It’s the middle of February and Life seems to be moving at mach speed

Life seems to pass along so quickly any more.  There never seems to be enough time.  At least, that’s what I hear others say.

Earlier this month, I wrote a piece called “Out of sight, out of mind” ( click on the link to read) and noted that we do not pay much attention to those around us. I have to wonder just how much can be attributed to the fast pace by which we make our choices.

I also wonder why we want to include others in our lives, yet do not seem to have the time to do so.

The question remains:  Do we REALLY want them or do we simply feel obligated to say so?

Life continues to move day-by-day.  One day, it will come to an end for each of us.  But time will continue to move on for those who remain.  Are we ready to deal with the consequences of having so little time for those we say we care about?

Time is ticking away at record speed. Quality time spent is so important, that we must make some decisions to forego the things that rob us of joy, and seek out those moments where we do not settle. Time will not wait for us.

 

 

Moving On from Toxic Relationships

There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on.  ~Zahn Malik

Over the years, people come and go throughout our lives. Friendships that once were close drift apart. We move jobs or locations. We move on.

Some of these friendships continue to be important to us. Though we may not be in contact for awhile, the connections never really cease to exist. When we make the occasional call or see one another decades later, it continues as if time never passed. Then we go back to our lives until our paths cross again, often years later, and for awhile…we move on.

We also have people in our lives from which we grow apart. We each change so much that we can no longer remain friends. What we had in common at one stage of life is no longer important, nor does it continue to bind us together. We wish them well, but then…we all decide to move on.

As we mature, we realize there are many friendships, which we can no longer try to maintain…that we SHOULD not maintain, if only to protect our own sanity. We know we must move on.

These may be with people who are extremely negative and try to drag you into their drama. Or they make you their scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong. Perhaps, they are unable to take ownership for their lives. Even when they reach out to you, there is a sense of blaming, control, or “woe-is-me,” and it has not changed in all the years you have known them. The handwriting on the wall. Yet, we struggle with knowing how to move on.

Because we care about these people, and once were close in our friendships, we give them chance-after-chance, time-after-time.  At some point, you are slapped upside the head and see that they are stuck in the loop of “same-old-shit-different-day/circumstance.”  You know instinctively that you cannot help them. They need the kind of help that you are not equipped to give them. You are not a trained psychotherapist.

When you try to set boundaries, they push back hard and become abusive in their language, blaming you for not understanding. They accuse you of turning your  back on a friend in need. Now you know that you must run as fast as you can to move on.

The only way out of this type of unhealthy relationship is to let them know that you no longer wish to be in relationship to them. They are toxic to you, and you realize that it is time for you to take care of yourself. You do it kindly, but directly. And then you block them from email, social media, and do not answer the phone calls.  You finally move on.

For a time, you may not hear anything anymore.  Life is peaceful. You recognize that your stress level is greatly reduced. You no longer take on their drama. You think they have moved on.

You develop healthy relationships with people who give you life, and affirm the value you hold in relationship to them. Being around these friends energizes you. There is reciprocity in the relational dynamic. You begin to grow and develop well-rounded friendships/relationships with people who who breathe life into you, and do not suck the very breath from you. You are able to move in similar directions, and celebrate life with one another, even through the difficult tests of time.

Then one day, you hear from someone you told years ago to not contact you. He/she reaches out in order to “move on” past what was. The boundaries you set forth a few years earlier are held in complete disregard.

The language becomes confusing, guilt-inducing, and the methods  feel creepy:

  • “I don’t know why you won’t call me me back.” 
  • “You misunderstood what I meant.”  
  • “I don’t think you understand what I was going through.”
  • Sometimes, there will be a suggestion that this is a return call, when (in fact) you have chosen not to call, but to ignore the attempted contacts.
  • Calls will come several times throughout the week,  late at night when you are sleeping, sometimes to your work numbers. The messages are nearly always the same.

All of these seem to be attempts to manipulate the situation in order to get you to respond to  with a return phone conversation or email exchange. You have seen this before, and you know what the end result will be. Nothing good will come of this, because their behavior has not changed over the years. You recognize the patterns.

It is not always easy to know how to deal with situations, such as this.  Each situation is unique. At some point, you need to be direct and say, “This is enough.”  

But when these toxic people start to resurface, what do you do? Do you entertain them? Do you call them back?  Do you email them? I think not. But there might come a time when you must discern what to do, dependent on the gravity of the situation.

It may require you to give one last message:

 “I HAVE moved on. Do NOT contact me again. Any further contact in any format will be considered harassment/stalking.”

You moved on. They need to move on, too. 

Until you let go of ALL the toxic people in your life, you will NEVER be able to grow into your fullest potential. Let them go so you can grow.  (LIVELIFEHAPPY.com)

A Conversation with My Mother

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of my mother. Today was no different, except that I talked to her today…a lot.

If you were able to ask her about me, she would tell you that I would talk to anyone who would listen. She might even tell you that she was a bit concerned that I was talking to myself, and blaming her for me talking to myself today!

Today marked five years since she has been gone.

Mom always told me to keep looking forward…“you can’t go back in time.” Sometimes, even remembering or talking about the past, she would call, “living in the past.”  We never did agree on that point.

I thought a lot about Mom today, but not only because it was this anniversary. I went to visit my dear friend, who has been in the hospital since last Wednesday. I call him “my brother from another mother.” 

I think that my mother would have liked him.  He doesn’t talk too much, and he has the same rapier wit that she had.  They both deliver those zingers like no other.  They may have become rather competitive. They would both get a chuckle at who could come up with the best ones.

I asked my Mom to put a good word in for my friend, and let whatever “Big Guy Upstairs” there is to find something else for him to do here.

Soon after I had that talk with Mom, he reached for my hand on the railing, and took it to squeeze it. Though he’s very ill and not coherent, he is still showing signs of responding to voice commands. A day earlier, this was not the case.

Having dealt with this situation with him, and losing another friend, Pam, to carcinoid cancer/neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) on Saturday, I am glad that I was able to spend some quiet time while remembering Mom and feeling her presence.  But yet…

Mom, I miss you so very much. 

 

 

Funk(ing) the Dumb Stuff on an Anniversary

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The longer we live, the more apt we are to have days that remind us of life’s events.

Anniversaries of things we would like to remember, or wish we could forget, will stick with us.  Some of us are better at remembering those dates than others.  Anniversary dates of birthdays, weddings, divorces, being hired or being fired, accidents, other days that simply have some sort of impact on us and our lives, both big and small, become a month, weekly, and (dare I say?) daily occurrences, especially as we approach our golden years.

Some of these days coincide with normal holiday seasons and, if the event has been particularly challenging or painful, we never look at the holiday or month or season quite the same. As we anticipate the anniversary of the event, the grey clouds of doom and gloom seem to hover over us, and we can dread the very act of waking up to face the days ahead.

We can get caught in a funk.

If this funk were the music of the band, Tower of Power (ToP), then it would be a lot more fun. But this is the kind of funk that sucks the very life out of you.

I have been approaching this funk for about six weeks now, as I foolishly continue to recall or ruminate on the dates, and remember situations and stories that take me back to April to July of 2012.

Today, I asked my sister, Sonja, if she knew what today was. She remembered, yet I proceeded to mention that this was the date four years ago that I was informed of stage 4 diagnosis with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs)/carcinoid cancer. He said the prognosis was “six months to a year, two if lucky.”

I cannot even begin to articulate what it is like to hear those words. It changes the world, as you know it. There are a few days where you are in a complete state of shock, trying to wrap your head around the knowledge, most of the time in disbelief. Then you have to move forward somehow. I did not know how I was going to make that happen, and nearly made a decision where there would be no moving forward.

But I did move forward and have now come to this four-year mark after diagnosis.

But have I truly moved forward?

My sister may not realize it, but she kicked me in the ass today.  We all need it from time-to-time.  She held a verbal mirror in front of me, and I had to take a hard look at myself.

“Yes sis”…she knew what day it was.

“I don’t focus on that though.” 

And then she knocked me over.

“You showed me to let go and never look back, to keep moving forward because that is where our future resides…You taught me to never fear the moment…”

At that moment, all I could think of is, “I did?” 

Inside, I felt like a fraud.

Presenting the image of having it all together…

…and asking others to see beyond their own challenges is certainly much easier than going through the pain of moving forward.  Even if others do not know it, because I can talk a good game, I know it. And the couple of people whom I let in to see the pain, and fear, also know it.

Thankfully, they will call me on it, when I need it. They do it with love, but just as directly and compassionately as I do it with my clients and students…and with them.

Yes, today is an anniversary. It has been four years since I hear some bad news that changed my life. The events leading up to it were painful, scary, and confusing. The months following were challenging on many levels, including my choice to stand up to a doctor that I did not believe had my best interest at heart.

But, I must let go of the internal hold these dates have on me, because I am holding on to the fear, anger, and pain of those days, weeks and months from four years ago. It has been insidious; so much so that I did not realize it.

I am alive. I live with neuroendocrine tumors. I have had surgeries, and more CT scans, MRIs, monthly injections, and blood work than I can count.

BUT…I am ALIVE…and my future lies in moving forward.

In the words of my sister:  

“…it’s easier to preach what we know to be true…, but difficult to apply to our own lives…Logic and emotion collide and we…are paralyzed to apply it…We feel empowered (however) to help others…”

I do not know when I ever taught her any of the lessons she taught me today. But she does understand me, and we are very much alike.

Today, I move forward into my fifth year after diagnosis. The future. And I am eternally grateful for those who have stood by me, understood me, and loved me every step along the way.

As far as the “funk”…I think I will take a lesson from (ToP), and “funk the dumb stuff” from now on…

© Coral Levang 2016

 

 

Mothers Day Lessons: Learning to say, “I love you”

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Author’s Note:  Today I wanted to share with you three things I wrote –one for today, one last year, and one from three years ago. Thank you for taking the time to read all that I share from my heart.  

I overheard a  conversation  yesterday in which someone commented on “the obligatory phone call.”  I felt a sense of sorrow having heard it. I understood the need to act like a dutiful child, when I  was angry at my parents and the rest of the world for dealing me some crummy “life cards.”  I wondered if the person engaged in the conversation would understand what I wrote this morning in…

 “Mom gave the gift of life”

Last year, I remembered the last Mothers Day that I had with my own mother five years ago.  There had been many Mothers Days over the years that I had missed having spent with her after leaving home at the age of 18. Having been there with her on the last Mothers Day of her life was a special moment for me…

“Mothers Day Without My Mom”

Each year spent without being able to call my Mom is a reminder that she has been gone for nearly five years.  I cannot say that it “gets easier with time.” But what I can tell you is that there is not a day in my life  where I do not celebrate those moments that I used to take for granted. It really hit home for me on the  first Mothers Day without her, when I wrote…

“The Best Gift”

I hope that someday there will be a sense of reconciliation for those who continue to hold onto the anger, sense of obligation, and the hurt they continue to clutch to their hearts. Learning to love someone in spite of the hardships is certainly not easy.  We are not even sure what that is supposed to look or feel like.

But when we look to find those soft-spots in our hearts, and reach out in love, however awkward it may be or feel, there is a peace that can surpass all understanding. It will open up the world to receive more love that we knew possible. It all starts by saying…

 

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© 2016  Coral Levang

Photo credits: Pixabay; No attribution required, Public Domain

 

 

Christmas Memories

This week, it will be my 61st Christmas Eve and Day on this earth. Certainly some holidays have stood out more than the others. Not all were filled with tidings of comfort and joy. But there have been several that hold some of my fondest memories.

I went to Redeemer Lutheran School and church in my first and second grade years. I was five when I started first grade, never going to Kindergarten.

We put on a Nativity pageant, and that first year in 1960, four months after turning five, I was the angel. With my celestial attire of a white cotton sheet, and wire hanger wings and halo wrapped in tinsel garland, I delivered my first lines on stage: “Unto you a child is born.”

There were a couple of childhood years that were magical, and were my favorites–Childhood Christmas Memories from the Early 1960s. Being a “big sister,” to my first sister, Sonja, was part of the magic for me. She arrived in 1962.

Christmas 1965 was one of the years that I was on the Lawrence Welk Christmas show. Thanks to YouTube, I can watch this clip and see my father, brother, sister and I. There are glimpses of a family still intact. Even though I knew the “truth” about Santa, I still see wonder and joy in my 10-year-old face.

My daughter was born in September 1975. I had very little money. I bought her these two little cloth dolls–boy and girl–that were the closest thing I could afford to a Raggedy Ann and Andy. By 1978 they were so raggedy, and had been washed so many times, they were lifeless. But oh, how she loved them, nearly as much as I loved her.

Sometime in the 1980s, I went back to California to visit around the holidays. Ours had been a tense relationship over the years.  That one year, she asked me if I had been to “Candy Cane Lane.”  I was not quite sure what she meant, but we got into the car–just the two of us–and she drove around for us to look at the Christmas light displays in and around our area. It was one of the most magical moments I remember having with my mother in our adult years.

Christmas 1999/New Years 2000 was the season I went to England and Scotland with a backpack and stayed in youth hostels. It was probably one of my favorite Christmases ever! I was in Glasgow for Christmas Eve, and Perth, for New Years Eve. I spent nearly three weeks with strangers, and it was the most fun I think I ever had during the holidays.

Christmas 2001 was special because of a reconciliation. It was the first Christmas spent with my grandchildren, who were nearly five and two years of age at that time. I will never forget the feeling of my grandson crawling up on my lap that first Christmas. We have all missed out on so much, and I pray that more reconciliation will allow the special bonds of family to be renewed one day. But I will never forget having that magical moment

Christmas and New Years 2006/7 was the holiday I spent with my friend, Julitta, and her husband, Per-Erik, visiting them in Sweden. I arrived early in the month so I could be there to celebrate Julitta’s fiftieth birthday. I lived in Sweden with them for about five weeks, and we made so many memories. It was probably one of the best five weeks of my life. They truly are my Swedish “family.” (Julitta is from Poland; Per-Erik is a Swede.)

This year, amidst life’s challenges that seem to face so many of us, let us all find some joy and memory-making moments in this season.

I look forward to telling you of those special moments soon!!

 

 

 

 

Mirror, Mirror…

pretty-woman-635258_640I remember a wise person in my lifetime who said, “When you have an extreme reaction to or dislike for a person, where you find it necessary to let others know how much you despise him or her, it usually means that you see something in that person that reminds you of yourself.”

When I first heard those words in my early adult years, I vehemently denied that to be true. Truth be told, I had a few choice words about the one I now consider to be a sage, decades later.

I saw this person as “full of self,” and showed my righteous indignation with my relentless “How DARE (fill-in-the-blank)?” I continued to tell my story of how I was wronged to anyone who would listen. Of course, it was always from my perspective, as I pointed out each and every flaw of my nemesis.

It was my own ego that kept me telling this story–and others like it as I saw myself as a victim–over-and-over again.

As I continue to learn and have shared this similar lesson with others, I admit that I can now better appreciate the wisdom shared with me decades ago, and wish that I had been willing to get to know this person. I would have spared myself many other uncomfortable life’s lessons, if only I had been willing to seek to truly understand more.

There will always be times when we will hear words that seem harsh to us, especially when challenged to take an honest look at a situation. Of course, we all come to these moments from a perception that has been framed by our own individual experiences in life…just as others do.

But just as we look at others with the judgment we can so quickly dole out, we must be willing to look in the mirror and concern ourselves with what it is in the reflection that is so similar to what we say we dislike in another.

Once we can look in that mirror without the anger, and begin to own what we see and learn to be kinder to ourselves, we may find that there are more opportunities to learn and grow from others who are much like us.

When Thanksgiving Day Changes

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We all have expectations of what the Thanksgiving holidays are meant to be.

Media has certainly played a big part in creating what the “perfect ” day is supposed to be.  So, when the situations in life are less than Hallmark-perfect, the feelings of loss or being “less than” can eat away at the very core of what we have come to believe is normal.

I have had many share with me over the years that they feel that “the joy of holidays has disappeared.” I am convinced that this is not uncommon. There are simply those who retreat for a few days, allowing others to believe that they are busy and happy.

Things change. Family dynamics change. People struggle to change with them, not knowing how to do things differently. They are thrown into a tailspin and nothing resembles what was or what is “supposed” to be.

I have had many years of Thanksgivings to learn to do things differently. Many of them have been fun, and filled with much love and peace. Yet, I still have not learned how to manage them well.

Life has changed drastically for family members and friends that they are learning to deal with their own expectations of what holidays and life truly mean. I suppose that I had talked myself into believing that some situations would go back to what they once were long ago. But that is my own version of what I was taught to believe today should bring.

Today, I will not host a Thanksgiving dinner. There are no definitive holiday plans or invitations to join any one else in a celebration of the holiday, or to help them in hosting such an event. Today will be like any other day.

There is not a moment where we are not surrounded with the commercial visions of sugarplums and Santa and Norman Rockwell-inspired visions of family gatherings.

Wait!  Sugarplums and Santa?  Aren’t we still talking about Thanksgiving? I am confused. Halloween to New Years becomes such a blur when Christmas decorations are being sold in October.

Anyone of us can fall into a pit melancholy, hurt and pain. We can feel slighted for not getting invitations. We may feel discarded by those who “should” (fill-in-the-blank).

I admit that I have fallen into that pit a time or two over the years.

Yet, I have learned that every day can be a day of thanksgiving, whether or not it is filled with turkey and stuffing, and pumpkin pie while watching football games with people you may see once a year.

But who is to say that you cannot stuff a turkey with bread, or bake a pumpkin pie in July, if you wanted?

Has Thanksgiving been reduced to simply a turkey, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows?  Is this what it has become because we have all bought into unrealistic expectations that have been shoved down our throats by society, media, and (dare I say) dysfunctional family?

Each day we wake up, there is an opportunity to give thanks for whatever we have. Is that not what the words represent?  Thanks giving?

I do not know if I will eat turkey or pumpkin pie today. I might just have pancakes and eggs at my local Denny’s.

On Saturday I am meeting a group of people for a traditional dinner and game night, if I need my tryptophan-fix.

Yet, today I will reflect on many things for which I am thankful:

  • LIFE itself
  • People who have remained by my side to care for me since my 2012 diagnosis
  • Living in a place where I am safe
  • The few dear friends and family members who continue to make it a point to let me know they love me by picking up a telephone or sending me something in the mail to surprise me
  • Having enough
  • Opportunities presented to me when I trust in the process, others and myself
  • A new life born on Tuesday–my grand niece, Rosie, at 9 lbs. 6 oz.
  • Being enough

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For those of you who celebrate today, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with much joy and love and peace that you so deserve on this day and always.

And for those of you who are sitting at home alone, maybe you will join me for those pancakes at Denny’s.

 

For what things are you thankful for today?

Sixty years and a Day into my 61st

00BohemianMy 60th birthday was very low-key yesterday. I had not slept the night before, so I took a rain check on a lunch date with my youngest sister, and dinner with a friend of mine. I did not even get to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure.

I just wanted to relax without feeling I had to do anything or be anywhere. Is that a sign of “getting old”? Or, perhaps, it is a sign of freedom!

I received several phone calls and messages from friends and family. I opened my mailbox to receive a card from my sister in Tulsa, and no bills or advertisements.  This morning, I read messages and articles written in honor of me by several of my online friends from a writers’ group to which I belong.

I did receive “gifts” from some local establishments, so I redeemed these:

  • Birthday drink from Starbucks–Not only a drink, I had a free item coming for the purchases I make.  I chose a grilled cheese sandwich and a trenta-sized (31 oz.) Mango Black Tea Lemonade.
  • $10 Birthday Money from CostPlus World Market–I also had another coupon for $10 off when you spend $30. I purchased $40 of merchandise, mostly on sale. The total value (not on sale) retail was close to $100. I paid less than $23.
  • $10 Rewards Certificate from Eddie Bauer–I found a coral-colored tank top at the Eddie Bauer retail outlet store on the discount rack for $9.50.

I also went to Trader Joe’s to visit my favorite employee, Sally, and chat with her for a few minutes. She was setting out samples of their New York-style cheesecake with a berry sauce made from an organic berry blend.  I had two small samples. It could not have been a better two bites if I had ordered a slice of cheesecake (my favorite) from The Cheesecake Factory.

I bought myself some bright, beautiful sunflowers (5/$3.99), and a half-gallon (not really that size any more, but the big round tub) of rocky road ice cream from another store, and came home.  I watched some television, heated up some leftovers, ate ice cream and took a couple more phone calls before heading to bed about midnight.

I am the type of person that I would have liked to have had a big, milestone surprise birthday party with a lot of people, laughter, food and drink, and presents. Though I have never been surprised by that kind of party, I have enjoyed those celebrations, where I bring my eclectic group of family and friends together, for those who can attend.

But I am the kind of person who can find the joy in other ways to celebrate life. The phone calls I had with the friends and family, the messages received, the interactions with the people I met along the way at the stores, the conversations with customer service people in doing business–all of them–were all instrumental in making my 60th birthday a celebration. I even received a hug or two yesterday from total strangers.

I am grateful for this life, and for the people I meet along the way. It is for this reason that I get up in the morning and look forward to a brand new day.

Thanks to all, who made my 60th a special day.  Here is upward and onward to the 61st!

 

 

Fathers’ Day 2015

Today is the first Fathers’ Day that I cannot make the phone call to wish my own father a good day, or to have sent him a card. He passed away this past January at the age of 83.

So, I want to wish a Happy Fathers’ Day to all those Dads who set incredible standards by stepping up and being positive, encouraging and loving role models. They show their children how to be the kind of man that sons should be, and the kind of men their daughters deserve to have.

Remember that you teach your children how to treat other people, as they watch how you treat others.  They observe what is important to you and emulate that behavior.

I especially want to honor those men who have stepped up to the plate to be the “Dads” in other children’s (not their own biologically) lives.  You have taken on that responsibility, when many others have walked away.

And, to those single mothers who are both Mom and Dad, there are no words. You throw the ball, provide for, and love like no others.

Happy Fathers Day, 2015!