Three tips to help merry gentlemen (& ladies) REST throughout the holidays

Tip #1 for having a truly happy holiday is about as basic as they come – – get enough sleep.  Yes, YOU or whoever is the primary care partner!  It’s easy to log in fast-paced days & late nights.  Pace yourself.  Build in pauses.

Tip #2 – Make sure older loved ones, friends, clients aren’t tuckering themselves out.   The ideal holiday party for an elder who’s frail or dealing with memory challenges is low-key,  has a small guest list (10 is a reasonable max), with a quiet room complete with comfy chair or bed to grab a little rest.  Even fabulously fit older friends & family might appreciate the opportunity to take a breather.

Tip #3 – If you MUST layer activities – church service or play, followed by dinner – keep a watchful but unobtrusive eye on the elder.  Make sure they have a comfortable place to sit, that they have a bit of quiet time if they seem to be tiring.

With a little forethought & attention, judicious pacing can help older friends & family extend their time enjoying loved ones & the holidays.

Oldsters, the holidays & loneliness

Even youngers find the holidays strewn with emotional landmines & social booby traps.  It can be infinitely worse for oldsters elders ancients.

The older we get, the more things can trigger holiday depression.  The best way to deal with them is to look them straight in the eye.

There was no way Mom was NOT going to miss Dad intensely over the stretch from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  Instead of avoiding any mention of her O Best Beloved, we’d talk about their favorite moments together, from the 1930s Thanksgiving dinner she made completely using a fireplace rotisserie because they didn’t have a working oven to making paper ornaments for the tree when Peter was three so he could touch them to meeting Dad at the New Year’s Eve party she threw for Aunt Betty.

Thoughts bring presence & it helped Mom stay on even keel to talk about loved ones who were long gone or lived far away.  She lived with us, but some version of most of these can be done with someone living over the river & through the woods:

We made a party out of decorating the tree.  Every year, she’d tell John the stories behind the Lockhart ornaments & loved hearing from him the tales behind the Murphy decorations.  For years, we had two trees – what John described as the “museum quality” Lockhart tree in the living room, the more boisterous Murphy tree in the den – until we FINALLY, a couple years before Mom was reunited with her O Best Beloved, we combined both into the one, living room tree.

I made sure we got plenty of great catalogues for armchair shopping.  Favorites included Signals, LL Bean, Vermont Country Store, Lands End, Green Tiger Press & Current.  She’d settle down with a cuppa, a plate of cookies & shop til she dropped – all without leaving the comfort of her big cozy chair!

There was always a supply of stamps on hand for her Christmas cards, stationery for her holiday letters & plenty of working pens.  And Scotch Tape!

Another party for wrapping presents!

John & I helped Mom get out to see friends & to have them in, if need be, happily fetching them.

We reminded her to set up time on the phone with Ellen in Texas & Elsa in Florida, Peggy in Missouri & folks all over, rather than leaving it up to chance.

Because we’d kept past cards from friends & family, we could look at signatures of folks who’d been gone for years, sparking memories & smiles.  Still do!

Mom & I would talk about the little card that Dad gave her with a present on their first Christmas – So little a thing to express all the strengths that are mine through your love & affectionate understanding ~ Pete.  A card I found among her things that now holds a yearlong place of honor in The Retreat.

On the night of the Glencairn Sing, we’d listen to a recording of the music & talk about long-ago traditions, like all the Raymond & Mildred’s granddaughters lighting candles throughout the Great Hall, or all the years the three Lockhart Ladies (Mom Mim moi) had the fun of bringing Marguerite de Angeli, leaving at intermission & stopping off for cocktails – with Marguerite! – on the drive back to her Philadelphia Parkway abode.

We shared a holiday reading from the Christmas story every day, which often triggered more talk of memories.

There was always plenty of special treats in the house, in case friends & family stopped by.

The Lockhart collection of Christmas books was put in a place of honor, near her armchair.

We’d attend the simpler, shorter children’s tableaux instead of the magnificent presentation at the cathedral.  The children’s tableaux always undid Mom with its innocence.

We watched LOTS of Christmas specials.  John & I made sure we had video tapes of her favorite holiday movies.

The house was always filled with music, either WFLN (classical music radio) or recordings.

When John & I went out without her, we’d regale her with tales of our adventures on returning home.

We always let my brothers & sister know they were welcome to spend part or all of Christmas with us.

And we let Mom know that we understood if a tender heart moment dipped into sadness.  But sorrow has been part of our family celebration since 1959, the Christmas after Ian died.  I believe that letting herself feel, respect the sorrow when it hit helped Mom avoid holiday depression.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Those are a smattering of the things that we – all of us – did to help Mom stay free of the holiday blues.  Tomorrow, will look at some of the things the Hyatts & Tamar & the two of us did to help Anne Hyatt, a widow living in a continuous care community, keep the merry in her Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Flipping pm to PL

My #1 December intention – – to flip from looking backward from a whackadoodle personal mythology (pm) to the present moment celebration of ground-breaking on my Personal Legend (PL).

You’d think it would have dawned on me pre-2017 that stories tagged to each member of & our family in general would naturally transcribe from clan lore to personal myth.  Nope – took me unawares, realizing I no longer had to hear a family member fling a comment to go to pieces.  The messages were recorded in my brain, often playing on a continual loop.

Mom & I first read about the power of the family myth back in the early 1990s.  Was it Nathaniel Branden or John Bradshaw or someone else?  Whichever author, he grabbed our attention – we read & discussed it together, seeing in our own experiences the impact of stories with the weight of truth, so potent that even people outside the family interpreted us in the light of the myths.

All families have some form of fables explaining foibles & quirks, but mine seems especially strong.  The tales are too numerous, too whackadoodle, too damaging to all to recount.  Best leave their roots lost in the far off mists of my family’s past.

As for me – let the trumpets sound that I could, finally, step away from the power of the family myth, seeing that the tales told laid things out in ways that transformed the unbearable into the acceptable.  Still, it was only this past summer that it hit me how tightly I still clung to my own personal myth, to hurtful fragments of stories told about me through the ages.  A shocker to realize that – at 65+ – in many ways,I still see myself as I’ve been portrayed for eons by a few.  Less, UN, Xed.  

My goal for the coming weeks is to close this Year of Rising Strong with a ROAR of accomplishment, directed at giving those debilitating stories the boot by living loud my Personal Legend, embracing & ensconcing it in the pride of place where once the personal myth held court.

Stepping past personal myth isn’t as easy as saying, “Now, my eyes are open.”  It would be easy if such tales are typically based largely on reason, on actual events.  They are not.  I have to make sense of the irrational & senseless, THEN leap past what I can understand & send the others packing.

Sure feels wonderful, having enough years under my belt that I can look back & see patterns that had been hidden from view because my heart hadn’t been tenderized enough to look with compassion rather than judgement, my brain was still counting up wrongs instead of seeing how others could think themselves in the right, my fingers were still too ready to point blame or curl up into a fist.

My personal myth spins a story of debility, but the record shows the opposite.  Portrays someone who doesn’t have a clue how to forge deep connections, but the record shows the opposite.  Tells the tale of a woman who is, above all, UNunlovable, untrustworthy, undistinguished –  but the record shows the opposite.

Fragments of each of each of those false fables – and others – remain embedded in my psyche, jagged pieces of emotional shrapnel.  At lease now I have the tools & understanding & will to dig each out.

Finally sidelined the family myth;  now it’s time to flip the still pesky personal myth into a great & glorious Personal Legend!

COMPLETED – Word of the Week

My truth is that I was raised in a family where the word potential was honored.  Not completed.  I don’t know why.  Here is what I do know:

At one time, I would have said that the two smartest siblings in our family never fulfilled their potential.  But five years after Mom’s death, I came across information that dealt that long-held assumption a serious blow.  Oh, it does still look like neither Peter nor Mim fulfilled their potential to the degree others had hoped.  But maybe they weren’t the two smartest Lockhart kids.  Hmmm….

The first thing I came across was a copy of a letter Mom wrote to my middle brother’s high school principal explaining that while Peter – my oldest – worked hard for his good grades, easy-going Mike had a natural intelligence she couldn’t get him to recognize because he’d gotten the message that hard work = intelligent.  She talked about her frustration that Mike did himself in because he believed things picked up easily had zip value.

My 55-year old jaw dropped, reading that letter.  I’d been sold the same bill of damaged goods, only with me it was my older sister who worked hard for good grades, who gave the impression that knowledge acquired easily was piffle.

The folder that held the illuminating letter also included my sibs’ high school report cards.  Both did very well, mostly upper 80s, some low 90s.  But exceptional? No. It was a shock to my belief system to learn that neither had graduated with honors.

I bring up this ancient history as background on the word for the coming week – COMPLETED – and it’s funky place, or lack of place, in our family.

Having potential was honored in my family, NOT actually completing things.  So it seemed unusual to me that the two people I’ve admired since my college days (individually & as a couple, personally & professionally) above all others exemplify COMPLETED.

They have the discernment to know the difference between the many  things that catch their eye, the few that capture their interest, the one or two worth engaging their energies.  They’re energized when a worthy challenge presents itself (I am enervated).  They passed on to their children the value of picking goals carefully & following them through to completion.  In countless ways, they demonstrate that they value family faith friends over position prestige power.  They weigh carefully what they set out to do & complete what they start.

Completing what I start goes against my nurture, which makes life very difficult.  I was a lot like Mike – even when I achieved a big goal, my accomplishment didn’t seem like a big deal because it came so easily to me.  It’s HARD to shake off that self-denigrating response, even now.  But – finally – am DONE with it!  Was going to write that if a fairy appeared in front of me at this very second with the promise of granting one wish, it would be a two-parter:  to know what I truly want to do ~and~ to apply myself to complete it effectively & efficiently in a reasonable amount of time.  Forget the fairy – JUST MAKE IT SO!

As challenging as it is to be 65 & still fighting against bad info & wretched habits instilled from my youngest days & etched deeper over the years, am luckier than most people ~ ~ for some reason, through three mega moves (from Alden Road to Cherry Lane, from Cherry Lane to Woodland, from Woodland to Pheasant Run), Mom kept report cards that told an aha story, kept a letter that spoke revealing volumes.  Most people don’t get to revisit their origin story, let alone see how reality clashes with family myth.

The myth has been around far too long – time it’s banished for good!  Let COMPLETED be the magic word that gives it the boot, replacing it with a life that embraces what’s waited impatiently hopefully eagerly to BE.

 

11/27/17 ~ That was where I left this yesterday.  More needs to be shared.

It feels like we are plagued by a general acceptance that we gain core knowledges in our youth & early adulthood, the next bit of our life is about gaining competencies, followed by a period of mastering what we know, with the final portion of our earthly visit being a harvesting of what’s been learned & mastered, capped with a “life review” & appreciation of where we’ve been & are.

Not so fast.  Or so straightforward.

According to Wikipedia, lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”  The only part of that definition that I totally agree with is “ongoing.”  The rest may be true about accumulating KNOWLEDGE – facts & figures – but gaining deeper UNDERSTANDING is, in my experience, neither voluntary nor self-motivated.  A lot of my lifelong learning has come from lines in books, movies (“Instead, we should tell our children, ‘Be prepared to be surprised.‘ “), TV; from casual conversations with friends acquaintances strangers, an inadvertently overheard snatch of conversation at a local cafe; from something on  Radio Times or You Bet Your Garden or Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me.  Serendipitous more than strategic.

Learning from cassettes & cds was intentional on my part, but not on my mother’s, so hearing a life-shifting bit of wisdom from Stephen Covey as we drove down to DisneyWorld in November 1997 was neither voluntary nor self-motivated on her part.  She was stuck with me in a car driving down I-95, I believe through the Carolinas.  But one sentence from a cd rocked her world.

She was 87 years old.  Once heard processed embraced, Mom never turned back.

I am sure there were countless nuggets of fresh perspective & bright aha moments long before then in her life, but – per Mom – that one sentence heard on a long drive to a dream holiday brought them all together.

My version of  her “Come to Covey” moment was reading her letter to Dick Gladish about Mike.  Ten years after she described how she felt hearing those relatively few words from Stephen Covey, six after her death, I fully grasped how it felt to have all the little bits & pieces picked up before swiftly coalesce into a cohesive whole.

We don’t know where we’ll pick up the vital information that illuminates our understanding, stirs our compassion, fires up our resolve.  Mom was 87, I was 55.  For both of us, it wasn’t a single piece of aha info that brought understanding, but a crucial piece that ultimately sparked it.

Life is a puzzle, every moment a crucial piece; sometimes what’s first experienced as inconsequential can turn out to be the missing bit of sky that’s kept us from seeing the whole picture.

No one bit of our life is more important than any other – we learn more info over our youth & early adulthood, but we only begin to more fully understand as we trip ever upward in years.

 

 

The muck stops here!

If you live in or near or less than insanely far away from Pittsburgh & have family issues you’re grappling with, hie you up, down or over to the University of Pittsburgh on Friday, December 8 for Mark Wolynn’s workshop, It Didn’t Start With You – how inherited family trauma shapes who we are and how to end the cycle.

Mark Wolynn is a thought leader on inherited family trauma.  Just realized that his book was published the month before John Bradshaw died.  His books, especially On Family (1986),  had a profound impact on both myself & Mom.  From the time I read Mark Wolynn’s book, I knew it built on what I’d gleaned from Bradshaw – didn’t realize that Mark was picking up as Bradshaw left!

Both men worked with people struggling with people struggling with a wide range of psychological disorders.  John Bradshaw’s books provided clarity, providing the language to drape around experiences that had never made sense.  Mark Wolynn’s book was freeing – it liberated me &, in my eyes, everyone else!

Mark makes it clear that many of our most daunting issues are biologically based.  His book – and his workshop – provide the understanding insights tools to help folks like me face down & put to flight daunting demons that derailed our family.  Do what you can to make sure the muck stops HERE!

 December 9, 2017    University of Pittsburgh   9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.   $125 (a steal!)    CE: 6 hours (LSW/CLSW. LPC, LMFT, Psych)

 

Our Thanksgiving present – recipe for happiness

Everyone should read this month’s National Geographic cover story, The Search for Happiness.  Especially if you are a USA American.  Canadian Americans:   you can go back to whatever you were doing, having celebrated Thanksgiving last month, unjumbled with Christmas;  you’re the 6th happiest country on our planet.  If you live in the Lower 48, read on – we rank 14th.

YOUCH!  How did we tumble eleven places in one decade – in 2007, we rang in at #3.

Our Thanksgiving present to one & all – from the two of us & the Universe – are ways that we, as individuals, can infuse our lives with the qualities that support happiness:  personal & institutional caring, nurturing our freedom – and others, cultivating multi-levels of generosity, being honest & expecting honesty from others, taking care of our health & our wealth, developing strong governance within our families communities nation.

In your everyday actions, think NORWAY.  Norway leap frogged fron #4 on the 2016 World Happiness Report to #1 this year.

Most Americans – including me – are unaware that Norway is a major oil producing nation.  Probably because it doesn’t flaunt the wealth it’s earned over the past 20 years pumping oil on its North Sea rigs.  Instead, the bulk of monies earned are tucked into what has become the world’s biggest wealth fund.  Which illustrates one reason Norway is #1 to our #14 – they are excellent money managers with an eye on the distant future instead of the immediate present.  And it speaks volumes that the government is looking to – ironically – divest its fund of its oil stocks (it already shed its coal holdings) to ensure better stability.  It plays the long game, we play the short.

Start acting more like Norway.  Save more & save for the long haul.  Step as far away from immediate gratification as possible.  Model for your loved ones the power of moderation & forethought.

Two of our dearest friends are exemplars of this – after their fortunes changed in mid-life, they could have purchased a bigger home on the fashionable side of their wonderful city, but it never entered their mind.  Their house is large enough to welcome all their children & sleeping-bagged grands, is near longtime friends, is home.  They entertain there more than they go out, are right now busy planning one of the year’s highlights – their annual caroling party.  They are two of the hardest working people I know, highly ambitious & keenly competitive.  They love their work, are respected by their colleagues & associates, find ways to expand their work into other areas & are exceptional mentors.  They frequently visit far-flung children & often have the delight of welcoming them home for extended stays.  For many years, their annual trip to an exotic location has doubled as work (a professional conference) & an opportunity to bring four generations – their parents, their children, grandchildren, nieces & nephews – for two weeks of family-centered connections.  They can afford it because they’ve always carefully cultivated their money time energies, from newly weds to doting grands.  They have “good bones” to pass along – –  he has a lot of Norwegian in him, she has a lot of Swede (tied with Australia for #10) – – and have taught their children, model for all of us, how to cultivate grow build your natural assets.

My greatest take-away from 2017 is the realization that the two of us are all about cultivating happiness.  Reading the National Geographic article woke me up to the realization that an individual can take the very qualities that make the Top Ten so successful at cultivating joy in the everyday & make those qualities a more conscious part of our lives.

How can I be more Norway, less USA?

The holiday season is an excellent place to start nurturing greater caring (including self care), helping bolster the freedom of people who feel isolated & restricted, being generous with my time & energies even when money is scarce, expecting honesty from others & demanding it from myself, taking better care of my health & spending/investing wisely, discussing with John what constitutes “good governance” in our lives.

Moving toward the new year, what can we do individually & as a couple to develop new relationships & deepen ones we already have, what we can do to cultivate trust, how would we describe a life that’s right for us – together & separate?

Our Thanksgiving gift to y’all is a layup to help you score a slam dunk 2018 – focus on happiness.  Talk to your friends, family, nearest & dearest about the qualities that make a happy nation, which also make for happy individuals.  How can you ally with others in your mutual efforts to move your personal ranking closer to #1?  What can you do to make your communities happier places for everyone?

Good Dane that he is, Meik Wiking congratulated his neighboring country on nabbing the #1 ranking –  “Good for them. I don’t think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness.  What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good.

Praise from the master is praise indeed – Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (it was not part of the Happiness Report) & author of the best seller, The Little Book of Hygge,  hits the nail on the head.  What leads to happiness, as a nation, as individuals?

A sense of community and understanding in the common good.  Nail those & the rest fall into place.

Music hath powers…

Music can play a key role in transforming a holiday dinner into an unforgettable celebration.  Cue up the favorite music from the era of your guests to during the mix & mingle, before & after dinner.  Dinnertime provides an opportunity to have quiet music playing in the background.

To help work off some of that feasting, encourage great-grands to show off some of the moves they perfected back In The Day to grands teaching  the Twist – Mashed Potato – Loco-Motion to parents explaining disco to younger folks teaching the hottest moves from today’s dance scene.