Happy Birthday to Me . . .

http://www.amazon.com/Denim-Diamonds-Lori-Robinett/dp/1631030035/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405879835&sr=1-7&keywords=denim+%26+diamonds

Lori L. Robinett, author

 

Today is my birthday. I’m not ashamed of my age (47), but I am a bit surprised at it. It’s like I woke up one day several years ago, looked in the mirror and though, damn, when did I get old?

My face is fat, my skin doesn’t have that youthful glow, and my eyes are hooded.

But I have to say, I’m very happy in my skin these days. I’ve started working out (going to 9Round – “get fit, not hit”), drinking more water. I journal more often. Buddhism and mindfulness are part of my daily routine. And my writing is, very slowly, becoming more authentic. The older I get, the less I worry about what people will think.

At one time, I thought my birthday deserved a celebration. Then, 12 years ago, I spent my birthday at my best friend’s visitation after she lost her battle with cancer, so I didn’t even want to acknowledge my birthday. And now? Now, I feel good. I’m in a good place. And am looking forward to celebrating my birthday with pizza, beer and the 2 hour season premiere of The Following.

Finding my Zen: Breathe

Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while know that the past year and a half has been extremely trying for me. At one of my lowest points last summer, I visited a therapist on the advice of my family doctor. The therapist encouraged me to explore Mindfulness, and to consider taking a class.

Although I didn’t take a class, I did explore. Several quotes over the years from my sister-in-law about Buddhism resonated with me, so I began reading. Two sites were especially helpful, Zen Habits and Tiny Buddha. There were days I did not know how I could possibly continue, and that’s when I turned to Zen Habits and started with the basics: a simple post called “Breathe.” That staple helped me get through the rough points. When tears threatened or when I felt the weight of the world upon my shoulders, I could breathe. Couldn’t do much else, sometimes.

I know the holidays are often very difficult for people. There are times it seems that happiness is all around you, and you feel like an island of pain and suffering and doubt. Even in those moments, you can breathe. If you are having a difficult time, take a moment to read that simple blog post and DO it.

Trust me. You are stronger than you think.

 

Putting On a Happy Face

Recently, I posted something slightly negative on my Facebook page.

Feeling really grouchy & irritable today. You know, more so than usual. Thinkin’ it’s a good day to keep my head down and buried in work.

A friend responded.

Oh, dear – and you seemed so happy yesterday! Hoping it’s a temporary grouchiness and you’re already feeling better. <hugs>

Seeing that post really did help. Those virtual hugs aren’t just data. They’re emotion.

And that emotion that transmits via social media is why I’m generally careful about what I post. There’s research that indicates mood spreads via Facebook (check it out here), and I have no desire to add to the negativity in the world so I put on a happy face. I do the same thing at work, most of the time. I smile. Pretend I’m not hurting. Pretend everything is OK. And I bet others do the same thing. Does that give others a skewed view of our true selves? Probably. Does it serve a purpose to share those darker feelings? Maybe. Probably depends on why you share your darker feelings.

The reality is, my 18 year old daughter ripped my heart out about a year ago, days after she graduated from high school. Recently, I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of prom and posts about senior events and graduation. Those memories will forever be tainted for me, because they feel like a lie (yeah, yeah. I know they weren’t truly a lie. But they FEEL that way). On top of that, we had to have our 13 year old yellow lab put down last month. And now it looks like we’re going to have to have our 14 year old miniature schnauzer put down, likely on Saturday. If, that is, I can bring myself to make the phone call.

So, no, I’ve not been happy. I’m hurting and angry and disappointed and frustrated. But that’s OK. Those feelings are natural, legitimate feelings. We should not be afraid to share them with others, but neither should we let those feelings wrap their tendrils around every aspect of our lives. Do your 500 friends on F/B need to know that you’re feeling a little down today? No. But a quick post to let people know how you’re feeling is OK. Maybe you’ll even get a virtual hug that makes you feel better.

But remember that there is life outside of Facebook.

Acknowledge the feelings.

And then practice a little self-compassion.

 

 

Empty Nest: First Easter

Peeps - Star Trek Style

Peeps – Star Trek Style

This was our first Easter as empty nesters. It seems like I’ve gone through the entire year marking the holidays, marking the firsts, feeling melancholy about the change in our status. Instead of looking backwards, I prefer to look forward. It is a conscious thing. Being happy is a choice. I chose to:

  • Remember the Easter baskets I gave the girls.
  • Remember the time I got the Easter Bunny to visit Jodi at school.
  • Enjoy spending time with my husband.
  • Enjoy the new freedom of being an Empty Nester.

 

Happy Birthday to Me . . .

My birthday, 2010

My birthday, 2010

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions. When we’re little, we put on crowns or tiaras and hit pinatas and have cake and ice cream. But what happens as we get older? Personally, my birthday is now tinged with sadness. My best friend from high school passed away (cancer) several years ago and I spent my birthday at her visitation. My birthday is now a reminder of loss and how short life can be. To make it worse, this is the first year without my daughter at home.  So . . . what to do? How do you celebrate a birthday when you don’t feel happy, happy, happy?

Simple.

You live in the moment.

You look around you and see all that you have to be thankful for. Family. Friends. Pets (after all, what says unconditional love more than puppy kisses?). Your health. Don’t give me any BUTS. But nothing. You have family. Extended family or adopted family. You have friends (and if you don’t have friends, get off your sorry rear and reach out because there is SOMEONE out there who needs a friend just as much or worse than you do). You may have health issues, but there are those out there who are worse off. Even when our daughter was in the NICU and we didn’t know if she would make it, there were others worse off. We considered ourselves lucky.

Take a deep breath and allow healing energy into your body. Breathe out the negative energy. Picture whiteness entering your body, and darkness exiting.

Take care of yourself. Do what works for you. Personally, writing helps. Scrapbooking helps. Curling up with a good book helps. Making a cake and licking the beaters works.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a sad post. I am not sad today. I feel blessed to be living in a house that is nicer than I ever imagined I’d have, with my husband of nearly 20 years (who surprised me with a Browning .22 this morning – what says love more than a firearm?!) and my puppies around me, and I will get up tomorrow and go to a job that I truly enjoy. Life is good.

But I also recognize that there is an undercurrent of sadness and loss that I feel today.

I feel the sadness, identify it, accept it. And go on. Because life IS good.

Live Today

Live Today

Live Today

Live Today.

Those of you who follow my blog know that 2013 was a very difficult year for me. I began the year on top of the world, excited for my daughter who was about to graduate high school and embark on the excitement of life as a college student. My excitement was cut short when she ran away, moved in with her boyfriend, and decided not to go to college.

What does that have to do with living today?

Everything.

See, my world crashed around me that Thursday night she didn’t come home. I felt as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest. Everything around me seemed surreal. My blood thudded in my ears so loudly I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t stop crying. How could I possibly go on?

THAT is what living today is all about. Learning to survive. Everyone goes through horrible experiences at one time or another. We had already been through bad times, my husband and I, when our baby was born extremely prematurely. We didn’t know if she would make it. We didn’t know how we would go on if she didn’t. But I put one foot in front of the other. I went through the motions – forcing myself out of bed when the alarm went off, driving to work in a daze, eating because I had to. And when she left home, I found myself going through the motions again. My therapist suggested mindfulness training, so I explored and found great comfort in the words of Buddha and various Zen blogs. The one that made the most sense to me was on ZenHabits, simply entitled Breathe. I can do that, I thought. Tiny Buddha also helped a lot.

And I could. I turned my focus inward, pictured the cleansing oxygen coursing through my body, the dark hurt being exhaled with every breath. My world began to open again. My husband and I found ourselves getting to know each other again, learning to live as a couple – and learning to enjoy life and all the blessings that we have.

Stop. Right now – stop. Close your eyes and focus on the act of breathing. Know that in this moment, this brief blip of time, you’re okay.

Live your life to the fullest each and every day. Find something that brings you joy. Let go of the hurt. Release the anger. No regrets. No looking forward. No dreading the future. No waiting for tomorrow. Simply live.

Live today.

Namaste, my friends.

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Path to Peacefulness

Boardwalk to the beach at Gulf Shores

Boardwalk to the beach at Gulf Shores

I’ve talked before about “Creating my path.” The image above is a perfect symbol for that path. Although the landscape shifts around, my goal is to find peace and happiness. And since my trip to Gulf Shores, I’ve felt more peaceful. Happiness is returning to my life. I was worried about the holidays, but am feeling confident that this year will be exciting, a time of creating new traditions and enjoying the new path my life has taken. But I also recognize that others are struggling.  The holidays can be a time of sadness and frustration, and if you are hurting, the joyousness of the season can feel like a slap in the face. If you are struggling along your path, try this:

  • Take a few minutes each day to journal – in longhand, whatever you feel, whatever you want to say.
  • Meditate each day. Simply be in the moment, feel the breath flow in and out of your body, and allow your thoughts to quiet.
  • Light a candle. Smell is a strong scent that can evoke emotions (my favorite is pumpkin – that scent always reminds me of the holidays at home).
  • Recognize that there are others worse off than you. There are people in the hospital and nursing homes who are struggling to live, soldiers serving overseas who miss their families, pets in shelters who do not understand why they aren’t loved.
  • Now do something for someone worse off than you. If you can’t think of a darned thing to do, pack up something you no longer use and donate it. Or buy a bag of dog food and deliver it to an animal shelter.

 

Day 188 of the Empty Nest: Being Thankful

Image

Image Courtesy of: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=10419

Although the last six months have been incredibly difficult, and I have dealt with a range of emotions, I am coming to accept the fact that our Nest is now empty, and recognizing that, in spite of the fact that I wish things were different, life is good. If you are struggling with an Empty Nest, perhaps you can identify with the following:

  • I am thankful my child is confident enough to be independent
  • I am thankful my child is healthy enough to live on her own
  • I am thankful my husband and I have the opportunity to be a couple again (well, for the first time, actually . . . since my stepdaughter was 6 when we got married)
  • I am thankful I now have time to explore my own interests

What are you thankful for?

Accepting Help

Sea gulls hitching a ride on the Fort Morgan ferry

Sea gulls hitching a ride on the Fort Morgan ferry

One of the most difficult things for me to do is accept help. I’m a bit of a control freak (give me credit here . . . recognizing the problem is the first step towards fixing it, right?), and I often have a hard time accepting assistance from others. At work, I hate to ask my co-worker to do anything because I know she’s got enough on her desk without taking on my tasks. At home, I DO nag my hubs to help, but most of the time I just do the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning and inwardly rage because he doesn’t recognize that I have no clean underwear.

When my daughter left home under less than ideal circumstances, I felt I had to deal with it on my own. I hid my tears, pretended everything was okay, and forged ahead with life. But here’s the thing: Sometimes it’s OK to hitch a ride and let someone share your burden – just like the sea gulls that hitched a ride on the ferry. They wanted to get from Point A to Point B, and the ferry was there, willing and able to give them a lift. Once I opened up and began to let people see the hurt I was feeling, I immediately felt their support and encouragement, and didn’t feel quite so alone in the world. Others told me about their experiences, good and bad. And I began to heal.

So, if you find yourself trying to fly and are having difficulties doing so, take a cue from the Alabama gulls above and let someone else carry some of the load. There’s no shame in accepting help, and by opening up, you just might help someone else who is also suffering in silence.

Empty Nest: Day 172

Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

A year ago, my daughter was nearly finished with the first semester of her senior year of high school. She was looking forward to college, and I was looking forward to her going to college. Then six months ago, it felt as though she had ripped the rug from under our feet when she ran away and claimed she was “terrified” of us – with absolutely no warning, no fights, no problems to warn us of the impending accusations. Within half an hour, my dreams of dropping her off at college, sending her care packages, and hearing all about her experiences as a college freshman were destroyed. If that sounds selfish, it is. I wanted to be a college mom. I proudly wore my “CSC Mom” t-shirt every weekend. I bragged on her to anyone and everyone. I just knew she was going to be successful, whether she ended up as a high school band director or as a music store owner. I thought I was supporting and encouraging her dreams. I cried when she got the John Phillips Sousa Award at the spring band concert (as did she). So many happy memories . . .

It has been nearly six months since she left. I still want for her what I want for both my girls: for them to be happy, healthy, productive members of society. She’s young. There’s still plenty of time for that to happen. And that is what brings me to my point: there is plenty of time for her to find her way. That is up to her now. I cannot carry that load for her, no matter how badly I want to. The load I must carry is my own. I need to be a happy, healthy, productive member of society. That is what every Empty Nester needs to understand. We have been selfish on behalf of our children. We want the best for them, we want to do everything we can for them, we want to prepare them for life. But when they leave the nest, we must allow them to flutter, to test their wings, and eventually, to soar on the wind.

Our priorities shift from our children to ourselves when they leave the nest. And that isn’t a bad thing. In my case, it was akin to ripping a bandage off. Granted, it was a big friggin’ bandage and it left an exposed wound that still hasn’t healed, but at least it happened quickly. I hope that eventually we’re able to heal that wound, but for now, my focus is on my marriage and myself. It is time for my husband and I to get to know each other again, to plan for the future, and to nourish our dreams.

And that’s OK.