Broken Ribs and a Cup of Coffee
Here I am... just sitting... the temperatures are dropping outside and if you know absolutely anything about me, that is a sign of fear and dread in my world.
I have been a snowbird for the last seven years and was pretty happy with that way of life.
I'd winter where it was warm, 97% of the time. I was usually near water. I was able to get out and about to explore most days. (Hurricane season was sometimes tricky, but it's not like they sneak up on you. You have a pretty good idea of when they're coming and if you need to pack up or not!)
When the danger of cold weather was past, I could make my way up north to visit family and see what else I could find; dragging my camper along behind ready for new adventures.
I haven't owned a winter coat in seven years. I barely wear shoes, for that matter. I am SUCH a beach baby at heart.
Well... this year is going to be a bit different. I am officially trapped in colder weather.
The first weekend in October, I busted my ribs. I didn't think much of it at the time, but five days later, when I was still having trouble breathing, I went in and had it x-rayed. One rib broken, one fractured. Not a thing they can do for it except to tell me to be still for the next 6-8 weeks and don't lift anything over 5-8 pounds.
Trapped. Trapped in cold weather until at least the end of the year.
Trying the see the best in a freezing situation, I find myself inside a new experiment. How to make this the best winter ever? It's a big ask. The cold weather is not just something I complain about for fun (we all have to have our "thing"). The cold, damp weather is actually pretty painful for me since I have arthritis in a good number of my joints. But, it could be worse. I could certainly be worse.
I choose to fill my brain with happy thoughts. I flood my heart with gratitude. I reflect on all the ways that I am blessed.
I am near my family. A rarity since I have found wings... I haven't spent Christmas with my grandchildren in all those years of snow-birding, because... well... cold. (I transferred my Christmas spirit to Easter. Easter is my favorite holiday and I pull out all the stops for this holiday!). But this year, I get to spoil them EXTRA, actually ON Christmas! (Their parents may even INSIST I head back to the south by the time I get done! Lol!)
With out being allowed to do much other than sit around and forcefully WILL my bones to grow back together, it allows me to brainstorm and putter around with other ideas I've been wanting to do, but just couldn't find the time ... Boy, have I got time now! This is the best injury when you have a laptop close by! (Hint- I ALWAYS have a laptop close by.)
I'm ahead in my Bag of Bones Podcast episodes for the first time in... forever. That feels pretty good. I'm working on the new book that now I have NO excuse for it not being released on time at the beginning of December. Plus plans for a years-worth of new books to come out in 2023. (The way my luck runs is that I'll get all these things started then get released from couch therapy and be right back in the rat race!)
The damage was enough that I was informed that I probably won't be able to travel the way I was used to and that I will need to make some pretty severe changes in my future activities. If that ends up being the case, I am so grateful for my adventures over the years and wouldn't trade them for anything. I'll have to be more careful where I end of an invalid next time though, THAT'S for sure!
Okay fine... I know you're asking but how... how did you break your ribs? I was broken in the most loving way possible. With a hug. A hug from a 21 year old football player that was just trying to pop my back. And he did... just went a little beyond that. I heard a crunch, but neither of us believed that I was actually broken...
The evening wore on and I was hugged again and again and the more you love someone, you just want to squeeze them so tight so they know right? Can I just say, I am SO LOVED. Each squeeze probably added to the fracture.
Adding to that... I am pretty active and chest pain or no chest pain, work had to be done, so I pushed through it lifting and carrying... just doin' what I do... until I couldn't anymore.
My jaw dropped when I saw the x-ray.
So now I sit. Trying to figure out how I'm going to be able to NOT step one foot out the door until the crocus comes up. Not gonna happen, so I sip my coffee and snuggle under the piles of blankets begrudging letting others take care of me. I am so loved. I must keep my whining to a minimum.
When to Say, "I'm Sorry."
Every couple is going to have disagreements, arguments and maybe even a few knock down drag outs, and all will be well, but I promise you, there will be times when a line has been crossed and your only way to mend the wound is by offering an apology.
Why is "I'm Sorry" so hard for some people to say?
I'm pretty sure it's a pride thing. When you are willing apologize to someone, you first have to admit that you did something wrong. And who likes to do that? Next, you have to put your partner's feelings above your own, and acknowledge that you have caused harm. A humbling task.
Pride is a powerful thing to set aside. But if you continually:
-pretend that an offense never happened
-downplay the hurt
-refuse to take ownership of the infraction
-avoid communicating (with the intent of resolution)
... then pride will destroy your trust, intimacy and may even destroy the relationship itself.
Don't let pride steal the intimacy from your relationship. Allow yourself to be vulnerable to the fact that you just might be at fault.
Avoiding the conversation is not the same thing as resolving it!! By pretending the offense never happened will do far more damage in the long run. You may be able to distract your partner a time or two or charm them into forgetting the offense this time, but believe me, it will catch up to you. No amount of charm or chocolates are going to save you now!!
So go ahead. Do the deed. Don't put it off any longer. Take responsibility for hurting your partner's feelings and do what needs to be done to salve it. Not sure how to go about it?
Here are a few tips:
- Just start by saying it. I'm sorry. (That will get their attention!) But don't stop there...
-address the problem (I'm sorry for...) Let your partner know that you are acknowledging the unhappy emotions you caused. This, usually means more than anything else you can say. Try to identify with your partner's feelings. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to your partner. Don't argue your point, use this as a chance to try and understand.
-really make an effort to say and show how you are going to change in the future in case a similar situation arises. What's the point of apologizing if you have no intention to change? Make sure your partner knows you regret causing the pain and that you sincerely want to work toward a resolution.
-ask for forgiveness. These words are truly humbling and powerful. By asking for forgiveness, it shows that you are choosing to start again with different behaviors. It encourages trust.
-do what you say. Trust grows when you demonstrate the changes in your actions and behaviors that will benefit the relationship.
When NOT to say "I'm sorry"
-when you don't mean it anyway and you're just trying to "move things along".
-not every conflict requires an apology- just be sensitive to times when you know you have crossed the line. You'll know. You'll feel it. And if you don't, the silence will usually let you know.
-if you're just going to deflect it. (When you actually turn the offense back on your partner- guilt) "I'm sorry if you think...." or "I wouldn't have ____ if you hadn't ___" "It's not my fault if you took it that way..."
-if you're just going to take your partner down with you. "I'm sorry, but remember that time when you did ___ to me?"
-and worst of all, if you're just going to repeat the same offense time and again.
Sometimes it may take a few hours or maybe even a few days before the emotions settle down and you can discuss the offense with your partner. Take that breath. Don't storm off or slam doors, just let them know you need a break. This is not the opportunity to hope they "forget about it". If you want to make things right, you're eventually going to have to address it. Just do it, and get back to loving.
Sometimes it may take a while to be forgiven. And that is their right. If you hurt some one and they need time to grieve, allow them that time. And when they do come to accept your apology, be gracious. Don't hold a grudge or get defensive, allow for reconciliation.
I hope this helps. Too many relationships are being slowly shifted a part because of the pride that blocks the apology. We all make mistakes. Take the responsibility to own up to yours. Make things right, make the changes and grow closer together.
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What Love Isn't
Ahh, the month of l'amour... (read in a very thick French accent) Love is everywhere. Flowers, gifts, cards, wedding proposals... February creates the feeling of passion, romance and long lasting love.
I don't want to be the one to pop your shiny helium balloon or anything, 'cause I'll be the first one to go all crazy for Valentine's Day, but just because it is the month that invokes the spirit of love... does not mean that love is what you are feeling!!
Sadly, I am here to tell you what Love. Is. Not.
And it breaks my heart to do so, because I want everyone who wants it to feel those butterflies and goosebumps of love. I want everyone to find that special someone that will stay with them forever- through thick and thin, good times and bad, fat days and skinny days, and all that stuff. But just because it is Valentine's Day does not make it so...
A client of mine had recently gotten away from an abusive relationship. He was both physically and emotionally abusive. He was her addiction. But she finally broke free and moved back in with family for support. She started going to church and became an active participant. Through our sessions she began to realize the destructive behavior and how it impacted her life and the lives of her children. She began to see that maybe this wasn't love, because love doesn't do those terrible things and cause pain to each other. Love only lifts you up. Love never tears you down or manipulates.
She had cut off communication and went out of her way to avoid seeing him and took this time to concentrate on healing. She had to realize that she could live without him, that she was addicted to him lustfully, and that she did not deserve to be treated in such a harmful, manipulative way.
Enter Valentine's Day. In walks Mr. Wonderful with a bouquet of flowers and a shiny helium balloon... oh, and one more thing... a ring. My client went blind, deaf and dumb but still managed to accept his proposal.
"He said he was going to change. The Lord told me to forgive him. If I am supposed to be a good Christian, I should give him another chance. He loves me."
I was speechless. She was in her moment of euphoria so, she wouldn't hear a word I said, so... I'm saying it to you.
What Love Is Not....
Forgiveness. Yes Forgive. Yes, always forgive. Because forgiveness is more for you than the other person. It allows you to heal and move forward and not give others control over your emotions. Yes, forgive. Even in the hardest, most painful of circumstances... forgive. But forgiving is not forgetting. Saying that, hear this- Just because you forgive does not mean that they should stay in your life. Let me say that again. Just because you forgive someone, does not mean they still belong in your life! Not all relationships are meant to last forever especially if they are abusive. You are not being a loving, forgiving person if you allow someone back into your life that is going to continue the same behavior. You know why? You are not loving yourself! That is unhealthy!! You deserve better!! Yes, people can change, but if this is the twelfth time you've forgiven and tried over... chances are, no change is going to take place. You've already proven to them that you will take them back no. matter. what. That is not love. To allow yourself to be treated anything less that amazing... that is not love.
Actions speak louder than words. Just because they say it, doesn't mean their behavior backs up their words. Sometimes we want to hear those words so badly that we tend to turn a blind eye to bad behavior. People can only be artificial for so long. Eventually their real, true self will come to the surface. You know it. You see it... but you chose not to. Those three little words are magic. But if the way they treat you and others contradicts those beautiful words, see it and believe it. It is not love.
Being taken advantage of is not love. When you are someone's second choice, and not their priority, that is not love. If they wait to find out if there are any other offers besides yours before they give you a commitment, that is being taken advantage of. And if you are willing to drop your plans because they called at the last minute, you are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. If they can't put your first, get out of their way. You deserve someone that will be into the relationship just as much as you.
If you have to try to convince someone to love you... they are not for you. You don't match. It's not necessarily a bad thing! Not everyone is going to get along with everyone else! Don't try to force love. Don't look for things that aren't there. Don't try and change someone into your idea of the ideal mate because you will only be hurt in the end. Love is not forced. You shouldn't have to try so hard to make a relationship work. If there isn't a foundation that you can build on, that is not love.
Disrespect is not love. When someone realizes that they pretty much have a green light to do whatever they want, because you'll always take them back they will continue to respect you less and less. They will wear down your standards; coerce you to have you bend your belief system. They aren't as afraid of losing you as you are of them. When someone disrespects you, it is better to remove yourself from that person. They will never suddenly see your worth. And if you continually drop your standards ("yes, he cheated, but I know he was sorry") they will continually cross that new line. And soon, you will feel shallow and empty waiting for them to love you the way you imagined they would. Let them go.
Love is never hateful. Or abusive. Or harmful. If someone lays a heavy hand on you. That is not love. They may think they love you, they may honestly believe they love you, but love is not designed to hurt. More likely than not, it is an addiction. Addictions are possessive, love is freeing. If someone loves you, they would never, ever want to see you in pain. If they love you, they will not cheat on you. No exceptions. If they love you, they will not leave you. If they love you, they will let you know. You won't have to wonder. If they love you, they will have your best interest at heart. You won't have to force them to want to be with you.
Walking away isn't easy. We all want love. We want to feel the joy of love and sometimes we think that if we just keep trying, we can love someone enough for both people. That is not love. And when you keep trying and keep trying waiting for a different outcome, you only sink deeper and deeper into that loveless hole. They are not going to change. So you either have to tolerate their behavior or walk away, loving yourself enough to start again. I vote for the loving yourself option. The right one IS out there, when you are ready. But you can't really give yourself to someone else to love, when the love is not already there within you.
Don't settle for anyone just to have a someone. That... is not love. Be patient. Take care of you. Do what you need to do so that when love comes along, you'll be ready. You'll recognize it for what it is... and what it isn't.
How Do You React?
We all have pain. We all suffer loss. We all have to go through experiences that we'd rather avoid. The question is, how do you react when you are faced with unpleasantries?
We have no control over the things that life is going to throw at us. Sometimes it seems as if we are being "picked on" by the universe or God or whomever you choose to blame. When the truth is, we all have our fair share. Some people get it dumped on them all at one time, others have a constant stream of disappointment, still others have it dispersed through out life at an even pace so as barely to disrupt their daily activity.
How can this be? I believe it is how we react to these events that determines the radius of destruction it plays in our lives. How you react places the value on the negative event. Is it going to shut you down? Move you to a cardboard box in an alley? Is every event catastrophic? Or can you get through it with a few minor tweaks? Is it something you have to work a little harder to push through? Or something that would turn out better if you just lay low for a while? Grief and tragedy affects each one of us in different ways. Learn to know your telltale behavior when times get rough to learn if you need to alter a few things to make life easier, you stronger, thicker skinned, or whatever the change might have to be.
I do not belittle any tragedy that goes on in people's lives. God knows, I've had plenty to try and keep me down. The Devil loves to challenge my faith on a regular basis. And yet...
The doctors of the medical community have diagnosed me with clinical manic depression. Which, basically gives me permission to have crying jags, eating binges and months of solitude and a list of medications to choose from if I so desire. Because of this condition, I have the green light to turn my heartbreaks, my letdowns, my bumps in the road, my catastrophes of any size to take control over my life, my emotions and my well-being. Well, guess what...
I choose not to let the weight of the world control my destiny!
Let alone my month, my week, my days. Okay, sometimes... many times it can have an hour or two, but then it's time to get back up and get back to life.
Being diagnosed with depression, means that I sometimes have to work harder to see the sunshine instead of the rain, but since I know that about myself, I know what I have to do. It isn't easy. Like I said, I have permission by the professionals to sit around in my pajamas for days on end and wallow. But that's not the kind of life that I want.
I choose to keep the sunshine on my face so the shadows stay behind me. I am not in denial. When these bad things come up, I make a choice as how to deal with them. I do my best not to make mountains out of molehills. I don't let gossip or what others think of me take a hold of my life or alter me.
I know, that I am being the best person I can be under any circumstance.
So, how do you react? When bad things happen, do you let it sink in and take over? Complaining doesn't help. Constantly bringing it to the surface doesn't help. Gossiping, or using the feel-sorry-for-me-card doesn't help. Don't discuss your problems with others unless they can help you. Either by support, or getting you through the situation. By constantly telling everyone how miserable you are only makes you a whiner. Enough of the reality tv show attitude. Your dirty laundry wasn't meant to be scattered all over the front yard. I'm not saying hide it. But I'm saying don't flaunt it. I'm not saying pretend everything is fine when it isn't, I'm suggesting reserving your comments on the situation for specific people. People that can help you and have your best interests at heart.
Like I said, what life throws at us is out of our control. But you can make it three times worse if you give in to pressure, or depression, or bullying, or grief, or brick walls. There is ALWAYS another way. There is ALWAYS another choice.
Choose the sunshine.... Always choose the sunshine.
Dealing With Grief
The feelings of loss can be brought on by any number of events. Most typically we think of the death of a loved one. But grief in its deepest forms can also be the reaction to the loss of a job, family estrangement or betrayal. A break-up or divorce. The loss of a beloved pet. Or even the empty nest syndrome... The feelings or stages of grief can be different for everyone and we all process grief in different ways. I present them to you here, to "normalize" the grieving process and to work through it myself. Writing is a healing tool for me, so, allow me to heal and hopefully my words will come back to you when you are in your time of grief and they will help ease your transition.
The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, are common experiences people go through when dealing with loss. They surface in different ways for different people as grieving is such a unique and personal thing to have to go through. Not everyone will go through them in the same order. Not everyone will stay in the same stage for the same length of time. And once you have experienced each stage, that does not mean that you won't go back through it again. (Much to my disappointment. Being very aware of my emotions from the standpoint of "outside looking in" kind of way, I would mentally "check-off" the stages I felt myself go through happy that I was one step closer to Acceptance.... Not so much the case, my friends. Not the case at all...)
I hope you can use this article as an awareness tool. To help your body, mind and heart heal when it feels like you never want to see the sunshine again. I am hoping to help you understand the process and stand beside you saying, "You WILL get through this," as I tell myself every ten minutes or so. Because this IS a process and we WILL get through it...
Denial. This is where you've just gotten slapped in the face with news. Bad news. This stage is your defense mechanism to allow your body to deal with the shock. Your brain deflects your immediate emotions to allow you to attempt to process this new information. You're mind begins to swirl with questions and while you are trying to sort out the realities, the emotions will fight their way to the surface.
Anger. Reality of the situation, brings pain. And to protect ourselves from drowning in the pain and sadness, we express it as anger. We feel anger and resentment and hate to someone in particular or sometimes anyone who happens to cross our thought paths at the wrong moment. We use our anger to deflect the pain that if we give into it, it will surely kill us. David Kessler, a grief specialist explained it this way, "At first grief feel like being lost at sea; no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone.. suddenly you have structure- your anger towards them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection between you and them. It is something to hold on to; a connection made from strength of anger is better than nothing."
Better than nothing. That's for sure. Anger gave me direction, and it DID feel better than feeling numb. Numbness and hopelessness are the worst feelings to have in my humble, heart-broken opinion. I'm really good at the anger stage and frequent it often...
Bargaining (Or depending on the cause of grief) Begging. This is another defense mechanism to protect us from the harsh reality we unwillingly find ourselves in. This is the land of "if only's". Most of the time, this stage happens in our mind. We fantasize different endings and outcomes to the situation at hand. Sometimes, we see a revenge, or a reconciliation, or a miracle cure. If we do happen to find the words or have the chance to "make things right", we bargain, threaten, cajole, negotiate, promise and throw guilt around like candy, anything to un-do the pain. But nothing works. You wake up the next morning and the pain is still there. It really happened and there is nothing you can do to change it.
Depression. This is where you really feel that the loss has moved in and is making itself at home. That feeling of emptiness returns and you know it's there but you just don't feel like doing anything about it. You even entertain the idea that it will be there forever. You tell yourself that this too, is part of the process and it will pass, but while you're in it... you feel... sadness, regret, worry, loss... emptiness.
This is your body trying to work through the grief. Trying to prepare you for what's on the other side. It's a time of reflection and also a time to allow you to accept a new... different future.
Acceptance. This stage does not mean that what has happened has been given our "approval"- for lack of a better word- but it means that we can acknowledge that the event really did happen and we can't un-do it. So we must learn to deal with it, make peace with it, and move on with our lives. Some people never reach this stage. I do not anticipate that being me. I know God has other things planned for me other than standing under the darkness of this raincloud. He knows that eventually I will accept my new reality and keep moving forward. But not today, Lord. Not today.
Grief has its own rhythm and you have to allow yourself to go through it from beginning to end. If you try and push it down or ignore that it is happening, it will only take longer to get to the Acceptance part. Linger in one stage or another if you must, but get to the Acceptance part. In some cases, the pain will never be gone and we have to learn to live with it buried in some compartment of our heart; in some cases, when you look back you'll wonder why you behaved so; and still in others, things happen that are out of your control and our only option is to deal with it the best we know how at this particular moment. One thing I do know, is that life is not meant to stop. Don't get trapped in the pain.
We grieve because we love. And because we cannot NOT love, there will always be pain in our lives. But our hearts are made resilient so they can love again. Our memories are created to hold on to the times that made us smile. Hope is forever bubbling down deep inside waiting to renew your spirit. Strength keeps us moving forward. And faith... faith is the promise that we will love again and continue to give love a chance no matter what.