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Testing, Testing


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It has been a day of tests...things kept happening that tested my resolve to take time off and take care of myself....finally. I imagine this will happen. A woman called just before I got sick on the 16th. She was in my book club. However I only saw her once there as she has moved out of the area and is now back. Anyway, she called sobbing on the phone saying she heard about Bill and wondered if she could talk to me. Her husband has Alzheimer's and she is the care giver. He is a former physicist and I know some of the folks who were in his professional circle (super intelligent guys-internationally known) so watching this man deteriorate (just like watching my Bill who also had a brilliant mind) is treacherous. So down I go for about two hours today as a gesture of kindness. On the way home I became VERY aware of how UNready (not news) I am to do any counseling/therapy at this time and in this realm and maybe never after so many years of doing that. Then I reminded myself that this is no time to make any decisions. I am too tired. I learned this woman has a counselor.

Then later today someone said that my decision to quit my publication even sooner than I had originally announced (I moved the date of the last issue from October to August) could mean I miss out on an opportunity to sell it and lose the money. Since I worry about having enough money (not immediately) but if I live long, I cringed...then did the self-doubt thing for about 20 minutes and then I actually let it go. Ironically she also said, "Mary, that cough of yours sounds deep. I wonder if you have pneumonia." I had to smile at her lack of awareness of what she had just said. I had already placed a call to have Mark (MD) listen to my lungs tomorrow. Tomorrow I am meeting with a good friend whose sister was just murdered last week. A very sad situation...a wonderful woman who helped everyone. She asked if we could just talk as friends. I would never say no to her but I am going armed with the names of trauma therapists in Madison.

I am experiencing a growing awareness of how firmly planted my feet must be so that I truly do listen to and honor my own voice/needs as I prepare to take a year more or less to heal and get some energy back.

"When the student is ready, the teacher appears"...the teacher comes in many forms from flu, pneumonia, people in need, people with "advice", and more. Peace, Mary

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Dear Mary,

Strange. I am having similar experiences this week. Every time I look up someone needs my help. One former student's infant is probably going on a feeding tube this week--long story. Another former student's son has just been diagnosed with cancer and is at Dana-Farber. Yesterday's mail brought the handbook for the Marathon Walk. Today's brought a donation for our Relay team.

I need this break desperately. But cancer and the 10,000 things never seem to take one.

I feel your pain because it is my own. All I can do is offer this electronic hug--and the reminder that we are never truly tested beyond our strength--though sometimes I wonder about that lately.

We may be tired, but our shoulders are broad.

Peace,

Harry

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we will be no good to anyone if we do not honor and respect the needs of our body/mind/spirit/emotions to back off and heal. Our broad shoulders will surely collapse...at least mine will...the writing is on the wall. I hope you can continue to stand back for a while...hopefully longer than a week :) Mary

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Hap, my dear, I must say that I agree with Mary ~ Be careful lest you find yourself feeling indispensable to your cause. It's important that you take time to stop and rest, to nourish your body, mind and spirit. Cancer and the 10,000 things will still be there, waiting until you are fit to go back into battle.

I want to share with you a little ditty that I hope you will take with a grain of salt, and in the spirit in which it is intended ~ but do give it some thought, okay?

Some time when your ego's in bloom

Some time when you take it for granted

You're the best qualified in the room

Some time when you feel that your going

Would leave an unfillable hole,

Just follow this simple instruction

and see how it humbles your soul:

Take a bucket and fill it with water

Put your hand in it, up to the wrist

Pull it out, and the hole that's remaining

is a measure of how much you'll be missed.

Splash all you please when you enter

You can stir up the water galore

But stop, and you'll find in a minute

That it looks quite the same as before.

The moral in this quaint example is

Just do the best that you can!

Be proud of yourself, but remember

there is no indispensable man!

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Harry, years ago I was first a therapist then director of residential and out patient services at a treatment center. In fact I founded the out patient program. In the residential program with REALLY difficult to treat kids ages 6-18 I made massive program changes including starting a wellness program when the word wellness was pretty new. I later left to do a private practice full time...I left burned out for lots of reasons...the kids were tough, the child care workers I supervised were adolescents (need I say more) and I (really we under my leadership) were making changes none of the kids or workers wanted. I had strong support from the therapists and other adminstrators. One year after I left I stopped to say hi to folks. A new receptionist had been hired and had never heard of me. My ego was shredded. How could she never hear of me, superwoman. Thank goodness other folks I knew were there but so were new staff who never heard of me. I will never forget the lesson...no one is indispensable and when we step out of the way, others step up.

You said In your post that you need the "break desperately". I think we all here love you and I suspect everyone here knows you need a LONG break. I hope you are as good to yourself as you were to your wife and students. You deserve it. Today a friend said to me that she notices how busy I am...she has great boundaries and has helped me a lot with design. I thanked her for the fedback. Without Bill here to give me feedback I have to hope friends will do that asked or not asked. I am your friend and am unasked suggesting you slow down.

Now I am putting my soapbox away....for a while. :) Rest well, my friend!

Mary

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Oh Mary just when you need time to be quiet and rest people are calling upon you. You won't be able to help them if you don't step back and attend to your own needs will you? I know from the way that you have responded to me how deep is your empathy but it's clear that you can't keep giving too much out to others before you have attended to your own needs. Please look after yourself, and then you can look outside again, once you feel better. Many hugs. Han

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Hi Jan,

Thank you. I planted my feet even more firmly on my new path of self care. These teachers who came along this week were well used as reminders that I will be teased, tempted, invited, even shoved off my path but I can not allow and will not myself to succumb. I need time to heal. I learned the hard way these past 6 years and these past months. At least I hope I have...the teachers will keep reminding me if i let them. If I do not take this break that I created at great cost (emotionally and financially) I am one fool. Your reminders, however, are welcomed anytime!! :) Things will be tricky until the end of July but then I have no excuses and if I create obstacles or start turning "nothings" into pressure...well..I guess I am hopeless and I choose not to be hopeless in regards to my well being. :) I invite you to remind me or nudge me anytime I share something that hints at not staying on my resolve...and doing it with ease and in a relaxed sense. I do not want to work at this. I have worked at too much for too long.

Love

Mary

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Teachers Teachers...

The meeting with my friend whose sister was murdered went well. I met with both of them and actually it was healing to me rather than otherwise as we are friends and I was able to just be me and they were wide open to input but more important they were accepting of my love and compassion...she has been worried about her husband who tends to stuff feelings but the meeting but the meeting was healing to that issue also as he was able to cry and share emotion. I feel good about it.

On the other hand some more teachers have come along this morning as two people have wondered if my decision to move the end date of my publication up will result in the loss of a sale and the loss of Voice continuing. I have clearly gotten undertones of "this is a stupid decision" which makes me dig in deeper but feel more vulnerable. No one wants to see Voice go away...and comments about how sad they are also test me...I actually end up feeling guilty for not continuing so lots to let go of today...Awgh! I will not cave. The letter to the readers in what will be the final issue announcing that and thanking folks is written. To thine own self be true....do not let people take you off your path especially when decisions are tough already. I am not budging and I am not going to allow myself to wrestle with this...though it does have my stomach in a knot...that too shall pass.

Peace

Mary

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Steady as you go, dear Mary. The thought occurs to me ~ actually two thoughts occur to me: One, it is very easy for others to say that you "should" keep your paper going, for any number of reasons ~ but you are the one who understands how much work is involved, and whether you are willing and able to continue doing all that work. When people tell you how sad they are to see you leaving the Voice, instead of feeling guilty, try simply accepting that as a sincere and well deserved compliment, and a testament to your own hard work. Two, if your paper is meant to survive, consider the possibility that someone else might find a way to make it happen. As a very wise woman stated recently, "I will never forget the lesson...no one is indispensable and when we step out of the way, others step up."

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I just walked Bentley and realized too late that it was waaaay to hot to do that. :). Did not check temps first...like 93 out there. Stopped to get water for Bentley and for me at a couple shops along the way. i met a friend who stopped me and offered 500% support for my decision. I know you are right and thank you for the reminder on your first point. Humbly accepted. no one knows the work involved. What they know is they enjoy it. Thanks. I decided that if I need the money I MIGHT have made, I don't need it right now. I choose to trust life.

As for your second point about being indispensable...I had to smile. I can't argue with you on that one, can I? :) Thank you.

Looking forward to a Facebook class in the morning and a 3 day watercolor Class this weekend. Relaxing atmosphere. good friends. Great instructor.

Peace,

Mary

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36 years ago I was in a physically abusive marriage...very extremely so. My husband had a child by someone else while we were married, and brought him home to live with us. I quickly fell in love with this baby, and raised him for three years as if he were my own. As time went by, I increasingly knew I needed out of this marriage. I also knew it'd mean giving up the child...back in those days there was no such thing as stepparent's rights...at the time I didn't even know if that is what I was, but it seemed the closest fit. I knew if I had the Kennedy's money and clout, maybe...but I don't. But I knew I would be no use to the child if I didn't save myself. It would profit him nothing if I died at my abuser's hands. I left.

Fast forward years and years later...that sweet baby is now a grown man raising children of his own (and doing a wonderful job of it I might add!). He was raised by his biological mother and stepfather, he has no contact with his father and desires none. We keep in touch on a regular basis, as does his half-sister that I encouraged him to have a relationship with. She also stays in close touch with me. You might think three years wouldn't have made that much difference in his life, but it was the building blocks on which he was formed, and I'm glad I had a part in his life even if I didn't get to finish the job.

Sometimes we think we are indispensable but really there are others that can pick up where we left off. We all have our part, that's for sure, and some people leave a tough act to follow and maybe no one can do the job as well as you could...but it's up to us to have our priorities straight for our lives...we must each ask ourselves "What is it I am supposed to do?" Don't let it be others that feed you the answer, listen to that still small voice inside of you...get real quiet and listen...and you will know your answer.

The world will clamor for your attention and try to load all kinds of things on you that weren't meant to be for your shoulders...sometimes it's a matter of timing...we can carry the load at one time but not at another. Listen...and heed what is that best thing for yourself. It's not selfish, it's critical!

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Wow, I just got through reading others' responses, I think we're all on the same wavelength!

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Dear friends,

Yes. I know I am not indispensable. Yes, I am taking a break. Yes, it will be good for me to have done so. I have to plug this computer into the wall periodically to recharge its batteries. The same is true of this body and this mind. So I am doing that.

But the break will not be a long one. It will be long enough to bring me the peace and the strength and the vision I need for what comes next. And, for me at least, there needs to be a next. What comes next is also part of the healing process for me. I did not die in that hospital room--much as there are times I wish I had.

Jane had an expression she used frequently: Keep moving forward. When we climbed a mountain we would take periodic rests. This is one of those moments of rest. But the mountain is still there--and when I have rested enough I will continue the climb. I want to see what is at the top--even if others have seen it before and still others will see it after. The mountain does not care that I exist--and my climb is not indispensable to it. But the climb is indispensable to me and to my healing and to my growth.

But for this space in time I will push away fthe needs and demands of other people. I will rest. I will sleep. I will cry. I will make demands on the time and emotional support of others. Only by doing that can I prepare myself to do again what Jane and I always did. When we saw a problem we worked to solve it. When we saw someone in pain we worked to ease it. When we saw people who were hungry--mentally, emotionally, or spiritually--we taught them to fish, to hunt, to gather, and to plant and reap. If I turn my back on that work I not only dishonor her memory, I do dishonor to the person that I was and am.

But there has to be a balance between the needs of my own healing and the needs of others. One of the things I am trying to establish this week is what that balance is. I find that, sometimes, in mowing the lawn and pulling weeds. I find it in watching TV and movies and going for brisk walks. I find it in reading history and novels and science. I find it in the slow controlled breathing of my meditations and my vocal exercises. And I find it in the awful discipline of putting words into sentences and paragraphs.

Friends, I understand what you are saying. To the extent I can, I will embrace it. But I also have to keep moving forward. I can't stop caring about others. I can't stop caring about the awful things going on in the world. I can't stop trying to make things better.

In Casablanca, Rick Blaine asks Victor Laslo why he keeps trying--why he keeps fighting for the cause he believes in so hopelessly. Laslo replies, "You might just as well ask why we breathe. If we stop breathing we die. If we stop fighting, the world will die." It is not that Laslo thinks he is indispensable. He has already told the Germans that even if they kill him others will rise to take his place. Rather, he knows that if everyone stops fighting for justice, then the world will die--but that so long as even one person is engaged in that fight there is a chance the world will not die. He cannot decide what others will do--he can only try to influence their behavior through the example of his own life. So he fights on.

I know I sound hopelessly romantic when I say that. But the truth is we do influence the behavior of others through our actions. So I have to fight on.

Do I need to mourn? Yes. Do I need to rest? Yes. Do I need to send my mind on vacation? Yes. But can I walk away from who I am and what I do for the rest of my life--or even a substantial chunk of it? No. If I did then I would cease to live--I would become a follower of life, a follower of death, or someone merely passing through life to death. The thing I miss most since Jane's death is that feeling of being fully alive in each moment. In confronting my grief fully--in truly living it and not walking away from it--I reclaim my life and my living. There is a huge contradiction in what I just wrote, yet I have to live through both sides of that contradiction and make sense of it.

I am tired of grief--but it is not yet tired of me. I am angry--at the world, at fate, at myself, at Jane, at the unfairness of it all. Intellectually, I know that anger is irrational. But it does not change the fact if its presence. And I hurt--hurt so badly that I sometimes lash out irrationally at people who are only trying to help. And all of these things make doing what my heart bids me to do extremely hard.

So I am taking this break to try to sort it all out--to patch myself back together so that I am of some use in the world.

How long will it take? I have no idea. But today feels better than yesterday. Mostly. And tomorrow? Ask me that tomorrow.

Peace,

Harry

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Good for you, Harry. I know you're smart enough to take breaks when you need them and of course you have vision and want to keep going forward. That is also a part of your inner voice you're listening to. Each person's situation is going to be unique to them and so will their answers.

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Hi Harry,

I truly do not think anyone is trying to tell you to stop and not go forward. We all have to do that and you know what you want to do. My input is focused on all you have done and to me it seems exhausting and I am glad to see you take a break...I do hope you continue to enjoy your week off. Peace, mary

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Another day of teachers and tests: One can know that difficult times lie ahead when we make decisions but knowing that and living it are two different things.

I attended a Facebook class this morning..in hindsight I have no clue why I signed up for it long ago...but many of the folks who were in the class read and love my publication and came up to me with warm hugs and offering their gratitude for it as and congratulations as well as their understanding of how much work it must be and yet wished it would go on as it as been a great gift to the area. Another friend there founded and heads up Grassroots Citizens who provide lots of great events.... and is ready to give that up now and pass the gauntlet not knowing who will take it over. I guess we are all getting older. We talked about letting go and letting others, younger, step up. Then I distributed some Voices and the head of Folklore Village, (a wonderful wonderful place that keeps traditions and stories and ethnic cultures alive via entertainment, dances, etc. under the leadership of a gentle man) told me he is retiring in a couple of weeks after 20 years of offering great cultural events. As I drove on the tears started and continue and that was 3 hours ago. All this gratitude, acknowledgement (receiving as well as my acknowledging what these folks have done) and endings and I came home feeling...well the best word for it is naked....stripped of so much in the past two years (my profession for now at least and maybe forever; my husband-the love of my life; my publication, my lifestyle etc.), so many endings in my life and others' lives. A friend just called that she got a clean bill of health (for now) on her recent bout with cancer. I have walked through that with her this year and we were crying on the phone for her joy. Then she talked about all the changes in my life, including not feeling well, ending of Voice, ending endings...it felt good to be heard...she usually hears me. Whew...this is all exhausting.

So tomorrow afternoon I start a 3 day watercolor class and hope to get back to my painting and that will be a good distraction and fun...something to fill one of the holes a bit. Change is so hard and after the big one (the loss of our spouses) come all the others....the secondary and tertiary and more- losses that most people do not understand and that are NOT small. We lose so much when we lose a spouse...

Now to see if I can get the faucet to stop pouring tears down my face.

Peace, Mary

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Thank you, Pam. You are so kind. I have my center back and feeling ok. Thank you. Yes, shoulders, especially that special one, to rest or cry on. Such a soothing thought. I send hugs back. Love, Mary

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Dear Mary,

I'm thinking out loud, as it were. You've raised exactly the issues I am fighting my way through at the moment: how much is enough? How much is too much? Where is the line between healthy and unhealthy? How do I step away from time to time without feeling guilty that I am doing that?

I think you are fighting your way through a similar group of questions. Our answers will be different because our situations are different. Yet the testing that is thrown at us as we try to make strategic withdrawls to rest,recuperate and heal ourselves are eery in their similarity. Your responses to these challenges are forcing me to think critically about the choices I have to make and then deal with. And it does not help that I am not sleeping well and that my dreams--I am dreaming again--are filled with images of Relay and the Marathon Walk and all the other things I want o escape from and not think about this week.

But I went out tonight to see a comedy show one of my former students--now 38--was doing at a local eatery/bar. His bit was funny. I wish I could say the same for most of the other comics in the retinue. But it took me out of myself for a few hours. We talked comics for a bit afterward and spent a few minutes talking with the other comics about why they do what they do. An interesting night--a night with no stump roots in it. I needed that tonight.

Thanks for making me think about what I am doing and why I am doing it. And please don't take my responses for more than they are--me trying to sort my way through the minefield that confronts me.

Peace,

Harry

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Dear Mary.

One other thing--a quote from Doctor Who: Things have to have endings or there would be no space for beginnings.

Peace,

Harry

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Yes, Harry, I am asking all those questions and find it to be a daily search for answers in many instances. I also learn the answers after the fact a bit too often. In other words, I get in up to my neck and figure out that I bit off too much. Bill and I renovated two houses, built a third, created two clinics, RVd for 2 years, started the Voice, traveled, hiked and on and on...we were high energy as we also had thousands of thousands of quiet moments walking our woods, sitting on our deck watching the sun sink behind the trees. As we mowed paths through the woods, we often stopped to hug or notice a flower. We were pretty much in the moment with each other even when busy and that was made our work fun and fatigue minimal. We also helped each other be in the moment and slow down and not overdo but as you know there is no one to share and help do that now. My brakes are gone...so I tend to run a muck. But I think I have learned now that I do not want to live a muck. I ran out of gas. Ran on fumes now for way too long and now there are no fumes. So yes, I am dealing with the same questions along with asking just what is it that I do want to do with my life? Where do I want to put my energies when I get some back? I am not at all clear on that. You have a passion that you have poured yourself into. It can also sneak up on your energy and drain it without you recognizing that. It is such a delicate balance...life.

Your dreams are certainly telling you a lot about your struggles for balance. I think they always do. Mine do for sure. I am glad you got out for a bit of comedy. We shall go forward supporting each other and all the others who are here in pain and searching. Thanks for your response. Peace, Mary

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"Its such a delicate balance, life." Boy Mary, do those words ring true with me. I took care of Larry many years before his death. I left myself on the side of the road trying so hard to save his life. Never was one to think of myself. Now six years after his death I also have ran out of gas and my health has been affected. Ironically, my balance has become a problem, some sort of vestibular problem. It is wreaking havoc with my day to day living. So here we are, still have to take care of the home, pets, garden, money problems no matter how tired or sick. For me, I think thats where I stumble. I have to have a roof over my head, food, feed my dogs when I can barely stand,etc. what are you to do when you just can't anymore???? Maybe this is my lesson, balance, but I fear I've waited to long to realize this and I still don't know the answer. No one else is going to come in and save me. Deborah

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Dear Deborah, Yes, it is about balance...ironic that balance is your issue. After Bill died and I was running around like a chicken with my head off (out of fear) for a while, I had balance issues and decided my body was telling me something. Of course, it took a long while before I listened..really listened. You said you fear you have waited too long...I am a huge believer in "it's never too late". Figuring out what we need, what we can do and then stepping onto the path...that is where I am right now. Standing at the entrance to another this time with some clear goals (healing my body for one) and open to what unfolds. I hope you can create a new script and tell yourself it is not too late to do what you can do and what you think you can't do. Peace, Mary

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Feeling discouraged today. I came home from art class exhausted last night. Today, I had to leave 2 hours early as I could not push myself any longer. I have another day tomorrow and will listen to my body as to how long I stay. This is a repeat class for me so I am not missing new material but realize that I am more tired this summer than I was last summer...this chapter of my life has caught up with me and taken its toll physically thereby making me more vulnerable emotionally also. I have been tired for 6+ years now and that is not the way I lived the first 66 years of my life. So July 16 can not come fast enough but there is one final push to get to that date...the date my "at least one year time for me" begins.

This video was sent by a friend in Colorado. It is 5 days of the fire in time lapse and pretty astounding. Bill and I got caught near a fire like this unexpectedly and the sounds were deafening, the smoke and soot in the air blinding as well as making it hard to breathe. It is frightening. We were never in danger but did not know that at the time. My friend's son is fighting this fire. He got to meet Obama yesterday and talk to him about the help that is needed.

I guess this post is not very uplifting.

Peace

Mary

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