       “And drivin’ down the road I get the feelin’ that I should have been home yesterday…”  ~ John Denver

I have the good fortune to have friends who own a Christmas tree farm in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina.  I spent the weekend there with four of my favorite people.  Four girlfriends who probably continue to love me because of my flaws rather than in spite of them.  A fifth friend was noticeably absent and we missed her and the many laughs she always provides.

I sing John Denver’s “Country Roads” once I get far enough from the city to feel as if I’m really on my way “home.”  Sometimes I get funny looks from fellow travelers, but I smile at them and keep singing.  This country road takes me right to the front door of “Grandma’s” house.  She isn’t really my grandma but she’s kind enough to allow me to call her that.  She’s actually the matriarch of my friend’s family and the owner of this lovely retreat.  She’s the epitome of generosity, always sending us up to her haven in the mountains whenever we can work it into our schedules.  Once I get out of the car and see the tree sign in the photo above, I know I’m really home.

When I’m in the mountains I love to wander and wonder.  Now that I’m blogging, I always take my phone or my camera and look for photo-worthy subjects.  There are many — up, down, and all around.  I found this thistle gone-to-seed growing beside a little barn.  I think I snapped it because it looks like my hair when I get up in the morning.  Does that mean I’ve gone to seed too?  I’m saying no to that because I found this still-blooming thistle and I gotta tell you — I like the old one better.  All her bits of fluff can drift in the wind and land on fertile ground like Grammy’s bits of wisdom coming to rest in the fecund minds of her grandchildren.  I know, I’m still a dreamer after all these years, but I believe that some of those gentle reminders really do take root and can grow until they are something fine and wonderful.

I took these shots in the late afternoon on Friday.  It was a glorious sunny day with lots of fluffy white clouds, along with a few dark afternoon-shower clouds.  But the showers skipped us.  The tree in the foreground is a Fraser fir waiting for Christmas.  Well, I think it’s a Fraser.  Tree experts, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

As I continued my walk I stumbled upon numerous eye-catching goodies:  interesting stumps and trees, wild flowers and not-so-wild ones, acorns.  Here are a few of the wonders I beheld.

The teapot at the bottom is one of Grandma’s many artful touches that make her home feel so welcoming to us sojourners.


Light one candle…or a few.

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~ Chinese Proverb

Yesterday afternoon the skies became almost nighttime black.  A storm was brewing and it looked ominous.  It hit with a fury — blinding rain, tree-bending wind, and angry thunder.  No problem.  We need the rain.  The temperature dropped to a bearable level.  I love a good summer storm.  I watched for a while from the front door, then settled in with a book.  Shortly the lights went out.

Well, I thought, there’s plenty of daylight left.  The power company will have us up and running before dark.  Sure enough, at about 6:15 the lights came on.  I high-fived the air.  As I lowered my hand the lights flickered and disappeared.

“Be prepared.” I told my best boy scout self.  I stashed my tiny travel flashlight in my pocket and put a candle and lighter on the nearest table.  With cell phone in one hand and reader in the other, I was ready to ride it out.

I LOVE modern technology.  I used my phone to go online and report the power outage.  I  read all my pending email.  (Now I need to respond to some of them.)  I played Solitaire and Sudoku on the reader.  I play those mindless games because they free up my brain and allow me to think.  I recognize that thinking sometimes gets me in trouble, but I do a lot of it all the same.

For obvious reasons, I was thinking last night about light, both figurative and literal light.  Literally, as night fell, I chose to add candles to my table in order to increase the light pool and my sense of visual security.  (See photo above.)  Figuratively, I started to wonder about the definition of light as I’ve perceived it most of my life.  I’m still working on the figurative angle, but my long-held perceptions probably come from religious/spiritual influences via my teachers’ and parents’ lessons on morals and values.

To my way of thinking, if I see the light, that’s a good thing.  It means I know which path to take.  I’m aware that I can cast a good or a bad light on any situation/person/group.  Whether I’m writing a post for my blog or figuring out what to say to someone who has stepped on my toes, if I have a little niggle in my gut that makes me wonder whether I’m doing/writing/saying the right thing, my answer is no.  If I don’t want it done to me, I shouldn’t do it to someone else.  I think of that as using my light in a positive way.

(Deep breath.)  I started this blog as a recently divorced and jilted woman.  Did I always practice what I said in the paragraph above?  No, I did not.  My excuse, if I’m allowed one, is that the pain was unbearable.  I wanted them to hurt as much as I did.  I’m healing now and I’m doing better.  At least I think I am.  That doesn’t mean I’ll stop telling the truth as I see it, but I would prefer not to strike out and hurt anyone else.  That’s not who I am.

(Another deep breath.)  A final note about casting a bad light on others.  Recently, my ten-year-old grandson told me, “Some people are prejudiced.”  I agreed.  We discussed it and I could see that he understood the concept. If your humor or entertainment consists of denigrating others, my boy would call that prejudice.  Have a nice day.

Nothing but blue skies do I see…..

We shall overcome…

We are not afraid, we are not afraid,     We are not afraid today;                       Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,       We are not afraid today.  ~ One of many verses from “We Shall Overcome”

For a number of years I have been gathering with a small group of womenfolk on Martin Luther King weekend.  We chose this weekend because we were all teachers and we were looking for an extended weekend when we didn’t have to work.  Only one of us is still teaching and the rest of us have either retired or moved on to better-paying jobs.  Statistically we are in step with the general American population in that three of our six are divorced.  That’s actually the reason the one is still teaching.  What she thought her retirement would be was not to be.  The three of us who are divorced were “let go” in almost identical circumstances–our husbands were in their fifties and thought the grass was greener elsewhere.

This year we went to Carolina Beach where we were wined and dined and gently cared for by our gracious and talented host T.  Some people are naturally generous and giving and T is one of those.  Thank you, T.

There were only five of us this year.  One of us was unable to attend because of a tragic loss in her family.  We missed her and discussed her and tried to send her strength with our thoughts.  It’s what we do with each other and for each other.  We try to overcome together the obstacles life deals us, both large and small.

We shall overcome.

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr.  And thank you, Joan Baez, for expressing the message so beautifully.

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.