Monday, March 28, 2016

Refreshing and Regrouping

Nerves, frazzled. Lower back pain, incredible. Sleep, disrupted. Yes, this is how I felt several times this weekend. Caught up in the frenzy of food preparation, I obsessed while at work, and even in my dreams. You see, I'm an Italian, and this is how we roll. It's never enough. No matter how many gnocchi I made, as I looked at them on the wooden cutting board in my kitchen, I felt there should be more.

The Honeybaked Ham I'd purchased all of a sudden seemed so tiny, never enough to feed a hungry crowd. And what of side dishes? Were there plenty to go around?

My work week had also been daunting. With my new position as office manager, I've had to put out several fires, you see. When a phone call comes in from a patient who just doesn't understand why there was a specific charge on their bill, I must now deal with this, taking the time to pull apart their account until I find the issue. Or an irate patient who has a complaint. I've had to put on a good face, take the brunt of their anger, diffusing the ticking time bomb.

My mother's memory was rough this weekend too. Her dementia seemed to be worsening. I found myself snapping at her, caught up in how hard I've been working. Usually when she asks the same questions twelve or fourteen times, I'm able to answer them with poise and grace. Sometimes changing my answer ever so slightly, or chuckling a bit with her about it. But when your last nerve is frayed beyond repair, it isn't easy to continue to be kind.

My husband has added to the list as well. I love him, but let's just say, when he's around a little more than usual,( and trust me, he deserves the days off), I have no time to write, no time to myself. Since he puts in so many hours, he misses me, and feels we should spend every waking moment together.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to run far, far away and not stop until I was someplace where nobody would find me. Well, at least for a few hours or a day.

Today is that day.

When my kids were little, we had friends that gave their children "Mental Health Days." They knew when their child was stressed beyond measure, and would offer them a respite from school, keeping them home for just one day. It would work, because little junior would bounce to school the next day, all refreshed and regrouped, ready to face whatever challenges the day brought.

This morning I decided on such a time. No phone calls. No television, well, except for the blissful hour that I watch an episode of a favorite show. No changing out of my bummy sleep clothes: the too big t-shirt, well- worn from years of washings, and the sweat pants that are miles too long. Hair disheveled, face, unwashed. I am on strike, picketing in the quiet confines of my own home. I will take time to write at least a thousand words in the book I'm currently working on. I will eat something totally bad, perhaps a bowl of ice cream, and I will forgive myself for it. I will not have any deadlines today, think about anything that needs to be done. And work, what's that? For there is not one thing I will clean today.

We all need such a day from time to time. A mental regrouping of sorts. Young mothers are stressed beyond measure; single moms especially who have no respite or a moment to themselves. Others who are continuous caregivers for a sick loved one. They, too, are human, and in need of a break. Perhaps we can be the one to give them a few hours rest.

I don't think it's a reason for guilt or shame. I think it's a necessary gift we must give ourselves from time to time. And if like me, today is that day for you, I hope you enjoy the solitude, the refreshment that a time like this can bring.

Oh, the phone just rang. And it was hubby asking if I could look something up about his new phone. My answer: Sorry honey, but not today. Ahhh, the bliss.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hold on or let go?

Many times in my life, I've felt that I've been wronged. Or someone treated me unfairly without hearing the whole story, rushing to judgements that were completely untrue. Other times, situations that I had no control over would happen, leaving me devastated in their wake, scratching my head and asking what I did to deserve this.

I was married in my very early twenties to a man who the sun rose and set on. He was extremely handsome, very funny, and my family and everyone who met him, just adored him. We fell in love and married within a year. It appeared to be what I'd dreamed of since I was a little girl: the perfect man, perfect simple life, perfect love. Yet I had no idea what was going to happen.

Time began passing and strange occurrences began. The phone would ring at odd hours in our little apartment and then I'd hear the loud click as someone would hang up the minute I answered. My husband's personality would change drastically, and he'd come home at odd hours from his job, and make excuses to me--a very naive girl--about his behavior.

Then the day came I would never have believed. He told me he was leaving me. He wanted so much more in life. I was numb, betrayed, hurt beyond words. It had to be me. I'm not good enough, of course. I would later find out he'd left me for another woman, and that was the reason for all the suspicious behavior and phone calls.

I lost my appetite for a while, and depression settled over me, threatening to suck the life and joy right from me. Then as time passed, I began to heal, and it would take many years to truly overcome all the hurt I'd gone through.

Many, many years later, this same man, my ex-husband, approached me about our time together. He said he'd been unable to live with the guilt he felt, and the pain he'd caused. I granted him a few minutes to get "things" off his chest, confessing to me all he'd done in the marriage. Luckily, I was so far removed from him that none of this affected me the way it once would have. I only saw before me a shell of who he once was. A man that needed me to say that I forgave him. And I did just that: I told him he was forgiven. I let go of all the feelings of anger, resentment, hurt and insecurity I'd once held onto so tightly. I don't know if he felt free, but I certainly did.

There would be other times in my life when I'd heard about something a person said behind my back that was truly unfair. A person either that I knew well, perhaps a loved one. What would I do with this knowledge? I could choose to hold on to my well-deserved anger, after all, they had no right to say those things. Or I could choose once again, to forgive and let it go.

Bitterness and unforgiveness are powerful feelings.  We wield them over people like a huge sword, swinging it before us in an effort to hold people back, keep them at bay lest they hurt us again. I've never found any good in maintaining this stance. All that comes from such a position is a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, health issues begin to creep in, and you find yourself wallowing in well-deserved self-pity, which turns into self-loathing at some point.

What happens when we let it go? Immediately you are free of the bondage of what the infraction has done to you. The other person may not even know this, but you know it. You throw off the chains and yoke of anger, hatred, every mean spirited feeling that unforgiveness causes. You are choosing to think about something else. You are free to go on with the life you were meant to live, no longer bound or tied to thoughts of the person who once hurt you. Let them go. For what good is it to harbor ill feelings all of your life?

We may have to wash our hands of certain people who have abused us or hurt us in a major way. Some people are unsafe to be around. But at least entertain the thought of forgiving them for their treatment, if not to their face, then in the stillness of your heart. Because they, too, are flawed humans, as we are. They have their reasons for the havoc they wreak and the pain that they cause. But we are the bigger person, the healthier person, the truly free person.