TRAVEL THERAPY

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TRAVEL THERAPY

“Anticipation is the greater joy.”  —anonymous

Suzanne and I were recently discussing the subject of traveling.  How, while one is in the anticipatory stages, it seems magical.  The heightened sense of this is going to be so much fun builds, creating an experience of its own.  Then, when you get home, the memories of that was so much fun continue to build as time passes, perhaps surpassing the actual fun that was had on the trip.  I have found that during the actual trip, I find myself lamenting the fact that the trip is going too fast, and I can’t enjoy it like I had anticipated.  I want time to slow down so I can enjoy it more.  In effect, this actually takes away from the fun of the trip.

I am so weird, I know.

“Schedule something to look forward to.  Anticipation is like 401K matching for happiness.  Double the happiness.”  Eric Barker.   This is the essence of our Mom’s advice in “Something to Look Forward To.” (January 7th, 2018.)

I wish I could bottle up the feeling I get when I am planning a trip.  I would capture it and save it to be savored when I am experiencing the trip.  Because, weirdly enough, when the trip is happening, the feeling is not the same as when I am anticipating it.

Weird, I know, but Suzanne agrees with me.  Sometimes, the anticipation and then the recollection of the trip are the best parts.  When it is happening, it goes too fast, and the joy seeps through the cracks, getting away when all I want to do is slow the trip down, and roll the joy around in my mouth like a piece of hard candy, savoring it at the rate I choose, not the rate that the passage of time demands that I do.

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Tonight—Friday evening, I am rolling a piece of hard candy around in my mouth that tastes like Iowa and Minnesota.  The memories of my trip last week are preserved inside that piece of candy, and, like a good meatloaf, they taste better after marinating for a few days.

Taking a few days off and heading north was just the medicine I didn’t know I needed.  I went with my dear friend Shari, picking her up in Kansas City after I left my small city around noon last Thursday.  We made our way north and a bit east, with Minneapolis, Minnesota as our final destination.

But not before we took a step back in time to 1995, detoured, and stepped upon the Bridges of Madison County, Iowa.

As any chick worth her salt knows, this movie is one of the best chick flicks of all times.  To see and feel the actual bridges that were filmed in the movie was almost sensory overload.

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We struck our best Meryl Streep poses, as if Clint Eastwood himself may happen by. (He didn’t.)  After watching the movie again several days ago—it had been awhile, I realized we were on the same bridge—the Holliwell Bridge—on the same end of the bridge, and Shari was on the same side of the bridge that Meryl Stood 24 years ago as Clint photographed her.

But that was only a warm-up for the real deal.

My dear friends Amy and Kelly live in Minnesota, and seeing them again was better than seeing Clint would have been, had he showed.

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Kelly was my neighbor until she moved to Minneapolis about seven years ago.

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Amy got me started on my TJ Maxx addiction, so it was only right that we take our picture there.

Amy held me accountable to meet her for a daily run in 1990 when we both lived in Philadelphia, thus creating a good addiction. Had we not met, and had she not gently prodded me to pick this good habit up again, I may not be a runner today, which translates into I may not be have the energy to travel, or to get anything else done.  If I don’t run, I have realized, I don’t run.

We drove back through Iowa on the way home, catching an iconic 80’s rock band at the historic Surf Ballroom on Sunday night in beautiful Clear Lake, Iowa.

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Good thing we planned ahead.

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“The Day The Music Died” was written in honor of Buddy Holly of “Peggy Sue” fame, Ritchie Valens, (“La Bamba,”) and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (Chantilly Lace), because their plane went down in a snowstorm shortly after midnight after leaving the show in this ballroom.  REO Speedwagon paid their tribute to Buddy Holly with a rendition of “Peggy Sue,” with the audience singing along.

This somber piece of American rock and roll history is memorialized inside the ballroom, as well as at the crash site six miles outside of town.  The iconic black glasses mark the path to the site,

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Which sits about one-half mile off the road next to an Iowa cornfield.

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I didn’t catch the memorial when I was in Clear Lake five years ago, and I vowed to see it next time I went through.  It was worth the trip outside of town, and worth the walk.  History becomes more interesting and more important to me as I age, and this is a vital piece of rock and roll history right here.  In the half-hour we were there, we passed perhaps ten more people coming and going.  If you ever have the opportunity to see the Surf Ballroom and this memorial, I highly recommend doing so.

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There was a time in the recent past that it felt like too much work to plan and execute a trip, but thank goodness that time has passed.  Staying home and reading about it is a far cry from actually experiencing a new place, but that’s where I was, and that’s where it felt most comfortable.

But comfortable is not always the most exciting feeling, and I needed more.  Now, after being home not even a week, I want to get ready to go again.

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Gail and Suzanne have recently taken trips of their own as well.  Suzanne took a trip to South Dakota with her boyfriend,

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And Gail had a weekend mountain getaway with her husband.

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Our travels without each other are an adventure in themselves, and necessary in order to spend time with others we are close to.  However, our annual Sister’s Trip is yet to come, and we will certainly share that when it does.

Speaking of Sister Trips, the six traveling sisters from “The Magnificent Seven” (September 2018) took their annual trip this week.  They met in Colorado Springs, and enjoyed each other’s company, as well as many of the beautiful sights in that area.

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I had a surprise visit this week from our uncle and aunt.  Our uncle Don was married to our mother’s older sister, and our aunt Sharon is Mom’s youngest sister.  Don is 86 years old, and is retired from Beechcraft Aviation.  Don is blind, as were his wife and two children.  Sharon spends Wednesdays with him, helping him with appointments, shopping and errands, as well as a road trip some Wednesdays.

“I like to get out of the house and ‘see’ new places,” he said.  He uses the verb “see” in the same manner those of us with sight do, because he is truly “seeing” things in his own way.

I remember when I brought my aunt Jeanne, his wife, to our new home.  I led her through the front door, and closed it behind her.

“Oh my, this is a big room,” she said just after I closed the door.  It has a 20-foot ceiling, and she was able to tell this by the way door sounded when I closed it.  Anyone who cannot use their sense of sight to “see” relies upon their other senses to “see,” which is exactly what Don still does.

“I’d like to go to Kansas City.  I want to eat some of their famous barbecue, and I want to go to the museums,” he said.

He went on to tell me about other places in Kansas he’d like to see, places he has researched; some places I didn’t know about.  He told me about the cabin in Smith County he’d like to see, relatively close to our hometown.  It was where Dr. Brewster Higley wrote “Home on the Range.”  He wants to see the museum in Oakley, Kansas.  He also wants to go to Greensburg to see The Big Well, and to see the town that was rebuilt after the tornado on May 4th, 2007.  I want to go back there, too.  That town inspires me, just as my uncle does.

He is 86 years old and blind.  He lives alone. He has buried his wife and two sons.  He knows very well that travel is therapy indeed.  If you have the desire and the resources, but not the inspiration, please let my uncle inspire you.  If there are places you want to see, and you are able to see with your eyes, or with any other sense, then by all means, go see them.

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Every year in July, the Leadsled Spectacular converges upon the small city that Suzanne and I live in.  About 2000 classic cars and other automobiles gather in one of our city parks, with the owners showcasing their classic treasures to anyone who wants to see them, including us.  These people form a unique group, traveling from wide and far to meet with others just like them, others who share their passion.  They display them, drive them in a parade, and some enter theirs in a drag race.  Many of them drive them from far away, perhaps a small percentage of them are hauled here on a trailer, but most of them hop in and hit the road.  I saw many of them on the interstate headed toward our city late last week, and many of them cruising around town.

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They, too, know the value of Travel Therapy.

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At everyone’s disposal, and in varying amounts, we have the same basic three resources:  time, energy and money.  Traveling takes all three.  There was a time in my life—and in Gail’s and Suzanne’s too—when all three of these resources were spent in almost their entirety on our families.  And that is the way it should have been.  This may be the way it is for you as well, and traveling is low on the priority list.  I get it.  But—if there is any way to pull off even a short trip, even a day trip to a local attraction, then do it.  Getting out of the house has the magic power of getting you out of your head.  Seeing new sights, experiencing new places, eating new foods and perhaps meeting new people is just the elixir you may need to jump start your state of mind into a higher place.

Then, when you come home and feel yourself slipping back into the old, lackluster groove, pull out those memories and suck on them like a piece of hard candy.  Get that flavor back.  And then start planning your next getaway.

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SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

 

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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.

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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.

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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 vacuumed.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.