I can’t know what I don’t know…and I hate that!

Sometimes we just don’t know. We don’t know the best way to go in our lives, what decision will move us in a desired direction or what will keep us safe in the future.

Staying in the not-knowing is painstakingly hard. I hate it. Most of my friends do too.

I often attempt to correct this unpleasantness with a lot of figuring-out-of-things. Making pro and con lists. Getting others opinions. Imagining into the future. Anything to know.

Living in the question is an act of faith. I have to trust that I will know when I am ready to know. That takes a tremendous amount of confidence…in me. It also means I must remain open to all possibilities, not just the narrow the options I have selected so I feel more comfortable.

My new daughter-in-law was struggling with some career decisions. She wanted to know what she should do…now! She went back and forth, up and down, trying to know the right choice.

I told her that she needed to be willing to live in her question, until her answer appeared. I assured her it would.

I felt like the wise sage offering advise to the fair maiden. Advise born of 5 ½ decades of figuring out life…sometimes more successfully than others. Life takes its own time and its own route. We are best served by being willing companions to the ride.

I like knowing this.
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Do I Matter to You?

The woman I referenced in last weeks post, the one that asked where my blog was, told me this week that it would be okay with her if I wanted to write about her. My first reaction was, “Be careful what you ask for.” My second was curiosity. Why did she want me to write about her?

Turns out she wanted to know if she mattered to me. If she was important to me. Interesting. Was she worthy to be written about?

In fact she is a very interesting woman and I care a lot about her. She decorates for Halloween, makes a stand to not decorate for Christmas then caves and does it, struggles with family obligations, loves to travel and works professionally with women.  She asks important life questions like, “Is this all there is?” She actually reminds me of myself at her age. (God did I just say that? Am I that old?) She agreed. She sees herself in me 20 years from now. (I am that old.)

As she and I talked about her invitation, and where it came from in her, I knew I had to take her up on her offer. It so perfectly unveiled our ever present want/need to know we matter to an other. That we are special. Valued. Important.

It was easy to give her what she wanted. I told her how much I liked her and how I look forward to our time together. But even more than that, I told her it takes a brave woman to ask those questions and risk the answers. For that I admired her.images

So let’s think about this for a moment. How do we know if we matter to others? Sometimes we ask. Often we don’t. We prefer to wait for clues, signals and then make up a story based on the others words or behaviors. Sometimes that story is in our favor and sometimes it is not.

To ask, “Do I matter to you?”, is vulnerable-making and as a species we avoid our vulnerability at all costs. The number one reason we don’t want to feel our feelings is because we don’t want to feel vulnerable. I get it. I don’t like to either. And, like my young friend, I try to do it anyway. It is worth the risk. The pain can be great but so can the connection that comes from a spoken, “You matter to me.” I think it is worth it.

Would you be willing to ask your important others what they feel toward you this week? To tell your important others what they mean to you? (Yea it goes both ways.) Report back. I would love to hear your stories.
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My One Year Anniversary…

A reader recently asked me, “What has happened to your blog? I miss it.”

I appreciated the question, and her caring. And I was uncertain of the answer. What had happened?

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 22nd I will be one year without my period. That may be TMI for some of you, but those of you somewhere on the menopausal spectrum know what that date means. According to western medicine I am in MENOPAUSE, or more accurately, according to Wikipedia, I am postmenopausal.

I have high hopes for myself on Wednesday the 23rd. I have been promised, assured and convinced that menopause is a spiritual club that only women who have survived peri menopause get to join. I think there may even be a special hand shake that I will intuitively know upon waking Wednesday morning. I will greet my fellow PM’ers with a knowing nod. We will smile, confident we have made it to where our erratic, irritable, bleeding sisters wish they were.

By Wednesday afternoon I am counting on my hormones to play nice so I can make it through a day without weeping; that I will no longer be combustable so I can stop stripping off layers in the Apple store in front of a Genius; and that my mind will regain clarity so I can remember the password to my ATM card. (If any of you know differently please don’t burst my bubble. I need this illusion.)

The last 4 weeks, the final menstrual stretch, has left me feeling reclusive. All I want to do is get home, lock the front door, and close the curtains. Some days I can’t get out of the car and up the front steps fast enough. Turning that knob, clockwise, between me and the rest of the world, is a spiritual experience.

Which brings me back the question, “What happened to my blog?” I have had several ideas for interesting posts over the past month. I have written them down, dictated them into my phone and emailed them to myself, recited potential topics in the shower. It’s not  that I haven’t been feeling creative, I simply could not make myself type them out. I could not move them beyond my interior self.

I shared this with a friend, concerned that I might be depressed. She is a PM’er too so I knew she would know. She confidently assured me that I was not depressed. She said I was incubating.

Incubating. That fits. I like that image. I am incubating. images

I have decided to trust this process. Surrender to it and gracefully morph into my next version of me. I may need to stay under the grow light a little bit longer. I will be sure to let you know how I turn out.
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Living in the Question…

Staying in the not knowing is painstakingly hard. I hate it. Most of my friends do too.

I attempt to correct this unpleasantness with lots of figuring out of things. Making pro and con lists. Getting others opinions. Imagining into the future. Anything to know.

Living in the question is an act of faith. I have to trust that I will know when I am ready to know. That takes a tremendous amount of confidence…in me. It also means I must remain open to all possibilities, not just the narrow the options I have selected so I feel more comfortable.

My new daughter in law is struggling with some career decisions. She wants to know what she should do…now! She goes back and forth, up and down, trying to know the right choice.

I heard myself tell her that what she has to be willing to do is live in the question until the answer appears. I assured her it would.

I felt like the wise sage offering advise to the fair maiden. Advise born of 5 ½ decades of figuring out life…sometimes more successfully than others. Life takes its own time and its own route and we are best served by being willing companions to the ride.

I like knowing this.
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To speak or not to speak, that is the question…

Last night I told a friend that she had lost too much weight and wasn’t looking good. That her diet and exercise plan had gone too far.

Several years ago, after I had lost 25 pounds, a friend told me a similar thing. She said I was looking frail. I was as incredulous then as my friend was last night. She didn’t see herself as too thin. Neither did I.

I loved my size 6, flat stomach, easy to fit into any outfit, body. I felt sexy, powerful, in control. I did miss my boobs, however. I was never what you would call a well-endowed woman at my almost-B-cup-bra size, except for when I was pregnant and breastfeeding which doesn’t count because everything else was so big it was all proportional. But, in my minus 25-pound-stealth-self my girls had reduced to their adolescent AA bra size. I figured it was a small price to pay…no pun intended.

Saying the hard thing to a friend takes courage and love. It is a bittersweet gift to offer. When Trudy said it to me, I felt loved and trusted. She believed in me and in the solidity of our friendship to say the difficult truth.

So what do we not say?

And why don’t we say it?

Certainly I worry my loved one will be hurt, or mad, or reject me.

What I said last night came from a place of love and concern. There was no judgment or hidden agenda I was working out. When that is true, I feel safer saying the tough thing. When that is true it is also easier to hear the hard thing, as happened with Trudy. I felt no guile from her.

What I have learned, the hard way, is to keep my mouth shut when I feel I am harboring ulterior motives. That never goes well. The other person always seems to sense my duplicity. And as loudly as I may defend my honor, we both know the truth. My intentions were not honorable.

That is, perhaps, the question to be asked when choosing to speak or withhold. What are my motives? Am I speaking from a place of compassion and concern? I once read that it is our responsibility to speak from our hearts. That we cannot control how the other hears or receives what we say, but we should be sure where our message came from in ourselves.

I know I feel much better about myself, even if the other is hurt, when I am clear I meant no harm. That being said, I may still need to make amends despite my best intentions. It is my responsibility to do that also.

Saying the hard thing is an act of courage and love. It is also the true measure of a strong relationship.

I also told Tom last night that he couldn’t wear his plaid shorts and printed shirt, even if the blue’s matched. I did have ulterior motives, we both knew it, accepted it and laughed about it; concurring that at our age, mismatched hipster-dom simply looks like old age.
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I should be…

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip toThailand where she volunteered, for a week, at an elephant sanctuary, caring for elephants that had been rescued from the tourist and logging industries. I listened intently as she told her stories, her excitement was contagious. I felt my desire to plan my own trip; even my willingness to tolerate the 25 hour flight that she said was worse than horrendous. I wondered if Tom would be interested in going with me. I quickly knew the answer and began considering my list of traveling friends that might want to join me.

Marcie described the beauty of the location of the sanctuary, the plight of elephants, and imagesthe amazing 4’8” woman than conceived of, created and managed the place. Apparently this tiny woman also rescued 200 dogs from the flood in Bangkok in 2011. Marcie said the dogs followed this woman around like the Pied Piper, as did the elephants.

I was enthralled. I was also busy doing mental math, robbing Peter to pay Paul to finance my trip. I had to do this. Elephants have always brought me to tears with their giant tenderness and sense of family. They have been one of my animal teachers.

Marcie detailed the responsibilities of the volunteers. She talked about the ditches they dug in the sanctuary; about the 45 minute trips, standing in the back of a pickup truck driving to the corn fields where they cut and baled the corn for the elephants to eat; how, after baling the corn, they lifted the bales onto their shoulders and carried them to the waiting pickup, heaving them into the truck bed. At the end of the 8 hour day, in 100 degree heat, the group rode on top of the bales back to the sanctuary. Marcie described the scenery, from her place high atop the bales, as magnificent. I felt worried that she could have fallen off.

My excitement had begun to wane. I pictured myself there. With the elephants, in the corn fields, doing these chores. Just thinking about it made my back hurt. I questioned myself if I would have the strength to lift corn stalks to my shoulder, carry them to a pick up bed and throw them in? I doubted my stamina to do physical labor all day in the tropical heat. I imagined how sore I would be at the end of a day. I was already sweating.

I began to feel old. Very old. And weak. Maybe I wouldn’t go after all.

I comforted my wounded self image by reminding myself that I used to I lift and haul like an Amazon woman. If a washer needed to be moved, wood hauled and stacked, a room images-1rearranged, a house built, a driveway shoveled, or a septic systems cleaned, I was your gal. I did it all. I took pride in my physical strength and my willingness to do-what-it-took to get a job done. It assured me I was not my mother’s daughter, who was a pampered princess. As a child, her mantra to me was, be careful you, you will hurt yourself.

I decided at an early age I would be strong.

Listening to Marcie I began to feel my physical vulnerability for the first time. Had I become my mom? I stewed on this for a few days. It occurred to me that I haven’t mowed a lawn in 4 years — and am really okay with this. How Tom insists on carrying the heaviest of the grocery bags into the house and I let him. How, sometimes, I even ask him to open the pickle jar because I don’t want to re-injure my hand.

OMG. Have I become a wimp?

I decided I would make myself go to Thailand. Maybe for two weeks. I would prove to myself I could still survive hard work…and misery.

Then it occurred to me, like a light bulb turning on as you open the refrigerator door — What if I didn’t want to do heavy lifting any more? What if the question was not, could I, but, did I want to

My wattage increased with the brilliance of this question. I was so busy not being mom, that I never asked myself, Did I want to be an Amazonian? Perhaps sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

Marcie assured me I would be physically able to do the work she described.

The question has now become, “Do I want to?”
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You Are My Mirror

Geez a Whiz.

I was just asked, by Better After 50, an online magazine I write for, to describe in more detail, on the authors Facebook page, what my blog is about. What my focus is.

imagesDo you know it took me half an hour to answer that question?

What’s up with that?

Shouldn’t I know by now? Should’t my reply just roll off my tongue…fingers? Every good, successful anyone has their elevator speech practiced and perfected.

My problem was threefold. (It started out twofold until I got thinking.)

First, I heard the invitation as “Who AM I?” and “What IS IT I do?” I truly am a work in progress so my answer felt subject to change. I felt threatened committing myself to just one answer. What if I am not that tomorrow? God, I think too much.

Second…ly, putting it in writing, on Facebook, to a group of women I don’t know, is intimidating. What if they don’t like what I say..translated by my 7 year old self, “What if they don’t like me?” Many of the responses by the other writers have “likes” beneath their answers. What if I don’t get any likes?

After the 20 minutes of editing and reediting, I got irritated with myself. “Just say images-1something and be done with it,” I admonished. “I am sure these other(articulate, better than me) women haven’t agonized over this…Oh, I bet they have,” a wiser, kinder voice whispered. “You aren’t so different.”

Third…ly, I knew this was an opportunity to network, drive readers to my blog and deepen my emersion in this internet, web, social network, blog thing. So I knew what I said was important. It was a form of advertising. It was a one dimensional opportunity to present myself to total strangers that share a common interest; women over 50 who write for the same publication.

I struggled with the absence of the other two dimensions, facial/body expressions and tonality. The truth is Who I am is co-created by who you are. I am influenced by the presence of the other-we all are. Together we create the us. Without the presence of the other, I am making myself up in isolation. I can do that. We all can and do. It was what I needed to do for this Facebook page conversation. But I will be different without you.

Think about this with me. We are each others mirrors.

When I am with someone…like my brother, who I am in that moment is much different from who I am with my sweet sister friend, Heidi. Both reactions are authentically ME, but very different parts of myself, called forward in co-creation with the other.

Now you know why it took so long for me to answer the question. I think too much.

It is who I am…

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P.S. I got a like

Who Am I?

I try to make a practice of answering the questions I ask myself. You know the ones. The rampant, seemly benign questions that run through your head at break neck speed. Often we don’t even hear ourselves asking them. As a therapist, I hear my clients questions of themselves. It is always easier to hear others questions.

 

So last week when I asked, “Who am I?” or, to be exact, “Who the hell am I?” I set out to answer myself, again.

 

Interestingly and serendipitously my answer came as a result of renaming this blog to being Boswell. My friend, Wikipedia, informed me that the surname Boswell was passed into the English Language as a term…Boswellian, Boswellism…meaning a constant companion and observer of life, especially one who records those observations through writing. Who knew?

 

I have been writing stories or journaling since my first, locked, with the tiniest key ever, diary was given to me in grade school. I began my entries with Dear Diary. I quickly abandoned that salutation when I realized I wanted to write to a reader, not to an inanimate object. I longed to tell my version of life to someone. I felt less alone conjuring a reader nodding his or her head in shared recognition of an examined moment, possibly even laughing or crying with me as I spilled my version of life onto the page. I hoped my imaginary audience would feel less alone and more understood as I exposed myself to self scrutiny.

 

So here I am, 40 some years later, with the technological creation of the über diary.  I write you read. I feel blessed.

 

I have been being me all along, I just didn’t know it!

 

Take a look at this…it is a scene from Sherlock Holmes talking to Watson. FInding my name has been very validating…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhYbY_JO2S4

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.

Where Have I Been? Again…

Missing in action.

 

I do this sometimes. I have since I was a kid. I disappear from view, a ‘time out’ of sorts.

 

Historically these MIA’s have been a result of my wish to be found, usually by my family. Would they notice I was gone? Would they care? Am I important enough to be found?

 

If I am honest there was some of that in my absence the past several weeks. (I wish I could say I am beyond that insecurity, I manage it much better these days, but I doubt it will ever be completely gone.) But, more than that, I ‘checked out’ because I lost my vision and my energy. I began to question my decision to become a blogger.

 

Two years ago I didn’t even know what a blog was, let alone how to manage one. So I have been learning. It has been a very left brained-not my strong suit-endeavor, which was painfully tedious. Then there was the need to develop a blog readership. That means social media. So I acquired a facebook page(s) and a twitter account. My facebook page continues to feel like an unorganized closet full of people I don’t know-is that a good thing?-and messages/invitations to things I am not the least bit interested in. I just don’t get it. As for twitter, I have know idea what to tweet about.

 

My exasperation worsened when I realized that there are soooo many Off the Couch blogs written by other therapists. My brilliant idea was not so unique, special or trademarked-which means some other therapist could ask me to “cease and desist” if they started their blog before me. That was the last straw. My discouragement became exhaustion and I let go…of my vision and my desire. I do that to. I sometimes let go of my dreams from a place of exhaustion and overwhelm.  But what I also do, if my dream is in my blood, I pick myself and it back up and start again.

 

So here I am. I am back, starting again, but, this time with the help of a 22 year old intern that is waaayyy smarter about all of this blog and social media stuff than I am. Karen is going to help me clean my facebook closet, tell me what the hell to twitter about, and rename my blog.

 

This is where you, my readers, can help. I need your input and ideas. We are going to start with rebranding Off the Couch blog. I will miss Duke as my mascot. I love the double entendre. But I need to let go, this time of Duke and not my dream to be a top 100 women’s blog.

 

So if you don’t mind, I will run some fresh names for the blog by you.  Let me know what you think. And if you have any ideas to improve the blog, an idea for a new name, social media strategies, or anything else, by all means let me know.

 

I also want to apologize to those of you that look forward to my Monday morning posts. I am sorry for the last 4 weeks of radio silence. I also want to thank those of you that reached out to tell me you missed me. It’s good to be found…