This is it.

A friend pulled me up short the other day.

“This is it,” she said. “Stop planning your death.”

I hadn’t realized how much I talk about dying: where, when, how. All the details.

In some ways, I believed that planning would make it seem less stressful. But what has happened is that I focus so much on the end, I forget I am here now. This poem by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer says it all:

This is it, I think, as I lie in bed, not wanting to leave the warmth.

This is it, my feet meet the cold wood.

This is it, I water the orchid.

This is it, I boil water, make tea.

I think, I’ll be a better person tomorrow.

This is it, me dreaming of fresh starts.

This is it, defuzzing the sweater.

This is it, paying bills, answering mail, frying eggs, washing pans.

No life but this one.

No fresh start but here.

This is it, the cat sits on my papers.

This is it, the phone doesn’t ring.

This is it, the floors need mopping,

the letter needs written, the class needs planned.

This is it, me wishing I could be more perfect.

This is it, this. This only. Only this.

This is it, this flutter in my chest

when the sun enters the room,

the natural leaning toward the light.

This is it, this silence.

This cold. This warmth.

This longing. This song on my lips.

The Loveliness of it All

Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

I was never much of a hugger. Being a New Englander, and earlier having all ancestors from England, I tend to be a little stand-offish.

But I’ve had a few hugs lately that have warmed me from the the top of my head to the tip of my toes. Coming home from Rhode Island means seeing friends after months away. And after Covid (and now double boosted) and not hugging at ALL, I find a need to grab friends and hold on for a few moments.

This morning I had one of those hugs from someone I don’t see very often. After a long squeeze, we caught up, and I found myself answering her questions about family, Rhode Island, travel, and poetry. It was so affirming. I ended the quick conversation with “Life IS good.” I hadn’t said that in a while, and it felt almost overwhelming to admit. I can wallow around in dark places for too long when I start thinking about my health/aging/loss issues.

Landing back here in Virginia was hard. I missed Rhode Island desperately, and being here felt strange and awkward. I mentioned to David how loud it is. We live on an emergency route, so we hear sirens all day and night. People walk home from bars and restaurants late at night and laugh- loudly. Dogs bark. Cars and motorcycles roar their engines. It’s almost too much.

I do berate myself for getting mired in this– after all, I have two really cool places to live, food to eat, heat for my houses, and children/grandchildren I visit with regularly.

But it was good to feel like I was getting over the hump this morning. It was good to realize again what lovely friends I have here. I could feel the weight lifting.

What a Long Journey

Sometimes I wonder why I am so drawn to readings, podcasts, and videos about emotional health. Mostly, it’s because I had to clean up my own struggles, understand where they were coming from, and learn to recognize I would have good days but also bad moments. The human experience.

This takes time. And if often takes words from experts to get you through the dark spots.

What I’ve learned:

  • We must live with imperfection and failure.
  • We will all experience moments of doubt, hurt, and pain. It’s what we do with those times that will push us through to the other side.
  • Knowledge of how the mind works is essential.
  • We can only release shame when we become vulnerable and share our stories.
  • Focusing on breath solves many problems.
  • I really can’t change the past; I can create a future that heals my heart.

I love this Brene Brown quote: “Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.”

Ten years ago, the walls I had erected to protect me started to crumble. I’ve learned those walls had to go. When we are kind to ourselves, we open up fields and forests of relationships that can grow. Start by forgiving yourself and see what happens.

Self-Esteem or Self-Compassion?

I’ve spent the better part of the last two years studying self-compassion. In this podcast, Laurie Santos talks to Kristin Neff about why self-compassion is so important. Don’t let the term self-love or self-compassion bother you (I had to work through that, too). But know it is key to having a “fierce tenderness” about the world as you move through it.

Self-esteem in itself is good, but not if it comes at the expense of perfectionism, fear of failure, and an inability to function (all possible). Self-compassion, on the other hand, means to know that we recognize our common humanity, that we all make mistakes, and that we can recognize suffering but move on from it. We must limit self-criticism and embrace a tenderness toward ourselves. Really, it works!

The podcast is worth listening to as Kristen shares her own challenges with being compassionate toward herself as she raised her autistic child.

“Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves from debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.”

Kristin Neff

Well, hello there new year

I read once that you should find a few things that are treats, things you love, to boost your spirits. So, in addition to capturing morning sunrises, I’ve discovered these:

  • podcasts while I walk (Ten Percent Happier, Untangle, Routines and Ruts, Hurry Slowly, Unlocking Us, Everything Happens and more… (they help me walk longer)
  • a warm really, fuzzy lap blanket that I crawl under to read or watch netflix. I mean, it’s so fuzzy I rub my hands over it constantly- it’s like a fake fur. And it’s blue!
  • hot chocolate in the morning around 10 am (not too late to cause stomach issues but a kind of a boost to keep me going)
  • a bath with lavender oil
  • white flickering fake candles on timers all over the house

I can’t tell you how these simple changes have improved my life. They are not things to be earned but ways to give myself a moment of comfort – just because.

“Have patience with all things. But, first of all with yourself.”

― Francis de Sales