The man-cold experiment

In not-at-all-surprising news, I got sick with a bad cold. (My last post was literally about how I need to practice more self-care.) Sigh.

I’m working on more rest, less doing in my daily life, so I figured practicing this while sick would be a good place to start. In fact, what better way to demand rest than to treat my cold like it’s a man-cold. 

Man-cold instructions:

  1. Lie down in the bed under the covers and don’t move all night. 
  2. Demand others tend to dinner. Preferably making your favorite comfort food.
  3. Declare yourself off-limits for childcare duty.

It’s that simple and here’s the crazy thing: it basically worked! Childcare tasks were the hardest to shake because the child finds me wildly entertaining and demands me as her playmate. (#onlychildproblems.) I fixed that by suggesting she and daddy play “science” which they both love because they make volcanoes explode and get messy, so win-win.

At bedtime my husband did get a tad snippy: “you WILL be helping with bedtime routine right?!” I said yes, assuming that’s how it goes the next time he gets sick. 

Who knew it was that easy? Ask and ye shall receive! 

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A return home

Last Friday I returned to my home-state of Michigan to attend my 20th high school reunion. I flew out of SW Florida as the hurricane was approaching Daytona Beach and watched news coverage from the airport. If you looked outside of its floor to ceiling windows you would have seen less wind and rain than a typical day during our rainy season, which is just wrapping up here.

Now I am back in Florida, back at my computer with cold Cuban coffee and listening to one of my favorite Detroit radio stations online, a station I was stunned to discover is still broadcasting (and as awesome as ever!). I listened to it while driving my made-in-Detroit rental car north on U.S. 23, fighting the familiar traffic that flees north on weekends, all while soaking in the beauty of a Michigan fall day with its grey clouds, blue sky, and bright sun peaking through to light up trees that were just starting to turn yellow and red.

Michigan in October

So much filled me with joy this weekend. Seeing friends who knew before I could read or write. Friends who saw me exactly for who I was in the way that only five-year-olds can. We swapped stories. We mused about what ever happened to this person or that who moved away in elementary school never to be heard from again. We tried to remember the name of our elementary school secretary (she was very much called a secretary then), and then finally remembered. (It was Dorothy.)

Mitten-State Love

The weekend closed with me sitting in a Detroit terminal eating a coney dog and Better Made chips, reading a copy of the Freep, the Detroit paper. I took a picture of these objects, that is how happy I was to have them in front of me. The only way to top it would have been to wash it all down with a Vernors pop. (And yes it is pop, not soda.)

There are other things I want to write about but can only do so in my journal. As I stood with a friend who has known me since I was five we nodded heads talking about how hard and complicated home can get when you are very much a grown adult. I thought about this as I stood in the local neighborhood market, staring at the back entrance where it used to house rental VHS cassettes, and then possibly DVDS, swapped now for shelves that sell craft beer. The butcher department still smelled of fish but strangers walked the small, neat aisles.

driving on US 23 in Michigan

As I drove south to the Detroit airport for my return flight, I found myself glancing at the Michigan highway ditches, half-expecting to see egrets hunting for fish instead of the goldenrods that were in bloom. Now I am home. Florida-home. Discussing the hurricane that has passed. Eating leftover take-out Caribbean food. But I am listening to the Detroit radio station, now available online, still as awesome as ever. And it turns out that U.S. 23, the road that leads to home in mid-Michigan, also goes all the way south to Florida, too.


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Therapy for you! Therapy for you! Therapy for everryyyyonnnne!

Top of the morning! This post is going to be a practice in flash blogging. (Is that a thing? Like #flashfiction only blogging. I will make it a thing.) The reason? Today I see my theraaaaaaapisttttt! (That’s me saying it in my inner Oprah-voice.) And therapy day is a great and wonderful day, but it means a hastier morning routine…hence #flashblogging. Seriously I’m gonna make that a thing.

In the midst of writing this, my wonderful therapist called me. She had a logistical snafu come up and needs to delay our appointment until later. As she said, ‘Shit happens!’

Oh boy doesn’t it.

Sometimes I am amazed at how much I can process simply by sitting and unloading for an hour. (Us people who see therapists, we like to use words like “process.”) Why, just by holding space for me to speak and speak and speak and be heard I can discover so much about myself and my situation. It’s hard to do this with our loved ones. They are too wrapped up in our outcomes. Oh they are so eager to see us just be OK AND WELL! But our therapist can just chillax and let it be.

Huh. Let it be. Hold space. Interesting because now that I think about it that is what I have been struggling with lately. Perhaps this is a better way for me to think about the perceived “inaction” in my life: maybe the universe is building in a pause period for me to figure some more stuff out. To untangle the Christmas lights a little more so the lights can shine through clearer.

This sh*t right here y’all, this is why I love writing. And therapy! This is why I love therapy!  These periods of pause might be challenging for me, but maybe I just needed a new perspective. The quiet pause might be viewed as an extension of what I experience in therapy: moments of being that will help me bring further clarity before taking action. (Or maybe it is simply a pregnant pause (ha! Pun intended) to savor the gifts in my life before I build another robot.)

Huh. That makes a lot of sense. This is what we call in therapy lingo, an “a-ha!” moment.

Because shit happens but then we talk about it for fifty minutes and we figure stuff out. We hold space to be so we may see.

Hallelujah, how I love therapy day.

(And seriously, may we all have someone to do this with! If I was Oprah, I’d totally make that happen…”A therapist for you! A therapist for you! Therapists for EVERYONNNNE!!!!”)


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Facing Anger (And Reluctantly Admitting My Husband Was Right)

Every window in my house is currently steamed up. (No, it’s not what you think! Jeesh, don’t make me blush.) The reason? I live in Florida. It is summer. The humidity is higher than Donald Trump’s bangs.

thedonald

high hair, high humidity. (photo source)

I just returned home to this heat from 

vacation in the cool, humidity-free Northeast. No matter. I am loving the all-consuming stickiness.

At last: the outside world is matching my inside world.

As vacation ended and some unpleasant realities of life creeped back into my consciousness, anger began seeping out in all the ways that Oprah would advise against. Projecting onto my husband. Snapping at my daughter. Scowling about towels left on the floor and muttering loudly under my breath.  A tiny voice within squeaked, hmm you seem pretty CHARGED UP about this…perhaps something else? To which my ego (angrily) replied, NO! Really, I  AM this angry over my husband whining about needing a nap after he slept ten hours last night! (Yes this really happened. Normally I would I would chuckle and lovingly mock him and tell him to shut his pie hole. I would not be full of PRIMAL RAGE.)

I was full of PRIMAL RAGE.

Primal_rage-cast

Who knew? A google search for “primal rage”returns this fantastic image from an early ’90s video game.

I’ll spare you the details of the who and what that led to my anger. It isn’t necessary. What I will share is how surprised I have been at the depth and fierceness of the anger—and my unwillingness to simply name it for what it was.

Why, I wondered later, is it so hard for me to just say, “I AM ANGRY AT X AND I NEED TO JUST SAY IT OUT LOUD!”

Many wise souls have pointed out how resisting what is is the source of our suffering. Certainly it was the source of the suffering between my husband and myself, as he threw his hands up and said, “Whoa, why are you so upset with ME? I know this isn’t about me, this is about x! Stop projecting!”

He even predicted that ten minutes later I would be back, apologizing, and admitting he was right.

Damn it, I hate when he is right.

I think it all has to do with anger being a secondary emotion.

I read the term “secondary emotion” for the first time a year or two ago. I had this major “AHA” moment. I had been lumping anger as an emotion with all the rest. Turns out, anger is special. It is just the first layer of a delicious cake of emotions. Perhaps it is the crispy charred caramel bit atop a Crème brûlée. You have to poke through it to get to the creamy, smooth center, the meat of the thing.

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If only anger tasted as delicious. Image source.

Which, in my case, turned out to be sadness. So. Much. Sadness. Once I finally admitted to my husband that he was right (sigh), that I was not actually angry at him, I crept into a spare bedroom and wrote a little. The tears started flowing and they wouldn’t stop. Streams and streams of tears. I hadn’t cried like this in a very long time. I let it run its course but it took an awfully long time for my eyes to dry up.

No wonder I was hiding behind the anger. Who wants to unearth all that hurt and sadness?

I’d love to carry my metaphor forward about the dessert and crème brûlée, something trite about how sweet it is to finally break through all the flavors and eat the gooey custard middle. But that is not the case. There is nothing fun or delicious about resisting anger, feeling anger, and then crying for twenty minutes.

For me, the closest I can come to that happy ending is through my writing, which always helps me unpack what I’m feeling and find some self-compassion in the process. Not as tasty as a French dessert, but I’ll take it.

 

 

The Sinewed Bonds of Family

The other night I woke at 5:30 am—that liminal time where you still have one foot in a dream world—and a word appeared in front of me. I sat up straight in bed and knew I had to write it down, this gift from the dream-space. I googled the meaning, took a screen shot, and saved it in my phone.

I went back to sleep and upon fully waking vaguely remembered something about a word popping in my head. Aha, I had been clever enough to save it in my phone! There it was: sinew.

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I’ve sat with this word the last 24 hours. I’ve let it accompany me on the comings and goings as we visit my in-laws for the week.

The other night, I heard someone rustling around in the kitchen before dinner. Iced tea had just been made. There was a click of a radio being turned on. For a moment I thought it was my own mother, summer tea in hand, small kitchen television turned to CNN.

It wasn’t my mother of course, but my mother-in-law. The ache that was lingering in the background, a sullenness that was a small throb, came right to the forefront. Oh, I miss my mother. Oh, I miss my father. I am not here to fill that space, though, I reminded the small child within me. This visit is for my daughter.

I am soaking in the joy of seeing her with grandparents, a grandfather who teaches her how to play “pea porridge pie” and explains to her the merits of free market capitalism. A grandmother who insisting on combing my daughter’s unwieldy hair and telling her, “ears are not just for listening, but for tucking hair behind!” Cousins who shoot nerf guns at her and share their bikes with her. Oh, this fills my heart. This is family. This is not my family, but it is family.

In the midst of all of this I thought about my word sinew. I read the definition. Deeply within, I fully understood why this word appeared before me in the early morning.

Tough fibrous tissue, uniting bone to bone, or muscle to bone. The thing that gives it strength or bind it together.

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Gray’s Anatomy, Public Domain source.

Alas, my family’s ties are sinew. The ties that currently feel stretched to their limit, so taut and fraught with tension you think, surely they must break, just might withstand the stress.

 

This sinew—this connective tissue, our shared DNA, the bonds that unite us bone to bone—are designed to bear it all, I am reminded. The stuff of survival, of ropes and weapons, they are resilient.

Like my family, the word is of Germanic origin.

As I sit in my in-law’s kitchen, I will observe the sinews of my husband’s family (not without its own bonds stretched tight in places, a good lesson to keep in mind.) And as I sit in the liminal space that is the uncertain relationship with my father, an in-between place of its own that is not what it was and not yet what it will become, I will close my eyes and clutch this word. sin·ew.  Perhaps a whisper from the beyond that in the end, ties won’t break, and are stronger than they seem.