Several years ago, after meeting David, I was updating passwords. I used the words ‘newme…’ in many.
But that was the old me; I know that now. That was the me that settled, that overthought, that didn’t listen to my gut, my Holy Spirit, the me that lived with ‘shoulds’ and ‘what-ifs’. And look where it got me.
It got me to believe in myself. It got me from the thick of the forest and the depth of the rabbit hole to the clearing on the other side where I’ve learned I don’t ‘need’ anyone else to be happy with myself. I’ve packed and moved twice in as many months. I’ve assembled all types of furniture, fixed my e-bike and my car, put up home hardware I never had before, all the time relying on ME. And the feeling of accomplishment I got is so much more satisfying than I could have imagined.
Believe me, I’m still a work in progress. I still have to learn to accept God’s love for me even when I don’t understand it. Would I like someone to share my life with? Sure. But I now know that I won’t settle for the same ol’, same ol’. I may never have that ‘love of my life’ feeling, and I can accept that gladly. But I will have a life that I love.
"After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning,
And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts,
And presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman,
Not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
that you really are strong,
and you really do have worth,
and you learn and learn…
With every goodbye you learn."
By Jorge Luis Borges
My last few posts have been, well, depressing is one word that comes to mind; a little disturbing since now, looking back, I see the progression towards the rabbit hole I’d tried so hard to resist and avoid. But there it was, lurking just beyond the forest as I made my way through. Or at least I thought I had.
I’m not going to repeat the past months here, only to say that I had hoped I could stay at White Feather for at least a year. Turns out I could not. Turns out I had six months, which would have had me looking for another place to rent in the midst of snowbird arrivals and holidays. I couldn’t face that, so I started looking for a rental. Again. Everything was overpriced, overly small, or just a room in a house. The fact that I looked at Facebook Marketplace at all still surprises me. But again, Mom is up there guiding me in ways I’m not aware of until afterward. On there I found a 2/2 condo on the third floor of a 55+ complex on the outskirts of Ormond Beach – yes, I now have a Daytona Beach address – but it overlooks the pool and the Intracoastal and I have it for a year, at least. I again started packing. I arranged for movers this time, and in mid July, I got the keys to my current place. I’ve had to start completely over again. Oh, I had some kitchen stuff, a lamp or two, my office. But no furniture to speak of. No bed, no dresser, no living room, dining room; nothing that makes a home livable. Thankfully the place had some very old, very dated things in it that got me by until the house sale when I was finally able to hit some used furniture places and start filling it in.
I think it’s so interesting how we perceive ourselves. I’ve gotten through some pretty difficult times going back to my teens, and usually, at the time, I’d wonder how I was going to do it. This past year is almost a repeat of the period my dad died, though I won’t go into that. Suffice it to say, this wasn’t my first rodeo. And while my head was going in a million different directions still waiting on the house sale, still waiting on the divorce, planning a move again, juggling all that, my days consisted of going through the motions of putting one foot in front of the other, falling into a fitful sleep, and repeating that the next day.
My friend Anita and I share a common experience with what we call ‘the rabbit hole.’ It’s a dark place that gets more comfortable the longer you’re in it. Comfortable to the point where you don’t want to climb out, you don’t want to interact with anyone; not your friends, not your kids; you just want to lay down and be miserable in your misery. That’s where my good friend Chris found me the last time. After sharing her experience and how she finally came out of it, I decided the next day to contact my doctor who suggested we try an antidepressant. He said it could take two to three weeks to see results. Silently I wondered if I could make it that long. He called it in. It was a low dose, so I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I know about depression and chemical imbalances in the brain. Again, the rodeo thing. I was loathe to go back down this road, but I knew I had to do something.
Morning came, and it was as if a fog had lifted and pulled me out of the hole. Just like that. I woke no longer feeling the heavy weight of sadness and despair that had plagued me. It wasn’t as if I were high or giddy. No. It was an evening of my mood, a balance that wasn’t there before. My tolerance and patience came back. I wasn’t crying or tearing up suddenly. I was … relieved. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it could happen that quickly. What it suggests to me is that the stress of the past six months had taken its toll on my body, both externally with the eczema, and internally in my brain, knocking out whatever that pill replaced so that I could function again, live again, enjoy the sunrises and sunsets again.
I think I’m on the other side now, or at least pretty darned close to it. It’s been less than a month that I left Flagler Beach, but it seems like a lifetime ago. If you’ve never experienced a deep depression, first be grateful, but second, don’t underestimate the seriousness and scariness of it. I don’t ever want to go there again. If I have to stay on these, I will, but we’ll see. I will be forever grateful to Chris who most likely saved me from either being Baker Acted or not being here at all. I think there’s only so much one body can take. When this happened long ago, I had family around, lots of friends, my kids were younger and more dependent, and my mom came to my rescue. It was different, but it was still scary. This time it was just me. I’ve always to believed that I’m strong, that I have what my dad used to call MOXY. And maybe I do. I’m still here; right?
Now I need to look forward and stop dwelling on what was, on what happened. It’s in the past. Everyone has problems. Everyone goes through hard times. Some have people around them, but some do not. I’ve learned to be more compassionate, more patient. I don’t judge. If you have been lucky enough to avoid the rabbit hole, be very grateful. Too many people don’t make it to the other side.
“People will forget what you say. People will forget what you do. But people will never forget how you make them feel.”
I love this quote. It is such a true statement. Be it an argument, a tender moment, a scary scene, or a hilarious joke, you will forget exactly what was said or perhaps even the cause, but you will remember the feeling associated with it and be able to pull that feeling up in your memory and your heart.
I think feelings are what make memories. My daughter claims to have very little recollection of her childhood; she was always looking forward to what’s next. As an adult who loves to travel, I’ve suggested to her that she absolutely live in the moment, look around and place her entire self there and feel; acknowledge any event, good or bad, appreciate your place in that scene, and see if it helps when trying to recall it. I think it has worked for her. Recounting her last solo trip, I could feel in the telling the excitement of kayaking in Venice and discovering the salt flats of Malta. She felt her memories.
Conversely, I believe this quote is exactly why men claim women have the memory of an elephant when it comes to an argument. I’m convinced it’s not that we remember the argument or even why there was an argument. We remember it because of how it made us feel.
It’s that time of year again. I can’t complain since last year was COVID where nothing was the same as before. But it does seem like ‘it’ starts earlier and earlier every year. Where I live in a 55+ community, I actually saw a Christmas tree in the window of a neighbor’s home around Halloween.
When I was younger, every holiday seemed like a separate event to me. Now, with retailers so aggressively promoting Christmas earlier and earlier, it feels like all the preceding holidays take either a back seat, or they are simply whizzed through to get to The Big Event. Interestingly, while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, I searched high and low for decorations for the table and a little something for the yard. I went to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s and found nothing! (I didn’t try Walmart. I just can’t.) When did they stop Thanksgiving displays?
And so now the outside Christmas decorations are beginning to go up around me. I’m tempted to join in. In fact, I was this close to putting up the tree for Thanksgiving! You have to understand; when we were kids – hand to God – we did not get a tree until Christmas Eve! (Of course I now realize it was because the trees were so cheap by then.) We would then spend the day happily decorating it, totally oblivious to the fact that this was not what every other family did.
Thank God I have a robust relationship with Amazon. I have been Christmas shopping for months. In fact, I’m pretty much done but for a few things here and there — oh, and stocking stuffers. So it’s not like I didn’t know it was coming, and coming fast. It’s just that when it does come so fast, I somehow want to slow it down, kind of stave it off for as long as I can, not because I don’t like Christmas, but because I do.
I wonder if it’s because these end-of-year holidays are just that. They are the beginning of the end of the current year, rolling us into the next. It feels sometimes like it’s an accelerating somersault that begins with Labor Day and rolls us through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, only to land us seated, feet splayed, hands braced, and eyes crossed, bracing us for the new year where we’ll start all over again.
My sister has a group of friends she met when she was a teacher at the same Catholic school she attended as a kid. I think there’s four of them that are each others’ support group. She calls them her posse. I like that. I think it’s great to have a posse.
Me, I have a gang. Not a big gang, mind you, though the name itself would suggest that. No, it’s a small gang; sort of a gang of two. But between us, we’ve weathered births, adoptions, divorce, and heartbreaking death; life at its best and worst; while helping raise each other’s kids. They say it takes a village. My family was my village, but she is my person. She knows my darkest secrets, and I hers. After more than 30 years, I’ve learned that she will caveat to the point where I often just make a quick mental note where she started so I can get her back on track when needed. We’ll run the gamut of raucous laughter to silent sniffles, each of us knowing what the other one needs at any particular time. We will challenge each other, make us face our fears, always offer support and of course unconditional love. We can go for months on end and not talk with each other outside of maybe a text or two saying, ‘Hey, I’m still here, are you?’ And then out of the blue one of us calls the other, and we’re on the phone for hours asking about family and friends, the fun and the not-so-much-fun that’s been going on since we last spoke.
We are pretty much total opposites in many ways; it’s really a wonder we clicked as we did. And while we are the same age, she grew up in a very dysfunctional family of five where all the kids (three boys, two girls) had male names. Alcoholism ran rampant in her clan who all lived within miles of each other. Raised on a farm in mid Michigan in the 60s and 70s, hard work was no stranger to her. While the rest of her siblings stayed close to home, at 18 she left for the dance world and never returned, forever the outcast who dared to choose a different, better life. I was raised in a tight Irish-Catholic clan with 10 siblings, lots of love and laughter, pretty much oblivious to the lifestyles of other families. But I had my own struggles growing up. With six kids in eight years, there wasn’t much individual attention to spare for a needy little girl. We didn’t have much, and I wasn’t popular in school. It was a strict upbringing that included church, chores, curfews, but we knew we were loved.
She (given name Dale) was and is athletic. I am not. She has two children through adoption while I gave birth to three (she was there with me for the last one). She is the Diane Keaton to my Annette Benning, good at acting as if all is well when it’s not. We both weathered destructive marriages, and we are now both retired with grandchildren. We live a thousand miles apart, but we also know if one of us were in need, we would be right there for the other. We can agree to disagree on many things with no judgement while we encourage, advise, empathize, and console.
There’s a quote from Grey’s Anatomy where this ‘my person’ idea started, and I think it says it all:
This is life. Bad things happen. You find your people, you find your person, and you lean on them.
Meredith, Grey’s Anatomy
So she is my person. I have other close friends that I love dearly along with many acquaintances, and I try my best to stay in touch, even if it’s just a quick text or email. All our lives are constantly changing. After being alone for 11 years she has found a nice man she enjoys spending time with. She’s in a really good place right now, deservedly so, and I am more than happy for her happiness. I have remarried. I am in a good place as well, though there’s a bit of a ‘limbo’ feel to my days while my 94-year-old mother lives out the rest of her days with us. We are far apart in distance but always close in heart.
I was born and raised in the Catholic church. As Irish Catholics, we were all baptized as infants, received the Sacrament of Holy Communion at seven years of age, and at 13 we acknowledged following Christ with the Sacrament of Confirmation. We attended church regularly. Like an ever-expanding parade, my siblings and I would follow Dad, single-file, to the very front of the church and fill an entire pew. If the girls forgot their chapel veils, my mother would place a Kleenex on our heads. We of course had no idea at the time why we were wearing a veil, but we never thought to question. We dutifully confessed our sins weekly through the Sacrament of Penance and knelt and recited by rote our Hail Marys and our Acts of Contrition. We said our rosaries and table grace with the speed of an auctioneer. Steeped in Catholicism, we never questioned that fact until we left home and were on our own and . . . exposed . . . to outside influences.
I have never doubted my faith and belief in God. (Well, maybe once, in college, but it was very brief.) I have always believed that Jesus is my Savior, that he died for our sins and that he will return in the second coming. I have no fear of death because I believe in heaven and hell and life eternal. I try and treat others the way I would want to be treated. I was married in the Church and raised my three children in the Catholic faith. They briefly attended Catholic school until we could no longer afford the tuition. All three received the same Sacraments I did.
But somewhere along the way I began to be disillusioned with the Church. It seemed the longer I was in the Catholic Church, the more I became aware of the intolerance and insincerity that existed most often in those professing to be staunch Catholics. (That’s actually a term often used. ‘He’s a staunch Catholic.’) I started to see the hypocrisy in so many self-proclaimed Catholics with their righteous morality and unchristian conduct. Some of these people were pillars of the parish involved in the Mass, befriending the clergy. Even the bishop showed the true colors of betrayal, at least in my eyes and certainly many others.
That was the beginning of the end for me. I call myself a recovering Catholic. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. But I discovered it is more important and meaningful to behave as a Christian than behave as a Catholic. I have a relationship with God that I didn’t have before or perhaps had once a week for an hour on Sunday. I currently don’t attend a formal church setting, nor do I feel the need to. I work in hospice, and I see daily in our caregivers the Christ-like behavior God is seeking. Perhaps when you’re repeatedly exposed to true Christian conduct, the falseness of those who flaunt their Catholicism with hypocritical judgment and behavior becomes glaringly apparent.
Last year my Goddaughter, was married in a lovely ceremony with lots of family and friends in attendance. This past weekend, another niece was married in what apparently will be forever referred to as a ‘COVID’ or ‘RONA’ wedding. While they were both beautiful events, they each left me a little sad for reasons I won’t go into. Suffice it to say, one of my favorite sayings by David Foster Wallace was certainly brought to mind:
“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”
My friend Sarah and I love to hash things out about relationships, personalities, and other deep-thinking subjects. For instance, in a particular scenario, I might act or react in an entirely different way than perhaps she would. And in trying to understand someone else’s actions, we have to remind each other, ‘Me … NOT me.’ Meaning, the way I might treat someone isn’t necessarily the way someone else might treat me in the same scenario. It’s actually very helpful when you’re on the receiving end of a situation where you simply cannot comprehend someone’s actions. It removes the burden of trying to understand the motivation behind their decision and simply realize that just because they may believe what they did was right, that doesn’t make it right for you. And that’s okay. It’s not you. It’s them.
That’s where I am with these weddings. I struggled last year, and I struggle again this year because I do not understand the thought process behind certain events. I’ve hashed it out with a few friends and even some family members, and frankly no one ‘gets’ it. And so I struggle finding the high road knowing that’s where I need to be because we are, after all, a polite and friendly bunch. But I will continue to repeat the mantra, ‘Me … NOT me’ until these feelings fade away.