Chapter 1 of my Memoir (A work in progress)

If I Knew Then…

Chapter One

The signs were all there, right from the start, but I did not have enough life experience at the time to see them and recognize them for what they were.  If I had, my life might have turned out much differently.

It was November of 1972.  I had begun my first teaching job in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School, that September.  I was teaching a Grade 5 class in a ghetto school and was one of the shortest people in my classroom.  I did not have a lot of self-confidence at this point in my life and was not feeling in complete control of my classroom or my life, at that point.

I was very excited about being able to vote in my first presidential election.  I was raised in a family with liberal values and I was casting my first vote for Senator George McGovern.  We all know how that turned out. 

After exercising my right to vote for the first time, I got into my brown Ford Pinto and pulled out into the Boston traffic.  As I stopped at the first traffic light, I was rear ended by another vehicle.  It was probably a good thing that Ralph Nadir’s study on the Pinto had not yet been released or I would have been more concerned.  My car did not explode, but it did end up with a dented back bumper.

A few days later I was talking to a friend of mine from my years at Northeastern University.  I told her about the accident and she said her boyfriend knew someone who could probably fix the body damage on my car.  Syd said that her boyfriend, Frank, had recently met an engineering student, from Canada, and had invited him to live in the fraternity house while he was going to school.  Supposedly, Greg, who they all called “Klondike” because he came from Alberta, Canada, was quite knowledgeable about fixing cars.  Frank also thought that Greg and I would make a cute couple.  I was not dating anyone and Greg knew almost no one in Boston.

A couple of days later Greg called and asked to see the car.  We talked on the phone for a while and he seemed very intelligent and funny.  We made plans for me to bring my car around to the fraternity house for him to evaluate the damage.  I did that a few days later and he ended up fixing the dent in my car.  When I asked how much I owed him, he suggested I cook dinner for him.  That seemed like a reasonable price to pay, and since Syd and Frank knew him quite well and thought he was a good guy, I agreed to cook dinner for Greg the following weekend.

Greg looked like he came from the Klondike.  You have to remember that it was 1972, and we lived in Boston.  There are so many colleges and universities in and around Boston.  The Vietnam War was such an important political issue.  It was the “Hippy” generation.  I was used to the riot squad responding to many demonstrations during my six years at Northeastern.  I was also accustomed to seeing many young men sporting beards of all lengths and descriptions.  I was not the least bit surprised that Greg had a beard.  He very much fit the American Hippy stereotype even though he was a Canadian. 

After our first dinner we talked into the wee hours of the morning.  He was liberal, like me, but had led a life very different than the one I had lived.  I would continue to learn many things about Greg during the coming years, but at the time, I just knew that he was smart and funny and had the same values and beliefs as I did.  What I didn’t know at the time was that Frank had told him I was “well endowed”.  Greg thought that meant I was financially well off.  What Frank had really meant was that I was not “flat chested”.  Many times during the evening I caught Greg staring at my chest and as he left, very late that night, he said, “Ah, now I understand!”  He didn’t explain what he meant until many days later.  We laughed about that for a long time.  As a public school teacher in 1972, no one could ever say I was well endowed meaning I made a lot of money.

Looking back on that first night, I don’t recall whether we had anything alcoholic to drink with dinner.  I was no stranger to alcohol.  I had done my share of drinking more than I should have during my years at Northeastern.  I think most of us could say that in those days.  It was a time of rampant drug use and I was not part of that scene.  It wasn’t easy being the only one at parties who did not do any kind of drugs.  Peer pressure was hard to resist.  I did try marijuana once, during graduate school, with disastrous results.  It made me very paranoid.  So I stuck to my drinks.  I didn’t drink any more or less than my friends did.  The one difference was that I really did not like the feeling of being out of control.

I suspect that Greg and I may have had some wine or beer that first night, but not a lot.  We were much more interested in getting to know each other.  I learned that first night, that he lived in a small town near Edmonton, Alberta, called Fort Saskatchewan.  He had two brothers who were twins, who were three years younger than him.  He also had a sister who was eleven years younger.  The first time I saw her photograph was at Greg’s fraternity house.  It was hanging above his bed in his room and I thought it was someone he was dating.  She looked young, but not too young.  When I asked who it was he told me it was his sister.  He also told me that his dad was a junior high school principal and his mom was a secretary at the same school.

I learned that Greg was going to school on the GI Bill.  He had left Canada to join the United States Marine Corps, and after finishing up his time, they were paying for his education.  He started at Northeastern after I had already graduated and finished my Master’s degree as well.  Greg was just a few months younger than me.  We seemed like a great fit.  He was very kind and treated me very well.  We started dating and saw each other frequently.

As I mentioned before, Greg was living in the Beta Gamma Epsilon Fraternity house on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.  I think he was pledging the fraternity but he may just have been living there.  He made many good friends while he was there.  It was a fraternity house and it was 1972, a time when fraternities were still very active on American campuses.  I always found it hard to believe that at a time when the liberal radicals were so prevalent, the fraternities continued to thrive.  They just seemed to me like polar opposites.  There were some very liberal, “hippy-ish” fraternity boys back them.  But there were also the typical frat parties with everyone getting wasted, both from drinking and from drugs.

I had attended many frat parties in my years at Northeastern.  I had made myself sick during my first week as an undergrad from drinking too many sloe gin fizzes at a frat party with my new roommate, Barb.  By the time I earned my Bachelor of Science and my Master of Education degrees and started my teaching career, I had slowed down on the drinking to almost zero.

I did start going to some of the parties at Greg’s fraternity house.  I really liked some of the young men and their girlfriends.  Frank and Syd were there.  I also met a young couple, Keith and Alice, who I am lucky enough to stay in contact with today.  We became very good friends with others from BGE as well.  Larry and Cynthia were our attendants at our wedding.  And Phil became our “adopted” son.

As I said, there was a lot of drinking going on at these parties, but for the first few months, Greg never got drunk.  Even after the first time he did, it didn’t happen often.  Drinking was what people did socially back then, and I guess we still do today, but in a much more responsible way.  Back then everyone drove, no matter how much they had to drink.

To put it simply, I did not think that alcohol would have any impact on my life, and certainly not to the extent that it ending up having on my son and myself.

 

Copyright 2020 Ellen Jill Clark

 

WHO I WANT TO BE

As I mentioned in my last several posts, I have been on a journey of self-discovery and mindfulness. To this end I am actually taking a few courses and also participating in a 21 day challenge.

I absolutely believe that I AM who I am meant to be RIGHT now. I also believe that as a life-long learner I will continue evolving until the day I cease to exist in this life. I think that sometimes life throws things at us that force us to grow and change. I also believe that we must be proactive and consciously choose to grow, learn and evolve. We MAKE that happen. It does not just happen TO us.

None of us are perfect. We all have things about ourselves that we would like to improve on or change. It is up to each of us to make that happen. Very little happens to us without our choice. If an “accident” or event does occur without our choice, as it sometimes does , we have the choice about how we react to that event.

We create our lives by the choices we make and we change our lives in the same way. Anyone who believes that someone else can make his or her life better, will never be happy. We need to do the work to make ourselves and our lives better.

We are who we are supposed to be right now. If we want change we need to make it happen and not wait for it to happen to us. It takes some of us longer to learn this than others, but it is essential that we understand this concept.

The following is my journey on my latest guided imagery exercise. It is called, “Looking Forward”.

This is MY world of hopes and dreams. I am living my best life as my best self. In this life I am feeling very happy. I am safe and secure. I have the power to do whatever I want or need to do in order to live my life as I deserve to live it. I feel totally empowered and very strong.

I am slim and attractive and, although I am almost 72 years old, I feel young and strong, both physically and emotionally. I am very self-confident. I know that I am not only loved, but that people (most of them) genuinely like and respect me. I have many people in my life who are truly my friends, a few of them are very special friends and have a huge impact on my life by adding so much joy to every day.

I am very close to my family. Even though we are few in numbers, we are very big on love. I spend as much time with my grandchildren and son as possible.

I am with the man I love. He adds such joy to my life. We are both so happy with our relationship. Although it may not be what most people call a “traditional” relationship, it is exactly what we both want at this stage of our lives.

I am living in a home that I chose and have made it my sanctuary. I always feel at peace here. I am surrounded by the few possessions that are really meaningful to me.

Although I officially “retired” I am never idle. I am an author who is well respected by my peers. I am also a member of the Board where I live. I love being part of the group that makes our building so very special. I love that I have the opportunity to help so many people and make their lives better. I am always laughing and enjoying my life. I love being able to make others laugh even when they are dealing with difficult situations. It takes a lot to make me angry. I do not like injustice or bigotry and hatred of people who might be “different” in some way. I don’t hold grudges and I am finally able to not feel stressed by things I cannot control. I have learned that there are many ways to create calmness within myself.

What I have learned from this guided meditation journey:

I have the power to create any life I envision for myself. I can be whoever and whatever I want to be.

The MOST important thing I learned on today’s journey is that for the most part, I am already living my ideal life. There are very few changed I need to make at this time and I have the power to make them happen. This exercise made me realize how very grateful I am for having this life and all the amazing people in it. It helped me to see that I am truly happy! Once my health issues are resolved, hopefully soon, I will be who I wish to be…for now.

The Journey Continues

I am absolutely loving this new journey I am on. It is a journey of self-discovery as well as one of learning to be more “mindful”. It is a gift that I am giving myself…a gift of time for me to continue learning about life in general and my life in particular.

The objective of this second phase of my journey is to look at the best parts of me. It has made me more aware of my positive attributes. Sometimes we tend to be too self-critical, and this leg of my journey forced me to recognize some of my better personality traits. It forced me to look on the brighter side.

As this session starts, I am floating up to the sky where I find myself in my “happy place”. I am completely safe and have only positive feelings and emotions. My travels are filled with beautiful sights and sounds that help me feel calm and happy.

As I travel through the fluffy, white clouds that remind me of the cotton bolls I picked as a child, while on vacation in North Carolina, a gentle rain falls from a darker cloud above me. I feel a cool, comfortable calmness as the raindrops gently land on me. The world smells fresh and clean.

The rain shower lasts only a few, short minutes as I continue to rise upwards. I soon feel myself approaching my special place and I start to descend, feeling excited that I will arrive soon.

Getting closer, I can smell the salt in the air, a sure sign that the ocean is near. I land softly on the white sand. The waves are crashing upon the rocks surrounding the cave where I love to spend my time alone, thinking about the beauty around me and being able to dip my toes into the foamy surf of the breakwaters.

As it is a cloudy day, with a cool, brisk wind blowing, the waves are more grey than blue and the breakers are much larger and higher than usual. The sound of them breaking on the rocks and boulders below is like a lullaby, so soothing to my ears. It calms my whole being…body and soul. Sometimes I prefer to see the ocean at its bluest and calmest, but today the intensity of the surf is exactly what I need in order to feel alive.

I am alone, completely alone, at least for now. It is possible that I might be joined by some seals, later in the day, if they decide to rest themselves on the rocks below me. They would be perfect companions as they would not intrude upon my introspective thoughts.

There is the cave, formed within the rocks, that will offer me protection from the winds and crashing surf. I decide to enter the cave to see if it has changed since my last visit. At the entrance, there is enough light to see quite a way into the small cave.

I am surprised to see some photographs and illustrations on the walls of the cave. I see that all of these capture moments of my life that show my most positive qualities. I do not know how they got here, nor do I know who is responsible for putting them here.

I know that these depictions of me at my best were, indeed, put here for me to discover. They are meant to be tools to use on my journey of self-discovery. I decide to take a few with me as I leave the cave to sit on the rocky beach and examine these relics that depict moments from my past.

The first picture I look at shows me with an old friend who was struggling with a very difficult situation with her abusive husband. My wonderful husband and I helped her escape the danger by aiding her move to a safe house. I felt her fear and her pain, although I, myself, have never experienced what she was going through. I spent many hours over the next few weeks listening to her and letting her know that I understood, without judgement. I am glad that I am a compassionate person. I feel that compassion and empathy are very important parts of what being human is all about.

The next photograph is hard to look at. It is a photo of me, the night my husband took his life. I am sitting, crying quietly, with a Pastor who came to see me when the police arrived at my home after my 9-1-1 call. He was the father of two children I had as students a few years before this. I knew him only in this capacity as I was not a member of his congregation.

This very kind man helped me to understand that I am a strong, resilient woman who will not only survive this huge loss, but will go on to have an exceptional life because of this strength. I will always be grateful to this wise man, who died from cancer a number of years later.

The next photograph shows me where I am now living. I am playing pool with my wonderful friends and fellow “Sharkettes”. We are laughing and it is obvious that we are very happy and having a lot of fun. I also see, in the background, another woman who had come upstairs to give me a hug and thank me for the gift of laughter that she said I give her almost every single day, when she hears my laughter. She said that this is the high point of her days.

The last photograph I removed from the cave was one of my son, my two wonderful grandchildren and myself, taken the first Christmas after my son’s separation. It was not his choice to end the marriage. It was not an easy time for any of us, and yet here we are, together, experiencing the joys of the holiday along with the sadness of the break-up of a family. This picture shows that by being supportive of each other and being positive, rather than negative, about the future, we can get through even the most difficult situations.

Here are my reflections on this second leg of my journey of self-discovery:

  • Our lives are not always going to be exactly as we wish them to be. Sometimes bad things happen, to all of us. Nobody has a perfect life, even if it looks that way to others. We only see what other people wish to show us.
  • We, as individuals, are also not perfect. We all make mistakes. We sometimes make choices we later regret. That is nothing to be ashamed of, as we are all evolving and becoming our best selves. This is because we learn from every experience we have and every choice we make.
  • Our lives are meant to change, frequently. Can you imagine if this was not true? We would become stagnant, dull and definitely living at a level so far below the one we could live, by being willing to face our fears, our challenges and our SELVES, and to make the changes we need to make to live our best lives!

How I Arrived

Last night I decided that I would start really trying to be more “mindful”. I struggle to keep my mind quiet. I love meditating, but know I need a lot of work to get to where I need to be in my head. To that end, I started a course in “Mindfulness”. This blog entry is the result of the first few hours.

I am in my bubble, high above my home, protected and secure. It is early dawn and the sun is just peeking over the horizon. The clouds are diffusing the light rays and the iridescence creates such beauty everywhere I gaze.

I hear the chirping of many birds that are nesting in the trees below me. Their melodious songs would awaken me if I was asleep, but I am wide awake, basking in the glory of the dawning day. Every inch of my body is vibrating with joy because I am so warm and cozy in my bubble.

I can smell the new blossoms of the spring flowers that have been revelling in the light rain that is falling as this day dawns. I love the smell of the rain almost as much as I love the sound of the raindrops hitting my bubble and the ground below me.

Other than the birds singing and the rain falling, there is that special silence that exists only when almost everyone is still sleeping. The whole world is still and tranquil.

The world around me is where I am right now. I know that everything that has happened in my life, all the experiences and relationships, has brought me here, to where I am now.

I now float back down, in my bubble, to the inside of my home. I see a very neat and clean space that I, myself, have created to bring me pleasure. I see almost no clutter. I have made this space mine by having the things I love close at hand. I have many books that I read in the peaceful reading nook by my big windows. I see my sound system that is almost always playing the music that moves me and fills me with such great joy. I see the photographs of those people I love the most. I am at peace here, in this nest that I have created for myself.

When I am in my home, this wonderful place that I have created, I find myself happily doing the things that mean the most to me. I am frequently cooking, as doing so relaxes me and fills me with joy…the joy of creating a new or favorite dish to be eaten and enjoyed by myself and those who join me at my table.

I also love to dance, by myself or with friends. I especially love to dance with Val as he is such an amazing ballroom dancer. Dancing fills me with joy and makes me feel sexy and so very alive…and it burns lots of calories!

I see me reading or writing, as I get great pleasure from doing both. I love living in the worlds of the books I am reading. I love being able to express my thoughts and feelings with the written word.

My love of learning often leads me to my computer where I take many, varied courses that enrich my life. I have always been and will always be a life-long-learner.

I hear myself laughing out loud so many times each day. Laughter is contagious. Others hear me laughing and join in. It is so good for our souls.

I am now floating back up to the sky in my bubble to look back at some of the events from my childhood. I am living in a little, blue log cabin, nestled in a woodsy area on the banks of a babbling brook. My brother and my parents are here with me. We are only going to live here during the summer while we are waiting for our new house to be built. But, as happens all too often, the house is not finished on time.

I am going into grade 2 at a new school at the end of this summer and my brother will start kindergarten. Our summer is perfect! We swim every day in the cool, sweet water of the meandering brook. We adopt two little ducks that frequent our yard and swim in our brook. Oh, no! They are crushed dead in a hurricane! My brother and I are very sad.

Across the road, my mom’s cousin has a small farm with chickens and a horse. There is a “crazy” chicken that sits on her nest of eggs that will never hatch.

The horse, Major, is rather old and somewhat of a “nag”. My brother is very attached to Major. Benny, my mom’s cousin tells my brother that Major will be his birthday gift in September. Neil decides he will keep Major in the attic above his bedroom in the new house. Neil is devastated on his birthday when he realizes that Benny is only joking. I am feeling very sad for my little brother, who is so very trusting and kind.

We laugh a lot as children. We are loved. We don’t have a lot of money or material possessions, but we have each other. We enjoy each other’s company a lot right now. Life is so good!

My young self is very happy. I see a little girl with buck teeth and a terrible overbite from sucking her thumb. I have very thick, curly hair and am very small for my age.

I want to be a ballerina. My Uncle Paul has given me the “stage name” Betelgeuse because I will be a star. My parents are very encouraging and help me to follow my dream. They are never pushy about it. You would never call my mom a “stage mother”. The first time I appear on the stage of the Westchester County Center as a mouse in the ballet, Cinderella, performed by the Westchester Ballet Company, is scary but amazing. I am on my way to becoming Betelgeuse.

There are many pivotal moments in my life. Some of them are positive and others are not.

When my grade 3 teach tells me to “shut up” and that “nothing you say is important” it deflates me so much that I never, ever, speak in class again until my last year of university when a visiting professor from Harvard, teaching a philosophy course at Northeastern University, asks me to come to his office for a chat. He wants to know why I never participate in discussions. He tells me that he can tell how intelligent I am by the papers I write and the marks on my exams. His caring is a major step in my becoming the confident woman I am now.

Meeting my husband and falling in love for the first time is magical! Leaving my country and moving to Canada, not knowing anyone except my husband, is difficult at first, but meeting so many new friends through my teaching career helps me see that this is where I am supposed to be.

Having three miscarriages is tragic. Then to give birth to a baby at 26 weeks gestation and having him die after four days is something that takes years to get over. Giving birth to my son, almost exactly a year after that, is magical, although he is over seven weeks early and has to stay in the NIC unit for two months. He is such a fighter that he beats the odds. I am so proud of the amazingly talented man he has become.

When my husband becomes ill with depression and alcoholism, I close myself off from others. I feel that I will bring them “down” by talking about what is going on with him. I see now that I was probably wrong about that.

The suicide of my husband, although tragic at the time, makes me so much stronger and shows me that a person can experience terrible events but can come out of them to lead a life of great happiness. It teaches me that we choose how we react to events in our lives and in so doing, we create our lives, either as victims or as strong, victorious people.

The birth of my two wonderful grandchildren is such a precious gift. They fill me with such great love! Their dad is amazing! Although his marriage is over, he is strong and way less stressed in his life now. He is showing his children that truth and being ethical is critical in life. He enriches their lives so much and they are an amazing family. I am so very thankful.

I see myself changing from a person who is afraid to speak, to a person who loves to speak. I am told by some that I should speak less, but I will never let that kind of statement get to me again.

I am strong and self-sufficient. I know how to love myself enough to be able to love others the way they should be loved. I also know that I am responsible for my own happiness and that nobody else can make me happy. People add so much joy to my life and that is a very precious gift.

This is the journey I took last night with my first guided mindfulness meditation. I found the whole experience quite amazing and look forward to doing this as often as I possibly can. It gives me such clarity!

Touching

Put your arms around me.

Hug me tight.

So I know

That I’m all right.

I want so little

Yet crave so much

To know the feeling

Of a touch.

So much bottled up inside.

Things I thought that I could hide.

To feel your arms encircle me

Allows these feelings to be free.

To live without a physical connection-

A life without any affection,

Is not the life I want to live.

I want to love, I want to give.

We touch each other in many ways

Throughout the hours of our days.

But I want to feel

A touch that’s real.

I want the heat

from  head to feet.

I want to feel my body glow

When you touch me soft and slow.

To feel your breath behind my ear

Will take away the niggling fear

That I am me and only one

And my time for touching is now done.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Jill Clark

Touching

Last night, while reading and sipping some wine, I started thinking about my life…why I love it and what might be missing. I decided that the life I am living right now is almost perfect.

I have never felt stronger, both emotionally and physically. I continue to learn new things everyday that help me to be the best me that I can be. I spend the majority of every day doing things that bring me both great joy and tremendous satisfaction. I laugh so much every day that people comment on how my laughter makes them happier. I have the most wonderful people in my life, people who bring joy to my life and allow me to add joy to their lives. I live in a building that is so much more than a place to live. It is a community where we all take care of each other. We are never alone unless we choose to be alone. I feel loved and appreciated. I have enough money to do the things I really want to do, although not enough to ensure that my son and his children have no money worries. But that will come in time.

So, what am I missing that would make my life better? That is the question I was pondering last night. I put my book down and grabbed my iPad. I started writing a poem about “Touch” when I realized that the only thing lacking in my life right now is being touched by another person. I don’t think I realized until last night just how much all of us need to be touched.

I am NOT talking about sex. I am talking about simple physical touch…a hug, a pat on the back, a touch on the arm or hand by a person you are with at the time. Everybody needs this physical connection. Most of get this in some form or another, whether it be with friends of either sex, or even strangers, when meeting for the first time. It lets us know that we are alive. This is good. But is it enough? That’s the question I have been asking myself recently.

Although I have many wonderful friends, some of them genuine “huggers”, I think that I, personally, need more touching than I am getting from them. Again, I am not talking about sex. I am talking about having someone “special” whose touch makes us keenly aware of the amazing power of touch to transform us, to release emotions we might otherwise keep bottled up inside. I need to know that someone cares enough to touch me.

I am not negating the value of meaningful sexual experiences. I remember those well and think that it might be nice to be able to experience them again. But for now, I just need to feel “connected” in the physical sense.

This need I have to find that someone who can give me the kind of connection I desire right now has led me to rejoin some dating websites. I have to laugh to myself about this because in the 10 years that I have intermittently been part of these sites, I have only met two people. The first was the man I thought might be the great love of my life. Unfortunately, over four years into the relationship I realized he was not who I thought he was.

The second man I met through the dating website turned out to be a wonderful friend. We remain friends today and enjoy each other’s company, but there is no physical connection.

I realized last night that I was on these sites mainly to see what men were writing about themselves and what they were looking for in their relationships. I am continually amazed at the photos these men post. Many of them, deciding they don’t look their best in “selfies” take their photos in their bathrooms, looking into the mirror. The stories some of those photos tell is enough to convince me that I would never want to share a bathroom with most of them. Some men post photos of themselves bare-chested, trying to look sexy and usually looking ridiculous. I even came across a few pictures of men in hospital beds with oxygen masks on. I am not sure what they were hoping to find…but I think they were probably looking for nurses with purses.

Many people do not post any photos at all. That makes me wonder why or what they are trying to hide. I do not think that a person’s appearance should be anywhere near the top of the list of what is important to us. But in all honestly, when meeting anyone, of either sex, for the first time, not knowing them at all, don’t we all make some judgement based on how they look? It’s not just their physical features but also how they dress and comport themselves.

The other thing that really interests me on the profiles of the men on dating websites is what they write about themselves and what they are looking for in a relationship. I look for humour, wit and intelligence. I look to see that they are not needy or desperate. Do they want someone to take care of them? Do they want someone who needs to be taken care of or protected? Or do they want someone who can add joy to their lives while adding joy to yours?

Being who I am (a woman of words) I wrote a very long profile (I actually wanted to write more but was only allowed a certain number of characters) letting people know exactly what I want from a relationship. I let them know that I am a strong, independent, joyful, smart woman who loves her life and does not need a man. I would like a man in my life, but I will never settle for less than what I want because I am terrific on my own. Apparently, men do not want to hear this. It scares the shit out of them!

In many ways I find all this amusing. In other ways I find it annoying. And in some ways I find it terribly sad. I think that many women have a much easier time being on their own than most men do. I am not sure why this is so, but from my experience, it seems to be true.

Last night, I decided that it is utterly ridiculous for me to pay money to look at men’s photos and read their profiles and never actually even want to communicate with most of them. So, I cancelled the auto-renewals and am closing that chapter of my life.

I have no doubt that I will find exactly the relationship I want on my own. Until that happens, I am going to go on with this beautiful, amazing, joyful life I live. I am going to initiate “touching” with the many wonderful people in my life. I am going to be grateful for the relationships I have now and will have in the future.

I can do this because I know that I am terrific, just as I am. And for the record, so are YOU!!!

Emotions…The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As most of you probably know, I am now, and have always been, a very positive person.  I make it a habit to focus on the “good” in every situation.  Sometimes it is not so easy to find that “good” and at other times it is effortless.  I also make a point of not judging people…myself included.  Lately this has been quite difficult for me.  I have been struggling with my emotions a lot over the past year and then I judge myself…quite harshly at times.  This makes me angry…at myself…and that just makes a vicious cycle even more vicious.  This is counterproductive for the usually joyous life I live.

I am one who spends a fair amount of time of learning to be the best, healthiest and happiest person I can be.  I read a lot of “self-help” books.  I take on-line courses.  I go to conferences and workshops.  I journal every day and every night.  I do all these things because it does, indeed, make me a better, smarter, healthier and more joyful person.  I LOVE learning!  I love knowing that I am doing things that not only help me, but affect the lives of those who are important to me.  I do not like negativity.  I have removed the negative people from my circle of friends.  It was not easy to do that, as I do not like hurting people.

Lately I have had a hard time getting my emotions under control.  Usually I find it very easy to share in other people’s accomplishments and happiness.  I love to let them know how happy I am for them.  I seriously doubt that most people have a hard time sharing in someone’s joy.  I find myself in an uncomfortable situation right now.  I am watching someone who was very important to me for many years find their joy and it should be really easy to share in the happiness and successes being achieved.  Unfortunately this is not the case.  Those success comes as a result of a situation that has cost someone I love very much to experience the opposite end of the spectrum.  That person has lost so much and is struggling to keep afloat and although that person is doing a remarkable job, I fear that the “costs”… the emotional, financial and physical, will take their toll.

How does one revel in the happiness of one person while watching it hurt another?  I REALLY hate that I cannot just celebrate the successes and joys of everyone, regardless of how they affect others.  I know that things happen for a reason and that everything will probably turn out okay for all involved, but right now it is difficult for me to find the “good” in this whole situation.

When I react in negative ways, when I can’t keep my negative emotions under control, I get mad at myself.  I think, “Just be happy for the wonderful things that are happening for that person.” I also think, “What an unkind person you are, Ellen, to not be happy for someone else’s success.”  I start judging myself and finding myself lacking in human kindness.  Yet I know I am a kind person.  I care very deeply about people.  I try to add joy to the lives of those in my circle of family and friends.

I ask myself some questions that I cannot answer.  One of them is why do the painful emotions seem to always outweigh the happy ones?  Why is it sometimes so hard to find the positives in a situation?  Why are we so hard on ourselves for being human and sometimes resenting the things that are hard for us or our loved ones and easy for others?

I want to focus on the joys in life.  I usually do that with great ease.  The fact that I cannot do this now makes me very sad.  I find that making what I feel are poor decisions on how to react to certain situations is affecting areas of my life that I do not want to be affected.  I must find a way to control the negative emotions and let go of the judgements…both of myself and others.

So, today, I have set some new intentions for myself.  I will live my life, knowing that there will be great joy and abundance for myself and for those I love.  I will look on the successes of everyone as wonderful and special.  I will continue to live a life that adds joy to the lives of myself and others.  I will not judge myself harshly for having human emotions that are sometimes difficult to control.  I will be supportive of everyone in my life.  I will be supportive of ME as well.  I will not worry or stress about things that are out of my control.  I have so much to learn and so much to give and I shall continue to grow and learn and pass on the knowledge and the joy that I find in this wonderful world.  I will let the people I care about know how much they mean to me.

This is how I want and need to live my life.  How will you live yours?

Memories of my Wedding

Today, September 13, 2018, as I sit in my cozy home with the fireplace lit, looking out my windows at the untimely snow, I am remembering this date forty-three years ago.

On September 13, 1975, I was NOT looking at snow and thinking that winter was on its way without experiencing any autumn at all.  I was, in fact, getting married, for the first and only time in my life.  Originally Greg and I were going to get married in Boston, where we were living at the time, even though it was my greatest wish to be married at my parents’ home on Lake Mahopac in New York.  My mother didn’t want to have the wedding there because in the event of inclement weather, we wouldn’t all be able to fit inside.  Although we were both disappointed, we booked space in our favorite restaurant in Boston to hold the wedding and reception.  We were having a small wedding…only 48 people invited.

A few months before the wedding my mother changed her mind (I think due to pressure from my dad).  A friend and neighbor of theirs offered their home in the event of bad weather.  My dad had said this would work ONLY if we could get our deposit back for the venue we had booked.  I am still feeling quite guilty about what we (mostly me) decided to do.  We told my dad that we got the deposit back, but that was not true.

Septembers, in that part of the country, were usually gorgeous…fall foliage and warm late-summer days.  Weather that would be perfect for a wedding celebration.  But this particular year, nature had a surprise for us.  Although I cannot remember the name of the hurricane that caused three days of very heavy rains and strong winds, I think it was Eloise, she made her presence known and caused a lot of stress for my parents, Greg and I.

On the morning of September 13th, the sun came out and things started to dry up.  It was looking good for the outdoor wedding of my dreams.  The ground was a bit soggy, but we could live with that.  It was a beautiful day for a wedding.  By the time the guests arrived, things were totally under control.

My dad, looking dapper as usual,  walked me down the path to the dock to the Wedding March.  On his way, he called over the hedge to the neighbors to come join us, making the number of guests an even fifty.  Standing on the corner pillars of the dock were my brother, Neil, and my cousin, Jerry, who were our wedding photographers, looking like gargoyles and making me fear that they might soon topple off the dock, into the water.  There was also Edgar, the Jewish bagpiper, and numerous boats watching to see what the commotion was all about.

The ceremony was short and sweet, performed by a Justice of the Peace.  Our only attendants were Cynthia and Larry Erekson, friends from Boston.  All the important family members were there.  The reception took place outside, as the day stayed beautiful but a bit cool.  There was dancing on the porch, lots of dancing and lots of laughing.  We had invited about six couples from Boston to spend the weekend with us to continue the celebration.

I have many more wonderful memories associated with this particular day, forty-three years ago, but I will not share them at this time.  I guess I needed to think about something a little bit more pleasant than the cold, snowy day that is today, September 13, 2018.

This And That: Lessons Learned From Unexpected Sources

This past year has been one of great personal growth for me.  I have learned so many new things, discovered hidden talents and realized true self-love for the first time in my life.  Some of the things I learned happened by the conscious choices I made to learn things that would take me out of my comfort zone.  Others were due to situations over which I had no control.  And still others were from people who shared their wisdom with me.

After my breakup in March of 2017, I decided that I would never again feel that I “needed” anyone else to make me happy.  I had to do a lot of work to remember who I really was and what was vitally important to me.  When I say a lot of work, I mean a LOT of work.  There were times I felt like giving up my quest to recover the real me, but I persevered and I have never looked back.  I am living a very joyous life, filled with wonderful people.  I have never had as much fun as I am having now.  I have never laughed as much!  I have never felt more loved or valued as a person.  Every single day I do things that make me happy.  Every single day I do whatever I can do to add joy to the lives of the people with whom I interact.

I have learned that although having a partner…and by partner I mean a romantic love interest, is wonderful (or at least it should be), it is not something I feel I am missing.  I like men…a lot…and there are many important men in my life.  I enjoy the company of men every day.  They bring me great joy!  Every one of them has taught me something special.  That being said, I must say that I am very glad I do not have to live with one!  I have found that I DO need my own space…my own home.  I can have company whenever I wish, but I do not have to change my life to suit anyone else.  If I ever do fall in love again, and I am not ruling that out, I will never share a home with anyone full-time.  I have seen relationships like this work for so many people and I know that it would work for me.

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about friendship, but I was wrong.  I don’t think anyone can ever know everything about any subject.  Recently I was reminded that there are many different kinds of friends, but the one thing about true friends is that they are always your friend regardless of how often you see them or talk to them.  They are not influenced by what others think about your or say about you.  I feel so very lucky that I have many true friends in my life.  I am a very social being and I need others in my life.  I also need those people to understand that there are times when I also need solitude.  Again, I am so lucky to have this.

Sometimes I am absolutely stunned to realize that there are people I know, who I thought were strong, smart and very self-confident, who turned out to be exactly the opposite.  They let others bully them and control them.  I wish that I could understand how that happens to people, because in understanding, maybe I could make a difference in their lives.  Sometimes, you just have to walk away and hope that these people will see that they deserve to be treated in a respectful way and be allowed to make their own decisions about their lives.

The two people who have taught me the most in the last year are my grandchildren.  Sadie is four years old, going on forty.  She is wise beyond her years.  She has taught me that one never has to fear change.  Change is an adventure, to be cherished and regarded with great anticipation for whatever it may bring.  Sadie taught me that it is possible for lives to change in major ways and yet still be wonderful.  We can learn so much from little children!

Little Cooper, just over 19 months old, and completely non-verbal right now, has also taught me that we are all resilient, that we can adapt to whatever happens in our lives.  We may take a while to get there, but we can, quite quickly, adapt to almost any change in our lives.  All we need in order to do that is to expect a great adventure and look at everything with the excitement and joy that little children exhibit when encountering new things in their lives.

Sadie also taught me that there are “real” people and “not real” people.  She taught me that gratitude is so very important.  She gave me a “gratitude” rock and told me to rub it every night and to say “out loud” at least three things for which I am grateful.  When I told her that I have kept a gratitude journal for years, she told me it was okay for me to write these things down since nobody lives with me and there isn’t anyone who would hear me if I said them out loud.

Every single day that I spend with my grandchildren, I learn something about adapting to change and also about how to find joy in the most ordinary things.  I am so very grateful for the opportunity to learn from them.

Remember that we all can learn valuable lessons about life from almost anyone…keep your eyes and ears open, all the time.  Most important, keep your heart open to everyone you meet as they are in your life for a reason.  Live…Laugh…Love every single day…as much as you can.

Some Thoughts for a Sunday Afternoon

I have been thinking about life and how sometimes life seems so easy and at other times quite the opposite.  I know this is the normal rhythm of things.  It is just how life is.  When we are going through tough times ourselves, I think it is easier than when we are watching someone we love go through them.  I have been trying very hard to give up stressing over things I can’t control.

How many times has someone said to you, “Stop worrying about it.  It is out of your control.  Let it go.” ?  Once we are past a certain age, we all know this is what we should do.  Knowing it does not always help.  When someone you care about is going through a tough time, it is hard to let it go even when we know that all we can do is lend emotional support.

I am frequently reminded that if we look at our lives and the situations we go through, as the years pass and we get older and wiser, with a positive attitude, then things often have a positive outcome.  If we dwell on the negative, it seems to only create a lot more negativity.  People are always telling me how strong I am…how positive, even when things are tough.  I do believe this is true of the person I am now.  But I was not always like this.  It took a lot of work.

Trying to teach others, especially those much younger than us, that looking at the positives will create more positivity, is very difficult.  I think this is a lesson one has to learn on one’s own.  We can only gently guide those we care about.

I have also been pondering the issue of sincerity and true friendship once again.  Sometimes people are so adept at wearing their “masks” that it is almost impossible to know the masks are there at all.  We all wear “masks” to some extent…we put on the “parent” mask or the “lover” mask or the “self-assured” mask.  There are so many other masks we all wear, or have worn, in our lives.  I don’t think that wearing masks is always a bad thing.  Sometimes it protects us from being hurt.  Sometimes it gives us the confidence we need in certain situations.

When the mask becomes the reality for the person wearing it, but in a negative sense, it can be terrible, especially if people believe that the masked person is the “real” thing.  I have recently had an experience where I learned that someone I considered a friend is really not a very nice person.  Maybe that is not quite accurate.  I think this person has become a hollow image of who he/she used to be.  When someone has worn a mask for so long, sometimes it is who they believe they are.  As long as that does not affect them or the people they interact with in a negative way, then…who cares.  But when it hurts people, it’s time to figure out who they really are.

I have also seen what happens when people are “Promisers”.  What is a Promiser?  It is a person who promises to do things and then never follows through.  These people can also be very detrimental to others.  If we trust them and they never follow through, then it is time to get them out of our lives.  How many times is too many for broken promises and empty words?  I don’t have an answer for that.  Maybe the answer is that when the impact of those broken promises causes us harm, it is time to disassociate yourself from the “Promiser”.  It can be difficult to do this, as it causes the friendship to end, but do we need these people in our lives?  I don’t think so.

Another thing that has had my little brain working so hard lately is the issue of getting to an age when many of my friends are getting terminal diseases.  The whole idea of people I care about dying is getting to me.  It is horrible when a young person dies.  It is just as horrible (for me anyway) when an older person dies.  I recently realized that I am not ready for my friends to die.  Like I have a choice!!!  I am sure they feel the same way.  I have had some very interesting discussions over the past few months with people about how they feel regarding their own immortality.  Most of them, like me, are not afraid of dying.  We just aren’t ready…regardless of our age.

I remember my mother telling me in her late 70’s that she was “ready” to die.  She had been a widow since her very early 50’s (as have I) and she said she was lonely and had done everything she wanted to do.  She didn’t die for many more years and I am so glad that she stuck around.  I remember how I felt when she told me she was ready.  I couldn’t believe that anyone who was not terminally ill or severely depressed would be ready.  I had so many things I still wanted to do then.  And now, many years later, I have even more things I want to do.  I am not sure that I will do all the things I want to do or go to all the places I would like to see, but I am certainly trying.

I do not sit around and contemplate death often, but as so many of my friends now are considerably older than I am, I sometimes think about how sad I would be to lose them.  I see them doing new things, going to new places (the ones who are still able to do so) learning new skills and LIVING lives that are meaningful to them.  We ALL need to remember that we should never put off doing the things we want to do.

I walk, a lot.  I now also dance, a lot.  I am doing everything I can to live a healthy life…to keep fit and keep my physical and mental health the best it can be.  My four-year-old granddaughter asked me a few weeks ago, “Grandma, will you be alive to come to my wedding?”.  At first I didn’t know how to answer that.  If she had asked if I would be at her wedding I would have told her that I wouldn’t miss it!  But that isn’t how she asked the question.  So we did a little math activity (she is a math wizard…ess).  I explained that we would do some subtraction…she is 4…I am 70…there is 66 years between us.  When I told her that if she got married at 2o I would be 86, she told me that seemed VERY old.  Then she asked if she should get married before 20.  I laughed out loud but told her NO!  I told her that 20 way too young to get married.

Will I be around when my wonderful grandchildren get married?  I have no clue.  But I am damn well going to do everything in my power to make that happen.

Now, on this sometimes grey and rainy and sometimes sunny Sunday, I am going to stop all this pondering and read my book.