Oh For Goodness Sake – Stand At My Grave and Weep Already!

A friend recently lost a loved one and this song was sung (“Don’t Sit at My Grave and Weep”). It was beautiful, but I was uneasy with it. This lovely blog post articulated what I was having difficulty putting into words.

Full Voice -- Barbara McAfee

Death has been visiting my life a lot in this past year. During those times, I have frequently heard Mary Elizabeth Frye’s well-known poem, “Do No Stand At My Grave and Weep.”

This morning as I was lolling abed, I began naming my departed-beloveds in my mind, calling their sweet faces to mind and silently speaking their names one by one. This is one of the ways I honor them and deal with their absence. In the midst of that familiar ritual, I “heard” a distinct voice speaking into my mind. This is what it said.

Now, Honey. You just go ahead and stand at my grave and weep. As a matter of fact, you could fall to the ground if you wanted to. If there’s snow or mud, no matter — you can always get that funeral suit cleaned later on.

Or you could forego the suit altogether. Wear…

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My Future Self Will Thank Me

A while ago I heard someone say “Not replacing the empty toilet paper roll when you use the last of it, is a SELFISH ACT.” My self-narrative tells me that I’m not a selfish person, but the reality is that I’m often a low-energy person, and for me, “replacing” didn’t always follow “using up”. Hmmm… After reading this, I remembered it every time I used the last of the TP, and I found myself saying, “I’m NOT a selfish person, so I’ll replace this roll.” (extra credit if you noticed the inherent self-centeredness of this statement…)

So, okay, I wasn’t thinking about the needs of others as I congratulated myself on my selflessness. But I soon discovered a very nice consequence of this simple act: I rarely found myself without TP! That’s obvious, of course, but one has to be able to think ahead to see it. So, replacing the roll is being thoughtful to others, but also being thoughtful to my future self!

Recently I was reading about procrastinators and what’s going on in our minds. “Procrastinators have a very high opinion of their future selves.” That is, when something is hard or inconvenient or NOT A VIDEO GAME, I say to myself, “Tomorrow I’ll be more motivated to do ALL THE THINGS!” or “Future Holly will be able to NAIL the performance next week without having to practice this week.” (Note: when my chronic illness hands me a very low day, I can honestly and helpfully say, “I’ll be able to do this when I feel better.” That’s not procrastinating, it’s accepting the reality of a very low energy day.)

I shared this idea with my adult son who replied, “I often motivate myself to do some work by saying, ‘My Future Self Will Thank Me.’ ” Yes! That’s it! If I procrastinate today, I’m laying a heavier burden on Future Holly, but any work that I’m able to do today will make life easier for Future Holly and she’ll thank me!

This morning as I finished dressing for the day, I realized that I had made the choice to not shower today, but tomorrow. Then I did an unusual thing: I thought ahead to tomorrow and looked at what Future Holly had scheduled. “Oh, I’m going to be getting up early and leaving the house before I usually do. Saturday Holly will thank me for showering today, so she has one less thing to do in the morning.” Yes, for a person like me, undressing, showering, and re-dressing is WORK, but my future self will thank me for it.

Wisdom from Others

I haven’t written in a few months; just haven’t been able to do it.  At first I was tempted to say mean things to myself about it like, “You’ve done it again–started something, then let it drop.  You’ll never be able to follow through on anything.”  But I’ve become facile with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Revising My Self-Talk), so I quickly reframed the self-condemnation with the truth:  “For some reason, I find myself unable to write entries in my blog.”  “Not Knowing the Reason”, doesn’t mean there isn’t a very good reason.  🙂

Recently I read something about people who have “drive”; they just seem to be able to push themselves to succeed in anything they do.  “Oh!” I thought, “I’m one of the rest of us who don’t have DRIVE.”  That doesn’t mean that I can’t succeed at something when I have sufficient motivation, but I’m not one of the Few who feel the need to always be pushing toward a goal.  I said, “Oh!” because it hadn’t occurred to me that my character trait of “not having drive” was not a character DEFECT.  Only a FEW people have this trait (which, itself, can become a defect if it’s taken out of bounds).

I also said, “Oh!” because I thought my lack of drive came from my chronic physical illness (fibromyalgia) or from my chronic mental illness (depression).  Now I can accept that even when I’m well and happy, I don’t feel driven to achieve.  That’s okay.  It makes me one of the crowd, not the one who’s standing out from the crowd.

So what motivated me to post an entry today?  I spent the (slow-starting) morning reading the blogs of others who walk the paths of chronic illness.  I decided that I wanted to share some of their posts with you.  “I’ll just post a list of other blogs; I don’t have to say anything else.”  Apparently, I had some things to share, after all!

Here’s the one I read this morning that I most wanted to share with you all:

My Word for the Year: KIND

When I choose to replace my self-condemnation with acceptance of the truth about myself (without “loaded language”), I’m being KIND to myself.

When I choose to admit my tiredness or frustration with my family instead of yelling at them, I’m being KIND to my family.

When I choose to rest on a low-energy day, or to exercise on a moderate energy day, I’m being KIND to my body.

When I choose to forgive people who speak without understanding of the reality of my illnesses, I’m being KIND to others.

Thanks for listening.  It feels good to be back!

A Better Way to Live

When I got up this morning I was looking forward to going to the dentist. What?!?! Yep, I had some tooth impressions made a couple of weeks ago; today I had an appointment to pick up my new “night guard”, and I was looking forward to the pain relief it would give me.

I arrived on time and jumped happily into the chair, but when the technician tried to seat the appliance, it didn’t fit! Here’s what my brain did:

“Oh, no! My teeth have moved in the two weeks since I had the impressions made. That was my WORST NIGHTMARE!” No, that’s a little dramatic, dear. How about, “I was AFRAID this would happen!” Better, but still fraught with negativity. Okay, here it is: “I knew this was a possibility.” Yes. That’s a simple declaration of the truth.

The technician sent for the dentist to assess the problem and I told him, “I think my teeth have moved since the impressions were taken; I knew that would be a possibility.”

He goes into “mystery-solving mode” and, looking at the little model in his hand, declares, “This isn’t YOUR mouth!” Huh? Apparently the lab had mixed up the models and had made the appliance using the wrong impressions. I say to the dentist with a chuckle, “Well, THIS wasn’t on my list of possibilities!”

Of course they have to send it back to the lab for a do-over and I’ll have to wait another week or so; the dentist apologized for the inconvenience, but I said, “Now I have a STORY!”

After scheduling another appointment with the receptionist, she said to me, “Thank you for being so good-natured and flexible about this.” What a nice thing to say! And I replied, “It’s just a better way to live.”

The Gift of Uke Camp

I just got back from a long weekend at Uke Camp in Port Townsend, WA.  It’s a lovely place, with lovely people, and inspiring music.  I thought I’d share some of the strategies that I put into place before going, and some things I learned while I was there.

First, I adjusted my expectations:

  • I had been to a similar workshop in the same place (remember Blues Camp?), but I’d never been to Uke Camp before.  I needed to accept that there would be differences and I chose to accept those differences as “gifts” instead of saying, “That’s not the way we do it a Blues Camp.”
  • One of the best parts of Blues Camp is the wonderful community of musicians that I’ve come to know well.  This would be a new, different, community and I had to let go of expectations (good or bad or weird) about what they’d be like.
  • Lately I’ve been trying to cultivate a “mindful mindset” and I chose to bring that mindset to this new experience and wait to see what happens.
  • I had chosen to go to this camp specifically to take classes from two great ukulele players, but I needed to let go of expectations that I would have an EXCELLENT experience in those classes.  My job was to choose well and to accept what I’m given.
  • I also chose to be open to new teachers and new ways of playing my ukulele; maybe I’d find a new unexpected joy with my instrument.

These attitude adjustments were very helpful and it turns out that I LOVE Uke Camp!  The community was different but people who choose to play the ukulele are a special breed, very positive, happy, and fun.  A big surprise was having a Happy Hour Piano Bar/open mike every day.  Lovely!

Now for those “unexpected gifts” that I’d been open to receive:

  • There were several people that I knew already from Blues Camp, so I didn’t feel like a stranger at first.
  • I made a new GREAT friend the first night and I hung out with her all week.  People were surprised to hear that we weren’t already old friends because we seemed so comfortable with each other.
  • The teachers that I came to study with were very good and I picked up some new “old” songs to add to my repertoire, but I learned much from some of the other teachers as well, especially Stu (what I learned from Stu will be my next post, I promise).
  • Port Townsend is beautiful in the summer (Blues Camp) but also really great in the Fall!  And Stu helped me to be mindful and savor that beauty.
  • I especially learned new ways to LEARN on my uke and other instruments, and that will serve me well all year.

To paraphrase my toddler grandson, “Hip, hip, hooray for Uke Camp!”

One Day at a Time for the Rest of My Life

“Repetition is the only form of permanence that nature can achieve.” — George Santayana

When I entered “recovery rooms”, I heard, “You’ll have to abstain from using your substance for the rest of your life.”  But they also told me, “You only have to abstain for the next 24 hours.”  Huh?  At first that seemed like a contradiction, but I’ve learned that really deep truths often present themselves as contradictions; paradoxes, if you will.

Insanity has been defined as this:  “Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results”.  If what I’d been doing had got me in the (bad) place I was, then I’d better learn some new ways of “doing”–and QUICK!   The flip side is that if I find something that works, KEEP ON DOING IT!

Thus for me, any “permanent recovery” will come from doing DAILY the things that work, and choosing to not do the things that don’t work.

In recovery, “Permanent” means “One Day at a Time”.  It means that I have HOPE for the long term, but I only have to do the WORK of today.  Long term hope gives me courage; doing today’s work keeps my life manageable.

For today I will ask for long term hope, and daily strength.

Hope: What is It?

I recently attended a recovery meeting where we were encouraged to spend a few minutes writing about various topics. I chose to write about “Hope” and what it means to have hope during difficult circumstances.

Hope:  What is It?

It’s the belief that today’s circumstances are not necessarily permanent. I may not always see a way out of my dark tunnel, but HOPE tells me that there IS an end to whatever I’m currently suffering; even if the circumstances never change, I have hope that *I* can change.

Hope isn’t just wishful thinking; it’s not living in fantasy. It, along with FAITH, is the belief that even though I can’t SEE it, I can trust G-d (my higher power, my higher self) and can become willing to do TODAY’s footwork, knowing that the results are in G-d’s hands.