Power Trips

I know that you haven’t had a ton of experience dating but alas, I worry. I worry for the hurt you might experience at the hands of a master manipulator, a predatory user, or simply a narcissistic psychopath. A wolf in sheep’s clothing as it were.

Some folks are kind and sweet upon first meeting, or just mysterious enough that their true nature is withheld. You may not see it until much much later, or maybe after a significant challenge to your relationship that reveals it. I can describe all the ways a person could turn out to be the worst possible excuse for a human being but this post is about the aftermath, the recovery in the event you sever the bond.

For your health and heart, when you discover you are in such a relationship and the hurt is beyond what any reasonable person should bear. You must break it off. Don’t look ahead and try to preserve it just because you fear being alone or you think it is mendable.

Once a person hurts you, it is what you do in that moment that defines the relationship. If you stay with them after being hurt repeatedly; you are effectively giving them the power to do it over and over again. The strength of knowing when to leave is the challenge.

You’re going to second guess your choice, because the hurt may cut so deep it feels never-ending. Reconciling with that person may seem like the panacea for this pain, but then you are saying to them “What you did to me that caused our breakup is allowable from this point forward.”

I recommend you walk away and do not look back. It is tempting to look back – to see if they are hurting as much as you are. That’s a torture you should never inflict upon yourself. It will spark outrage, more pain and hurt, immense sadness for your own situation and incite an obsession over them and why they are faring well and you are not.

No matter how they play it, if they reach out you do not respond. If you open a door a crack they’re going to push on through to deliver more of a hurt than before. They may have others reach out to you to taunt and bait you – picking at an open wound that is not theirs to pick. Seriously there are some sick people out there.

Sadists.

If you show weakness or sadness and it gets back to them, they use it. You keep your healing private. I know you’re not a social media user but you may have mutual friends and it will matter with whom you confide. Yes, confide in close friends of your feelings but only the ones you truly trust and will not allow your status to get back to your ex.

Some things I need you to do on a breakup, which helps the healing process:

  1. Block them from contacting you – block their number, their ability to email you.
  2. Remove all reminders of them (pictures, notes, gifts) for the time being. This may mean a donation to a charity shop or just putting things in storage but get it out and away from reminding you.
  3. Do not listen to the music that reminds you of a moment with them (either positive or negative)
  4. Do not watch programmes or films which may immediately remind you of moments with them. (this is not forever, just until the association is distant enough)
  5. If there are still belongings of theirs in your possession place them in a box and drop it with a mutual friend or if the break is exceptionally bad, leave it out on the street and tell the mutual friend to inform the ex to get it before others do.
  6. Do not – I repeat – Do Not ever expect closure. Do not try to maneuver for an apology. Just be okay with never getting closure or an acknowledgement of their transgression and any sort of remorse on their part. It will not happen.
  7. Get involved in new activities & change your routines to get you away from common haunts which could allow you to run into them.
  8. Find ways toward understanding what you need and what makes you happy. Invest in yourself. Go on a trip, take a class to learn a new skill, pamper yourself. Be with supportive and loving people.
  9. Give your time to a charitable cause to make life better for others. See my prior post to you on healing your heart.

And lastly, build your confidence up to find your inner peace before embarking on a new relationship. Rebound relationships do not really help. Give yourself at least a year to really recover from a bad break before getting back out there.

Rehab Time Rebuttal

Trent Shelton is promoting a video where the tag line is “It’s rehab time!” Much of the message is quite true – it seems to miss the mark by a margin. I will leave the link here for you to view:

I understand what he’s trying to convey. However, he still leads the viewer down the path of expectation in which others are there to support you throughout your life and if they are not they should be cut from your life. This is categorically not a realistic expectation.

It would be lovely to think that everyone was here to help you achieve or self actualize, but to tell you the hard truth. It is all on you to get there. People cheering, assisting or promoting you along the way is just extra.

My grandmother told me from early on, “There is no one truly looking out for you but you. Never forget that. Not your siblings, your teachers, your doctors, your government, your parents, your partner or your friends. Only you.”

I realized once I accepted that level of expectation – that I am the captain of my own ship, I guide the sails, I maintain it, I decide the course I am on and when to correct it; no perceived let down from others mattered.

If you go into life knowing that everyone is ultimately out for themselves and you are not their primary concern, then you can not be phased should they turn away or leave your life.

Read “The Giving Tree” again. It is an important message. You give but you do not expect a return. This is parenting. However, eventually, I will let you down – when I die. I cannot be there to give until you die. That’s just not how life works. Does it mean you should cut me out of your life? No.

You shouldn’t cut anyone out of your life just for not “serving you”. That’s a horribly self-centered point of view. I have a ton of friends I enjoy in my life but I would never expect them to constantly lift me up in times of crisis or need. That is on me – not them. They have priorities outside mine. I need to respect that. There could be things going on in their lives which need their full attention and I am not a part of that.

The Importance of Dating

“Dating” means you’re going on dates. You are actively getting out there and meeting people and spending time with them. “Dating someone” means you’re seeing somebody specific, with purpose and on a regular basis. … You’re spending time with a person (or persons) in hopes of finding a committed relationship.” – Source Zoosk
 
 
So yeah, when you seemed perplexed as to why a married couple would carry on the ritual of dating based your belief that only the latter part of this definition was applicable, I must respond.
 
 
Actively getting out with your spouse is a concerted effort in keeping the relationship fresh and alive. It is an effort to appreciate the company of your partner in a mutually enjoyable activity/outing.
 
 
One could argue “Why bother? You are already committed to one another for life and you live together. You are with each other all the time.”
 
 
I can counter argue, “Do you ever take someone for granted because you are around them all the time? Do they become furniture to you or just a fixture/constant that you forget what fun you have with them when doing things together?”
 
 
A lot of marriages fail due to the couple not taking time out to refresh or revisit the reasons why they committed in the first place.  The relationship gets lost in the daily challenges of life, family, and job commitments. One partner may feel invisible to the other or unappreciated and then a distance forms between them.
 
 
To close that gap, we have to consciously choose to identify that a gap is forming and want to reconnect. What better way to reconnect than to resume dating? Focus on each other in the moment over some romantic lighting, good food, maybe a great show or a walk in the park after a coffee date?
 
 
Yes, initially dating is the act of meeting new people and exploring whether or not they are someone with whom you would like to enter into a committed relationship. That is where the latter part of the above cited definition holds true.  However, one should not become complacent once that commitment is established.
 
 
From my own experience, becoming complacent does cause a distancing, resentment, uncertainty, and ultimately an ambivalence within the relationship. If someone could have tapped me on the shoulder to tell me how important it is to really enjoy the company of my partner and celebrate it every day, when life got in the way; I believe we would have had a jollier time.
 
 
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more satisfying than a quiet evening in the presence of your partner just quietly being with them where no words, affirmations or physicality are really required to feel total and utter contentment. Those moments are important as well.
 
 
I just want to express the importance of the fact that relationships require attention – just as a garden would require tending to be fruitful.
 
 

Less Than a Month To Go…

In less than a month, I will hit the milestone year which aligns with my father’s collapse at work and his resulting brain cancer diagnosis.  He did not last a year from that diagnosis. His half-sister, Cindy and his brother, Tony also had the same kind of cancer originally found in my father which caused him to have a kidney removed. Cindy survived. Tony did not.

Last month, my voice had become hoarser with all the speaking I had been doing at work and my neck and sinuses have been inflamed. Each year, a new set of symptoms present themselves and I struggle and carry on; but I often wonder if I won the genetic lottery and I am going to get the same diagnosis as those before me.

He died at age 53. I turn 52 in less than a month and I am finding it hard to enjoy things while I feel less and less like myself. I am not steady on my feet after prolonged sitting. I don’t quite trust myself on trips alone for fear of collapsing one day myself.

I’ve noticed changes as I get closer to 52. There is an odor to me which is unlike the natural scent I have always known. It is strange and putrid. My skin is an off shade. (Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was changing since 1999 when I got paler and paler) Now the pink hue is missing and it is sallow. Really notice it in my lower limbs and my left arm.

And oh how I am tired! I’m not eager to run errands on weekends or nights after work anymore. I’m now having the groceries delivered most weeks and ordering supplies for the house online.

On a good day I take advantage of what I’m given and do as much as I can. The good days are not as frequent as they were a year ago. I am struggling.

You might have wondered why I’m going on about all of this. One reason is the genetic factor of what killed my father and his brother and how to identify the onset should I be the one.

Second and most importantly, each day is one better than the last; and even if I struggle and I am barely hanging in there it’s a gift. I cannot stress this enough: don’t waste a single moment. Enjoy it like a fine meal–savor every second you have.

Each Birthday after this point is a huge milestone and I’m going to appreciate the hell out of the day each year.

Never Have I Ever

Remember when I offered you advice on manners and you considered that advice bullying?

Yeah, well buckle up dear buttercup, because I’m sharing more and take heart– this is not you this time, but the acts of others which are teachable moments:

Never…

  • Tell someone the price of a gift you have given them.
  • Pick a fight over politics at someone’s mother’s wake.
  • Crash or tag along to an event if you’re not specifically invited.
  • Express disdain over the food served to you at a dinner party which you do not like.
  • Express ingratitude when given a gift you do not like.
  • Be unkind to someone struggling.
  • Ignore the request to RSVP to an event.
  • Be late to an appointment.
  • Keep someone waiting for a handwritten thank you or an expression of gratitude when you’ve been given a gift or assistance.
  • Act put out if someone asks you for help.
  • Avoid apologizing if you have clearly wronged someone.
  • Never throw someone under the bus to advance yourself in earning esteem.
  • Expect recognition, material compensation or tips for good deeds done

These seem obvious but, in case I am not around let this tidy list of etiquette be a handy guide to living better.

Learnings through grief

When I was given the news that Mom’s condition has worsened quickly and her organs are shutting down as marbling process has begun, I fell into a whole host of emotions.

It’s an unimaginable sadness for her condition. Shocked over how quickly she had degraded since I was out there in July.

Anger & frustration because I cannot do anything from 16 hours away.

Remorseful for being such an asshat in childhood.

Guilt ridden that your Aunt has had to support and comfort mom in these worst days without me there to give her relief

Fearful that because this is hereditary our children will have to experience this very same thing

Really sad that there’s no cure for LBD and this couldn’t have been reversed

Hopeful mom’s suffering is short.

You weren’t aware of the pain I was processing while my mother was in her last days, as I try to shield you from most of the unnecessary burdens to keep you on your own path. You should never shoulder the pain of mine.

I had those who reached out to offer solace and comfort as I processed. My good friend offered these words,

“…our challenges are but learning opportunities. Sometimes we cannot make it right with that person but we can make it right going forward taking what we have learned.”

I share that opinion. And I searched for the learning. From the hospice website, it instructs to try to be a calming presence while the loved one is dying. Sharing memories and playing their favorite music because they can still hear.

I sent as many songs as I could think of for your Aunt to play softly to our mother. I played them myself and a whole flood of memories came back. A lot of these songs reminded me of the times we grooved and bopped along while spring cleaning. Or the summers sunbathing and planting marigolds, bachelor buttons and zinnias in the back yard.

This lead to extended memories while your Aunt and I were young and we’d spend days watching shows together with mom. Teaching us yoga in the living room, laughing along with the Galloping Gourmet and the game shows, or watching soaps, Phil Donahue and Oprah.

My best memories were the little moments.

But the larger learnings were those times when I would fall short of strength or courage and in her toughness she’d inspect the situation and declare, “Oh, you’ll live.”

She encouraged independence and self reliance, through her own example of complete dependence. As a cautionary tale, we knew she wanted more for us than she allowed herself.

And although she and I had a rocky relationship as I grew older, I often wished our relationship was as close as the mother-daughter bonds a lot of my friends had with their own mothers.

My take-away from all of this is that we may not get the mother we hoped we had, but the one we were intended to have to make us who we are today.

For that I am grateful, I am independent and self reliant. I strive to be attentive and ever present for you.

I know both you and your father feel I do things with so much extra effort that you deem may be over the top and over-extend myself for others needlessly; but you see, I am taking what I have learned and striving to be better with the time I have been given.

On Fearing the End

My mother tearfully told my sister she knows she is dying and she feels that it’s too soon and she doesn’t want to leave us.

I agree, it is too soon. But unless someone comes up with a miracle cure for dementia with Lewey Bodies, it is what it is.

I feel as though she is being given a powerful lesson on the gift of life. It is not to be wasted. I can only feel extreme sorrow for her situation.

As I read the Qu’ran this year as part of my annual reading challenge; I’ve come to understand that this is as prescribed for her. It states that we will all come to know the hour of our death when it is time. And God will reveal our destiny based on our deeds.

I’m eager to give her some comfort in knowing that her destiny lies ahead after her death and all of this suffering, the blindness, her hallucinations, her inability to find balance while mobile, her loss of memory are part of this journey and will be nothing but a relief when the end arrives.

Logically, it is something on which to look forward. Shedding this suffering for peace. Joining those who’ve departed before her.

Personally, I’m now looking forward to being able to shed my attachment to this material existence just after reading what I have so far from this book which offers so much comfort and something more concrete than the holy texts before it.

The problem I have is that now that she’s in a nursing home I cannot find the pocket of time to convey what I feel might bring her comfort and hope. Being so far away makes it difficult because when I can call, no one picks up or she is asleep.

So I’ve chosen to send flowers with messages of comfort every month with the hope that these messages will be read to her and bring her some peace.

I wish that someone could visit with here in a therapeutic capacity to help her process her feelings. Ease her fears and help her cope. I trusted that my sister would arrange for that level of care but she also is in need of assistance to process what is happening and cope with the stresses of this situation.

I pray that my sister finds the strength to ask for help instead of believing she must go at this alone.

Losing Track of Your Whys

In my years on this big blue marble, I have found it most difficult to be a comfort to those grieving a tremendous loss.

I’ve experienced great sadness over the loss of dear friends, family members and I’ve been witness to those experiencing losses far greater than I can fathom.

In high school, a classmate was killed by a drunk driver and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. So I said what most say in their deepest sadness– “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It seemed a thin sentiment, because at the time, I couldn’t sense how profoundly losing someone you love can leave a chasm of emptiness and suffocating pain. And that grief would be ever present.

As the years went on and I journeyed through life, I had my share of grief personally. But before that, I experienced the helplessness of watching a friend process the loss of a beloved parent.

Nothing prepares a friend to be a support for that. Your heart breaks for them as they go through the five stages. It’s a dangerous time for some because they can lose their why.

No, that last statement wasn’t a word choice mistake. I really did mean why and not way. Although losing your why leads to losing your way in life.

You see, our why is our inner sense of purpose. What is our reason for being here? How is it we are here in this path we walk? That’s actually an opening to a song by the Moody Blues. (ref.: A Question of Balance) Though I digress… just check it out sometime. It’s a beautifully thoughtful song.

Sometimes the upending loss can make one question: “What’s the point of even being here? Why go on?”

They can begin a path of self destruction to deaden their pain or support their reasoning when they reach that depth of grief.

As a friend to someone who reaches that point, you can be their support best through carefully listening as they process this pain and help them find their path back towards their purpose by patiently employing a gentle Socratic method of questioning to lead them back to their whys.

Everyone has whys. They push them aside or forget about them in the noise that is the grief and sadness.

I learned most about this from the writings of Viktor Frankl– a holocaust survivor who was intent on studying those who survived the concentration camps and how they carried on. His findings further developed approaches to helping people contemplating suicide find their inner purpose. (ref.: Man’s Search For Meaning)

I can tell you I lost my whys a couple of times throughout my life. On 9/11 for example, I sat there for hours at my desk realizing nothing mattered. You were my why in that moment.

Later, I lost my whys when I realized I was grieving over love lost and paralyzed with fear after the heart attack and turned to self medication in the form of alcohol and danced ever so close to succumbing to the disease. You saw that and it really took a lot to bring me back. But I had to find my whys again. It was a little harder because you were older and my reasoning was stronger that you’re best off without me.

Through counseling and will, I was able to ask myself the questions to get me back to a personal sense of purpose.

Questions which really helped me comfort and guide when I was needed:

  • Who is left behind who still needs your care and love?
  • What impacts have you had on others so far?
  • What have you wanted to do that you haven’t already?
  • What do you think the person you’ve lost would advise you to do in this moment?
  • If it was reversed and they were here and you weren’t how would you hope that they cope?
  • What brings you happiness, joy and/or peace?
  • What are the ways to bring meaning of the lost one’s impact on you in your daily life?

Notice that none of these are yes/no sorts of questions. Always keep them open and encourage the sorting out of their feelings and thoughts.

Most importantly, be there for them and assure them of your love and support through it all.

Hard to Fight But Scared To Give Up

I have shitty veins. They break, I bruise and most times, it’s nothing. Occasionally it is something.

Something that should have killed me.

Those times I was in the hospital and stents were placed.

Recently, I’ve become more exhausted than usual and moderate to light activity causes chest, and limb pain. Sometimes a headache or neck pain.

The two smallest toes on my left foot are mostly numb. It’s a weird feeling.

I believe I may have Peripheral Artery Disease in addition to the Coronary Artery Disease tiara I wear currently.

I brought it on myself. I don’t exercise regularly, if at all. I have a sedentary job. I have a horrible past of eating like crap and weight has always been a problem for me. Smoking too.

I can talk the big talk by saying that no matter what, I won’t fight another episode; but, frankly speaking, I’m sad and afraid to allow my life to end. This is painful.

Yet the current state of my life, with the stressors of my job and family…I kinda do want a clean out.

I know! I just got done watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the second time this season and I cried as always knowing that life is a gift not to be thrown away.

It’s a pity I did whatever the hell I wanted while young with no second thought to the damage I was doing down the road.

I’ve read the articles on reversing heart disease and I do eat a mostly vegetarian diet. My daily fats don’t include butter (unless it’s nut butter) and I eat high fiber foods for breakfast and lunch and add it to our dinner with lean meats or a vegetarian option.

And yet here I am. My left leg numb and stinging after light activity, eating nitroglycerin like tic tacs.

I keep thinking if this is an aneurism or dissection or claudification, I just want to be home to die. I don’t want it to happen while driving or in a stinky hospital or god forbid — in the bathroom stall at work!

I’m finding it harder and harder to go to work in this kind of pain. I’m actually finding it very hard to justify working until I can either recover or just spend my days where I want to be. Home.

I’m also afraid to sleep while in this pain. What happens if I don’t wake?

The control freak in me worries about what mess I may be leaving you and your father to clean up. The paperwork, outstanding bills and accounts to close down. It’s all just a hairy pain in the ass.

I never wanted you to deal with my passing. That’s why I paid for my funeral in advance. That’s why there’s a book that has instructions for after I go. I just don’t have all the rest of the shit in it. Like accounts and passwords. Contacts.

I really must do that for you. I promise if I’m given tomorrow I will get that done.

And if I stroke out (and it’s not deadly) but leaves me where ultimately I am in a vegetative state, do not waste the money keeping me alive. Let me go.

Our healthcare system will ruin you and your father financially if you try to keep me going.

I hope that the afterlife is true and even reincarnation is possible. If I had that assurance I might not be so scared to let go. But this is where I am.

Stuck.

Heartsick.

Sad.

Tired.

Jealous of those who have shittier habits and will outlive me.

A teensy bit angry at myself for wasting the time I had.

Just know that I bragged that my veins were mostly Twinkie frosting when I was your age. How ironic it was for me to hear you brag that yours were filled with cheese this weekend at your grandpa’s house?

I’m here to warn you that even if you don’t smoke and you do stay active, your dietary choices will lead you right down the red carpet I genetically rolled out toward artery disease.

Please do the research now and make the necessary lifestyle choices that reverse the damage you’re doing and you outlive your mother.

To Meh, or Not to Meh?

That is the question.

Lately,  I am finding it difficult to see the good in humanity. At a time when the most good should be happening; I am witness to mass shootings, general apathy toward those in great need of compassion and empathy.

I read an article about a teacher who posted why she is quitting her profession, whereby the most selfless giving is necessary because it was too much for her to bear.

She complained of the lack of respect the kids she taught had for the resources in the classroom, which she often supplied out of her own personal budget. How the kids had little to no regard for their own progress and were failing her class and she would let them because she did all she could to allow them to succeed with the exception of ultimately doing the work for them. And now she will have to face irate parents when she does fail them to answer for why they are failing. She has declared she is done caring. She was lauded for this post and it was shared virally until she deleted it. However, it became an article on the internet with screenshots and responses.

I wanted to share that with you, because what challenged her will challenge you as well. I held back as I didn’t want to dissuade your path if you truly feel you can contribute and you have a passion to serve in this way.

It scares the holy beejeebers out of me that you will be taking on a position where some whack-a-doo with a semi-automatic rifle could end your life and/or the lives of those under your supervision. I worry that some out of control child could assault you in the classroom.

But I know you are my son and you have a natural leadership style which will help you greatly in this career.  However where you excel here I see where you may end up in her position of rant and leave before you begin because of apathy and lack of compassion towards others.

You see, when I lament over the lack of interest in family, your friends’ milestones, your disinterest in sentimental things; it is because these too, are key elements to what makes a teacher strong in their field. Genuine caring, humanity.

I don’t quite know where I went astray in instilling this sense because I exposed you to a life of service, moral teachings, and leading by example. Yet I know I am not alone.

The governor of Texas also notes that what is systemically wrong in society is a lack of humanity. The lack of caring for one another and generally, respecting life. He labelled it hypocrisy. I cannot completely disagree with his points.  We do not want people to be violent yet we are encouraging it in television, film, games, books, music.

He speaks of a desensitization of our society as a result of the bombardment of these things. But I think there’s more to it than just a lack of respect.

I was watching a scene from a television show (I know), where one character is teaching another to drive and the student driver is very concerned about everything and everyone around them. The instructor says “You cannot worry about them, all you can do is worry about yourself.”

This is what is wrong too with society.  Encouraging self centeredness.

There is a scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Sally Brown, Charlies’s sister asks Charlie to write a letter to Santa; and as she becomes more selfish and adds that all she wants is 10’s and 20’s, Charlie gasps over the extreme commercialism with, “Even my baby sister!” She defends herself by quietly stating “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”

Schulz identified the spiral toward where we are today with his social commentary on this self centered mentality and yet it went over most peoples’ heads.

No one is owed anything. Education, great grades, goods, pay, jobs, etc. All require hard work and all require a sense of humanity, a sensitivity toward others.

We need empathy, compassion and community. This is what makes our society and this is what needs to be encouraged. In books, film. television, music, games…

I do know you are thoughtful and proactive, and I simply hope it remains strong and grows further as you grow older.