Thursday, November 25, 2010

On Thanksgiving...

I am grateful to feel grateful at all. This has been a very hard year and Bob and I weren't even dealing with financial crisis or losing a home or the failure of a business or anything like that. But obviously major surgery causes its own kind of stress. My depression depleted my ability to feel gratitude or optimism or even the patience it takes to answer, "How are you?" Now that depression is lifted so that I can appreciate what I have. I'm grateful for gratitude.

Today my husband and I will have our dream Thanksgiving: we'll go downtown for a nice dinner and just relax in a hotel, with no cooking or traveling. It's a DINK Thanksgiving (Double Income, No Kids). I wish for everyone their dream Thanksgiving, or at least a good one, or at least one from which they'll recover soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On the tenth day of Thanksgiving...

I'm grateful for Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR). With EFT, I have an extremely effective way to reduce anxiety, food cravings and any emotions I feel overwhelmed with. It also works on physical problems and I've been stunned at how quickly I can get results with it. There's no way I could have lost six pounds over the past month without it.

EMDR is helping my depression. Have a problem that feels old and stuck and hopeless? Unresolved conflicts, old resentments, lingering anger? EMDR has been the way to go for me. I'm HUGELY grateful for both of these things, I can't even tell you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On the ninth day of Thanksgiving...


I'm grateful for the ad campaign of a Chicago girls school called Regina Dominican. They use posters like this that always give me a boost.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the eighth day of Thanksgiving...

I'm grateful that I've finally started to lose the twelve pounds I put on over my awful, wretched summer of 2010! (And I'm determined to lose the rest of it during the holidays. Ambitious, but possible.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the seventh day of Thanksgiving...

I'm grateful for being an American. I never felt this way until I left the country for the first time in my life and finally used a passport at the age of 44. I went to Peru and Bolivia. There I saw what my life could have been if my grandparents hadn't hauled themselves across the border and decided to make their families American (they came from Mexico, but I imagine the conditions are similar).

What I saw in Peru horrified me: town after town of shacks on hills, shacks in valleys, shacks on farms. Little structures without complete walls and sometimes not even complete roofs. How do people stay warm in there?? And there's so little to eat that dogs roam freely, left to fend for themselves after their owners stop feeding them. It looked absolutely miserable. I spent much of my vacation feeling horrified at what I saw.

It was my Buddhist moment, but instead of vowing to leave my comfortable life so I could help the wider world, it made me want to slam shut the palace door and never leave it again. Indeed, that's what I've done and I am extremely grateful to be able to do it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On the fifth day of Thanksgiving...

I'm grateful for my new cell phone. This is why I have a new cell phone:

In 2006, my husband's company began paying for his cell phone. In 2008, they got him a BlackBerry. I was so envious, I insisted that we get me a BlackBerry, too. We could afford it, since we didn't have to pay for Bob's bill at all. I loved my BlackBerry.

Things being what they are, changes have been made and last week Bob's company stopped paying for his BlackBerry. Now that we have to squeeze the cost of two cell phones out of our budget, I've given up my BlackBerry so that Bob and I could get a new plan with two cell phones that do nothing but make calls.

It's not an easy adjustment, but I'm grateful that my new phone doesn't distract me from living my life. Now when I get to the el train station, instead of pulling out my smartphone like all the other "CrackBerry" heads, I pull out my Kindle and continue my current novel or I journal or I just relax. That's what I really want to be doing with my downtime.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the fourth day of Thanksgiving...


I'm grateful for a husband who does stuff like this when he finds chalk outside that a kid left behind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the second day of Thankgiving..

I am grateful for my hard-won friends. It hasn't been easy to build such a strong network. Making friends gets harder as one gets older, plus many of us have had to figure out how to be a good friend through trial and error. I think my parents were part of a generation that tended to keep its personal relationships in-family. Anything that you needed emotional support for was too important to tell anyone you weren't related to. That kind of thinking didn't make for a good model for friendship.

But I've done it! Through careful effort and nurturing, I have some excellent friends. When I identify someone who seems like they might be a good friend, I ask them to coffee or lunch. If I have a dinner party coming up, I invite them there. If things go well, I don't wait more than a few weeks to follow up with another invitation. I never wait for the other person to make the first move and I don't wait for them to ask me back. If I haven't heard from them for weeks or months, I contact them with an invitation to get together. I always assume that if they've faded out on me, it's because they were too busy and need a reminder that I still like them. Of course, I can also take a hint if someone is really uninterested in being friends with me, but takes a good while for me to finally stop trying.

So maybe what I'm really grateful for is my perseverance and courage in solidifying friendships. I take the time and I let people know I want to stay in touch. I create social opportunities for us to see each other, such as my regular dinner parties. I'm grateful for all of it!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Twelve Days of Thanksgiving

On the first day of Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for my physical body. Yes, the contents have shifted a bit and I've had to let go of the dream of one day, one day, finally whipping myself into swimsuit shape, but here's the best part about my body: I go through most days without feeling any pain at all, unless I'm in the gym, pushing myself to the limit. For regular activities my joints, tendons and spine work just fine, without complaining, twinge-ing or throbbing. I know this will only last a few more years, so thank you body, for allowing me to walk and move freely!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

O. My. God.


Because we weren't conflating food with emotional fulfillment enough.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Middle-aged


Bob and I had drinks at The Wit Hotel in downtown Chicago last night. He took this photo which shows me the schoolteacher I could have been.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Getting out the front door

Some people spend their adulthoods moving from one career accomplishment to another. Some pour themselves into raising families and/or building a long-lasting marriage. Some improve their communities, help build companies, nurture their extended family or tend decades-long friendships. And for some of us, it takes all of our attention and energy just to make it through the front door.

I hope most children are nurtured by their caretakers and taught to value themselves with strong self-esteem. I admire those who believe in themselves and don't buckle to worry and fear at every challenge. They contrast those of us who did not receive a strong foundation of confidence and love. For many of us, life just looks scary and it always has. We're like an animal that was crippled before it got a chance to leave its den and must struggle to get outdoors. Many people take for granted that one day they'll fall in love, establish a career, have children, join a community and/or make their mark on the world in some way, and I think most people do at least a few of those things. But some of us have a mountain of fear and insecurity that we have to get past before we can get close any of those experiences.

I've been told that I have a poker face and that people have a hard time reading me. I'm aware that I come across as cold and indifferent, maybe even snobbish and intimidating. I don't want to be unpleasant, but this behavior isn't a conscious choice. When I was too young to remember, I adopted a certain withdrawn stance as a way of surviving emotionally. It served me and in many ways still does. I'm not sure I can unlearn it now.

I have lived my life in a crouched position, wanting the things I saw other adults achieving or finding, but not being brave enough to reach for them in a consistent way. I have had many jobs (all entry level), many relationships, many friendships and even more than one religion, but I never stayed still long enough to achieve permanence or closeness. Without commitment, I haven't managed to build a career, own a house or have a baby. I could regret these things, except that I know this was the best I could do. I have struggled for over twenty years to manage my fear of intimacy, aversion towards responsibility and terror of being suffocated by the needs of others. I have worked very hard on these limitations of mine and this is where I am now.

A few years ago I finally overcame one hurdle and managed to fall in love and get married. I'm still amazed by it because being able to make that commitment was very hard for me and took years of effort.

It's not too late for me to achieve the things I see in others, it's a matter of how well I manage my fears. It won't have a big impact on others and it's not exciting, but this seems to be my life's work. While others build careers, create art and raise children, I work to improve my limited view of myself and create some self-esteem. Some people have the courage and self-confidence to dream and then make it happen, while others of us toil away at removing enough of our fears to finally act. My dream is to have the self-confidence it takes to dream.