If Life Is A Highway, Did I Take The Wrong Offramp Somewhere?

Do you ever look around you and wonder at how different your life is than what you thought it would be when you were younger? It happens to me all the time. For about the first thirty-five years of my life, the image I had in my head of what my life would look like at age 58 was nothing like what that life has turned out to be.

When I was in high school, I took a career aptitude test. The idea was that it would be helpful to us students to learn what professions would take advantage of our natural talents and inclinations before we went off to college to spend four years of our lives (and four years of our parents’ money) preparing for a career for which we were not at all suited. My aptitude test indicated that I should be a priest or marry one. Remember, this was in the seventies and the idea that a woman’s “career” should be to support and advance her husband’s career was still pretty prevalent. At any rate, since I was a Roman Catholic at the time, it didn’t seem that either option was going to work for me. Maybe if I had come to the Episcopal Church sooner, I would have joined the ranks of the clergy by now.

Since my career in the Church was doomed by convention and canon law, I considered other avenues. I kept coming back to the idea that I wanted to be a children’s librarian. I have always loved books. I spent many of my teenage hours volunteering at the local library. Some of those hours involved helping with story hours and summer reading programs for children. In fact, for the bicentennial year, I wrote and starred in a melodrama for our children’s program called Just A Minute, Man. It was so well-received, the county library officials asked us to do an encore performance. They even videotaped it for posterity. I am sure that old videotape is still packed away in some dusty box in the central library headquarters, if it hasn’t burst into flames some time in the last forty plus years. When I majored in English at college, I took a number of courses in children’s and adolescent literature. However, being a librarian requires an advanced degree. When I graduated from college with my Bachelor’s degree, I married almost immediately. My brand-new husband was a graduate student who required brand-new food every brand-new day. I had to get a brand-new job right away, so I pretty much took the first position offered to me.

As I look back on my career, I kind of giggle. I doubt anyone ever grew up aspiring to be a mid-level manager for a government agency. I certainly didn’t. Once I got caught in the revolving door of that government bureaucracy job, I pretty much relied on momentum to propel me on my career path. I never went back to school. The idea of taking a career U-turn seemed inconceivable to me. On the other hand, my career offered me a reasonable salary, the opportunity to do interesting, multi-faceted work that helped people, and the ability to grow my skill and talent. Perhaps most importantly, it offered me the chance to meet wonderful people without whom I can’t imagine my life today. I have several sisters of the soul who walk closely with me on my life’s path who I never would have met had I not taken that “first position offered to me.”

I also expected that I would stay happily married to the same man throughout my life. None of that really worked out. Not the happily part. Not the married part. Not the throughout my life part. When my husband left me after a little less than seven years of marriage, it was probably the best thing he ever did for me. It certainly didn’t feel like it at the time, however. My dreams of what “family” would look like in my life exploded. I got over the divorce years ago, but I’m not sure I ever really got over the beating my vision of my “family” identity took.

On the other hand, I think the experience of my marriage and divorce were fertilizer for my growth into a real, three-dimensional, actualized person. It made me stronger, smarter, more compassionate, and more sensitive. It helped me think about things in bigger, more complex canvasses. Max and I often talk about what would have happened if we had met each other earlier in our lives. The bottom line of all those conversations is that neither one of us were ready for the other until the time we met. I couldn’t be ready for the happiness he and I have shared without the heartbreak of my earlier relationships, including my marriage.

Part of the cracks in my perception of “family” was not just the dissolution of the marriage, but also the related issue of not having any children. When I was young, I always imagined myself as a mother. When I got divorced, making that vision a reality seemed much more challenging. Of course, I realize that getting divorced does not automatically shut down the dream of having children. One can remarry and have children. One can adopt children. One can try alternative processes like surrogate parenting or using a donor for the paternal half of the DNA. I just never made it happen. It isn’t that I ever really decided not to have children. Circumstances just never seemed right. A husband and future father of my children never materialized. I lived in Southern California in a tiny one-bedroom condominium, which I am guessing would not have been well-received by adoption agencies. I worked full time and made decent money, but would have struggled with paying for child care. Also, I always felt that, in a world where we could always have our druthers, a child should have a mom and a dad. Single parents can do an awesome job… some better than some dual parent families. However, to me, the best-case scenario, is to have two awesome parents sharing the burdens and joy of child-rearing. I guess in a way, I did decide to not have children by never arranging my life to have children. Still, if you had told the twenty-two-year-old me that I would not have children, I would have been dumbfounded…. And horrified.

Years later, part of me still feels regrets that the “mother” part of my vision of my future never happened. However, contrary to popular belief, I don’t really think most people can have it all. I am not sure I have it in me to be the mother I would want to be in the circumstances that I ended up facing. I could have been a parent. Without the support of a fully-contributing partner, however, I’m not sure I could do it well. It would have killed me to not do it well.

And there is another side to the coin. Without having children, Max and I can be our own children. We can be selfish with our time, energy, and money. I was able to retire at a fairly young age instead of working to pay college tuition. I have been able to enjoy life in ways that I could not have done if I was supporting children. I can support children’s charities with money that I would have spent raising my own kids.

Yes, my life is very different than what I imagined. On the other hand, it is a pretty good life. I’m not complaining.

What do you think is most surprising about the way your life has turned out? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

May all your surprises be good ones!

Terri 🙂

Roll Me In Rainbows And Call Me A Unicorn

When I was living in California, I used to go to a small café called Bagels & Brew a couple of times a week. It is still there. In fact, the owners have opened a couple of more stores in recent years. They have delectable bagels, made fresh daily. They have nearly every variety of bagel you can possibly imagine. They toast and warm and slather bagels just the way you crave them. They also have wonderful egg dishes, sandwiches, and salads. I understand from people who actually drink coffee-related beverages that they make a mean latte. All in all, the food is great. It is so great that I would eat there even if the environment was less than appetizing. I would sit on a broken chair, wipe crumbs off a dirty table, and endure surly service just short of getting slapped in the face to enjoy a crispy, savory double-toasted poppy bagel with butter.

The thing is I don’t have to endure any such shortcomings. If there is anything more satisfying than the bagels at Bagels & Brew, it is the atmosphere. The place is warm and welcoming and cozy. There is a busy-ness and a bustle that feels cheerful, but never manic or rushed. There are booths and tables inside, as well as outdoor seating. People from all walks of life, ages, and interests seem to congregate with a nosh and a drink. I’ve overheard business meetings, Bible study discussions, dates, and crucial conversations while chomping my bagel. The folks who work there are cheerful and seem to be genuinely enjoying their jobs.

In fact, the employees make Bagels & Brew the “Cheers” of baked goods. Not only does everybody know your name and they’re always glad you came, but they remember what you like to eat and punch it into the register as you enter the store. When I was living in California, I could count on someone saying, “Good morning, Terri! The usual?” In fact, even when I made my first trip back to California after moving, the employee at the counter greeted me by name and remembered my poppy bagel double-toasted with butter… despite the fact that it had been over a YEAR since I had last darkened their doorstep. There is something very comforting about starting your day with a cheerful greeting from someone who cares enough to remember who you are and what you order. Starting your day with a few tasty grams of carbohydrates doesn’t hurt, either!

On my most recent trip to California, I confess that no one in Bagels & Brew greeted me by name. Of course, I’d lost some weight and completely changed my hairstyle, so I wasn’t really playing fair. The bagels were still delicious. The environment was still cozy. The employees were still friendly. In fact, everything was just as I remembered it.

Except….

As I entered the café on Wednesday, I noticed a sign announcing the availability of unicorn bagels on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. UNICORN BAGELS!!??!!! What?!! Wow. Just wow. I was all over it. I knew there was no way I was leaving California without experiencing a unicorn bagel. I returned the next day, propelled by curiosity and craving for a fantastical, mythical breakfast. The unicorn bagel was AWESOME. If a bagel and a rainbow-hued tornado had a baby, the result would be a unicorn bagel. To the more prosaic, the unicorn bagel is essentially a plain bagel wrapped in twisting, vibrant strips of food-colored dough. The result is a swirling, rolling rainbow of blues and pinks and yellows and greens. I, not being the prosaic type, was enchanted.

I was so enchanted, I wanted to buy a unicorn bagel t-shirt. Unfortunately, the store did not have my size in stock. The manager offered to go home and print me one so I could pick it up later in the day or the next morning. Who does that? People who like you, I guess. I was back the next morning to claim my freshly-printed purple unicorn bagel shirt. It took me three trips (not that I’m objecting to three mornings of fresh bagels!) to Bagels & Brew, but I can now say I’ve eaten a unicorn bagel and have the t-shirt to prove it.

I am the first to admit that there are parts of my personality that are just weird and neurotic. I regularly spend a certain amount of effort trying to contain those parts of my personality to keep me from going down in a fiery crash of insanity. There is another part of my personality, though, that is also weird, but I like to think is rather is charming.

It is the part of me that stalks Tinkerbell.

It is the part of me that hangs stockings at Christmas (including one for myself), fills them, and then asserts vehemently that the contents come from Santa Claus.

It is the part of me that is tickled pink by feeding lemurs and giraffes.

It is the part of me that wears my Bagels & Brew t-shirt proudly proclaiming, “Roll me in rainbows and call me a unicorn!”

I hope I never outgrow whimsy!

What is your favorite place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. If anyone is interested in learning more about Bagels & Brew, you can check them out at www.bagelsandbrew.com.

Put Another Candle On The Blogday Cake

Everybody get ready to blow out some candles!  My blog is two years old.  I read somewhere that only about 5% of blogs remain active as long as two years, so I think this week calls for a celebration! Thanks to all of you for reading and encouraging me!  You are all awesome.

When I first started the blog, I asked some friends to help me publicize my efforts and build readership.  I explained that I read that a “successful” blog unassociated with some particular company or service has about 1,000 unique visitors per month, but that I could not imagine recruiting that many people to read my blog on a regular basis.  One of my friends, who used to be my boss and knows too well how obsessive I can be about metrics, asked me what I would do if I did not attract those 1,000 blog readers.  I don’t know if he was worried that I would take random people hostage and force them to read the blog at gunpoint or that I would simply take a long walk on a short pier.  Having gained some perspective in retirement about my need to succeed, I assured him that I intended to blog whether anyone read it or not.  I told him that Terri LaBonte would keep talking to the blogosphere until she had nothing left to say. After two years, I am still talking.

To my constant amazement, delight, and befuddlement, the blog has been attracting over 1,000 unique visitors per month on a pretty regular basis. So I guess I am not just talking to myself.  Many of you comment, either on the website or by sending me an email.  Your insights are so beautiful and valuable.  We have rich, respectful, and real discussions.  I think I am a better person (certainly, a healthier and less neurotic one) because I write the blog and because I read your perspectives.

I hope that we can continue on our journey together for a long time to come.  I hope I still have stuff to say and am not just rerunning old ideas.  Not that old ideas are always bad.  Didn’t someone say that there is nothing new under the sun?  All that will ever really be new is our way of looking at the world.  Thank you all for helping me to see the world in a new way.

So have a piece of virtual birthday cake.  Blow out some virtual candles.  Make a real wish.  Then make that wish come true!

 

What are your birthday wishes for our blogday?  What topics would you like to discuss?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  By the way, if you’d like another helping of Terri, I did another guest blog post at retirementandgoodliving.com.  You can visit at http://retirementandgoodliving.com/lessons-i-wish-i-never-had-to-learn/

I hope all your wishes come true today!

Terri 🙂

 

The Need To Succeed

I’ve written a book.  It has taken me over a year and a lot of work, but I’ve written a book. 

I’ve said I wanted to be a writer all my life, so this is a big deal.  I’ve sent this collection of my brain nuggets off on its first wave of agents in attempt to interest someone in representing me.  My research suggested a strategy of soliciting about ten prospective agents at a time, continuing with query letters to a new batch of people every four weeks or so.  The guru I consulted implied that it is not unusual for a new writer to receive 20-30 rejections from agents before receiving an offer of representation.  The responses to the first wave of queries are starting to flit into my email. I am well on my way to those 20-30 rejections.   

When I started work on the book, I told myself that I was doing it for fun. I told myself I was doing it for personal satisfaction. I told myself that I was just ticking off a box on my bucket list.  I told myself that I wouldn’t be disappointed if no one wanted to represent or publish it.  I told myself a lot of happy hoopla that people tell themselves when they are trying to force themselves to feel rationally. 

I think feeling rationally may be an oxymoron. 

At any rate, despite my best intentions, I do feel a little deflated as I collect my rejection replies.  It isn’t that I am completely demoralized or depressed or anything so dramatic.  I don’t even feel like I’ve given up yet (although maybe I should!)  Still, I have to admit to feeling a bit dispirited.  Maybe even vaguely ashamed.   

I think it has a lot to do with the ingrained “need to succeed” that drove my every action and emotion while I was working.  During my work life, so much of my worth seemed tied up with results and achievement.  It was easy to feel exposed and ashamed when something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, no matter how hard I tried for a good outcome.  It was as if any sub-wonderful result would mean that everyone would know I wasn’t as smart or talented or strong or whatever as I was supposed to be. I don’t think I’m the only one who carried that world view on her back.  I’ve heard many people voice similar weird concerns that everyone would “find out” they weren’t all they were cracked up to be.    

Now, with the book, I am wondering if I am voluntarily taking on this burden again. I remember that my stomach clenched when I hit the send button on the first query email.  I knew, going into this project, that it was very likely that I would not find an agent willing to represent me.  There are a lot of reasons why writers do not get representation contracts or publication deals.  I’ve read that only about 2% of writers who submit their work for consideration are successful in obtaining agents.  My writing may not be good enough to make it into the top 2%, which doesn’t make it bad.  My writing may be good enough, but my subject or format may not be commercial enough to interest agents and publishers.  My “platform” may not be strong enough to provide the credibility to convince publishers that I have sufficient built-in customers to reduce their risk.   All of these are possible, even probable, reasons why I may never attract an agent.  None of them should be shameworthy, however. 

If the rejections continue, more and more people in the literary world (people who I don’t even know, by the way) will discover I am less talented or less commercial or less savvy or less something.  I have to figure out a way to be okay with that, if I am going to play out the entire scenario.   

There are things I could do to shore up some of my “lesses” that would probably increase the likelihood of attracting an agent and publisher.   I could attend writers’ conferences.  I could pursue speaking engagements more aggressively.  I could figure out how to promote myself on social media. When I was working, I even had some experience and skills that would probably translate very well to this new challenge.  The thing is- I’m just not that into doing any of them. The idea of attending writers’ conferences has some appeal, but I’m sure I’d have to mix and mingle at the conferences for it to do much good and mixing and mingling holds no appeal whatsoever.  As an extreme introvert, it is difficult for me to even ask people to read my blog.  The idea of aggressively trying to put myself in the public eye makes me cringe.  I can challenge myself a little and I probably will try to expand my horizons a bit in the promotion arena, but I really don’t want to cause an earthquake in my comfort zone. As far as social media goes…. My idea of hell is dealing with technology.    

If I am not going to do much to reduce the likelihood of rejections, maybe I need to concentrate on what I’ve already accomplished to evaluate the outcome of my goal to be a writer.

·       I have grown personally and built myself a more satisfying retirement life through writing.

·       I have been writing a weekly blog for just about two years. 

·       I have more unique visitors to my blog each month than I ever thought possible.

·       I approach 30,000 hits on the blogsite each month.

·       I have wonderful, thoughtful readers who leave generous and supportive comments.

·       I have people contact me who say that something I’ve written has helped them.

·       I have written a book that pleases me. 

There isn’t anything wrong with having a need to succeed.  You just have to be discerning about how you define “succeed.” 

Do you feel the pressure of “the need to succeed?”  How do you define “succeed?”  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a successful day!

Terri 🙂

 

Where In The World Is Terri LaBonte?

This week, I am haunting one of my mother’s favorite places in the world and scattering her ashes.  I am visiting the spot where we released my father’s remains into the Universe over twenty years ago.  I am bonding with my brother in our grief over our mother’s death and our celebration of our connectedness.  I am taking shelter in the hearts of a couple long time forever friends. I am in California- the state where I grew into an adult and spent most of my life.

I reside in Florida now.  More importantly, I live in Florida now.  My life is there.  My sense of meaning and momentum and satisfaction is there.  I am happy in Florida and with the life I am constantly creating there.  Three years after my move from California (the land of no weather) to Florida (the land of wackadoodle weather), I can finally say unreservedly that relocating and reinventing myself was the absolute right decision for me.  Florida feels like Home.

Still, California still seems to occupy a small corner of the place in my heart called Home.  This week, I am living in that corner and it is very cozy here.

What do you think?  Can “Home” be more than one place?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a sweet day!

Terri 😊

Grace On Robinson Street

I became an Episcopalian this past week.  Officially.

Those of you who have been following along on the blog as I trip my way through retirement life know that, for some time, I have been examining my spiritual path.  For those of you who don’t know, you can visit http://www.terrilabonte.com/2017/01/a-crisis-of-church/ if you care to learn the backstory.

At any rate, after living virtually all my life as an observant Roman Catholic, I decided to convert to the Episcopal Church.  It was not a haphazard decision.  I thought about it a great deal.  I spent about a year and a half exploring, praying, and experimenting.  I wasn’t exactly “all in” for awhile, but I was taking ever more deliberate steps towards intimacy with the Episcopal Church.  I even took Episcopalian lessons.  Last Thursday, my sponsors and I took a drive to Orlando to ask the bishop for acceptance of my commitment to the Episcopal Church.

When our parish priest told me that everything was arranged for my entry ceremony, I had a strangely nervous reaction.  I wanted to do this.  I truly had no doubts about doing it.  Still, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach that tend to migrate there when any major life event is looming.  In retrospect, it made sense.  At the time, though, I felt confused by my reaction.  Why would I be nervous?  What was going to happen that would make anything any different?  How was anything really going to change by my participating in this formal ceremony? I was baptized and confirmed many years ago, receiving the sacramental grace of the Lord.  I have always spent a lot of mental energy trying to broaden and deepen my faith, so it wasn’t like focusing on my spiritual journey was anything new.  As Max pointed out, I have been regularly attending Episcopal services, praying in common with my brothers and sisters, learning about the beliefs and structure of my new denomination, and contributing financially to the church for over a year.  I have even started to apply what skills and talents I have to service within an Episcopal context.  With all that, how could I not already be an Episcopalian?

Still. I have always been a compliant person and the ceremony is part of the process.  People I trust seemed to believe that the ceremony would be a blessing to me and to others.  While I wasn’t sure what to expect or what spiritual benefits I might experience, I wanted to open myself to whatever God had planned for me through the events on the day of the ceremony.  I was nervous, but also excited.

My sponsor friends and I arrived at the diocesan office early.  As soon as we walked in the door, staff members rushed to greet us.  Employees who were not even involved in the ceremony popped out of doorways and from behind desks to come welcome me.  They knew who I was without me even introducing myself.  They had been anticipating my arrival. They seemed genuinely joyful that I was there.  I am sure most of the joy came from what I represented- God working in the world and His people- but I truly felt that they also cherished and welcomed me personally.

The welcome reminded me of an experience I had years ago while I was working.  I had been selected as a front-line manager for a new organization within my agency.  I went to an orientation meeting with all 200 or so other newly-selected managers.  The senior leadership circulated around the huge auditorium, greeting people and welcoming us to the new organization.  There were hugs involved.  I had never seen anything like it.  It was obvious that this hospitality was a deliberate business decision, designed to make us feel comfortable and committed to our new mission.  It worked for me.  I was impressed that someone had been considerate enough to even think of it.  And it wasn’t that the welcomes and welcomers were insincere. They didn’t seem phony. They were perfectly nice.  I believe they were honestly happy to meet us and to be working with us. There was something just a little bit off, though.  They didn’t know us.

In contrast, my welcome at the diocesan office felt more robust and visceral.  There was genuine warmth and joy and connectedness.  No, the staff didn’t know my story- where I live, who I love, what I do with the hours of my day- but they recognized me for the most important part of myself, a fellow child of God.  Not only did they know me, I was family. I think the archdeacon who was explaining the ceremony to us said it the best.  We were discussing whether my sponsors should use my name when presenting me to the bishop or just the more generic liturgical “this person.”  I laughed when the archdeacon asked me if I cared and said that it didn’t matter to me because God knew who I was.  She replied, most vehemently, “You are a precious child of God and we are overjoyed to have you.”

The ceremony itself was beautiful.  There were two people coming for confirmation and me for acceptance into the Episcopal Church. We gathered in a small, intimate chapel and prayed for each other.  Some folks from the office joined us.  It felt like a small family reunion in a family where everybody likes each other.   Before the ceremony, the archdeacon asked us to share our stories with each other.  In just those few moments, we became connected because of what we were sharing.  I doubt I’ll ever see them again, but we are important to each other.

When the bishop called me, we clasped hands and he placed his other hand on my shoulder.  He looked into my eyes and spoke the words of the liturgy accepting me into fellowship.  I have never been very good at looking people in the eyes for more than a second or two unless I know them very well.  I get shy and embarrassed and tend to look away.  I had no trouble at all maintaining eye contact at my acceptance ceremony.  I listened to what the bishop said, but I felt the depth of the blessing through what his eyes conveyed.

After the ceremony was over, I reflected on whether or not the formal acceptance ceremony actually made anything “different” for me.  Did I suddenly become an Episcopalian by virtue of the ceremony?  The answer is probably “no.”  I have been becoming an Episcopalian for some time.  I absolutely did feel “different” afterwards, though.  This ceremony is not a Sacrament with a capital “S”, but, for me, the ceremony and the powerhouse of loving welcome I received from everyone certainly felt sacramental. Through this process, God did gently change my heart.  I felt my fear crumble, my love expand, and my sense of my own value blossom.  I know that being a child of God is a lifelong vocation.  I am sure I will continue to struggle with my demons, just like everyone, but God did strengthen me for the struggle in a very special way when the bishop accepted me into the Episcopal communion and His people blessed me with their love.

There was Grace that day.

Have you ever had an experience that ended up being more meaningful than you anticipated?  Tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Grace to you today and always!

Terri 🙂

Older And Wiser

Now that we have welcomed 2018, it seems a good time to reflect on the old year and think about how I will use those experiences going forward in my life. They say that anything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and that, as we age, we gain additional wisdom.  I certainly hope so.  It would be very sad to think that I could go through the joy and grief of fiftysome years of life experience without learning a thing or two. This year, partly because the recent circumstances of my life created an emotional crucible, I think it is worth capturing some of the particular lessons I’ve grown to understand.

Just because someone disagrees with me doesn’t mean I am wrong.

I take my world view pretty seriously.  I spend a lot of time on introspection.  I very rarely form a definite opinion about something unless I have thought about it thirty-three ways to Sunday.  In fact, I usually overthink things.  Still, it doesn’t take much to shake my confidence in my opinion or feeling if someone else questions it.  Something inside me starts to feel vaguely unsettled until I either convince the other person of the rightness of my position or I capitulate to the other point of view.  The truth is, I don’t have to convince anyone of anything in order to justify my own point of view for my own life.  I certainly don’t have to convince anyone of the “correctness” of my own feelings. Despite that “unsettleness” I feel, it is in no way a catastrophe if my take on something is not the same as someone else’s perspective.  The reality is that it is fine- even desirable- for people to have different opinions, feel differently about things, to BE different.  That differentness is not a reflection of a lack of love or respect.  It just makes us who we are and precious.

Everybody can only do what he or she can do in a crisis.

Everyone has different strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses.  For the most part, I think everyone does the best they can.  Dealing with the decline of a parent is incredibly stressful and difficult in so many different ways. All I could do was try to be the best version of myself and make my best effort to do all I could to support my parent. Nobody can do everything.  It is important to be gentle with yourself and others.  It is counter-productive to feel guilty or resent other family members because I wished things were different.  First of all, no matter what, there was nothing anybody could do that was likely to change the outcome of the situation.  Secondly, there are all kinds of valid, true reasons why people just can’t do things.

It can be self-destructive AND selfish not to accept help from people I trust.

I’ve never been good at asking for help or even accepting when other people offer.  I never wanted to impose on anyone or be any trouble to anyone.  It is as if I think that just taking up space and breathing in the air is all I deserve.  Years ago, a colleague was giving me feedback at work.  She invited me to think about how I feel when I do something for someone else.  When I told her how good it made me feel, she nodded.  She told me that I was always doing kind deeds, taking on extra work, and sharing what I had, but I was actually being pretty selfish because I did not allow others to have the same pleasure in giving to me in return.  At the time, I thought it was a pretty profound lesson, but I don’t think it really took.

I still have a hard time not thinking I am being a bother when I ask for or accept help.  This past year, I often hit the point where I could not keep putting one foot in front of the other without the help of wonderful people.  Local friends took me on outings to give me a break from overwhelm.  My faraway friends listened endlessly to me while I aired out the conflicting emotions churning around in that crucible.  Hospice employees shouldered my tears and insecurities over and over again, taking on enough of my pain so that I could bear what I had to bear.  I went to the doctor for my pap smear and left with a prescription for an anti-depressant when I could not stop crying in response to the innocent question, “How are you?”

All of these gifts meant so much to me.  Of course they did.  However, I worried that I was asking too much of people in my neediness.  Honestly, I don’t think the folks who gave them thought of them as a bother.  My friends were happy to be able to help in any way, as I would be happy if I could be of any comfort if the situation was reversed.  The hospice workers told me that my discussions with them made them feel empowered and valuable.  The doctor was simply glad no one had to mop up my tears from the floor on my follow up visit.

I have a partner who will run with me and not from me when things are difficult.

Even though Max and I have been together for over 20 years, some part of me still wondered, deep down, how he would react if something really bad happened to me or in my life.  We are not married.  He has no legal responsibility towards me.  He spent many years on his own, protecting his own lifestyle and protecting himself from the physical and emotional dangers of life. His psyche has always been just sort of fine-tuned to danger.  I wasn’t absolutely sure he would follow me if I ran into dangers in my life.  I liked to think he would, but part of me wasn’t at all sure.

We have been through many things together, of course, but nothing like the trauma of dealing with my mother’s illness and ultimate death.  Max never stopped trying to support me.  He didn’t always hit the right note, of course.  No one could always hit the right note.  I couldn’t even always tell you what the right note would be.  More often than not, though, he did exactly the right thing.  Even more important, it was always obvious to me that he was there with me in the storm and was trying to hold me up even when the wind was in his face.  There are so many small things he has done over the past year that I know were stretches for him- actions that would never be things he would do on his own but he was doing because he thought they might help me.  I was more difficult to be around than I have ever been in my life.  I was needier than I have ever been in my life.  I was less capable in nearly every facet of everyday existence than I have ever been in my life.  It didn’t matter.  Max was still there and still holding me tight, even when I struggled against him.

So, these are my lessons learned from 2017.  My resolution for 2018 is to try to remember them and to apply them when life again pushes my back against the wall.  It might be harder than it seems.  I may be getting wiser as I age, but I’m pretty sure my memory is getting worse!

What are your takeaways from 2017?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a wonderfully wise day!

Terri 🙂

The Skin I’m In

My body is beginning to betray me as I age.  Oh, we all know that our bodies do tend to get less dependable as we get older.  We see enough television commercials to convince us that our bones are brittle, our eyes are squinty, and our sex lives are lukewarm.  On the other hand, I didn’t really think about the little things that decline as the years advance.  For me, my body seems to have become a bit testy about substances it formerly tolerated with no complaint. 

About ten days ago, I purchased one of those cute little angel pins at the Hallmark store that come attached to a little romance card that shares some sweet, sentimental message.  I bought the angel because the message involved missing a loved one who has passed.  Also, the body of the little angel was made of a tiny white rose. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that white roses at Christmas were a “thing” for my mother (for those of you who are newer cyberfriends or would just like a refresher, please visit http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/05/the-white-white-rose-of-home/). Anyhow, I happily shelled out my six bucks for the white angel rose.  

The next day, I fastened the little pin to the top of a dark burgundy velour blouse.  Even though it was tiny, it was quite noticeable on the dark background.  Several people at church noticed and commented on it.  It gave me the opportunity to tell them about what a wonderful person my mother was and how the pin reminds me that I am lucky to have her love forever.   

Unfortunately, within a couple of days of wearing the pin, my skin exploded into a red, angry, itchy, hivey, whealy rash that covered my whole chest.   Any part of my body that came into even the slightest contact with the pin revolted.  Apparently, the pin triggered some sort of metal allergy that I didn’t even know I had.  As I scratched, I think the rash started taking on a life of its own, independent of the pin.   I started sprouting red bumps from my breasts to my chin line.  It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was pretty obvious that my skin was throwing a temper tantrum.  

I considered having a contest on this blog to name the rash.  However, I was hoping that I would be able to lose the rash before I could organize a contest, so I decided to do the honors myself. Given the season and the fact that my chest was the color of neon infused tomatoes, I decided to name my pet rash Rudolph. For a few days, I spread hydrocortisone cream on my chest.  Rudolph’s color didn’t change much.  The itch might have been marginally less uncomfortable…. for a little while until I thought about it again.  I kept thinking Rudolph was getting a little smaller, but Max looked at me in alarm every time he I wore a blouse that wasn’t a turtleneck so my “improving” assessment might have been wishful thinking.  

Yesterday, I noticed that the cream I was slathering all over my chest was 15 years old.  That may have something to do with the fact that it didn’t seem to be working very well.  I treated myself to a new tube of hydrocortisone cream.  Almost immediately, Rudolph is retreating.  The itch is not as compelling.  Rudolph’s color is more like under ripe tomatoes without the neon now.  Rudolph is occupying much less square footage on my chest.   

So, my rash is almost gone.  However, as I was inspecting my skin in the mirror this morning, I noticed that there was a hidden Mickey formed by three of the remaining hives.  Do you think it might be a Christmas miracle?

Have you noticed small, unexpected changes in your body that have come with age?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Happy New Year!

Terri 🙂

A Corny (But Heartfelt) Christmas Poem

C is for the Christ Child who came to bring us Light,

To lead us to eternal joy in His mercy and His might.

H is for the holly hanging on the walls

Green and red festooning, decking all the halls.

R is for reindeer that bring Santa’s sleigh,

Hauling all the presents that we open Christmas Day.

I is for icicles on the tree’s limbs

Sparkling even when all the light dims.

S is for Santa who brings treats and toys

To delight all good little girls and boys.

T is for trimming- trees, gifts, or halls

With tinsel and garland and bright Christmas balls.

M is for mistletoe and kisses we steal

With love and affection and special Yule zeal.

A is for angel on top of the tree,

Glittering, sparkling… as bright as can be.

S is for salvation-  Christ’s mission on earth.

The way to the cross began on the day of His birth.

 

Christmas is a big concept.  I think there is plenty of room in Christmas for secular tradition and festivity.  I enjoy the ho ho ho and the fa la la.  For me, though, Christmas begins and ends with Jesus.

Have a happy and holy Christmas!  Yuletide blessings to you and yours.

Merry Christmas!  Please join my cyberspace Christmas party.  Feel free to leave a comment to share your Christmas good wishes and memories.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Oh, and by the way, please help yourself to some virtual gingerbread!!!!

Terri :-0  Holy Night!

 

Christmas Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I also love grizzly bears, but I don’t necessarily think it is safe to engage with them.

There are numerous holiday-related injuries that can detract from the fun and frivolity of the Christmas season.  I’m going to mention a few of them so you can be on the lookout, if you insist on tempting fate and celebrating a holly jolly season this year.

The other day, I was innocently decorating my Christmas trees (yes, I do have more than one… what’s it to ya?) and happened to look down.  There was a stream of blood running down my arm, apparently the result of some tree assembly mishap.  I’m not sure how it happened.  My trees are not huge.  In fact, it occurred to me that, even if one of them should come tumbling down directly on my head, they did not weigh enough to render me concussed.  Still, I somehow managed to stab myself with fake pine needles and break the skin.  You’ll be happy to know I avoided stitches.  I did, however, need a band-aid.

I threw several strings of battery-operated lights around the holly trees in front of my house.  I wasn’t interested in appearing on The Great Christmas Light Fight or anything.  I just didn’t want to be the only neighbor without holiday illumination. Since I didn’t really care how the lights looked, it was not necessary to balance on a ladder.  I’ve seen a lot of people in the community perching precariously on ladders, stapling lights to their roofs.  I’m sorry, but I think if you live in an over-55 community, you are just tempting fate the minute you step on a ladder.  The lights in my holly trees are battery-operated and have timers, so I am now free to ignore them until it is time to put them away in January.  I do have two faceted green disco-ball kind of things that project moving green polka dots onto the face of the house.  These, alas, have neither batteries or timers.  I had to get extension cords, which seemed relatively hazard-free.  However, every evening I have to plug the lights in and unplug them when I go to bed.  Max is certain that I will be attacked by lizards, frogs, and snakes when I prowl around the yard unplugging cords.

I also think I may have developed a tinsel allergy at some point.  Every time I’ve decorated a tree in the past few years, I’ve ended up with a cold or other respiratory ailment of some such ilk.  I end up spending several days sneezing and coughing and feeling like I’ve swallowed spiders.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine who reported that just about everyone has that reaction.  She said she thought it was from the dust that collects on the Christmas tree and decorations while they languish in the garage from January until November.  That may sound reasonable to some of you, but I believe it is more nefarious and personal than that.  I’ve decided that I must be allergic to sparkle.  Unless I’m allergic to Christmas in general.  I’m not willing to go that far, however.

There are also the health issues surrounding the consumption of special holiday treats.  We’ve all heard horror stories of people who have ended up in the emergency room with food poisoning on Christmas because somebody thought cooking a turkey overnight at 150 degrees was a great idea.  I personally know several people who have been injured when falling fruitcake hit their feet.  Just saying.  Then there is my own personal vulnerability.  People who jog can get shin splints.  People who play tennis can get tennis elbow.  People who eat gingerbread as a hobby are susceptible to ginger-pudge.  This is a serious condition that causes a thickened waist and a pair of bloated hips.  Yes, it is only a season disorder, but its effects can be cumulative year after year.

Yes, Christmas can be dangerous.  Maybe we should avoid seasonal celebration the way we avoid smoking, drinking, extreme sports, and taking toddlers on long airplane trips.

But then…. there is the Christmas Star that brings Light to the World.  There is the good news of salvation.  There is the joyful promise of peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Forget what I said.  Some dangers are worth the risk.  We need a little Christmas!

Have you ever suffered any Christmas-related injuries?  Do tell.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have an injury-free day!

Terri:-)