Learning to Share Through Abundance

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“Of course, they aren’t!” I can just hear people scoff when I post that statement. But then I hear the way they talk about the people in their lives and wonder…do they know what that really means?

We treat people as possessions when we get angry that a child is not “living up to his potential” and doing something other than what we had planned for them. We treat people as possessions when we insist that our romantic partners spend all their free time with us and never even look in the direction of another. We treat people as possessions when we get angry that our parents move to another state away from our young family.

Each of us has a life to live independent from the others around us. There are times in our life when we come together and work toward a common goal, a family, a job, a project, but ultimately, we are responsible for our own lives, for achieving our own goals, making ourselves happy.

When we choose to work in relationship with others for a short or long term, both sides of the relationship are voluntary. The relationship lasts as long as everyone in it wants to be in it. And when one person in the relationship no longer wants to be there, they are not monsters, they are not mean, they are not evil. They are acting in their own best interest and they should be encouraged to do so, even if that means we must be sad or hurt a bit while we adjust.

These things seem to be so glaringly obvious to me lately, but still I see the way people treat the ones they love and wonder what it would be like if we all respected each other more.

The possessiveness I see reminds me of a small child.

“My friend!”

“My lover!”

“My wife!”

“My parent!”

“My child!”

They gather all their precious toys around them, clutching in desperation to keep their possessions from being stolen away by others. When someone makes a move to see what it is that they are holding so dear, they snatch it close and holler, “Mine!”

Children haven’t learned to share yet and to learn to share, they must at first feel secure that things won’t be taken away by force. We allow them to horde their things and build up the strength to share with the presence of abundance.

Do we not think this will work with relationships as well? When I have filled up my bucket of love so to speak, I learn to share that love with others. When I spend time and energy in any relationship, I know when that person spends time away from me, they will return. I am sharing my precious with others, not giving it away.

My children will grow into independent and fully functional adults, that go into the world without me and bring back to me the new relationships they have built with others to share with me.

My husband spends some of his after-work time meeting new people, following new activities, without my presence. And when he returns, he is happier and brings new feelings and energy, new people, and new activities to our relationship.

My parents, while not right down the street while I raise my own children, have moved to another state and now I can bring my family on vacation there and enjoy their company on completely different terms than the way I grew up.

Possessiveness is only jealousy in disguise. There is no faster destroyer of love than feeling as if one is a possession of another. “If you love something, set it free…”

My New Little Friend

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Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

“No meat? No meat at all?!” I heard my Grandmother exclaim when I told her I was bringing my new girlfriend to Sunday dinner. Cary told me not to bother explaining to my Grandma, that she’d just take what she could.

“Don’t tell her, she’ll only make herself crazy trying to make something I can eat. And then what if I don’t like it? Then I’ll feel terrible that she went to all the trouble for me. She’ll hate me.”

I pulled her into my arms and kissed her cheek, “No one could possibly hate you. You’re too sweet.” I kissed her neck and nibbled her ear. “Mmm…definitely sweet.”

“Stop. I’ve got work to do. Call her and tell her we’re both coming on Sunday, but don’t tell her I’m vegetarian. I’ll just make do around the meat.”

But I had to tell her. My Grandma does not take “no thank you” for an answer. She’d be offended if someone at her table didn’t eat something and then if we explain during dinner why Cary is saying no, she’ll be angry that we didn’t tell her earlier so she could make something special for my “new little friend.”

Man I hate it when she says that. I’m 27 years old. Cary isn’t my new little friend, she’s a woman, with a career and her own apartment. We’ve grown really close over the past few months since we met, maybe a little too close. I’m actually thinking about proposing for crying out loud. She’s my girlfriend!

“Grandma, it’s really no big deal. She isn’t a picky eater, but she doesn’t eat meat, any meat. She’s vegetarian. She said she’s happy to eat any beans, bread, or vegetables you make. Don’t go crazy trying to make something special. Please. I just wanted you to know before we got there.”

“Of course, honey. You worry too much. Hmm…maybe I can make a vegetarian lasagna. Carol brought a vegetarian lasagna to the potluck last week and it was wonderful, but your Grandpa hated it. He told her too, right to her face. He said it wasn’t lasagna at all, just vegetables with sauce. He’s always been such a crab to her. It’s like he just loves to upset her.”

“Grandma.”

“Or maybe I could make a tofu turkey! I saw that on a tv show. It was so funny! It didn’t look anything like a turkey and no one would eat it.”

“Grandma.”

“What about pizza? Does she like pizza? We could make a bunch of pizzas and everyone could put what they want on them. I love making pizza. It reminds me of my Grandma. She always let us have a ball of dough of our own and my brother would eat it raw.”

“Grandma!”

“What honey?”

“You’re going to make a big deal out of this aren’t you?”

“How could I not? Especially when you’re bringing your new little friend to meet us for the first time. It must be serious!”

“I love you. Do you know that?”

“Yes, I do. I love you too. My very favorite grandchild.”

“Grandma, I’m your only grandchild.”

“Still counts! I’m going to make those little won-tons you like so much for an appetizer. Be here by one or your uncle will eat them all himself.”


Thanks for the October writing prompts, Writers Write!

What Are Dreams Anyway?

I’ve always been a very vivid dreamer, but last night really took the cake. It’s been a long time since anyone had to wake me up because I was thrashing or crying in my sleep. Last night, even after my husband shook me awake and turned on the light, I continued to cry. Every time I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep, the images returned and my sobs continued. After a few minutes, I decided to get up and get a drink of water but when I came into the kitchen, where my dream was, it hit me again. I sat on the floor and sobbed for a few more minutes. It’s been a long, long time since a dream has held me that long.

I’d been dreaming about arguing with my son and his girlfriend. She had brought more friends over late in the evening and I really didn’t want all those people in my house. I just wanted to be alone, but when I told them to leave they couldn’t because it was pouring rain and the road was flooded.
When we came back into the kitchen, my Grandma was there. She was just standing there in the kitchen in a white shirt and pants, not smiling, not looking at anything. I looked at my husband who was standing next to me as if to ask if he saw her. When I looked back at her, she didn’t move or say anything. She looked more like she didn’t know she was there.

I reached out to touch her and could feel her. That’s when I fell to my knees in front of her and put my arms around her waist, like I did when I was little. I buried my face in her body and smelled her and started to cry. Nothing was said, just felt. I missed her so much. I wanted her to come back.
That’s when my husband shook me awake.

This morning, when I walked into the kitchen for my coffee, it flooded over me again. I pushed it away and went to my corner of the couch to read. Every time I think back on it I feel that sob rise in my throat and tears stream down my face.

My Grandma was a big part of my life growing up. The cookie giver, the keeper of secrets, the holiday maker. We lived with her and my Grandpa on and off growing up. And in college, I spent a lot of time with her watching Star Trek and hockey games on TV. We didn’t always agree and we did have some pretty heated arguments, but at the bottom of it all was her love for me. I never doubted that she would always be on my side in the end.
In 2006, she suddenly passed away from Pancreatic Cancer. It felt as if one week she was fine and the next we were all gathered in her home, watching her slip away. I cannot imagine what she went through, and I cannot even fathom what my Grandpa must have felt having to stand by and helplessly watch. I was sad to lose her too soon, but not overwhelmed with grief. I remember feeling guilty about that. I remember sitting beside her and holding her hand, feeling her small frailness in my own rough hands. I remember talking to her cheerfully about what her Great-Grandsons were up to, how much they were growing. And I remember her last day, telling her how much I loved her and that she need not worry about us, that we would all be ok, that we’d take care of each other just like she would, and that we’d all see her again soon on the other side with Jesus. I believed that with my whole heart and still do, so I have never mourned her loss. I have always felt as if she had gone on a long trip that I couldn’t go on yet and that we’ll be reunited some day. There is nothing to be sad about.

What I have mourned is what has happened to my family since she passed on. It’s so strange. What I once thought was a tight knit extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins has fractured into a million pieces, as if we were all held together by her quiet strength and courage alone. We haven’t been the same since that day and that is what I feel I lost.

I have never before had such a vivid dream of my maternal Grandmother. In life, she was small, seemingly quiet and unimposing. She was the kind of woman that told you exactly how she felt about things and what she believed was right, without stepping on toes. It was so sweet the way she told you what was what that you wanted to comply because…well…she said so. I’ve never met anyone like her and suddenly I miss her more than I ever have.
Dreaming of her standing there in my kitchen with my family has shaken me. What was it? Why was she there? Was it a warning? Was she trying to tell me something I needed to know? Was she trying to wake me up to something I didn’t know was missing? Why does our subconscious work this way?

And the most upsetting part for me is that I wrote this yesterday and reading it over today, I still can’t hold back the tears.


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“Out of the Blue” Chapter 2 – Go to Sleep

Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

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Sometimes looking back through old calendars and journals, I get sad. I’m doing it because I’m trying to better remember the week before I was arrested so that I can write about our life up to that point. Memories are fuzzy, but journals…well, they leave the cold details of the dark place I was entering at the time right out there for anyone to find. I want to burn them so no one can see. But I also want this story to get out there, all of it, so I trudge through and then try to write it out so that it looks happier than it does on paper. So much drama in my heart and on my mind. I’m not sure I want to remember and share it.

I was in the thick of the toddler years of defiance. My boys were becoming their own persons and making sure that I knew it at every step. On top of that, they had totally different personalities.

My older son was 3½ years old, strong willed and full of questions, testing everything he could find around him, curious about the world around him. He was inquisitive, happy, talkative, and always wanting to try things.

My younger son had just turned two. Although he had few words, he knew what he wanted and always seemed to be thinking about something. What everyone around him was doing was of no interest usually, unless it was his Dad. He always wanted to know what Dad was doing.

My journals are filled with what we did each day and grumblings about them not listening to me, or that they wouldn’t go to sleep, worries about Nikki, and my family. I had been taking anti-anxiety medication for about a year and wanted to come off it. It dulled all my senses, made me sleepy and added even more pounds than my birth control pills. I still wasn’t happy while taking them but at least I wasn’t angry anymore. There was this nagging feeling that I really didn’t need them. I just needed to catch up on sleep and then I’d be able to control my emotions again. I had tried coming off them, fell into an angry depression, and then reluctantly started taking them again hoping I hadn’t done too much damage to the relationships with my husband and children. There was much more work to do before I could come off those drugs. I needed help. I didn’t feel therapy was working. Feeling like I belonged at church helped more, and it was free.

I didn’t like the person I was. I felt like I was just getting along. I had friends and activities but no goals, no vision of the future. In hindsight, I wish I had realized at the time what was going on. I was right where I should have been, focused on raising my children. I kept going backwards in my mind, wondering what I was doing and where I was going. I was being a Mom of small children. I fully enjoyed being just Mom, why couldn’t I see that and relax into it? My children seemed to be happy…unless they were going to bed, which was when I had the most time to write in my journal. I did it to distract myself from the antics going on around me. I refused to let them cry themselves to sleep and they refused to go to sleep without me. So there I sat with my journal, my bible, and my book, trying not to let myself get angry at the two little ones unwillingly ending their day.

Evenings went something like this. After dinner, we’d begin our “routine”. We’d say goodnight to Dad, sister, and grandma. We’d enthusiastically climb up the stairs to pick out books to read. One for each boy. And one for me, usually a longer book that I wanted to share with the boys. We’d brush our teeth and get into our PJ’s, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, and snuggle down on the bottom bunk together. There was usually one boy on each side of me, kind of picaresque like. We’d read “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Curious George” for the hundredth time, mimicking the characters and acting out scenes. Jake would “read” the book himself, turning pages and telling us what each person said in his tiny baby words. Once those books were read, the boys would get into bed, one at each end of the bottom bunk. Neither one wanted to sleep on the top. It was too scary! We’d dismantle the bunk beds soon and never put them up again. They only used it as a jungle gym and it was just a matter of time before one of them got seriously hurt anyway. I’d sit in my rocking chair (the one my Grandma had and gave to me when I got my first apartment on my own), open the book I’d chosen and start to read. They loved any book I’d read out loud, mostly because it let them stay awake that much longer. We read things like “Little House on the Prairie”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “Pinocchio”. Sometimes I’d have to stop reading to fix a blanket or separate little feet from kicking. I’d read a chapter, close the book, and then the antics began.

I could feel my temper start to rise every night. One wanted the window open, one wanted it closed. One wanted to talk and wiggle himself to sleep and the other needed complete silence to settle down. We tried going to bed one at a time and it failed miserably. They didn’t like to be separated either. I wish I’d had more patience back then. I wish I had just taken a deep breath and let it go, but as I sat there writing a bit in my journal and trying to read the bible passage in my devotional, I wondered if they’d ever go to sleep. Many nights I just gave up and laid down on the floor next to them or in bed with them and went to sleep, only to wake up a while later and crawl into bed with my husband. I desperately wanted a whole night’s sleep in one bed. I really didn’t get that until years later. Looking back, I’m glad we slept this way. It was crazy, but it became a routine that worked out well for all of us. I laugh thinking about sitting there in my rocking chair. My memory tells me that I was frustrated from time to time but generally peaceful about it. My journals show a different picture!

What’s Your Family Culture?

I’ve been thinking about cultural customs and communication a lot lately. I’m wondering how much of what we do or don’t like about a person initially is more about how they communicate or the manners they learned growing up in their own family/national culture and less about who they are or how they behave.

What is culture? It’s the way a group of people living in close proximity have learned to communicate through words, actions, and behaviors. The family I grew up in had its own developed culture. And the state and country I grew up in had its own wider culture. Your culture teaches you what to expect from the people around you and what they expect from you. It makes people comfortable and able to focus on bigger things. When I walk in a room at a party, I know that if I make eye contact, smile, and talk in a familiar friendly way, people will accept me as part of the group and I can move forward with making closer friendships. That is what culture is.

The world is a big place with so many different cultures and communication styles. We used to only interact with a few on a daily basis. In the course of a regular work week, we’d interact with our own family’s culture and that of our physical location. It was easy. In a lifetime, the only time you’d deal with another would be if you traveled or if a foreigner came to your area. In those instances, you’d have to learn about what was expected of you as you traveled or that your new neighbor from China communicated respect in way different than you.

With the internet and social media, the world suddenly seems so much smaller. We deal with vastly different cultures on a daily basis. The pictures we see, the articles, the comments, all reflect a myriad of cultures that are so foreign to our own even from people inside our own country. We react to what we see from our own perspective, assuming that the person on the other end is posting from the same point of view when in fact he most likely is not. We end up taking offense and being angry, wondering what in the world has gone so completely wrong these days.

You’d think making it possible to see and communicate with people from around the world for free would make us immediately more understanding and sympathetic to others, but no. It’s made us angry and distrustful. Of course, it has! People say human is human and “a smile means friendship to everyone” but that just isn’t true.

The internet is opening up a whole new era of communication. In my opinion, it’s the equivalent of discovering fire, inventing language, and developing farming. It’s going to take a long time to re-invent the rules of behavior. Our new culture may be very different than any previous one. It may need to be based on a broader understanding of human nature, braver communication techniques, and a penchant for really wanting to connect. It remains to be seen if the human race is up to it.

Survival

“Whenever you suffer pain, keep in mind that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it can’t degrade your guiding intelligence, nor keep it from acting rationally and for the common good. And in most cases you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination. Remember too that many common annoyances are pain in disguise, such as sleepiness, fever and loss of appetite. When they start to get you down, tell yourself you are giving in to pain.” — Marcus Aurelius

I never understood this idea until this past weekend when I had a chance to practice it. Funny how that works, I read and study constantly and sometimes I wonder why. Most of the time I don’t even have an agenda for my reading. My books, articles, and podcasts seem to come at random. But then, there I am moving through life, and I recognize a situation and think, “This is what they were talking about!”

I was in a situation this past weekend. What that was isn’t important, but let’s just say it was a typical family get-together. Anyway, there I was, sitting amongst some of my relatives in a restaurant when I began to grow uncomfortable. Too many people I didn’t know, too much being nice, uncomfortable clothes, I really didn’t know what it was. I needed a break, so I excused myself and went outside for air. I texted my husband and we went back and forth a few times. In the past I wouldn’t have gone in the first place or, if I did go, I’d have had an exit strategy, but this time I didn’t have my usual escape plans. I took a deep breath and went back inside.

My escape was blocked, and, in the past, my next behavior would have been to get angry or “piss on” whatever was going on, but I realized something as I sat there, I could choose to just “be there” like the Stoics said. This isn’t unbearable, and I could just let it happen and do nothing, not react. So, I tried something new, something I’d learned from the Marcus Aurelius. I just played along and watched. I let it all wash over me and away. I came home and described everything that happened to my husband, complaining as I went, and then went to bed.

The next morning, I realized that I’d learned something. I hadn’t left and made people feel awkward. I hadn’t lashed out and made people feel angry. I had listened and learned instead. I realized it was only me that felt any pain. It was only in my head that a tragedy was occurring. There was no need to make everyone else feel it. They are not bad people doing bad things, they are just different. We only have different tastes, that’s all.

I’ve been rather estranged from my family the past ten or so years. It’s been difficult, but I think things are changing. I think I’m finally growing up. Maybe the next one will be more fun. I’m hoping so. Family is too important to lose over anxiety and differences of opinion.