The Butterfly Effect

Do-overs — what a concept. Unfortunately, life doesn’t dole out too many of those. Something good happens when we expect the worst, and we’re over the moon. Something terrible happens and we say ‘What the?’.  If we’re lucky, we get the chance to change direction, which may change the outcome – or not. Remember when you stuffed yourself dinner and became so green with a stomachache you had to ditch that Broadway show? Or how about when you bluffed on your resume, forgetting you’d be actually be expected to KNOW what you said you did. There are a million things, big and small, unimportant and critical, even tragic, that we’d love to wriggle our Bewitched-nose and change. Sorry, that only happens on TV.

If you ask any widow, whose love story suddenly ended or a parent who’s lost a precious child, if they would have cancelled the devastation those losses brought, their answers would be a resounding ‘yes’. But, if it meant they would also have to cancel all that went before, would any of us still choose to pass?

I think not.

Small things can have big effects. A tiny grain of sand can alter history and shape destiny. The smallest things can have the biggest impact somewhere we may never know.  Even if we don’t see the change, it can happen in our own lives, our friend’s, even in those of people we’ve never met. Scientists say that everything is interconnected. One single action can trip off something completely different in the future.

It’s been said that something as small as the flutter of butterfly’s wings can cause a typhoon halfway around the world.  Chaos Theory

In 1963, Edward Lorenz proposed that a butterfly flapping his wings can cause a hurricane somewhere in the world. Admittedly, that sounds a bit outer limits. But, by the 1990’s, physics professors, working together, proved the theory true and accurate. It can be hard to understand how seemingly random changes can effect the course of your life, but even small ones can cause huge changes in another time and place. Continue reading

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What’s in YOUR wallet?

I admit it. Guys have us beat in the travel light department. Wallet? Check. Money? Credit card? Check. Ask me if I’ve ever left the house with only a wallet in tow and you’d get a resounding heck, no. I don’t even take a walk without phone, tissues, reading glasses (just in case) and whatever else might make me emergency ready. So, when it comes to my purse, I may be just a wee bit over prepared.

“You always got to be prepared but you never know for what.” Bob Dylan

I don’t have a huge bag; it’s just methodically packed. Why do you think I bought one with so many handy zippered compartments? Okay, well, partly because the color was awesome but all those little pockets sold it. As often as I try to pare down, it seems to fill up without my permission.

A woman’s bag is a puzzle. Pieced together, each item reveals her personality. Toting only bare necessities might nail you as a no-nonsense kinda girl who keeps her car spotless, desk organized and house neat as a pin. There’s obviously never any expired yogurts in your fridge. One of my role models fits that bill exactly, carrying only what fits in the palm of her hand. When I grow up, I’m going to be just like her.

Then there is the gal who stashes everything but her bedroom in her larger than life bag. Shoes, every receipt from the last two months, a Tide stick, a mini medicine cabinet, nail polish and enough makeup to rival a cosmetic counter. If she happens to be a mom, add diapers, baby wipes, baby Tylenol and all things sticky to the traveling bottomless pit of ‘stuff’. This prepared woman’s bag, which gets larger with each replacement, becomes an alternate dimension, like stepping through the door of the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe. But she’s ready for anything. She’s just not going anywhere fast.

Handbags speak louder than words.

True to my Libra need for balance, I hover in the middle. Most of my bag’s contents make perfect sense, at least to me. Why wouldn’t I need two pair of glasses – for sun and reading? Wallet, phone, checkbook (yes, on occasion you need to write a check, right?), tissues, pens, comb, Purell, keys (complete with furry pompoms) and business cards. Then I veer off into kooky with a few herbal tea bags, some supplements I never leave home without, a phone charger, 3 or 4 (or more) makeup basics and on any given day, snacks for grandkids; nuts for grandma.

Maybe it’s my Catholic school training about “a cluttered purse is a cluttered mind’ but at the end of the day, I try to weed through the detritus. I pitch an occasional string cheese wrapper, unused coupons and completed to-do-lists. I reassure myself that I’m not paranoid; just prepared. I could stuff things in an even smaller bag – but why? Continue reading

Those Damn Little Things.

Pollyanna had a Pity Party. Just when I thought I had this grief thing down to manageable pieces, just when I thought I stuck the landing — I landed on my butt.  There was no big crisis; nothing I could say “Oh, geez, now why did THAT happen.” Nope. There was just an avalanche of little teeny things that crept up and smacked me upside the head. Was I oblivious or just naive enough to think I had grief nailed.

Boohoo.

I almost didn’t write this post. I didn’t want to burst the bouncy bubble of my usual optimistic posts but into every life some rain must fall and we have all had our share of floods. As I’ve said before, I might talk a good game but no one would accuse me of having it all together. That said, put on your slickers, kids, here we go.

Life is hardly predictable or neat. Each time we think it might be, things pop up, like a gophers in a mine field, and knock you on your keister. All the things and people that once made us so happy are the very things that can take us down when they are no longer there, simply because — they are no longer there. Sure, those sweet spirits will eventually bring only healing memories, smiles and warm, fuzzy feelings but until then, things can be iffy.

Trauma creates changes we don’t choose. Healing is about creating change we do choose.

This fall, It will be 3 years since Elvis (otherwise known as my husband) left the building. It’s hard to believe all that time has past, yet here I am, folks. Just me. And sure, I’m doing okay, or as fine as you can be after your life went off a cliff. Every person who’s ever had a rude coupling with loss gets it, boy, do they get it. After loss, you may be under construction for awhile; you might even need a few critical renovations. Still, as time goes by, tears become less copious, days become less brutally empty and even laughter sneaks back when you’re not looking. Slowly, you find a new normal but even then, there are always those days some dopey ‘little things’ pop up. They use their inside voice to say, “hey, remember how it used to be?” and then your new normal becomes a freak show. Now isn’t that special. Continue reading

You Oughta Be in Pictures

Hey, there. You know who you are. You’re the one smiling for your selfie, trying to catch your best side. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Taking your best shot has become almost as common as breathing. If Instagram is any indication, with nearly 300 million selfies posted, it seems people are hooked on the art of being frozen in time  — or at least in a photo frame.

In 1839, Robert Cornelius took what people consider to be the first selfie. To be truthful, though, since it was a daguerreotype, all bets are off. Today, we humans take almost a trillion photos a year and, of that number, it would be hard to guess how many are insta self-portraits. The fact that we’ve become a selfie ‘culture’ says as much about us as the world we live in. Selfies are also a pretty good indicator of how we define ourselves, especially in the eyes of others.

“For me the subject of the picture is more important than the picture.” Diana Arbus

Psychologists define ‘looking glass self’ as how we view ourselves more through the lens of others than who we really are. Considering the amount of thought we put into capturing our best angle or light, that kind of makes sense. But does the image we take in seconds really reap what we crave or increase our self-worth? I’m not so sure. I suspect a selfie story is as quicksilver as the mood it’s taken in. Continue reading

Life is poetry . . .

poetic-pen

. . . that almost never rhymes

“Read the manual.” Yeah, no. That’s really not how my right brain works. I’m more of a show me kind of girl. Subscribing to the ‘pictures are worth a thousand words’ schtick, I often put the words on the back burner. Dual brain that I am, they had to escape occasionally in essays, journaling and sometimes even found their way into poetry — or my version of it.

Since my husband died, I’ve done a lot of leafing through memory lane, which apparently was paved with a heck of a lot of writing, including reams of poetry. I wouldn’t bore you with most but this one seemed still relevant to the journey we all take at some point in our lives. Continue reading

Divided We Fall

There’s an elephant in the room. In fact, there’s an entire herd. Our country is divided in ways not seen since the Civil War and that divide goes past party, right smack into a giant morass. This land of the free and home of the brave has been steadily careening toward a constitutional crisis and no one seems to know where the brakes are.

Uh oh.

Yes, I know jobs are on a steady rise and so is the stock market. The economy continues its 7-year recovery. So far, so good. But things like incivility, racism, gun violence and moral equivalency are ramping up to unseen levels, too. The gaping crevasse of division has been magnified, in no small way, by the man whose very position is supposed to bring us all together — not fuel a growing turmoil. Under his reign, politics has morphed from that of my parents’ voting climate to a near monarchy. Party has become loyalty to a man, not the law or the values it once held firm. The aura of ‘presidential’ has become a myth as has national unity.

I am proud to be American and always will be, even though, like many relationships, ours can go off the rails sometimes. The relationship can get testy, make you worried and upset, but, like every family’s version of the drunk uncle, we accept it as part of a tribe we love. While we can’t disavow some frankly ugly parts of our American history, we are rightly proud of its multitude of shining achievements, generosity of spirit and so much more.

Your vibe attracts your tribe. Continue reading

What If’s . . . And Other Scary Things In The Night.

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

I suspect that Tale of Two Cities’ opening line is a pretty apt description of most people’s lives. I certainly is of mine. Drama has always found me like a homing pigeon. and I’m pretty certain that “what if” were among my first words.

They say worry is a relentless scavenger. It’s an insidious little thing that crawls around your mind, feasting on whatever it finds. And it finds plenty. At any given moment, your head is host to a whole variety of negative possibilities that ‘could’ happen. In most areas of our life, we’re uber reasonable. We’re self-aware. We can laugh at ourselves. We’re even pretty cool. But that worry thing keeps real peace of mind on hold.

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Swedish Proverb

Are some of us just born worriers? Does stress come attached to life experiences? Yes — and yes. I’m an heir to legendary anxiety. My parents were worriers to the max, and an array of possible disasters was always on the menu. Could it be that we, like many people, have autonomic nervous systems that seem always to be higher than the average bear? Studies have shown that some of our brains are more wired for worry than others. Great. We can buy a lot of stuff on Amazon but a new brain? Nada

Experiencing trauma gives constant stressing a step up. Been there, done that. Traumatic experiences reset ‘normal’, and raise thoughts about what could happen to the Olympic level. Once encountering that dark side, we can’t take anything for granted ever again. Going forward, everything has a question mark assigned to it and a panic button ready and waiting.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

I think my first wake-up call came the day I arrived home from school as a high school freshman to an empty house and a ringing phone. The person on the other end offered condolences on my brother’s death – but not the one who’d die a few years later. No, their call was about my other brother who, unbeknownst to me, had been hit by a car and was in very serious condition. My terrified parents had raced, to the hospital with no time for a note, leaving me in a vacuum to wonder what had happened. That brother today is a father and grandfather but on long ago fall day, trauma visited us all.

I’m no stranger to panic attacks. They’ve dogged me for years and anyone who’s had one, knows how it feels to have your body hijacked. All of a sudden, you’re breathless, dizzy and feeling doomed. Your heart is out of control and you think you are, too. But once again, you’re being conned by your brain. Oh, that brain of ours. Continue reading