Families are interesting. I am an only child and so I never had siblings to deal with. When my husband and I married I never thought about how families interact. We have three wonderful children who are married to great people. That expanded out family from three plus us to six +. Now each of them has 2 children which has expanded the family to 12 +. We also have had to work with the in-laws. None of them are bad people but again it added another element to the group.
Initially I only had to worry about my small family but that has changed exponentially. As you get older you just end up with more people to worry about and an increased risk of something going wrong.
We have had our share of family dramas and (thank God) no deaths or severe illness. However as the branches of the tree spread out we have encountered typical family issues. Sometimes people are mad at each other. Often for no reason. Kids have accidents or emotional issues. Parents don’t always get along. Life just intervenes.
The trouble is that everyone calls me. I am the sounding board for everyone. Maybe that is why I have chosen to be a volunteer mediator. I have had lots of practice. All the phone calls can set me off into anxiety. It would be nice at times to not know any problems. However, it is wonderful to be the person who can share wisdom to my family. I really hope that they never stop calling.
Families can be tricky. Some are totally dysfunctional and in order to survive you have to back away. Some can be loving an supportive. But I have never seen a family that can get through a wedding or a funeral without someone’s feeling getting hurt. We have to remember that when situations are stressful on their own no one is at their best.
Love your family if it is possible even if it is hard to be with them. Enjoy them if you can and remember they are connected to you.
Each moment that we live we deal with feelings. They are part of our everyday life. We are never without them. Our emotions set the tone for our function and how we experience each day. Our emotions influence our lives. There is never a moment when we are emotionless. There are people who have little emotion but they are deemed abnormal.
When I get up in the morning my feelings about the day will influence how the day goes. Even though I may start out feeling down about the day I can help the day get better by consciously deciding to change how I feel.
Usually when I feel down I just want to slop around in my PJ’s and do as little as possible. I have discovered that if I make the effort to take a shower, put on decent clothes and make an effort to look nice that I feel better. It may take work but it is worth it. At least for me how I look with influence how I feel.
When anxiety or depression crop up it is hard to make the effort to do anything. I just want to turn on a TV show and lose myself in it. If I really push myself and get dressed and go out to be with people I can lift myself up out of that mood—-at least for awhile. I can sometimes even forget what had me so down.
Our lives are not only impacted by what we feel but also by what we do. Sometimes it is agony to pull yourself up and get moving but it can help. How we look also influences how others react to us. If I am in sweat pants and have a hangdog expression then that is how I will be perceived. The times when I can make that change have a tremendous impact on my feelings. There are times when we can’t get the oomph needed but we need to keep on trying. Each time we win is a plus and increases the chance that we can do it the next time.
Today is my husband’s birthday. He turned 80 years old. He can hardly believe it and neither can I. Time flies. It is hard to believe that in June we will have been married 55 years. It is so funny to think back to the 1960’s and it seems like yesterday.
Things were so different then. We did have color TV but no cell phones. Some people who were rich had car phones but they were bulky and the signal was erratic. We drove a 1962 Pontiac convertible. The windows rolled up with handles. The top did go up and down automatically. It did not have air conditioning. We lived in Army housing and sat out on the stoop at night to have fun with our neighbors. We had little extra money and our favorite thing to do was to play games or cards with friends. We only had one car.
We went to parties at the officer’s club and the dress code was strict. Men were not admitted at night without a tie and women always wore dresses. We did wear shorts and trousers at home or with friends. Bikinis were not seen at local swimming pools. People would have been shocked. Men never used “bad” language in front of women and no one ever used the “F” word.
Long distance calls cost money per minuet so the calls were short. Our communication was primarily face to face. We knew our neighbors and had volley ball games in the courtyard in front of our quarters.
Birth control pills were a new thing and there were questions about their safety since they were much stronger than the new ones. We could talk to our next door neighbors through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. and my husband and the guy nest door had fun conversations while shaving in the morning.
Life seemed simpler then. We talked a lot with friends. We shared meals that we made ourselves and played games rather than watch TV. We spent more time with friends than we do now. These memories are fun to recall.
However, everything was not perfect. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Blacks were suffering major discrimination. LSD was one of the drugs of choice. Everything was not idyllic. It was time moving away from the simpler 1950’s into the chaotic 60’s. My husband was later to spend two years in Viet Nam.
When we deal with memories we can choose which ones we want and disregard the others.
Lately I have been thinking about good and bad emotions. Good emotions run the gamut from a simple flash of a decent day to full blown joy. It is easy to see the negative ones. Fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, sorrow….I could go on. To counter these we can use the positive things we don’t often see as emotions: safety, relaxation, strength, gratitude, pleasure, satisfaction, friendship, kindness, and assertiveness. (From the article How to Tap into Your Light by Kalia Kelmenson in Spirituality and Health)
Most of these we don’t equate with emotion and so we don’t key into them. We don’t see them as positive emotions. We don’t focus on them. That is a major part of the problem.
I don’t know about you, but I am more likely to come home and relate a story about how uncomfortable I felt doing a mediation than that I did a good job. I let the good feeling be lost in the negative emotion. We tend to hang onto the bad feelings and nurse them. We are unwilling to let them go. Think of how often you have been angry about something and just kept bringing it up in conversation or dwelling on it. For some reason we must enjoy holding on to them.
When we don’t let go we experience physical changes. Negative emotions can cause an increase in heart rate and rise in blood pressure. They can decrease our resistance to disease and lower the ability of our immune system to function. They allow our bodies to attack us with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, asthma, ulceration colitis, migraines and irritable bowel. Oh, what we do to ourselves.
We have to learn to focus on the positive emotions and use them to overcome the negative ones. To do that we need to remember what they are and see them when they come. The list above can be added to I’m sure. It’s easy to see how we think when I realized that I had to find that list and couldn’t just come up with one from my head but the negative emotions were right on the tip of my tongue.
I think the most important piece is to be aware of what you are feeling. We can’t change it if we can’t recognize it.
As the song writer Johnny Mercer said “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!”
Today I realized that some things in my life are changing. Tomorrow I finish my last co-mediation and will be flying on my own. It took a long time since life intervened but it is here. Some of the waiting is over. Also some things seem to be changing in other spots in my life. My anxiety is at minimum…at least for now. I seem to be at peace.
I am anxious for a dear friend who is struggling with a sick husband. It makes me realize how elusive peace is. I think too often we don’t even realize when peace comes. We can’t turn away from our focus on ourselves and the problems that life brings. Peace can be elusive. We reach the point where we don’t even recognize it..we don’t recognize it.
My life is comfortable. I am not starving, or homeless. I do not have a fatal illness. I have friends, family. My life is stable. Yes, I can spend time fighting my own demons but I need to concentrate more on the good things. I do life in a measure of peace. I need to get it.
Pay attention to the things you have and not to what you don’t have. We all have struggles….some more than others…but most of us do have something good in our lives. Find it! Find that good and concentrate on it. See it when there is peace.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Thank him every day for the good things.
Some days just don’t go the way you expect. It was a pretty normal morning. ..doing some house cleaning and puttering about the house before getting ready to meet friends for lunch. Then unexpectedly something triggered memories of my best friend who died two years ago. It brought tears to my eyes. It colored my day in a peculiar way. I looked at things differently. As I went through the day I paid more attention to the things around me. I noticed (more than once) what a beautiful day it was. I enjoyed lunch with friends and spent more time listening to them than talking myself. I actually heard everything that was said. I think I was more aware of life around me and how transient everything is.
We don’t stop to smell the flowers enough. We don’t notice the world around us. We aren’t paying attention when we are with friends. We are too busy think about ourselves.
There is a wonderful book by Brother Lawrence called Practicing the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence dedicated everything he did to God from washing dishes to working in the garden. God was part of every moment in his day.
I wish that I could be that aware each moment. Then I wouldn’t miss a single second of my life instead of just drifting through. We all need to work on this.
Sometimes people who are young look at those of us who are older with disdain. What do we know? They dismiss us or not even see us. It usually doesn’t bother me but sometimes I see someone just ignore someone elderly and it makes me furious.
I wonder if they think it won’t happen to them? Well guess what? If it doesn’t happen then you are dead. I wonder when we stopped seeing elders as wise. Most of the people I know have so much wisdom to impart. Many of them are sharing by helping others in some sort of volunteer work. The mediations I do are voluntary. The center would be unable to function without us. We are using what we have gained over a lifetime to help people come to an agreement that keeps them from going to court. This is just one example.
I remember one day when I was having a conversation with my daughter (she was in her car—auto phone) and my granddaughter and friends were listening. I was talking about my blog and one of her friends said “your grandmother writes a blog?!!” There was incredulity in the question. Someone my age writing a blog? Who would have thought?The girls were impressed but it shows what they expected of someone older.
Don’t dismiss older people because of their age. Yes, some people have dementia or fading memory. Some choose to sit in a chair and vegetate but they are not in the majority. My contemporaries are out there doing good works. Don’t dismiss us!
I began this blog to follow me through changes that I need to make in my life. I don’t know how much progress I have made but there has been some. My anxiety is more under control and I have begun some new habits that focus me.
I have enhanced my prayer life which had slipped considerably. I have added “praying in color” which is a book that my daughter gave me a few years ago and I never pursued it. This has been a wonderful thing for me. I am not in the least an artist but it if wonderful to take colored pencils and create prayers. I am doing them on black paper and enjoy creating light from darkness. I can also look back (they are in a spiral sketch book) and see who I have added to my prayers.
I do occasionally do Mandalas and love doing those. They help me when I am in crisis. For me, they consume time and I have to feel the need to do one. I have saved these also and can look back over trials and tribulations. It is helpful to see where I have been and how far I have come.
Prayer is a real way for me to “center down.” Meditation for me is also a prayer. I don’t do that enough.
Since writing this blog I have encountered so many wonderful people who have understood and encouraged my journey. I have been enriched by reading their blogs. The community is a comfortable and comforting place to be.
Thank you all.
Birth – death. Funny how they go together. I loved an episode of “Call the Midwife” where a grandfather to be is dying as his grandson is born. He makes a comment about the two of them passing. I really love that thought…..one generation turning life over to the next.
It is so wonderful for me to read blogs from people of all ages. I love that I can share with those just starting out in life and those who are on the other side like me. There is a wonderful continuity in that. My granddaughter is about to give birth to my first great grandchild. It feels so strange to say that. Sometimes if feels as if my life as a teenager is just a moment away. Sometimes I dream that I am back in college and it feels normal to be there.
Life is connections. My husband went to West Point and they call those who have graduated from there “The Long Grey Line.” There is this sense of a line reaching back through history and froward to the future.
We are all part of that line. Our lineage goes back in time beyond my understanding. It will go forward in time to a future I can’t even begin to imagine. We are connected. We are part of the human family. As connections die others are being born. Life prevails.
People can say stupid things. It is amazing to me that they don’t really think about what they are saying. When I ran a grief support group I heard some goodies.
You can have another baby (to someone who just had a miscarriage)
God needed another angel in heaven ( to someone who lost a child)
Your husband wouldn’t want you to be sad (to a new widow)
I’m sure things are better now (to someone whose wife died a few months ago)
God never gives us more than we can handle (to someone who lost two teenagers in an accident)
Everything will be alright (to someone diagnosed with a fatal illness)
Sometimes when we don’t know what to say we can fall into the trap of saying something stupid or offensive. We may not mean it that way but that is how it comes out. When people are going through tough times they don’t need to hear these kind of answers. They need to hear
Can I bring dinner by tomorrow?
I’m going to a movie tomorrow can I pick you up?
I am so sorry
I will call you soon (only if you really will)
Give a hug
Cry with them
Solid concrete help is what is needed. Only say what you mean. If you can help try to do something specific. Don’t just say “how can I help?” Instead ask if you can pick up children, run an errand, offer a day out. Each individual needs different things. You have to gauge what will help.
Most importantly offer compassion and love. Nothing is more needed. If you have suffered a similar loss you may understand better what they are going through but don’t assume it will be exactly the same. Just being there is critical. Don’t just say something…..do something!