SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
When my boys were perhaps ten and thirteen, I asked them what their favorite day of the week was. Without hesitation or delay, they resoundingly answered: “Friday.”
“But you are in school on Friday,” I replied.
My older son responded quickly: “I know, but you know that you have the weekend ahead.” Sullied already at this tender age.
We normally kept their intake of candy and soda to a minimum, which made them look forward to getting it. So, in an effort to ease their Monday pain, I decided they would each be treated to a can of pop and a candy bar after school on Mondays. For several years, this worked well. I kept both on hand, and they loved it. They tell me now it helped them get through Mondays. I gave them something to look forward to.
ADVISORY: This post is heavy stuff, and not really funny. I am writing about it only because it is something many of us share, but don’t share with each other. I know the power of the group, and if I can make even a few of you feel a bit better by knowing you are not alone, then my work for the week will be done.
Oh, and there are few pictures. Sorry, but you don’t really want to see pictures of most of this. I promise I will do my best to bring you back up by the end.
The post-holiday/dead-of-winter blues came calling last week. These unwanted visitors found me, perhaps they found you, too. They typically make their rounds this time of year, probably because they know the field is fertile, and the targets are easy to hit. Quietly, in their sneaky fashion, they ambushed me. I wasn’t prepared. As the temperature outside hovered near zero, I felt my personal weather inside freeze over too. I tumbled, slowly but surely, down into the abyss.
I have been down there before, so I recognized the terrain. I hate it.
Their vague, dark presence shape-shifted slowly into a single creature, thus leveling the playing field to one-on-one. This would be to my advantage in the end.
“Damn you!” I said to the beast. He had found me again.
Then, as suddenly as he accosted me, I made a snap decision, a choice: “This doesn’t work for me.” I decided to fight back. I realized I was in control, not the other way around. I wasn’t powerless, as I often think I am. Neither might you be at times like these.
“I’m sick of your crap,” I said to him. “I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Then, the coup de grace, my death blow to him: “You’re not the boss of me.”
And I got up. I was still at the bottom of the pit, but I was standing up. He threw his weight around, trying to hold me down, but I fought back. I moved. I pushed forward. He pushed back.
I started to act. Action begets action; this I knew, so I simply moved.
I put my laundry away.
I tidied up my room.
I was feeling better already. I still felt his presence, but I was edging him out, and he wasn’t too happy about that. He wanted the stage front and center, but I had effectively shoved him off to the side a bit. I kept moving and doing. I did things I enjoy doing.
I read a good book.
I did a few yoga stretches.
I got my colored pencils and color book out and filled in the black and white with color.
He was still lurking as I crawled back to the surface. He was pissed because he knew I was winning the battle, and I would continue to win the war, too.
And I did. He moved on, hanging his head low in defeat.
There are times in life when it’s not that easy. I have had long periods of time when I couldn’t shake the blues, or when I needed help beyond my own powers in order to pull through dark days.
About two weeks after my parents died, I took off out of my driveway for my daily run along the highway, but well into the grass on the side of the road.
My beloved doctor, the healer who had delivered my two babies and had cared for our family for over ten years, lived just past my rural home. She drove by my house every day on her way to heal many other people. On this day, she stopped. Pulling over into the grass next to me, she got out of her car and, exercising her healing powers right there by the side of the road, gave me a hug.
“I am so sorry,” she said in her genuine, heartfelt healing way.
“I’m okay,” I replied, as a tear fell from my eye.
She wiped it, and said, “No, you’re not. I will do anything I can to help you. I will write you a prescription if you need it to get through. Anything at all, I will do what I can to help you.”
And then she got back in her car, apologizing for being in a hurry, but she had surgery to attend to. She always found a moment to help, no matter how busy she was.
Perhaps I should have taken her up on that. I saw her several months later for my annual physical, and after listening to my heart, she said, “It’s funny, you can’t hear a broken heart.”
I chose not to take any medication. Sometimes I wonder if it would have helped me through those darkest of all my dark days. It may have healed my broken heart a bit sooner. It helps many people, and it may have helped me, too.
I kept running. That was my drug; my solace. It still is. As long as I can move, I plan to get out there every day and crush the blues; stomp on the demons when they call. And they do call from time to time. They do still win a few battles, but so far, I am winning the war. They’re not the boss of me.
I did seek out a grief support group in the summer after my parents died in March. I knew the power of the group, a group that has been there. I attended one, and I realize I should have researched it a bit more, because it consisted mostly of elderly widows and widowers. I left feeling worse than when I arrived. The prevailing mood of the group can be summed up in the comment made to me by one man: “It’s been five years since my wife died, and it hasn’t gotten any better. You just have to live with it.”
While I do believe firmly in the power of any organized support group, I realized there likely was not group specifically for middle-aged women who had recently lost both of their parents in an accident, so I resigned myself to the notion that my family and friends, and especially my sisters would be my best support group.
And they have been.
There are skilled, knowledgeable and experienced professionals who can help turn even a locomotive around to a new destination, who can offer a new perspective on old problems, and generally can help get a train wreck back on the tracks. I have sought out such help in the past, and I urge anyone who may feel the need to consider it. I am a better woman for it. Our mother used to say it was a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help. We owe it to ourselves to use every tool in the shed we need to get through these tough times.
We all feel pain, and we all deal with it on our own terms. I look up to Gail in so many ways, and her way of dealing with such pain works for her, but I needed more than my own powers. She believes in the need for help, but provides her own. Keeping busy, spinning all those plates in the air and reminding herself she is stronger than all of that crap is her way of moving forward. I think the blues are scared of her, and they should be. It would be a losing battle from the word GO. So they stay away.
Perhaps they are learning that they shouldn’t mess with me, either. They are learning I am cut from the same cloth as Gail. I’m on to their sneaky ways, and that simply doesn’t work for me. Perhaps Gail’s inspiration to beat the blues is finally reaching me.
WHY I POST ON SUNDAY NIGHTS
This was the original title for this post. I wanted to share my weekly blog on Sunday nights, which, to me, is the darkest of all evenings. I have long fought the temporary blues that begin to settle in the late afternoon hours on Sunday, reminding me that the night is coming, followed by the hardest morning of the week. At least, what I perceive as the hardest morning.
Except that Monday morning usually turns out just fine. I realized I spend an entire evening dreading its arrival, making that evening worse than the following morning, effectively wasting a perfectly good evening.
I have learned I am not alone. This seems to be the prevailing notion among those of us who work a standard work week.
During the four year period when I was between degrees, I led a gypsy-like lifestyle, holding several jobs in an effort to utilize my illustrious degree in sociology. One of my many endeavors was waiting tables. It turned out to be one of my favorite jobs of all time. I typically worked Friday-Saturday-Sunday nights, and the manager kindly gave me Mondays off. I loved Mondays then. It didn’t take me long to welcome them after dreading them all my previous working years.
It didn’t take me long to return to the Monday morning dread when I returned to the standard workweek.
We seem to be programmed that way, so whatever we can do to undo that pattern is a good thing. Which is why I chose Sunday evenings as my weekly post night. Just as much for me as for you, dear reader, I hate to admit. Of course, I wanted to offer some positivity for my readers, but committing myself to a weekly Sunday evening post gave me some purpose, a goal to achieve, and something to look forward to.
I cannot put into words my gratitude for the positive change I have felt on Sunday nights since I began this endeavor. Your readership and feedback have made me look forward to Sunday nights now. Some of you have mentioned that you look forward to Sunday nights to read my posts, and my heart swells to know I actually helped you through this evening, which many of you likely dread as well.
Our parents gave us so much wisdom, so much positive influence that should be shared. I remember this advice from Mom: “Always have something to look forward to.”
This advice has helped me beyond measure. When I find myself battling the blues, I focus on something—anything—in my near future that will bring me any measure of joy—even something so slight as getting back to a good book before bed that night. In these short, dark, cold days of winter, I especially need to have something on my calendar to anticipate, something to look forward to. Throughout the year, too, I try to keep something planned, even if it is a movie night, or a lunch date.
Something to look forward to.
I have read that when planning a big trip, allow yourself plenty of time to plan, and especially to anticipate it. Don’t deny yourself the joy of looking forward to it, because, if you think about it, that really is half the fun. When the time arrives for the trip to commence, we all know how quickly it flies from there.
Which is precisely why Gail, Suzanne and I plan our trips twice each year, knowing full well how much fun the anticipation is, how much we enjoy looking forward to it. As soon as we return from one trip, we begin to anticipate the next one. It’s how we get through.
On March 4th of this year, our family will observe the ten year anniversary of our parents’ passing. We have turned March Fourth into March Forth, and we will continue to do so. Gail, Suzanne and I are planning our usual Colorado trip, plus a little something extra for the ten-year jubilee—we really are celebrating their lives, not mourning our loss—but we’re not sure just yet what it will be. We likely won’t give any details ahead of time, and we may not even share the juicy details afterward. These trips and our experiences on them are our secret, sacred shared bond. We’ve earned it.
When we return home that Sunday night, March 4th, 2018, I will then attend an 8:00 pm concert with my husband and neighbors in my small city. My mother knew how much I have always loved the classic English rock music of Steve Winwood, and she has arranged for him to play live for me—and several thousand other people—on that special night.
I have so much to look forward to.
I read this long before my parents died: psychologists theorize that if a person loses a loved one, given enough time, they will return to their former state of happiness or unhappiness. They referred to it as a “fixed point,” meaning that after the fluctuation smoothes out, the dial goes back to where it was before the loss.
I wasn’t buying it. No, not me. I would have to be buried next to my loved one. Throw in the towel; I would be done.
But I wasn’t done. I moved on, we all did. At that point, that is the only choice. And now, almost ten years later, I can say that not only have I returned to that fixed point, I have blown past it. It took precious time and effort, but here I am; here we all are. Life is so good.
My hometown lost a legend this week, an iconic figure who was a close friend of my parents, whose large family grew up with mine. My heart breaks for them, but they are living the faith their father died in, and they, too, will return to that “fixed point” in time. My prayer is that they, too, will blow past it.
Edgar was a comedian in his own right, and a musician as well. He couldn’t read a note of music, but he could play the piano by ear like you’ve never heard. He delighted in playing for groups large and small.
Godspeed to you Edgar. May you rest in peace, but also in laughter and music. Heaven gained not only an angel with you, but an entertainer as well. I will do whatever I can to help your family realize that while they feel the pain right now, they, too, have so much to look forward to. And please tell my parents we are looking forward to seeing them again someday.