Tag Archives: lessons learned

A New Season

One can always tell what time of the year it is at Myjob because of the sudden influx of a certain color of orange. No, the leaves aren’t changing yet. The new semester is about to begin. I have watched this summer as new students and their parents attended new student orientation. I have helped to on-board two new faculty members and a handful of new graduate students. I have sat in numerous traffic jams caused by new and continuing construction on and around campus. Everywhere one looks now, there is a sea of orange!

It’s a new season here in Mytown. Students from all over Mystate, the United States and the world will begin classes here this week. I am very excited! I will be taking a class, too. I am looking forward to the new challenges this semester will bring. I am looking forward to getting to know the new faculty and grad students. I am looking forward to another new semester, another new season.

My divorce was a whole new season in my life. It was difficult at first to get used to being single again. My relationship with my children changed, I was now “the policyholder” on all my health insurance and I was the only person on my car insurance. It’s strange how many little things change that we take for granted. The new season was a new beginning for me.

I look back and I am grateful for the new season of my life. I met Cycle Dude and eventually moved to a new town. I have three grandbabies. I finished my college degree.  Life has settled into a comfortable rhythm and is more peaceful than it has ever been.

I know life on campus will eventually settle in a comfortable rhythm as the semester wears on. But until then, the new season of new students will be exciting! (Hopefully we have a good football team this year!!) Stay tuned. . . .

Advertisements

Do Not Fear the Future

I work on a Division 1 college campus. Classes start next week and already the campus is coming alive as the students start to return – moving into their dorms, finalizing their class schedules, purchasing books and supplies. My department also seems to be waking up from its summer slumber as we welcome the new students and faculty, purchase supplies for various labs and get ready to crack open the new fiscal year.

I enjoy watching the new students, especially the freshmen. They seem to be so excited! (Speaking of excited, the marching band just passed my building! My co-workers and I ran out to cheer them on!) The new students and the new faculty are all looking forward to a great semester.

I remember being a student (non-traditional) and trying to figure out all the unknowns that come with being on a D1 campus. There were a lot of them: At my age, do I still have the ability to study? To write papers? To vigorously pursue an “A”? Will I get along with my younger counterparts? Will I be able to handle all the new technology? I first set foot on a college campus almost 40 years ago – things have changed.

Needless to say, I was successful and graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in History. However, there were plenty of setbacks along the way – I became an empty-nester, my dad died, and I got divorced.  If I had been able to see into the future when I decided to return to school, would I have pursued my degree as passionately as I did or would I have given in to fear and doubt? I am glad I pursued my degree – it is what kept me going through all those changes.

Oftentimes the future can be frightening. As a divorced person, will I grow old alone? As a single once again, will I have enough money to retire comfortably? If I get sick as I get older, will my children take care of me? What does my future hold now that my present has changed so drastically? Luckily, I met Cycle Dude not long after my divorce. My future doesn’t look as frightening now that I have someone to share it with.

However, that doesn’t always happen. We don’t always find someone to share the rest of our lives with and we have to tough it out alone. My best friend is retired. She divorced years ago, but she has great children who live close by and keep an eye on her. I know they will be there to make sure her future is secure.

If you are alone as you look into the future, there are some things you can do to make sure that future is not so frightening:

  1. Get your finances in order: Take advantage of community workshops offered through the YMCA, the local senior center, your church or the library. Most of the time these workshops are free. You can also visit your bank to get some good financial advice.
  2. Get your health insurance in order: If you plan to retire soon, make sure you know what kind of health insurance plan you are eligible for. From talking to some retired friends, it seems that health insurance for retirees is a complicated thing. Prior to retiring, make sure you talk to someone in HR who will help you navigate through the insurance maze.
  3. Get rid of the junk: I have been to many estate sales. I am always amazed at the amount of stuff people have that held value only for them. Do your children a favor and clean out the junk before you die so they don’t have to do it after you die. They’ll thank you.
  4. Get out of your shell: Life is depressing when you feel like you don’t have a purpose. Get off your duff and get out there! Volunteer – there are so many opportunities in your community to volunteer with children, animals, the elderly, etc. There are always businesses looking for retirees to add to their payroll because of their expertise, their experience, etc.
  5. Get a hobby: Do you sew, knit, craft, build, etc? Put that skill to use in your community.

The future can be frightening because it is an unknown. Work with what you know now, in the present, so you can face the future with more confidence. Stay tuned. . . .

 

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 . . .

Fresh Gray Matter

I work at a university – my Alma Mater, as a matter of fact. As an employee, I can take up to 9 credit hours for free. I have registered for two classes this fall. I had to have the instructor’s permission for one of the classes that is in my department. I told the prof that I wanted to take his class “to keep the ol’ gray matter fresh”.

It’s been several years since I was last in a classroom. At that time, I thought I wanted to get a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. Now, I merely want to take classes to keep my brain functioning well. My mom is 82 and she still blogs, writes a column for a couple of local newspapers and continues to try her hand at writing children’s books. She’s mentally sharp even though her body is slowing down a bit.

The good thing about being at this stage in my life (post-divorce, post-menopause and ‘middle-aged’) is that I am no longer carting children from place to place, eating on the run, trying to be mom, student and employee. I am in a different place where my life has slowed down a bit and I am able to pursue things that are challenging to my mind and body.

I am a novice quilter with five quilts under my belt. I love to quilt because I love to see the design come together and “make sense”. Designing a quilt uses math skills, spatial patterns and visual cues. Designing a quilt requires a sense of color and shape. Sometimes, I have to walk away from a quilt because my brain starts to hurt from figuring it out too much. Still, I am challenging those 50something year old neurons to keep firing at one another.

I love to read, too. Reading not only expands my knowledge, but also exposes me to new ideas and concepts and to new vocabulary. My favorite books to read are biographies and histories. Two of my favorite books are:  “A Sense of the World”, by Jason Roberts, is a biography of James Holman, who was a blind British explorer,  and “The Untilled Garden: Natural History and the Spirit of Conservation: 1740-1840” by Richard W. Judd.

Cycle Dude reads a great deal. He is the leader of a book club. Some of the books he reads sound like real yawners, but others are very interesting. Cycle Dude is very intelligent. He reads almost everything he can get his hands on.

My mom is a strong advocate of reading and writing. She is a strong advocate, not only of communication, but of keeping one’s brain young. Studies have shown that doing something analytical tends to stave off brain deterioration. Both reading and writing are analytical and  make our brains work.

Keep that gray matter fresh! You never know what you’ll discover! Life is an adventure. Live it! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Facing Adversity

Cycle Dude and I like to go to the local used book store to knock around on a rainy day. You never know what you’ll find on the shelves among tons of used books. Last time we went, I found a book by Hoda Kotb, host on NBC’s The Today Show. The book is entitled, “Ten Years Later”.

Hoda writes about “six people who have faced adversity and transformed their lives”. It’s a good book that illustrates the resiliency of humans. As I was reading it today at lunch, I thought, “You know, I’ve faced adversity in the aftermath of my divorce. Here it is almost ten years later and I am still standing, a better person than I was before.” My opinion is in no way meant to discount the adversity others have faced. Adversity is a daily companion to many people.

My adversity went something like this: My credit was shot, ex-husband stopped paying alimony halfway through the court-stipulated time period, I was saddled with medical bills he didn’t pay (as stipulated in the divorce settlement), I had to declare bankruptcy, I was homeless for three weeks, I was almost evicted, and I got kicked out of my apartment for “complaining too much”.

I would agree that some of the adversity was of my own doing. But how was I supposed to pay bills when I was living paycheck to paycheck and my credit was in the toilet? There were many times when I had to make the choice of gas or groceries, electric bill or dog food, doctor visit or rent? People told me to “get rid of” the dogs. Really?! My dogs were my companions and often the only ones who listened to my broken heart at 3am. No – they are family members.

I made too much to qualify for any kind of community assistance. I once went to my church for help in paying my electric bill. The church secretary told me the church didn’t do that and to go to a community service. I went to the community service, only to find out a)  they took a month to process my application for assistance and b) I made too much to qualify. Ex didn’t beat me, so I didn’t qualify for legal assistance to collect the alimony. I didn’t make enough to hire a lawyer.

My adversity? Being invisible. Even though I was on an incredibly tight budget, I did not qualify for any kind of help. Thank God for friends and family members. I say I was invisible because no one saw me as being needy, even though I was. I guess I just asked the wrong people the wrong questions. I always thought that if I won the lottery, I would start a foundation for women like me – who were divorced, but “invisible” – not making enough to meet my monthly obligations, but making too much to qualify for any community services.

Now, almost 10 years later, I live with a wonderful man whom I deeply love, have a great job and still have the pups who were my companions at 3am. My children are near and grandbaby #3 is on the way. My life has been transformed.

Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes. One man’s adversity is another man’s setback. It all depends on how we face adversity. Will we fight it or will we silently surrender? The six people mentioned in the book I referenced earlier fought. I fought. I remember thinking, “I’ll be damned if I am going to let this divorce and ex ruin my life!” Choose to face adversity with as much strength as you can muster. It may take a while, but we can come out on the other side better people than we were before. Stay tuned. . . . .

 

Comfortable in Your Own Skin

As I was putting my makeup on this morning, my mind began to wander. I thought, “Those photos of contouring look so silly. I would be late for work if I spent all that time in the morning contouring my face. I guess the people who swear by contouring have the time and the need for contouring. With my luck, I’d end up looking like a clown! I’m fine the way I am.”

Then I thought, “I guess I am comfortable in my own skin. Cool!” Yes, I could stand to lose some weight. No, my face is not one in a million. (In fact, I am the most UNphotogenic person I know.) The only reason I stand out in a crowd is that I am tall, but normally, I blend in well.

What does it mean to “be comfortable in your own skin”? For me it means to be content with who I am and not compare myself to anyone else. I am a unique person – there is no one else like me. I am on this earth for a reason  – I am not here by chance. My God does not make junk! Neither my children nor grandchildren would here without me. I have a purpose – to enrich others’ lives by showing compassion and giving grace.

I don’t want to look like a movie star or have millions of dollars in the bank. I am fine with who I am – Mom, Nonnie, daughter, sister, friend, and lover. I am comfortable in my own skin. Stay tuned . . .

Speaking to Regrets

I am a fan of “Warehouse 13”, a sci-fi show that was on the air from 2009 to 2014. The show is about a secret warehouse in the hills of South Dakota that houses ‘artifacts’ – things like Lewis Carroll’s mirror, the sharpest Samauri sword ever made, Lucretia Borgia’s comb, etc. The show follows two secret service agents (Myka Bering and Pete Lattimer) as they hunt down and ‘contain’ pesky artifacts. The artifacts eventually up in the Warehouse.

I recently watched an episode of the show entitled, “Regrets”. Sans details, Myka and Pete find themselves in a prison that has experienced a high rate of ‘suicides’. The deaths were actually due to people trying to outrun their regrets. Pete eventually realizes what’s going on. When his regret (that he didn’t tell his fireman father he had a feeling about this death before he died) shows up, Pete speaks to the regret. Pete tells the apparition of his father that his death was not Pete’s fault. Pete’s regret goes away and Pete encourages Myka to speak to her regret. She does and all’s well that ends well.

I thought that was an interesting concept – speaking to your regret. I have regrets from my marriage, my children’s childhoods, etc. I thought I would use Pete’s tactic whenever one of those regrets comes up. I tried that over the weekend. I spoke to the regret, telling it what I was feeling at the time, that I had been selfish, etc. I did not let the regret get the best of me.

As crazy at it sounds, sometimes it helps to speak to your regrets, to speak to your past. What would you tell your regrets? How did you feel at the time? Did you have any knowledge, abilities, etc. that caused what you regret? Did you not do something you should have? Pretend your regret is a person standing in front of you – apologize to the regret, clarify your actions, and acknowledge your part in the regret.

Regrets can be strong and have a great deal of power over us if we let them. In the show, the characters broke the power of their regrets by acknowledging them, speaking truth to them, and understanding their part in the regret.

There is also power in speaking aloud to those regrets. No longer are they festering in your mind, but they are out in the open. If you feel like you cannot do this alone, ask a trusted friend to sit with you as you speak to your regrets. If you have a long list of regrets, work on them slowly, not all at once. Healing comes a little bit at a time. You will be overwhelmed if you speak to all your regrets at once.

Give yourself grace as you deal with your regrets. This is not an exercise to make you feel bad about yourself, but an exercise that will set you free from those pesky “artifacts” (regrets). Stay tuned. . . .