I Make Myself Smile.

I have a friend that talks to herself as she settles into any comfie chair. “Okay”, she says making little noises of satisfaction as she readjusts herself, “This is good.”

Initially I thought this was very odd behavior. Doesn’t she know I can hear her, I asked myself with a less than veiled judgement? Is she talking to me? Is she crazy?

As is ALWAYS the case when I judge another, within 2 weeks I am eating my words and doing the very thing I criticized. So as I fell into the couch after a particularly long day and overheard my murmuring, “Okay. Alright. This is good,” I couldn’t help but smile at myself. I was humbled.

What I judge in others I will meet in myself.

This comeuppance also happens when I use the words ALWAYS or NEVER. As in, “I would never do that,” or “I always do this.” When I hear these words pop out of my mouth I have learned to TAKE THEM BACK. (Notice I didn’t say always.) I say, out loud to myself, and to whomever I have made my pronouncement, “I take it back. I take it bad. I take it back.” Three times seems sufficient.

I know I will do it or say it. I will make that wrong turn and scare a pedestrian. I will thoughtlessly take up the whole locker room bench, spreading my stuff out as I change. I will carelessly say something that hurts someone. And…I will talk to myself.

Now I talk to myself regularly. I like it. I enjoy hearing my thoughts outside of my head. It feels strangely relational. Caring. It makes me smile. It also makes me wonder if this is early dementia. Or aging. I didn’t talk to myself when I was younger. I didn’t fart as much either.

The other day I was unloading the back seat of my car, strategically organizing my computer bag, lunch bag, boxes of kleenex and purse onto my shoulders and under my arms before I crossed the street to my office. Once I was equally balanced on both shoulders, like a well-packed mule, I stepped into the street.

When I reached the middle of the street, where PAT buses fly, I heard myself say, like a parent speaking to a child, “You didn’t even look before you stepped into the street.”

Silently I answered. “But I listened. I didn’t hear any cars coming.” I said it like a defensive adolescent.

I cleverly responded, aloud, “But what if an electric car was coming. You can’t hear them.”

I had me. Good point. Lesson taken. I smiled, acknowledging this verbal exchange between me and me in the middle of the street. I also looked around to see if anyone had heard me. Thankfully I was alone.

If a woman talks to herself and no one is there to hear, did she make a noise?

ALWAYS,

 
waxseal2

 

 

 

A Love Letter

Yesterday Tom and I drove to Ohiopyle to bike the trails with my dear friend. She is more like a sister. I turn to her for advice and support, she turns to me for the same. We love each other a lot.

 

Tom loves her too. She also loves Tom. I used her as my relationship whisperer when I began dating. Since I didn’t trust myself to pick well, I relied on her judgement. If she didn’t like him, neither did I. I remember her laughing after meeting Tom, “Ohhhh friend…you have met your match.” We both knew that was the highest compliment possible. So spending time with the three of us feels like family to me.

 

We haven’t seen each other for far too long. The standard reasons, busy, tired, busy, tired.

 

We talked about everything as we ate lunch, rode bikes, and treated ourselves to ice cream. We commiserated about our kids. Our frustration with how technology has made a simple phone call to them a thing of the past. We laughed at how we have to call 3-4 times, leave a message that they never listen to but text us asking what we want or how we are, like we never called them in the first place. We laughed that it made us feel very old.

 

We shared details about our own parents and how crazy they make us. We talked about our work, our writing (she is a poet…yes you are), our relationships, and politics. Our long, intimate history deepens our understanding of each others choices, dilemmas, and successes. This makes for very rich conversation. When she joined Tom in teasing me about some of my quirky ways, coming up with a few of her own since she has known me longest, I felt loved and known rather than hurt or judged. Only people that really love you can pull that off successfully!

 

We met up with Jena and her new beau for a light dinner. It touched me to tears when Jena ran into Heidi’s embrace. They held each other like niece and favorite aunt. Heidi asked all the auntie questions to which a mom wants to hear the answers. Then, back in the car, she could reassure me Jena is okay in her transitory life stage because she has known Jena long enough to speak with an authority I trust.

 

This is what sister friends do for each other. We have each other’s backs. We have each other’s kids. We have each other’s hearts.

 

This morning I am richer, fuller, satiated, because of my time with my friend. I feel seen.

 

I am better for having you Heidi.

 

I love you dearly.

(Woman friends make the world an easier place to navigate. Sister friends make your heart feel safe to open. Who do you love? And when is the last time you told her? Do it today. Tell her she is a part of your heart. You will live happier). 

 

Comparing Yourself to Others Never Ends Well

Spending the week in Shangri-La was rejuvenating. The view from every deck and window, including the window next to the toilet

looking to the right off of the deck

in my bathroom, overlooked marsh lined channels leading out to the ocean where fishing boats dotted the water early each morning. The house was comfortably elegant with dark wood wainscoting, hard wood floors, comfy furniture and an eclectic smattering of master pieces hung with distinction next to Debbie’s quirky sense of decorating humor. This included schools of fish, made of different metals, clay, and wood, swimming mostly in the same direction, except for a few free thinking swimmers going the opposite way, arranged on two adjoining walls in a bathroom, jars of wonderful old marbles, interesting woven baskets holding porcupine quills, clay sculptures with imaginative faces…you get the idea. When I wasn’t admiring the view, or lost in conversation with my dear friends, I was amused by the subtle humor tucked into little nooks just waiting to be noticed.

 

And to the left toward the ocean

Spending the week in Shangri-La also had a dark side, and mine showed up big time. I began comparing my life circumstances to that of my friends. I tormented myself with, “Where did I go wrong? What if I had gone to a better college?  Maybe followed a different career path.”

 

Then I moved into what I call Cinderella questions. These have to do with a man rescuing me. “Should I have married a rich man, someone who could have provided paradise?” And if so, “How come I didn’t?” My answers were not pretty. My inferiority was in full bloom. She straight-out informed me that I could never have landed a rich man. I am not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. (I’ll end here if you don’t mind; this is depressing.)

 

I thought about my middle class family of origin and how I learned limits. How not to expect more than there was. How to be happy with what you had. These are lessons I respect but as I wandered the rooms of this magnificent home, I began to challenge them. What if I expected more? Wanted more? What if being dissatisfied led me to more? Would this be my house?

 

The onslaught of questions left me uncertain of me. I was knocked off my center. However I knew, from past encounters with my darkness, that these shadow sightings are often a good thing…in the end. I trusted if I could stay present to myself long enough, listened to my self judgements until they were hoarse and was honest about this predatory side of me, I would land back on my feet with a greater love and trust for myself. (At least that is what I told myself.)

 

This was risky business-listening to me compare myself to others. I noticed how comparing myself never ends well. When I compare myself to people who have more I feel less than and when I compare myself to people who have less I feel guilty. It is a lose/lose proposition.

 

Returning home to my no longer newlywed husband I find myself feeling satisfied as I look around my surroundings. I feel at home in our space. I love our 7’ x 9’ deck overlooking enough trees that one might think it is woods, but it’s not. I like the simplicity. I welcome the familiarity. And I adore the man I picked, and would pick all over again.

 

So perhaps in the end it is all good. Both Shangri-La and middle class are wonderful gifts to be fully enjoyed.

 

It is comparing yourself to others that limits what you can love, mainly in yourself.

The Friends I Paid For

 

I’m on Cape Cod. My first time here was in 4th grade. I was invited to join my childhood friend, Carol Dowd, and her family for their two-week vacation. I was miserably homesick for the first week–then fell in love with the Cape the second. Provincetown is one of my favorite places in the world. I haven’t been to that many worldly places, but I suspect P’town will always remain a top pick.

 

I am here to be with my very dear friends Debbie and Susan. I met them in 1994 when we all showed up at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland for a two-year training. I call them my $6000.00 friends. That was the amount of the tuition. They were and are well worth every penny…a great investment!

 

Debbie invited Susan and me to come stay with her in Orleans and teach at the Cape Cod Gestalt International Study Center. After considering the offer for a nano-second I said a giant, “YES, I would LOVE to!”

 

The weekend began with Susan’s workshop, Ultimate Self-Care for Women. It was transformative. Susan’s gentle interest and keen eye helped the 6 of us unfold our internal mysteries using meditation, drawing and journaling. I re-remembered I hold everything I need to be the person I want to be. Each time I return home to this knowing I feel relief with a bit of a challenge mixed in. Sometimes I would rather believe the next book I read, class I take, or therapy session I have, will hold my answers. They may all support my return to myself, but what I need is me. Showing up over and over and over for myself. With myself.

 

I also reconnected with the awareness that when I make a judgement I stop hearing or listening to the other person. Hmmm.

 

And I came to the question, “What if this-life-is all just one big experiment?” (Just?)  If so, perhaps there is truly, no right way or wrong way. What if the experiment of life is similar to Edison’s thoughts about his failed light bulb experiments…we now know a thousand ways the light bulb (or life) doesn’t work.

 

As I write this to you I am “retreat relaxed,” sipping red wine at the kitchen island as Susan and Debbie prepare dinner. I am aware that although I am physically hungry, I am so full; with myself, with 3 days of sharing in a group of honest, brave women and with my love for these two women in front of me.

 

I am at home…

 

PS.

On the lighter side…I want to share with you my journey from Boston to the Cape, only a 25-minute plane ride over water in a very small plane. As I walked across the runway, with my 6 fellow passengers, to what looked like a toy plane, it occurred to me that small planes can be dangerous. John Kennedy flashed into my head and I began to consider an alternative mode of travel.

This is Iris. She has NO FEAR….

 

And then I saw Iris. And if Iris could do it I could too.

 

So, I said a prayer and climbed in…

 

As we ascended to a “comfortable cruising altitude”, low enough to see big fish in the water, I thought of all of you, dear readers and how you might find this scene very funny. So I distracted myself from my worry by taking a few pictures to share with you. And I thought if you found my camera floating in the Boston Harbor you would know my last thoughts were of you.

 

Here they are:

I don’t know if my hips will fit through that door…

Shoot. I can’t get my last picture to load onto the post.  So I will tell you about it because next to Iris, it is my favorite. It is a picture of the planes air conditioning system. The pilot is holding his window open…