Why The Summit Can Get Crowded

I recently read an article on why the trail to Mt. Everest gets so crowded. The author, of the BBC News, stated that overcrowding is due to a number of factors: weather, popularity of the climb, limited climbing season, and inexperienced climbers. Many climbers, no matter what their level of experience, pay for the experience with their lives.

When I saw the first photo that accompanied this piece (shown above – AFP PHOTO / PROJECT POSSIBLE), I thought it looked like a line of people rushing to the next fad, the next “summit”.  How many times have we rushed to the next “best” thing – the latest diet, the latest parenting book or other “how to” book, the latest fashion, the latest food craze, etc. – only to find that it’s not what we thought it would be. Our friends may swear by Dr. So-and-so’s parenting book, or some beach diet, or a foul-tasting vegetable that’s supposed to be “good for you”. All one needs to do is watch the news to see the number of people jumping on the Whatever bandwagon and crowding the summit.

I am not one to “crowd the summit”. I may try something that’s faddish, but that’s because I’m curious – does this really work like they say it does? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve learned my lesson about investing my time and money in something faddish. I’m not so quick to do it again.

There are many divorce/trauma recovery groups, books and resources, how do you know which one is best?

1. Weather: A climber is looking for no wind, clear skies and plenty of light – ideal conditions. Sometimes, “ideal” is hard to find. However, if one ventures out and finds that conditions are less than ideal, one needs to turn around and go home. The same is true with a recovery group: the ideal recovery group is facilitated by someone who won’t let just one person hog the group’s time, the group is encouraging and not condescending, the group is sensitive to cultural boundaries, the group accepts that everyone is in a different place in their healing journey.

2. Popularity of the Climb: Summitting Mount Everest seems to be the ultimate life challenge for many people and the climb has become quite popular (as the attached photo shows). Be aware of popularity, though. For example, just because a self-help book has been on the New York Times’ Best Seller List for umpteen weeks doesn’t mean it is the right resource for you. Read the book reviews. Amazon lets one read at least the Table of Contents of a book and maybe the first couple of pages before one buys the book. Don’t be so quick to jump on the “This is the best self-help book ever!!” bandwagon. Be discerning. Wait until you can find the book at a used book store.

3. Limited Climbing Season: Climbers know that they only have so much time to reach the summit. The climbing season is not year round due factors like weather, amount of daylight, and surface stability, among others. Resources for your healing journey may only be available for a limited time. Take advantage of them while you can. For example, many employers offer an EAP or Employee Assistance Program. One aspect of the program allows a certain number of free visits to a mental health professional. This is an excellent resource to use if you cannot afford counseling. I have taken advantage of this resource and have found it to be incredibly helpful.

4. Inexperienced Climbers: Many climbers undergo rigorous training and preparation for the climb to the summit. They rely on the experience and knowledge of their expert guides and other more seasoned climbers to be able to summit successfully. Inexperienced climbers face certain death when they are not aware of climbing hazards, are poorly prepared, or have not taken the time to train for such a strenuous activity.  Your healing journey can be severely thwarted by relying on an untrained individual to walk you through counseling. Have you experienced trauma or are you experiencing PTSD? Then see a counselor who is trained to deal with trauma and PTSD. Have you experienced sexual assault? Then see someone who is trained in dealing with sexual assault.  There are specific resources available from someone who specially trained.

The summit can get crowded when everyone is on board with the latest fad or following the latest “guru”. Be discerning. Rely on experts in your healing journey. What seems right for someone else may not seem right for you. Do your homework. Stay tuned . . .

The Dark Place

It is a dark place when one doesn’t want to live anymore

It becomes a choice of

Where to go in the dark

What is the weapon of choice to hasten the dark?

Listen to the voice in the pit of your stomach

Tears can’t wash it away

Words can’t chase it away

The only way to be done with the dark

Is to give in to it

Embrace the dark as a lover

Allow it to pull you down, down, down

Its a permanent solution

But often better than living with yourself

At least that’s what they say

In the dark place

(cm 5/26/2021)

Overwhelmed

I attend a small group at my church on Thursday evenings. We are currently studying “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. As with all groups, we got off on a couple of tangents. One of the tangents was about the state of affairs in the world. I sat there and listened to several people lament and thought, “It would be very easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that is happening”. I think several people were feeling overwhelmed.

As a Christ follower, I believe God is ultimately in control. Is He causing all the bad stuff to happen? No. But that is a whole ‘nother discussion for a whole ‘nother time. I believe that no matter what happens in this world, there is a God who holds it all in His hands.

If we stop and look at the world around us, it is very often easy to feel overwhelmed. There are things going on that are completely out of our control. And things seem to be spinning more out of control. If we focus on all that seems wrong and out of control with the world, we will get overwhelmed. We will get to the point where we just want to find a quiet corner, pull the covers over our head and curl up in the fetal position.

We cannot do that. We cannot live life cowering in the corner because we have no control. But how does one process what is going on in the world and not feel overwhelmed?

  1. Turn off the TV, take a hiatus from social media, pare down your circle of friends: It is not good to be constantly bombarded with bad news, 24/7 updates from social influencers and needy friends. Put down the remote, the phone and the iPad. Step away from all that for a few days or even a few weeks.
  2. Focus on the good: There is still good in the world – President Carter and Habitat for Humanity (though he has since retired from the organization due to his age), high school and college students involved in community service, good Samaritans coming to the aid of others, elementary students’ lemonade stands raising funds for a sick friend. There is a saying, “Be part of the solution and not the problem”. Resolve to do good things in your community.
  3. Take life in bite-sized pieces: It is easy to get overwhelmed when one looks at the big picture. Begin to look at life like a mosaic – in little pieces. Be aware of your own little corner of the world and resolve to be part of the solution there. Do good where you can. Be an influence where you can. Be responsible for yourself.

Take a deep breath and look around you. Where can you do the most good in your community? Your community could be your city, your school, your apartment complex, your neighborhood. Resolve to make your piece of the world better. You are not responsible for anything or anyone else but yourself. Be better. Stay tuned. . . .

“I Am Concerned That You Arise”

Yesterday, I was going for my usual lunchtime walk through campus. I was not even five minutes into my walk when I tripped over an uneven seam in the sidewalk. I took a pretty good jolt. I might have tried to break my fall with my right hand but ended up sliding on my right side. The right side of my face is scraped, my knees are scraped, my right shoulder is scraped, my right ankle is twisted and I totaled my glasses.

That was quite a tumble. Needless to say, I walked back to my office and took the rest of the day off. When she walked in the office this morning, my boss asked me if I was going to go walking again. Not today, because I am still sore from yesterday, but I will continue my usual lunchtime walk. I am not going to let one little trip and fall keep me from enjoying my lunchtime walk.

In one of his addresses to a war-torn nation, President Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not concerned that you have fallen. I am concerned that you arise.” We all tumble, we all fall. Life sometimes presents circumstances that beat us down. How do we react? Do we stay down or do we get up and move on?

After I fell, I laid there for a few minutes making sure I could get up. Sometimes, we are slow to rise. That is okay. Sometimes, it is painful to rise. That is okay as well. If you fall, do not stay down. Sit up, reassess your situation, stand up and move on. Your steps may be slow or stiff. You may feel sore and broken down. But get up.

As Lincoln’s words are an inspiration to many, your actions will be an inspiration to others as well. There will be someone in your life who needs to know how you arose when you fell. There will be someone in your life who will need your hand to pull them up and help them on their way. Everyone falls. The strong and determined arise. Stay tuned. . . .

Divorced in the Middle of the Pandemic – Now What?

I realized recently that I had gotten away from my original purpose of this blog and had started using it for more political purposes and personal causes. Goodness knows we have enough of that stuff already. The original purpose of this blog was to share my experience of getting divorced mid-life, or what has become known as, ‘ grey divorce’.

Fortunately, I got divorced after the recession of 2008 and prior to the pandemic of 2019. There certainly was enough drama in my divorce without having to deal with those two events as well. An aside – I am proud to say that I finished my college degree during my divorce and have the diploma on my wall to prove it!

Life during the pandemic has been bad enough without tossing in a divorce, no matter how ‘amicable’ it was. If you were like me and divorced after your children were grown, chances are you received little alimony if any at all. You are now responsible for your own support. What if you lost your job due to the pandemic? Or if your hours were cut? Or if you got COVID? What can you do?

  1. Take inventory: What do you have that you can sell to make some extra money? Pare down to the leanest you can go. DO NOT – sell or pawn family heirlooms or sell your car. Chances are you will regret the loss of the family heirlooms. The cost of vehicles has become astronomical. You may be tempted to sell your car since used cars are in such great demand. Don’t do it. Even if you live on or close to a bus route – don’t do it. You can use the bus in a pinch, but you will still need a dependable car, especially if you commute to work. Do you have a service that you can provide for others, like pet sitting, house sitting, errand running? Be creative and think outside the proverbial box.
  2. Start over: If you lost your job during the pandemic or your hours got cut, take advantage of the burgeoning job market. You may have to start small – flipping burgers at Sonic – but it’s something. You may need to work two jobs in order to make ends meet. That’s okay. It’s disappointing to have to start over, especially if you thought you’d be much farther along at this point in your life. Again, that’s okay. You’ve made it this far, you can go even further.
  3. Get/keep Insurance: Do your homework and look for cheap car insurance and cheap health insurance. Granted, you get what you pay for, but that should be motivation to drive carefully and take good care of yourself. Trust me, you don’t want to be caught without health insurance. I had an emergency appendectomy without health insurance. In many states, it’s the law to carry auto insurance. Many auto insurers will give you a discount for a) the length of time you’ve had auto insurance, and b) being a good driver (no accidents or tickets).
  4. Give yourself grace: Give yourself abundant grace. Allow yourself to mess up. Know you will have some crappy days. Getting back to ‘normal’ may be more difficult for some that it seems. You may still want to wear a mask even if others don’t. You need to take care of yourself because no one else will. You know yourself better than anyone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  5. Find support: Most employers have an EAP – Employee Assistance Program. One of the advantages of this program is that you can go see a therapist for free – usually five or six visits. You can also search for online divorce support groups. Just do your homework to make sure they are legit. Many churches, as well as your local YWCA, have Divorce Recovery groups. Look for resources in your community.

Divorce is difficult, to say the least. Don’t expect to get through this difficult time alone. Stay connected to those you love and who love you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help – financial help, emotional support, etc. You are strong. You’ve come this far. Don’t be afraid to go further! Stay tuned . . . .

A New Beginning

It is that time of year again on campus – graduation. It was 10 years ago that I was part of the excited group of graduates. I was finally getting my Bachelor’s Degree – 31 years after I first set foot on a college campus. My mom and several friends attended.

It is rather paradoxical that for one thing to begin, another has to end. Many of these graduates are ending their college careers and beginning their business careers, or beginning a new life with a new spouse. In whatever direction they are headed, they are beginning a new adventure in their lives.

Graduation speeches are often filled with the oft-used phrases of “look ahead”, “you have your whole life in front of you”, “be the change you want to see”, etc. If I had to give a graduation speech, it would be something like this:

“Graduates, we gather here today to celebrate getting out of here! You have worked long and hard for this day – the prize at the end of the race – your degree. Some of you have run the race with grit and determination and have achieved the highest standing. You will frame your diploma and give it the place of honor above the fireplace or on that wall in your new office. Others have barely made it over the finish line and your diploma will probably get crumpled up at the bottom of a box somewhere. No matter – you made it.

It does not matter what the future holds for you. You will have wonderful days and some not so wonderful days. Reality will smack you on the head with a two by four and cause you to question your dreams. Some days, you will feel the lowest of the low, the rockiest rock bottom you could ever have imagined. Other days, you will feel like you are on top of the world. Life is not linear – it is a meandering, hilly road with quite a few stops along the way. No matter.

At those crazy times when life just doesn’t make sense, stop and look at yourself in the mirror. Where is the person who had the strength to cross the finish line to obtain that degree? Where is the person who pulled those all-nighters to get a B on the Chem final? Where is the person who cried when she got a C in Statistics and was happy just to pass? You achieved your dream of a college degree.

Obtaining a college degree is indeed a new beginning – no matter how old you are. You have achieved something great, something that takes a great deal of hard work to obtain, something that will stay with you forever. Never cheapen your degree by poo-pooing how hard you worked to attain it, no matter what GPS you ended up with. You have the degree and that says a great deal about you and your character.”

Life is an amazing, wonderful adventure, filled with many new beginnings and many sad endings. What you make of it is your gift to yourself. Stay tuned. . . . .

Extraordinary, Mediocre, or Lousy

I recently read an article, “How to be Mediocre and Be Happy With Yourself” by Manuela Saragosa who writes for BBC News. Ms. Saragosa asks the question, “So what’s wrong with settling for mediocrity?” She opines that mediocrity is not such a bad thing, and that most of us “go on to live what by most measures are pretty ordinary lives.”

Perhaps you started out 2020 with the goal of achieving the something extraordinary, but the pandemic put that goal further and further out of reach. Along comes 2021 and you are bound and determined to reach that goal this year! Here we are, three months into 2021 and you haven’t even taken step one toward your goal. Not to worry.

Those who reach their goals rarely sprint out of the starting block. They move toward that goal at a moderate easy pace, allowing for setbacks and small spurts of activity. After all, we don’t live our lives in a vacuum, but are often influenced by the people and circumstances around us. The COVID Pandemic is a fairly major circumstance.

In moving toward your goal of extraordinary, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why do I want to reach this goal – fame, fortune, notoriety?
  2. Is this goal for my own personal satisfaction (I knew I could do it!), professional growth (is there a raise at the end of the goal?) or recognition by others (See? I told you I could do it!) What is the end game for this goal?
  3. What will reaching this goal cost me – relationships, money, reputation?
  4. Will reaching this goal make me a better person?
  5. When I look back on my life, is reaching this goal something I want to define me?

Having goals is a good thing – we should all aspire to set realistic goals (within our resources and motivation) and strive to achieve them. However, if asking yourself the aforementioned questions leads you to believe reaching this goal is too costly, perhaps a re-examination is in order. I’m not saying you should dump that goal. Perhaps rework that goal into something more achievable. I find that bite-sized pieces help me to achieve a goal sooner than “biting off more than I can chew”.

If mediocrity is on your way to extraordinary, embrace it. If you never get to extraordinary but influence someone’s life for the better in your mediocrity, then embrace that, too. Be aware as well that some days, lousy is all you can do. Give yourself grace as you stretch to meet your goals. Good luck! Stay tuned . . . . .

What’s Next?

I recently finished binge watching “The West Wing”, a great show about a fictional Democratic President named Josiah “Jed” Bartlett and his White House staff. Martin Sheen plays the President, whose favorite quip is, “What’s next?” as his aids and staff present him with the days’ agenda and multiple presidential tasks.

As we round the corner into a new year and 2020 comes to a close, that’s the one question I have, “What’s next”? We recently had news of COVID vaccine distributions worldwide. In some places, the curve is beginning to flatten, though not in MyState. Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that even though the vaccine will come into wider distribution in a few months, we still need to continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing and frequently wash our hands until we develop ‘herd immunity’.

I hope some of these pandemic practices we have been using will become habit, especially during cold and flu seasons. Right now, I am wary of being too close to people and touching surfaces without disinfecting them first. I want to wear a mask when I am in a crowd – mainly for my own protection! I am quick to wash my hands more often.

We do not know what 2021 will bring regarding COVID other than greater vaccine distribution. How long will it be before we see a reduction in COVID cases and COVID deaths? Even though the vaccine has begun to filter into our society, we cannot expect for the virus to be gone overnight. We still need to be vigilant and wear our masks, maintain our distances, wash our hands and stay home when we are sick.

Perhaps what comes next is a greater awareness of those around us, a greater understanding of how viruses spread and a greater appreciation for our healthcare workers. Perhaps what comes next is a quicker personal response to mask wearing during times of seasonal viruses. Perhaps what comes next is a greater appreciation for those we love – our family and friends – because we have seen how quickly lives can be changed by COVID. Stay tuned . . . .

Christmas on a (COVID) Budget

2020 will be better thought of when we see it in the rear-view mirror. This year has been ____________ ( fill in the blank). Three hundred sixty five days is normally filled with changes, milestones, good times and bad times – that is a given. However, the past three hundred sixty five days under COVID have been like the Jason Bourne chase scenes on steroids! Good golly!

So many people have lost loved ones to the coronavirus. They have lost their jobs and livelihoods. This may be a dark Christmas for many who would rather not celebrate Christmas at all. I celebrate Christmas because it reminds me there is hope. The Christ Child came to a dark world to bring hope. That is something worth celebrating in the midst of this crazy year.

This may be a Christmas with very few gifts under the tree for some, if at all. Yet, because of the hope this holiday symbolizes, this can still be a subdued holiday. (Some ideas on this post come from https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/14/health/how-to-celebrate-christmas-on-a-budget-wellness/index.html)

Christmas decorations: This is a time to be creative. If you do not have Christmas decorations or the only ones you have are old, there are resources you can find to still decorate for the holiday. One of my favorites I recently read about is to find objects in your home of the same color. Make a grouping of the objects on a table or bookcase. Add a candle or two to the grouping. Make garlands out of stale popcorn (it works better than fresh popcorn for stringing) and bits of Christmas wrapping paper. Go outside and find some greens to use in your decoration, but be careful of any poisonous plants! Paint some Christmas scenes on rocks with your children and display them in a prominent place. Use your imagination and be creative!

Christmas goodies: One of the cheapest goodies is Rice Krispie treats. You can mold that stuff into any shape. Most grocery stores have brownie mix for cheap. Toss a few chocolate, peanut butter, mint or white chips in the brownie mix before you put it in the oven and you have an elegant treat. Grocery store meat counters will have bones from the meat they recently cut that you get for free or cheap. Bring the bones to a boil in a stockpot, remove them and toss in whatever beans, veggies, sausage (or cooked meat) or pasta you have on hand with a few spices and you will have a delicious ‘Christmas Soup’. Add some biscuits and you have a great meal! You could even make the ‘Christmas Soup’ a family tradition.

Christmas gifts: It is difficult when funds are low and you cannot purchase the Christmas gifts you would like to. Write letters or poems, make an acronym out of someone’s name, draw a picture, bag up some brownies, make a holiday phone call (put a limit on how long you will talk). Take the first step toward mending a broken relationship. Gifts are not always better when they are bigger or more sparkly or more expensive. Advertisers are wrong about that. Give gifts that are from who you are and that convey the value of your relationship with the recipient.

What will you remember about the 2020 holiday season? What do you want your children to remember about the 2020 holiday season? All the griping and groaning because of having to wear a mask, social distance and stay home? Let this holiday season be one where you reevaluate goals, relationships, finances, etc. Put 2020 and all its stuff behind you. Make a plan (budget, calendar, etc.) for 2021. Look forward to whatever the future brings. And thank God for Hope. Stay tuned . . . .

Lockdown Loneliness

I scanned past a headline earlier on a national news network’s website – “The Lockdown Has Created More Damage Then the Virus”. I have read several articles about how the nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns are damaging relationships and creating unspeakable, perhaps even fatal, loneliness for residents of nursing homes and care centers.

I do not have words of wisdom for this situation. I am not going through this pandemic alone. I have Cycle Dude to share this time with. I have told him many times how glad I am that I do have him beside me as we face this crazy pandemic.

If you have a loved on in a nursing home or care center, make sure you write them letters and send cards. Send flowers every once in a while for no reason at. If you have an elderly person in your life who is confined to their home because of age and vulnerability to COVID-19, write letters and cards to them as well. The written word does not need to be a novel. A small “thinking of you” card is always good. Granted, a card or letter does not take the place of human contact, but it will still let that person know they are thought of and cared for.

My mom is 83 and quite spry and independent for her age. She still drives. She writes a column for several newspapers around her community. She has published two books. She knows to take COVID precautions. She still enjoys a card or letter from her children. We all (five of us) send her texts with updates and photos of our families. My siblings and I are aware that, even though my mom has friends and neighbors to contact, she loves to hear from her own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Take the time today to write a note or a card to someone in your family or neighborhood whom you know is confined to home or a care center during this pandemic. You will make their day and make the lockdown loneliness seem a little less severe. Thank you. Stay tuned. . . .