A rose by any other name

I remember when I decided to do it.

I was going to change my name.

I had just filed for divorce.  It was liberating, knowing I’d done something proactive for my emotional and psychological well-being.  After I gave my (now) ex the ultimatum of ‘me, or everyone else in a skirt’ (guess which he chose?), I hired a lawyer, filed the paperwork, and was on my way (little did I know he would stretch it out over two+ years, quickly making it the Big Bad Awful, but that’s another story).

IMG_3205So, changing my last name.  Not back to my maiden name; no, I hadn’t been that person for nearly 20 years.  And I didn’t want to wait until after the divorce was final, I wanted to do it now.  It was a further step to heal, another step in the direction to reclaim my own life. And it was the right decision.

Now, what name did I want to reflect me?  What name did I want to represent “me” to the outside world?

To be, or not to be, Smith or Jones. That was the question.

I wrote down or typed into my cell phone every name I came across that I liked.  From looking through books on my coffee table, watching TV and movies; perusing magazines, bookshelves at the library, FaceBook, and bookshelves at Barnes & Noble; mulling names over-heard in conversations standing in line; to (more) perusing of used-books store shelves, place names on maps, family trees, cemeteries (really, headstones are a bounty of monikers!), other people’s bookshelves…you get the idea.

My long list devised, now needed some serious weeding.  I would practice introducing myself out loud using the names I’d found.

That lopped off at least 1/3 of the list.

Anything too alliterative (“Dana Douglas” anyone?) was just too much for me and was promptly pulled.  Pondering some of the names over a short period of time also thinned the crop.

What remained was a list of a dozen or so names.  I pulled out one of my small yellow legal pads and began writing my first and possible new last name.

First, middle, last.

First, middle initial, last.

First initial, middle initial, last.

Monogram (very important, it turns out, so that you don’t inadvertently spell something nasty).

I narrowed the list to 3.

And then couldn’t make up my mind.

Someone suggested I look up the meaning of each name – WHY I hadn’t thought of that before completely escapes me (I am a huge etymological junkie!).  And it turned out to be the key to the magic garden gate.

I won’t give you all of Merriam and Webster’s thoughts on the finalists.  Suffice it to say when I came upon the definition “to rise above,” I knew I’d found my prize rose.

There were only two people with whom I discussed my name change before I began the actual legal proceedings:  my son, and my Dad.

With Z, I asked him how he’d feel having a different last name than me. He was 9 at the time. Without looking up from the Harry Potter book he was reading, he replied, “Mom, half the kids in my class have parents with different last names.”

Ok then.

With Dad, I was more concerned he’d feel, well, insulted.  I didn’t want him to think I was turning my back on his name, or that I didn’t like it.  Not at all.  I needed him to understand I was doing this FOR ME, and that it actually didn’t have anything to do with my initial last name at all.

His reaction?  “That’s very cool.”

All righty!  Down to the nitty gritty then!IMG_3605

File all the correct papers with the court.  Run the ad in the local newspaper 3 times (supposedly to let your creditors know how to track you down after you’ve changed your name?).  Back to the court to give them the affidavit that proves you’ve had the ad run 3 times.  Then wait for a court date.  The whole process takes anywhere from 6-8 weeks from start to finish.

In the meantime, I decided to have a party.

I asked all my good friends to join me at our church chapel on Valentine’s Day.  My court date was for 2 days later where it would actually become LEGAL for me to use it in public.  But that Valentine’s Day was really when I began the journey reflecting who I was to become.

It was a short, but meaningful little ceremony. So many friends came – although I think maybe it was as much curiosity about my new name (I actually managed to keep it a secret for 6 weeks!).  Afterwards, we all went back to my house for food and drink and laughter.  And champagne.  You simply can’t have a proper celebration without bubbles.

Good thing we had lots of those bubbles because the real work was about to begin.

Choosing a new name is slightly akin to choosing a major in college:  you hope you still like it after the first year because going through the process of changing it is a real pain.

Driver’s license, passport, social security card, credit cards, bank accounts, post office (which really throws them off, let me tell you), library, voter registration, magazine subscriptions…and then trying to explain it to the rest of the world.

“No, it’s not my maiden name”

“No, I didn’t remarry”

After that, people who didn’t know the story just stared – where else would a name possibly come from?

Then I’d explain.  Most of the time I was met with happy surprise, “Oh, that’s neat!” or “What a great idea!” or “You go girl!”  Other times people looked at me as if I was breaking the law, or had two heads. Sometimes both.  I’ll admit, the first time I came up against “Well that’s kind of stupid,” it was very deflating.  Here I was doing something I was so excited about, that meant so much to me!  Why couldn’t they see it that way?  A friend reminded me I was doing it for me and no one else.  And she was right.  I still come across people who just can’t wrap their heads around MY choice, and that’s ok.

Shortly after I’d changed my name, I met another woman going through her own version of the Big Bad Awful.  She asked if I was keeping the married name or going back to my maiden name.  When I told her about choosing my own last name, her eyes widened and she whooped – she ACTUALLY made the “whoop” sound – and said “I’m going to do that!”

single yellow rose

That’s me: spreading sunshine and dissent amongst the masses, one person at a time.

Until next week, Friends.  Cheers!

 

*Originally published June 16, 2015.

 

 

 

Who are we?

I have no answers for the evil carried out recently.  But evil being present does not preclude the presence of good.  I still believe in the good people, the everyday heroes, and the saints among us.  They appeared in Parkland.  They were in Las Vegas.  They were there at a nightclub in Orlando.  In a movie theater in Aurora.  In Blacksburg.  In San Bernardino.  Fort Hood.  Littleton.  Newton.  Too many more cities; too much history rife with tragedy when the good are called upon to give so much.

I see the evil.  I choose to act as, and have faith in, the good.

I whole-heartedly embrace the ideal that people are born “good.”  It’s the choices they make — the free will they exercise — that start to color their state of being, their personality, and yes, whether they will be “good” people or “bad” people in their future.  And there are extremes of both.

Although I’m not a religious person, there are indeed, those whom you might call ‘saints’ in this world.  Those are the folks who have decided to, quite literally, give everything they have and everything they are to lift up others in this world.  True saints are few in number.  If each generation sees one, we should count ourselves lucky to have witnessed that kind of living.

Don’t get me wrong:  I believe there are so many more people in the world who go above and beyond on a regular basis!  A good many of our firefighters, police, medical personnel, military members, teachers, among others… these are everyday heroes, and deserve respect from every quarter.  They are the people who make a community worth living in.  They are the people in positions for which I don’t mind paying my taxes, that I want living in my neighborhood.  These are the people you hope your children look up to, and respect, and become in their own lives.

do something about thatThen there are those of us who fervently hope we will make good choices and raise our children to be the kinds of everyday heroes we admire, too.  We help where we can, and we’ll even go out of our way to assist someone in need.  We are good people, except when we’re not; but at least we have the grace to feel bad when we knowingly don’t exercise good judgment or knowingly don’t make a good choice.  We feel guilt for hurting someone else, and make amends where we can.  “I’m sorry” are two words good people aren’t afraid to say.

There are those people who really don’t care about anyone but themselves.  It’s a dark and lonely place to be, but they don’t see it that way because they are dazzled by their own shallow glow.  Narcissists.  You know one when you meet one, because they have an innate need to dampen everyone else’s light, so they don’t have to compete.  Life is all about them.  Everything is personal — good and bad.  And they will let you know it is ALWAYS someone ELSE’S fault.  We can only hope these Islands of Ones and Onlies will someday wake up and see they are alone in a sea of other narcissists.

Unfortunately, there are people who choose to become just plain evil.  We have seen evil in history, and as recently as this week.  We have seen evil in peoplethe only thing who hurt and torture others, including animals, “just because.”  We see evil in those who want anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe to be judged and damned.  Evil is hate in action.  It’s what’s left when the self burns away everything else in order to gain what it believes is “power.”  It’s what’s left when someone has convinced themselves that others are “less than.”  But because there is always someone else who will come along and wrest that power from them, one way or another, there is eventually nothing left but evil in these people.

What does it truly cost each one of us to treat everyone as we wish to be treated?  How does one person’s gender, sexual orientation, race, marriage, religious outlook, height, weight, whether or not they have children, eye color, age, or favorite drink between Coke and Pepsi affect you? Really, I’m asking: how does it affect you if someone doesn’t believe exactly as you believe?  You won’t be friends?  Ok, don’t invite them to your house for dinner.  But don’t for one moment think they are “less than”.  Believing — and acting — otherwise leads to narcissistic and evil choices.  Among those evil choices are deciding to be judge, jury, and executioner.  Among those choices is a decision to decide your rights trump someone else’s life.

We see the evil.  We can choose to be, and have faith in, the good.

 

Until next next week, Friends.  Take care.  Take action.

On the way home

People often talk about life in terms of a journey.  If you mapped out mine, it would be all over the place, looking as if there isn’t any thought behind a final destination.  However, my starting point is plain as day.

Michigan isn’t typically “on the way” to anywhere. It might have something to do with the giant bodies of water surrounding it, the Great Lakes, making it a virtual island. Although unique, and technically two peninsulas, these mitten-shaped and running-rabbit-shaped pieces of land — although certainly scenic — still aren’t really on the way to anywhere.

Except home: where my journey began.

I was born and raised in the mitten part of the state, also known as the Lower Peninsula.  The running-rabbit-looking-part is the Upper Peninsula, or the UP (pronounced as “youpee,” not the word “up”).  I know: the UP looks like it SHOULD be a part of Wisconsin, but there is a massive bridge connecting the upper and lower peninsulas — the Mackinac Bridge.  Mackinac is pronounced “MACK in awe.”  (Yes, we Michiganders have some pretty crazy names in the state.  And yes, we have a certain sense of snobbish pride in being able to pronounce them while most of rest of the country can not.)  We also have Canada as a neighbor!  And for what other state can you use your hands as a map?

I left the mitten when I was 28 years old. To follow a boy. Trite, yes (although we were engaged).  And that turned into a marriage (that turned into 17 years), which ultimately turned out to be — hands down — one of the worst mistakes of my life.  I can see that…now.  Although my son did come out of that so-called marriage, so that’s a big win.

Anyway, I always missed my home state, from the time I left, to now. I just didn’t know it so early in the journey. I grew up spoiled being so close to such stunning reservoirs of fresh water. Did you know that at any given point you are never more than 80 miles from one of the Great Lakes? My astrological chart may say my sign is an Earth elemental, but I never feel more at ease, more relaxed, or more “home” than when I’m on the water.

It feels right, thinking of Michigan as “home,” even though I haven’t lived there for over 25 years. Family and friends lead me back regularly on my journey. It’s where I was born; it’s where I made the transition into adulthood and began making my life. My education — first in public schools, then a state university; my first “real” job; my first romance (and subsequent heartbreak). The entire first third of my life happened in Michigan.

Then, when I turned 50, it is where I found my first supportive writing community.  And two years ago, I joined Michigan Writers (it is open to anyone with ties to the Great Lakes State and a love for the written word — I’ll take my ties wherever I can get them).  I don’t want it to NOT be a part of my life.

Now it feels rather poetic to think I might go back and spend a good portion of my life’s last third there.  I enjoy taking the scenic routes in life.

Where is your “home” Friends? I’d love to hear your stories.

Until next Friday ~ cheers!

The 6 stages parents go through when your kid does something really stupid

My son is dealing with the fallout from several really bad decisions he’s made as a college freshman in the last couple of months.  I originally wrote and published this essay last year, but I’ve since discovered these “6 Stages” pretty much sum up ANYTIME your kid does something really stupid.  Fortunately, I come back around to #6.
Eventually.
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You’ve read about my son, Z, before. He’s the bright, funny, goofy, tennis-playing, pianist who’s going to become an astrophysicist. (Yes, really) 

He’s also a lousy driver.  (REALLY!)

This past Saturday, on his way home from school after a tennis tournament, he had his third accident.  This doesn’t count last Saturday when he left the lights on in the car for 8 hours parked at school during an out-of-town tournament. This is the second (beautiful) Saturday afternoon in a row I’ve spent waiting for a tow truck.

Now, granted, the very first accident was not his fault (another driver ran a stop sign and hit him).  But this is the third time our poor little hybrid has been in the shop in less than a year.  Our body shop loves us; we’re putting at least one of their kids through college, I’m sure.  On the other hand, we are getting our money’s worth out of our AAA Roadside Assistance.

How can he be so smart and so stupid at the same time?

I tried to be calm.  I tried to be understanding.  But the THIRD time in one year?  What in heaven’s name is happening in his brain while he’s driving?  No, he wasn’t texting (the police and I checked); no he wasn’t speeding; no, he wasn’t doing drugs, nor had he been drinking; he didn’t fall asleep at the wheel; and this last time there was no one else in the car with him.  As far as I can tell, this time it was pooexhausted wrecked carr judgement, pure and simple: he made a bad decision to try and get around a truck parked on a curve in the street, just as another vehicle was coming towards him on the curve.  No one was in the truck he hit, and the only damage he caused to it was smashing the back-up light on the driver’s side.  Our car took a dreadful hit…and scrape…and dent…and puncture… you get the idea.  The car that was coming towards him never slowed down and continued on its merry way.

I’m not making any excuses for my teen.  This was his fault.  But after going back to where the accident occurred, and looking at it literally from his perspective, I can understand what happened.  His fault, because the parked vehicle was in his lane, but I can see where the problem originated: you can’t see around the curve when a truck is parked there (when I went back to look, there was a truck parked in the same place — it might have even been the same one).

It doesn’t make things any easier, and it doesn’t make any difference as to what the insurance rates will do (heaven help us).

And it doesn’t do much for my trust in his driving abilities in the future.  Do we trust him to ever drive one of our cars again?

So while sitting in a hot, parked car, waiting for the tow truck, I did some serious thinking about my state of mind during these moments.  I discovered there are six distinct stages to dealing with a teen driver immediately following a stupid driving scenario:

  1. Incomprehension.  “What?  You did what?”
  2. angry momAnger. Well, duh.  While he was protesting that it wasn’t entirely his fault, I very calmly looked him in the eye and very quietly said “you need to be very quiet and let me be very angry right now.”  The scary, quiet calm is what subdued him into uncharacteristic peep-lessness.
  3. Selfishness.  “Now I have to become the chauffeur AGAIN?”  “I have to accompany you to traffic court AGAIN?”
  4. Tactical.  “Ok, this is how we’re going to get through this…you know the drill: police, insurance company, tow truck.”  They are all on speed dial now.
  5. Fear.  This is the one I dread most.  This is the one that creeps in while I’m trying to stay occupied with doing enough to move things along, without taking care of the whole mess for him.  This is where the “oh my god, he could have killed someone — or have been killed” bone-chilling fear comes over me.  And now I tell him “don’t ever scare me like that again or I will hurt you!
  6. Acceptance.  Ok, we do have to move on.  Eventually.  And we will.  And no one was hurt (this time).  And “I love you more than anything no matter what.”

I want him to have the privilege of driving.  I want him to take the responsibility seriously — but I don’t want to cripple him with fear.  He needs to get back up on that horse, and he needs to do it with confidence; not cockiness, but the feeling he can be proactive in driving safely and responsibly.

In the meantime, I’ll be driving a lot more.  He won’t be until after his court date — and if he’s lucky, they won’t suspend his license.  Even then, I think his bike is going to get more of a workout: he just got a job.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!drawn heart

A day in the life in pictures

I’m having one of those days.

IMG_3620This was an accomplishment.

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Nothing is working, including my brain the way I need it to today.

And that makes me crabby (which is a really nice word for what it really is).  I don’t like being a witch.  Or bitch.

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Depends on your point of view,  I guess.

 

 

 

I wonder if menopause is just playing with my hormones like marbles?

IMG_3769

It would explain a lot.

All I know for sure is I have a headache in proportion to the amount of laundry sitting, staring me down, waiting to be done.  And nothing is helping.  Not even the 3rd Diet Coke.  Or the piece of chocolate cake.

 

IMG_3566

 

And I can’t get to the ibuprofen….

I can’t find my lightsaber.

 

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Thank goodness for cats and dogs.  Bless their hearts, they really do try.  It makes me smile.  Usually.

 

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I really do try to put myself in a good mindset when I first wake up!  I have my list of to-do ready!  But sometimes….

 

 

And this is the result.IMG_3811

 

 

 

 

 

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The crux of the matter is this:

 

 

 

 

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But in reality, I believe this is what really happened when I wasn’t really paying attention.

 

 

Which isn’t a bad way to spend time at all.  It’s just when reality intrudes with that “to-do” list and my brain won’t work the way I need it to.  Some people say then it’s time to try something different — shake things up a bit.

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One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott says:

 

 

Maybe that’s the problem: I’ve thought “Oh, I can do that”, “oh, and that too”, and “oh yes, of course, that won’t be a problem at all”.  And typically, they aren’t.  But perhaps I just need to put it all down for a few minutes (days?).  Unplug.  Then try again.  Reboot the system.  Clear out the cache.  Make room for new ideas.  After that, THEN we can look at rewiring the Matrix and find new ways to do things.

IMG_3878I’ll keep you posted and let you know how that’s working for me.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

Even the cat

Sometimes life in this world feels like too much.  Too much hate, too much disease, too much hunger, too much killing, too much bad news, too much sadness; too much negative and not enough positive.  Sometimes I just want to crawl under a blanket and cover my head.

I know I’ve reached that point when I look at my pets, and I imagine that even my cat needs an escape when she lies down on the floor and covers her eyes.  Except, she lounges there, oblivious to the atrocities and tragedies that lurk outside her sliding glass door and beyond her fenced-in yard.

Most times when I look at any of the three furry members of my family, I smile and feel a surge of love (unless it’s confronting one — or all 3 — to ask “who did it?”). Today, as I watched the eldest, Miss Coco, squirming around on the sunny floor trying to find the most comfortable position, I thought “You are so lucky.”

Yes, we adopted her and spoil her rotten like the princess she is — all our furry family is spoiled, but Coco is the only dignitary among them. They are lucky to have a loving, caring family, and a safe home and plenty of healthy food.  We are even luckier to be their guardians.

She is lucky. I fervently hope that she has forgotten the hardships and the illness she lived through in her first years, and only recalls being loved since.

Today, I envied her as she basked in the sunshine, covering her eyes with a paw. I thought “You are so lucky you don’t have a clue about what’s going on out there in the world beyond your fence.” I envied her ignorance. What does a cat need with all the human follies and atrocities? I wished I could be as clueless as she. I wanted to be picked up and cradled, petted gently til I fell asleep. I wanted to sit by a cozy, warm fireplace without a care as to the outside world.

But even the cat needs to shield her eyes once in a while from the outside streaming in to her home.

I can’t shield my eyes, nor my ears — and certainly not my heart — from the disasters we hear about in the world, and the atrocities we see within our own borders. I might try — how can something miles away hit so close to home, and hurt and scare us so much? Eventually, we need to open ourselves, because we won’t get anywhere staying insulated; pretending we don’t know; blind and deaf to others’ needs.

If we close ourselves off to the dreadful, we can’t see the beautiful. And it’s there. But you have to look and listen.

So although I may envy Miss Coco for her bliss, I know I have a responsibility to the rest of my family, to my community, to my country, and even to the world to bear witness. To engage when I see a wrong; to do what I can to help in whatever ways I am able.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem to help:  I’m just one, single drop in a bucket.

And I want to shield my eyes from the desperate thought “it’s not enough.”

Sometimes I fail to help, and I want to hide in shame from my own shortsightedness.

But I know that bucket will fill — maybe even overflow — with the combined goodness of many of us. And that WILL make a difference. It always has. It always will.

Our hearts break when we hear of a terror attack, of senseless tragedy, of evil making itself known. It doesn’t matter who has perpetrated the act: our collective souls ache for the victims, whether we know them or not.  That is our humanity.

You can’t deny the pain, you can’t ignore the facts. Not if you want to remain human.

Evil is part of our world. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish so hard…

But there is greater beauty — and it can
take
your
breath
away

I find that beauty at home in the lithe movements of my cats as they stretch their furry bodies after a nap in the sun; in the happy bounding of my dog after something so simple as a stick thrown across the yard; I find it in my son’s face when we Skype once a week to catch up; and I forever find it in the hearts of the brave, good, and kind people I meet in this life.

Maybe I’m the lucky one after all.Until Friday, Friends.

The long good-bye

I’m having to face the reality that I am no longer his world, though he is still mostly mine.

Winter break is almost over.  My one and only will be leaving to go back to college after a month here at home with me.

The parent-child bond is complicated and messy and loud, but at the same time, so very simple, and so incredibly strong.  It’s pure love, and it’s complicated, messy, loud… and simple. He knows I love him and I know he loves me — we tell each other often and in heartfelt ways. But I am not the most important person in his life anymore, not like I was. He is moving into the time of his life where his tribe will grow exponentially. He needs to make room for all these new lights in his life. And that means I need to step aside.  Not entirely out of the picture, but into the wings.

It’s hard to accept, even as I realize this “good-bye” has been in the works for a long, long time.

As hard as it is, I wouldn’t stop him from flying away for anything. I’ve laid the groundwork. I’ve been the best mom I could be, and that won’t change. But my role as his mentor, guardian, teacher, confidant, healer, comforter… that’s all changed; and that’s as it should be.  But I wasn’t *quite* ready for all that to change at once.  Or at least, what seemed to be all at once.  And I’m still not certain how to parent an adult child.  It’s a steep learning curve — much like when I first became a parent.  Except, instead of a helpless, tiny person, I now have a tall, broad-shouldered, sure-in-his-convictions young adult with whom to contend.

Over these last 30 days, I’ve seen glimmers of the mature man he will become.  I’ve seen how these first four months of (semi) independence have begun to shape him.  I’ve seen how his world has grown, and his wonder at his place in it.  We still argue, that hasn’t changed.  There have been times when I’ve thought “You can go back to school now.” But, as we come down to the last few days, I know I will miss him — even at his most annoying self. Even at his most independent, know-it-all, “I’m going out with friends (again)” self.  And yes, even his “I don’t need a curfew” self.  This first long break… boy, we’ve all had some adjustments to make.  All as adults, now.

Our children, they don’t mean to hurt us with the quick or off-hand “good-byes.” So as all good mamas do, I will muffle the sound of my heart cracking a bit more during each of these farewells which are all part of the long good-bye.

I’m not quite ready, but he is.  And, because I love him more than I could have ever imagined loving anyone, I will let go a little more each time we say good-bye.

But I can’t promise I’ll ever be ready to completely let go.

Until Friday, Friends.

Peace

“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” ~Unknown

I have never known such peace as in this last year.  The feeling and knowledge that I am exactly where I need to be, with exactly the people I need, doing expressly what I am doing is so clear and peace-filled.  And like so many other things in this life, we don’t know exactly what we were missing until we are given a taste of what was absent.

peace handDoes this mean every day is calm?  Hardly.  I am, after all, living with other people — both men, one of whom is a 17-year-old who is right on schedule with teen angst and hormones and fender-benders.  The other travels frequently, and still set enough in his ways as I am (we are a beautiful work in progress, which means things still get messy sometimes).  We have three pets who are all past the age of 10 (which brings its own baggage), but retain enough of their goofiness that you’d never know it.  Even working from home, when Z is at school and T is traveling, I am surrounded by cat-fights and dog barking and pleas for more canned food and how ’bout a treat and fur chasing fur up and down the hallway. I have work deadlines and bills to pay.  Salespeople ring my doorbell and try to sell me a new roof when it’s pretty obvious we have a brand new one. Telemarketers and robocalls make the house phone ring every day.  No. This house is not calm.  But it is peace-filled… most of the time.

Peace is so flexible:  Imagine peace.  Peace in.  Peace out.  Pass the peace.  War & Peace.  Peace pole.  Peace sign.  Peace of mind.  Inner peace.  And the list goes on… let’s all do what we can to bring Peace everywhere we go.  It can start with a smile, a wave, a handshake; an apology, an “I’m listening,” a hand-written letter; signing up to march, or writing to someone who carries some clout.  Peace can be activated by big actions and small.

dove of peaceI have never known this kind of peace — and I want to hold on to it.  I want more of it.  I want to share it.  I want to spread it.

Peace for the World.

Peace for our Neighborhoods.

Peace for our Families & Friends.

Peace for our Hearts.

Until next year, Friends.  Peace.

Give

“We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.”  ~Winston S. Churchill

When I was left with nothing in the bank — and nothing in my energy reserves —  during the Big Bad Awful, what hurt most besides worrying for my son, was realizing it had been a privilege to be able to give money, my time, and talents to the groups whose causes mean most to me.  It was a joy to be able to help organize functions, or lend my writing and design talents to create ads and articles; and yes, I was thrilled whenever I could write a check to help the organizations who championed those causes.

It hurt when I could no longer do any of that.  It was excruciating to have to say “no” to those people when they asked for my help again.  All were very gracious, and accepted my explanation that “things had changed drastically” for me.  I cried each time I hung up the phone after one of those calls.

As I have gotten older, the things I care about most have been honed to a select list.  My son is at the top, obviously.  But the time in my life when I had to let everything else go was very dark.  I always appreciated the fact that I was in any position at all to help — that part of my life was important to me because it defined part of me, it was who I am.  And I had to leave those parts of my life behind.

giving moneyBut I am not there anymore.  I am here, and I am present, and I am able to give again.  And that remains a privilege for which I am grateful beyond measure.

“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.” ~Bernard Meltzer

I am no Mother Teresa by any means — I’ve had enough poverty for one life, thank you, and I enjoy traveling far too much to give it up all up for charity.  But I know I am a better person for giving when and where I can.  I retain my connection to the rest of this beautiful, albeit troubled, world.  I have empathy for creatures great and small.  Some call me a bleeding heart.  I’m fine with that.  Some say I “feel too much.”  Ok.  It’s not them I’m concerned with: I am concerned with how my child sees the world.  I want him to have empathy, and receive the same joy and sense of purpose when he helps someone else.  I want him to see that it is, indeed, a privilege and a responsibility we all share.

“From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other — above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I giving greenhave received.”  ~ Albert Einstein

This is the only way we can balance the world we live in.  We need empathy.  We need tolerance and justice.  We need to help each other.  We must give of ourselves in order to keep our collective soul intact.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers to the greatest gifts!