Why Bother to Speak the Unspeakable?

Why Bother to Speak the Unspeakable?

My siblings were the ones with whom I shared childhood. We bunked together, the girls in one bedroom, the boys in another. We shared the same meals around the same dining room table, we squeezed ourselves into the back seat of the family car. 

But not only did we partake in ordinary and mundane life with each other, we also shared a common tragedy; the death of our dad, who ended his life when he was forty-nine years old.  

Silence is Not Golden

His suicide was tragic, unexpected and shocking. Our grief was obvious. Our pain was acute. Yet, we had no idea of how to talk about any of it. So, instead, like silos on a prairie, we stored our sadness away from each other for years, until a most unusual event opened the shaft between us, and our words spilled out.  

In the winter of 2020, the Chinese virus invaded the world. Suddenly, everyone was forced to isolate themselves. Social contact was risky, dangerous and deadly for some. 

It was a depressing time. But even in the worst of circumstances one of my siblings created a way for our siblings to stay connected in spite of madness, mandates and regulations. 

We connected with a conference call on the same evening of each week and at the same time. The topic of discussion centered around one question, submitted beforehand, by one sibling the rest of us taking turns in subsequent weeks. We could choose to participate, or not. 

When I got the invitation to connect to these conference calls via email, I deleted it. I’d experienced these types of calls before. When Mom was near the end of her life, we set conference calls to try and decide how best to care for her. But in my opinion, they were useless. A lot of words were said, but never a consensus. The older siblings had a way of dominating the conversation and emotions always ran high.   

But I was curious about these Macek Maverick calls as they were aptly named. After a few weeks went by I took a chance and joined one of the calls. The conversation was lively, friendly, funny and insightful. Each sibling took their turn, and no one talked over the other person.

 The following week it was my turn to submit a question and I pondered long and hard before I composed my query, “What was your first reaction when you heard how Dad had died?”   

My oldest brother spoke first. He talked about his anger. Then my older sisters each took their turns. They’d been plagued with guilt, and confusion. My other two brothers related to feelings of anger, while I’d felt dumbfounded. Finally, after years of silence, we spoke about the unspeakable, we expressed the inexpressible. Our stored-up stories of grief finally spilled out. 

Why bother to speak the unspeakable? Talking about tough topics validates just how tough the topic is, and also strengthens the links between those who survive their tragedies. 

Why Bother to Adapt to the Unexpected?

Why Bother to Adapt to the Unexpected?

A funny thing happened on the morning we were to vacate our home for a recent vacation; we didn’t go. My husband woke up with a head cold that zapped him of all his energy. He lay in bed looking like I feel when I have a sinus infection, absolutely miserable. 

As I began to unpack the truck, he said, “Maybe we can go tomorrow.” I smiled at the possibility, adjusted my thinking as well as my actions. I only unpacked the cooler, placing the meals I’d prepared for our trip into the refrigerator. I left everything else in the truck, just in case we could still go on our trip, only a day later.   

But the next morning when my husband woke up the cold had moved from his head to his throat. Though his energy level had gone from nothing to a little something, it was not enough to move him off the couch, into the truck and down the road toward our vacation destination. Once again, I altered my thinking. His recuperation would most likely take up the days we’d set aside for our travels. I finished unpacking the truck, this time putting everything away. 

      Adjust our Thinking

Is it possible to be ready for the unexpected? Can we prepare ourselves ahead of time for the unanticipated and the unforeseen? Since life is full of the unpredictable as well as the unplanned, how do we get ready for the unimaginable? 

I can’t help but recall how I used to think and react when crossing paths with the unplanned and the unexpected. In my younger years all I knew was how to throw a tizzy fit. But, those tizzy fits only drained my energy and shut down my thinking. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Being  the slow learner that I am at times, it took a few sessions with self defeat to learn how to remold  my thinking when confronted with the unpredictable.

 First, I observed that reacting with anger, remorse, cynicism, or pessimism automatically shuts the doors to exploring any other ideas and possibilities. The more I realized this, the more I wanted to modify how I thought about the unscheduled events that popped up in my scheduled events. Now I’ve learned to put into practice a practical piece of advice; to leave a little bit of room in my thinking for what can never be predicted. 

Secondly, see the unplanned as just that. It is something we did not plan on happening and instead happened. It’s not karma, nor is it the universe blocking our path to progress. It is simply how life goes sometimes and now we simply get to adjust. It’s really that uncomplicated.

Why bother to adapt to the unexpected? We can expect the unexpected, so leave a little room for it and accept its presence with graciousness. 

Why Bother to Vacate?

Why Bother to Vacate?

It is that time of year again. The calendar has held this date for us since April when we first made our reservations. We are taking off on a summer vacation today, a yearly tradition we’ve held for several years. 

When our sons were young, our summer vacations centered around traveling to Nebraska to visit relatives or combining our oldest son’s soccer tournaments with a camping trip at a national park. These vacations were memorable and fun. They made family memories we can still share. Now though, with just my spouse and I, visiting relatives is not the primary focus and neither are soccer tournaments.  Instead, our vacations now focus on recreating in parts of Idaho we’ve never seen. 

For the Simple Fun 

Vacating our home, its comforts and regular routines in order to take a road requires commitment, communication, compromises and lots of planning. Yet even this part benefits us. 

First of all, we begin talking about our ideas for a summer trip soon after Christmas. Winter is the best time to begin batting ideas back and forth. Planning a summer trip during those long winter nights when we wonder if we’ll ever see the sun again, gives us something to look forward to. We pull out the maps and imagine where to explore next. Last winter, my husband mentioned the idea of exploring Mesa Falls, near the Teton Mountains, a majestic and favorite mountain range of ours. We made Mesa Falls our destination point.

Once the place to go was decided, we went about crafting our accommodations. Pitching a tent no longer holds favor with either of us, so we researched other ideas. We looked at teardrop campers, but decided the investment was too costly.  A pop up camper was another idea, but one that fit our budget could not be found. So, we settled on something we’ve never done before, reserving yurt. A little bit like tent camping except a whole lot more convenient. 

Though we will only be gone a few days, I know that even a few days away is enough to break our cycle of living and open us up to new experiences. We will create new memories, see new landscapes, and fill our unscheduled days with the things we like to do; kayaking, hiking and reading with intermittent naps. Even though we’ve planned as best we could, there will be a few unexpected surprises. But all in all, I am confident our little journey will unfold into adventurous fun.  

Why bother to vacate? Taking a vacation breaks up the regular cycle of life and opens up new experiences that broaden perspectives and deepen the bonds with the one(s) who are brave enough to journey with you. Happy trails. 

Why Bother to Name that Emotion?

Why Bother to Name that Emotion?

I didn’t want to raise daughters. I was afraid to. I thought they would be too hard to manage because of all of the messy emotions I thought already came packaged inside of little girls. For that reason, I was grateful and somewhat relieved each time I birthed a son. 

Though it is embarrassing for me to mention this, I will say it anyway. I honestly thought boys came with fewer emotions than girls. Thankfully, I learned sooner than later that my sons felt just as many things on their insides as I did. The only difference was that they displayed them in other ways than I did. 

Anger, Jealousy, Fear, Oh My!

Gender does not matter when it comes to our emotions. Everyone feels anger, sadness, disappointment, courage and shame. Coincidentally, even if we did not grow up with the ability to name our feelings, it is never too late to learn. 

Though my mother attempted to help me understand my feelings, she didn’t know how to mentor me through my tumultuous teen years. Instead of helping me to name what I was feeling, she instead stealthily slid magazine and newspaper articles into my room. Like “Thing” from Addams Family, her hand slid through a crack in the doorway, set an article down on my dresser and then withdraw, without a word. Reading the titles,“Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk,” and “Don’t Make Mountains Out of Molehills,” told me that she was aware of my emotional state. She just didn’t know how to help me. 

Eventually, I grew up and knew I needed to be the one to educate myself about my own feelings. First of all, I discovered that ignoring them does not make them go away, and telling myself I shouldn’t feel a certain way only intensified what was already there. Instead, I taught myself two simple techniques; listen and learn. 

Taking an approach that made sense to me I likened my emotions to the little dots like those in the dot-to-dot pictures I used to like doing as a kid.  The more dots I connected, the more the picture revealed itself. 

Consequently, the more emotions I could identify and name, the better understanding I’d have of what was really going on inside of me. I knew anger was one of my more dominant feelings, but taking a closer look, I saw some of anger’s nuances. There was fear and the knowledge that I was not the blessed controller of very many things. This small amount of awareness led to more and more understanding and the picture of my emotions became clearer. But what do you do once you see the picture? 

Naming our emotions gives us the power to choose how to respond differently, to shift our thinking and to calm ourselves down. But being more aware of how we feel isn’t just about knowing ourselves better, it also makes us more savvy about the feelings of others. When a close friend is angry or disappointed, I won’t be handing them an article about how to control their emotions. Instead, I’ll validate how they feel and maybe even help them connect some of their own dots. 

So why bother naming our emotions? Naming emotions makes us smarter and smarter people make smarter decisions.  

 

Why Bother Remembering Wedding Vows?

 

 

Why Bother Remembering Wedding Vows?

To be my wedded husband to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” 

Forty-two years ago on August 2, I repeated these traditional wedding vows to my husband and he repeated them to me. Little did I know back then what exactly these words meant, but over the course of our marriage, we have experienced every challenge on that list.

         For Better, Worse, Richer, Poorer, Sickness, Health, 

We started in our poor years. Deciding to live on only one income and raise children too, put pressure on our new union as well as challenged our new commitment to each other. Then we added a mortgage payment to the mix, tightening our meager budget even more.   

Those were the days when I added up every item in the grocery cart before I got to the cashier. I did not want to suffer the embarrassment of having to put something back on the shelf because I’d gone over the allotted amount I could spend. Staying within our budget was that important. The financial constraints did not break us, although they did stretch us. 

Now that the kids are grown and gone and we’ve paid off our mortgage, we are richer for having experienced those leaner times.   

Our first worst time in marriage is easy to remember. We’d been married nine years and suffered the loss of our third born son. To say the least, it was unexpected and at first, our grief kept us apart. Neither of us knew how to comfort the other or how to even talk about how we felt. 

Somehow, we found our way through that season by taking small steps together. We learned how to communicate our hurts while at the same time, listening to each other’s hearts. It was the worst of times, but also one of the most intimate of times too. I know we are a better couple and more emphatic individuals as a result of that first worst time. 

Sickness, or rather injuries for my husband, the carpenter, have been rather common over the years. Thankfully, more minor mishaps have occurred than major. But there was the year when he severed one of his fingers and we wondered whether or not he’d be able to continue on in his trade.  

The wound took a long time to heal and during the interim of waiting, we contemplated our options. If he could not return to carpentry, then what? Should I go back to work? Where would the money come from to pay the bills? It was a worrisome time for us both. Neither of us knew what the future held. The trial of not knowing felt insurmountable. All we could do was to pray and hope for the best. Finally, the best did come. His finger healed and he continued to hammer away in his trade. 

The vows we said to one another have come true. We’ve experienced each of the challenges while at the same time, continue to hold, love and cherish each other. 

Why bother remembering wedding vows? Remembering our commitments and upholding them brings joy to a lasting relationship. 

 

Why Bother to Stop Saying, “Someday”?

Why Bother to Stop Saying “Someday”?

Did you know that someday is not an official day of the week? There are only seven days in any given week; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Yet, some people add an eighth day and call it, someday.  Sometimes we begin our sentence by saying, “Someday, I’m going to …” While at other times we tag it on at the end, “I’m going to ____________, someday.” 

Whether we begin with someday or end with someday, it does not exist. It is a figment of our imagination, an illusion, a way to avoid doing what we know we need to do. To say someday, is just another way for us to procrastinate. 

    Do it Now

What keeps us from doing now what we keep saying we will do someday? Each of us have our own unique reasons to put off doing today what we can always do tomorrow. But if we identify those specific reasons, then we can erase someday off our imaginary calendars.

For instance, I avoid making cold calls, that is I hate calling strangers. 

Recently, I changed dentists. I put off choosing a new one because I dislike talking with anyone over the phone who does not know me. My tongue gets tied in a knot, I forget what I want to say, and I wonder if I am talking too much. In short, I get anxious. It is a strange, quirky idiosyncrasy, but it is one that trips me up from making those important phone calls. 

Since talking with strangers over the phone is part of being an adult, I’ve had to learn to accommodate my little impairment. First, I set an appointment with myself to make the call. Since I want to get it over with as soon as possible, I set the appointment as early in the day as possible.  Also, I write out a little script to help me stay on track and to remember what it is I want to say or ask. So far, these two small adaptations actually help me to make those phone calls that I hate to make. A minor victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Another dilly dally area in my life is taking on professional duties. Continuing education credits and volunteering for leadership roles are the worst for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like learning and I like leading, but I don’t like hopping through the required hoops to accomplish these goals. For starters, I have to make choices and commitments. 

Choosing continuing education classes requires me to think through which ones will hold my interest and actually pertain to real life. When deciding on a leadership role, I talk myself out of them when I muck around in comparing myself to someone else. There is always someone smarter, more confident and better at leading a committee than me. Who am I to think I can be on a leadership committee? Yet, if I want to keep my job as a teacher, which I do, then I have to comply with the requirements. 

To do what I have to do without delaying my inevitable professional duties, I will ask for the advice from one or two other professionals. I am not in this alone. Others, like me, have had to make continuing education choices and take on leadership roles too. Having conversations about the choices they’ve made, and the experiences they’ve had, helps me to go ahead and make mine. 

Why bother to stop saying, “someday”? We can poke along, dawdle and vacillate about doing what we need to do, someday. But, if someday does not really exist, then neither do those goals we hope to accomplish, someday. 

Why Bother Staying Connected to Siblings?

Why Bother Staying Connected to Siblings?

Mom birthed seven children in thirteen years. I was the sixth born child in my family, the youngest of the girls. I’ve not always been close to my siblings, but they have been a constant in my life. It has only been in the last few years or so that I’ve grown up enough or matured in such a way as to really value what I’ve had all along, my sibs. 

   Oh, the Things We Share with Our Siblings 

I would like to ask you this, who else but a sibling can give us insights into the dynamics of the family we were born into? 

Once, when the third born child, also the second oldest sister, and I were having an adult conversation about our childhood, she told me, “You know, you were born into a chaotic household.” 

This one little statement shed a beacon of light into my life. It makes so much more sense to me now as to why I am diligent to keep my life in order. I like a clean house, and an organized workspace. I don’t like crowded, closed in, noisy places and instead prefer the quiet wide-open spaces of nature. 

Her little statement relieved me of the load of fear that I used to carry. I always thought I might be an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist. But I’m not. I’m just a normal individual who is recovering from growing up in a chaotic household. 

Another interesting concept about siblings is that who else except for them shared our childhood as children themselves? It is with our siblings we grow up with and then maybe, if we live long enough, grow old with, too. 

When my offspring or grand offspring flip the pages of photo albums, they see pictures of their favorite uncle with hair. That is an anomaly to them since they’ve only seen him as a mostly balding man. But I, on the other hand, lived through the days of his hippie hood when he kept his thick dark hair tied in a ponytail. I am lucky to be a living witness to his hairier days and to also still be alive to see him in his balding days. 

No one except for our siblings share similar character and physical traits, voice inflections and even the unique sound of our laughter. I’ve been told more than once that my voice sounds just like that of the second born sister and that I look like my second born brother. It is interesting to be compared to my balding brother when I still have lots of hair. 

Finally, who else besides our sibs can remember the trivialities concerning the different houses we lived in, the bedrooms we shared, the vacations we took, the grandparents we had or the major calamities that happened during childhood. No one but them.

So why do I bother staying connected to my brothers and sisters? It is so I can be reminded of who I once was and be validated for who I’ve become.

Why Bother to Keep Our Balance?

Why Bother to Keep Our Balance?

Imagine standing on one bare foot. How long can you hold your balance before falling over? Do you find yourself wobbling while trying to maintain that one footed stance? Does it feel natural to stand on one foot? What other body parts are you employing to stay upright? Is it helpful to use something like a chair or a countertop to help you hold your position? 

Equilibrium

I find that there is a similarity between holding my body in a balanced pose and preserving a sense of stability in daily life. Keeping equilibrium, whether balancing on one foot or balancing daily tasks, we hope for the best, which is to stay upright. But before we can expect success in either area, we need to put some things into place. 

First of all, did you know that standing on one foot involves much more than just that one foot. Without strong ankle muscles, an engaged core and flexible hips, standing on one foot for any amount of time becomes an impossible task. Before balancing, we have to strengthen ourselves. 

Maintaining stability in everyday living also entails making ourselves stronger, namely employing our “no muscle.”  Whatever the task at any given moment, it has to take precedence over any number of possible distractions. 

I am my greatest diversion and saying “no” to myself is the biggest challenge. When I think I should be doing a household chore instead of sitting down to write my blog, I have to say “no” to myself. Cleaning the kitchen is easy and I can see instant results. Writing is hard, and I don’t always know how my writing will be received by my readers.  Yet, without leaving the kitchen a mess, at least for a little while, I can’t accomplish the goal of getting a blog posted.  

Secondly, when balancing on one foot, focusing our gaze, particularly on something that is not moving, helps us to stay steady. Consequently, centering our attention inward, on ourselves, keeps us going toward our goals. For instance, it is only when I know what it is that I am reaching for, that I can actually aim my gaze and keep the goal in sight. Given the fact that I want to grow in the art of public speaking, I knew that by joining a public speaking club, Toastmasters, would help me reach that goal. 

Balance takes daily practice. It does not come instantly, but rather in small increments. As we learn to stand on one foot for three seconds, we can slowly increase that time to thirty seconds. With this in mind, if we find we are capable of keeping our present commitments without falling over, we may be ready to add another one. 

Why bother to keep our balance? Balancing is not so much an act as it is the practice that requires us to be strong and focused. 

 

Why Bother to Put Your Health First?

Why Bother To Put Your Health First?

The other day, in my yoga class, a new student introduced herself to me. 

“Hi, I’m Sherry,” she said as we shook hands.

“Glad to meet you, Sherry,” I said.

“You might find this odd, but I am seventy and just now beginning to practice yoga.”

“I don’t find that odd at all,” I said. “It is never too late to start a yoga practice for yourself.”

          Choosing to be Well

Though everybody knows that being healthy is important, not everyone wants the responsibility for their own well being. Only when we wake up and realize that something needs to  change, will anything change. 

Sherry knew she was losing her flexibility and balance. She believed the practice of yoga could help her to regain the ability to bend and not wobble when she walked. She was right. Her practice is helping her and it doesn’t matter that she is seventy. It matters more that her health and wellness is a priority. 

Since there is no history of cancer, diabetes, heart conditions or obesity in my family, I mostly inherited my good health. But I’ve also had to learn how to maintain what I’ve been given. 

For instance, I started the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes while still in high school. At first, it seemed like a benign routine. I even told myself that I could quit any time I wanted. But of course I was wrong and just kept smoking because it was too hard to quit. Ten years went by before quitting became a high priority. By then, my husband and I had begun talking about starting a family. I knew I had to quit for the sake of the baby we’d planned to conceive. Since then, I’ve been smoke free and have eliminated the effects smoking could have on me such as contracting emphysema, chronic bronchitis or the risk of tuberculosis. Making one healthy choice can lead to a plethora of benefits. 

When making any changes concerning your health, expect resistance. Bodies are like any two year-old and every teenager, they will put up a fight against anything that is good for them. But when a little patience, some consistency, and perseverance is applied, bodies as well as a two-year-old or a teenager, will begin to see that the changes you instigate, are for the better. 

Why bother to put your health first? Only you know what is good for you and being good to yourself is the best choice to make.

Why Bother to Laugh?

Never Settle For A Ripple When You Can Make A Wave

Why Bother to Laugh?

What if I were to tell you about a powerful remedy to gloom and doom that is absolutely free and 100% effective? Would you believe me? Would you be surprised if I told you that laughter is that powerful remedy that is 100% guaranteed to make anyone feel better at any time even under the most stressful circumstances?

      No Matter How You Say It

Saying that laughter is the best medicine has been stated by a variety of authors in many different ways. For example; a cheerful disposition is good for your health, a damn good laugh is damn good for you, a happy heart is good medicine and to laugh a little more might mean you live a little longer. However you say it, a good laugh does a body good.

According to serious scientific research, laughter attracts friends, extends life, increases oxygen to the blood, lowers the heart rate and somehow burns calories. It releases endorphins which are the natural feel good chemicals in our bodies. A good laugh will make us feel relaxed for up to forty-five minutes. Seeing life from the funny side decreases worry and increases our overall well being. 

Even if researchers have investigated the effects of laughter, if you’ve ever had a good belly laugh, you know for yourself what it does for you. A funny thought makes your heart feel a smidgen merrier. You feel good from the inside out. Your dire straits are forgotten even if for only a moment. 

You don’t have to be a comedian to make yourself or others laugh. Wit can be cultivated and at its best, is never about anyone else, but yourself.

 Growing up, I heard a lot of Polish and blond jokes, which at the time, made me the brunt of such jokes since I was at one time blond and I will always be Polish.

Keep in mind what makes you laugh. Anyone can be sarcastic and cynical. But that is dark humor. I appreciate the Lucile Ball type of humor. The gist of her funny side came from getting herself out of a dilemma that she somehow got herself into. 

I’ve often told my husband that I am his comic relief simply because of the things I seem to get myself into that he has to help me get out of. After forty years of marriage, he is finally seeing the truth of what I’ve been trying to tell him all along.

Hanging out with kids can also make us laugh. Their perspective is fresh and unburdened by the stock market or price of gas. When a kid sees something funny, it is likely we can too. We all have an uncanny ability to mirror what we see in others. That is why laughter is said to be contagious. 

So why bother to laugh? Laughter is a natural mood booster. It is a powerful remedy to gloom and doom. But, don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. Go ahead, laugh.