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Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Sponge, The Thermostat, and The Wrecking Ball

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In every situation, in every “room”, there is a “temperature”. Not the kind created by sun or moon, heat or A/C.

With an effort not to be one to prejudge others, I have found that most human beings fall into one of the three title categories. “The Sponge” enters a situation and becomes whatever the situation dictates whether or not that is positive or negative. “The Wrecking Ball” enters the situation, takes whatever is going on and turns it into something it never needed to be; something negative. Often the sponge can very quickly become the wrecking ball. A pot hole to watch out for.

“The Thermostat” is one of the most important, and most challenging places to be in life. Not to state the obvious, but thermostats control temperature. If the room is comfortable, the thermostat is just hanging there being a part of things. If the temperature changes, the thermostat takes its predetermined guideline and maintains the comfortable temperature as closely as possible under any given circumstance.

Along my journey I have learned THE HARD WAY that being the thermostat is the way to keep the journey as smooth as possible. It is also most often the most difficult thing to be because it requires effort and a great deal of patience. I find that in my effort to remain the thermostat at all costs, some of my roads are longer than I’d like them to be. But at the end of each road I more often wind up in the place I wanted to be, even if that was harder and took longer.

It’s all about choice. I choose never to be the wrecking ball. It hurts me, but most importantly it hurts innocent victims. Even if it hurts those who might appear to so richly deserve it, in the end I have to walk away carrying with me the baggage I packed. I like my bags light and full of fun and great stuff, even if it takes longer to collect their contents.

LW

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Parenting Our Way Over Pot Holes

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When grown-ups are having a hard time, the kids suffer. This is an unavoidable fact of parenting. So the question becomes a) how much do they suffer? and b) what can be gained from it?

We’ve had to be brutally honest with our children about what’s happening to their Grandma. We, of course, were very concerned about them as we made this decision. We proactively decided to just tell them the absolute truth, in language we think/hope they can understand, that Grandma is dying. Many detailed conversations have been had as the process has dictated. I have learned to cherish my ability to think on my feet because often these conversations are completely out of left field. Over the last several months my children have been both WONDERFUL and terrible.

We have a basic set of easy to follow ground rules in our family. If they were actually followed, life would be great for all of us. A short list: we don’t lie, we don’t steal, we don’t hit each other (but we learn how to defend/control situations), we pick up after ourselves (oh, to dream..), we don’t care what color a person’s skin, their choice of faith, etc. The earth does not swallow garbage, we use manners…OK, not really a “short” list, but you get the idea.

Today my son put his knee through the bathroom door–“brothers” thing. But absolutely not typical of this child. Last week, my other son left his bike in the driveway right behind a vehicle and someone backed over it. HELLO! How long has that been a rule?! Under ordinary circumstances, these offenses have some appropriate consequences–not overboard, just swift & just. We believe consistancy is a very important part of this.

So it boils down to the pot holes in the road we’re on. When you have no choice but to drive over a lot of big pot holes, you do certain things differently until you get back on level ground.

“Door hole” was a tearful conversation and “clean your hog sty of a room”. AND a phone call to Dad letting him know I have taken care of the situation. 😉 Bike was replace within 2 days and that one’s room is so bad he can’t sleep in there. Not quite how we drive on smooth pavement, but when we’re on the pot holes, we hang on tight and try not to break anything or bump into each other. So that covers a) how much do they suffer?

As for b) what can be gained from it? We know that our sons are living something they’re going to remember forever. We hope that one of the things they’ll remember is some of the really honest CONVERSATIONS we’ve had WITH them, the time we’ve taken to spend together when we can, and that we lightened up on them when times were tough and it was called for. We gave them room to be human. That’s got to count for something.

There will be smooth road again…and the rules of the road will apply.

A reason for everything…

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As I navigate the many roads of my journey through this amazing life, there are certain principles that keep me going when I get weary. One of those is my own personal belief that absolutely every moment of our lives happens for a reason. This is NOT to analyze whether our lives are completely planned from the beginning, or totally random chance, or somewhere in between. But only to say that there is nothing insignificant, even though at times it may seem so.

I believe so deeply in this principle that faith in it now ALMOST comes to me innately–almost.

Lately my journey has been rooted in the true process of life. I have trained myself to KNOW with absolute certainty that if we’re among the fortunate, our lives do ultimately have a process–we are created, we are born, we are children, young adults, adults, middle aged, retired, elderly, & eventually we pass on to something bigger and better. In the sorrow of the end, we find joy in looking back over the process and remembering all the wonderful things that have made up the life.

But sometimes there is a “monkey wrench”–a breath stealing monkey wrench to remind us that each and every person’s process is different and no two play out the same way. We can’t get passive with life. Our life is for us to live, not to be a life that “lives us”. We navigate the universe with very little control over it’s breadth and scope and depth. Strength is in knowing that we are proactively living it. In so doing, we avoid the feelings of powerlessness that come with the rocky parts of the journey.

I thought I had a handle on this leg of the journey. But the proverbial monkey wrench lands and a new road in the journey suddenly opens. I find that I am stronger than I thought I was. The energy that flows through family and friendship contains a life force all it’s own. And so the journey continues…

Living With Dying/The 7-Year Cycles of Life

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I never cease to be awed by what we can absorb from almost any circumstance. I’ve been reading about the 7-year cycles of life. Last month I turned 42 and it occurred to me that I have come to the last year of a 7-year cycle. The sixth 7-year cycle of my life.

The 7-year cycle is a philosophical map of the life process based in astrology. The cycles are believed to be controlled by the planets. While very spiritual, this is not a religious view. Quite the contrary, religious views are integrated without regard to what, specifically, they are. They are a part of the life experiences that shape the individual in any particular cycle. Alas, I digress…

Living with a dying person is probably high on the list of most people’s worst fears. It certainly was high on mine; still is! As hard as you can possibly imagine it to be, you wind up wishing it was that easy. If you do not grow from the experience, if you let it take you down rather than lift you up, you are missing one of the most amazing miracles of life.

I can only surmise that determination makes the difference. Whatever you, yourself, determine that you will be, you will become exactly that. Be determined to grow, and learn, and change. If you do that, you can live with dying and create something of real-life, lasting value.

If you or someone you love is living with a dying person, “Gone From My Sight” by Barbara Karnes is HIGHLY recommended reading. A very easy read, and extremely enlightening. Any hospital or hospice should have them and give them to you at no charge. Step outside of the multitude of practical difficulies in this leg of your journey and open yourself to the fact that dying truly is a part of living. It WILL help you struggle less through yet another day, a scary day, an insane day.

Tying it all together. By understanding the 7-year cycles and how we evolve throughout LIFE based upon what takes place during these crucial 7-year blocks of time, we better understand the process of life that leads to DEATH. We can better relate to the life experiences of our dying loved one–of all our loved ones. We gain perspective, and therefore strength, to come out the other side BETTER, not worse, for having lived it.

The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the power of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness. (Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science)

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