Wednesday, December 27, 2017

LIfe and death

My mother in law is dying. We visited her over Christmas, spent 2 days at the nursing home with her, and had to deal with goodbyes that included "this is the last time I'll see you".  My daughters were  distraught. My husband was ... well, given the kids' reactions, we didn't get to talk a lot about him.

To back up a minute, let me tell you that my mother in law is a pretty horrible woman.  She damaged her children over the course of their childhoods and continued the damage and manipulation into their adult lives. When I came into the picture and started introducing my husband to the concepts of boundaries and non-engagement in family triangulation, it pissed his mom off to no end.  Between that and the fact that I married her only son, the Crown Prince, I assumed she would hate me.  But for some unknown reason, she adored me.  I used to joke that when she came to visit she acted like she wanted to sit on my lap and pet me.  That was never going to happen but I was polite, I was kind, and I maintained my boundaries.  She would lay into my husband, she would say horrible things to him in person or on the phone, but nothing in front of me.

Over the past ten years, her physical condition has gone downhill - some undefined neuropathy started in her feet and has traveled up her body, and started compromising her speech.  Earlier this year they finally diagnosed her with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  Finally, my father in law's doctors convinced him he couldn't be her 24/7 caregiver any longer and she went to a nursing home.  She only has some minimal control of her left hand now and has almost entirely lost her ability to speak.  And she is hugely frustrated with that.  Which I understand.  If I had my brain but no ability to engage with anyone, my head would explode.  And it is a perfect example of karma biting a person in their ass as my mother in law has done so much damage with her words over her lifetime that this is a particularly cruel end.

And so, she now has a respiratory infection and is not expected to last the night.  It would be a merciful end.  Quite frankly, based on our time there over Christmas, I think she'd agree that it's time to go.  It has made me think about life and death and our perceptions of the terminally ill - we all feel bad for her, no doubt, but we also assume all these sweet and nostalgic feelings coming out of her.  But I was reminded that her mind is just as it always was when she whined and cried at nurses when she wasn't getting what she wanted, when she yelled at my father in law for having the nerve to talk to someone else while she was talking to my husband and me, and she glared or rolled her eyes at certain times when she didn't like what was being said to her.  The horrible woman is still in there.  And yet I feel compassion for her.  So I rubbed her legs and held her hand and talked to her for two full days, and I hope her time on earth in this condition is as pain free as possible and short.

Two days observing the world in a nursing home and all the thoughts that were triggered about my own opinions about end of life matters, combined with all the complicated feelings that swirl in my husband's family gave me a lot to think about.  I am not nearly proficient enough in deep talk to express how all this makes me feel, but I'm convinced there is nothing that is  black and white in this world.  Even life and death exist in shades of gray.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Back for more,,,

Hello blog!

I am a writer who has not been writing.  Lots of reasons for that and excuses for why I haven't made time, but screw the monkey chatter that thinks I needed a new blog or a different platform.  Why not just add a new iteration of this stream of consciousness blog?  And with that, here I am.

Last weekend I was talking with an intuitive reader at a weekend retreat.  She talked about a lot of interesting things but the thing that drew my focus was when she mentioned the difference between discussing a personal issue vs. sharing vs venting vs. complaining. So when I get together with my girlfriends, we invariably talk about whatever issues we all have -- most of us have no other friends with whom we can discuss these things and life doesn't get any easier, so our reunions are rife with struggles and trials.

Some issues need discussion - there are times I want feedback.  I applied for a big promotion last year and it came after a serious discussion of pros and cons with these ladies.  But not all matters are open for discussion, are they?  Sometimes I just want to tell my story and be heard.  Be loved and supported by these women I love dearly and respect highly.  Makes good sense to me, but in reality these women are so smart and so competent and so powerful in their own right that everything tends to be a discussion .... ideas, experiences, books read on the subject, and way too much SHOULD and COULD and "here's what you need to do" comes pouring out. It's overwhelming and has a major chilling effect on me. When I share (if I share) I have begun to preface what I'm saying in a way that makes crystal clear what response is allowed. Healthy solution or defensive wall?

And then there is venting vs complaining. The way the reader described the difference was brilliant - it is totally ok to vent at times, but when we keep harping on the same complaints over and over, friends need to just check us with a quick "shut the f*^% up already".  Vent - release the stress of whatever is grating - and then move on. Continued complaining is either a bad habit that makes you negative and tiresome, or a sign that you need to change something.

Food for some introspection, hm?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Arch-Enemy: Clutter.

I have always had a weakness for clutter - papers, books, memorobilia.  My mother's favorite childhood comment attributed to me is supposedly once when she asked me to clean up some mess in my room, my response was "but I like to have my things around me." Ha ha, Mom.

In college, my desk was always heaped with stuff.  Added to my tendency to light candles and leave the room, I'm surprised I didn't ever burn the place down, but that's another story.  In adulthood, it took over my kitchen counters and dining room table.  Even when I declare war on clutter, there always is a small pile of stuff that needs to go somewhere - to the filing cabinet, in the mail, to someone else, or to someplace I haven't figured out yet - and then that little pile soon procreates into enough paper to side our house all heaped on my kitchen counter.  I'm a pretty organized person and I've often wished for the Samantha Stevens (you all remember Bewitched, right?) ability to twitch my nose and magically direct the next step of making things go where I direct them.  Without that magically ability, my human tendency is to leave the nicely organized pile of things to be filed or moved or donated or whatever until I get around to that next step ... which often will be a long time (or even never) before I get back to it. 

We now live in a two story house with a finished basement.  By "we", I am talking about 2 adults, 2 pre-teens, two dogs and two cats.  While we are not going to be chosen for hoarders or any other similar reality show, the clutter is killing me.  Don't even get me started on the basement because that is where piles of "I don't know what to do with it" go to die.  But every flat surface in this house is covered with unbalanced piles of stuff.  It isn't dirty and it isn't garbage, but it is stuff that needs to get off those surfaces and into it's proper place. 

I have learned over the years that reducing clutter reduces my stress.  I am far from the kind of person that finds peace and serenity in scrubbing a bathroom or vacuuming the house every night before bed, but I know I tense up if I walk into a room and am struck by how much crap is piled up and stuffed into every visible nook and cranny.  I also know I am much more likely to cook the kind of food I want to eat, if can actually have a kitchen counter to work on.  I have also learned that I am completely on my own in my quest against the clutter demon in my home. 

In an effort to combat this demon, I have periodically chosen a room, or a given flat surface, and cleared it off.  I put things away, I donate things, I reshelve books, I shred unnecessary papers, you get the idea.  I clear it and clean it.  And I hope every time that others in my home will respect that clean surface and keep it clean, so I can move on to the next area.  Never happens.  The clutter is back within days.  Yes, sometimes I contribute (one particular table next to my chair is frequently where the odd-sock-pile ends up, as I fold laundry), but most of the time when I clean off a surface, it is of items I have never touched. 

Just in writing this, I have found my goal for 2014 - identifying and declaring my personal "no clutter zones" in the house and challenging myself to keep those areas clear instead of trying to take on the whole house.  Like many things, perhaps if nothing else finding my own sanity in the midst of this clutter will set a good example for my kids. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dear Universe:

My goal for 2013 was patience.  I needed to cede control for the things that were not mine to direct, because the anger and resentment were building.  Patience has been hard.  Ceding control was quite a process since it took me nearly all year to realize that it was my own failure to cede control that was making myself and everyone around me miserable and the resentment was like lava bubbling inside me and pouring out in waves on the people closest to me.  I finally opened my eyes and realized what was happening, promptly took some self-care action, and have made massive improvements in my mood and my relationships since then.

I feel like I'm really trying.  And Universe, I thank you for that.  I really do.  Today I am saying thank you, as I do most days, and I am also acknowledging that we really need some guidance in the coming days.  There is a person in my life that desperately needs a sign or a road map or a door or window opening and I am asking for something along those lines.  I can't do anything to make this happen so I have been trusting that the right thing will come, but we're reaching a critical time and just really am asking for some little thing to let us know that we're going to be OK.  I'd really appreciate it.

Love, Sarah

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life Patterns

Do you ever have one of those times where you are driving along in your car and thinking about something in your past, or wondering about something in your life, and all of a sudden you see in vivid technicolor that you are just repeating a pattern that can trace back your whole life?  Happens to me all the time - I am way too introspective when I drive, perhaps - and it happpened most recently this morning.

I listen to the oldies station on the radio driving to work, if I turn the radio on.  The song "I Will Follow Him" came on (you know the one - "I will follow him ... follow him wherever he may go ... and so on).  I'm not exactly sure why I turned that concept on myself, but all of a sudden I realized that I have latched on as a follower in my personal life and then my work life so many times!  First, I suppose, was just assuming my dad knew everything and just blindly following his lead and spouting his opinions etc.  And I thought that was the type of man I wanted to marry as well - one who would just lead and bring me along.  And then I got my first FT job and was an admin assistant and found I was really good at it.  I can assist and support higher ups and make them look really good.  But it wasn't enough for me.  And continuing to just recite the opinions of my father wasn't working for me either.  And who is surprised to hear that my search for a man to take over my life and lead was interpreted as being a bit needy and desperate?  Talk about a pattern that needed to be disrupted! 

Took me until midway through college to have the first real instance of questioning whether my dad really was right about everything in the world (my first boyfriend asked me probably more than once "is that your opinion or your dad's?"). Took me until my late twenties to realize I should strive for a job further up the food chain, where I had more responsibility than just support staff.  Took me until my thirties to realize these same concepts applied to my search for a mate, and probably to my mid forties and now late forties when I'm now actively trying to accept that my husband isn't solely responsible for my happiness in life. 

What a journey this has been, and I'm laughing a bit as I write this because anyone who knows me now would never believe the person I was twenty-five years ago when I hardly had an independent opinion in my brain.  I am clearly making up for that lost time now and I would say that I am teaching my children from birth to think for themselves - I can't count the number of times I have said "you don't have to agree with me, what do you think?" to my ten year old.  I hope my kids grow up knowing the world is available to them and that they are not expected (or required) to follow anyone's path but their own. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


My goal for 2013 was to be patient.  To allow my path to unfold before me and to trust that it would make itself known to me in good time.  I am not a patient person.  I struggled with feeling like I needed to solve things, make things happen, push ... but I really did resist these urges and tried to just wait and keep my eyes open.

Things have been moving forward in the last couple months.  It feels good to have gotten started.  Yesterday, this excerpt from Melody Beattie's "The Language of Letting Go" appeared in my daily thoughts email, and I loved it.  Take a moment and a deep breath and enjoy! 

Going Easy

Go easy. You may have to push forward, but you don't have to push so hard. Go in gentleness, go in peace.

Do not be in so much of a hurry. At no day, no hour, no time are you required to do more than you can do in peace. Frantic behaviors and urgency are not the foundation for our new way of life.

Do not be in too much of a hurry to begin. Begin, but do not force the beginning if it is not time. Beginnings will arrive soon enough.

Enjoy and relish middles, the heart of the matter.

Do not be in too much of a hurry to finish. You may be almost done, but enjoy the final moments. Give yourself fully to those moments so that you may give and get all there is.

Let the pace flow naturally. Move forward. Start. Keep moving forward. Do it gently, though. Do it in peace. Cherish each moment.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Choose Happiness.

2013 has been a rough year for me - lots of angst and internal struggle.  I had a long talk with myself this weekend and made one conscious decision:  I Choose Happiness.  There is much in my life that I cannot change and I have to find a way to avoid sinking into the bog of resentment.  I am feeling very empowered by the self-care I have undertaken in the past couple months and I can envision even more as life unfolds, which gives me hope and a feeling of freedom from some 'monkey-chatter' that has plagued me for a long time.  At the end of the day, I have miles and miles of entries on my gratitude list and my attitude about my life is a choice.  I can muck around with what is fair or equitable or grumble about what I believe is owed to me, or I can choose to be filled with gratitude and joy for what I have.  I am saying it now and mean this as a true commitment to my future:  I Choose Happiness.