The Road To Heaven

I woke up this morning. That was a good start, and it got even better. It was early- 5:24am to be exact. No alarm, my sweet puppy Stevie Nicks lying peacefully by my side. I feel blessed, excited and dare I say it… content?

It’s a good feeling. One I haven’t felt in a while. Welcome back, old friend.

In March of 2020 I closed my optical shoppe for 9 weeks. It was unexpected, both mentally and emotionally crushing, and physically isolating.

For the last 2.5 years I had worked in the downstairs portion of my historic building and lived upstairs in a super cute remodeled historic apartment. I was technically living alone, but not a lonely person. In 2019, I treated the apartment like a condo and basically left almost every weekend to travel both near and far. It was fantastic and I was on a roll. The practice was thriving, and I was thriving. Full stop.

Covid hit. Office closed. I wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, so I stayed home. Alone. I went to the grocery store once a month. I watched CNN constantly. I tried doing the 9 jigsaw puzzles I had sent over from the game store across the street. I think I managed to complete two puzzles in 9 weeks. I had no energy, no creativity.

The one thing I did manage to do was cook and bake out of my pantry. I made some good stuff, ate it, and gained 8 pounds in 9 weeks. Uh oh. Looking back on it now, I was doing a dance with a bad date called depression.  I had no idea.

Luckily, a dear friend noticed I was losing it. She insisted I visit her. She was in a COVID bubble, I was in a COVID bubble… we should be COVID bubbles together. I fretted about it and finally gave in. I visited and we cooked and laughed, and I managed to find a few pieces of her jigsaw puzzle. We walked her rural road. I went to visit her several times over the next month or two. Depression started to lift. Thank you, dear friend.

The office was closed, but we started to get some orders for contact lenses. My staff took turns meeting me at the office every few days to send off orders. We masked and stayed apart. It was a saving grace for me. We shared stories about lockdown. It gave me perspective. I realized that being alone during a lockdown can be easier than being in lockdown with others. There are two sides to every coin.

The office opened 9 weeks later. It was a beautiful thing and still is. My team and I did everything we could to maintain safer standards. Patients did their part- they came in and were willing to do the COVID shuffle. My schedule was full. I have since seen over a thousand patients, and I can count on one hand the number of issues we had regarding COVID policy. Of course, I remember those incidents. When I do the math- statistically it was a minute percentage. This helps me to remember… most people are fundamentally good, kind, and willing to help.  

For me, the hardest part is accepting help. It’s a flaw. I blame it on my upbringing, which is what I do whenever I face issues about myself that I don’t like.  The problem with blaming everything on your upbringing is that somewhere around age 30 it gets old and worn out and your friends and family get sick and tired of it. Around age 50, the people you like to blame for your issues are dead. Your excuse is gone for good. Time to take a good look in the mirror and figure some stuff out.

I am learning. I am learning how to ask for help, accept help and be thankful for it.

Fast forward 3 months. I’m working hard now. Busier than ever. Still a little lonely as things are not back to ok with COVID. No vaccination yet. I’m starting to have COVID envy. I have a few friends and family that got COVID and recovered and are going out to dinner. Son of a bitch.

I would love to go out to dinner and be served. I don’t care what it is. If someone were to ask me, “Ma’am would you like another?” I would respond immediately, “Yes, please.” I don’t care what it is. I just want to be pampered and waited on. If I had my choose-it’s I would prefer an VO press Old Fashioned with pickled mushrooms, but I would settle for a cold Bud Light. Envy. Envy- the green-eyed girl. Wanting what other people have is usually a recipe for disaster. This includes medical conditions, choice of spouse and children, and bank accounts.

Fast forward another 6-7 months. I’ve now acquired a darling black lab puppy named Stevie Nicks. She is my new best friend and is living up to her name. She is beautiful, independent, maybe a little wild and very loving. She was an unexpected addition to my life, and I will be forever grateful. Stevie and I had some crazy times living upstairs and trying to get potty trained in the middle of winter in Wisconsin.

Stevie- Love At First Sight
Stevie in the window seat with a gigantic bone

 Stevie and I went downstairs every two hours and walked around the little park next to my office. In my work clothes, in my yoga pants, in my pjs and robe! The neighborhood folks got used to it and we made friends.

I had been looking for a little house to buy for some time. If you have been paying attention to the real estate market, you will know that it’s a real challenge to find a house. I looked, looked, and looked some more. Just when I gave up… yep, my dream house found me. I bought it. Stevie has a yard and I have a kitchen. We are happy clams. It’s perfect, and I didn’t change a thing. Timing is everything.

Stevie in the garden with poppies growing every which way.

The tricky part is how to handle life when life’s timing isn’t in sync with my timing. There are many books and memes and prayers that address this very issue. A friend sent me a little meme during the pandemic. I can’t remember the whole thing… but it basically said, “You are Loved.” There was some other stuff I can’t remember, and “You are Enough.” Those two things I remember. I hope you remember them too.

Life has slowly returned to almost normal. I’ve been socializing a bit and seeing friends. I am one of the youngest people in my group. Some of the others are a bit older and starting to retire. I’ve been around when the talk turns to retirement and money. I was feeling bad about it. I am late to that game. I spent most of my youth and adolescence screwing around. I did what I was told by my parents, went to the same college as Dad and The Sisters. I stayed in the same dormitory, I took the same classes, went to the same underage bars. Haha! I was young, naïve, and not particularly driven. I mostly liked to have fun. I was pretty good at it, but that doesn’t really show well on a resume or add to the retirement account.

Drinking beer and grilling hot dogs for a Badger Game. I’m not sure the year…1991?
I lived in a shack! I’m on the right. That was a fun time. Age 22. Clark, CO.
Fun on the Chief Waupaca with one of The Sisters. We went to many of these parties. This was early in the evening before anything too crazy occurred. We are all still wearing all of our clothes, so that is how I know. I am not sure of the year. 1990’s but that’s all I am sure of- that was a crazy decade.

Somehow it all worked out and now I am structured and have a roof over my head and a decent job, so I won’t go stick my head in the oven. That being said, let’s spend a moment to think about life. It does require a certain amount of intention, or things tend to go haywire. Mom used to say, “The road to Heaven is paved with good intentions.” To be honest, I never gave it much thought. That has apparently gotten me to my current state of being.

Heaven and Hell. Decision, decisions decisions…I always thought the sinners had more fun and it might be worth it. I also think the road to Hell might be paved by kombucha! What?? Seriously, I was just at the new co-op and tried some and there is no amount of Tito’s that can fix it. I promptly made a nice cup of French press coffee to go with my Thunderbird Bakery pain au chocolat and life improved dramatically. I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Intention. Intention deserves a bit more thought.

Never underestimate the power of a good cup of coffee and pastry. Worth the indulgence.

I spent some time thinking about it and determined that for me- I want to work. For one thing, Anderson’s live a long time. Mom made it to 90 and Grandma A made it to 103! That’s a lot of years to finance. I didn’t do so hot when I wasn’t working during the shut-down. It only takes an hour or two to work out and clean your house and then what? There are a lot of hours in the day. So, I need to figure how I want to work. I’ve given it some thought.

I don’t want to work like a crazy person and be stressed out. I want to work and have a balanced personal life. I want to like my patients and staff. I want to feel valued. I want to be interested in what I do. That’s a lot of wants. I will need to make a few changes.

There is never a good time to change. I’m looking at it as a positive because I am choosing to change instead of having change forced on me. There is a difference. Let me provide an example.

About 15 years ago I worked for a doctor in his practice. I was miserable. The terms weren’t as we discussed. I tried to communicate and negotiate for a tolerable and fair situation. No go. I finally quit. Then, and only then did the doctor want to communicate and negotiate. Too late, pal. “Freedom’s just a word for nothing left to lose.” Thank you, Bobby McGee. It was a hard change. It cost me in many ways… the only thing I regret is not leaving sooner.

Good change is what I am trying to achieve. I have changed my work schedule and I am entertaining the idea of adding a sub-specialty to my practice that I find interesting. There will be some short-term pain. I am doing my due diligence and not jumping into anything without a plan. This is progress, friends. In the past I would have jumped both feet forward off the cliff with no plan. I still plan to jump, but I will be wearing a parachute, just in case. Progress.

I have a friend who is very strong mentally. He’s got a good relationship with his wife and children, works hard, is physically fit, and likes to have fun. Overall, a balanced person. One time when I was complaining about something he said, “There are facts, and there are excuses.” That shut me up.

Don’t complain about being fat if you haven’t done anything to not be fat. Don’t complain about not having enough money if all you’ve done is go out and spend money. Don’t complain about being bored it you made no effort to connect with people and make plans. Don’t complain about your house being dirty if you haven’t done your part to keep it clean.  

I now use that statement in my head to help me control my actions and emotions. I used it two days ago. I turned my apartment into an Airbnb. It took a bit longer than expected to get ready, but it has turned out great. I had it booked out months ago for the big summer event in town, EAA Airventure. Every hotel is booked solid for 30 miles. It’s a money maker. Two days ago, my renter cancelled at the last minute because her teenage son and adult daughter contracted COVID.  The show starts in two days. I’m screwed. I was bummed out. Then I applied my new thinking. There are facts, and there are excuses. The fact is, I did my part. The apartment is clean and ready to go. I kept my end of the bargain. Done. Stuff happens, whether it’s COVID or something else. It doesn’t matter what happened to change the trip. It’s out of my control. It’s done. Once I got my head around the situation, I felt better. It’s a disappointment, but in the grand scheme of things not a deal breaker. Mental fitness. It’s a game changer.

The other night I went on a boat ride across Lake Winnebago. The water was smooth as glass. It was a beautiful evening. We ate at a tiny restaurant by the water. This spot is known for it’s beautiful sunsets and we were expecting a treat.

The restaurant was struggling to serve the patrons. There was very little staffing. We were served by children- literally- age 10 if not younger. Nothing came out as ordered. But, it was okay because you can’t expect children to know how to be servers at restaurants. Clouds were coming in and the wind was picking up. There was no sunset. I paid the bill and left a huge tip.

We had jackets and foul weather gear. The ride home was bumpy. I stood up the whole way, holding onto the railing and using my knees as shock absorbers. It wasn’t exactly a fun ride home, but it was exhilarating. I’ve got a good grip. We were all laughing and shrieking as we hit the big waves. It’s good to be with people who can laugh when things get dicey. The boat and captain were solid. I had faith we would get home in one piece. Ironically, we aim for the lights of the insane asylum to find our way home. That also seems appropriate for my life. It’s the journey, not the destination.

This is a good sunset from the same place we were the other night. No sunset that night. Stormy weather.

GGJ

Split Personality

I almost changed the name of my blog today.

I read recently that if you are going to be a writer- you have to take yourself seriously and treat yourself like a writer. Huh? The idea being, that if you are going to take the time to write a story, you should have the balls to put your name on it and put it out there. Hiding behind an alter ego is fun but it might also be a cop out. I wasn’t sure if Gypsy Girl Jilly was real or a cop out.

My real name is Jill Anderson. There. I wish I had a neat story about how my Mom decided to name me Jill for some meaningful purpose – but the truth of the matter is that she couldn’t think of anything else. She was reading a magazine in the hospital after just giving birth and read an article about a person named Jill and she decided she liked it. Plus, Anderson is a long last name so she wanted something short so that I could fit my name in the allotted space on documents. Hence, I became Jill Anderson.

Nobody calls me that though. At least not people who know me. My Dad always called me “Jill the Pill”. He used to say I was a pill.  It may not have been a compliment. I was head strong, talkative, independent… pretty much straight out of the womb. I did my own thing from the get go. I don’t recall asking for much advice or permission from my parents when I was a kid. I just did it and either did not get caught or asked for forgiveness on the  occasions I got busted for doing something I shouldn’t have been doing or been somewhere I had no business being. When you are born the last of three girls to parents who are a bit older than regular parents… things happen.

Everybody else calls me Jilly. That is who I really am. Jilly loves dogs, reading, boat rides and adventures. Jilly loves to laugh. She has a soft heart and a long memory. She has the scars to prove it. Mostly, Jilly loves whatever is coming next. She can get antsy if she stays in one place too long or becomes stagnant in her daily life. She is a Gypsy. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a Gypsy sounds good in theory, but day to day living requires fortitude when it comes to building a career and family…both of those areas have given me a lot of trouble in life.  Forever is a very long time.

I am about half way through my life. You would think that the urge to throw everything into the back of your truck and start driving West would subside. If anything, it gets worse. I am working on some ways to manage the urge to head for the hills. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have been making some changes in my life to become more structured. What?? That seems nuts. (That is GGJ talking.)

I am an optometrist. This May I will have been practicing for 22 years. Can you believe it? Me either. I became an optometrist because I wanted to please my parents and I was good at science and quite frankly I did not know what to do with my life. I was good at school so I kept going to school. People ask me if my passion is “eye stuff” and I say “Nope.” They can’t believe it. I think it is because I act fairly normal at the office.

For 18.5 years I worked as an employee for other doctors or for big corporations. I made a comfortable living and worked with some good people who became friends. I lived in a bunch of different towns and had a couple of houses and/or great apartments.

Eventually, I kind of settled down in my old hometown. I purchased a super cute house with a big yard with a little river running through the back. I spent a lot of time and effort fixing it up.  It was perfect… until one day I came home from working on a Saturday. All of my friends and family were out having fun. I took my beloved dog Macy for a walk. Something happened on that walk. I realized that I would not be able to spend the next 20 years working nights and weekends for someone else. If I was going to work this hard- it had to be for myself. I went home and looked up the For Sale ads for optometry practices in my area.

I found it right away. There was a listing for a small practice in Oshkosh, WI. It was a friend of mine who was retiring. I gave him a buzz. He had another interested party, so I had to act fast. I went to look at the practice the next day and two weeks later I bought it. In hindsight, it was a big decision and a normal person would have thought about it a bit. I am a leaper before looker kind of person. When it works out – its great, but when it doesn’t…well the drop can be a killer. This time, it worked out.

I bought the practice and worked hard to make it my own. Three and a half years later, I find myself being the happiest I have been in a long time. Optometry-wise anyway.  At the office I am Dr. Jill. Monday through Friday I am Dr. Jill.

My personal life has been a little schizoid. That can happen. Recently, I was forced to take a long, hard look at the choices I have made in my personal life. My life hasn’t exactly gone as I had anticipated. No husband or kids. No tattoos. Nothing permanent.

I would love to blame it on other people. Trust me, I have tried. That works for the first 25 years of your life but after that no one cares if your Dad loved you enough or being raised Catholic makes you an chronic sinner and guilt ridden person. At some point, you have to grow up.

I don’t think I ever grew up. Not really.

When did you start making decisions and acting on your own accord? When did you learn how to say “No.”?  When did you learn to walk away from people, places and things that were not good for you? When did you figure out what it was that you really needed to be content?

For me it happened…

It hasn’t totally happened yet. I am working on it.

Time has started to shift for me. In one way it has slowed down…and in another it has sped up.  My axis has shifted and thus the gravitational pull of my tides has changed.  (This is a little woo hoo, but stick with me.)  Even if all else has stayed the same… everything is still different.  Nothing stays the same. No one stays the same. To think it can be that way is…. unrealistic. It is a direct path to disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction and ultimately failure. Failure to communicate, failure to thrive, failure to find peace.

Next year I will be 50 years old. Part of me thinks that it has gone super fast… and another part of me thinks it has taken forever. The old adage is true… time speeds up as you get older. The last ten years of my life has gone much faster than the first ten years of my life. A minute is not a minute, a day is not a day. Someone needs to figure out a new calculation for time.  It’s got to be a fraction equation. I always get confused when you try to multiply or divide fractions. You have to flip everything upside down and backward.

Let’s see… where was I? Oh yes. I am trying to be more structured in an effort to gain freedom.  

I am figuring stuff out. You can’t be a dodo bird airhead your whole life.

A lot of headache and heartache stems from worries about money. I haven’t always been the greatest when it comes to finances. It’s not my thing. But, it should be. So, I now have professional people in my life who help me. I am slowly getting over the fear that I will be homeless and eating cat food when I am old. It’s always there though. It has made me afraid. For a long time, I was afraid to buy a practice. It’s a big investment. Then I did it, and it’s been the best thing for me.

So, now I am taking it a step further. I just bought a building. Instead of paying rent to a stranger, I will be paying the bank to eventually own the building. It will take awhile… it’s a commitment. But, it’s a commitment to myself and my future.

101 High

I used to say I wanted to be free so that I could move away. Back when I was afraid to buy a practice, an old friend/vendor of mine that has known me since year one pointed out that if I wanted to move away I probably would have done so by now- having stayed in a one hour radius of my hometown for the last 18.5 years. That comment pushed me over the edge to buy a practice. He was right.

I am staying. Time to make an office that will grow with me and be comfortable.

The project is expensive and Dr. Jill will admit to feeling some stress and nerves about the whole thing. Gypsy Girl Jilly is loving it and is making friends with the demo guys. She is baking them cookies and can’t wait to get upstairs to rip out the old carpet to see if the wood floors are worth saving. There is an ancient old gas stove upstairs and she wants to keep it. Dr. Jill is hoping there will be enough $$ to get a new stove and new bathtub. GGJ doesn’t care.

Just when I was back to normal finances, I went and bought a building so now I feel broke again. Back to living frugally. Damn. Actually, it not that bad. I have found out a couple of things. Most of the stuff I really like to do is free. I love walking in the woods. That’s free. I love listening to music. That’s mostly free. I love reading. I used to buy a ton of books, but now I download them from the library. That’s free. I love writing little stories. That’s free. That’s a lot of stuff for free. Free- dom. I am getting there.

I am hoping that there will be enough spending money to do some traveling down the road. GGJ loves to see new places. A good road trip once in awhile should do the trick. Years ago when I was making lots more money, I went on a trip to New Orleans and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. It was super fancy and quiet. It was almost too fancy and too quiet. I was afraid to laugh too loud.

I will be satisfied to drive somewhere with the windows open and stay at a Mom and Pop place on the side of the road. Dr. Jill will be nervous about getting killed, but GGJ will see it as an opportunity to gather some story making material.

I can’t quite see my future all the way to the end. I feel pretty good about the next 15 years or so. I am going to be Dr. Jill at the office and GGJ outside of the office. I fought it for a long time. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is both of these sides of myself that make me a complete person. They need each other.

Gypsy Girl Jilly is the one who writes these stores. Therefore, she gets the title.

GGJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wabi-Sabi Christmas

It’s that time again. Christmas.

I have always had a hard time at Christmas. When I was a kid I would always think that this would be the year where we would all get along and there would be a pile of Christmas gifts from Santa waiting for me under the tree. In my fantasy, my Dad would not drink too much and become a morose person lecturing us on how “We did not know what it was like” to grow up poor. My Mom and Sisters were okay and we all tried to make it through with no damage done. Thankfully, we are all bookworms so a few new books in each of our hands and we would retreat to our neutral corners. Nancy Drew saved the day.

 
I would open a few gifts, maybe a game or two along with some socks and batteries in my stocking. I laugh now thinking about getting batteries, but you know… that is kind of crucial to the whole new toy thing working out. I have memories of driving around our little town looking for a place that would be open so that we could get batteries to fire up the new Merlin game. Thank you, Holiday gas station.

 
Later in the day I would call my best friend, Elaine, and I would ask her, “What did you get?” and she would say, “Nothing…. What did you get?” I would then reply, “Nothing.” We would then agree to bundle up in our snow pants and meet half way between our houses and go freeze our asses off skating or building snow forts. We did that for many years. One year, Elaine got a diamond necklace for Christmas. It was very pretty. I was jealous. I was also happy for her because she deserved a diamond necklace for Christmas.

 
This year has been a year for changes. My Mom has had a series of health issues and decided to go live in assisted living. It is for the best and I think it increases her chance of surviving to see another Christmas. Earlier this year, I had thought she might not make it to this one. There have been some bumps along the way. These types of changes in life are tough on everybody.

 

 

For my Mom, I am sure it has been difficult. She has been incredibly fortunate to be athletic her entire life. For 88 years she was a rock star. She has always walked many miles, been a great golfer, and just a year or two ago was lifting weights at the gym. That is all gone now. Her heart is broken. Literally. The valves are leaking, and the rhythm has gone haywire. The frustrating thing is that her will is not broken, but the physical parts are not cooperating. She told me a month or two ago that “Getting old sucks.” It is true. Thankfully for her it did not hit until age 89. Still….

 
What happens when the head honcho/matriarch isn’t physically/mentally/emotionally able to boss everybody around? The shit hits the fan. That’s what happens.

 
My Mom has always been a huge influence on me. I am the youngest of three daughters. My Mom has been my Mom/best friend/head shrinker/drill sergeant…. My whole life. I have made most of my biggest decisions in life based on her advice and my desire to please her.

 
When her health began to decline it affected the three daughters in different ways. We failed to communicate and our differences in opinion regarding her health and her care resulted in a major falling out between myself, the Sisters, and Mom. My feelings were hurt, and I was offended to the core of my being. Words were said that can never be forgotten. I felt that no one could hear me or see me. Nothing I said had any value and nothing that I did was appreciated. I was drowning in my despair.

 
I am pretty sure that the Sisters and Mom would argue that I was the asshole and was the one causing the problems… I have thought about it for many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months and I have finally found some peace with the whole thing. I did what I thought was best. I offered up what I could and would have been able to do. Done. It did not work out, but I did the best I could. That has to be enough. It is enough.

 
I know, I know! Merry Christmas, right? Wait, it gets better.

 
So, what happens when you are 48.5 years old and you get pushed out of the nest?

 

You fly. You fly.

 

I have learned a few things these past few months. I have been making some choices. Choices that are all mine. When things get ugly, when times get tough… how are you going to respond? I responded by taking care of myself. I increased my yoga sessions, increased my water intake, cooked some good, healthy meals for myself and tried to go to bed early. I reached out to some old friends. I opened myself up to making some new friends. I made myself available to accept the invitations I had been declining because I was always going back to my home town and my Mom every weekend. I grew up. I got a life.

 
I set some boundaries. Boundaries for myself and for others. I have forgiven myself for screwing up. I have forgiven others for harsh words and actions. I am entertaining the possibility of mending broken relationships. For me, I cannot and will not pretend that nothing has occurred. That is the easy way out…but not the way out for me. I am wondering if something that has broken in many pieces can ever be repaired? Can it be functional? Can it be better than the original?

 

There is a term in Japanese culture called wabi-sabi.

 

I have a Pinterest board on it. Basically, it is the art of finding beauty in things that are broken. Picture an old tea cup with a crack in it. The crack has been filled in with gold. The tea cup was not thrown away. It was painstakingly repaired, and it is now more than a tea cup- it is a work of art.

 
I was broken. I am being repaired. I am being repaired by the love and kindness of old friends, new friends, and strangers. Is the new GGJ going to be better than the original? I hope so.

 
Last night, I went to Christmas Eve mass with some old friends at their Church. It was a beautiful old Church filled with dark wood, Tiffany stained glass and a massive organ. The service was filled with music. There was a beginning part where the huge organ was playing a funky mix of Christmas carols but with a steam-punk kind of attitude. I pictured a mad person wearing a leather duster and goggles running the huge organ while smoking a cigar. Later, it turned out that the organ player was a sweet little old lady who came out to read the story about Mary having Jesus in a manger. Who knew? She rocked that organ!

 
We were sitting in the pew waiting for the service to start when a young friend came in with his parents. He saw me and said, “There’s Jill” and he sat next to me. His parents ended up sitting one pew up and over. I think perhaps that he thought that they would join us in our pew. I give him credit, he stayed by me. I did not know some of the hymns, but there were a few of the classic Christmas carols. I was singing what I knew… and then I heard his voice join me. The sweetest, clearest 13 year-old voice in my ear.

 
The finale was the best when they turned off the lights. We were holding candles and one by one they were lit. My young friend lit my candle. We sang Silent Night, Holy Night. It was beautiful.

 

Merry Christmas,
GGJ

 

 

 

Zen Baby

For those of you who have been reading my stories, you know that I have been on a quest to find some “Zen” in my life for quite some time.

The last couple of weeks have been challenging for me in the Zen department. For the first time in almost 20 years I had a patient tell me to “F%*K Off!”  What???? I was so shocked I didn’t have a chance to respond. In hindsight, that is probably a good thing. Later my staff informed me that they thought there was some alcohol involved. (Not me, just in case you were wondering.)

I am no stranger to the F-bomb.

I come from both an Irish and German/Danish lineage so there is some fire running through these veins.  It’s just that I usually use it around people I am emotionally connected to – like my family, friends and loved ones.  I would never use it on a stranger. Sheesh.

It got me to thinking…..

  1. Why is that all I can think of – when I had many other lovely patients these last few weeks?
  2. What can I do to manage the unmanageable?
  3. I am pretty sure that is why Zen masters don’t work with the general public.
  4. What would the Dalai Lama do?

It just so happens that I went to my Mom’s last night. I found an old Zen book in an abandoned bookcase. I started reading it and think it is right on target. It was written in 1995 and I have had it probably for 15 years. It is called, “It’s Easier Than You Think” by Sylvia Boorstein.   There is a lot of useful stuff in that book.

First of all, you need to know that trying to be Zen or Buddhist is not going to interfere with your other religious beliefs.  You can be both. Please don’t email me telling me I am going to go to hell. Thanks!

In a nutshell, the entire thing is devoted to one simple idea/plan. How can we manage the events in our life that are beyond our control? That’s it. Simple, right?

There are 4 Noble Truths in the Zen world.

The First Noble Truth:  Pain is inevitable.Buddha quote 2

We can’t control what happens, we can only control how we react to what happens.  Pain is not an option.  It is going to happen no matter what. Because my lovely friends, in order to experience a full life we will inevitably go through pain. Lots of pain. That is the human condition.  Everything will eventually change and/or die. Please don’t despair and go stick your head in the oven. It’s not that bad…. I have said this for years and I totally believe it….you get points for trying.  I think. Well, in my Zen World you get points for trying.

So once you have figured out that life is just a series of painful events…. Then you have to make a decision.  This is the important part. How you suffer is on you. Read that again. How you suffer is on you.

The Second Noble Truth:  Clinging To Attachment = Suffering

This is a tricky bit. Obviously, many things require commitment. Which in my mind is the same thing as attachment. So, what’s the problem? I think that sometimes we chase the fleeting moments that we have been lucky to experience and wish to make them into something permanent, expected, and certain. Clinging to that notion leads to suffering.

I have loads of examples of clinging leading to suffering. You probably do too.  How many times have you longed for the early days of a relationship when you couldn’t get enough of each other? You didn’t need to eat, sleep, breath oxygen… it was so good. So then you settle in to everyday life. Something happens and it’s not the same. While the relationship is still good- it’s not crazy good anymore and you can’t help but wonder what went wrong? Nothing is wrong. Clinging to the notion that the next moment should be like the first moment is wrong.

Looking in the rear view mirror leads to a lot of wrecks.

You need to focus on what is right in front of you.

How can we not want to want? Fundamentally, that means that craving anything is suffering. (That is in the book.)

I crave lots of things. I have some work to do in that department.

Maybe I can put together the NEW ZEN DIET PLAN and make a ton of money. Don’t crave anything. Eat whatever you want and whatever you think is good for you and see what happens. My sister says you have to wear structured pants (not yoga pants) at least once a week so that you know if you are still okay. Don’t try to be the same you as last year or when you were 27. (I picked 27 because those were some pretty good years… no wait! That is super un-Zen!) Anyway, let’s just strive to be the best we can be now.

Let’s talk about clinging some more.  There is a quote in the book that goes something like this, “My life happened when I was busy making other plans…”  Sounds about right. I am a list maker, a dreamer, and lots of other things. I have to say, the here and now just doesn’t work for me. I am always better in the future. Now that I think about it, I was better in the past too. I think this whole thing may be a Jedi mind trick.  It is THE FORCE! George Lucas is probably a Zen guy.

Remember the old school yard saying?  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?”

That is total bullshit. I have broken a bunch of stuff. The bones and ligaments healed. They don’t hurt me at all anymore. But words? Words hurt.

In the book, Sylvia used a little demonstration very effectively. How many of you have had bones break or other bodily injuries? Raise your hands. Now, ask yourself… does it still hurt? If so, keep your hands raised. Very few hands were raised. Next question. How many of you have been hurt by other people’s words? Hands go up. How long ago was that? In the last year, last five years, ten years or more? Lots of hands were up.  Words hurt.

Where am I going with this?

Forgiveness. That’s the ticket to addressing my issues with my patient who told me to F%#* Off! It happened. It’s over. Nothing more is going to come of it. Time to forgive and move on. It’s over.Buddha quote 1

I have to say, once you forgive someone it is kind of hard to keep caring if they told you to F%$* Off!

It just doesn’t matter! (Remember the movie Meatballs?) It just doesn’t matter… It just doesn’t matter! Yeah, baby!

So now that we have figured out that we have to forgive all the morons who hurt us in the past- we have to figure out how to handle the “Now” part.  Okay, we need to try to be decent human beings. In the book there is some discussion about how to live your life when there is the burden of knowing that every action has the potential to cause harm. Yikes! That is kind of overwhelming. Trying to avoid shame or dread is a good start. Uh oh….there goes my crazy dancing at my favorite band! Just kidding. Not that kind of shame or dread- only the real deal bad kind of shame and dread.

Instead of going through a whole list of Don’ts…. Let’s focus on the Do’s.

I am going to try to say, “Yes!” whenever possible as long as I am not going to die or do something harmful. I like that idea. That idea really works for me. A good friend of mine has a saying, “I’ll do anything… twice!” She’s living a very interesting life by the way!  She is pretty good at living in the moment. I’ll ask her what the secret is and get back to you.

There are two more Noble Truths but they will have to wait. It’s Sunday night and the Green Bay Packers are playing tonight. I have to go make a lasagna and some garlic bread (double carbohydrates) and go watch the game. It is a good place to start with enjoying the here and now! Nothing is happening in Wisconsin until the game is over.

Zen baby.

GGJ

Crossing Muddy Waters

Have you ever wondered what makes a relationship last?  Not just romantic relationships, but friendships as well?

Last night I had a great talk with one of my dearest friends.

We did not grow up together.

I met TR (The Rock) when I moved to Oregon to go to optometry school. I had met one other person at a summer class the previous summer, but other than that I was moving to a place where I did not have any friends.

I did not meet TR right away. A few months into the first semester I went on a group shopping trip into Portland with some girls. She was there. We both were complaining our boobs were too big and nothing looked good. We promptly whipped off our shirts and compared boobs.  A bond was forged.

For the following 4 years TR was the “THE ROCK” of our group. She and her husband had a great relationship, she knew how to cook and she was absolutely committed to her pursuit of optometry. She fed us, let us stay at her place to study and we basically did everything she did. We all passed with flying colors and had a pretty damn good time doing so.  Left to my own devices, the outcome may not have been the same. Twenty odd years later, we are still great friends. We have now been friends for more years of my life than we have not been friends. I like that feeling.

I think in life, people are either rocks or floaters. My friend TR is a rock.  I am a floater.

Rocks are solid, durable, permanent.  They do well on planet Earth. Gravity works in their favor. They are great planners, nurturers and have the ability to stay the course. They are happy where they are and don’t seek constant movement or change.  Rocks sometimes suffer when forces beyond their control erode them and put them into unplanned or unexpected motion.  Storms can be tough on rocks. Rocks can sink.

Floaters are different. Floaters go with the current and are in a constant state of change. Floaters can try to tread water and stay in one place, but it requires a lot effort and leads to fatigue. Floating is effortless. All you have to do is let go and rise to the top. (It’s those boobs.) When you float, it’s easiest lying on your back. It allows you a great view of the sky and the world of endless possibilities. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination?” That was written by a floater. There is a downside. It is easy to lose sight of the shoreline unless you constantly look back or to the side… floaters can get lost.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

This summer I was on a boat with a group of people who were going to swim across Lake Butte des Mort in Oshkosh on the 4th of July. It was a motley crew… all ages and all abilities. The swim was in memory of a fantastic woman who used to swim across the lake every day.  It’s a big lake and the water is kind of brown. One of the swimmers lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and commented that the wake churned by the boat motor looked like “fine cognac.”

Initially I wasn’t sure I would swim. I was on the boat mostly for fun. When the swimmers started to swim I had to make a choice. My ex-boyfriend who is now a friend was doing a running commentary about the performance of the swimmers and their choice of bathing attire. I shed my shorts and t-shirt, jumped in and started swimming.

I guess when push comes to shove, I am not designed to sit on the boat and observe. I had to swim.

I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go… I am not in the best shape of my life. I was fairly confident I would not drown and just figured the rest would work out. I used a combination of breast stroke, back stroke and side stroke to get across the Lake. I stopped looking at the shore. I looked at the sky, the HWY 41 overpass with the semis going by, I looked at birds. I could hear the hum of motorboats and the weird tinkling sound water makes…it was a symphony.  Every once in a while I would look for my spot across the lake. I kind of got off course, but I would just make an adjustment and before I knew it I was across the lake.Swimming Lake Butte des Morts 2015

That is kind of how life works too.

Rocks and Floaters make great partners. I think that is why my friendship with TR has endured.

She has helped me more times than I can count. Her husband is kind of big so whenever my heart has been broken she tells him he needs to go beat that person up. I love that. She is my professional role model. What worked in optometry school still works 20 years later. I just do what she does. She said we should get board certified- so we did. It was a pain in the ass but it was good for me and for my profession. TR knows what to do.

I think I may be of some use to her right now. TR was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness. (MS) The sucky thing about MS is that is un-curable and unpredictable.  It’s not like cancer (which is horrible) where you cut out the bad stuff and kill it and get fake new stuff and move on.  You never know what the next day will be like. One day you are pretty good and the next day you can’t get out of bed.

She told me she fell yesterday. She got out of bed and her brain thinks she is normal- but her legs don’t work right and the next thing you know you are weaving around like a drunken sailor and boom, down you go. I told her that was okay, that I fall down a lot too. I like to wear slippery socks and my house has wooden floors. Sometimes I run to get a Diet Pepsi or go pee pee during a commercial break and boom, down I go. We laughed.

She is doing fine. One big thing that everyone who reads this should think about is this- It is absolutely imperative that you have proper disability insurance and financial planning. My friend is going to be fine in that department no matter what happens. That didn’t just happen- she had a plan.

(I was actually a little jealous talking to her – she is in a much better place than I am. When you are jealous of your friend who has MS and her disability plan- that is sick my friends.  Being single makes it even more important to have a plan. It’s a terrible feeling to worry about whether you are going to have to eat cat food when you are 80.)

OK, back to the story.  So we talked about that and then we got to the nitty gritty…..

The hardest part of having to deal with this illness is the unexpected changes. TR has a plan. She wants to get her youngest kid off to college, work really hard (because she likes it- crazy, I know!) and finally have the time and ability to treat herself and her husband to some traveling, adventures and really good shoes. And not feel guilty. MS is a sucky disease. I think it pretty much guarantees that you have to wear practical footwear for the whole rest of your life. WTF?  That is crazy.

She had her plan She thought that her next turn in life would be a turn to the right….. EXCEPT….. The road doesn’t go right. So now she has to go down a road that she’s didn’t choose, doesn’t know where it goes and …she has to cross a river. It’s a big river.

Now the river’s wide and deep and brown And she’s crossing muddy waters….–John Hiatt

The river is a scary place for a rock.

That is okay, she is best friends with a floater.

I don’t care if the water is deep, I float.  I don’t care if I can see the bottom or where I am going.  I will look at the sky.  She doesn’t have to do a thing. I have a strong grip and I will get us to the other side. It’s not going to be a straight line and it may take a while. That’s okay, it’s the journey not the destination.

Crossing muddy waters… it’s my specialty.

GGJ

The Outgoing Introvert

I don’t know about you, but I am glad that crazy “Blood Moon” business is over. Whew…. Last week was a rough one. The crazy chain got broken over the weekend and sure enough, a new story is born.

After running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I got a chance to do whatever I wanted on Saturday AND Sunday! Yippee! For those who read my blog, you know that I am an optometrist. That means that I talk non-stop all day. Which is fine… I was voted most talkative my senior year of high school. I can talk a lot. You would think that would make me an extrovert, right?

Nope. I was told once by a very intelligent human that you can tell if you are an introvert or an extrovert by how you re-charge your batteries. Do you need down time and solitude? Or do you need to blow off steam and surround yourself with people? I need some down time. I would classify myself as an outgoing introvert. I like people…. just not a lot of them at the same time or for long periods of time. Lol. I prefer the company of dogs.

That got me to thinking about being alone. The more I thought about it, the more I thought we should talk about it a bit. People, even if you don’t like to be alone you need to learn how to do it. And not suck at it.

Years ago I was in a relationship that was having trouble and I went on a vacation with a girlfriend to see her relatives. I talked about what was going on and I was asked, “Can you live without him?” I said, “Yes.” Aha! That is bad, right? I defended myself by saying that I could live without anybody… you know, breathe in and breath out, but I would prefer to not have to live without that person. I thought that the very idea of thinking you could not live without another person was absurd. My brain doesn’t work that way.

It is a very romantic and kind of neat idea to think you could not live without the love of your life. Until you have to live without the love of your life. Then it is a stupid idea. Here is some advice. If you find someone who really loves you then make him/her buy a long-term care policy and some good life insurance along with the ring. If you can’t find someone who sells these things let me know and I will hook you up.

My ex-boyfriend who is still a friend had both. I really liked that. He would say things like, “If you have to tie my shoes, I can pay you for that because I have a long term care policy that includes home health care.” I would smile and say, “Great!” Although in my mind I was thinking that we would pay a stranger to do that while I went golfing… but you know… you got to go with the flow. There was a big age difference too, 17 years, so you have to think about things like that as well as death. You have to make sure that there is someone or money to pay someone to take care of you when you are the last one standing.

I don’t think he would have picked me to take care of him anyway. I am too picky. He is a white guy who has had too much sun so he had some actinic keratitis…the scaly icky skin that is kind of scabby… and I would be giving him a back massage and suddenly pick that shit off his back. Ouch! No scabby icky skin on my watch. Like I said, I think ultimately he would have hired a professional instead of having to worry about what I would do next.

I have some older friends who are a mess. They have let their spouse do all of the cooking, all of the books and all of the decision making and when that person is no longer around they are not only sad and lonely…but kind of useless. That leads to either dying or hooking up with the wrong person so that they don’t have to do their own laundry. Listen up, people. If you are with someone like that you must teach them how to do some banking, laundry, and to cook a few basics like scrambled eggs and toast and how to make mashed potatoes and a pot roast. Sheesh.

I can’t wait to be old enough to get into ‘assisted living’. There is a great place in my neighborhood that has a killer view of the lake. It also has a bar with a big screen TV, a workout room, beauty salon and good food. I went to the grand opening celebration and they had a chocolate fountain! They stole a really good chef from town and his dinner was delish. It seems pricey, but when you figure out the cost of food and property taxes and lawn and snow removal and all of the stuff that comes with home ownership… it may not be that bad. Sigh, I will have to wait.

For those of you who are new to being alone and it freaks you out, let me give you some tips. The hours between 2am and 8am are for the alone.

For many years I would work 11-7pm. I would come home from work, spend time with people I liked or loved and would wait…. until they had to leave or fall asleep.

Then I would get to listen to music, read, think, take a bubble bath and go to bed late. It was awesome. (I have had to reset my natural clock with my new business because I have to get up early. The vampire days are gone and I miss it.)

I read an article in House Beautiful one time where a very talented designer said the best couples have separate bedrooms but no one wants to admit it. I agree with her… separate beds and separate TV’s may be the secret to relationship longevity. Snore….snore…..cough…. gasp….snore…… it’s not conducive to creative thought.

The early morning hours are great for exercising by yourself and not feeling bad.

Try it.

You will notice that most people are by themselves and are dedicated to maintaining their health and wellness. No one feels weird walking/running by themselves in the morning. I saw a couple walking together this Saturday and I passed them twice. The husband was talking her ear off and gesturing a lot. She looked like she wanted to slit his throat with a butter knife.

See, walking alone is a good thing. If you wear big headphones like I do, you don’t have to say a word. You can just wave if someone says, “Good morning!” I see the same people over and over again, so in a way we are friends – but not really. It’s perfect.

I was invited to a Blood Moon party last night and it was pretty neat. Great food, a few friends, some telescopes… it was a fun time. I am looking forward to the next one in 17 years 364 days…

It’s time to crawl into my big bed with a bunch of books and magazines, three clickers, two pairs of glasses (and usually a dog but she is with my Mom tonight) and watch The Green Bay Packers play some Monday Night Football. Be jealous! XO

GGJ

Doing the Right Thing

I couldn’t sleep last night. I have to get this off my chest.

I had the best weekend with my family.  Watching the Packers beat Seattle was the icing on the cake. But….  I could not  get the images from the Sunday news out of my mind.

What is happening in Syria is wrong. There I said it. Before everybody gets all pissed off – let me explain myself. I don’t have an answer to the problem. It’s a very difficult and scary situation.

I can only speak for myself but I would imagine that some of you feel the same way.

I am afraid of Muslims. In my head, I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. It’s just that the most recent terrorists have all  been Muslims. That being said, we have had a few of our own… Timothy McVeigh….the Unabomber….and the multiple gunmen who have massacred innocent movie goers and school children… there have been a few.

I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Germans were Nazi’s and not all gun owners are shooters of schoolchildren. In fact, it’s the opposite. Being scared makes it hard to see the forest from the trees…or the trees from the forest.

I was trying to recall some of my history lessons….

When I was partying in New Orleans many years ago we made a pit stop into a museum.  Many historical parts of New Orleans are paved with the original cobblestones. Do you know who laid those bricks?  Slaves? Creoles??  Nope, those bricks were laid by Irish immigrants. They were cheaper than both slaves or Creoles because they had zero guaranteed rights regarding food/water/shelter/hours. Immigrants have long suffered.

World War II was such a bloody and terrible time in World History. From what I remember – the US got involved after we were attacked by Japan.  We didn’t involve ourselves in the genocide of over 6 million Jews until the attack hit home. I read a lot of novels so I can’t be trusted with historical fact- but it is my understanding that the Vatican wasn’t exactly helpful in that time either. Hmmm…. I think Pope Francis is a totally different cat – in a good way.

From what I gather, Syria is conducting genocide on its people.  It’s not like they have a choice. If I had to choose to either die by chemical warfare or bombings or other horrible means…. I would start walking.  I would hope that if someone was able that they would help me.

It’s not like we as Americans are having to face 3 millions refugees parked at the front gate. The Atlantic Ocean is too big and rough… the dinghy’s aren’t going to make it. (If you need to see a scary Atlantic Ocean movie, watch The Perfect Storm)  I haven’t seen a lot of refugees talking about a desire to get to the US. They want to get to Germany.

After tossing and turning all night, I came up with a plan that makes me feel a little better. Today I made a contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

I am not going to wait for the government. (When we need to wait and trust the government to do the right thing…. something is not quite right. I  am not completely comfortable with that on a number of levels.)

I know there are administration fees and that only 93.7%  of the funds will go to helping people. That’s okay, I gave enough that I think it will still help someone.

People are worried that ISIS has infiltrated the refugees and has a plan to infiltrate the US. It probably has already happened. It is my opinion that we have a far greater risk of creating terrorists by putting refugees in fenced- in areas and blasting them with tear gas. If that happened to me, I would never forget it.  On the other hand, if someone gave me food and water and a safe place to sleep….. I would never forget that either. I want to be on that team.

Giving money is easy. Let me tell you how I am financing it. Pantry

I am having a lean year with having just purchased a new business. But, I am not completely broke. I looked in my vehicle and in my loose change jar. In my purse alone I had almost $37.00. That is the money I usually put in my Las Vegas trip jar. I thought I could do better than that so I decided to eat out of my existing pantry and freezer tonight. I have to wrap this up because my ham and scalloped potatoes are done.  Tomorrow I am going to make chicken piccata and watch the premiere of NCIS. Normally, I would get some Thai take out while hoping that Leroy Gethro Gibbs survives and that Tony and Ziva get together.  There, that is my donation.

I don’t know if it will make a difference. I hope so.

This blog is only a hobby for me. I have never asked anyone to share my stories  or tried to profit from it.  This time, I am going to ask my friends and family and readers to share it ….if they know someone who may be willing or able to help. There are other organizations that are trying to help… Unicef comes to mind as well. I picked the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) because it was easy to access and donate. Whatever you can do and feel good about is the goal. Let’s try to move the dial on this one.

Thank you.

GGJ