Thursday, May 2, 2019

On Mothers, Mothering, and Memories

Carol Fahrbach, my mom
Photo by my Aunt Corliss
1932-2014

That is my mom pictured above. She sure loved her Red Hat Ladies and all of their fun events. Yesterday marked the five year anniversary of my mom's passing. I can't believe it has been that long. In many ways, the night she collapsed and was hospitalized and the following day that she died seem like things that just happened yesterday. Though there is an immediacy to my memories of that time, there is also a remoteness. The passage of time can soften the edges of things if you allow it to. There really is truth to the fact that there isn't a day that goes by without thinking about someone who you have lost. 

Wednesday was no exception. The days leading up to that day were kind of vaguely hard for me. I couldn't really put my finger on why though. The best I can do is to say that I miss having someone to "mother" me. The last couple of days I have been considering how most of us need some kind of parental figure regardless of how old we get or who that figure might be. Even when our own parents are gone or absent in some way, I think we seek out the company of others who will fill that missing role for us. 

Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with some people who became "surrogate" mothers for me. For a time, I worked at a bank and had a group of older ladies that kind of "mothered" me. They provided different examples of mothering, ones that I hadn't considered or perhaps didn't think applied to me and my own mom. One woman showed me how to both love and be pissed off at her family at the same time! Another woman showed me how love is something that can be elastic and can overlook deficiency; her love for her wayward daughter showed no monetary (or emotional) boundaries. My manager at the time, also a mom of three older, married men, was the master of diplomacy. She seemed to be able to test the boundaries with both her sons and daughters-in-law just enough to get her point across. She was also the same person who "adopted" another young woman at the branch whose mom lived far away. They really were like mother and daughter. I got to see up close too how a mom's idea of the parental/child relationship can be unrealistic and that a parent can be disappointed and sad when those expectations don't work out. As a group, the ladies that I worked with turned their mothering focus on me occasionally. I was included in after work activities, events that included socializing at dinner, going to the movies, and attending concerts in our local park. I felt "loved" in a way and like I belonged somewhere. This all came at a time when my relationship with my own mom was still pretty good. I did find myself floundering however with regard to having "family" and these ladies helped to fill in that gap.

There are also times when I have received "mothering" from women who are older than me but who aren't moms, per se. My oldest and dearest friend is seven years older than me. She isn't a mom (to a human child at least, she is a dog mom though) but her experience is invaluable and when she offers advice or observations, I listen. Additionally, my oldest sister-in-law has been a tremendous help, giving me some gentle prodding and poking when I needed it most. Her support of me through a very difficult medical time (and at all other times as well) is a true gift and one I won't forget. Over the years too, I have had women friends who are without exception, older than me. I find that the age gap helps me somehow and draws me to them. I pay attention when they tell me things that they have learned over the years. Their life experiences help me to fill in the gaps that are missing in my personal education. 

As I had a chance to reflect these last couple of days, I know in my heart that mothering can come from a place where you least expect it. When my mom was dying, my aunt (her sister) came to help my dad at the hospital. Because my relationship with my mom at that point had been strained for awhile I hadn't really seen my aunt much over the past couple of years. She was there though at the hospital and was a tremendous help to me. My mom's passing created an additional "hole" for me. There is some extra pain I think, an added layer of grief that exists, when your parent passes and you haven't always gotten on well with them. My aunt though stepped right in to fix things. I now meet regularly with both my aunt and cousin (my aunt's younger daughter) for lunch. We are frequently joined by my other aunt too. She is technically my cousin's aunt but I consider her to be my aunt too. The three of them have provided some real comfort to me over the past five years. They are a gracious crew; no one says anything to me about past transgressions. There isn't anything but love and kindness. Every time I drive away after finishing one of our lunches, I am so grateful for the blessing of their company.

As I mentioned above, the old adage of not a day going by without thinking of a loved one who has passed, is very true. Thank goodness that there are other people who are willing to step in, whether knowingly or not, to provide support, care and love; to fill the gap that a loved one leaves behind when they pass away. No matter how old you get, you still need a "mom" or "dad" to help you along on your journey. Thank goodness that families and friends are there for us when we need them.

Thanks for reading, 
Libby




Tuesday, April 23, 2019

On Being Your Own Worst Enemy!


Pardee Reservoir, Calaveras County


This is as green as our county gets!

This creek was difficult to pass two years ago. Yesterday it was just a hop, skip and a jump!



See that little clearing at the top? We were on that ridge!

There was a profusion of flowers towards the end of the hike. A real treat!

That's me, on Patti's Pt, with the Mokelumne River and Pardee Reservoir in the background.

The hillsides were covered with all sorts of orange and yellow flowers.



Yesterday, Earth Day, was my birthday. I turned 49 this year, no mean feat! My friends, who are older than me, tell me that I am just a baby still. Let's hope so.

I also went on a memorable hike yesterday to celebrate, quietly and inwardly, and to see what I could do for myself physically and mentally. It was a kind of perfect day really: great weather, an abundance of wildflowers, and enjoyable company. In short, a great day for a very long hike.

Originally, I was just going to start out with my friends, hike about 4 miles in and then turn around without them and hike the 4 miles back alone. I hike alone all of the time so no problem there. Turning back seemed like a good option for me because I felt it would be too hot to hike the full distance of 11 miles. I also believed that 11 miles was too long of a distance for me, physically. Eight miles is about my comfort level for the weather and terrain that we have here. (Note that I mention the weather and terrain. People always assume that it is the distance that makes a hike difficult or not and that is really only partially the truth. Factors such as the weather, elevation, elevation gain and loss, terrain underfoot, health conditions, sleep status and mental game are all variables to consider.)

Anyway, that was the plan. Well, as they say about the best laid plans, things can change. And change they did! We got to hiking and arrived at a section of the trail that I hadn't seen in awhile. It was so beautiful. There were so many flowers to see already but my friend told me that there were more to come, particularly towards the last 2 miles or so. Physically, I felt good (we were about 4 miles in) and the weather was just right-warm with a cool breeze. Perfect as I said above. So, I felt I could walk a little farther. Who am I kidding? I knew I was just going to continue walking. And so I did. 

At about the 5 mile mark I knew that I couldn't turn back so that option was off the table anyway. That made me nervous. Real nervous. What if I couldn't complete the hike? What if some body part hurt too much and walking wasn't possible? What if the heat made me sick? Did I really have enough water? Enough food? What if, what if, what if!!! I can "what if" myself to death. So, I just stopped and mentally decided that whatever happened, I would handle it. Just shut up, and handle it.

All of the above mental discussion is typical. My friend pointed out to me that I worry a lot. Really? I think it is OK to worry. It's one way to work through things. The problem arises however when your worrying prevents you from enjoying something or worse yet, keeps you from doing something. In that way, it's possible to become your own worst enemy. 

How to get past it though. It depends. It's helpful to ask if what you are concerned about is realistic or not. Could it actually happen? One of the things I was concerned about was getting overheated and possibly becoming sick. I have had that happen before on a hike so the possibility is realistic. I was drinking plenty of water though, had on a wide brimmed hat, and was wearing sunscreen. There was shade on much of the trail too and the breeze was cool. So, I kind of talked myself down from that ledge. 

I was also worried about getting hurt and not being able to continue. This is a realistic concern to some extent though I haven't had it happen yet. I try to be careful and I use a hiking pole. Still. The last part of the hike involved a somewhat short but steep descent. Could I do it if I was injured? The answer is likely "yes." I say likely because honestly, if I broke some bone or something all bets would be off. But what if I got a sprain or strain or scraped something? I could probably power through that and get down the hill. So, I mentally worked past this objection too.

In the end, things worked out. I deliberately set the mental chatter aside and kept walking, carefully, one foot in front of the other, and as steadily as I could manage. For those of us with anxiety, fears can be addressed with logic and you can get past them with a little mental chit chat. Positive and realistic self talk can be a very effective tool. I am not sure how often people use it but in my experience, it does work.
  
I want to stress though that there really are times when your reservations about something that frightens you are valid and those feelings shouldn't be ignored.When considering whether or not to do something though, it's important to ask what is really real. A little "risk assessment" helps. All sorts of things could happen but winnowing down the likely possibilities and seeing how they might be handled is a useful exercise. When considering risk, remember that not every outcome can be anticipated. Taking that into account is a must. And sometimes things really are dangerous. I am thinking about weather conditions here or medical issues that might impact your outcome or you may not have the skills needed to complete the task. Those are important things, things that could be life altering. The rest of it though? Just mental chatter as I mentioned. 

What did I learn yesterday? I learned that I have nice friends who will hike with me and make my day enjoyable. Being 49 is pretty good so far. I also learned that sometimes all conditions converge to make a day "perfect." What a gift that is. And I learned that it is possible to turn your "enemy" in to a "friend." It just takes a little convincing:)

Thank you for reading and commenting.
Libby



Sunday, March 24, 2019

Even a Housewife Needs a Vacation!



Looking northwest, Point Lobos Park

Looking  northwest, Point Lobos Park

On the trail at Big Sur State Park

Looking towards the Santa Lucia Range at the top of the trail.

Banana slug!

Controversy! Could be wild morning glory or a non native invasive monster!

I just got back from spending 3 days on the California coast, down in the Big Sur area. Big Sur is south of Monterey and Carmel, maybe about 30 miles or so. I was actually in a little spot called Lucia, about another 20 miles or so away and staying at a monastery! The place is called New Camoldoli Hermitage and the men who live there are Roman Catholic Monks. They run a retreat/hostel kind of place where people can come to do whatever they wish to do, in silence. It's a spot for religious contemplation of course but also a place where a person can be quiet for awhile. There is no available Internet, no television or radio, and no talking on the grounds. I live in a small rural area that I thought was quiet and not busy. Boy, was I wrong! This hermitage is the essence of quietness and non busyness. That is a good thing!

Anyway, while I was there, I went to a couple of spots to go hiking. The first place was Point Lobos State Reserve, as shown by the first  two shots above. I also popped in to Big Sur State Park (next 3 shots). While I love the ocean, I really, really love a good redwood forest. Big Sur State Park had everything that you might want: redwoods, chaparral, bay trees, manzanita, wildflowers, and banana slugs! When I got to the top of all of the switchbacks, where the bees and manzanita were, I could see 360 degrees all around. I saw the ocean and then turned to see the mountains. What a treat all in one go!

As I was hiking, I must have greeted and talked with at least two dozen or so people. I was heartened to see all sorts of folk-people of color, kids, older people and everyone else in between. Good news I think. I have to say too that this was possibly the most joyful hiking experience I have had to date. I can't remember feeling so connected to my fellow hikers and being so appreciative of my surroundings. I think sometimes you are simply in sync with what is happening around you. And thank goodness for that. 

Before I left on my trip, my friend (and hairdresser) asked me why I was going; what I hoped to get out of the vacation. I honestly couldn't answer her. I didn't have a real agenda other than to be able to pry myself out of my routine and to go somewhere on my own, a place that I picked, and do something. I was kind of amused by staying with the monks and going to a service but that was it. I knew too that I wanted to hike, and I did that. Beyond those things, I didn't form any ideas of what might happen. 

What was the takeaway? I found that with the silence I was able to think a bit (big surprise that the Internet sucks up your thinking time and makes a bunch of mental noise) and to actually hear myself for once. I was able to do some personal writing which helped. I was also able to answer the question of what I was doing. I think that over time, a person can stop paying attention to themselves; can stop taking in new things that add to their own personal experiences. Those new things are part of what "builds" a person. If you are just focused on being part of a group or couple, or focused on working or being on the Internet or whatever it is that has you twisted up, you might stop "feeding" yourself, so to speak. You might even get a little lost. And it's insidious. It sneaks up on you. You might think that you are taking care to feed yourself well enough, but the truth is that you are probably falling short. You won't know it until it's a little later than you might like.

I will share one of the questions that I wrote down. Maybe it's one you might want to think about too? "How will I continue to form my own ideas about God and my place in the universe?" This question, it isn't small! It's worth considering. My answers had to do with openness and flexibility of thought. Keeping an open ended attitude towards both the new ideas of others and your own ideas is important. I think where many of us fall down is in our rigidity of thinking. How often have you stopped hearing someone because you thought you already "knew" about that subject? Or you stopped listening because you already had an opinion on something? I call this a general kind of resistance and frankly, I do it a lot. I don't mean to suggest that every kooky idea must be considered but you can at least stop yourself from totally shutting down and can then say, "Hey, wait a minute. What about that idea?" I think that in the long run, a willingness to consider something (even if it makes you uncomfortable or you suspect that it is flat out wrong) will create a kind of fullness in your life and that may in turn help you to form your own ideas and to see just exactly where it is that you fit in to the world.

All in all, I am just as pleased as punch that I went. I was able to make the drive which is no small feat considering the shoulder, neck and back pain that often plagues me. The weather was pretty great and there were plenty of wildflowers to check out. My room was spartan but serviceable, I had my quilt and electric blanket, enough to eat and lots to see. Not a bad trip for a housewife!

Alright, thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.
Libby


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

On The Soap Box Again!

COACHELLA Reusable Produce Bags Washable (10-Pack) Heavy-Duty, Recycled Mesh Net Storage Totes for Fruits, Vegetables, Food | Ecofriendly Toy Bag, Zero Waste | Sale Compact, Portable Mesh Produce Bags

When did shopping become a struggle in decision making? Part of going vegan almost a year and a half ago has been adjusting my buying habits to reflect my evolving morals. Not wanting to eat animals or to exploit them for my own benefit has morphed into trying to do right in a general way; trying to live responsibly in the world at large. It's very difficult because each choice that is made that benefits me also comes at a detriment to some other living creature. It's a real pickle.

Most decisions are a mix of good and bad outcomes. For example, when we bought my car a while back, I asked the salesman if the car contained any animal products such as a leather steering wheel. (It does not so that's good.) But, a car runs on gas (we did not buy a hybrid car) and gas is a petroleum product which is a fossil fuel. Burning fossil fuels  harms our environment by contributing to pollution, global warming, and tearing up the landscape (which affects the creatures living on said landscape) to dig for that oil. 

Here is another example of a decision with a mixed outcome. Most of us realize that plastics, specifically plastic bags and bottles, are a serious issue. We have plastic garbage floating in our oceans and rivers, littering our landscapes, and piling up in our garbage dumps. This is indisputable. We are told to reduce, reuse and recycle. Great. Super. I can get behind that. With those concepts in mind, I purchased some mesh bags to use at the grocery store. One set is made of certified fairly traded organic cotton. The manufacturers claim that the product is compostable. The product is also made somewhere in China, likely in a factory that utilizes fossil fuels to power its operations, perhaps underpays its workers and which is massively polluting the environment. Not to mention the fact of the cotton fabric production itself and that impact on the environment. Oh, and by the way, these bags were shipped from China and arrived eventually at my house via a UPS truck. But, it's all good because I won't be using those pesky plastic bags anymore to buy my organic produce. Or will I? The second set of bags that I bought is made from recycled plastic bottles. That's a win right? Yes and no. The same problems exist for these recycled plastic bags as described for the cotton bags above. 

I could go on, really. What do you do as a consumer? How can you make a decision at all, let alone a "good" decision? My evolving solution to this problem involves both conscious choice and flexibility of thought. Essentially, a decision comes down to selecting the lesser of many evils. Each decision contains some benefits but ultimately will affect some living creature or the environment. Decisions are not made in a vacuum and are not made without consequence. Here then are some things to consider when deciding to buy a product.

1. Necessity:

Have I run out of this product yet or do I simply want to replace it? There are still Ziplock bags in my pantry. Do I recycle them and buy better bags or use up what I have? I chose to keep using the bags as long as possible, wash them and recycle them. Waste not want not right? I realize that this decision may or may not impact workers somewhere that manufacture these Ziplock bags as well as the companies that sell the bags. (I am trying not to focus on the water needed to wash the bags either.) The other question that falls into this category has to do with desire versus need. Do I just want something because I want it or is it really going to benefit our household? Deprivation sucks and honestly, sometimes you do just want something. But by and large, I try and ask if the item is really pertinent or can it wait to be purchased.

2. Human Impact:

With each purchase, who am I impacting? In a global economy, workers everywhere get paid to produce, repair, assemble, fix or maintain things. They grow our food, harvest it, package it up and get it shipped off. Workers in third world countries are often exploited. Many are not paid a fair or "living" wage and perhaps have no chance to live a better life.  When you choose not to buy something, you are affecting someone. Not buying a particular product, even if the production of that product harms someone, might eventually affect someone's employment status. On the other hand, we are told to be the change that we want to see in the world. If that's true, we should buy from companies that pay fair wages, treat their workers well, and minimally impact the environment. Not easy to do.

3. Impact To Other Living Beings:

On one hand, this decision is easy. I don't eat animal products so that is good. On the other hand, I benefit from animal exploitation, which is bad. Starting with the medicines that I take, the glue that holds my shoes together, and the animals that get killed when fields are plowed to grow my food, my choices have a tremendous impact on other living beings. It's inescapable. This is the one area that bothers me the most since animals cannot speak up, engage in collective bargaining or walk off the job if they are unhappy. What can be done while striving for a clearer conscience? Knowing that there are some things that I cannot bypass, I am going to try and continue to do a few things: make good, better and best choices when it comes to buying something; be informed; continue to learn about the impact of humans and non humans living together and be consciously aware of my decisions while being as honest as possible in my thinking. Continuing to learn and to be thankful for the sacrifice of those that can't speak up may be the only responses for now.

4. Impact To The Environment:

We live in a rural area, by choice, without much in the way of shopping options. A lot of what I buy for our household comes to us on a truck, a plane or a train. I see that UPS has some clean air vehicles, which is great, but by and large we are talking about the use of fossil fuels. My initial thoughts are that these trucks are already out on the road. By not getting in my car to drive somewhere to shop, I become one less person impacting the infrastructure. It's not always possible though to have everything I order come in one shipment or from one vendor. I then have to ask myself how badly do I need the item and can I make due with something else? Lately, I have been trying to ask these questions prior to each purchase. I don't always get it right but the point is to think and to ask.

Specific Examples: Things to try

Where can you start?  I have 10 ideas that I am currently working with. These are as good a place as any in which to begin the process of hopefully reducing impact.

1. Use cloth napkins and towels instead of paper towels and paper napkins. Also, substitute handkerchiefs for kleenex (old flannel sheets work nicely for this).
2. Try switching out your coffee: fair trade that doesn't impact orangutans, the rain forest or workers. You may have to pick your battle here.
3. Gradually switch out your makeup and other personal hygiene products. One  thing at a time.
4. Buy dairy locally if possible, including eggs if you eat them.
5. Re use existing plastic bags as much as possible and slowly replace with cloth, recycled plastic or glass containers.
6. Use up what you have first prior to replacing it.
7. Consider whether or not Costco fits with your goals. I'd like to ditch the place but my husband thinks otherwise.
8. Look specifically for products with minimal and recyclable packaging.
9. Try the library. It will help to keep this resource alive and viable and will also keep the volunteers busy.
10. Turn the lights off when you leave a room.

It all seems overwhelming doesn't it? Questioning each purchase requires conscious effort and as I mentioned above, flexibility in decision making is key. Accepting the imperfection of choice is critical to maintaining some sanity. It isn't an excuse to employ sloppy thinking but instead a call to be more educated and vigilant. I hope my decisions are supported by logic and reason (even if they may at times be a little illogical!) My final point is to remember to realize that any decisions I make will impact others. Even if I make the best decision available, someone or something is still going to be affected. Be grateful for options and be mindful of others. It's the best I can do.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Hiking: A Matter of Perspective

Mokelumne River as seen from Middle Bar Bridge
   
New Melones Reservoir, Table Mt hike, Jamestown, CA

Table Mt., Jamestown, CA

Lake Hogan, CA

Indian Warrior Princess, EBMUD trail
Valley Springs, CA
I haven't done a hiking post in awhile though I have been hiking. Winter and early Spring are the perfect times in my area for lower elevation hiking. The weather is just right for being outside: cool, high 40's to 50's, maybe some sun and clouds but more likely to be overcast. This year it has been particularly rainy so getting outside has been tricky. It pays to have a flexible schedule so that responding to the forecast is easy.

The first pic shows an area that I enjoy quite a bit, the Middle Bar section of the Mokelumne River watershed. There are several trails there that are challenging and which afford views of the river and the surrounding hillsides. The next two pics are from Table Mountain in Jamestown, about an hour or so away from me. The mountain formation is so distinctive and does indeed look like a tabletop. Once you get up there, the views are quite wonderful and include some of the peaks of Yosemite. The fourth shot sort of sums things up don't you think? And the last pic is from a walk on the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail in Valley Springs where I live. 

There is just so much to see here and I feel so blessed to be able to hike around and have a look. Hiking not only provides beautiful scenery to enjoy but also presents the opportunity for thinking and reflecting. Just recently I had the chance to hike a section of one of the above trails on my own. Afterward, a new friend was kind enough to ask me what I had thought about while I was walking along. Honestly, not too much! I sort of just enjoyed the silence, listened to the birds and the breeze and kind of hummed to myself as I went about the business of walking. No heavy intellectual lifting in other words.

There are times though when I do work out things in my mind while walking or hiking. I think a bit harder. I know that paying attention to my surroundings is what I should be doing but really, my inner dialogue just gets going. 

Lately I have been thinking about the nature of problems, how considering different perspectives can serve as a coping strategy when things seem overwhelming. I love constructs, ideas or theories that are subjective and not objective. Constructs are how I figure things out, how I explain what I think and feel and how I sort out the reasons why people do what they do. It's useful to be able to build a theory and to make an intangible problem tangible. Here is an example of what I mean.

About a month ago I was told that I could have a problem. Without getting into what it is, I'll say that at first I agreed with the pronouncement. It does feel like I have something going on. So, I made a plan for getting more information about handling things. Hopefully I will know more soon. There isn't any real urgency though. It's not like having cancer or a toothache or some other acute medical issue where acting quickly is important. Time is not of the essence, so to speak, so there is the space to consider things. 

The lack of any time constraint allowed me to get down to some thinking. Can I handle things on my own for a bit? Is there anything I can do right now? The answer is yes, of course there is. I realized that apart from professional input, there is also the personal assessing of a problem. Thinking about the problem, what light to see it in, can be a matter of perspective. 

As a way to gain a kind of perspective on things, I have been putting an idea into action. Each day I have been asking myself some questions about the situation: Am I ahead of the problem, behind it or smack dab in the middle of it? I think this is a useful way of looking at things while you are waiting for other solutions to fall into place, particularly if you don't have control over those solutions. On some days, I feel like I am out in front. Things are getting  handled, I am taking positive steps to cope with things, maybe even get ahead, and every little bit of effort counts. On other days, I am far behind where I could be, where I would like to be. I accept those days and tell myself that tomorrow will be better. If I am feeling especially positive, I even look for ways to improve the situation right then. Mostly though I have my eye on a new day. That does help. I admit that there are lots of days when I am right in the middle of things. I can't see anything clearly, good or bad. It really is like purgatory in the sense that you are neither here, nor there. There are even some days when I feel that I am the problem. Those days aren't good. Again though, I just try to get some perspective by telling myself that improvement is possible and hopefully nothing is forever.

The above question and answer scenario is a construct to me. I love having theories about things, even if they  are scientifically unfounded, based more on my observations and interpretations. And I love things that actually work and this exercise does work. It's effective for me, a visual kind of person, because I can literally picture myself out in front, in the middle of, or behind a problem. My internal "gauge" tells me how I feel about things which helps in placing me on that spectrum of bad, somewhere in between, and good. And most importantly, I feel as if I have some kind of control in a situation where I am waiting for answers from People In Authority. 😏

My friend asked me what I was thinking about while hiking alone. Truthfully, it may be nothing or it may be something. My thoughts could be about the landscape, the birds and flowers, or my hiking buddies. Mostly though it is this other kind of thing, this "thinking" kind of thing where I am working on problems and ideas. Hiking provides a real freedom for exploring all sorts of landscapes, both inner and outer. And a chance to see if you are behind, in the middle or out in front!

Thank you for reading and if you have a comment, let me know:
libbyfife@ymail.com




Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Circling Back: The Ouroboros


If I were to get a tattoo, it would be some variation of the above image called an ouroboros. An ouroboros has many meanings that reflect a rich heritage of thought. The symbol can be understood in terms such as the infinity of nature, the beginning and end of something, or a circling back to the beginning of a place, thought, or an event. The snake eating its own tale can represent secular and non secular ideas, be culturally specific, and can have both an individual and group oriented meaning. The possibilities for interpretation of the symbol are endless. (Pun intended!)

For my own personal explanation, I see the symbol in terms of the circular nature of things. Through my own experiences I have come to believe that we are never through with things. We never come to the end of a problem or really resolve it for good. The same problem always shows up somewhere down the road, surprising us with its reappearance and sometimes its intensity. 

As an example, recently I read a blog post in which the writer talked about dealing with old issues that she thought she had conquered long ago. She had done hard work to get through the problem and so was surprised when the same issue resurfaced. The feelings surrounding the problem weren't as intense as before but still, they were there to be dealt with. 

My first thought upon reading her post was just as I mentioned above. I don't believe that we have ever completely conquered something. We never become our "best" selves but simply live with the messiness, finding a way to cope with it. Problems leave an indelible mark on our souls and in our brains and though we strive to eradicate those marks, they remain stubbornly affixed to our self conscious. I think that at the most, we simply live with the remnants of things and keep them at bay as best we can. And whether we like it or not, just as the snake will circle back on itself, swallowing its own tail, so will we continue to encounter our own problems from long ago. 

My own personal example of never being finished with something involves my parents. My mom has been gone for nearly 5 years now. My dad is still living but I have little contact with him. Over the years, especially right after my mom died, I did a lot of work to get through some long standing problems that centered around my relationship with both of my parents. Even now, I do this kind of internal work almost daily. I feel, at times, that I have done really well to reframe my view of things. But, I am taken by surprise sometimes when old emotions resurface. My anger and frustration are immediate and right at the surface. There is no build up or threshold, the feelings are right on top of my consciousness. How can this be, I think? I have made all of this progress with handling these emotions. Will I ever get to the end of things? Why am I here in the same mental space again?

I have tried to make sense of these seeming setbacks and the only way I can do it is by giving the problems (thoughts included) a kind of physical shape. It's almost like a visual that would be used in a meditation practice. In this way, I have come to see problems as being circular in nature rather than linear. When we think of a problem as being linear, such as a math or chemistry equation, we want to start at point A, proceed to points B, C, and D and then arrive at a solution. The mistake though is in believing that emotional problems are the same as mathematical problems.  They are not. Emotional problems are nuanced and subtle and complex in a way that science is not. They also involve human beings which are just not the same as numbers (at least not yet anyway). Problems are also multi- faceted and can be both solvable and unsolvable at the same time. In this way, we are never done with something, we never come to the end of things. A someone quipped, it ain't over till it's over.

The early Egyptians saw the ouroboros as both a symbol of chaos and of renewal. The circular snake represented both order and disorder. This idea of duality has been useful to me as an explanation for why I seem to experience the same things over and over again, despite having done "the work" to overcome those problems. Understanding the circular nature of how the world works, of there being both order and chaos simultaneously, somehow lets me off the hook. So long as I have made an honest solid effort to be better, I know I am doing OK. Some things are out of my control. And its this duality that drives my ability to cope when I am unhappy with the direction that my life is taking. I reflect on the circular nature of things and it somehow gives me comfort in knowing that I have been here before, worked on things, gotten to a good place and will undoubtedly be back again for more. Even though I may be frustrated, I know I have the skills to persevere. And that's everything isn't it?

*If you have read this post and liked it, please let me know: libbyfife@ymail.com

Friday, January 4, 2019

New Year, A View and Some Thoughts From Outer Space

View From Lake Hogan Trail
Stand in awe before your creator and all that you see. Know that there is something bigger. Take comfort in that thought and be satisfied. 
On Christmas Day we watched a movie. It was The Martian with Matt Damon. (Yes, I know I am very late to the party. We just don't watch many movies.) It was very entertaining and oddly enough, very moving in a real spiritual sense. I have included a quote from the film here which really struck me. The quote from the movie is Mark Watney's letter to his parents to be delivered by his commander in the event of his death. In the letter he talks about his job, how he loves it and isn't giving up the fight but just preparing for an outcome. It's the last part though that really got me, the part about him dying for something  greater than himself. He accepts this and seems satisfied with the knowledge of what may happen to him. It was a very moving scene. May we all be so composed and content as our end approaches.

I should mention now that I am notorious for not quite getting the "required point" of a story, an article, a quote, or someone's narrative. I always miss the main point and turn it into something slightly different. (This was a real challenge for me throughout my school career and continues to be so, obviously. I was constantly being corrected.) The above quote is no exception to this lifetime "rule." I am sure that even though I know what Matt Damon's character wrote, I really took it to mean something else entirely. I am offering my own take on things, as can be read in the opening lines of this post, and yes, I quoted myself! So there!

His words resonated with me and appeared at just the right time. There is some part of me that always wants to be at peace with my life no matter the circumstances. No matter what my past life has been like and no matter what the future holds, I would like to say that I am satisfied. Believing that there is something outside of myself, beyond my comprehension, would be wonderful. It is a relatively new way of thinking for me so I continue to work on the idea.  I can't fully grasp it though just as I can't fully stand in awe of my creator as I would want to. I'd like to be able to look out at the mountains and lake each morning on my walks and really have that kind of faith; the kind of faith that is peaceful, complete, and sure of itself. The kind of faith that the character in the movie has. (Even though he is a fictional character the idea of his resolution seems true and firm.) And I know that having faith in anything is a lifetime endeavor, one that you never come to the end of. Still.

So for those of you who love New Year's resolutions, new beginnings, fresh starts, do-overs and all of that sort of stuff, may I suggest the above quotes as places to begin? Whatever your own spin may be, I wholeheartedly encourage it without correction!

Happy New Year to anyone reading. May it be peaceful and full of satisfaction and awe.
Libby

On Mothers, Mothering, and Memories

Carol Fahrbach, my mom Photo by my Aunt Corliss 1932-2014 That is my mom pictured above. She sure loved her Red Hat Ladies and all of t...