Going Viral

The other day, I went to the supermarket to do my weekly grocery shopping.  I learned that I could easily buy a lottery ticket, which could be worth millions, and exotic vegetables with names I don’t know how to pronounce.  However, purchasing a container of antibacterial cleaning wipes was another matter.  The cupboard was bare in that department.  I wasn’t trying to buy the wipes because of COVID-19.  I always use them to clean surfaces in my house and I used my last one.  Today, I tried to find them in several more stores and on the internet, with no success.  I am going to have to muddle through with all-purpose cleaning spray, like we did back in the day. 

I do not want to be flip or dismiss the concerns of reasonable people.  First, a global pandemic is not funny.  Second, pragmatically concerned people who stay on the rational side of panic are likely more realistic and certainly more helpful than I am with my somewhat laissez faire attitude about the whole coronavirus thing. 

The weird thing is that I haven’t felt all that scared or anxious about the situation.  Those of you who read my blog regularly know that one of my few talents in life is worrying.  If they had an Olympics for worrying, I’d win a gold medal.  Except they would probably cancel the Worrying Olympics in an attempt to slow the spread of contagion.  I am a world class worrier. For some reason, though, the coronavirus outbreak has barely been a blip on my radar.  I took very little notice until the World Health Organization started calling it a pandemic and Disney closed all its parks.  At that point, I started thinking about it.  I still don’t feel worried. This is a great comfort to my friends who understand my overactive nervous system.  They figure if I, of all people, am not worried, things must not be so hopeless. 

I am glad that people are having conversations about the best ways to handle potential danger. This gives us a chance to look at all options from a variety of perspectives, including how realistic it is for a society to follow a possible protocol. Having many reasonable, educated, analytical minds discuss a situation increases the possibility that all relevant factors and options will be considered.  Having widespread mass communication increases the possibility of public awareness and education, even if it also increases the opportunity for misinformation and panic.  It is important for individuals, families, and organizations start assessing risks and adopting practices to minimize opportunities for infection.  I also think it is important for charitable, service, and religious organizations to mobilize to meet the health, financial, and spiritual needs that will certainly arise from the coronavirus.  It is also important that people operate from a place of practical caution and generosity rather than fear and panic.

Even though I am not racked by worry and fear, I do support efforts to be smart and careful in an uncertain environment. 

There is still a lot that I find ironic and illogical about the reaction to the pandemic.  Trying to reconcile the actions people are taking makes my brain hurt sometimes.  For instance, my community cancelled our chorale concert a month from now, but we hosted a pancake breakfast for 100 the day after the WHO announced it was classifying the coronavirus situation a “pandemic.”  Disney and Universal announced they were closing to the public but continued to operate for two more weekend days.  The movie theater in my town stayed open but decided to sell only half the tickets to each show.   Max and I went to see a movie advertised at a theater about 10 miles from our town. When we got to the movie theater, we found they had decided to close completely until further notice.  However, across the parking lot from the theater, there was a well-populated bar.  A couple participants in my Alpha group at church (which usually has about 20 attendees) decided to stay away from the class because of fear of contagion.  Two other participants were absent last week because they were on a cruise.  A friend of mine’s husband just went from the hospital to an in-patient physical therapy rehabilitation facility. The hospital allowed visitors, but the rehab facility locked down to prevent spread of disease.

I had one of those decisions of my own to make recently.  I am the leader of my Episcopal Church Women small group.   We meet the third Monday of every month.  I didn’t plan to cancel the meeting.  As news became clearer that the risk is not just a personal risk, but also a risk to our public health and safety organizations, I decided to reconsider my position.  I still did not feel any real personal risk (I mention this to reassure the friends that use me as their personal barometer for panic).  I am just now considering another factor in my decision-making.  I don’t want to contribute to overstressing our hospitals and health care personnel to the breaking point.  Lots of people could seem perfectly well and still be carrying the virus.  For most people, catching the virus will likely be inconvenient but not necessarily dangerous.  However, if the hospitals cannot accommodate all the people who are in danger, the result may not be pretty. 

My decision to cobble together a rough virtual meeting instead of having our normal face-to-face meeting involved considering many interests.  I did not consider just the health and public safety interests, although that was part of the equation.  I also considered the spiritual needs of the group, the fellowship advantages, the need to present a faithful and loving example of Christianity to the world, and the interest in making sure that a short-term decision does not become a permanent answer.  My decision was based partly on the fact that our group has a strong relational foundation, that we can and will change our course if the problem continues or we see people fraying around the edges, and that we will still invest face time with people who have needs that we cannot meet over the phone or with electronic communication. 

Another interesting thing about my decision is that it seems inconsistent with a decision I’ve made for myself about another group in my church.  I don’t have the authority to make the decision for the other group, but, unless directed otherwise, I still plan on meeting with them.  I am putting myself in the middle of the exact ironic, apparently illogical conundrum that gives me a brainache.  In the other group, there are some different factors to consider that make me believe, under my set of priorities, that the benefits outweigh the risks.

I guess I’ve found the answer to my quandary.  For every decision we make, especially in the time of COVID-19, there are many factors to weigh.  Everyone will have his or her own matrix of risks, benefits, and priorities for each situation they encounter.  Likely, all those matrices will be different.  I’m going to stop trying to force everything to make sense.  It’s not my job.  My job is just to analyze my own matrix for my own situations and do the best I can. 

How are you fostering a sense of community, companionship, and affection in a world of COVID-19?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a healthy day!  Stay well, my friends… physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Terri/Dorry

Bun On The Run

The Elf on the Shelf is so last Christmas.  In my household, we have moved on to a pre-Easter ritual I am calling the Bun on the Run. 

Never let it be said that I don’t know how to milk every ounce of absurdity out of a tradition.  Max and I had such a good time hunting for Kringle, my little elf on the shelf, in December, he suggested we adapt the game to search for a runaway bunny each morning during the Easter season.  I decided to leave no silliness unturned. We hopped off to Hobby Lobby to buy a small bunny Max could hide each morning.  Of course, one bunny was not enough.  After all, we are talking about rabbits here.  I now have a large herd (or whatever you call mass quantities of cohabitating bunnies) of rabbits grazing on my breakfast nook table.  These rabbits are various shapes and sizes, making them suitable for hiding in virtually any location Max finds each morning. We bought some of them at Hobby Lobby and some I painted back in the 1980s in a ceramics class.  Their names are Arabella, Archibald, Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo, Winken, Blinken, Nod, and Tumble.  I used to also have a Sage.  Sadly, she was killed in a tragic dusting accident. 

We started the bunny-running activity the day after Ash Wednesday.  Each morning, a bunny makes a break for freedom.  According to legend (which I have just made up), when the bunny hears me coming, he burrows down in a secret place to wait for me to get tired of searching.  That has not yet happened.  Although sometimes I do need a hint.

My bunnies are enjoying their morning exercise and have landed in some interesting places.  One morning, Miney landed between the reverently folded hands of Clare the Prayer Bear.  Eenie was partial to the telephone cradle. 

This Bun on the Run hunt sometimes takes an inordinate amount of time in the mornings.  Some mornings, I’ve asked for a hint long before I normally would have because there was someplace I needed to be and I could not imagine explaining my tardiness by blaming a wayward fake rabbit,  I have to admit that I’ve even asked Max not to let the bun run too far on a given morning because we had to get cracking on the day in a less leisurely manner than permitted by our normal bun hunt.  These tedious distractions from the hunt (i.e. “real life”) also happened at Christmas time, but it seems that they have been popping up much more this season. 

This makes me wonder if I am trying to crowd way too many things into my life.  For me, the goal of retirement was to slow down and not do things in the most efficient way humanly possible all the time.  I was tired of hopping and wanted to meander.  Now, I seem to be hopping faster than the bunnies.  It is a wakeup call.

Now, I will freely admit that hunting for runaway bunnies is not exactly a traditional Lenten observance.  For Lent this year, I am doing some things to nurture my spiritual development.  I would not include hunting for bunnies in that list.  However, I’m now thinking that the bunnies have taught me something that is critical to spiritual development.  It is easy to let life get overscheduled and out of control.  It is easy to let activities master me instead of me mastering the activities.  I am doing so many things- maintaining relationships, exercising, coordinating the hospitality for our church’s Alpha program, facilitating an Alpha small group, delivering meals to the homebound, leading an Episcopal Churchwomen’s chapter, preparing and delivering devotionals and programs for the Episcopal Churchwomen’s chapter and general meetings, participating in a fundraising activity for a local school, carving out time for fun, and, sometimes… maybe… sleep.

Any activity, no matter how much fun or how satisfying or how ministerial it may be can be a distraction to my relationship with God if I let it.  My time for Scripture study and prayer often comes at the end of the day, before I go to bed… after I have finished up whatever remaining walking I must do to hit my 6 miles a day. I’m not sure my prayer is ready for prime time.  I try to cleanse my mind and concentrate, but I know I could do better.  I know this because I’ve learned I have to do my Scripture reading and prayer standing up.  When I lay down, I fall asleep.  I’m sure the mental noise and busy-ness of the day interfere with my quality time with the Lord. 

If I feel like I’m too pressed for time to hunt for bunnies… or pray without passing out… maybe it’s time for me to take God’s hand and let Him slow me down to a little bit.  Who am I kidding?  It will probably take a training collar!

What techniques do you use to prioritize and balance your time, once you don’t have a job to force you into a routine? Now that you get to decide what and how much to do, what keeps you from getting overscheduled? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a hippity hoppity day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Arabella, Archibald, Eenie, , Meenie, Miney, Mo, Nod, Tumble, Winken, and BLinken
Look carefully at Claire the Prayer Bear’s reverent paws!
Everybody needs a landline!

About Face(book)

As many of you know, I held out against the Facebook invasion for a long time.  I told the tale of my conversion to the posting side in my blog post Social Anxiety. You can view that post at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/02/social-anxiety/.  Now that I’ve been socially anxious for over a year, I thought I’d revisit my decision.

I almost put myself in Facebook time-out a little while back.  The drama was beginning to unnerve me. 

I belong to a few different groups on Facebook.  For the most part, I find that these groups are helpful, positive, and supportive.  Now and again, a skirmish breaks out. It can be amusing to watch it play out…  when the skirmish involves people who are strangers to me.  When it involves people I know, it feels too personal and cringeworthy.  It makes me want to crawl back into my Luddite hole and cover myself with a blanket.  Or maybe just feed my phone down the garbage disposal. It upsets me a lot. 

I used to think I could try to raise a point that would help the feuding parties bridge their differences and make peace.  Now, I just feel powerless to stop the madness.  I’m sad that the madness may infect my reasonably sane circle of close friends and destroy the carefully nurtured harmony in my world.  People tell me to “just keep scrolling” if a certain thread bothers me.  I know that is the best advice, but I find it difficult to implement.  It is sort of like telling an alcoholic that she can easily sit in a bar if she just doesn’t order a drink.  Yes, it is possible, but it ain’t easy.  I am a curious person and seem to be drawn to these dramas.  I freely admit that this curiosity is based on a desire to be “in the know” on the gossip front.  It is an extremely unattractive side to my personality and I work hard to beat it down.  Facebook doesn’t facilitate that self-improvement effort, at least not without some creativity on my part.

I’ve been trying to channel my angst about posts that feed the darker side of the online society into more positive avenues.  I try to forge strategies to force the conversation into a more productive place.  That was always my goal, but I found that responding directly to an inflammatory post wasn’t the way to accomplish it.  “Distraction” is my new method.  Instead of squirting Coleman fuel on a fire that is already out of control in hopes of drowning it, I think it is better to leave the building to burn down and set up housekeeping in a more pleasant place.  For instance, a twister swirled into a group recently over a sensitive, polarizing matter.  Posters were passionate about their opinions.  There was little in the way of shared interests.  It seemed that the opposite positions were mutually exclusive.  In short, I don’t think there was ever going to be any consensus of opinion.

There were folks who wrote reasonable, rational posts to try to bridge the gaps in understanding and position.  These posters encouraged those who were so angry and devastated to embrace the (hopefully) shared interest of community harmony.  I admired those posters.  Unfortunately, several attempts to let cooler heads prevail resulted in those cooler heads being knocked from their shoulders.   Just when it seemed that the emotional temperature was decreasing, there would be another belligerent, righteously indignant post that would start the whole argument over again. 

I don’t say which camp was right and which camp was wrong.  In fact, I am not even saying that taking to Facebook to have this argument was wrong (although I probably would say that, if pressed) because I know I tend to be too passive and non-confrontational. What I am saying is that, right or wrong, these social media land mines upset me a lot.  It is just in my DNA to avoid arguments and withdraw when tempers flare.  It hurt my heart that there were real people at the center of these arguments, the targets of some pretty pointed ugliness at times.  After a few days of this running Facebook argument, I thought seriously about leaving the group or even getting off Facebook altogether.

I decided not to take either action because, all in all, I like Facebook.  I am the cornball who loves the cute animal videos, the witty puns, the ridiculous quizzes that apparently send information about my weird personality to Russia on a regular basis, and the uplifting messages.  I also like to see the pictures people post.  It has been interesting connecting with some people from my past.  As to the group that the argument hijacked for a few weeks, it provides very valuable information almost all the time. 

Instead of giving up Facebook, leaving a group that I find generally helpful, or taking a side in a Facebook battle, I decided to feed new threads.  I started posting my “Thankful Thursday” posts in that group, copying from my regular posts to friends.  These posts list some of the things for which I am thankful and ask that others join me in thankfulness, in exchange for a virtual donut.  Much as I did when I was working, I sometimes list a “strategic” thankful, with the specific intent to reinforce positiveness.  I also wrote my blog post Nice Matters (http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/07/nice-matters/) a week or two after the firestorm started and posted the link in the group.  I saw a few other people taking similar actions, posting about friendship and unity.  We didn’t make a big deal about any of it or allude at all to the controversy.  We were specifically trying to not refer to the controversy.  We just reminded FB groupies that our world is filled with wonderful people who do wonderful things. 

When we stopped feeding the fire, the ashes started to cool.  There is still the occasional flare.  I suppose that is understandable, as people were very passionate about the issue and, in some ways, it was a very big issue.  Some people do burn hotter than others.  On the other hand, the conversation landscape is less scorched and I am not as upset.  The key to managing my Facebook angst was not trying to extinguish the fire.  It was to build a more flame-retardant house!

What are your experiences with social media controversies?  How do you keep your equilibrium when a social media storm breaks out?  Please share your experience by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have an angst-free day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Dreaming

I’ve had a recurring dream since I retired.  I dream that I am back at work.  I don’t think that is too unusual.  What is unusual is that, in my dream, I have still retired but decided to go back to the job.  I explain it to colleagues by saying, “oh yes, I did retire but after a couple of months decided to come back and work a little more.”  I don’t seem to be concerned about money or about missing my job or have any particular reason at all as to why I decided to come back to work. I get the sense that I went back to work because someone asked me to come back to work on some specific project and then I just forgot to leave.

I don’t know if going back to the job from which I retired would even be a possibility.  How would that even work?  I assume I’d have to give up my retirement check and then would get my regular salary until I retired from the same job for a second time, at which time I would get  a recomputed retirement check based on my additional time in service.  See how weird this is?  I’m even compulsively contemplating the mechanics of the whole thing. 

I don’t know why I have this dream or what it means.  It might have something to do with my mom.  As my brother points out, I am basically the same person as my mom.  She received multiple pensions during her life (albeit not for the same job). She always enjoyed having a job.  She kept reinventing her career, moving on to a different job that suited her skills and personality whenever the opportunity arose.  I can count at least 10 different paying jobs she held from the time I was about five.  Maybe part of me wonders if I should be finding a new job, now that my primary career life is finished.  That interpretation doesn’t feel right to me, though.  I’m reasonably certain that I’m not repressing any deep-seated need to have a job.  I have a busy life, filled with satisfying and stimulating activity.  I’m not bored.  I don’t feel worthless.  The idea of being hemmed in by other people’s expectations that I do specific tasks on a specific schedule holds absolutely no appeal. 

Maybe I keep having this dream because I have an idea that, if I could go back to my job, knowing what I know now, I might do it better. I feel like I’ve learned so much about living and about how to be comfortable being myself since I retired.  If I did go back to my old job, I’m not sure anyone would recognize me.  I think I’d be less tense and more confident. Hopefully, I wouldn’t feel so inadequate all the time.  Maybe I wouldn’t drag so much emotion with me through every task I undertook.  When I left my job, I had nothing left in the tank. Exhaustion was my default emotion.

In retrospect, I think I might not have been so tired because of the work, but because of how I felt about the work and how I felt about me.  Instead of simply expending the energy necessary to do necessary tasks, I expended a great deal more energy on worrying and assuming responsibilities that were not mine to assume.  It is one thing to be empathetic and compassionate about other people’s feelings.  It is quite another to hold oneself responsible for trying to feel the feelings for the other person or for trying to force the other person to feel something different. 

In my dream, I seem to be moving through my work life with much more grace and ease than I ever experienced during my waking life.  Everything seems to be clicking on all cylinders and I move comfortably from one thing to another, with little angst or indecision.  There are crises in my dream, but I never feel overwhelmed or beaten.  I don’t seem to mind the chaos.  In fact, I feel strong and powerful.  I am much more effective in my dream than I ever was in real life. 

Maybe that is what drives my dream.  Maybe I feel like I’d like to have a “do-over” and recraft the way I approach work, based on what I’ve learned in retirement.  I’m curious, given how much I feel like I’ve grown, if I could be more effective and less stressed and make more of a difference. 

I guess I’ll never know.  If I am completely realistic, I honestly think it is unlikely that things would be much different if I did go back to work.  It is easy to absorb life lessons and pat myself on the back for my wisdom in the relative peace of retirement.   However, if I were to climb down off the retirement mountain and expose myself once more to the sticky, stressful mire that surely still exists in my former workplace, I don’t think it would take long for me to slide back into the ooze.  I don’t know that people really change their hard-wired approach to life all that much.  I can learn and grow, but I think my instinctive reaction to stress and emotion will probably always be to ramp up my heart instead of my head. 

The next time I have that dream where I’ve gone back to work “for a little while” after retiring, I think I’ll dream myself right back into re-retiring!

Do you still have “unfinished business” that you are working out in your dreams?  Please tell us about it.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a dreamy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Leaving The Nest

I have been living in Florida for over five years now. I wouldn’t say that I live in the country, but I do live in a “country-ish” location.  There is abundant undeveloped land in my community and the surrounding area.  It is certainly more rural than anywhere else I have lived.  I’ve seen more types of wild animals than I can easily count.   I have had numerous opportunities to watch the cycles of nature play out over time.  You’d think I would be used to the aftermath of the circle of life by now.  Not so.  I saw something a few weeks ago that brought me to tears. 

I’d say the wild mascots of our community are the sandhill cranes.  I’ve written about them before on this blog (http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/coping/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/05/cranes-in-my-cranium/.)  If you don’t know what a sandhill crane looks like, you should google it.  You should also read my prior blog to get a sense of how I tend to anthropomorphize them.  They are so much a part of our community; it is hard not to.

Sandhill cranes mate for life.  They have babies once a year and those babies stay with their parents for about 10 months.  The time of the year when we start spotting the baby cranes is noteworthy.  Facebook comes alive with notifications of baby crane sightings.  People pull over on the side of the road to take pictures.  There is one street not too far from here that posts official-looking, professionally printed signs proclaiming “Caution! Baby Sandhill Crane Crossing.” We watch those babies grow from little fuzzballs on stilts to mature cranes that are indistinguishable from their parents. 

What we don’t think about is what happens at the end of that ten-month raising period.  I never thought about it until recently. Sure, I’d noticed that our little trio and quartet families of cranes were back to being couples around Christmas each year.  It happened gradually, so it wasn’t something that signified anything to me. I lived in a little fantasy world where the juveniles had a graduation party and went off to crane college or something.  They literally left the nest.

A few weeks ago, I saw the darker side of the Sandhill crane life benchmarks.  As I drove down the street towards the exit of our community, I saw one of the crane families on the side of the road.  One of the adult cranes was charging the juvenile.  There were furiously flapping wings, hissing noises, and gnashing beaks involved. Clearly, the adult was running the juvenile crane off his territory.  It made me so sad.  How could these creatures who carefully hatched and raised their babies turn their backs so callously on their progeny?  How could the creatures, who mourned and cried when a baby got tangled in a telephone wire and died, now snarl and spit to drive away their remaining offspring? It just broke my heart to think how confused and sad those maturing cranes must feel to see how emphatically mom and dad want them gone.  Where will they go?  Won’t they be lonely and scared?  The entire episode really bummed me out. 

I know that there is a circle of life and that last year’s nestlings must make way for this year’s babies.  I know that the newly emancipated juveniles will likely find their own mates and begin exciting new lives of their own.  I know that the Sandhill cranes likely do not take stock of their emotions as humans do, so probably don’t feel as betrayed as I would feel had my parents decided to cut off all ties with me when I turned eighteen.  The logical, rational side of me understands that there is no tragedy involved in the launching of the juvenile Sandhill cranes.  My heart, however, can’t wrap itself around the idea. 

I know it is important for children to become independent and live their own lives.  It is extremely difficult for each generation to accomplish their own goals and achieve societal evolution if that generation is still occupying the last generation’s nest. Just as the very act of struggling to emerge from a cocoon strengthens a butterfly’s wings and prepares it for life in the great unknown, I’m sure the struggle of leaving the nest strengthens children of all species and prepares  them for life in their own great unknown.  Still, that Sandhill crane approach to launching their children seems unaccountably harsh.

Those chicks did not just leave the nest; they were pushed!

What experiences do you have of “leaving the nest?” When you or your children left the nest, was it as harsh as the Sandhill crane emancipation?  What was the result?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an exciting day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Love-er-ly

This isn’t my first attempt to write this blog piece.  Twice already, I’ve started the process only to end up chucking the whole thing.  I guess I am still not ready to admit defeat, so I’m taking another shot at it. I’ve decided that, if I can’t produce something this time, I’m giving up.  Three strikes and I’m out. 

My intended premise of this blog post, as Valentine’s Day looms before us, was to talk about how not everyone is lovely, but everyone can be love-er-ly. The trouble is, I always seem to fall down a woeful rabbit hole where I just keep bemoaning the sad truth that I have never been lovely.  Truth be told, I have absolutely nothing to recommend me in the looks department.  I have never been beautiful.  I have never been sexy.  I have never been graceful.  I have never been lovely.  All of these are very un-Valentiney confessions. 

As I cogitated over this sad state of affairs and the impact it was having on my ability to craft a blog post about love-er-li-ness, I remembered a conversation I recently had with a friend at church.  My friend is kind and faithful and devoted to doing good in her life.  However, she often runs herself down, dismisses her worth, and undermines her own contributions.  Her words about herself seem harsh and punishing.  One day, I asked her to do me a favor.  I asked her to be kinder to herself.  She is working on it.

It strikes me that I have been doing the same thing each time I try to write this blog.  I don’t want to be so hard on myself.  Instead of sinking into the ooze of my unloveliness, I really want to embrace my love-er-li-ness.  You see, I may not be lovely, but I think I am love-er-ly. 

Long ago, I decided that I probably was not destined to do great things, but I did want to do anything I did with great love.  Although I do not always succeed, the nurturing of love is my main life goal. I sometimes consider building love-er-li-ness to be like becoming an elite athlete. I started at a young age.  I am intentional in my approach.  I hone my love-building skills by subjecting myself to different conditions. I train by practicing and experimenting with different techniques.  I seek out coaches and role models who will show me ways I can be more loving.  I try to be single-minded in the pursuit of excellence.  I sometimes have “off days.”  Let’s face it, even Tom Brady isn’t TOM BRADY every day.  For the most part, though, I think I see growth and enrichment in my love-er-li-ness performance.  I may not be at the “elite” level yet, but I’m trying to at least be an “up and comer.”

I am no saint.  I am aware that all this talk of love and self-denial can come across as a little too Goody-Two-Shoes.  Honestly, though, my motivation for building my love-er-li-ness skills is more selfish.  It just feels good to love. 

I think everyone can hone their love-er-li-ness skills.  It doesn’t have to be difficult. I think, sometimes, we want to build love but get stuck on what to do.  It can also be intimidating to stick one’s neck out too far, especially if we feel shy about getting into someone else’s emotional personal space.   Here are a few suggestions that might help get you started.

It can be something as simple as sending a “thinking of you” card or picking up the phone to check in with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

You don’t have to offer any profound words or even acknowledge anything you think the other person could be feeling. Because people so rarely get anything in their snail mail other than bills and advertising, sometimes a card or note feels more significant to recipients.  However, you don’t have to get caught up in how you touch base- phone, card, email, text, whatever.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

It can be something like offering a specific service, like going to the grocery store or providing airport transportation, to someone who is hurting.

The person who is hurting may not take you up on your offer, but they will appreciate the effort.  They will also appreciate that you have not put the burden of having to think of something you can do on top of whatever load they are already carrying.  People often say, “please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”  It might be more comforting to add, “like go to the grocery store or pick up your daughter at the airport or anything else you might need.” 

Spread a little bit of serendipity.

Let someone else ahead of you online in a department store or post office.

People often do this in grocery stores when the person behind them only has a few items.  It is more striking when it happens other places.  Occasionally, leave all the change in the tip jar when your ice cream cone costs $4.01 and you give the cashier a $5.  If you can afford it, generously over tip a server, especially if you can hear that another diner is giving him or her a hard time.  Let workers and managers know what it meant to you when a service worker does a wonderful job.

Apologize.

In most hurtful situations, there is fault on both sides.  It may not be equal.  It rarely is.  The other person could truly bear 95% of the blame, but there is almost always something you could have done differently to make the situation less painful.  Don’t worry so much about the other person’s blame.  You can’t control that.  You can own your share of the issue and apologize for it.  That doesn’t mean you should put up with poor behavior from other people.  You can choose to love people from a distance without subjecting yourself to their brokenness if that brokenness continues to cause them to abuse you. 

Let someone else take the wheel, even if they are tearing up your highway.

Do you want to win, or do you want to love? I often go into projects or situations with something of an agenda.  I know what I want to have happen and I know how I want them to happen.  I’m sure I sometimes seem committed to “my way or the highway.”  Honestly, in most situations, it really doesn’t make that much difference how a denouement plays out.  In the love building department, very little is about the outcome and much more is about the benefits involved in the getting there.  For instance, when I have a conversation with someone, I may have a goal about what I want the outcome of that conversation to be, but I also have some goals about how I want both of us to feel at the end of that conversation.  Those goals about how I want us to feel are usually more important than the content of the conversation. 

Smile from your heart.

I am a very shy person. It is even hard for me to catch someone’s eye without dissolving into a pile of goo.  It feels like I am imposing on their privacy by my mere existence. I made a discovery, though, that has helped me “let my love shine” and reduce my shyness.  I make it a point to purposely look at people around me and to smile. I let that smile generate from the part of my soul that is busily building all that love. I let it rise to my heart, mouth, and eyes.  I let it be personal, because it is.  It must be genuine for it to work.  You must feel the smile, not just do it.  There is a scene from a movie about the life of St. Therese of Lisieux where she is trying to befriend one of her rather fractious sisters in the convent.  The other nun says to her, “why are you always smiling at me like that?” St. Therese responds, “If I am smiling at you, Sister, it is because I am happy to see you.”  For this heart smile to do its best work, you must be happy to see the person.  Sometimes, you must search a little for the part of you that is happy to see that person, but it is worth it.

Pray.

If there is anything that is the quickest, most sure-fire tool to build love for me, it is prayer.  God is Love, so why not go to the source of it all to multiply and replenish when you are hard at work building love-er-li-ness?

This Valentine’s Day try to embrace your pursuit of love-er-li-ness.  You can do it in whatever way works for you.  You can try some of my suggestions or go your own way.  All I am really advocating is that we all try to increase our love of God, people in general, people who we might find challenging, and the people who matter to us the most.  I’d also encourage one other technique.  Be kind to yourself.  Being love-er-ly to yourself is important, too!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! If you could leave a love-er-ly valentine message for someone, what would it be? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a love-er-ly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Stopping The Presses

I am sure that most of you know by now that I published a book almost two years ago.  The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. I published it under my real name, Dorry Curran (for those inquiring minds who want to know what is up with the whole name thing, please see http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/03/the-big-reveal/.)  If you like my blog, you will probably like the book. 

I published the book using an author services company for several reasons.  The main benefit of using the company is that I didn’t have to learn how to do a lot of technical production work that I didn’t want to learn to do.  The whole experience was very educational and enriching.  I was able to produce a book that gives me a lot of satisfaction and pride.  I wanted to learn something about the mechanical/technical/operational world of book publishing and I did.  I did not really want the aggravation involved in learning how to do the mechanical/technical/operational work itself.  I think I made the right choice for me and I do not regret the decision.

The downside of using the author services company, of course, was cost.  It cost me a bit of money to publish and distribute the book.  I didn’t expect to recoup the entire cost and I’m fine with only making back a fraction of the investment.  My mother had a friend who was wildly obsessed with stamping and making cards.  She invested thousands of dollars on stamps, supplies, and a custom designed “stamping room” where she displayed her stamps on handmade shelves.  I think my book is similar.  I spent the money for the love of writing and the desire to create something wonderful and unique to me.  Every time I look at a copy of my book, it makes me happy.  Money well spent, in my opinion. 

The thing is that the money needs to keep getting spent if I want to continue to make the book available.  Each year, I have to pay a chunk of change to the author services company to handle orders and distribution of the book.  Last year, I cut that cost a little bit by discontinuing the “direct-to-reader” author website.  This year, the renewal for the remaining services will come due towards the end of March.  Since sales over the past ten months or so have been virtually non-existent, I have decided not to renew.  Yes, I’ll be stopping the presses.  My book will be out of print by the end of March.  I wanted to give you all a head’s up so that you can order any electronic or paperback copies that you want before the only place to get it is at yard sales and secondhand stores. 

If you would like to buy paperback or electronic versions of Changing My Mind, please visit your favorite online bookseller.  The book is available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and many other online sources. 

Thank you for your support of my work.  I will continue to blog each week until I run out of things to say (yes, I hear you scoffing, those of you who think I ran out of things to say years ago.) I appreciate all of you who come along with me on my musings and adventures.  I am so glad to have you as my traveling companions!

For those of you who have read my book, is there anything you would like to share (positive or negative) that might help others decide whether or not to invest in a copy?  Please share your perspective by leaving a message.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Resolute

The older I get, the more certain I get that it is unwise to be too certain of much of anything. 

Sure, there are a few precepts that I hold very dear and I am certain of my commitment to them.  For instance, I am certain of my faith in Jesus.  I am certain that it is important to be kind.  I am certain that it is critical to have integrity.  I am certain that love is more powerful than hate and both are more powerful than indifference.  I am much less certain of what exactly these abstract precepts will look like in any given set of concrete circumstances.  I’ve given up taking stands about what I should/would/could do in any situation that I have not yet encountered. I just don’t have the imagination or the energy for it. Besides, I think that there are probably enough people in the world who live by absolutes.  I don’t need to be one of them.

I can remember, when I was younger, I used to have a much firmer grasp on the “right thing.” I was often shocked by the actions of people I knew.  I had a picture in my head of how “good” people behaved.  Sadly, I judged people by that warped window into their souls.  I didn’t allow for the possibility that my picture was much narrower than reality. I also didn’t take into consideration that cracks, repairs, scratches, and scars over time can distort the view through the window. 

I find I get more tolerant as I get older.  I have never been sure about this “getting wiser with age” stuff, but I do think there is a certain amount of wisdom in becoming less resolute in what I think I know. 

This year, I am resolving to be even less resolute about things that really don’t matter.  Loving people is way more effective than judging people.  Understanding people is more important than taking a position about people. Acknowledging that who I am and how I live my life may not be the only “good” way to be and live.   Yes, it is important to be discerning about things that could be dangerous to personal physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual safety.  Discerning does not mean certainty, however.  I’m always going to leave room for the Holy Spirit. 

Did you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2020? How are they going for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Resolve to have a great day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Catching Up With The Kid

I don’t think I was ever a child, even when I was one.  Sure, I must have been young once.  I am sure I had a toddlerhood.  I have the pictures to prove it.  Somewhere around the age of five, though, I lost the kiddiness.

I think I was always a pretty old soul… serious, hyper-responsible, and perceptive.  Even as a kid, I was not good at living in the moment.  I tended to plan and think about what I would be doing years in advance.  Instead of playing joyfully and discovering the richness of the world, I sort of just waited to grow up.  I can remember being aware, even as a young child, that adults laughed at things children said and did.  Now, I know that when a child causes an adult to laugh, it is often sweet and endearing.  As a child, all I perceived was that I was being laughed at.  And being laughed at seemed to be a very bad thing, indeed.  The end result was that I kept a low profile and avoided doing anything that might provoke what I saw as ridicule.  It is sad, but I feel like I waited out my youth. 

I started saving money to go to Europe when I was eleven.  I began working when I was sixteen, even though there was no economic necessity that I do so.  I married young. I started working at my “career job” within weeks of graduating from college. My friends were all older than I.  I never seemed to fit in with an age-appropriate life, so I cobbled out my version of an adult grown up life long before it made sense.  Once I went down that path, it seemed unlikely that I would ever veer off it.  

When I got divorced, I did start to find the child that I had long ago stuffed inside the deepest recesses of myself.  I remember thinking that I was finally learning to play.  There was one day when I was walking on the beach when it hit me. I had a week off from work.  I let the sun melt the tightness on my shoulders. I locked my inner fussbudget in a closet deep inside my brain.  I heard the breeze whooshing around my ears. I saw the crystalline sunlight fracturing into prisms around me.   I tasted the salt in the air.  I smelled the pungent odor of sunscreen and seaweed.  I felt wet sand crunching and oozing between my toes.  Suddenly, I knew what it meant to live in the moment and slip my leash.  The saturation of the experience did not last long, but it did at least teach me that I had a lot of work to do if I was ever going to learn to play.  The experience stayed with me, but I was already Little Red Riding Hood deep in Grown Up Woods.  My beach experience taught me that there was a wolf inside me trying to devour my childhood, but I was too far gone to really avoid that eventuality.

Once I left my working life behind me, I still had responsibilities.  Certainly, if there is anything that convinces a person that she is a grown up, it is losing a parent.  Still, I have taken time over the past five years of my retirement to get to know that kid I could have been, had I allowed myself to embrace being a child.  It seems the further back in my rearview mirror my career gets, the more riotously childlike (or childish, depending on your perspective) I become. 

Some of you have been following along with some of my adventures- hunting for elves on my shelves, undergoing a bippity boppity Tinker Bell makeover, making proximity to Disney World a criterion for deciding where I would move in retirement, wearing light-up Christmas crocs just about everywhere, spending rather large amounts of money to get up close and personal encounters with adorable wild animals, volunteering to play a part in a reenactment of a colonial courtroom drama when visiting Williamsburg, and plunging headlong into activities for which I have absolutely no aptitude… just for the fun of it. Part of my premature and intense adulthood manifested itself as an impressive talent for worrying.  I won’t say I don’t worry anymore.  That would be absurd.  Certainly, though, I worry a lot less.   I don’t worry so much about what I look like. I don’t worry so much about being good at anything.  I don’t worry so much about doing stuff.  I just do stuff.  As a result, I think I look prettier, have better and more diverse skills, and enjoy life much more. 

People say that we sometimes enter a “second childhood” when we age.  I don’t think I am entering a second childhood.  I am just catching up with the first one. 

How about you?  Have you become more childlike in retirement?  Why do you think that is?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a childish day… just KIDding!

Terri/Dorry 😊

PS If you are wondering why this is early, it is because the child in me got impatient and pushed the “publish” button instead of the “schedule” button.

Mourning Backwards

I thought that grief was supposed to lessen over time. I could swear I missed my mom more this past holiday season than previous Christmases. Despite having an overall holly jolly time, I hit a rough patch the last week or so before Christmas. I felt like I crammed a lot of riotous, rollicking activities into the time between mid-November and mid-December.  Once I found myself past the flurry of events, I realized I had cleared a wide, fresh pathway to feeling sad. One day, I got it into my head to go to a mall and the Christmas Tree decoration store my mother and I frequented several times.  I would normally never consider going shopping so close to Christmas, but I had a few errands that I thought I could knock out quickly.  Of course, I didn’t knock them out quickly.  It was a bit of a hard slog made even harder because of my mother’s absence.

I have many happy memories of my mother associated with Christmas.  Most people would say that they love Christmas.  Why else do songsters keep belting out “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year?” To my mother, though, Christmas was an art form.  It wasn’t like she was one of those crazy Christmas light folks on television, but there was something intensely special about the way she threw herself into the season. There are so many holiday moments that she engraved permanently into my brain with love.  It makes me so happy that I have these memories.  Without a doubt, those memories enrich my experience of Christmas, even since her death.  There is also a sadness tied up in those memories that breaks through every year at the holidays. 

Every year since I can remember, my mother used to take me Christmas shopping on a special day.  She did the same for my brother.  Ostensibly, the trip was for each of us to buy a Christmas present for the other sibling.  In truth, there was another agenda that I did not perceive until well into my teen years.  My mom would take us on these outings to buy a present for our sibling… and so she could see what delighted the kid on the shopping expedition with her. She explained to someone once that she would watch what caught my eye and what I “oohed and awed over” as I wandered the stores looking for a present for my brother.  I was never very good at telling anyone what I wanted, so she would watch my reaction to items in the store for ideas about what might enchant me on Christmas morning. She always did great. 

My shopping day with my mother continued until the December before her stroke.  As she aged and became frailer, we had to adapt what we did and for how long, but we always had a wonderful time.  We’d look at Christmas decorations, listen to Christmas music, buy stuff we didn’t need, and revel in being together.  This shared annual experience was so much a part of who we were together, I even tried to arrange a special transport to take her to the tiny mall in our town that last December of her life.  Unfortunately, before I could get the authorization and organize everything, she started to let go of her hold on her “regular” world and began to head down her journey towards the next life. 

My shopping trip right before Christmas this past holiday screamed “mom” at me.  It just felt so much like something she should have shared with me, as she had so many other pre-Christmas shopping trips.  Suddenly, I missed her with a physical fierce coldness that seemed to simultaneously freeze my respiratory system and melt my digestive system.  My knees wobbled alarmingly.  For a few moments, my brain seemed to spin around inside my skull and I thought I might faint.  I was standing in a depressingly long line at JC Penney’s.  I grabbed a shelf on one side of the line and waited for the feeling to pass.  The intensity of the pain did pass, but left some emotional havoc in its wake. 

Someone once told me that one key to managing depression is to HALT.  Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  I realized that I was all four of these “halts.” I couldn’t do much about being hungry or tired while standing in line, unless I called out for pizza and a sleeping bag.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop being lonely for my momma.  I could, however, choose to stop feeling angry and frustrated with the massive line at Penney’s.  I used the rest of my time standing in line observing the shoppers around me and the clerks at the cash registers.  For the most part, the shoppers were pretty disgruntled and the sales clerks were serene and polite.  I decided I would try to flip the script.  When it was my turn to pay, I made a special effort to be pleasant and grateful.

I transacted my business at Penney’s and moved on to Macy’s.  Some weeks ago, I bought a wonderfully warm, fluffy robe at Macy’s.  The weather finally cooled off enough by the middle of December for me to wear it to water aerobics class.  That is when I discovered that the Macy’s sales associate had neglected to remove the security tag.  Macy’s is about 40 miles from my house, so I originally decided to just live with a grey plastic device flopping at the side of my robe.  When people started looking at me funny at the pool, clearly wondering if I had embarked on a life of crime, I thought better of that tactic.  That was my motivation for going to the mall less than a week before Christmas.  I brought the robe to get the Macy’s people to untag me.

When I got to Macy’s, it seemed that people were even nastier than they were at Penney’s.  I purposely let several people go ahead of me because they were unhinged and I thought it would be helpful for the sales clerk if she didn’t have to balance her priorities between Miss Christmas Crazy Person 2019 and me, who had been waiting in line ahead of her (to say nothing of the fact that I would not have had to drive 40 miles and stand in line at all if the first sales clerk had removed the tag in the first place.)  I smiled at the clerks supportively and even suggested that they take care of another timebomb of a shopper before they waited on me.  I found it strangely serene and comforting to engage in these small acts of kindness.  I said a little prayer to thank God for His blessing in helping me find this little coping mechanism.

I was pretty proud of myself until I left the mall and realized I was still very hungry and… lonely.  I drove to a nearby McDonald’s.  McDonald’s was also a holiday tradition in my home.  For some unknown and clearly irrational reason, I didn’t like McDonald’s hamburgers as a child.  I did, however, love the French fries.  On Christmas Eve, my mother would fry hamburgers at home and my father would go to McDonald’s and buy French fries.  When I got older (and over my antipathy to McDonald’s hamburgers), it was a special treat during Christmas vacation for my brother and me to ride our bikes to McDonald’s alone and have lunch.  So, as weird as it sounds, McDonald’s has a sentimental attraction for me. 

At McDonald’s, I found they converted to a customer-driven electronic ordering system.  I stared at the huge monitor and began pushing buttons, trying to follow the directions.  Something about the electronic ordering system baffled me.  I kept getting to a place in the process that thwarted me.   I felt more and more defeated as I kept trying.  I felt confused and despondent.  After trying several times, I surrendered.  I still had enough of my wits about me to know that I should not get back in the car and drive without something to eat.  I went up and tried to explain my dilemma to the nice young lady at the counter.  For some reason, I was also having trouble finding words to explain what was wrong.  I kept apologizing.  She never skipped a beat or appeared impatient.  She was sincerely kind.  Ultimately, we completed the ordering process.  I took my number and went off to find a table, embarrassed at the fuss I was making.  Once I sat down, I even started to cry softly and discreetly. Another employee, who was cleaning up around the lobby, came over to ask if I was okay and if she could do anything for me. 

After I ate my lunch and nourished my psyche with some perspective, I thought about how thankful I was for the kindness of the McDonald’s employees.  A fast food restaurant is about the last place one would expect workers to rise above the madness and inject a little humanity into the day.  Fast food restaurants are loud, crowded, and thrive on doing things quickly and efficiently.  These McDonald’s employees were not only efficient using their hands and heads, they went a step further and used their hearts. 

I wanted to do something to thank them.  They deserved it.  Plus, I had been reminded by my experiences at the department stores that it makes me feel better to do something nice for someone else. I went over to the lobby employee, thanked her, and gave her a hug.  I also thanked the lady at the counter.  They were both over the moon. I also told the manager how grateful I was to both the employees.  I told her that being nice is a superpower.  People don’t always realize how much difference it can make to just be nice. 

When my mother was shrinking through her last year of life, I often found myself being the kind of person I didn’t want to be. I was impatient, snappish, and cranky all too frequently.  I felt like I was losing the best parts of me- the gentleness, the peace, the playfulness, the affection.  I was ashamed.  I blamed myself… and I also blamed the grief.  I believed the mourning was destroying the me I had always been.

In the last year or so, I rejoice because I feel some of those shinier sides of me returning.  I notice myself behaving as I would have behaved years ago. It makes me so happy.  I also notice that, like on my pre-Christmas shopping day, I am finding more tiny ways to nurture happiness in the world. 

For me… and maybe for everybody… mourning is not a linear process.  There is no forward or backward.  There is ebb and flow.  There are zigs and zags.  There are swirls and spirals.  Mourning gains and loses momentum, depending on external circumstances and internal conditions… like hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness.  The most important thing, though, is that mourning does not have to destroy.  Mourning can also create.   

I consider the shot of grief that often accompanies my memories of my mother to be the “price of admission” to being able to re-experience the happy times with her.  I think it is worth it to have the odd meltdown now and then in order to access the sweet memories.  What do you think?  Is it worth being sad sometimes over the death of a loved one to also remember the joyful times and connections?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a sweetly memorable day!

Terri/Dorry 😊