Our New Reality

It has been a long time since my last post. I have been doing a lot of writing but not for my blog. I am working on my memoir, which is about how alcohol and depression have affected my life, as well as being a survivor of a spousal suicide. I have been writing a lot of poetry as well.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the lives of everyone on this planet. There is no one who has not been affected in some way. Regardless of your opinion about this situation we now find ourselves in, we are all feeling its affects.

Being a very positive person, I have not had a problem finding many things to be grateful for during the past six months. I do believe that things happen for a reason. For me, the biggest message I received from this unfathomable situation, is that I needed to slow down and figure out what things in my life are most important to me. I needed time to do this and I certainly have the time now.

I have always been a very social being. I love being around people, in small or large groups, dining out or cooking for them, going for lunches, wine tastings, concerts or just visiting. I was so used to doing these things, every week, for many years, that when we were forced into the self-isolation of Covid-19, I thought I would be very unhappy. This turned out to be totally untrue.

I also am the Secretary of my condo board and love the work I do. Most of the time the job does not entail a lot of work, but sometimes there is more than a volunteer position usually requires. It’s hard for me to say no when people need help. It’s hard for me to say no when people invite me to do something I enjoy doing. At least it used to be difficult. I am getting quite good at “refusing with kindness”.

I have always been an avid reader. That habit started when I was a very young child and continued up until about six years ago. Up until that time I usually read at least three books a week. I made the time to do that because reading was something that gave me great joy. It still does, but I let myself get too busy and too social to read for pleasure. Instead of reading three books a week, I was lucky if I read one book in three weeks.

One of the things that has always been very important to me is taking courses and learning new things. When I decide to learn something new, I commit to following through. I get great pleasure and personal satisfaction when I learn something new. Surprisingly, I think we all learn new things almost every single day. Sometimes we don’t notice the unintentional learning, but it’s there for most of us in our daily lives.

Writing has always been part of my life. I think that my Gramps started my love of writing by sending me letters, written by hand, whenever he was away. He wrote to me as if I was an adult, even when I was four-years-old and continued doing this until he was physically unable to do so. I wrote back to him. I wrote letters to friends, relatives and pen pals who I had never met. I began journalling at a very young age and have never stopped. I have written books for children and young adults. I write poetry, more when I am sad or going through some difficult situation, and I am currently working on my memoir.

I do a lot of writing in my position as Secretary of my condo board. I started writing a newsletter and people seem to really appreciate that. But writing for myself has been put on the back burner for many years. I worked as an executive assistant for someone for a few years and learned to do some business writing, which I had never done before.

Taking on-line courses has become a way of life for me, even before the pandemic. Finding the time to work on them was not always easy. It seemed that other things always came first. Even knowing that not having the time made me unhappy, I did nothing about it.

This pandemic has given me such a huge gift…the gift of time…time for me to prioritize things in my life and focus on what makes me the happiest. Because I couldn’t (and still can’t) see many people in person, I found the time to do the things that mean the most to me that do not involve anyone but myself.

This new life that I was “forced” into by the corona virus has been so good for me. I have leaned to focus on me, which I think has made me a better person. I think that my relationships with people are more honest and true to who I am now. I was concerned that I would be unhappy, not being able to do all the social things that I was used to doing pre-Covid. Imagine my surprise when I realized that although I had been very happy as the extrovert everyone, including myself, thought I was, I am now even happier.

Another thing that this pandemic has shown me is that I do not, at least right now (and this is not because of the virus) want to be part of a couple. I did have a boy(man)friend, up until a few months ago. I probably never should have become involved with him because I knew that I did not want to live with or marry anyone ever again. I feel bad about ending the relationship, but since we couldn’t spend time together now anyway, it was a good time for it to end. We are still friends and will remain so.

This new life I am leading now is not perfect. I have not been able to hug my son or my grandchildren for months. I cannot even see them except physically – distanced and outside. I don’t even want to think about what will happen when it gets cold out and this is no longer possible. I envision being huddled in parkas, scarves, toques and mittens, in my son’s garage watching my grandchildren shiver. Will we even be able to celebrate holidays together? Doubtful. I have COPD and cannot be with people who are “out and about”. As my son is still working and my grandchildren are in school and daycare, being inside is not an option, until there is an effective vaccine.

I miss seeing my friends in person. I am lucky to be able to see those who live in my building or those who live close enough for short, outdoor, distanced visits. I don’t miss all the time and money I spent going “out” to eat or buying things I didn’t really need. I am saving money. I am cooking more than before even though I always cooked wonderful meals for myself. I am even baking and I used to be a horrible baker! I am spending more money on groceries, but I weigh less than I have in the last thirty years and I am fit and as healthy as I can be.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved going out for meals with friends and will do that again when it is safe to do so. I will not, however, do it nearly as often as I did before. I do look forward to cooking for friends and family and having them over for meals and wine and wonderful conversations…and lots of laughing and fun. I think that will happen again, but not for a long time.

I know that not everyone is finding a lot to be positive about during this pandemic. I have friends who are struggling. It’s hard to be so happy when people I care about are dealing with critical issues. I try to be supportive and help whenever I can.

Many positive things have happened to our environment because of the pandemic. People are not polluting the atmosphere because they are not driving as much. We certainly are not putting nearly as much gas into our vehicles. I have only filled my car up three times since March. Planes aren’t flying as frequently.

People are eating healthier because they aren’t relying on take-out or fast food. I have not known anyone in the last six months who has been sick at all, even with a cold. We aren’t going out to the places we would normally pick up those common cold germs. We wipe down the carts at the grocery stores. The children have not been at school so they are not spreading germs, and we all know that adorable as they are, little children are like sponges for carrying germs and sharing them with their parents and grandparents.

There is more to this “new life” than those that the restrictions regarding the pandemic have brought about. The political situations in various countries have created a society where it is not only acceptable to be bigoted, racist and violent, but it is encouraged. The human race in not showing much humanity anymore. Part of this is political and part of it is the ability to have a huge platform, via social media.

We are all entitled to our opinions…about anything and everything. We have free speech…at least most of us do. I expected that this pandemic would make us see that we are not egocentric beings, but that we all belong to a huge global community. We should take care of each other, be concerned about each other. Instead, we write horrible, vulgar, mean, intolerant comments on posts that people put on various social media sites. Name calling and racial slurs have become commonplace. I often think this was bound to happen, given that the President of the United States of America (of which I was once a citizen…and used to be proud of it) uses his Twitter account to denigrate everyone who he disagrees with or doesn’t like. He has made it not only permissible, but admirable, to spew hatred and encourage violence.

I have spent the last week deleting, hiding or unfriending people from my various social media sites. I thought that I would be okay as I have not watched the television news for the last three or four years. I thought that I would be able to just scroll through my newsfeed on Facebook and choose what I wanted to see or read. It’s very hard for me to do that when what I see and read makes me so sad that I start to cry…or so angry that I feel like I am going to explode. Yet I know that I won’t explode and I won’t respond in kind, with hatred and venomous vulgarity.

I responded to one angry, racist comment with, “Don’t you think that if people just respected the right of all people to have opinions and responded with kindness, tolerance, understanding and love, the world would be a better place?” When I saw that someone had responded to my comment I looked to see what was said, believing it would be a positive response. What it said was, “You are a fearful sheep, believing whatever the media wants you to believe. Grow up and face reality.”

As the tears dripped down my cheeks, I realized that the world, as we knew it, no longer exists. I will not give up my ideals. I will do all that I can, in my own little way, to encourage a world where people love each other. A world where we treat each other with respect and accept that we are all the equal. I do not have to accept a world that has regressed in terms of racism and the loss of democracy…at least without trying to change things. I will try to stay positive, but doing so may cost me some friendships. If we can work together to create the changes that need to be made, then it will be worth it.

“The Times They Are a’Changing!”

This morning I was working on the computer, listening to Oldies, as I usually do when I am not listening to Classical music. The song “The Eve of Destruction” was playing in the background. It seemed fitting, although I don’t believe we are actually “on the eve of destruction”. The lyrics are more about what was happening at the time, but the main point hit home.

Soon after that song ended, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a’Changing” came on. Hmmm? Could this be a theme?

I am trying very hard to stay positive and not stress about what is going on with Covid 19. Most of the time I am fine. I am staying “connected” to family and friends in creative, virtual ways. My six- year- old granddaughter phones me many times a day using Messenger for Kids. I get to see both her, and my three-year-old grandson, and talk to them. They do science experiments and explain them to me. They act like silly children sometimes, making silly faces and noises, and that makes me so happy! My son and daughter-in-law are keeping the kids stimulated, active, involved with learning and, most important, aware that they are loved, safe and healthy.

We ARE, indeed, living in a new and very different world than we were only a short month ago. I am sure that the introverts are loving the part of this that allows them to do what is natural for them and not feel, in any way, “different” from the extroverts of the world.

I, myself, am a very social person. I love being with people. I also love and value my alone time. I don’t usually allow myself a lot of alone time as I am either working (Condo Board) or busy with friends. But the last three weeks have made me realize just how much I need to give myself permission to do my writing, learning, reading, meditating and being more mindful of what is going on in my life.

Even during these stressful times, when we are scrounging to find simple necessities for daily living (toilet paper, certain food, sanitizers and even prescription medications) there is so much to be grateful for in our lives. I find joy in almost everything I do. I am so very grateful for people posting amusing things about what is going on because, although this IS a very serious situation, laughter is, as they say, the best medicine.

There are things that I really miss in my everyday life. Playing pool each day with my two “Sharkettes” is one of the things I miss most. We laugh so much during those games. I miss being able to actually get together with friends and walk with them or go to lunch or to play Scrabble. I miss going dancing with Val. Most of all, I miss my family. I also miss being able to hug and touch those I love.

I am learning to live this new “virtual” life. I am taking tai chi classes “virtually” and can talk and interact with the instructor and the other participants. Thank goodness for that!

I have also learned, mostly on social media, that some people who I had previously thought were smart and caring are not at all who I thought they were. That part saddens me…a lot. I choose to surround myself (in person or even on social media) with people who are honest and caring. I understand that those who are glued to their televisions or radios or social media feeds might be influenced or affected in non-positive ways.

I had not watched the news for over three years before this virus arrived. At the start of all this, I did watch the news, but it was affecting me in ways that were totally negative and not good for my physical or emotional health. Now I listen (live) each day to the live update from our health professionals. I listen only to the facts. I limit my time on social media and skip over posts that I know would upset me. If I happen to miss parts of the daily update, I may put the news on for a few minutes in the evening.

Yes, the world is a changed place. We have to learn to adapt. Isn’t it wonderful that we have to capacity to do just that! This crisis has shown me how much we are are connected to each other…globally. We are not citizens of a city, province, state, country or even continent. We are all citizens of the world. What each of us does affects people all over the world. We all need to work together…not only now, in the midst of a pandemic, but ALWAYS…to achieve a peaceful, safe world for ourselves and our descendants.

Stay healthy…stay home…but most of all, live your life with joy!!

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.