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 . . .

In the Solitary

Cycle Dude and I are very different – he is an introvert and enjoys time alone. I am an extrovert and enjoy time with people. Needless to day, the safer-at-home orders have been a little difficult for me. Not at first, but as this coronavirus has dragged on, I am missing my friends and family.

I wrote a few weeks ago that social distancing does not mean social isolation. Most humans do not do isolation well. We are social creatures and often need the physical company of others. I often tell Cycle Dude that I am so glad to be going through this coronavirus issue with him by my side. Just his presence is enough to calm me and make me not so lonely for my friends and family.

However, I have found some benefits to being in the solitary:

1.  Sorting: I have discovered that I am a borderline hoarder – okay, not really, but sometimes my bedroom looks like that! Having more time at home due to the coronavirus has allowed me to take the time to sort through my stuff – shred old bills, get rid of old clothing, etc.

2.  Cooking: I commented to Cycle Dude this evening, after a wonderful dinner of turkey burgers, salad and fries, that we have had several good evenings of dinners – homemade pizza, black bean burgers and fruit, ferro, spinach and mushroom stew – all because I had either not made it in a long time or I wanted to try a new recipe.

3.  Writing letters and notes:  Remember when people actually wrote letters and notes to one another – in cursive?? When I go to a store like Walmart, I stop by the stationary section and look for packs of cheap notecards. I’ve written notes to my mom, my siblings, and my friends. People really do appreciate a handwritten note. It shows you have taken the time to let that person know you are thinking of them. Besides, it’s often nicer to find a handwritten note in your mailbox than another bill.

4.  Listening & observing:  Since I’m not running out to dinner with Cycle Dude or my friends, I have more time to sit on the front porch and enjoy the beautiful weather, or walk with the dogs and look at my neighbors’ gardens, or just veg in the living room with a good book.

5.  Health: I have also discovered that Bob and I both seem to be healthier since the safer-at-home order (which has now been lifted in my state). I could count on getting at least two colds a year, Cycle Dude often ended up with bad sinus infections, or one of us would pick up something else that was going around. Since we both wear masks and have limited exposure to other people, we have had fewer visits to the doctor as well.

There are some advantages to being in the solitary – away from others or not with others for very long. However, I am looking forward to the time when I can spend time with my family and friends again. Remember to always look for the good in everything instead of looking for the bad. You may be surprised at what you’ll find! Stay tuned . . . .

Divorce and Personal Safety

I remember when I was first divorced and how my world seemed to have been turned upside down. I was concerned with making sure I had somewhere to live and that I had enough money to live on. My daughter continued to live with me when she was home from college. I had to be concerned about her as well.

One thing that I was especially concerned about was my personal safety and that of my daughter, too. My front door didn’t lock in the house I had. I would put a chair in front of the door to block the lock. I slept with my bedroom window open so I could hear if someone was breaking into my car. I was frightened.

There are several aspects of personal safety that every woman needs to be aware of:

1.  Physical: Be aware of your surroundings. Wait to answer that text or phone call until you are either in the safety of your car or your home. There are several personal alarms on the market that are worth the investment. These are small alarms that attach to a key chain or other item. When pressed, they emit a high, ear piercing sound. Never leave your home or car unlocked, even if you’ll “just be a minute”. Don’t answer your front door if you don’t know the person or weren’t expecting someone. Never give out your location information over the internet – stay generic.

2.  Financial: If you had a joint account with ex, I hope you have closed it. Rather than opening another account at the same bank, open your own account at another bank. Most banks these days have stringent security standards regarding access to accounts. Do not give out any personal information to anyone – this includes account number, PIN or any other information that would identify your account. Either close your credit accounts or get another card with a different number. Make sure you are the only one who can access your accounts. My children are only beneficiaries on my financial accounts. Guard your financial information with your life!

3.  Medical: Once a year, most doctors’ offices will ask you to update your information. At that time, you can update the list of people to whom the office may release your medical information. The fewer people, the better. I usually list my three adult children. It is also wise to have a medical power of attorney on hand as well as an advance directive. My primary physician’s office has a copy of my advance directive as do each of my children.

4. Mental: Before, during and after my divorce, I needed to see a counselor. Someone recommended a very good therapist. I checked her out on the internet prior to seeing her. She was wonderful. It is too easy for others to prey on mentally vulnerable people. If you need to see a mental health professional, make sure you do your homework on the person you make an appointment with. Checking on the person is not insulting, it is for your own safety. Guard your mental health, too. Do not allow others to pressure you into making decisions. Trust your gut.

Going through a divorce makes one feel angry, bitter, discombobulated. I advocate journaling as a way to get those feelings out. For me, it’s easier to deal with something once I see it written out rather than letting it bump around in my brain. Dealing with one’s feelings is in itself a form of safety. Getting feelings, negative thoughts out of your mind and into the light of day, whether it’s by writing or speaking them, seems to give them less hold on you.

Personal responsibility is not something that is currently fashionable. Buck the trend and take responsibility for your own safety. After all, who knows you better than you? Remain aware, lock your doors and trust your gut. Be safe. Stay tuned . . . .

 

 

Is It Too Soon?

This is one of the questions I repeatedly asked myself as I  was preparing to divorce, in the midst of the divorce and coming out of the divorce. Is it too soon to kick him out? Is it too soon to file for divorce? Is it too soon to tell my parents? Is it too soon to start dating again? Sometimes if we ‘jump the gun’, our actions have negative consequences.

We search for some kind of ‘normal’ that is familiar to what we have experienced in the past, no matter how bad it may seem. I could always count on my ex to ______________ (fill in the blank). That pattern of behavior was normal – I knew what to expect.

However, after the divorce, ex was no longer there. Each day was greeted with uncertainty. How could I know what to expect today? Some days I felt perhaps I had been too hasty in filing for divorce. Most days, I wished I would have done it sooner. They say hindsight is 20/20, and ‘If I only knew then what I know now’.

99% of the time, we go through life blind. We do not have the ability to see into the future and predict the consequences of our behavior. We may think we’ve made a good, well-informed decision until we face the consequences of that decision. You must move forward with the information you have available at the time and hope for the best.

The question, “Is it too soon?” also applies to the world’s current circumstances with COVID-19. I believe it is too soon to begin opening the economy, cities and the country. Statistics have shown what happens when a group of people gather during this virus. One person is unaware they are infected and they infect the majority of the group. This virus plays no favorites. It attacks young and old and both young and old have died from the virus.

Perhaps if we even have to ask the question, we know it is too soon. People gather to protest about government interference in their lives and say that wearing a mask is squashing our personal freedoms. Do you have the freedom to infect me with a potentially fatal virus? I don’t think so. Exercising your personal freedom can be fatal to others. But, that is another soapbox for another time.

When we ask the question, “Is it too soon?”, we need to sit down, extrapolate out possible consequences and give serious thought to our decisions. It is often difficult to make decisions when we cannot foresee the outcome of those decisions. That’s when we ask for help – from friends, loved ones, therapists. Being on the outside looking in bears a unique perspective that we cannot have as we look from the inside out.

If you have a difficult decision to make, don’t make it alone. Ask for help. The Bible says there is wisdom in godly counsel. Seek the help of others who may be wiser than you, who may have experienced something similar or may have more resources at their disposal to see the possible consequences. Have faith! Stay tuned. . . .

Making Bread

Last month, my sister in New York texted the rest of the family to ask if anyone had any baker’s yeast. Apparently, the stores in her area were out of it. I had some extra so I sent it to her and she sent me the recipe she was going to use. This is a good, old-fashioned bread recipe that calls for proofing the yeast and kneading the bread for 10 minutes. The recipe came from a friend of hers who got it out of a 1950’s “Joy of Cooking” cookbook.

Baking bread has apparently become the great American pastime as we endure the social restrictions of the coronavirus. My oldest son has become a sourdough expert. I have seen posts on YouTube and Facebook from people whose kitchens now look like a mad scientist’s lab as they get creative with baking.

Even though this is a difficult time and our lives are changing, it is also a good time because people are getting creative, they are trying new hobbies and discovering they have new talents. Many people are baking bread, though I am not sure why. Perhaps because bread is “the staff of life”.

I have good memories associated with bread – smelling fresh baked bread as I woke up on Thanksgiving morning, eating that mouth-watering special Easter pastry after early Mass, the smell of eggs, bacon, coffee and toast at my grandparents’ home, and teaching my children to make bread. Family meals have always included some kind of bread.

Perhaps bread and baking bread is comforting during this pandemic. We are not in control of the pandemic and all the parameters surrounding it, but we are in control of bread. If we treat it right, the yeast becomes our friend and offers itself to become the  source of a wonderful, warm slice of homemade bread. Mmm – hot, homemade bread right out of the oven heaped high with slabs of real butter.

Perhaps making bread is not your thing. I encourage you to explore other hobbies and interests you may have or never thought you had! It’s easy to become fatalistic about the coronavirus. It’s more difficult to be grateful – not for the coronavirus, but for all that we have. I am grateful that I am here, that I have Cycle Dude and my pups. I am grateful that I still have my children, grandchildren, siblings and Mom. And I am grateful my mom taught me how to make bread! Stay tuned . . . .

Newly Divorced and Quarantined

It has been ten years since my divorce. I still remember how painful it was. I remember struggling financially. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and crying, I felt so lost and alone. First of all, being a woman of faith, I know I wasn’t lost nor was I alone. God was with me.

Even though that time was difficult, it was nothing like now with the COVID-19 social distancing, people out of work, and not being able to spend time with friends and loved ones like we usually do. One has to be made of cast iron to be able to survive now as a newly divorced person.

“Survive” is important. How does one build and maintain supportive relationships when it seems all other relationships have dissolved? Who is there to talk to about when you’re experiencing post-divorce? This where one needs to ‘think outside the box’.

1. Mental Health and Therapists: If you are still employed, talk to your HR Department and see if your company has  an EAP (Employee Assistance Program).  Most EAPs allow the employee 5-8 free visits to/with the therapist. You can find a mental health professional who will telehealth with you and not cost you anything. If you are not employed, seek out community resources through your local health department. You are not the only one going through a rough time during this COVID-19 crisis. Communities are aware they need to make services accessible to their citizens.

2. Food Banks and Church Pantries: There were times as a newly divorced woman that I had to choose between food or electricity, or food or gas. That was incredibly painful! There are many more community resources available now – through churches, food banks, ‘Blessing Boxes’, etc. Many community service offices are understaffed due to economic conditions. How does one find what food services are available? Call the local YMCA or YWCA. Call your local church. Look in the news paper. Ask friends.

3. Friends and Community: Many churches have divorce recovery groups, though they may be fewer now due to social distancing requirements. Find out if your church or a church in your community has an online group that you can join. Call your city government or Mayor’s office to see if they have a list of resources – online support groups, etc. Go to Facebook or another social media platform to find a book club or other hobby group in your area that you can join online.

Social distancing during this time does not mean social isolation. It may take a little more work to find ways to meet your needs now than it did in the recent past, but you can do it! When we say, “We’re all in this together”, I hope we mean it. I hope we mean we can reach out to one another to walk through this perilous, uncertain time. Leave me a comment if you want and we’ll talk. Stay safe and healthy! Stay tuned. . . . .

 

Experiencing the Pandemic in my Small Corner of the World

I rarely watch the Gloom and Doom Mongers known as ‘The Media’. I am thankful for streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. If I had my TV on all day and regularly flipped between the various news channels, odds are, I’d be very depressed. Life as know it these days is much different from anything we could have anticipated or expected.

I went to the doctor today. This was one of those visits that was not telehealthable – knowhatimean? Because I used to work at one of the city’s largest hospitals, all my doctors are located at the same hospital. When I worked at the hospital, people were coming and going, sirens were blaring as ambulances came into the emergency room and Lifestar was always coming in from somewhere. Today, the hospital was eerily quiet.

First of all, when I went to park, I had to check in a couple of kind nurses at the side of the road. They asked if I had my face covering and why I was at the hospital. I was told I needed to have my face covering on from the time I exited my vehicle to the time I returned to it. The I was issued a neon green ‘Visitor’ sticker.

Next, I had to check in as I went into the hospital. A trio of nurses was manning the two main entrances to check people in as they entered the hospital. I had my temperature taken, questioned about any recent travel and was issued another sticker. From there, I proceeded to my doctor’s office.

My doc doc was struggling with a rather ill-made and ill-fitting homemade mask. I don’t think she made it. (She told me she had a better fitting mask in her car.) I told her my boss had banished me from the office for two weeks because I had to make a doctor’s office visit. My boss has autoimmune issues, so I don’t blame her.

I had not been to any of my doctors since the shut-downs and safer-at-home orders became the norm. It was a new experience for me. I also had to pick up a prescription at the hospital. Now, the pharmacists and pharmacy techs are behind Plexiglas and the customers stand behind a royal blue barrier – three feet away from the tech and three feet away from the counter. Good thing I have long arms – I had to reach to run my credit card through the card reader to pay for my prescription.

As I left the hospital, I thought about how different life was now in the pandemic – having to be in self-quarantine, and experiencing things I never thought would become part of daily life (wearing face-masks in public, having church services and all college classes online, Plexiglas barriers at McDonald’s, the grocery store and the pharmacy).

The hospital was VERY strict with their COVID-19 measures. They have to be. When I go to the grocery store, some people are wearing face coverings, some are not. Some people have gloves on, some do not. Some folks are more vulnerable to catching the coronavirus, like my boss. Others think they are invincible. I know I am not. I use common sense and take the recommended and necessary precautions.

What will tomorrow bring? No one knows. We only know today, this moment. Stay safe and stay healthy! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Safer-At-Home, Social Distancing and Cabin Fever

Let us start by clarifying that “Safer-At-Home” does not mean you cannot leave your house. It means you do not need to go gallivanting all over creation for no good reason. Safer-At Home means you limit your trips away from home. For example, plan your grocery list accordingly so you do not have to go more than once a week or once every 10 days. Fill up your gas tank weekly if you are financially able. Greet your neighbor across the street from . . . across the street!

Safer-At-Home does not mean you cannot hang out on the front porch with Fido and a glass of wine. It does not mean you cannot go down to the mailbox to get the mail. It does not mean you cannot go for a drive to see the spring flowers. Just keep your distance from others if you decide to stop and get out of the car.

Social distancing is kind of like high school dances in Catholic schools – you need to stay a certain distance away from your partner (others). Social distancing is staying 6 feet (or more) away from someone else. Floridians were told to stay an alligator apart. For Arizonans, it may be a rattlesnake plus another 10 feet apart. For New Yorkers, it may be a bus apart. Wherever you are, find something to help you visualize the six-foot distance. If you have children, be creative and ask them to think about what could illustrate “six feet apart”.

Social distancing does not mean social isolation. You can still talk to your neighbor, whether you live across the street or across the quad or balcony. You can still go visit Grandma, just talk to her through the window or across the hedge of her backyard. You may have to talk a little louder to folks because they are farther away, but you are still interacting with people and not hunkered down at home.

Finally, cabin fever. Cabin fever originated with the pioneers. In the northern reaches of the country, the winters were so long, it seemed as if folks lived forever in their cabins, never venturing out! After a while, the children started getting restless, the adults started wishing the children could go outside and the family got on each others’ last nerve! People started acting crazy!

If you or your family has cabin fever, go take a walk outside! Find a greenway in your town and explore it. Last weekend, I noticed many families and individuals walking and biking through our neighborhood. Cycle Dude has to get out and go for a long bike ride every couple of days or he goes stir crazy! One member of the family can go get a few packets of seeds (cheap scientific fun). Everyone can plant them in the back yard, the side yard, the front yard – wherever you have room that you can designate the “cabin fever plot”. Caring for the tender seedlings will bring purpose, excitement and (hopefully) an end to boredom.

One of these days, we will all look back on this time and say:

“How in the world did we get through that??”

“Thank God I only have two children.”

“Cover your mouth when you cough!”

Remember, we are all in this together. You are not alone in feeling how and what you feel. There is a whole world full of people who are experiencing the same exact things we are, just in a different language. Hang in there. Use common sense. We’ll make it! Stay tuned. . . .