Personal Struggles

Small Kindnesses

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A poem by Danusha Laméris, 2019 (bold highlights made by this blogger):

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by.

Or how strangers still say “bless you” when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plaque. “Don’t die,” we are saying.

And sometimes when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up.

Mostly we don’t want to harm each other.

We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back.

For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pickup truck to let us pass.

We have so little of each other now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.

What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, have my seat,” “Go ahead – you first,” “I like your hat.”

Just a Thought

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A thought is just a thought, not a fact.

Our imagination can serve us but sometimes it provides a huge disservice. May you not be ruled by your thoughts and may peace be your portion.

A Labor of Love

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FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: A turning point where releasing a loved one to fend for themselves is filled with immeasurable angst.

To what am I referring? Either sending a child off to Big Kids School (BKS) for the first time or a teenager for their first year of college away from home.

In our family right now, it’s a Mommy & Daddy dropping off their five-year-old son (our grandson) at a local elementary school. If you’ve experienced said angst-filled event, you know it’s not just day-of that’s a struggle; it’s every day leading up to that day (arguably months of days leading up to that day.)

It’s not enough to provide platitudes of support (although platitudes of support are exactly what my husband and I have provided to these stellar parents). Why? Although statistics and evidence document centuries of successful first-day moments, including those of our grandson’s parents, it’s an entirely different story when that first-day moment involves the cutie-patootie child in the family, right now.

The best evidence, however, is the sincere belief that a parent has done all within their power to prepare their sweetheart for the harsh realities of spending six hours away from home, five days a week, in the presence of strangers who – in time – will certainly become friends.

Us grandparents may have the benefit of decades of experience but we will still be waiting for the parents’ texts to report the ins and outs of our grandson’s first full day. Granted, we all know our grandson survived – and loved – his three half days of “trial kindergarten” earlier this summer, but now we’ve hit the big time.

His life of schooling is just beginning to take shape and the parents’ lives will never be the same.

After two years of part-time preschool, however, we all feel confident in our grandson’s forthcoming adaptability to what will become his normal for many years henceforth. Our grandson will flourish – not languish – at his elementary school, and one way or another, us adults will fine tune our own adaptability to a new normal for him, and be better prepared for his sister’s first day of BKS three years from now.

Ready or not, our granddaughter is headed toward becoming a member of the graduating Class of 2038!!!

 

Adulting Is Hard

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Life is not an easy venture, regardless of who we are or how we were raised. But we get up every morning, stumble through our wake-up routines, and plod through the day because that’s what the human condition requires.

We all know that some days are easier than others – just as some years are worse than previous years – but when the not-so-good times start piling up day after day, we tend to wonder if we’ll ever get to the other side of the bad.

Life is most definitely a contact sport. Scrapes and bruises are bound to hit many of us in debilitating ways.

The fictional characters in this new novel are acquainted with yours and my experiences. They’ve had it tough, and they’ve had it easy, and how their lives panned out reflects outcomes not unlike those we’ve all endured.

Misery loves company isn’t what the author had in mind with the writing of A Jagged Journey but she knew that those going through a tough time could benefit from how Charlie, Hannah, Gretchen, and the book’s many other true-to-life characters, handle the challenges that come their way.

The outcomes aren’t all touchy-feely and rainbow-laden, but that’s not how real life pans out for you and I anyway.

May this well-crafted story keep you company during the highs – and the lows – in which you find yourself, and may you experience the joy and hope that so many previous readers of A Jagged Journey have enjoyed.

May Peace Be Your Portion

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AS SUMMER WINDS DOWN, MANY OF US ARE TRANSITIONING TO LIFE CHANGES THAT AREN’T ALWAYS EASILY TOLERATED: FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, NEW JOBS, RELOCATING TO A NEW AREA OF THE COUNTRY.

WHATEVER TRANSITION YOU FACE, MAY PEACE BE YOUR PORTION AS YOU SETTLE INTO YOUR NEW NORMAL. 

Home & Body DIY Projects

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My current DIY home project is one that is not-at-all rewarding at the moment but my husband and I are certain the remodeled laundry room will eventually knock our socks off. Then we’ll probably lose half of those socks in the newly-placed drier! 🙂

Do It Yourself home projects are very time consuming and most often difficult, and for many of us, DIY is the only way to go. But the DIY work we do on ourselves doesn’t have to be 100% Do It Yourself. As a matter of fact, I strongly recommend seeking assistance when trying to put ones’ life in order, especially when mental health is part of the project’s package.

Doing the work, as it is oftentimes called, is a life-long process that is not for the faint of heart. Proper guidance from appropriate resources will most certainly get us headed in the right direction. The past two-plus years, I have felt compelled to put my mental health at the top of my priority list, because mental health is health.

I have attended virtual therapy sessions with a local doctor of psychology for the past two years and can honestly say that she has been my most essential healthcare provider during that time. I am fortunate that my U.S. Medicare plan, plus my supplemental insurance, cover 100% of the costs, and I realize that full health insurance coverage is not the case for everyone.

And I have discovered that just like home improvement projects, life improvement projects can get messy and the cleanup can be a painstaking process, but flexing ones’ muscles – which include the heart and the mind – is well worth the blood, sweat, and tears that ensue…and trust me, there will be tears.

I truly hope you are able to find access to the guidance you deserve as you endeavor to attain personal health, while always remembering that:

MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH

What Are You Reading?

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My First Novel!

I wrote and published my first novel, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, in 2017. This novel was a work of love to fictionalize the experience my family went through after my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not just about my family, however, it’s about other people who were unfortunate enough to fall into the category of being a family dementia caregiver. I met them, and sufficiently altered their stories so others could benefit from what was arguably one of the most difficult chapters of their lives.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. So many of the reviews written about my book describe how this novel not only acted as a user-friendly caregiver guide of sorts, but it also stoked the fires of hope that had fizzled out over time.

My 2nd Novel of which I am equally proud.

I sat on A JAGGED JOURNEY for a few years before I realized that its time had come and the story I brought forth within its pages was a story of every-person. We have all had not-so-proud moments in our lives – some of us more than others – but we have also managed to climb out of those times and made decisions in our lives for which we were grateful.

If you are looking for a novel that you can sink your teeth into and walk away as a satisfied reader, please consider one or both of my novels. They are VERY reasonably priced on Amazon and if your local bookstore does not have it in stock, they can certainly order it for you.

I thank you in advance for considering my literary offerings. 

 

Still Figuring it Out

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The lessons I need to learn in order to live a fuller life are becoming clearer and clearer in my heart and in my mind. My experience has been that when awareness of a need kicks in, hope tends to get kicked into overdrive. 😁

May your own journey treat you with the kindness and diligence you so deserve.

What’s in a Name?

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I have never liked my given first name: Irene. Sorry, I know my parents meant well, but I’m not enamored by the name. Every search I’ve done for the name – Greek, Arabic, Irish, Biblical – all indicate that the name means PEACE. And human characteristics for the name are: intense, compassionate, generous, artsy, and creative. Okay, you nailed it Mom and Dad because I am all of those.

I wish I was less intense, but since that trait has been a part of me for sixty-nine years, I think I’m stuck with it.

I don’t mind all the other traits but intensity? Ugh. I’m not even going to provide the definition for it because we all know even the way that word sounds describes what it means.

And guess what’s really intriguing? My middle name, Frances, means FREE ONE. I love that meaning but I wouldn’t want to exchange my first with my middle name because I don’t think that’s a better option for me.

But if I’ve learned anything the past several years about the word acceptance, is that it doesn’t mean you agree with something but you certainly need to let what is, be; as in Let it Be.

So I will…let it be. I admire those who have changed their names, and for far better reasons than simply not liking their given name. I figure my parents felt it in their souls to officially name me Irene Frances so out of respect for their decision, that is what my moniker will continue to be. Now I just have to come to terms with it – be at peace with it – and carry on as I have for almost seven decades.

Peace, y’all.

 

The Soul’s Spring Cleaning

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I know summer is upon us, but I’m still enmeshed in spring cleaning so I want to address that topic, but in a FAR different manner. I’ve been bored because the weather in Washington State has not been conducive to outdoor activities so every nook and cranny of our 2-story house has been purged beyond recognition – and it feels good.

You wanna know what else feels good? Doing spring cleaning on my soul: the me-ness that has existed for sixty-nine years.

Merriam-Webster defines soul as follows: 1) the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life; 2) the spiritual principle embodied in human beings; 3) a person’s total self; 4) the moral and emotional nature of human beings.

I am very transparent in what I write on this blog, so if you’ve been following my blog and my stream of thought, you already have a pretty darn good sense of who I am. If I had to characterize the 2021-2022 timeframe for me, however, I would say that most of my new efforts have been directed toward kindness…toward myself. The other day, my talk therapist suggested I check in with myself each day by saying:

What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself today?

Oddly enough, that very day I said to myself, “I’m going to take care of myself today” – inspiration I received as a result of listening to a mindfulness podcast. If you viewed my post, A Dose of Serenityyou read about the phenomenon (to me anyway) of being open to learning a new lesson and then the lessons about that lesson start bombarding you. Well, I have been in the classroom of self-compassion for awhile now.

I am very hard on myself – demanding is more accurate – and more often than not I end up as my worst enemy. When I catch myself being so self-judgmental, I shift gears and talk to myself as I would a friend or loved one who is going through a similar situation.

The description I crafted for my online Facebook profile reads, Author, always ready to dish out kindness. I strive to promote truth and kindness wherever I go. Well, I guess my profile is a lie because I am always wherever I go so I’d best dish out some soul nourishment towards me on an ongoing basis.

Suffice to say that patience is a hard-earned virtue, and even more difficult when needed to be directed self-ward. But in order to have a productive soul spring cleaning, I need to gift myself with patience and understanding, and leave self-judging behind me where it belongs. That’s certainly my personal goal; how about you?

 

 

The Risk of Love

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Such a sweet feline: Estelle Phalange, affectionately called Stellie. Our daughter’s household loved her, and we loved her as well – taking care of her when Stellie’s humans went on vacation, and entertaining her when we spent time with the grandkids at their house.

Stellie went to kitty heaven the other day, and she is greatly missed. As I said to our daughter the day Stellie died,

“Love is risky, but it is worth it.”

What we love, we grieve. I am certain Stellie, and my kitty cat of long ago, Betty, are curling up together in kitty heaven, enjoying a sunbeam for eternity.

A Dose of Serenity

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This quote is speaking to me BIG time!

You know how when you need to learn a specific lesson, and you’re open to learning that specific lesson, input regarding that specific lesson starts coming at you from all directions? Maybe that’s just me, and if it is, I’m okay with that. The lesson I have had to learn as of late is that control is fleeting, and for the most part, non-existent.

We have so little control over most matters, it’s best to only spend energy on that which we can control.

Being out of control really hit me hard when the pandemic first took off because there was so much uncertainty and very little information-stability. But my extraordinary husband and I came to the place of acknowledging that all we were in control of was how we handled our little corner of the world to keep us, and the rest of our family, safe. Fortunately, keeping our circle of family safe also keeps the rest of those with whom we come in contact, safe. A win-win situation.

In my corner of the world, health challenges (nothing serious, yet prevalent) seem to be bombarding me – disrupting my peace, displacing my calm, and spinning me into a mental health spiral. And keep in mind, mental health is health, so there is no separating the physical from the emotional.

I am doing what I can control: addressing my mental health which – quite naturally – positively affects my physical health because…

MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH

I would like to say, however, that wanting to fix others’ problems denotes a certain amount of caring – a lot of caring – for those with whom I entangle myself. But one thing I’ve learned the past two years is that I have to love myself first and foremost before I can spread love towards others. When I exhibit self-compassion, I gird my heart, my mind, and my body with the resources they need to flourish going forward. And yay, that means I’m more available for others!! Another win-win situation!

And one step at a time isn’t just recommended, it’s required. I leave you with this:

 

 

Alzheimer’s: am I next?

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Your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and as their biological child you wonder, “Will that be my fate?”

In 2019, an article of mine, Me Worry? Not on your Life was published on the CogniHealth website, a company that in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, developed a caregiver aid for those – especially family members – providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. (Please note that the linked post references an extraordinary non-profit that I am still a part of but no longer serve in a managerial capacity, having retired from doing so.)

I chose the topic of whether or not dementia might be passed along to biological family members because as a daughter who witnessed the decline of her father as a result of dementia, I certainly had an opinion on the matter. Does one need to worry their entire life about the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease?

I hope you will read my article that while transparent and painfully clear, also provides many rays of hope and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.

At the very least, I am certain you will come away with a clearer understanding of how little value worry contributes to ones’ life.

Our life: an ongoing parade

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Here I go again, relying on Dr. Bernie S. Siegel to provide some wisdom for your day, but what can I say, his 365 Prescriptions for the Soul catches my attention more often than not and when it does, I like to share the good stuff I find.  The following is provided verbatim:

Parade of Life

Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now, and do it. – William Durant

oktoberfest-819706_640Life is a parade. Sometimes we march along and realize we have passed by what we were looking for. What do we do? Stand there and drop out of the parade? March on with regrets? Feel bad about how we looked or that everything we wanted was on the wrong side of the street? It’s passed! Forget it and march on!

Sometimes our parade isn’t so pretty, and the crowd isn’t interested in us. If we drag everything we have passed with us, we will destroy the present. We have no future when we live in the past.

We even talk about past lives. Whether you believe in them or not, the same principle applies. If you are living a past life, you are destroying your present one. In therapy, people come to understand why they are acting the way they are and how the past is affecting them. They learn to let go, move on, and not sit in the same classroom year after year. They graduate and commence a new life.

To conclude, I, Irene Frances Olson, have this to say about Dr. Siegel’s comments:

The good news is that we can learn from our past, both the good and the bad, but if we stay cemented in the past and don’t move on? That parade Dr. Siegel talks about?  It’ll pass us by.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get left behind.

Solo Caregiving

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My recent post, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport assumes the person providing care for a loved one has a wealth of family members upon which to draw for support. When that is not the case, it can be difficult – but not impossible – to find willing team members to provide that support. This article provides advice to the solo caregiver and his/her friends, business associates, neighbors, and community contacts.

THIS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING INFORMATIONAL POST, BUT IT IS A START.

CAREGIVER: BE BOLD – ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Those people with whom you have contact probably know that you’re the only one carrying the ball when it comes to caregiving but they can’t possibly understand the degree of difficulty you are experiencing. Assuming that to be the case, your friends, business associates, and neighbors may not feel the need to reach out to you with assistance. Now is the time to be very transparent with them and tell them what you need. Easier said than done, I know, but a challenge worth pursuing. Here’s just one suggestion – one that could provide respite and community support.

DINING ALONE IS A DRAG – NOW’S THE TIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT

If you are able to leave the house for a meal, there is no shame in inviting yourself to dinner. If these are true friends/acquaintances of yours, they will welcome you into their home. Once you’ve invited yourself a couple times, true friends and valuable neighbors will start to invite you into their dining room on an ongoing basis. Besides, they’ve probably been wondering what they could possibly do to help you out in your situation and you’ve just presented a very easy way for them to do so. Heck – they’re going to cook dinner for themselves anyway; one or two extra people aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into their meal plans.

!!!ATTENTION WELL-MEANING FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!!!

I think the rule of thumb in these situations is to assume that your solo caregiver friend needs a hand with something, so ask him what he needs. Let’s look at the difference between the following offers of assistance.

  1. Hey Sam, call me if you ever need some help.
  2. Hey Sam, could you use a little extra help around the garden? I’m all caught up with my yard work and would like to help you in any way I can.
  3. Hey Sam, we always cook for a crowd and always have some leftovers. I’d like to give you some leftovers in disposable containers that you can freeze and use any time you don’t feel like cooking for yourself. (Especially needed for the caregiver not at liberty to leave their loved one alone.)

In the 1st example, you’re leaving it up to Sam to feel comfortable enough to inconvenience you (in his mind) with a request for help. I know I’m being somewhat judgmental when I say the following, but I’m gonna say it anyway: The first example of help is an empty offer – an offer that doesn’t carry much weight. Why? It comes across as an expected social comment without any true meat on its bones. You’re basically doing the minimal amount of due diligence while forcing the caregiver to ask for help. In the 2nd and 3rd examples, you’ve given Sam an offer of tangible, definable assistance that shows that you really mean it when you say you’re willing to help out.  If neither of those offers fit within Sam’s current needs, you’re still making it easier for him to ask for help with something else: “Wow Larry, thanks so much for your offers but what I could really use is help figuring out the health insurance issues that have kept me awake at night. Can you come over for a cup of coffee, and between the two of us, maybe we can make some sense of this mess in which I find myself.”

Friends, work associates and neighbors – your solo caregiver friend needs help and you could be just the right person with the skill that he needs. Some day you may find yourself in a similar situation and will know first hand how difficult it is to be a solo caregiver. If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least that to help someone with the burden of being a solo caregiver.

Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport

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What’s a pitcher without a catcher?  A quarterback without a receiver?  A point guard without a center?  Individuals – that’s what they are – they are not a team.  Caregiving should never be an individual effort because quite frankly, one person cannot do it all.

Take a deep breath; think happy thoughts; and do your best.

Whether the primary caregiver actually does hands-on-care or is the primary “manager” of a loved one’s day-to-day life, that caregiver needs all the support he or she can get. For the purposes of this article we’re going to assume that the loved one, Mom, lives in a long-term care (LTC) facility cared for by professionals. As with every sports team, there is a General Manager of the team – responsible for the overall smooth running of the team, and then there are the individual team members without whom there would be no support whatsoever. Let’s look at the responsibilities of each person on the team. GENERAL MANAGER: whether self-assigned or chosen, the GM is usually Mom’s primary contact/visitor. He or she will also be the main point of contact with the staff at the LTC facility and as such, should definitely be on the “approved list” of people with whom the care staff can discuss every aspect of Mom’s care. Getting on the approved list might involve one or both of the following:

  • Facility Care Plan/Residential Agreement. Because of the restrictions resulting from the enactment of HIPAA anyone other than the actual patient/resident must be given permission to receive confidential information regarding another individual’s health condition. There is usually a section on LTC facility agreements and/or care plans wherein a primary family member is listed and approved as the person who can have access to all confidential information regarding the resident’s/loved one’s care. Similarly you’ll want to be on the approved list for Mom’s doctors so you’re able to freely communicate with medical personnel regarding any ongoing health concerns. If Mom is able, she will need to sign the necessary documents that indicate her decision to allow that confidential health information be shared with you.
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care. This legal document allows someone, usually a family member, to speak on behalf of a loved one who may not be able to do so on her own. I’m not a lawyer so I’m not offering any advice regarding this document but the attached link will give you a thumbnail sketch addressing when the appropriateness of such a document comes into play.

Now back to the General Manager’s duties: the GM needs to play on the strengths of each team member.

Alzheimer’s Walking Team: myself, my hubby and my brother

Hold a family meeting – even involving those living out of town using virtual means – to discuss the strengths that each possesses and ones’ willingness to exercise those strengths. Once those team members’ tasks have been assigned or volunteered for, it’s up to the General Manager to provide oversight to assure each task is being accomplished, and to discern if any team member needs assistance completing tasks. As you can see, taking on the role of General Manager carries a lot of responsibility and quite frankly, anyone who assumes this role needs to be good and ready to carry a heavy load. The good news, however, is that the GM is not alone – there are additional members of the team.

FINANCE MANAGER.  Your older sister is a finance whiz who’s very comfortable crunching numbers. She gets to take over the day-to-day system of bill paying, investment monitoring, and the like. You might even arrange for all mail to go to this sister’s home so that she has immediate access to timely financial information, in addition to online access of course.

INSURANCE MANAGER. One of your brothers who works in the health insurance industry understands the ins and outs of private insurance and as it relates to Medicare. Congratulations, his strength will contribute greatly to the whole, but you don’t have to work for an insurance company to excel at this task. Some of us – yes, I’m one of them – really “gets it” when it comes to reconciling Explanations of Benefits (EOB) documents from health insurance companies. The Insurance Manager will work hand in hand with the Finance Manager to assure that any balances due a particular medical professional or institution is paid. This can really get sticky when attempting to make sure that everyone who is responsible for paying a part of the medical service – private insurance companies and Medicare – have paid their part prior to sending out a check for the balance, but effective Finance & Insurance Managers can successfully get the job done.

TRANSPORTATION MANAGER.Your other sister has recently retired, or has a very flexible work schedule, and has the ability to take Mom to the various doctor appointments that occur each month. Terrific.

Anyone need a cab?

That sister will be doing the running around with Mom and can make sure each appointment is scheduled, attended, and summarized. Since she’s going to these appointments with Mom, she can sit in on the appointment and bring up issues about which the family has concerns; she can take notes on what transpires during the doctor visit; then she can report the medical updates to the family so everyone is on the same page every step of the way. This sister will also need to be on the approved HIPAA document that the physician’s office requires in order for her to communicate and interact in such a way as to be on top of Mom’s ongoing health care.

FAMILY DYNAMICS THAT GET IN THE WAY OF EFFECTIVE MANAGING. Let’s face it, not every family gets along well enough to avoid the bumps in the caregiving road.  If family dynamics were strained to begin with, you can certainly expect those dynamics to be heightened in stressful situations – and caring for Mom is certainly one of them.  My article “Family dynamics that hamper caregiving success,” an article of mine from 2011 that addresses family dysfunction and offers advice on how to lessen its impact on your caregiving team.

A team’s success is attainable – but each member has to dedicate themselves to the task at hand  for that to happen.

Life Happens

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We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132

I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.

Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.

We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.

I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?

Part of what I’ve learned in my almost seventy years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.

  • Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
  • A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
  • Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
  • Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.

All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.

Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:

The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.

 

Deathbed promises and how to fulfill them

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Here’s a post from the past that draws lots of attention. Bringing it into the present today.

First of all – take a deep breath and shed the mantle of guilt you’re wearing.  Now let’s address your dilemma.

When your father was on his deathbed you made a promise to take care of your mother in her old age. Now she is at the point of not being able to care for herself and you realize that you’re absolutely not cut out for – nor are you capable of – taking her under your roof to provide the care that she needs. What’s a dutiful son or daughter to do?

I’m not advocating that you break your promise to your father but I am suggesting that you consider redefining what that promise looks like. You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and that’s exactly what you’re going to do.  aking care of your mother is not solely defined as moving her into your home and taking care of all her basic needs until she dies. Very few people have the ability or the means to provide 24-hour care in their home. You made that promise with the best intentions and you can still honor your promise without dishonoring your father. Keep in mind that loving your mother doesn’t guarantee your success as her caregiver. Even adult children with a fabulous relationship with their parent struggle greatly in their efforts. And if your relationship with your mother is tenuous at best, try picturing the scenario of you as caregiver and her as recipient of that care. What effect will that have on her, you, and the remainder of your household?

Let’s clarify how best to care for your mother.

Why can’t caring for your mother mean that you’re honest enough to admit that you’re not the best caregiving option? Do your best to find the care alternative that will provide her an optimal quality of life, e.g. adult daycare, errand and housekeeping services, assisted living. Do the research and consult the experts to confidently fulfill your promise to your father by securing the best care solution for your mother. If that solution involves selecting an assisted living facility, there are many resources available to you that can make this move a successful one for everyone involved. As her son or daughter you will be able to lovingly help her transition into a residential location with like-minded older adults where she can receive the care that will fulfill the promise you made to your father.

Now imagine the NEW normal that your mother and your family can experience.

Your mother lives nearby in an assisted living residence. She has companions with whom she enjoys spending time. She receives three wholesome meals a day and when she, or you, feel like seeing each other, you’re just a short drive away! The time she spends at your house will be as a pampered visitor – not an inpatient (or impatient) relative. It’s probably difficult right now for you to see this as a viable option, but I think in time, you’ll find that everyone, including your father, will be pleased with the outcome.

Here are some links to get you started on your quest: www.alz.org; www.caregiver.com; www.ltcombudsman.org

Do Little, Rather than Nothing

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I’ve written about this topic before: Positive community activism; Spineless inaction: the bystander effectYour positive imprint on mankind.

And I’m writing about it again, but I’m going to let Dr. Bernie S. Siegel be my mouthpiece on this one because he addresses the importance of making a difference in the lives of others in this excerpt from: 365 Prescriptions for the Soul. Here’s the selection verbatim:

SAND DOLLARS

Wave on sand 2It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little; do what you can. -Sydney Smith

Perhaps you have heard the story about the boy on the beach throwing washed-up sand dollars back into the water.  A man walks by and asks, “Why are you doing that?  There are thousands of them washed up.  You can’t make a difference.”

The boy picks one up and throws it back into the ocean, “I did for that one.”

Remember, by changing one life you change the world.  Every action has its effects.  So make a difference and help someone get back into the ocean of life.  You need not risk your life carrying them through the surf, but find out what they need to get back into the swim.  Then help them do it.

The Brutality of Loss

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My first novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, released in July of 2017, speaks of the brutal protracted loss of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Caregivers for a loved one with dementia witness the gradual loss of someone they love over an extended period of time.

Once my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it took four years for him to leave me. I was devastated the moment he took his last breath on October 13th, 2007, but my heart was continuously ripped apart during the years leading up to that final breath.

48 months, 208 weeks, 1460 days, 35,040 hours, and 2,102,400 minutes of ongoing departures from my and his life.

The characters in my novel have a front row seat to their loved one’s measured departure from this earth. That departure might appear as more-than-a-senior-moment of forgetfulness; an inability to perform simple tasks; struggling to come up with the name of the spouse to whom a person has been married for half a century; or the complete change in personality from a loving spouse to an actual threat to the other spouse’s life.

Loss is a life event from which recovery has no prescribed length of time, but recovery does eventually occur. In time, we live a minute where we can truthfully acknowledge that during that brief snippet of time, we didn’t feel the pain and despair as deeply as before. When that happens, dear friends and readers, I encourage you to celebrate that moment because if you wait for the big events for which you might hold a celebration, you just might be waiting for a very long time.

Celebrate even the smallest of victories and joys that come your way. Doing so will guarantee you many more reasons to be grateful, to experience joy, and perhaps to even witness the life-giving feeling that hope can bring.

I wrote Requiem for the Status Quo to honor my father, other loved ones like him, and all those current caregivers who are just trying to mess up less today than they did yesterday.

Perfection isn’t possible, but when you’ve done your best, you’ve done your best.

I celebrate you.

Requiem is available where all books are sold, or readily ordered if not currently in stock. On Amazon, the eBook is $1.99 and the paperback, is less than $7.

Sticky Stuff

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You know how it is: something sticky gets on the kitchen floor and no matter what you do (spot cleaning the floor, wiping the bottom of your slippers) NOTHING gets rid of the sticky stuff that appears on your walking surface unless you do a thorough scrubbing & cleaning. (I know of what I speak as I had to do that just this morning.)

Life is like that as well: daily matters constantly go awry, what used to be the norm blows up into something unrecognizable, and what seemed to work before just doesn’t cut it any more.

Is it me who is at issue? Is it everyone else?

Let’s pretend it’s everyone else. Even if that is the case, there’s still nothing I can do to change everyone else so it’s up to me to adjust how I handle that very unlikely source of stickiness.

If it’s me, the onus is on me to figure out what is needed to attain a status quo with which I can once again be happy. If I don’t do something to change things up, I’ll continue to walk around with stickiness on my shoes, reminding me with every step that unless I get to the source of the sticky and eradicate it, I’m…well…stuck with it.

In a couple months, I will be 69 years of age. I have had many opportunities to examine what’s what when it comes to emotional and physical quality of life. Each and every time such an examination takes place, I have the option of pretending nothing is wrong, of pointing the finger at someone else, or being honest with myself – and therefore with others  – by making adjustments that will get rid of the gunk that insists on hanging around.

More often than not, I’ve settled on the third option and more often than not, such a plan has worked well to unstick my life. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Assigning blame to others or other circumstances rarely provides an actionable benefit.

At least that has been my experience. What about you?

 

 

 

Impermanence

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Days. Weeks. Months. Years.

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER.

Impermanence could be interpreted as being 100% negative, but I don’t see it that way. Keep in mind, just as the good times don’t last forever, the same can be said for the bad times.

Caveat: I know that is not always the case as I have lost close loved ones to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other terminal diseases. Terminal conditions exist and are the epitome of impermanence. And speaking to the world’s current situation, wars are not easily “won” and they ALWAYS cause irreparable damage.

In this post I am primarily referring to the impermanence of everyday life with its minor sicknesses, aches and pains, emotionally rife periods of time, or any situation from which we want to escape. In most circumstances, the maxim “this too shall pass” becomes a truism, albeit rarely to perfection and not always on our timeline.

Where does the concept of hope come in? Or does it?

When the world experiences a multi-year dire global health situation and one country’s horrific and inhumane assault on another, the concept of hope does not seem remotely possible. But quite often, undesirable circumstances do change and that is the impermanence on which I am relying. Pandemics and wars will “end” but the lives that were lost and the damage that was inflicted are not positive outcomes. But this year I am endeavoring to nourish my hope quotient so whatever I can do to have success in that venture is what I am going to do. One region’s tragedy is every region’s tragedy so every region can be involved in doing its part to support those devastated by the current world condition.

That is why whether we are people who practice traditional prayer, or those who dedicate their energy in different ways towards healing, reconciliation, and recovery…

NOW IS THE TIME TO COMMIT TO SUCH A PRACTICE.

Will a change happen overnight? Probably not, but not trying won’t get us there any sooner.

 

 

Hate is not the opposite of love…

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APATHY IS.

The existential philosopher Rollo May maintained a different perspective of opposites, as stated above. I like his take on the love/hate continuum.

We aren’t necessarily meant to love everyone – love having a different degree of emotion depending on the situation – but not caring about a person’s plight, not giving them the time of day or a second or first thought seems cruel.

Merriam Webster defines apathy as follows:

  • impassiveness or indifference

The Oxford dictionary provides this definition:

  • lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern

And finally, Dictionary.com offers this take:

  • lack of interest in or concern for things others find moving; freedom from emotion of any kind

Ugh, all those definitions leave me feeling emotionally bereft, and being on the receiving end of someone’s apathy would be devastating, wouldn’t it? The following example is extreme, but relevant nonetheless:

A man falls down on a crowded sidewalk and each person who encounters him walks over or around him without offering assistance.

Okay, like me you’re thinking, “No way would I do that, I would offer whatever help I could so I am not guilty of such behavior.” But what about the time I tried to avoid a particular neighbor because said neighbor always waylaid me in conversation for what I considered an interminable amount of time? Yep, I did that several weeks ago when an elderly neighbor turned the corner onto my street when I was at the curb to pick up my mail. With my head down I retrieved the mail and quickly walked back into my house.

Lordy I felt guilty, as I should have. I had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, yet I didn’t allow this person an opportunity to engage in conversation with me – perhaps a much needed bit of socialization for her day. Five minutes out of my non-busy day to connect with someone…was that too much to ask? No, it was not. I have reformed since that time, seeking out opportunities to provide socially engaging respite for this woman and her canine companion. I didn’t like the Irene that previously ignored this neighbor; I don’t want to spend time with that Irene, ever again.

The cost of apathy is a far too high price to pay. I certainly cannot afford it.

Can you?

 

 

Words Matter

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Words hold so much power: power to harm and power to heal. This post is about words that have the power to heal.

I am a writer with two published novels and close to 1200 blog posts and I still have to carefully choose my words in any given situation. I don’t always get it right, but the healing goal is always the same.

The other day I found myself at a local Urgent Care clinic; the non-urgent reason for being there is immaterial to what transpired there. My appointment completed, I walked from the treatment area of the clinic through the front office area where three delightful women held court to greet – and say goodbye – to each person who found themselves in need of medical treatment when primary care offices had no available appointments.

One of the women said, “Before you go, can I just tell you something? When you walked in here, I couldn’t help but notice how much you look like the actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Wait, let me find a photo of her for you.” The photo she found on her cell phone was this one:

She also held up the photo to her fellow front desk peeps and they all agreed and said, “You really do look like her! Wow!”

Now I know the resemblance, if there is one, is quite a stretch, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, I felt far better than my body was allowing me to feel at that moment.

Later that evening I relayed my experience to one of my sisters-in-law and she said, “I’ve always thought there was a resemblance but I didn’t know if you’d be flattered or not!”

Double whammy of healing statements, all in one day!

Our words have the power to heal and the power to harm; the other day I was on the receiving end of healing words. It’s sobering to realize that all words are just a different combination of the same 26 letters of the alphabet. I am now even more committed to putting those 26 letters together to form words that uplift, encourage, and yes, heal. I guess the bottom line is:

We can all be healers.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

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I don’t like when that happens.

I am not advocating badness for those I don’t consider good, but I absolutely DO advocate that lovely people should have it somewhat easier. Don’t get me wrong, I know that life isn’t always fair and that we have to take the bad with the good, but gosh darn, it’s difficult to witness.

Family members getting sick recently, and friends and acquaintances facing health and economic struggles are just a few of the recent situations that have come to light in my little corner of the world. At this writing, I am reeling from what happened to our family members a couple weeks ago, and recently, to the wonderful pest control worker who takes care of our home’s needs. Just the other day, John told me that he missed work for several weeks because he suffered a stroke while under one of his client’s homes. He was lying on the ground under a house when it happened!!!!

This gentle soul was rescued, obviously, and while I am gobsmacked by what happened to him, I celebrate that he has recovered, that the stroke didn’t occur while he was driving and therefore putting others at risk, and that he had the distinct privilege of being able to talk to me the other day about what happened to him.

He lived to tell the story!

And now I have told you the story and I will leave you with John’s words of encouragement about life in general:

Recovering from devastating health issues sure do make a person appreciate the life he’s been given. I’m grateful for so many things now.

May you appreciate even the smallest of victories that come your way. Through the good and the bad times in my life, I know I certainly have.

 

 

The Flight of Time

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In the far too distant past, we can all remember how long it took for a special occasion to arrive, whether it was Christmas, a Birthday, or the beginning of summer vacation. It seemed as though time C-R-A-W-L-E-D when we were lots younger than we currently are.

But now? My husband and I will be discussing a past event, trying to decide on when (what week or month the event took place) so we consult our calendars to discover that the event in question occurred more than a year ago.

How did that happen? Why can’t us 60-something-year-olds discern the passing of time better than that? This post from Scientific American sheds a light on this phenomenon. I’ll let you read that post and this one from Harvard University to acquire a better understanding. But here’s a quote from the Scientific American post that seems to summarize what happens as we age:

From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.

The truth of the matter is that we’ve lived longer, we’ve had a heck of a lot of experiences as a result, so we look at the passage of time from an entirely different perspective. The Harvard post puts a more neurological spin on the matter:

People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.

I guess that means that the older we get, our brains aren’t firing as rapidly as they used to. Well, duh! When I’m trying to remember the title of a book, an excellent book that I deem the best book I’ve ever read in my entire life, I may not remember the title of it because I have read 1000s of books in my sixty-eight years.

The bottom line, dear friends, is that our brains are older than they used to be and due to the wealth of experiences we have lived through, there is far more data to weed through to land on the most accurate in-the-moment response. Assuming there is no disease process going on in our brains, is that a problem about which we should lament or be concerned?

No. Why? Because aging is a privilege. Just the fact that we have lived long enough to be struck with the phenomenon of inaccurate time passing is something to celebrate: I’m here, but people I love who passed before their time are not. Those dear people would probably give anything to have the opportunity to complain about this confusing, mixed up passing of time.

On their behalf, I will try to do my level best not to complain about my age, or anything having to do with aging, ever again. I will most certainly fail, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die trying.

Brain Gratitude

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The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.

That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.

Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:

  • Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
  • Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
  • Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.

That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.

But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.

  • INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
  • ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
  • DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.

Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.

And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.

 

 

 

Are You Whole?

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Being whole and experiencing wholeness is something I need to figure out for myself so I consulted the Oxford dictionary that defines wholeness as follows:

  • the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole;
  • the state of being unbroken or undamaged;
  • good physical or mental health.

Okay, so I’m not whole, but I absolutely know I want to be.

Being whole, for me, is a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit.

This brings to mind another definition – cooperation:

  • the process of working together to the same end.

That works for me because if mind, body, and spirit – however that may be defined – work together toward a goal of wholeness, that is what appears to be needed in order to attain that state. Let me tell you, at this point in my existence I am VERY willing to cooperate.

And I think it’s important to understand that those three elements – mind, body, spirit – are not separate. They all work in tandem to bring about the best outcome for our well-being.

When we work on one, we’re working on all three elements:

  • Exercising to work on the body, and maintaining a healthier diet, affect the mind and spirit.
  • Choosing to have some sort of meditative time – however that may look for each of us – nourishes the body and mind.
  • Learning something new and being exposed to new experiences no doubt will benefit spirit and body.

There is no separation because all three are attached, right? Yeah, you can’t touch one without affecting the others. And that’s a good thing because we only have so much time in each day to improve on matters so it’s a good thing that even one effort addresses all three aspects of our being.

May you figure out what works for you to attain WHOLENESS in 2022.

I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

My 2022 Word

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Several years ago a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of setting a New Year word – not a resolution. My 2021 word was:

EQUANIMITY: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

For what may seem obvious to many is the fact that that single word – or way of being – really resonated with me leading into 2021. But did I always succeed at upholding that word? Absolutely not, but having that as my daily, or hourly, goal certainly benefited me more than not.

My word for 2022 is more or less from the same word family but some may argue it is the antithesis of equanimity:

HOPE: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

It’s far easier to abandon all hope – yet more difficult – than it is to cling to it. I decided to raise a banner of hope for me, my loved ones, and the world at large, regardless of what that action entails. Doing something with an eye to a redeeming new year is that to which I am committed. As I said in my post Hope + Action = Winning Combination, just wishing something to be true doesn’t quite take care of the hope function; we have to do something while hoisting hope onto our backs.

What you do to activate and maintain hope and what I do are individual efforts and may not look at all similar to each other, but that’s the beauty of the hope commitment: what I do supplements you and what you do augments me.

BE WELL AND STAY WELL IN 2022 MY FRIENDS.

CELEBRATE EVERY GOOD THING THAT COMES YOUR WAY, REGARDLESS OF HOW SMALL, BECAUSE EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS – DON’T YOU THINK?

 

Gratitude + Optimism

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A recent AARP magazine post spotlighting Michael J. Fox, star of Family TiesBack to the Future, and of other popular, noteworthy fame, answered a reporter’s question about how he had managed to pull himself out of a dark place where he landed after recovering from a 2018 spinal surgery to remove a benign tumor wrapped around his spine; having to learn how to walk all over again as a result of that surgery; and falling at home four months later, shattering his arm in the process. Keep in mind, for over thirty years Mr. Fox has suffered from what is currently an incurable disease. He knows there will be no cure for Parkinson’s in his lifetime, but remarkably, he was able to admirably respond to the AARP reporter’s question.

I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.

And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism.

You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.

For this, my last blog post of the year – also my 1,166th post – I will simply say that I am inspired by the above words; I am humbled by them; and I accept the challenge these words have presented.

That’s all, but it’s enough. See you in 2022.