Not So Happy Holidays

Well, we have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, now all eyes are looking toward the New Year and the promise of new beginnings. Some will look upon the end of the holiday season with a sadness, a realization that the magic of the season has left along with the clearance-priced ornaments, Christmas cards and the ever-present box of chocolates. Others will welcome an end to the forced cheerfulness, the endless demands of the holiday season, including but not limited to Black Friday shopping, the unspoken expectation that everything must be FESTIVE and everyone should be DELIRIOUS WITH HAPPINESS. You must get the perfect gift, sit alongside family members you haven’t spoken to all year and do your best imitation of a happy, loving family. I think more effort is spent each year acting like we are happy, not alone or lonely; pretending we are immersed in the joy of the season, when in reality, we are immersed in a sadness that colors all the holiday lights a brighter shade of grey because everything and everyone is grey. For those of us who feel this way during the holidays, there doesn’t seem to be a place where we can just be what we are, which ultimately is some degree of depressed. Maybe it’s the forced merriment, maybe it’s the manic pace of the season, the never-ending demands of shopping, decorating, attending parties, kisses under the mistletoe and boatloads of eggnog or the over abundance of alcohol and sugar-laden foods or maybe it’s just the fact that we can’t be with the one we want, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the holidays always make us think of family members who are no longer with us, loved ones who maybe don’t love us like they used to, family that isn’t quite family any more. Maybe it’s because the real message of Christmas has been drowned out by the crass commercialism and unrealistic expectations set forth by some ad folks in some corporation somewhere. Whatever the reason, no matter how many, those of us who struggle through the holidays don’t stop struggling when the holiday season comes to a close. If anything, we may experience some tiny measure of relief when they pass, but depression is not a seasonal disorder; it is a year-round, take no holidays, 24/7 kind of condition.

My wish is for the spirit of Christmas (the real spirit) to burn brightly within my heart, be shown in my actions and be shared with all I encounter, this New Year and all throughout the years. Just because the calendar says January and the Christmas tree and decorations have been taken down, the Christmas music has (FINALLY) stopped playing in the stores doesn’t mean that goodwill towards your fellow man has to be put away, too. Keep those thoughts in the fore front of your mind, keep the love alive in your heart and above all else, love yourself, celebrate everything that makes you who you are, even if you’re not crazy about those traits. I personally am not overjoyed when my mood takes a trip on the Rocky Roller Coaster ride that only bipolar disorder could design but it’s a part of me; it’s not a curse nor is it a blessing, just a part of me as much as my curly hair and hazel eyes. It has taken me a long time to accept it, not rage against the unfairness of it all, wishing things could be different while doing nothing to change anything. For the best gift we can give is love; to oneself first and foremost and from that self-love, we can send it out to others.

If there is someone you haven’t connected with in a while and they’ve been on your mind, pick up the phone, give them a call and reach out. Chances are that they are thinking of you, too. We don’t know how many Christmases we will have, how many opportunities to say we love them, we are sorry or we just miss them. The smallest gesture can make the biggest difference to someone who is starved for kindness.

Thank you for your support, your encouragement and your love. You continue to make a difference in my life and I appreciate you tremendously.

Happy New Year to you, my friends.

25 Years Ago Today

I was dressed in blue, wearing a dress borrowed from my big sister. My engagement ring was my mother’s and my band something we picked up at a pawn shop. Our son was there, 6 months old, a testament to the fact that there was great love between us. We were so young, I realize now; not just young in our ages, but young in the naive belief that this would last forever, that we would live “Happily ever after” and grow old together, holding hands across the distance of our rocking chairs. We would bounce grandchildren upon our knees, having raised our children with great love and instilled in them a sense of how important family is, how important our history is and what our gifts to mankind will be. I believed that with the bond of our love, nothing would separate us, nothing could break us apart; it would carry us through all that Life would send our way. I believe those are thoughts any bride should have on her wedding day, but I also believe that what was missing from those thoughts was how to live such a life; sacrifice, compromise, constant communication and a whole lot more things that I still (to this day) can’t put a name to. I just know that when I have talked to couples who have managed to stay married, there are a lot of things specific to that couple that they practiced that made the difference between staying together and breaking apart. I had never really figured out what would have made the difference with us; maybe if I had refused to follow the expected norm and get married, we would have been able to focus on being parents without the stress of having to make a marriage work as well. Maybe if I had confided more in him, instead of trying to always appear as if I had the answers, I was in control and I was never scared or uncertain. I could maybe from here to eternity and it would not serve to change anything from the past. What I can do is believe that there is someone out there for everyone (not just one person, someone for every part of your life, some for the entirety of your life, but mostly someone to love and to be loved by) and if I am able to drop the walls I’ve built up to guard my heart, if I can be brave enough to trust that heart to someone, to risk being hurt, being rejected or worse of all, found unworthy of such love. If I can trust my instincts well enough to recognize someone who is good and honest, worthy of trust and capable of great love, I will find my happiness with another. But it is a great journey from thinking the thought and taking the action, making the change. I can speak of dropping walls, but I have no idea how to do that. Perhaps this is where the intuition comes in; I have rarely been disappointed when I make a choice based on my “gut feeling” but I have found myself in dire straits when I refuse to heed that warning/feeling.

I guess the main point of all of this is to celebrate my first and only attempt at marriage, recognize that it is nothing to fear, nor to be ashamed of, but as with everything in life, it is something to learn and to grow from. I did not plan for things to end the way they did, but I have a gorgeous, funny, smart, talented, loving son and the experience of being a wife and a mother for a few years. I have had many more years as a single woman, no serious relationships, no ties that bind (love that expression) and if God or the Universe or Fate or whatever decide that I am worthy of a second chance at love, I will not waste that opportunity. I will work to tear down the walls, open my heart and invite love in.

Perception and Passing

Scientists are sometimes pretty strange. They can be so engrossed in reality that they seem almost absent from it, as if they float above the Earth. That’s a bit how you feel about things, too, Sagittarius. You like to explain the world in your own special way, the way you see it and not necessarily the way it really is. That’s your secret. You know that no one else can see the world the way you do.

That’s my horoscope for today according to “glo” on msn.com. I like the thought but I believe that we all see the world in our own unique way, interpreting images and voices and sensory sensations. I always go back to that saying

Normal

I think our view of the world is much the same way; a hot, dry, sunny day in the 100’s for me is torture but for Sibling #3 (let’s just call him 3) it’s a picture perfect day, made to order just for him. I joke with him and say he must be part reptilian to enjoy such heat, but it’s his personal taste, his personal experience that makes the day good, not the day itself. The same way that I believe the high temperatures are at fault for my unhappiness and discomfort, I know that it is my refusal to adjust my belief that keeps me unhappy, not the weather itself. The very definition of insanity comes to mind – doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result; refusing to change ones ways, beliefs, attitudes but mourning their unhappiness is much the same, I believe. I cannot expect the world to stop rotating on its axis and time to stand still because I desire the quiet and the absence of the ticking clock to attempt to absorb and process the last few months. I cannot expect people on the street to not smile because I have lost my mother; the world cannot be shades of gray, the colors are still bright, the sky is still blue, the birds still sing and time marches on. What was in the past moves farther into it while the future unfurls itself slowly to me, showing me seemingly only what I am ready to see, what I will be able to get past my ego and my will to control everything I have no control over. I cannot expect the sun to stop shining, though there is a shadow on my heart; I cannot stop laughing for fear of minimizing the loss. I have to face forward, with the knowledge and strength this time has bestowed upon me, the experiences like beautiful gifts wrapped in roses with sharp, stabbing thorns. The pain is a part of the gift; it needs to break you down and empty your hands so that you may be humble enough to admit you don’t know everything, you control nothing and you are ready to accept the gift on terms that are not your own. That is when the growth happens, that is when the ego must recede into the shadows and allow the spirit to stretch and to reach up, seeking the light of enlightenment and the courage that only faith can bring. Love and loss walk hand in hand, along with life and death; we cannot ignore the loss but we cannot go before it is our time. I will move forward, drinking in the beauty of this world, the colors of the flowers, the laughter of little children, the song of the birds in the trees. I will pull from each day every bit of joy, happiness, gratitude and grace that it has to offer. I will live, really live, in the moment, in the eyes of another and with the love of my parents tucked safely away, deep in my heart where it glows and keeps me warm. I will live until I can live no more and then I will go quietly into the night, as I will know that it is my time to join them.
It’s always interesting to me the difference between what I think I’m going to write about and then what the finished product actually is. I love that about writing, but I hope it doesn’t make for a scattered post for you, my readers. Thanks for sticking with me and if you’re new, thanks for giving me your time and attention.
A Very Happy Friday to All!
MP

I am Anita’s Daughter

My mother has been my hero, my dearest friend and my biggest fan. She was also the one who was (unfortunately) the recipient of my rage, toxic mood swings, the childish behavior. She has witnessed first-hand the destructive powers of the demons that dwell in my unquiet, brilliant, mad, mad mind. She has seen me through thick and thin, even when I have tried to hide the dark times, the times when there was no light, no way out of the darkness. Her faith, unconditional love and absolute refusal to give up on me are the only reasons I am here today, alive and relatively well. Mom did not allow me to feel sorry for myself, nor did she allow me to use my “magical mad mind” to be an excuse for not realizing my potential. She could see the woman I had the potential to be, she knew the gifts that had been bestowed upon me and believed I had strength in me that would carry me through whatever life gave me, so long as I kept faith.

I have said before that she was the strongest woman I have ever known and that still holds true. Sadly, dementia came in with silent steps and stole her away from all of us. Slowly at first, leaving us with questions that had no answers, until one day, I was not recognizable as Michelle or even as her daughter. But even with that diagnosis, my mother remained loving, caring, gentle and pleasant to all those around her. We don’t know what happens to our loved ones who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or any other memory-related disease/disorder, but I prayed that she was in a good place within her memories. Now I know that she is where all God’s faithful children go, where she will be reunited with those who have gone before her. You can call it Heaven, call it The Other Side, call it whatever you like, but I know that all of the sacrifice, all of the turning of the other cheek, the prayers, the sleepless nights and the rosaries and penance she offered up are now being returned to her on a grand scale. She believed with all of her heart and soul that by living a good life here on Earth, she would be rewarded in the afterlife. I can’t say that I understood that philosophy growing up, but as I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I tend to think I understand a little better now. It’s not even so much about going to Heaven, but is more about looking within to discover your riches; extending your hand, not in asking or demanding something, but in giving. Giving comfort, giving the touch of human kindness; living by the Golden Rule –
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
That means when you see someone who is having an absolutely horrific day, instead of jumping to judgment *hugely guilty of that, I am* give that person the benefit of the doubt; they had a hard day, lost a loved one, found out they have cancer or just feel like they are unloved. Make the effort to put yourself in that person’s place and know that the last thing they need is to be judged. They need understanding, compassion and yes, even love. Not to say that you need to go up to the person and be all, “Hey baby – how ‘bout I rock your world and make you forget all your troubles??? but just to think of sending them love, peace, calm and acceptance. It sounds like cheesy, new-age goofy stuff, whatever. The bottom line is – it works.

I can’t tell you how many of my friends who met Mom told me that I was so lucky to have such a loving, accepting mother. They were not so fortunate; their mothers competed against them, made them a real-life Cinderella (without the ball, the fairy godmother and prince) or punished them for being beautiful, intelligent and kind. Seems like one of those Grimm fairy tales, but I have witnessed such interactions and always feel so sorry not only for my friend, but for her mother, who I think may be simply repeating what her mother did to her. My mom was a breath of fresh air to these girls and her kindness is remembered to this day. Not to say that Mom was a saint; she had a wicked temper, a sharp tongue when needed and rue the idiot who thought he could mess with her children, any of us. I remember her telling me that she had that same response when anyone messed with her brothers. I guess I take after Mom in more ways than I had thought. That fierceness is born out of love, absolute, unconditional and pure. There is no substitute, nothing can take its place; it can’t be faked, it is something that comes from within.

Money can’t make it, power can’t take it, hate can’t break it. Let us not forsake it.
Love.
Love is all we need.
Love is what I think of when I remember Mom;
Love is the legacy she left us all.
Share it, speak it, tuck it in your heart and keep it.

Mom was the best example of what true faith, unconditional love and a mother’s devotion looks like, lives like and loves like. If I can be a shadow of what she was, my life will be an absolute success. I will strive to be more loving, less judgmental; I will strive to find forgiveness, not only for others, but for myself. I will continue to learn what it means to be a good person and not turn my eyes when I see someone in need. I won’t be perfect, I won’t always bite my tongue or hold back those snarky thoughts, but I will make the effort. When it seems the task is too great, I will remember you, Mom. I will remember your sacrifices, your strength of belief, your faith in God and your family. I may falter, I may find myself off course and I may even fall, but then I will remember that I am Anita’s daughter and I will get back on my feet, dust myself off and keep moving forward. I know you are with me, your words are in my mind, your love is in my heart. I am never alone.