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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
A recent AARP magazine post spotlighting Michael J. Fox, star of Family Ties, Back 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.
I wrote Choosing to Celebrate to point out how rewarding it is to celebrate even the most mundane positive occurrences in our lives. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
I came to the realization the other day, how many places my sixty-eight year old feet have taken me.
AND JUST THINK ABOUT WHERE YOUR FEET HAVE TAKEN YOU!
I’ve lived in the following US states: California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington. I’ve traveled to the following countries: Canada, Mexico, France, Scotland, and the British Isles. (I know, that’s not a lot of places but just the same, my feet took me there and back!)
Sometimes our feet take us to geographical places; other times they take us to and through life experiences – not all of which are easy or pleasing. But those gnarled toes and fallen arches managed to carry us where we needed to be and will continue to do so until they can’t.
About two years ago, I came to a place of acceptance of my current body resulting in gratitude for everything it has endured and managed to survive. That may not seem like a monumental achievement to some, but for me, it most definitely has been. My body’s challenges and your body’s challenges may not be identical but there isn’t a person around that doesn’t have them – bodies or challenges – and we’re still here!
I HAVE SURVIVED THE LESS THAN ENJOYABLE BODY FOIBLES 100% OF THE TIME AND HAVE LIVED TO WRITE ABOUT IT!
Wow! And because I have evidence that such successes have occurred, when I’m in the midst of seemingly insurmountable medical, physical, or emotional challenges, I can look forward to getting to the other side of them to add yet another success to my growing evidentiary list.
And my feet will take me there.
This post ties in with my previous post about vulnerability. Why?
Because vulnerability is a strength.
In that previous post, I said that life isn’t a competition, and I stand by that statement. When I ask for help, I am admitting that I can’t do something on my own and when someone answers my call for help, she/he is supplementing what I have, providing what I do not have. That sends a signal to the helper that when she needs help some day, she should feel at ease to ask for it. What a healthy cycle that creates!
In the workplace, an employee may feel that if he admits a need, he may be considered less than and therefore not as valuable as the fellow employee providing assistance. Nothing could be further from the truth, and an employer who faults that need for collaboration isn’t worthy of a person’s service.
And what about friends? True friends won’t harshly judge when a call for help goes out. True friends understand that a person can’t be 100%, 365, 24/7, so they affirmatively respond and both are better off as a result. One person has what the other person needs – it’s as simple as that.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say.
In the past several years I have come to understand that being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.
Synonyms for the word vulnerable, found in the Merriam Webster dictionary are: endangered, exposed, liable, open, sensitive, susceptible.
l believe that vulnerability is a worthwhile and honorable trait in which to indulge, especially as my life experience involves the last three synonyms: open, sensitive, susceptible. Recently, however, I felt vulnerable and I didn’t like the feeling at all as it gave me a feeling of being endangered and exposed.
Several days ago I had skin cancer surgery on my nose, and although vanity is not a prominent characteristic in my modus operandi, the fact that my visage was going to be messed with sent me into a tailspin of unease, bordering on depression. It’s not the surgery itself that was of a concern to me; I had hip replacement surgery four years ago that was far more invasive and brutal and I don’t recall feeling as emotionally affected as I did for my nose surgery.
Perhaps what was at issue was the fact that the affected body part is face forward – so to speak – and therefore more noticeable than a joint replacement could ever be. The very good news is that the surgery was minimally invasive, not even needing stitches, so the same face I’ve had for sixty-eight years remains intact.
I’ve had this same face – more or less – for sixty-eight years! Fortunately the alteration leaves it just slightly different from how it used to be.
I know, my sixty-eight year old body isn’t the same as it used to be either, because aging is a privilege and with that privilege comes pain, body sags, and wrinkles rivaling an intricate interstate highway. But the face? It’s somehow a different entity all together. Fortunately, my concerns turned out to be much ado about nothing.
Let me clarify, however, that the unease/depression I felt wasn’t a function of how I’ll look once everything is healed. No. It’s related to the vulnerability I felt leading up to the surgery, and the time during the surgery when I was fully awake, that really messed with my mind and my emotions. A surgeon who knows absolutely nothing about who I am, whom I only met once prior to the procedure, was in charge of ridding my nose of cancer. Once patient number 1234 was out the door, the surgeon would move onto patient number 5678, and so on and so forth, committed to her surgical training but not necessarily committed to Irene Frances Olson, born in Southern California, the youngest of three siblings, who couldn’t have asked for better parents, who eventually wrote two novels to first document her family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and then to document society’s struggles with tolerance, acceptance, and human kindness.
Was it my outward appearance or my inward identity that was at issue?
The latter, to be sure, and since beauty is only skin deep, I will fall back on the inner beauty that I’ve worked on throughout my life. With age comes wisdom, and for me at least, without the aging, wisdom would still be on the sidelines waiting to make an appearance. So maybe this whole surgical experience has taught me something new that without the unease and depression I experienced, this new nugget of wisdom would not have been birthed:
My inner beauty will always outlast my outer trappings, and those who truly know me see that first and love me for it.
WHAT A BLESSED WOMAN I AM!!!
Life isn’t a competition. It’s healthy to want only the best for others with whom we come in contact.
Most of the contact I have with the “outside world” is on my neighborhood walks and outings to the grocery store and the like. Yes, I’m retired from active employment but most definitely not retired from life.
With very few exceptions, I get along with everyone and manage to maintain ongoing casual relationships that benefit myself, and hopefully each person with whom I come in contact. I am on a first name basis with Tracy who scans my groceries every week, and with Patrick and Wende who bag said groceries. I am also thrilled to have met the acquaintance of Ginny, an extraordinary optical employee at my local big box store.
Ginny is a delight to know and thoroughly skilled at her job in the optical dispensary. The other morning, needing an eyeglasses adjustment, I arrived at the store just after it opened. It seems when pulling off my mask the other day, the ear loops grabbed my glasses in such a way as to mess up the alignment on my nose. Ouch! My nose was in dire straits and in need of some pain relief. Of course Ginny took care of the adjustment so that myself, and my nose, were once again in balance.
Ginny seemed a bit down so I asked how she was doing. Turns out, she found out just a few minutes before I arrived that the transfer she put in for to the store location just minutes from her home was turned down because in order to transfer, the replacement at her current location needed to be set in place. With the shortage of skilled workers so prevalent, none could be found. Ginny’s transfer to her store of choice could not proceed so her 1.25 hour work commute would need to continue, a commute she has endured for the better part of four years. My heart goes out to Ginny. I can’t change the way the big box store’s management policies are carried out, but I can be in Ginny’s corner so she doesn’t endure her disappointment alone. What I know about her is minimal from a quantitative position, but from a qualitative one, what I know is grandiose.
We don’t have to be related to a person, or see them every day, to have a connection with them – do we?
Not in the least. Given the current circumstances in which we find ourselves, we are most likely involved more peripherally than intimately with others but our impact on their lives can be still be worthwhile and vital. Think, if you will, how you felt when someone crossed your path and their actions or words robbed you of your joy. Then remember how a kind word, an extended courtesy, or a genuine smile turned your day upside down – in a good way!
It doesn’t take much to make a positive impact on each and every person we encounter.
We can make the very most of our casual contacts. A one minute encounter can go one of two ways: leave a nasty impression, or one that will greatly improve a person’s day. I want to be responsible for the latter effect; that’s what I did during the brief five minutes spent with Ginny the other day, and the very next day, I hand-delivered some heartfelt consolation in the form of an encouraging greeting card left for her at the optical department where she works so diligently. You see, I always keep an inventory of cards in my home office and God knows I have plenty of time to make a special delivery to someone in need of a virtual hug of sorts.
May you endeavor to look for opportunities to make an enriching difference in someone’s life.
OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND IF YOUR AWARENESS IS KEEN!
Instead of wallowing in habits we’d prefer to discard, we can create new ones – breaking old ones – that benefit us greatly!
That’s Breaking Good News, isn’t it?
I’m not going to get into the proven science about how long it takes to break one habit and adopt another – you know how to Google that information and find it out for yourself. Rather, I just want to mention how exhilarating it is to switch things up a bit in ones’ life. And I’m not going to address vices that double as habits. Nope! Just the routine behaviors that so many of us fall into.
You and I have adopted habits that are so ingrained in our day-to-day existence, we don’t even recognize them because they just are. Lately for me, I’ve benefited from changing up my routines, finding that doing so puts a fresh coating of delight on the mundane.
- Maybe your favorite mug isn’t all that any more and another mug would serve to better float your boat; or
- Exercising a little later – or earlier – in the day feels better than what you’ve been doing; or
- Meditating at a different time of day than you’ve done for years on end actually provides more Zen moments when you switch it up now and then; or
- Tacos are just as gratifying on Thursday as they are on Tuesday. Can you say, Taco Thursdays anyone?
You get the idea: just because you’re accustomed to and comfortable with your daily routine doesn’t mean that getting out of your comfort zone wouldn’t be better. For me, it was a matter of being so entrenched in the same-o same-o that I became brain-lazy. Life became so droll and ho-hum that I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. Oh crap, another day just like yesterday? Ugh!
There are countless ways to add novelty to a day. I don’t know about you, but I have a few daily outfits I wear over and over again while my closet is close to bursting with colorful t-shirts, pants I forgot I even owned, and let’s not forget to mention the sock drawer that rivals that of a sock-owning addict…oops! Time to clean all those clothing storage areas of the house and donate a good portion to charities whose clients could really use what I didn’t even realize I had.
Wow…not only do I get to switch up my wardrobe but others benefit from the slight clothing hoarding I failed to acknowledge!
ANYWAY, I think you can come up with your own changes that will perhaps provide freshness to your day and increase your joie de vivre! Whatever you decide to do, do it soon. Take it from someone who knows of which she speaks – breaking habits and adding new ones does not have to be difficult, but it really and truly needs to happen if you’re looking to change things up a bit.
I’m looking forward to hearing about the changes you’ve decided to implement in your own life. They don’t have to be HUGE, just worthwhile and meaningful to you!
Last time I checked, the only way to live a long life is to be on board with aging.
Are there downsides to getting older? Sure there are. Here are just a few that might be applicable at any given time:
- the body and/or the mind might not function quite as efficiently as before;
- our peers move on, whether by relocating because of downsizing or illness or relocating to the beyond (you know, heaven or elsewhere);
- our loved ones (spouses, partners) experience advanced illness or pass on; and
- society dismisses us as no longer relevant.
But what about the upsides of aging? Surely positive elements exist that can be celebrated and accentuated the longer we reside on this earth, such as:
- enjoyment of our adult children and growing-up grandchildren, if such a family dynamic exists;
- recognition of what’s truly important in life so that worrying about the small things is a practice not worthy of our time;
- the decision to respectfully let our feelings and beliefs be known, without holding back, and not caring as much about whether someone agrees or disagrees with those feelings; and
- finally having time to do this, that, and the other, because there is no longer such a thing as a weekend, and every day can be filled with whatever activity pleases us.
Regarding that last point, some may argue that because our bodies don’t function as efficiently as before, it doesn’t matter if we have all the time in the world if we can’t do what matters most to us!
That’s a valid point if the only thing that matters to a person is maintaining an Olympic-quality fitness level. Look, my husband and I used to do amazingly difficult hikes as recently as three years ago and although I miss the forests wherein those hikes took place, I don’t miss the actual exercise part of those ventures because I still exercise: yoga, aerobics, weights, (using free online videos for all three options) and taking energetic walks in the neighborhood. I’m not competing with anyone but myself when I perform that smorgasbord of exercises. Regardless of what exercise I do and how I do it, I’m still lapping everyone else on the couch.
And come on, being physically active isn’t the only qualification for contributing to the world around us. I’m not talking about the global stage, but what about the little corner of the world wherein we reside? We have time and we have a lifetime of skill and wisdom that our corner of the universe needs. Whether we find those opportunities through a community organization, senior center, local school system or elsewhere, there is more need than these organizations have solutions!
You are relevant and that relevancy needs to be recognized first by you, and then society will get on board.
The only way to live a long life is to live the life you’ve been given. And as the saying goes, this ain’t no dress rehearsal. And remember, it’s never too late to try something new. If that means letting go of something else in order to start something new, then so be it. Get after it!
When referring to identification in this post, I am talking about human characteristics – specifically, emotional and mental states.
For example, I tend to be anxious – allowing anxiety to rob me of my peace, and oftentimes, rob me of my sleep. But being anxious is not my identity. I get anxious but that is not who I am.
Being labeled (pigeonholed) by others is one thing, and it’s harmful, but even more so, labeling ourselves does each of us a huge disservice.
I may have anxiety, but I am not anxiety. Someone else may have ADHD, but that person is not ADHD, they have ADHD tendencies. If someone suffers from depression, their identity is not depressed person, rather, she/he is a person who gets depressed. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to put someone in a pigeonhole is to, unfairly think of or describe someone or something as belonging to a particular group, only having a particular skill, etc. For example, actors don’t want to be pigeonholed as only having comedic skills; a talented actor wants to be thought of as having more range than that. Similarly, a lawyer is also a parent, a spouse, a friend – not just a mediator or adjudicator. My gastroenterologist’s whole identity isn’t wrapped up in her specific field of medical expertise – thank the good Lord – she is also a hiker, a mommy, and an accomplished baker.
If I place myself inside the box of anxiety, I may have the tendency to remain there longer than is healthy. If I live outside of that box and only end up there from time to time, I have more range as a human being and can branch out and experience calm and peace as a natural state. I am not anxious person Irene, I am Irene the mother, spouse, grandmother, sister, friend, and as luck would have it, published author.
ANOTHER WAY IN WHICH WE LABEL PEOPLE IS BY THEIR DISEASE.
When my father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, he wasn’t his disease, he was everything he was before the disease and even everything he became after diagnosis. He had limitations, don’t get me wrong, but those limitations didn’t define who he was: an extraordinary human being. When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, that was one horrible aspect of her life but that didn’t define who she was before she died. She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend; she was a caring person with a keen sense of humor; she was the goddess of her wonderful household who kept it running like a fine-tuned engine.
Labeling limits our perception of who someone is in their essence.
There are so many directions this post could have gone – physical characteristics, gender identity, race, ethnicity – instead, I decreased the scope because emotional, mental, and medical matters have been weighing upon me as of late, so that’s where I went with this 500 word post. That was enough for me, I hope it was enough for you.
Be well, y’all.
I love Autumn. I know it signals the end of summertime fun and weather, but there are years when such characteristics are best left behind.
I always welcome the possibilities inherent with a new season, a new calendar year, or simply a new year of life. Having survived my 68th birthday earlier this year, I came to the realization that aging truly is a privilege, and the longer we live, the more opportunities abound for the taking.
Whether you are 28, 48, 68, or 88-and-counting, you rarely don’t have the choice of whether to try something new – or leave something behind. Sometimes our chosen career path or passion loses its shine. Other times, relationships that in the past were nurturing to both individuals lose their nourishment and become like a slow-acting poison that nonetheless harms or kills the spirt.
Walking away from what we’re accustomed to is difficult, but oftentimes extremely necessary.
You don’t live long on this earth before said walking away becomes a reality, and it’s those first steps that are the most difficult. I’ve embarked on that path in my professional life and in my personal life, knowing I was doing the right thing but nevertheless grieving the separation.
If new endings and beginnings beckon you as you approach the new season’s landing, my wish for you is that doing so strengthens your reserve to celebrate the one life you’ve been granted. And please always remember, even the smallest of victories warrant a celebration.
SO PARTY ON!
It’s so tempting to turn the other way when we witness something that offends us, or to cringe when we ourselves think or say something of which we are ashamed and wished we had done better. Well, at least one character in my second novel, A Jagged Journey, has a few opportunities to cringe and correct when confronted with their own abashed behavior.
In particular, those of you who have already ventured into the pages of my second novel have met Dr. Gretchen Marks and know of what I speak. From the outsider’s perspective, it looks like Gretchen leads a life of leisure in her 20th floor Seattle penthouse apartment when she’s not treating high-end clients at her luxurious counseling practice. In a book review, one of my readers characterized Gretchen as someone to be throttled posthaste and let me tell you, I relate to that character assessment with a “Hear! Hear” and a “I couldn’t agree with you more!”
But there’s a reason why I created a somewhat despicable element in my story and it’s because I really, really, want to believe that everyone can undergo an about-face in their way of thinking and come out the other side treating others with the respect they deserve. Readers will get a peek into perhaps why Gretchen is the way she is, while also asking themselves if what has transpired in her life gives her license to push against what most would consider common decency toward one’s fellow man. I’m not going to provide a spoiler by revealing what transpires in the end, because quite frankly, I think readers will walk away with differing conclusions because their own life experience might very well paint a different picture from someone else’s.
I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter once you’ve read A Jagged Journey and can leave an honest review on Amazon or elsewhere. It took me several years to finalize this book because I wanted to get it right while offering characters everyone will fall in love with – and there are many – alongside those we just might love to hate. As one of my book promotions has so accurately stated:
Life is imperfect, because it is lived by imperfect people, just like you and me.
I am so very excited about my latest novel – now available in paperback and eBook! Just as REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO was a work directly from my heart, A JAGGED JOURNEY has come from my heart as well – but in a very different way. I hope you will read my new novel’s synopsis and grab a copy for yourself. eBook just $3.99; Paperback just $11.99.
This final novel excerpt before A Jagged Journey is released on April 15th, introduces you to a key character, psychologist Gretchen Marks, and her unlikely friend, Amit Singh, an Uber driver who comes to her aid when no one else is available. Gretchen’s life has taken a cruel detour, in part because of her way of being, in part because life is oftentimes no respecter of persons.
“Are we going to the same place today, Doctor, where you have previously visited?”
“Yes, please.” Gretchen glanced at Amit and then out the side window. “Unfortunately, it will be a place I visit every day for a few weeks. If I had my choice, I’d rather have a root canal, but it appears God has chosen to punish me so I get to have these treatments instead.”
“I do not know what this root canal is of which you speak. Is that something to do with the hair on the top of one’s head?”
A smile broke out on Gretchen’s face at the innocence projected by her driver. “That’s a good one, Amit. Thank you for making my day.”
“A good one you say?”
“A root canal involves the teeth, not the scalp. It’s when a really bad tooth needs a lot of work, and it’s not enjoyable at all. But given how my treatments make me feel, I think the dental work would seem like child’s play…it would seem like something far easier than what I’m doing.”
“I see, yes, my splendid wife, Faria, had something similar to that soon after we arrived in this country – there was a cavity in one of her teeth. And you indicated that these treatments you are enduring are a punishment from God?”
Gretchen thought it was just like a foreigner to take idioms literally, but she had to admit his way of thinking was somewhat refreshing. “It’s just an expression people sometimes use when things aren’t going well for them. And a contrary statement might apply if, when we arrive at our destination, there’s a parking space available at the front where you can pull in and let me out. If that were to happen, I might say, “Well, I must have done something right in my life and now God is rewarding me.”
“Thank you, Dr. Gretchen Marks, for your very thorough explanation about expressions Americans use in their speaking.”
Amit and Gretchen arrived at their destination, Amit pulled into an open space right in front of the building. “I see, Dr. Marks, that you must have done something right because God has graced us with this parking space.”
He parked the car and stepped out to assist Gretchen. He guided her out of her seat by her elbow and helped her step over the curb. “There you are, Dr. Marks.”
“You know, you can call me Gretchen.”
“Oh no, Doctor, you have attained a very important status in life that accords great respect. Unless it offends you, I will continue to address you as Doctor.”
“That’s fine, Amit, and regarding this parking space?”
“Yes, Dr. Marks?”
“It was because of your good works that God arranged for this space to be available. I’m quite certain my past works didn’t warrant such a benefit.”
“Either way, it is good that we are able to claim it, yes?”
Gretchen fumbled with her purse for a tip. “Yes, it is very good. I’ll see you after my appointment later today and I will call you a half hour before I am done.”
Gretchen’s appointment did not go well as she received some devastating news – said news put Gretchen on the defense when her Uber driver picked her up later that day.
Amit picked up Gretchen at the appointed time and although he tried to engage the doctor in conversation, he wasn’t entirely successful. At one point, Gretchen lashed out at him.
“Amit, are you a United States citizen?”
He looked at her in the rear-view mirror. “Not currently, but that is my goal, Dr. Marks.”
“How long have you lived in this country?”
“Four years, Doctor.”
“What’s taking you so long to become a citizen?”
Amit drove a couple blocks then asked Gretchen a question. “How many amendments does the Constitution have?”
“What? What has that to do with anything?”
“Amendments. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers that were written in support of the Constitution of the United States.”
“I have no idea. I’m not sure I’m even familiar with those papers.”
“I am. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were two of the writers.”
“Good for you, you’ve memorized the answers on the civics exam for citizenship, that doesn’t make you a US citizen.”
“In this country it does.” Amit pulled up in front of Gretchen’s condo. Looking straight ahead, he had one more question for her. “Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?”
Gretchen looked at her lap, then out her side window. “You win, Amit, and I’m sorry for being such a horrible person today. My doctor gave me some bad news and it’s made me angry at the world.”
Amit got out of the vehicle, opened Gretchen’s door, and helped her out. “This bad news, is it something you want to talk about with Amit?”
She patted the hand that rested gently on her forearm. “Maybe tomorrow, Amit. Will I see you at eleven?”
“It would be my extreme pleasure, Dr. Marks, thank you.”
There are many characters that are a part of the lives of those with whom you have already met: Charlie Brooks, the high school teacher and his fellow teacher Jamila Sanders. Single mother, Hannah Palmer and her engaging son, Sammy. And now, Dr. Gretchen Marks, and her Uber pal, Amit Singh. The cast of characters you will meet in A Jagged Journey are varied in age, life experience, and intent. I hope to see you soon, within Journey’s pages.
Our lives never follow a straight path. We make turns, we leap or crawl over speed bumps and roadblocks, and when needed, we take breaks along the way while battling the insistent urge to just give up. More often than not, however, we keep going – we move forward, one step at a time, hoping for the best.
A Jagged Journey, now available for pre-order, is a novel that follows the pothole-filled lives of disparate characters between the ages of seven and seventy-seven who are far from perfect and for the most part, are not hesitant to admit it. Set in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the diversity inherent within that region is front and center and will have readers laughing and crying in equal measure.
Laughing because the youngest character, Sammy, is a kick-in-the-butt delight when his honesty comes through loud and clear, challenging every adult with whom he comes in contact to sit up and pay attention.
And crying, because readers will see themselves in the imperfect childhoods that can find adults sinking or swimming in their grown-up years.
Ms. Olson’s new novel was written for anyone eighteen years and older as there are a few – and very far between – language elements within its’ covers. Readers won’t find any gratuitous sex or violence, however; just loving friendships and relationships that will challenge even the hardest of hearts to open up to the many joys that life has to offer.
Although her second novel does not have the same focus as Requiem for the Status Quo with its’ storyline filled with the caregiver and loved one’s journey with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, you will always find that element in every novel she writes, including this latest, A Jagged Journey.
For many of us, our 2020 outlook was dingy at times and full of sharp edges at other times. It’s now a new year, and boy did it arrive in an explosive way. Last year, and its current new year counterpart, have kind of felt like we’ve experienced an entire lifetime of uncertainty tempered by acute feelings of fear and anxiety with no relief!
Who of us want that to be our 2021 way of being?
Not me. Same-o, same-o just doesn’t work for me. We cannot change what has transpired and have marginal ability to shape what is to come, but I relish the opportunity to control what is within my personal ability to control:
I choose to enter this new year by altering the way I respond to it. When I change my outlook, I have the chance of changing my response. When I change my response, I might be able to paint the way others choose to respond. If that sounds too good to be true, please know it is not. Everything we say and do influences those around us – whether someone living in our own household or the strangers we encounter in the community. We can choose to come from a place of possibilities rather than defeat; from a place of nourishment rather than a viral place of bitterness.
We are all harboring sad and bitter emotions – many of them resultant from the events of 2020. We can’t change the past, but we can create a better present that might turn into a more hopeful future. And let me tell you a secret…sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it. Who knows, you might be so convincing, you’ll be able to drop your efforts at fakery and actually flourish in your new found well-being.
I want that for me, and I want that for you.
Won’t you give it a try with me?
At twenty-one years of age, I was a newlywed living on the eastern side of Washington State.
In 1974 I had married my high-school sweetheart who was enrolled in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at a local Washington university. I met my then-husband in high school while living in Honolulu, Hawaii where my family moved in 1965.
It was a beautiful, spring day when my husband and I walked hand-in-hand through the streets of the eastern Washington city looking for a restaurant where we could have a weekend lunch date. We approached a corner, my husband pushed the WALK button so we could cross the street, and when it flashed green we proceeded to walk across the street.
A woman approached us from the other direction on the crosswalk, pointed her finger at us, and yelled,
Thou shalt not mix with other races! You are an abomination!
I am white, my former husband, Chinese.
My happily married, joyful self was astounded at the hatred and intolerant attitude thrust our way. We had never encountered such vehemence when living in Hawaii as a young couple, so please understand how hurt and shocked I was. I was so taken aback, the first words that came out of my mouth were, “F*ck you!” My twenty-one-year-old self stood up for herself and her marriage partner in the quickest way she knew how.
As of this writing, in all my sixty-seven years of life, that is the only me-directed racism I have ever experienced. But that is not the case for people of color.
- I have never been pulled over for driving while being white.
- I’ve never been asked to prove that I belong in the neighborhood in which I was walking or riding my bike.
- To my knowledge, I have never been followed through a department store by a store employee or store security personnel while shopping as a white woman.
- Again, to my knowledge, I have never been turned down for a job for which I was highly qualified because of the color of my skin.
My current husband of twenty years and I have three daughters between us. My daughter is a beautiful mixture of Caucasian and Chinese, my husband’s daughters are Caucasian. While our girls were growing up, we instructed them on how to be safe when out and about; we helped them recognize dangerous, every-day situations they should try to avoid but we’ve never had to have “the talk” that so many parents have had to have with their non-white children, especially their sons.
- If asked, show law enforcement your hands and ask permission to get something from your vehicle’s glovebox.
- Don’t wear your hood out on the street and don’t put your hands in your pockets.
- If you get stopped, don’t run.
- And by God, please, please, just get home alive.
I have an educated knowledge and keen awareness of the issue but I lack sufficient experience to truly understand the challenges faced by many people of color. I am ignorant in the sense that other than that one incident forty-six years ago, I have not been personally hurt – emotionally or physically – in the manner in which so many have been, and still are.
I understand the sentiment, All Lives Matter, but Brené Brown offers the following in her book, Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone:
I believe Black Lives Matter is a movement to rehumanize black citizens. All lives matter, but not all lives need to be pulled back into moral inclusion…the humanity wasn’t stripped from all lives the way it was stripped from the lives of black citizens.
It is my hope that one day soon, we will all get it right. The general public learns more each and every time an incident of racism makes it to the news, but shouldn’t we have learned something more by now, given the number of horrid headline incidents that have occurred nationwide?
We all can do better.
I will do better.
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time to increase understanding of what dementia is and how it impacts the lives of those it touches. It’s also a great time to work to decrease the stigma and silence that too often accompanies an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Each June AlzAuthors hosts a book sale and giveaway to help caregivers and those concerned about dementia find knowledge, guidance, and support offered through shared wisdom and experience. AlzAuthors is the global community of authors writing about Alzheimer’s and dementia from personal experience. I’m proud to be a part of this growing non-profit organization, and I’m excited my eBook, Requiem for the Status Quo, is a part of this sale for only 99 cents, but only for a week!
June 15th through June 22nd you can take advantage of this biannual opportunity to purchase excellent resources on the dementia diseases for free or at reduced prices. AlzAuthors offers a variety of genres, including fiction, memoir, non-fiction, and children’s and teen literature. Most are available in Kindle and ebook, and many are available in paperback and audio. I would like to encourage you to build a library of carefully vetted books to help guide and inspire you every day.
These books are written from a deep place of solidarity, vulnerability, and love. May you find one – or two, or more! – to help guide you on your own dementia journey. Click here for the sale’s discounted offerings.
This post is about anticipatory vs sudden death. I know that doesn’t sound like a very positive post in honor of my sixty-seventh birthday, but this subject matter weighed on my heart the other day so I decided to write about it.
The last time I saw my mother was the 3rd week of August 1994. She died one month later. Mom and Dad visited their adult children during the month of August: my brother and I in the Seattle, WA area, and my sister in Northern California. What a gift that was – the impact of that gift not fully appreciated until Mom was taken from us during her sleep on September 24, 1994 – a life-changing shock to my father who found her, an occasion for us kids to receive the worst news possible by telephone.
The last time I saw my father was October 13, 2007 at his bedside as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease leeched the life from him. When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years earlier, we knew there was no cure; we had time to prepare for the inevitable, an inevitability accelerated by a cancer that was not operable due to my father’s frail condition resultant from the slow deterioration of his body by Alzheimer’s disease.
Which death was more difficult, the fully unexpected one, or the expected one?
There is no comparison, and by that I mean you cannot compare grief in that manner. Grief is grief and although the shock of my mother’s death was a jolt to our emotional systems, so too was the slow death that occurred for my father. The outcome was the same: someone we all loved no longer existed, but more importantly, we became painfully aware that whether a person is seventy-seven years old when they die, as was our mother, or eighty-nine years old as was my father, life is short.
The child who succumbs to an illness, the teenager killed in an automobile accident, the newly married sweethearts starting out on their journey as a couple, the sixty-something-year-old or centenarian whose days come to an end, all those lives are valuable and their ending won’t always be anticipated.
It may be trite to say live each day as though it were your last, but trite or not, that’s what each of us needs to do. I do so without being morbid about it – rather, I have gotten into the habit of living and loving fully, always respecting and honoring those with whom I come in contact, and spreading kindness and truth wherever I go. Because, as I’ve said: life is precious.
Won’t you join me?
by Susan McCormick
Granny Can’t Remember Me, my lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, was motivated by our family’s experience with my mother’s Alzheimer’s. My sons witnessed her agitation when she knew her memory was failing, yet we learned how to shape our conversations so they were pleasurable for all. My boys always started a visit with my mom with, “Hi, Granny, it’s me, James, or it’s me, Peter.” This set my mother up to know she was the grandmother and this was her grandchild. If not for those clear introductions, my sons would be greeted with, “Which one are you?” I wrote this book for children like mine, who need coping skills for this sometimes scary and sad all-too-common family situation.
We learned not to ask any questions, because this would make my mother anxious and worried. Before her Alzheimer’s progressed, my lawyerly mom would try to figure out why she didn’t know the answer, and she would often try to fake an answer or turn the conversation away from the question. This upset her. So, my boys would just state the facts and start a conversation. “Today is Friday and it’s root beer floats and milkshakes day. I love root beer floats and milkshakes.” Then my mom could join in with, “I love chocolate milkshakes best of all.” In the book, six-year-old Joey doesn’t ask his Granny what she ate for lunch because he knows she can’t remember.
Another trick was to have a story my boys knew my mother enjoyed, usually about Albert, our huge, slobbery Newfoundland dog. The boys could say, “Albert got stuck in the pantry and ate an entire bag of flour.” Then my mom would say, “Oh, Albert, what a dog! What a mess!” They could tell the same story over and over; my mom always loved it and couldn’t remember that she’d heard it before, which always presented an interesting conversation topic. Alternatively, they encouraged my mom to tell her favorite stories. In Granny Can’t Remember Me, Joey hears Granny’s stories again and again, how Mom cut Uncle Jim’s hair playing barbershop or when Jim got a bump on his head playing catch with rocks.
We never questioned anything my mom said. When I told her James wanted to learn to drive a manual transmission but couldn’t find a car with a stick shift, my mom brightened and said, “My car is a stick shift, he’s welcome to borrow it.” Instead of telling my mom she hadn’t driven in years and that her car was long gone, I said, “Thank you, I’ll let him know.” She beamed, knowing she was helping. In Granny Can’t Remember Me, Joey knows his grandmother’s dog was alive long before he was born, but he doesn’t tell this to Granny, he just goes along with her story.
These methods, not asking questions, going with the flow of the mind of the person with dementia, and telling favorite stories, served my boys and our family well. In the book, though Granny can’t remember Joey likes soccer and rockets and dogs, with the endearing stories of her Three Best Days, Joey knows she loves him just the same. Granny Can’t Remember Me shows a boy’s acceptance and love for his grandmother despite her unfortunate illness. I hope the story helps other families dealing with dementia as well.
Susan McCormick is an author and doctor who lives in Seattle. She also wrote The Fog Ladies, a cozy murder mystery with spunky senior sleuths set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University Medical School, with additional medical training in San Francisco and Washington, DC. She served as a doctor for nine years in the US Army before moving to the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys. Her mother and father-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease.
Social media links
Author Website: https://susanmccormickbooks.com
A five-year-old in San Diego, CA was concerned about school lunch debt incurred by those households not able to keep up with their children’s lunch expenses. Wait until you see how she set out to rectify this ongoing problem that occurs in so many school districts. What a great story to start February’s weekly good news!