If she could see me now

In the midst of corresponding with a woman who’s an awesome force for aging expansively,  was moved to share the link to Mom’s The Velveteen Grammie article.  Gave me pause, skimming over it before sending it off.

Reminded anew of the strange but true reality that my here & now life is what Mom always saw for me.  Not the specifics, but very much the general “helping people” thing.

When I was unceremoniously & totally unexpectedly given the boot from the corporate world that I’d aced, it took me all of thirty minutes to realize that MOM was behind the shove out the door.  Literally – was driving home in tears, waiting to be scooped up in the waiting arms of my loving husband, when I came to a stop at a traffic light in Willow Grove, half way between BISYS Financial Services & home, and IT hit me with full force:   Mom had NEVER seen me in the corporate world.

Now that Mom was fully in spirit, seems she had more clout.  Yanked me out of my comfy cushy job & thrust me into the truly great unknown.  She knew the truth of what Jen Sincero writes in You Are A Badass At Making Money – – “Taking huge scary steps into the unknown is the best way to scare my BS to the surface.  It is like a 2-for-1 deal ~ ~ I make progress AND I unearth my shit.”

Not that Mom would ever use such language, but the underlying message – yeah, that was totally what I got, sitting there in my car, waiting for the light to change.  I had been thrown into the Great Unknown AND everything would be fine.  Just keep moving forward.

If she could see me now, Mom would be totally UNsurprised, just all, “Yes, that’s what I always saw.”  Mom – – thanks for the push & the belief.

My #1 goal for February

Not learning how to create a spiffy blog -or- find the moola to hire someone to jazz it up.  Not to brush up my computer skills & feel once again competent with basic programs that I aced back in my corporate days, when there was an IT team backing me up & a company that paid for me to take days off to hone my skills.  Not to create a home that’s warm & welcoming to humans as well as cats.

My #1 goal is to find at least three people interested in watching sessions from last week’s AWESOME Age Without Borders Global Caregivers Virtual Summit which was so utterly utterly utterly interesting insightful informative inspiring & a zillion other adjectives I haven’t time to write out.   There are so many caregivers out there – of every stripe – who would benefit so much from experiencing the wondrous array of speakers Kari Henley served up to us on silver platters;  all we have to do is watch in wonderment.

What better place to soak them in than the community room at Be Well, where we can take in the summit’s wowness while drinking one of Maia’s coffee confections & eating Gwyneth’s Lemon Almond Cake!

This year, epiphany predated Christmas

The ACTUAL Epiphany falls on January 6, celebrating the presentation of Christ to the gentiles, represented by the three “kings,” or “wise men.”  Mine happened yesterday, in our church choir hall, as I helped wrapped gifts for children in need.  Another amazing, out-of-the-blue opportunity to see feel respond to an ancient emotion-churning dynamic in a different way.

A classmate & friend of my oldest brother, someone with whom I have layers of connections going back as far as I can remember, stopped by the table where I was wrapping presents.

He has, at different times of his life, been friends with both Peter & with my older sister. He asked about Peter, then about Mim.  He was interested to hear the details of her July 2015 death.  It’s always uplifting to share the story of her passing, which was a wondrous death at the end of a life filled with struggles.

That’s a familiar scenario I’ve stepped through many time over the past 2 1/2 years.  What came next was totally unexpected.

He shared with me that Mim had written him a letter sharing the darkness in her life.  The look in his eyes, the demeanor of his body as he mentioned being touched she’d written to him, was surprisingly familiar to me.  Mim would take people into her confidence about the demons that troubled her life to gain their support, even admiration. I am not saying that she was insincere in what she wrote – am sure it was 100% correct, since my sister’s life was crushed by dark forces.  But they were also at play in such self-revealing moments.

What I saw in my friend’s eyes.  I’ve seen countless times in the past.  Never thought I’d see it again.  In the past, it would have brought on a WHOOSH of pain, at the sense of tender support that Mim raised in others hearing her genuinely heartbreaking reality.  She was a master at arousing sympathy, to infill people with a longing to reach out, make things better.  Mim, at least as she presented it to me, played that like a master violinist.

That sounds harsh.  Imagine how it felt to HEAR, directly from her.  One of the great constants with my sister was how she seemed compelled to feel openly – if only to me – derisive of people, even people she loved, admired, cared about, compelled to winningly present herself as victim, which she could do convincingly because she truly was.  Am sure that something horrifically traumatic happened to her as a little child, that her sole goal after was to never let herself be vulnerable to hurt, resulting in a life perversely obliterated by it.

Yesterday, here, right in front of me, was someone I personally admired, sharing his sense of awe at her being so open.  And I didn’t freak out inside.  I also didn’t feel numb.  It was interesting.

The friend was present decades ago when she opened up at a church camp about how her camp experience – especially the minister running it – had brought her from invisibility at the back of the room to the there-for-all-to-see front.  That statement has stayed with all who heard it – it’s been quoted to me many times over the past years.  And the church camp was truly a huge aha for Mim –  in addition to all the very real good it did, it brought home to her the power of being damaged & at the same time doused any desire on her part to try to heal.

I can say that because Mim said it to me.

As she pointed out to me many times over the following years, Why try to heal her damaged self when being just as she was made people bend to how she was?   She crowed about being the driver of organizers changing how they did things to to accommodate her, to draw her into the action.  Where was the upside in trying to make things better when being just as she was held such power?

Not long ago, it would have turned my stomach & broken my heart to to hear my friend share Mim writing to him about her darkness, to see the awed light in his eyes & feel his sense of being honored by her sharing such a deeply personal confidence.  Instead, I simply felt interested, wanted to hear more.  Experienced it new information, fresh ability to understand differently.

I believe she was honest sharing that the camp leader brought her from the back of the room to the front.  Absolutely.  I saw that Mim’s experiences at the camp opened up a world she’d closed down.  Thanks to the Laurel Camp, her world opened, expanded; she became engaged, energized, empowered in ways she never had.  She went on to get her bachelors at NYU, part of an experimental (now long established) program of night classes for non-traditional students, to get her MSW from Rutgers.  She LIVED, at least for a while.

At the same time, she always touted the fact that camp organizers changed their practices to accommodate HER as the defining reason to stay just as she was.

Both were real.

Yesterday gave me the opportunity to experience those peculiar dynamics real-time, in spite of Mim being gone 2+ years.  The Universe gave me an opportunity to not plunge into a depression, to not get past it by brushing it off.  To just let it be how it appeared.  To realize more fully & compassionately my reality of being Mim’s dumping ground, the one to whom she could denigrate, tear down & rip apart the very people she’d taken into her confidence, whose hearts were tenderized & reaching out to her.

I never expected to have the opportunity to hear anyone express so clearly to me, so so openly a classic Mim manuever – –  taking them into her confidence about the genuinely wretched pain of her life, to see that unique light that’s lit up countless eyes recounting to me their special experience of her sharing her pain.

Even if it was totally genuine on her part, I know for sure it was intentional.  Her intended outcome was to get that response.  This will sound harsh, but it was how she came across; she needed that sort of reaction the same way Voldemort needed unicorn blood – to maintain her hold on feeling alive.

Mim was clear that she knew exactly what she was doing in being so open.  As she described it, when she came across as being her most vulnerable was when she felt most in control.  Am not saying that was true.  That was what she told me.  And she told me because I couldn’t do anything.  Just hear it.

My thanks to the Universe for the unexpected opportunity to review a whacked-out dynamic I never expected to experience again.  To fully feel it not as drama or bitter dark comedy, but simply as interesting.

A reality of life that I’ve discovered over the past few years is that there are things we can’t understand because we either don’t have sufficient information, we don’t have the experience to understand what we do know,  we lack the wisdom to feel the compassion necessary for understanding.  Imagine all the things I could understand better, if only those three things always came together!

Wholeheartedly grateful for yesterday’s mega epiphany for me, a stunning AH HA.  There is no making sense of my sister.  Can’t be done.  She was & remains a puzzle wrapped in an enigma.  Other than knowing that a driving need to be considered different, not like others, outside the norm, was central to her, there is no getting to the core of who she was.

For the majority of my life, making sense of Mim drove my own life.  I tried for years – all it did was waste time, energy & effort.  Realized years ago that trying to make sense of my sister was like endlessly striving to fix a broken watch that turns out to be missing a piece.  A dedicated yet futile effort.

As for Mim, she was who she was.  Whatever that was.  Know there will be people showing up in my life, probably to the end of my own days, with that unique light in their eyes, that awed quiver to their voice, sharing that “special” sense of Mim that she opened up to them.

Let it be.  And keep moving forward.

“I didn’t plan it & you didn’t plan it…”

First, Ron Culberson’s Do It Well. Make If Fun.  was the capstone of my decades-long quest to gain a sense of self, of alignment & equilibrium.  Then, Mel Robbins 5-Second Rule kicked off my current quest, to DO what calls to be done.  Followed by Jim Stovall & Ray Hull’s The Art of Learning, which put structure around that intention, provided the mechanics needed to make things so.  And now, it’s Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s What Will People Say About You When You Are Gone? that’s addressing directly the myriad of questions that sprang from reading the others!

This chain of reading is too effective, too targeted to be mere coincidence.  Reminds me of what my very UNreligiousy (but deeply spiritual) John said about the two of us – “I didn’t plan this & you didn’t plan this BUT Someone planned it!”  In a similar vein, SOMEONE put together this reading list!

Yes, it is a matter of attention that our finances are on particularly low ebb.  And we appreciate that friends & pleasant acquaintances fret over our prospects.  To them, we seem unreasonable in our belief that we are on a path of purpose laid out by Powers beyond our trifling understanding.

Writing in a Facebook posting, doing my weebly best to explain, I noted  – “hearing a friend tsk tsk that better some income in a field outside my interest than no money at all, am realizing two things: 1) at 65, with a stellar but ancient resume & no updated computer skills (and a gammy leg that rules out wawa or walmart), i’m overqualified, under-credentialed & aged out for even temp positions; 2) i agree with red stevens in “the ultimate gift” – losing everything can be a great starting place. we value the work we do, even if others don’t. preventive care is rarely given the value of corrective or maintenance. the work we’re doing makes a difference. valuing it means honoring the path that’s been set before us.”

Wrote that this past Saturday.  Then last night, my jaw dropped reading Rabbi Cohen sum up my verbose point in one sentence:  Australian palliative nurse Bonnie Ware notes that the most common regret at the end of one’s life is wishing that “I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Amen & hallelujah!

A few pages further, three more gems spoke to my heart & laid out my reason for living:

  • Marc Angel, in his book Losing the Rat Race, Winning at Life, writes:  “We human beings are placed on earth to attain transcendent treasures – wisdom, love, spiritual insight, moral courage.  If we can keep our lives focused on these goals and if we can direct our lives according to these ideals – then we ‘win’ at life.  But if we come to ascribe greater value to mundane attainments – wealth, power, fame – then we may find ourselves having accumulated things that are ultimately of little worth.  Winning at life means keeping focused on what is truly important and not getting sidetracked by external glitz.  Winning is not a one-time event, but an ongoing way of life.

 

  • Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true; I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light I have.”

 

  • How can you harness the gift of life for maximal impact and fulfillment?  You can begin by leading your life as a reflection of your innermost values.  The only way to accomplish this goal is not to wait for external stimuli to jolt you into action but to cultivate an ongoing mechanism to keep your ideal self front and center.

 

Again – amen & hallelujah!

Every position I’ve held – – from teaching at a small parochial school to working for US HealthCare ~ Prudential HealthCare ~ BISYS Financial Services to teaching at-risk high school students with guns in their car glove compartments & shivs concealed in the shoes – – was preparation for our NOW.  That doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.  They don’t get it.  We do.  We know that John didn’t plan this & I didn’t plan this BUT Someone planned it.  No more to say.

 

 

The Almighty invests all of us with the spirit & strength each day to harness this inner power.  The question is whether we cherish the gift of free choice to express our deepest values or live on cruise control and make decisions out of convenience and not conviction.

I’m reminded of the story in Ah, but Your Land Is Beautiful by South African writer, Alan Paton.  He tells of a man who died and came before God.  “Where are your wounds?’ asks God.  “I have none,” said the man.  “Why,” responds God, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?”  – – –  DEEV – to me, giving a fair shake to all ages, in all stages is worth the good fight!

At every moment of our lives, whether young or old, we’re called to be our own very best.  We’re charged with living life with passion and purpose.  The world is watching.  If we choose courageously and optimize our opportunities, we’ll know that we gave of our gifts, touched the world, and lived our lives in a way that we’ll be remembered in blessed memory.

In quoting his friend, Senator Joseph Lieberman – “When I decide a course of action, it is not for fear of failure.  If I lose because I stood for my beliefs, I will always be at peace.  I never want to be remembered for playing life safe.  I want to be remembered for doing what was right.”

The longest distance in life is between our heads and our hearts.  Spiritual success requires developing the training to transform our intentions into reality.  We all experience flashes of inspiration when we awake from our spiritual slumber.  In those moments, we embrace a seriousness of purpose & pledge to truly devote ourselves to our deepest values.  Yet all to often, our motivation is short-lived.  Soon enough, we’re back to old habits.

There is no shortage of people who aspire to growth & greatness.  Life is filled with unfulfilled dreams & unrealized potential.  As Henry David Thoreau reflected, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”  You’re reading this book because…  you want to ALIGN (my CAPS) your body and soul and lead life with urgency and a higher purpose.  You have a song within you to sing.

All the good intentions in the world won’t translate into action if we don’t pause to reflect on our life direction and purpose.  If we don’t, it could turn out that all of our investments of time, money, love, and talents were for naught.

 

 

 

My thanks to Jim Stovall for the ultimate gift

Not for the book he wrote nor for the movie it inspired.  It was through something eles that Jim Stovall helped drape language over this second quest on which I’m embarked.

My first quest was one to find a sense of alignment, of balance & equanimity.  A quest to find my own true self, buried under layers of distraction, misunderstood messages & misguidance.

When I started, at 24, my goal was to empower my inner swan to dive down down down through the depths of a pond to the very bottom, to connect with its riches & discover my basic self, then return safely to the surface (no small task, given a swan’t buoyancy).  When that quest came to a close in July, the image my 65-year old self held was more of a beautiful stool made of precious wood – mahogany or cherry – painted over many times, frequently with beautiful touches, that’s been stripped down & restored to its original appearance.

By the end of this past summer, it was clear the first quest was finally over -and- that I’d struck out on a new – – but what it was, where it was meant to lead, was outside my ken.

Until reading Jim Stovall’s portion of The Art of Learning.  Ray Hull co-authored & contributed wonderful chapters, but Jim’s chapters hit home.  Especially Chapter Seven – Living to Learn:

The highest utilization of learning is to apply knowledge & wisdom in our lives in productive ways.”  Amen & hallelujah!  The goal of learning is its application, not accumulation.  Revolutionary thought!

“Productivity is the pursuit of creating more efficiency & results in all that we do…”

“If we are going to understand & apply our learning in productive ways that will make a true difference, we must master motivation, communication, and implementation.”

“All learning is valid & legitimate, but some learning is more productive given that we all have individual goals, dreams, and aspirations.”

Just because I can memorize information & repeat it doesn’t really mean that I’ve really learned it.

“In order to determine what type of learning is most productive (for us), we must understand where we are trying to go & what goals we want to reach.”

“Motivation is the key to learning, and learning is the key to staying motivated.”

“Collaboration is (a) key to success.”

“Just because something motivates me, it doesn’t mean that it motivates anyone else.”

“Assuming you understand other people without taking the time and effort to learn about them is a form of prejudice.  Prejudice is a lazy exercise.”

“Be careful what we learn & who we learn it from.”  

“The Internet is an amazing learning & communication tool, but we must be able to discern the validity & accuracy of what we are learning.”

“People communicate most effectively in different ways.  The best communication is two-way communication – open, consistent, free-flowing.”

Jim tells the story about a resort hotel where he stayed frequently;  they realized that since Jim is blind, a flashing light on his phone wouldn’t alert him to messages – so they wrote the messages out on paper & slipped them under his door.  It showed while they realized  he needed a solution to a basic problem, their response wasn’t a helpful answer!

Never assume that the person you’re talking to has correctly processed your intended message.  “The most powerful message you can ask is, ‘What do you understand?”

“Unless we apply that which we learned in the real world, we can never make the impact that we are intended to make throughout our lives.”

“Implementing, sharing & teaching that which we have learned does not diminish us.”

“If you share information, knowledge, or wisdom with others, they will have more, and you will find yourself elevated in every way.”

“Constantly revisit the books and other learning resources that have impacted you the most.  No matter how many times you have reviewed a great book, you will find hidden treasures when you read it again.” 

“Memory is like a muscle.  You either use it or lose it.”

“People in their 80s, 90s, or even over 100 who continue to learn stay vital, alert, and relevant.”

“Those people who stop learning and pursuing knowledge begin to waste away both mentally and physically.”

“(Anything) can be valid learning tools at the right time and in the right proportion.”

Jim Stovall co-founded the Narrative Television Network, designed for people with vision impairments with popular with sighted people, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure sign something monumental happened

One of the many whacky things that’s held me back throughout my life happens along with any monumental shift for the better – the Basement Boys respond set about to destabilize my foundation.  Am looking back at November in horror at the flock of core things ignored, left unattended.  The Boys hate well-grounded, wise forward motion & are known to do all they can to take progress off track.

That’s ok, Boys – can see your crafty hand at work.  Yeah, there were  a lot of ways you blew November for me, but not as many as before & realized it a lot faster.  No time to dwell on it – getting in a dither over your nasty work only kept me off track.

See ya & ta ta!  Back to the rituals & techniques, schedules & daily calendaring that reset me on the current path forward!

Stepping past brazenly Tech Timid

This summer, I was determined that by 12/31/17, I’d move from technically timid to at least  technically okay, preferably technically competent.  Nailing tech basics was a large part of Rising Strong 2017.  Here it is, early December & I am still a relative tech newbie.  Yet, strangely, it doesn’t feel like a loss.

Back in the day, I knew the ins & outs of word processing.  Twenty years ago, I had Prudential’s exceptional IT guys at my beck & call.  But that’s a kazillion years ago in computer terms.

Instead of being discouraged, I feel enlightened.  First off, it’s clear I am not someone who can easily pick up skills from books or on-line tutorials ~ without a living, breathing human next to me, giving life to directions, I flounder.  And it turned out that working with brilliant young friends as tutors was a wash-out,  always a couple levels above where I needed them to be;  trying to get them to understand what I meant by BASIC core skills was like trying to describe the wetness of water to a fish.

If I lived in NYC or could afford the fairly inexpensive commute up on NJ Transit, could take weekly classes at Senior Planet.  If Philadelphia had an equivalent to Senior Planet, I could afford the $2 round-trip senior fare on SEPTA to take free classes – there isn’t.  If I could ante up for a tutor who specializes in the once-proficient, now out-of-her-depth computer user, would be on it in a heart beat.  If I could cough up the moola for someone to design a decent blog & Facebook page, I’d be all over it.  If I had the cash, I’d hire a business coach to turn ideas like Cyber Access for the Technically Timid (CATT) into profitable realities that could fund the 2018 workshops & conferences that beckon.

The past five months showed me that as much as I want to make a go of CATT & other endeavors, there is just so much I can do on my own, having the sort of brain that I have.  It is not a weakness, just a reality.  Have always been a right brainer, more creative than technological.  It wasn’t my perception of being a dunce that made me struggle with math – mathematics truly were my bete noir.  It didn’t help that in Algebra, I kept getting the right answers without working through the proper formulas.

My Algebra experience sums up a lot of the past 65 years – getting right answers but unable to explain the how, which has proven a constant source of irritation to key others.  I’m an ultimate product gal in a world focused on process.

If you had described to me in January 2017 where I am today, it would have sounded like a mega failure.  But it turns out NOT achieving core goals has been a major opportunity to face facts, without judgement.  One fact is incredibly clear.

The adage that it takes money to make money is true.

It takes money to brush up my computer skills to where they were when I first had the brainstorm that became Cyber Access for the Technically Timid – helping older friends access the internet, use word processing, write blogs, build their circle of friends through social media, all without them having to touch a keyboard.

It takes money to bring on a business coach to help me see how to take Values Vision Dreams from a rough prototype to a tool that helps oldsters elders ancients connect with their present-day values, from there to crafting a here & now vision statement, and finally to identifying/pursing dreams.

It takes money to get guidance on how to become a dream manager for olders.

It takes A LOT of money to make the above accessible in some form to mature adults, their families & care partners of all income levels, to those who are champs at being online & those who shut down just hearing the word “keyboard” (or think someone’s talking about a piano).

Money is something I do not have.  This year.  I just came across a check from last December from our sustaining client – over $2,000.  It brought home how different 2016 was from 2017.  Over two months, we went from three clients to none.  Our core client & dear friend was reunited with her O Best Beloved in January, after too many years as a widow.  We rejoiced for her, but her passing gave us pause.  While Anne’s family believed we were invaluable to her remarkable level of LIVING, despite zeroing in on 100 & having dementia, John & I understand – preventive services are always a hard sell.

Yes, it takes money to make money.  But it takes creativity & determination & focused energies to make a difference.  And those we have in plentiful supply.

So, this is me throwing down the gauntlet to my Tech Timid present moment self – how much improvement can I rack up between 12/03/17 & 12/31/17?   I’ve been a flub this year at making money & made a pretty poor showing at attracting it – let’s see how far I can go with the bounty of powerful intangibles at my fingertips!