Category Archives: Stressing Me Out

The Battle of Little Valentine

The Battle of Little Valentine

I have a “carpe diem” mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not make me want to seize the day. They make me want to slap a dead poet. ~Joanne Sherman

Years ago my brother and I were having pizza at Promenade mall in Tulsa when he gave me a long curious look and said, “Sister, I’m not sure if I trust a person who can eat just one piece of pizza!” I understood our difference. Our fellow homosapiens exhibit behaviors that baffle and sometimes annoy us. WC Fields said he didn’t trust non-drinkers. The Sweetie looses it when he sees someone back into a parking space. For me, it’s the stupiddamnshitty morning people. Waking up with bright eyes, a smile on your face and feeling rested falls into that dodgy not-quite-human category as far as I am concerned. A roommate I had in my late twenties began chirping at 6:00am before her feet hit the ground! I wanted to slap her. The number of times I have awakened with enough clarity to make a complete sentence is about five.

My Dad is a morning person and so is my sister; I’ve wanted to beat them both a time or two also. In fact when I was a kid my Dad was hell-bent on transforming me into a morning person; he thought I was just lazy. We lived in a wonderful three story house in South Dakota (the tundra, not so wonderful) and my room was upstairs. Dad and Mom grew weary of trekking up and down the stairs in failed attempts to wake me for school so they launched a full blown tactical assault.

Dad’s initial campaign consisted of a slapping me on the butt and flipping the bright lights on. Yes, this did wake me at least for a while and pissed me off considerably, but I fell right back to sleep. It then escalated to threatening me with spanking, grounding, and loss of privileges. When I weighed my options, typically I chose to go back to sleep. The next strategic maneuver dad tried was a chicken. Yes, I did say chicken. No, it wasn’t live but may as well have been. It was this huge plastic rooster which produced an absolutely ghastly crow-which he placed right by my head. Yes, this woke me up, pissed me off and I went right back to sleep. Then he bought a cow, same principal as the rooster. Pumping the tail of the cow generated a blood curdling MOOOOO, which woke me, pissed me off and I was right back to sleep. We were at a stalemate until Mom and Dad bought walkie-talkie telephones- yep, just like the army. This was in the day before cell phones you remember. I had no efficacious exit strategy; I was disarmed. Dad kept calling me on the walkie-talkie phone until I surrendered and finally peeled myself from the warm bed. They did not resort to water boarding; the hateful walkie-talkie campaign was successful.

When a child has such strong aversion to waking up in the morning- parents please realize that they just have a vastly different circadian rhythm! God did not make all of us morning people!! Really. I actually used to put my clothes on for the next day under my pajamas so the getting ready for school process would not be so taxing. That is until Mom came in one night to check on me and thought I was burning up with fever because I had on so many layers of clothing. At this juncture I should admit that I have NEVER out-grown this aversion to mornings. Even my career reflects my inability to rise and shine. I’ve been an account executive in sales all these years for a reason. When you office in your home and set your own schedule you can start the day more or less as you want. There is still nothing shining about me in the morning, nothing!

But, I do recognize the gifts of morning; the fresh undisturbed air, the clean slate waiting to be written, the quiet uncluttered dawn, the sunlight beginning to glitter on the wet grass and the precious gift of one more day. The morning seems to take shape best when I consciously intend to have a good day. To set those intentions, I spend some time each morning in the silence. Somehow God finds me there, knows I’m dumb as a rock in the morning, speaks to me anyway, and loves my company.

Meltdown, Faith and Fine China

Meltdown, Faith and Fine China

You don’t just wake up one morning brimming with faith. That would be sweet, no? Typically I wake feeling like I’ve had a collision with a circus train. Fortunately I am married to a man who feels exactly the same. The morning mantra at our house is “don’t touch me”, “ don’t speak to me”, and “If you think I am picking up that Chihuahua poop in the living room floor at this hour you are sadly mistaken!” I suppose there are things about which faith does come easily. I have complete faith that any meal my husband, the chef, prepares will make my toes curl. However, even after following the recipe as carefully as my almost non-existent culinary skills allow, I have absolutely no faith the chicken marsala I’ve just spent hours agonizing over will be edible. To my credit, only three people who have tasted my creations have become seriously ill.

I joined a contemplative meditation group in 1994 that met each Tuesday for a couple years. Many were part of the same church congregation and very active members, me not so much. As the group started I thought to myself “My nieces were right, I’m not holy enough”. I am an introvert and not comfortable being part of a group, especially a potentially judgmental church posse. The theme that first night was “Be Still and Know God”. Although I “Knew” God, I was not on a first name basis with the ”Be Still” notion. Our weekly routine was to introduce a topic for the evening and meditate for 30 minutes. I felt down to my shoes that I didn’t belong and could no more be still for thirty minutes than I could cook a meal Julia Child would devour with gusto. I had no faith in the process or in my ability to meditate. The ONLY thing I could think of was Blue Bell ice cream. “Be still and know God.” I told myself. “Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla”, my unholy inner spirit shouted back. “Empty your mind so God can speak to you.” I pleaded with my wandering mind, “Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate” said my worthless little spirit.

Months later the group had a retreat in the country; one of the activities was to go out into nature and find an item that represented our personal spiritual journey. I only found a paper cup, which didn’t exactly spring from nature. It certainly wasn’t natural for me when I began meditating either. I saw that paper cup as my developing spirit; it was paper then but it would grow, evolve. I could see the evolution from paper, to thin plastic, to thick resin, to glass, and someday to fine china. From this, I learned faith can grow.

If ever something will teach you faith, it is most certainly marriage. There is nothing that will test your mettle like cohabitating for years on end with another human who has as many opinions, idiosyncrasies, faults and illusions as you-particularly if your partner is male. As my Mom says, “If it has tires or testicles you are going to have trouble with it!” For me, trusting a marriage partner has not come easily; I came by this through years of exposure to people I should never have given my trust to. My relationship track record prior to meeting my husband was dismal, in part due to the fact that my partners’ moral compasses were broken and they had become stupiddamnshitty dirt bags. I grow weary. So, my approach has developed into a periodic renewal of faith in marriage and in all things.

More than once in my life I have experienced the “dark night of the soul”. It proved to be more like the “dark two years of the soul”, a crisis of spirit so deep I didn’t have the strength for faith to materialize. Life was daunting and overwhelming, and I felt that little of what I did really mattered. When you are in the midst of this sad fatiguing time the things you typically rely on for guidance don’t work. Praying is so difficult you either cry or just mutter a weak “help”. Your intuition goes right out the window, if you are lucky enough to sleep you don’t dream, and you can’t focus on those things that are life affirming. What I learned from this cruel void was to look inward for God, to look to the Christ within, not out there somewhere in the heavens. I came to see that to have faith, we must choose to have faith.

This is not to say that life is hunky dory from then on. Take last week for instance. My laptop contracted a virus, the mother of all viruses just to be clear here. And despite that I had what my local computer Guru promised was the “best virus scan available”, my pretty pink computer that Sweetie bought me crashed and left this world, NEVER to return. This is the computer all my business records are on and more importantly the same computer the book I am writing is on, a book I have poured my heart into for 3 years now and cannot replicate. I did have a backup on flash drive but could not, even if Dr. Evil put a kryptonite gun to my head, find the thing! I am not saying I melted down, but my head did spin completely around according to the staff at Three Geeks and a Grump. To say I was a bastion of hope and light is not exactly correct. After two days of stewing, fretting and waiting, my data was retrieved by the Geeks. I hugged all of them repeatedly and promised to fund college savings plans for their children. I was once again reminded that where faith is concerned we don’t have to be able to see the future, just take one step and a time, turn the corner and take another. It takes practice. We commit to keep practicing and commit to keep choosing faith-our entire lives.

Twenty Five Summers

Twenty Five Summers

That relentless Oklahoma City wind brought a dark cold cloud last week. Those who refer to Chicago as the windy city sure never spent a winter here! This time of year I begin to feel a familiar feeling of dread and an overwhelming desire to flee the bitter weather that is inching toward me. As I drive through my neighborhood I see golden leaves shimmer in the sunlight and know the next couple days will turn them to shriveled brown memories. A chill comes over me that generally does not cease till spring. I am not a fan of winter. In fact, winter scares me a bit. I spent the first eight years of my life in South Dakota and I know how frigid air can change your life or end it. As soon as the cold hits I undergo a transformation. I feel an ache in every part of my body, I become stiff, my muscles grow tight, I become grumpy, and poof- I am Estelle Getty complete with attitude. Summer on the other hand makes me come alive! I can walk in the park at eight o’clock at night, open the door early in the morning and not get chilled, enjoy an extra range of motion in my limbs and sit on the patio and read-just a few of the things I will not be able to do soon.

I was thinking of summer today and how few I may have left, maybe just 20 to 25. That gets your attention doesn’t it? More and more I feel such a sense of urgency about my life. I don’t want to waste the time I have left on lower things that steal my time, my energy, my peace, and my clarity of thought. I worked for a publishing house in the 1980’s and had the summers off. I used to turn the television off all summer, do volunteer work, read, write and walk. I could do without most of the television programs shown now. I don’t want to fill my head and distract my spirit with vulgar mindless prattle. The same goes for loud talking people who rattle on incessantly (regardless of what they are rattling about). I also have grown weary of those extra violent moves, and I never need to see another Transformer as long as I live. Is this how we are choosing to define our lives?

I do not think this is what God had in mind for us. That path leads to unsatisfied lives and fatigued souls. What God has in mind for us is to focus on higher things, fill our lives with books that teach and inspire, programs that both entertain and enlighten, and people who nurture their best selves and encourage us to do the same. The thing that actually matters most in this life people miss completely, doing the work of the soul. This is why we are here my friends.

I read everything I can get my hands on written by Sue Monk Kidd (author of “The Secret Life Of Bees”) who started out as a nurse and had the privilege of being present for the last moments of some of her patients’ lives. From reading her stories, their regrets were not of things they had done, but of things they had not done, of forgiving words not spoken, trips not taken, time not spent with children, and deeds not done for those in need. Marianne Williamson tells the story of a Jewish man named Arlan who dies and meets God. The man is afraid God will ask him why he was not Abraham or why he was not Joshua, but what God asked him was “Why were you not Arlan?” The strongest regret of all is for not living authentically, for not having the courage to express who we are.

Many of us fail to show ourselves, because at the end of the day we feel that cold winter wind come over us and hear that old “Not Good Enough” song playing. I’ve heard it, put it to bed and then felt it wake again. It happens to us all, but what we should remember is that we need to do absolutely nothing to be worthy. We simply are worthy just as we are and we are treasured by a loving God who sees us fully and is our biggest fan. The highest, strongest desires of our hearts are there because God placed them there and wants us to live them out. When we fall short, act like fools, cuss the dog, drop the ball at work, say hurtful things to loved ones, forget who we are, and hate ourselves for it; God is there with us and sad with us. Grace is a wonderful thing; it assures us that tomorrow we can count on God’s renewal to warm our cold tired bodies and assure our spirits that another summer is just around the corner.

Sweaty Grace

Sweaty Grace

I am in labor. I’m soon to be 60, but quite clearly in labor. I’ve been in labor for a couple years and yes it is a long time to be in labor, yes it does hurts like hell and yes I have grown weary of it! Something in me is struggling to materialize, to morph, to wake up! I want to someday be a wise old woman who shares her heart, and those who listen are better for it. This is why I began blogging, a burgeoning desire to start the process and share my observations, stories, depth of experience and spiritual journey.

I can’t speak from experience when it comes to the labor of childbirth, but this labor of the psyche and spirit is protracted and damn frustrating! The chapter has slammed shut on what was a wonderful career; my work life has wound down to an unfulfilling necessity. I find myself meditating on more substantial matters. How can I make the rest of my life “a proud statement rather than a sad apology”? (Not my words, do not recall who spoke them.) By sharing my own truths, my passions, my personal stores and what sustains me in dark times, perhaps the reader will find a thin little slice of something that helps.

There is just no end to the little annoyances this labor process creates that make a person feel like absolute crap. I was in McDonalds a couple weeks ago when I suffered a particularly jolting blow. I don’t eat at McDonalds. But, I have no issue with buying a bottle of water, placing my ever spreading derriere in a booth and having my way with their Wi-Fi service. Anyway, I stepped to the counter to order my water and was greeted by a woman who looked old enough to be my grandmother. Did I mention that I am just this side of 60? When I asked for a bottle of water the woman replied “I can get you a senior coffee for less than that.” There it was, the word I dreaded, “the senior coffee”. I could hardly breathe. When I recounted this tale to my ever-the-smart-ass husband his reply was “Did you take her up on it?” Stupid damn shitty man.

Taking action is my antidote for the inertia this labor process has fostered. So, I have been walking a great deal the past few months. I was walking late one hot morning in August; I know, a bit masochistic for late summer in Oklahoma City. I came upon a children’s race on the park trail. Only a few kids were finishing up as I walked along and I met a woman and her daughter of about 7 on the trail. This child was not one of the kids I met on the trail with an athletic build and a spring in their step. She was a beautiful petite little blonde with braided hair, skinny and a bit fragile looking. She was really struggling to finish the race and finally just stopped, defeated. Through sweaty tears I heard her cry “Momma, I just can’t do it!” I saw the fatigue on her tiny face and knew exactly how she felt. Earlier that morning I’d been that same crying child; I could not will my worn little body to function. Tired through my soul with fatigue, three years of sleep deprivation, illness and foggy thinking I fell to my knees in pain and desperation, right in the living room floor. I cried out to God for help and heard my answer pretty clearly. “Get up off the stupid floor and walk, you’ll feel better!” So I did.