Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bullies - A Plea for Help -

Any suggestions for dealing with grade school bullies and the dear sweet one being bullied? Please, your insight and comments are requested and greatly appreciated!

All I've read is about how to not be bullied, that bullying is bad and can cause lifetime scars (no kidding), but practical real-world advice would be lovely - Thanks, Ronda

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sweet Home Alabama -

For years I've mourned leaving Alabama and never returning there to live. Which is what I foolishly thought I would be doing when I first left the Shoals more than twenty years ago.

I've returned to visit a few times, and it's been grand, yet I thought that some day I would return, to live. Shortly after my divorce I returned, spending time with my friend, Debby, and exploring employment opportunities, full-well thinking that perhaps I would return, alone, on my own recognizance. But I didn't return. Rather, I fell in love with a man from Utah, which is where we've stayed. I've learned to love the red rock desert of Utah, while still pining the lush green and fervent blue.

We've traveled to Eastern Tennessee, Eastern North Carolina, Washington DC and surrounding areas. And they've fed my soul, warmed my heart with southern-ness. But . . .

This winter I told Scott I needed to return to Northwestern Alabama, to the area that shaped my adultness, and played a generous role in defining my children. And I wanted him to learn about this part of me, the me that loves bluegrass music, pecan pie, southern authors, magnolias, and green.

He agreed, and off we went, on May 7, for a ten day excursion down memory lane. This post isn't a travelogue. Rather, it's a "fair'thee well."

We drove from Tennessee to Mississippi back into Tennessee and dropped down into Florence, Alabama. When I saw the "Welcome to Florence," sign I had a little tightness in my chest, tears formed in my eyes, and I had to take some deep breaths. But then all was fine. We drove straight to my first house there, a hundred year old home, gorgeous, with the family who bought it from us still living there. I took pictures. We drove down to the Tennessee River, where my young family would walk the trail, wander the woods, splash in the water. And the trail was overgrown and inaccessible. We drove to Florence, and I couldn't remember where my house was, they all looked the same. We left the neighborhood, I remembered the house number, and we returned. That house was not my house! It did not look at all like any place I had lived. I didn't take pictures.

As we drove away, got on the highway loop that goes across the Tennessee River, my heart was light, my load was lifted. I was no longer in mourning, no longer yearning to return to where I had returned. We spent the day with friends (2 of the 5 we wanted to visit), with them sharing their story, the entire time knowing I was but a visitor.

Does time really heal? Is home where your love is, where your family resides? My roots in Alabama were just setting when we left, and they were pulled up on leaving. Most of my friends have left the area - going to their families, and I realized the time spent in Alabama was magical, but that magic was my making. And I can make magic anywhere, as long as those I love are near me. I will always hold this area close to my heart - it is here where I began to learn - began - and the path this set me on brought me here, where I am now.

I am a product of my environment/s. I love scents and colors and sounds. The fireflies were just joining us, and I am so grateful for all I was able to see, and not. Because what I saw was that I am home, really really home. My love, my children, my parents, my siblings, friends, work, future. I am happy, I am at peace, I am in love with my life here. Nothing is missing - except a few fireflies. This in no way means I'm finished with the south, no way.

Time marches on, and I didn't think I lived in the past, until that chapter in my book finished as we drove away from Florence, Alabama, looking forward -

Friday, May 20, 2016

Seasons Greetings - Antiques -

While perusing the jewelry cabinet in an antique store in Alabama, I found this pin, attached to a card (just as that added display element):

I liked the pin, and I knew I wanted to buy it for $4. Then I opened the card. It read:

Sweet. But on the other side of the card, in green ink I read:

Mary, Just wanted to thank you for all the cards and well wishes you've sent thru out this year. I think of you often and hope you are doing well. I'm getting alone ok and have 2 more chemo treatments in Jan. Then will be done. 
This was one of my mother's old Christmas cards she never used. No telling how old it is. Love you bunches, Ellen. 

And I knew the card was meant for me, this message on this card, in this antique store, with this pin attached, was Ellen's note to me.

I want to meet Ellen. I'd like to know how those last two chemo treatments went, how she's doing, and I'd like to tell her how awesome it is she felt well enough to send out Christmas cards, especially how awesome it is she's using old cards, perhaps vintage them, even more so now.

Pretty cool find. Pretty great lady (and James).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Another Death -

I had a client die last week. I've known since I met her that she would be passing.
Does that make her death easier? No.
Did me being the clinician make me more objective? No.
Was she prepared to pass? No.
Did she know her time as a mortal was limited? Yes.
Did she die kicking and thrashing? Yes.
Did she leave loved ones? Yes.
Did they know she would be dying? Yes.
Did that make parting easier? No.
Is death gentle and quiet and peaceful? No.
Is there one pat way to lose and grieve? Hell no.
Will those who mourn be comforted? In time. In time.

And what has she left? What is her legacy? A forty-seven year old mother of two, grandma of one, with a mother and a grandmother. She traveled lightly, not a whole lot of matter to distribute. She had few friends, simplifying her life and moving near family once she received her diagnosis. In fact, no funeral service, only a family left mourning and ashes to distribute as they see fit.

But for me - her legacy is this - it's OK to care, it's OK to go deep with a patient, even when I know time is brief. It's OK to invest in a relationship where reciprocity is minimal (on the outside) but so rewarding. It's also OK for me to care for the caregivers. I'm learning and learning and learning just how vital good caregivers are to those who are passing. And I'm learning they need as much support as the client. In fact, even without a diagnosis, they are likewise patients of mine.

I'm learning how to be silent, how to hold hands, rub shoulders and lower backs, how to speak softly and gently, how to speak words of kindness and strength and sympathy and concern.

Thank you, Miss Becky, for being my teacher. My love -

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Frustration - Zen Habits

I subscribe to Zen Habits, and I enjoy Leo Babuata's weekly posts. Because I've been away for several days, and now back, trying to get out of the vacation groove and back into the daily life groove, this post has much relevance.

Enjoy -

A Mini-Guide to Not Being Frustrated All the Time

Pretty much all of us experience frustration on a daily (or even hourly) basis. We get frustrated by other people, by ourselves, by technology, by work situations, by small crises that come up all the time.

You know you’re frustrated when you find yourself sighing, or complaining about people, or fuming about something that happened, or going over why you’re right and they’re wrong.
Frustration is normal, but holding on to frustration is not so fun. It’s not even helpful: if the situation isn’t great, adding frustration on top of it just makes it worse. Often frustration will make us not happy with someone else, and worsen our relationship with them. Or it will cause us to be less calm, and handle a situation less than ideally.
How can we calm ourselves and let go of our frustrations, so we’re not so irritated and angry throughout the day?
Let’s talk about why we get frustrated, and how to address this problem.

The Origins of Frustration

Where does our frustration come from?
It’s from not wanting things to be a certain way. Not wanting other people to behave a certain way. Not wanting ourselves to be a certain way.
It’s a rejection of how things are.
From this, we start to tell ourselves a story: she shouldn’t act that way, she should do this. And she always does this! Why can’t she just see that she’s wrong? She’s so irritating!
We tell ourselves stories all day long, and we get caught up in them, and this is where we dwell in our frustration.

A Guide to Overcoming Frustration

You can’t help frustration coming up, no matter how Zen you’d like to be. It’s natural, and so are the stories we tell ourselves.
However, you can develop an awareness of it. Are you mad or irritated with someone right now? Do you find yourself clenching your jaw because of a situation? Sighing? Complaining to someone, wanting to vent? Are you fuming? Arguing your case in your mind?
When you notice yourself experiencing frustration, pause. Just sit still for a moment, even just a few seconds, and notice your frustration. Notice how it feels in your body.
Then start to notice the story you’re telling yourself. What are you telling yourself is wrong with the situation? What are you saying the other person should or shouldn’t do? How are you characterizing the other person or situation?
Now ask this: is this story helping me? Is it making the situation better or worse? Is it helping your relationship with the other person? Is it making you happy? If it’s not helpful, maybe you’re creating your own unhappiness, entirely in your mind.
Instead, perhaps you can see this frustrating situation as a lesson in mindfulness, in letting go, in acceptance, in finding happiness no matter how other people act, no matter what situation you’re in. Every moment has a lesson, if we’re willing to look. If we open up ourselves to this situation, we can learn a lot about how to see other people not as we want them to be, but in the glorious messy beauty of how they actually are, without needing them to change.
If you’re learning from this situation, you can also see that the other person is suffering. Not in the sense of “life is simply miserable and I’m suffering in agony,” but in the sense of “something is making me unhappy.” Something is causing the other person to act “imperfectly,” because they’re conflicted about something, they’re frustrated themselves (as you are). In this way, you are both experiencing the same thing. You are connected, and you can understand how they feel because you’re feeling it too. They are behaving imperfectly, yes, but we all do that. That doesn’t make it right, but perhaps you can empathize with them, maybe even try to understand their story, where they’re coming from. Try to see how the way they’re behaving makes sense to them from their perspective. It does, you just can’t see it.
Now perhaps you can let go of your way. You want things to go your way, want people to behave the way you want them to. But you don’t and can’t control the universe. You aren’t entitled to getting everything your way. Other people get to act imperfectly, behave their own way, and it’s true that you don’t have to agree with them or love the way they’re acting, but insisting in your own mind that things go your way or people act the way you want them to won’t work, and will only make you frustrated. So let go! So “c’est la vie” and loosen your grip on the way you want things to be.
Finally, say “yes” to this experience. It’s perhaps not ideal, but what is? Say “yes” and embrace the way this moment is. Practice this saying “yes” on a regular basis, and you’ll loosen up on your clinging to things, you’ll start to appreciate what is beautiful about the present moment, and start to be frustrated less often.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Sweet Home Alabama - Goin' Home -

In another life I lived in Alabama, The Shoals area, as it's called. I always thought I'd return there to live, rear my children, teach at the local university, learn to cook good barbecue (the kind with southern white sauce as the condiment of choice), make mustard slaw, and have southern drawl speaking grandchildren. But - nay, not so. So I've resorted to returning, to at least some part of the south, whenever I can. I've been back to The Shoals a few times, with the kids, and by myself 12 1/2 years ago - a time when I was trying to sort out what to do with my life as a recently divorced woman of 2 adult children. I spent time then with my friend, Debby, who is now living in Florida.

Scott and I are heading there soon. Although I've been to Western North Carolina, DC, Eastern Tennessee, I need true South. It's not a glamorous place. As I've told folks where we're traveling this summer, many have wondered why Alabama. No answer, just that it's calling me; I left a portion of my heart in the south, thinking I'd return to live, but now I return to get grounded, There aren't many people I want to visit, really just a couple of folks, but the area, oh boy, I am so excited to get back to the humidity (Southern arms wrapping around me), the Tennessee River, the Natchez Trace, Shiloh Battlefield, Muscle Shoals Sound, Ivy Green - Helen Keller's birthplace, the Dismals, and just soak in enough green and rain and love to fill my soul.

Oh yeah - I'm going home!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bullying Part 2 - Adults -

And let’s take a look at adult bullying – college through career. It’s alive and thriving. My niece is a great athlete, and she had to change schools because some of her team mates bullied her and some other players. And – the coach was a bully because he didn’t take their reports seriously, even asking these amazing players and women to change their behavior, so they wouldn’t be bullied!

And the workplace – oh goodness. I think everyone has had a boss or manager who gives threats, treats one employee differently than others, talks behind backs, schedules the best or worst shifts, talks down to employees, skip over someone for a promotion. Or worse, those cliques that run behind the official handbook – whose in, whose out, who to avoid, who to snuggle up to, etc. What happened to the whole idea of the Golden Rule and surrounding ourselves with the best people we can?

I’ve had a few incidents as an adult – including a father-in-law who was mean, a bully for sure, who took out his frustrations and revelations on me more than once. In fact, I think this bully did quite a bit to wreck my first marriage. He was an abusive father and spouse, and although he was never physical when his children became adults, he managed ways to continue to hurt those he said he loved. I had a co-worker who tried to “wish” me well during my cancer treatment – but really, it was her way of controlling me and controlling what I did and didn’t do – “Oh, Ronda’s not feeling well today, I’ll do that project.” “Ronda’s just not in the right place now to take on a project like that.” And her weekly GWS cards with messages such as, “You REALLY need to rest,” gave me anxiety to the point of not wanting to open her cards!

I wonder what these folks who are adult bullies had to face as children. I don’t condone their behavior, but I wonder what stressors were in their lives that cause them to wreak havoc on others?

Have you gone home from work thinking you can’t take one more day, handle one more conversation, be in the same room with . . . ?

Adult bullies are manipulators, gossips, game players, abusers, mean people, and typically underqualified for their role and fearing being found-out – or in other words - cowards!

I don’t have solutions – although I am full of phrases that have kept me sane – It is not me with the problem. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Surrender to win (meaning – he may think he’s hurting me, but I’m tossing spears of fire and hitting his target every time he tries to hurt me).  And those of us who are recipients of adult bullying – do we take it home or to our own work group? Does that bullying go from the bully to us to unwitting loved ones, or the dog?

Remember – knocking someone down is not a way to get to the top. Speaking ill of someone speaks more of the bully than the one being spoken of.