happiness

Sweet Suprise

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To say that a five year old can be impatient is an understatement. For them, the air is still electrified with constant discoveries assailing their senses in the best of ways. They are Magellan, Marco Polo. And the world awaits. How could they stand still? Why should they?

We adults, on the other hand, have spent several decades in conditioning. Our eyes closing to the wonders around us, and we would-be visionaries grew up to have mortgages and car payments, too many to-dos, toilets to be scrubbed and schedules to keep. We barely have time for sleep, let alone for dreaming. Really dreaming.

A few months ago, my little family and I were standing in line on a soccer field, waiting for my son to have his picture taken. The adults, myself included, were standing and staring, reining in the occasional stray child. The nonconformist rebels.

My son and his little friend were trying so hard to be still. “But Mommy, my body is telling my brain that it just can’t stay still much longer!”

Then, it happened. Her words came out of my mouth, unbidden. My mother telling my son and his friend to sit and look for a four-leafed clover. As she had told me to do countless times in a life long past.

Their bodies were still, for the most part, and their wills were occupied.

The little patch of clover at our feet that I don’t really remember seeing in the first place, was dotted with miscreant dandelions. Pretty patches of yellow in a sweet patch of green. They looked and looked, but never found a four-leaf. But during his search, my son occasionally picked a dandelion or two, and a couple of fragrant clover blossoms, and gave them to me.

“Mommy, I picked these just for you! Will you keep them forever?” Blue eyes hopeful.

“Yes, of course I’ll keep them forever.” A hug and a kiss, and a mother’s hand brushing against his freckled cheek.

I hold onto them for a while, then tuck them into the little side pocket of my purse.

Today, I was looking for something. A boring, grown-up something that I knew was in there somewhere.

Frustrated, I take everything out. Wadded up napkins, receipts, a pen, more receipts and some loose change.

My fingers scrape the bottom seam, and there’s something not a penny, or a Tide stain stick. Something soft and delicate, dry and crumply.

I draw it out. My little wilted waiting bouquet.

It had survived months in the crucible of my life on the go. Pounded down, smothered, by bills and checks and keys and my cell phone. Day. After. Day.

Still, they have color, and fragrance, and shape. Identity.

We were all Magellan once. I think we all are still. Where are you keeping your dreams? Your mind’s occupations? Are they dormant, glazed over by an “I want coffee,” “when will this day be over,” or an “I’m so tired?”

Go. Outside. Breathe Deep. Look for the four-leaves in your life. Look up. Look down. Search. If you don’t find one, it’s okay. You’ll find something else. Just keep your heart open.

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The Journey, February 26, 2014, I gave up diet soda!

Sugar by any other name…

Imagejust isn’t sugar.

So, 6 days ago I decided it was time to give up diet soda. Brilliant, right? I wasn’t really happy with my decision. It was more of a deep-seated recognition that I needed to do something different. I needed to drink something different. Like, something that didn’t taste like liquid Raid.

You may be asking, “Marilyn, why would you drink something that you don’t like?”

Excellent question. As a matter of fact, I have been asking myself the same thing for, oh, the last 25 years or so.

I didn’t start drinking diet soda until later in my high school years. Prior to that, I drank things like iced tea (strong, no sugar), milk, juice, water, and the occasional Coc’-Cola, which, by the way, is my favorite carbonated beverage. Once in a while, I would play refined and have a nice cup of Earl Grey with cream and sugar. But diet pop? Ugh. Until…

Somewhere around the age of 16, I decided that my size 10 Irish/Italian curves could benefit from a bit of slimming down. Mind you, being a size 10 in 1986 wasn’t a bad thing. There were no size 2, 1, 0 or 00 to obsess over in the Wal-Mart Lees for Her section. But, what if…I was thinner, would I get asked out more? Uhm, no. Even after my conversion to diet soda, I only went out on a date like twice in my entire high school career. — junior and senior proms – with guy “friends.” And, honestly, after looking back at old pictures documenting my size 8-10 fluctuation over those years, I don’t really think my size was what kept me from getting asked out, but that’s a different post entirely.

But, what really matters is that at the time, I thought it was why I didn’t get asked out. So, I drank diet soda by default. Real soda was for people who didn’t have weight problems. Right?

Ahem. Well, I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s not necessarily about what I eat or don’t eat, or what I drink or don’t drink. It’s about portion and variety and self control.

For over two decades, I have consoled myself with something I didn’t really like, but felt that I deserved because what if I couldn’t control myself with the “real thing?” What if I stopped drinking diet soda and gained weight?

Well, guess what? Drinking diet soda didn’t keep me from gaining weight, and it wasn’t the “secret weapon” back when I was thinner. I gained weight because my input exceeded my output. When I was thin, my output exceeded my input. Period.

I’ve been drinking alternative beverages for 6 days now, and I haven’t gained an ounce. (Yay, me!) And guess what else? I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had to drink. Milk, iced tea, water, vanilla chai, and the occasional Coc’-Cola. 🙂 And an unanticipated bonus? A fuzziness that I didn’t realize was there seems to have lifted from my brain. BOOM! How cool is that?

What’s the takeaway from my a-ha moment? Don’t be afraid to try something different. Change course just a little bit. Be brave. Be wild and crazy. Be daring. Go left instead of right. Try a vanilla chai. It might just be worth it 🙂

Irreplaceable

One of my favorite quotes is credited to renowned 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde.

He advised, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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Dying Star Photographed by the Hubble Telescope

My first husband had a saying, too. A bit more Poe than Wilde, his words were the cautionary, “You can be replaced.”

The glorious truth? I am many things, but replaceable I am not. And neither are you.

Sure, most any woman would be capable of keeping house, running errands, and taking care of things in general. But all the little things that make up who I am are the sum total of my DNA, my life experiences, and how I’ve chosen to respond to those experiences. Never before, and never again will there be another Marilyn Elizabeth Luce Robertson who is like me. I am one of a kind – irreplaceable, for all of time.

Recently having lost my mother to leukemia and congestive heart failure, I have understandably been thinking a lot about life, purpose, and the brevity of our window of influence on our world and fellow man. I’ve been spending some time in the past, remembering good and bad and relishing both because it was real and true and mine – my life with my mother, who was irreplaceable, too.

I have also been thinking about the future. My future as well as the future my mother stepped into just over three weeks ago. I’ve been reading a variety of accounts about heaven by believers and non-believers alike. I even watched a video clip of the transcendent theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking describing his belief on the afterlife, which is that it is non-existent. He explained that he sees the body as a highly complex computer that eventually shuts down. And, when it shuts down, that’s the end of it.

Be assured that I have neither the desire nor the ability to debate Mr. Hawking, one of the premiere minds of the last century at least. No, I will not debate Mr. Hawking. However, me being me, I must beg to enter the conversation in my own way, here on my little blog. I don’t even want to approach the idea of heaven. I want to start with the basics – the belief that we do or do not have a soul, which Mr. Hawking seems to believe that we do not.

I would argue that a computer does not have a presence, as a person does. Any intelligence that it has, has been created on it’s behalf. It does not have a hunger for knowledge or a need for relationships. It doesn’t dream of flying or exploring beyond the stars. It does not know jealousy, compassion or love. Even advances in artificial intelligence are only the product of man’s invention and intervention. I do not see the logic in using the creation to define the creator. Even we Christians do not do that. We believe we were made in God’s image, and we strive to reflect His character. It’s not the other way around.

About now, I am guessing that you are asking yourself what Stephen Hawking’s spiritual view has to do with  Oscar Wilde and my ex-husband. Where is Marilyn going with this?  Don’t worry, I have a plan 🙂

One of my favorite laws of physics states that two forms of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. When a computer dies, we put it in the trash, take it to a recycling center, or stow it in the garage to save for parts. It does not transform of it’s own accord. Unlike, say, a star. When a star dies, it changes form and in most cases, it eventually explodes, sending all the things that it once was out into the galaxy.

If I had to explain the spiritual side of death scientifically, I think I would do it this way. When a person dies, everything they were goes someplace else, not totally unlike a star. When I explained it to my 5 year old son, I told him that when Grandma died, God gave all the parts of her that belonged to the earth back to the earth, and that He took all the parts of her that He breathed into her, like her personality and charisma, her humor and love, all the things that made her irreplaceable, back to heaven with Him.

I think that makes a lot more sense. Sorry, Mr. Hawking. Even Transformers believe in the AllSpark.

Worthy; recovering from emotional abuse, January 10, 2014

Image Most of us step into marriage with the greatest expectations of a lifetime spent loving and being loved. Sure, we’ll have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we’ll work through whatever comes our way, together, because that’s what people who love each other do, right?

I married my second boyfriend. Throughout high school and college, I can count on one hand the different guys I went out with, so it’s safe to say I didn’t date a lot. I was that other girl, you know, everyone’s “little sister.” I had a herd of “big brother” friends and protectors, but few expressed any romantic interest.

When I married “Don” (not his real name), I was just finishing nursing my wounds from the “big breakup” with my college sweetheart. It had been two years, and “Don” seemed the antithesis of my first boyfriend. He was a few years older, reserved, cerebral, in the ministry, and an east-coaster. My first boyfriend was from Chicago, so dating someone with a completely different philosophy on pizza might be a good idea, right? Word to the wise, don’t base your dating decisions on hand tossed versus deep dish. Just sayin’ ;p

“Don” and I took a lot of walks. He was a great conversationalist and offered a lot of deep thoughts and clever phrases. He was fun in a dark, droll kind of way – Mr. Rochester to my Jane. The romantic in me thought it was a match made in Victorian literature. Ahem.

The first few months of our marriage were nice. Peaceful, quiet, normal, until that morning – the morning “Don” wasn’t waking up for church. He was going to be teaching, and I was supposed to lead worship, but I decided to let him rest a few more minutes since he obviously was tired. When I still couldn’t rouse him, I became worried. He seemed totally unresponsive. I remember sitting down next to him on the edge of the bed, my hand on his shoulder. “Don?” I asked with a gentle shake. Nothing. “Don?” A little louder, a little more urgent. Then, he awoke, but the man who lunged from the bed was no one I recognized.

He was raging, and I was dumbfounded, confused and silent, just watching at first, trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Words spewed from him like venom. Harsh, unfounded accusations, cruel curses, and anger. Still, the only thing I understood was that I needed to keep out of his way.

I watched what seemed like slow motion as he flew his fist against the hallway wall, leaving a crooked imprint. I remember thinking he seemed so calm and focused on his movements. Elbow back, fist tucked under chin, then a deep breath and BAM, another hit, this time splintering a hole in the coat closet door.

The energy rolled off of him, and he suddenly seemed exhausted. He walked to the bathroom and locked himself inside. Quiet.

I sat on the couch, feet tucked under my knees, nightgown pulled down tight, like a little girl watching a scary movie. The phone sat on the coffee table. I stared at it, weighing my options, my future. All I had to do was make one call. My brother would come and get me, and that would be that. But…

If I made that call, there would be no hope of saving my marriage. No hope of rescuing that happily ever after. My family would lock me in a closet before ever letting me come back, and there would be no vouching for “Don’s” safety. I am the baby of five, and let’s face it, big brothers are big brothers.

That’s when I heard him crying, from the other side of the bathroom door. Obviously, “Don” must be sick. He had never acted that way before. Maybe he needs some medicine, and some counseling. Something must be wrong, and it was my place to help him, wasn’t it?

And so it began. Friends, finding yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship is as easy as a Sunday morning gone wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, or you see that someone you love needs help, please, be brave. Make the call.

Love you, lovelies.

The Journey, December 21, 2013

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Many years ago, when I was overweight the first time, a dear family friend offered to pay for a few counseling sessions for me. The counseling was a gift of guidance through some rough waters I was navigating at the time – college, boyfriend, my father’s deteriorating mental health. I met with the counselor for my first session. She and her husband shared a counseling practice in a detached office space behind their Chicago-land residence. She was middle aged, blonde, and petite. We talked briefly about a few things at first. I call it the “getting to know you” stage. Then, she said something that took me by surprise.

“You’re really tiny, aren’t you?”

Confession – I was VERY overweight at the time, considerably more  than I am now. Her words stunned me.  And, they frightened me. My obesity failed to hide my 5’2″, small-boned frame from this woman. Somewhere inside, I was tiny, and the realization that she noticed was terrifying, even though I didn’t know why. And, at the time, I wasn’t willing to find out. My first visit to that counselor was my last – I didn’t go back.

Over the years, I have occasionally thought about that day, about her words and my reaction.  As miserable as being overweight can be, it can serve as a great excuse to get you out of all kinds of situations, both passively and actively. It provides a protective barrier of insulation, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, it’s not very versatile. There is a price to pay for trying to make yourself invisible to the world. The price? Success. For every bad thing you think you’ve protected yourself from, there is a multitude of positive experiences that you deny yourself, and the people around you.

Invisibility doesn’t equal immunity.

Whatever any of us thinks we’re saving ourselves from by hiding behind weight isn’t worth it. There is suffering even in the so-called invisibility. Trust me, being overweight doesn’t make you invisible. It makes you misrepresented. You don’t take as many chances. You deny yourself opportunities. You don’t let your talents shine. You don’t contribute as fully as you might otherwise. You can’t fulfill your true earthly purpose when you’re not being true to yourself. And, you know what? That’s really sad.

It came as a surprise.

Until that day in the counselor’s office, sitting in a plush, overstuffed chair, I had no idea that I was invisible. I wasn’t consciously trying to hide who I was from the world. What’s more, I had forgotten that I really was, well, tiny. Could it have been that, instead of hiding myself from the world, or at least, in addition to hiding myself from the world,  I was attempting to hide myself from myself?

Why would I do that?

I don’t know if I have the answer to that question. When I consider it, I think of words like self-preservation, denial, fear, lack of confidence. That’s probably a good start. I think that when we are in situations we feel we have no control over and we need comfort that we can’t seem to satisfy, we turn to alternatives. Some of those alternatives are healthy, and some are not. I don’t think any of us do it on purpose. Who would want to be unhealthy? Who would want to be overweight? Who would want to be invisible?

Breaking true.

So, I’ve lost around 15 pounds now. I probably have around 80 to go, at least. And, that’s okay because I’m moving in the right direction. I’m more comfortable with who I am than I have ever been. I’m looking forward to moving forward in this journey, and to learning more about myself and the world and my place in it. The exciting thing is that the ride is so much more fun with my eyes open 🙂 Because I am willing and able to look at myself and the truth of my situation – the truth of my health, my priorities, my options, my dreams, my environment, my family and friends, my job, my past, my now, and my future, I have all the tools I need to break through to my next goal, and the next, and the next.

I hope that, as you move forward in your journey, whatever it may be, that you choose to be bold. Be willing to open your eyes to yourself and the world around you. You deserve to live and walk in the truth of who you are. Brave is as brave does 😉

 

 

 

 

The Journey, December 1, 2013

The time…
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has come.

My diet survived Thanksgiving, I think.

I haven’t weighed over break, but I will be doing that tomorrow at work. My biggest worry is that I’ve gained, my biggest hope is that I’ve remained steady, and my biggest wish is that I’ve lost. Right now, I’m hoping for keeping steady :). Y

Regardless of the results of tomorrow’s weigh in, I have come to an unsettling realization of truth. Yes, I have been making more healthy eating decisions. Yes, I have been making progress, and I’ve lost 13 pounds. But, I know something is missing. I know that I need to once again take up exercise (insert noir film foreboding music – DOM, dom, DOOOOMMMMMM!).

I have mixed feelings about exercise. In the past, I have enjoyed it, and I have loathed it. It has served as both an escape and a punishment, and as leverage by a man who once swore an oath to love me and cherish me. At one point, I ran several miles a day, every day. Biked, hiked, and did ridiculously challenging (and effective) toning exercises, all in pursuit of that elusive carrot called “good enough.” Good enough to love, good enough to keep. Even though it’s been 7 years since that relationship dissolved, it is still a struggle to tune out his words. Yes, it was a very dark time in my life, but I always had hope. Sometimes I borrowed it from the few people who had an idea of what was going on. Sometimes I pulled it up from somewhere deep inside. Sometimes God poured it over me in the most unexpected ways.

So, today, as I look at my running shoes, mocking whispers from the past rise up, trying to tell me I’m a failure. Trying to tell my I’m not pretty. Trying to tell me I’ll never be “good enough.” And, do you know what I say to that? ENOUGH! I’ve always been enough of anything I’ve needed to be. I’ve worked hard, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve given, I’ve loved, I’ve hurt, and I’ve failed. But, I have NEVER GIVEN UP. I might have a soft voice, but in my heart of hearts, I am a fighter. I am stubborn, and when I’m broken, I am remade stronger than I was before. It might take me a while to heal. It might take me a while to tie up the laces. But I always have hope that I will, one day. And today, my friends, is one of my many, many “one days.”

If you are struggling with, well, ANYTHING. Know that your one day is coming, perhaps today. Hang in there, be strong, and have hope. Lace up those shoes, lovelies. 🙂

Giving Thanks

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“You know our hearts, You know our needs.”

These are the words my brother Jim used every year in his Thanksgiving prayer. Our family seated around the table in the house he and his wife rebuilt after the tornadoes of 2003, we bowed our heads as he spoke. The smell of roasted turkey and his world-famous gravy filled the air, and the counter was full of goodies: my sister-in-law’s pumpkin pie and haystacks, my mom’s infamous fudge, and my fruit salad. If we were especially lucky, there might be venison slow roasting  from a recent bow hunting trip.

My favorite part of the meal came just before we actually ate. Jim would go around the table, asking us each to mention something from the past year that we were thankful for. Sometimes someone would say something funny. Sometimes someone would say something serious. I loved the power of reflection, of tradition, of acknowledging our human-ness – that whatever we were thankful for was maybe something we could not have accomplished on our own. I loved that he made an effort to bring thanks into our Thanksgiving celebration.

“It’s just not the same.”

It has been seven years since I sat around his Thanksgiving table, and six years since the accident that took him too soon. Our family dynamics have changed a lot since then. People have moved, and moved again. My nephews have graduated college, and I married and have a son of my own. Still, I confess, I find myself in a love/hate relationship with this holiday of Giving Thanks.

I struggle with wishing things could be the way they were. I struggle with trying to make something new. I struggle with missing my brother. But, today, his words are on my mind, “You know our hearts, You know our needs.”

“What are you thankful for this year?”

This year, finally, I can say that I’m thankful for everything. I’m thankful for all the days we were able to spend together. All the games of dominoes, all the leftover turkey and cranberry sandwiches. All the times we both brought a secret stash of cranberries to make sure there was enough. The tryptophan semi-coma aftermath of 11 people searching for a piece of couch or chair to fall into while waiting for the gumption to get up for dessert. Again.

I’m thankful that, finally, I think the fog of my grief has cleared enough for me to realize that while I cannot recapture those days, I can share the essence of them with my son. The prayer, the food, the stories, and in a few years, maybe even the dominoes. Most importantly, I can share the love of family, and the tradition of taking the time to reflect and give thanks.

My son will never meet my brother in this world, but I will do my best to make sure he knows him. This year, when my little family of 3 gathers around our table, we will give thanks. Thanks for our past, our present, and our future. And, I will tell a little boy about his uncle who made the world’s best gravy and played a mean game of dominoes.