Looking in the Rearview Mirror…

Each morning, I have a app on my iPad that collects all the pictures I have taken on that date going back to my first digital device. Today as I was looking at the snapshots, these frozen moments in time, I began to think about what it means in our lives to look back and look ahead.  

I have always loved New Year’s Eve; I look forward to the new chapter, the fresh start given to me by a new year…a blank slate of sorts. Yesterday, the app found a couple of pictures and a jubilant post I had shared out at about 11:55 p.m. on December 31, 2013.  In my New Year’s Eve excitement, I shared the pictures and wrote this: “Join me as I bid farewell to 2013 and eagerly welcome 2014. Each of you has enriched my life and I am so thankful to be sharing this time and space with you. Let’s take time to look back on the year past and reflect on what was…learn and grow from those experiences. And now, let’s look ahead to all the adventures awaiting us. May your 2014 be a wonderful year filled with friends, family, and fun!”

I was so happy that night sitting beside my husband of 44 years; we were snacking on delicious and beautiful nibbles, sipping champagne, and toasting in the new year with my son and his wife. At midnight I called my sister; I spoke with her and my mom to wish them a wonderful new year. This was my New Year’s Eve ritual, something I had done every year. All was right with the world in that joy-filled moment.

What didn’t I know? As I laughed, clinked glasses, and toasted the excitement of the year to come, I had no idea that death would claim both my mother and my husband that year.  Yet, in the space of 10 weeks, they were both gone. So, the reality was that 2014 turned out to be a most difficult, sad, and challenging year.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2019; as we watched the ball drop in Times Square, none of us had any idea that we were about to be faced with a worldwide pandemic of terrifying proportions. At no point in time do any of us have knowledge of what is waiting for us in the next point in time. Each minute remains a mystery until we live it.

Yes, we have control over much of what happens in our lives, but our most pivotal events are typically orchestrated by God’s hand, not ours. I have always believed that not knowing protects us from fear and sadness.  I suspect that if I had known what was in my future, I would have shut down, simply frozen, awaiting the inevitable, rather than living a life filled with silly moments, new friendships, travel adventures, job changes, and knowing me, lots of giggles.

Today I am in a new place.  I think about my mother often, but the experience of losing her has helped me grow as a parent. Even though my son is an adult, I realize that I can continue to work at being the best version of myself. When I am comfortable in my own skin, I am a better mother. As a strong, confident parent, I continue to teach my son how to be a  loving husband, how to have a good work ethic, about patience in relationships, and how to look for joy in even the smallest moments.

I miss my husband and will always hold him in my heart, but I have found joy again in a new and loving relationship. This relationship is stronger because of what I have been through. Tragedy forced me to examine who I am and how to move forward. I had to get tough – pump my own gas, eat alone at the sushi bar, overcome my fear of heights and climb the ladder to change the lightbulb, balance the checkbook, wander through the maze of probate court and Social Security…the list goes on. Today, the woman I bring to all my relationships is changed… more confident, more resilient, more balanced because of the struggle brought about by loss.

So, knowing what I know now, would I change the post from 2013? At midnight on December 31, 2021, did I still look ahead to 2022 with joyful anticipation? The answer is unequivocally YES! I will strive to treasure each moment, each person, each relationship, each adventure.

I encourage you to stop for a moment and flip through the pages of your life. Look at your mental snapshots of the places, the family, the friends, even the pets who surround you. You and I, we are richly blessed!

Photo by Dimitry Zub on Unsplash

Missing: Self-Care!

Can you help me find it?

I have misplaced my self-care; have you seen it? How did self-care get such a bad rap? I have never understood it.  I know that I can’t pour into someone else from an empty glass, so why do I feel so guilty about taking time to care for myself? 

Let me define what I mean when I say “self-care”.

I am not~ 

  • thinking about leaving my family to go off for a week on the Riviera to walk on the beach and relax. 
  • talking about checking into a Bed & Breakfast in town to let someone else cook and clean for me.
  • imagining going on strike and refusing to do any housework for a week.

No, I am merely~

  • talking about closing the door for 20 minutes of uninterrupted time as I soak in a bubble bath. 
  • wishing for an hour to get a pedicure or a massage.
  • trying to schedule a haircut at the salon. 
  • wanting to take a Saturday morning for some at-home spa time to give myself a facial, a warm hair conditioning treatment, or a foot scrub.  

You get the idea. These are simple things that make me happy, help me relax, and make me feel pampered. Somehow, my life is so filled with “must do” things, that I keep pushing the “want to do” items to the bottom of the list.  Before I know it, I am running on fumes.

For me, I think it starts with guilt; I am an educator, and we are notoriously known for being nurturing by nature.  But, when I think about it, most, if not all of the people I know are nurturers. Go look in the mirror.  Who do you see?  Someone who spends a good bit of time caring for others? Yes, I thought so. 

Acts of giving infuse our lives. For starters we care for babies, chase after toddlers, shuffle young children from one activity to another, struggle over homework assignments, lay awake at night worrying about teenagers (yikes!). While all this is going on, in addition to a job, we are planning meals, shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, paying bills, and handling a myriad of other unplanned events. 

We take a big breath when the last one of the children is out of the house and safely on their own, but then find ourselves transitioning immediately into caring for aging parents. Oh, and let’s not forget pets. They need food, walks, clean litter, vet visits. You get the picture.  

I did not perceive any of the things listed about as burdens. Caring for my child, my pets, my parents are all labors of love that leave me with no regrets. I am retired now and blessed by the fact that I had a job that filled me with passion. Yet, I remember feeling like I barely had time to breathe, so when I flopped into bed at the end of the day, I was too tired to even worry about the fact that I didn’t get a bubble bath that day. 

You would think that in retirement I would have more free time and would do a lot better about self-care. Somehow, even in retirement I stay busy. I spend a lot of my day living a digital life, the cooking/cleaning chores still need to get done, I have a 16 year old dog who needs a lot of care. Self-care continues to elude me.  

So why do you think I have such a hard time saying “NO” to everyone except myself? I go and go until I feel tired and cranky. When I allow myself to get to that point, I begin to feel resentment. Resentment is definitely NOT a place I want to spend any emotional time or currency. 

I have thought about this pattern in my life.  Somehow, it seems, I feel I need permission for self-care.  Let’s solve that right now; I grant permission!  See? Wasn’t that easy?  Have you lost track of your self-care? If so, I grant you permission too.  Now, let’s go have that bubble bath! 

Photo by Curology on Unsplash

Fleeting Moments

Our life passes like sand in an hourglass…

My day, this 12-hour span of time, has been bracketed by death; both morning and afternoon brought news of a passing. This morning, I learned that one of my favorite statesmen, General Colin Powell, had died. This afternoon I learned that a young friend suddenly passed away.  I have been feeling off-center all day as a result of these two events.

Colin Powell was 84 years old; he was often described as the most popular American general since World War II. General Powell was the first Black U. S. Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

My young friend was an immigrant. She was 22 years old and had lived in the United States since she was two years old. She was funny, out-spoken, and fearless. 

These two people were so different. 

  • One was male and the other female,
  • One was young and just starting to live, while the other had lived a full life, 
  • One was a well-known and respected public servant and the other was struggling to earn enough money to pay for school,  
  • One was African American and the other was Asian, and
  • One was well-known; flags will fly at half-staff for General Powell, while very few people beyond immediate family know of the passing of my young friend. 

In spite of their differences, there were similarities. Both of them had family and friends who loved them. They both had more life to live and a desire to do so. They both learned, loved, laughed. 

All of us have been forced to deal with loss during our lives. Yet, no matter how many times we are faced with a loss, it is never, ever easy. So, what can we take away from this?  How can we grow through pain?

For me, these two losses have reminded me that in life I don’t get a dress rehearsal, and I am not guaranteed even one more moment. Death forces me to stop in my tracks. It makes me realize that in life, self-care is critical; it is the gift I can give myself everyday. Self-care is a way that I can make each day count by giving myself health, well-being, energy, and self-acceptance. 

Death reminds us that, for all living beings, life is a series of fleeting moments. It is our responsibility to make each of those moments matter…so, for today and everyday, I wish you joy-filled moments and memories.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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