Listen With Your Eyes

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The circus that is surrounding us today in regards to the Charlottesville events is irritating me. Yes, I am outraged at the event itself. I don’t think I need to add to the mayhem about that. For the record, as a young girl in Louisiana I was always puzzled by the statues in New Orleans. Why are we revering defeated generals who led a revolt against our own country? I, for one, say take them down. That war meant nothing to me except a good backdrop for the fictional novel Gone With the Wind.

As for the rest of the drama and the political fallout, the main thing that comes to my mind is what I learned in Alanon. People show you who they are. I don’t trust people’s words anymore anyway. Words are measured and sifted and sorted to project an image of who they want to be… of who they think they should be. They mean very little and spending time trying to get anyone to say something is meaningless. Even if they finally say it, it rings hollow. Just ask someone to tell you they love you. Feel what it feels like when they say they do. Yuk. Better left unsaid. They’ve already shown you who they are.

I’ve learned to listen with my eyes. Watch what they do. See who they befriend. Is there drama or peace or surrounding them? Are they humble or narcissistic? Do they act out of love or fear? What draws their attention? What motivates them to act? Who or what is in their heart? Where do they spend their money? What do they worship? Does who they say they are resonate with what you see? Is honesty and integrity evident?

Words are a dime-a-dozen. People show you who they are. When you see them, decide how you react. Do you protect yourself? Do you move closer? Do you trust them? Do you fear them? Can you put down your walls or should you build them higher and thicker and stronger? Do they need your prayer? Are they good for you or do they bring you down? Are they dangerous or safe?

Don’t become fixated on what someone says. Watch them. They will show you who they are.

Accepting my Brokenness

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I miss my house in Memphis. That place was so healing to me. The garden was too big for me to manage. The bedroom had no door. The bathroom only had a stand-up shower, so I couldn’t take baths for years. And the sunroom in the back wasn’t very well insulated which caused it to be cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. But that place was fertile ground for my growth as a person.

Be still and know that I am God. That scripture was scrawled across my empty yoga room wall at the front of the house. I’m sure the room was meant to be the living room, but I wanted the front room to be empty except for my spiritual space and those words that grounded and inspired me to stop trying to fix my life.

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I texted a friend of mine this weekend to see how she was doing. “Learning some things about being okay with my own brokenness, and the ability to just sit with that. To love myself with all my brokenness, and accept my humanity,” she texted back. Ahhhh, I thought. Accepting our brokenness … what a concept. Be still and know that I am God.

So much of my life I’ve been driven to fix things … numb my pain … say I’m sorry when I did nothing wrong  … eat to ease loneliness … find a man to fill the hole in my heart where compassion belongs. I didn’t understand that brokenness is the birthplace of wholeness.

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I thought that my heart was a vase that when shattered needed to be superglued to resemble its original form. That was so shortsighted. Isn’t it much more beautiful to accept the broken pieces as they are and create a mosaic. Choosing the most beautiful chunks, we create a stepping stone or a hanging ornament which reflects the sunshine. A mosaic carries the beauty of the original amid the amplified emotion of the breaking. Acceptance of my brokenness … be still and know that I am God.

A man died of alcoholism in that house. That’s how it came to me. I felt that I was a part of its healing just as it was part of mine. That house was empty of furnishings but full of love. Women laughed and cried and sat in their brokenness in that empty space. I painted the walls in many colors and opened my heart to the garden’s lushness. I cried tears of joy and sobbed with great sorrow. I accepted its many flaws without trying to fix them, and the garden endured my lack of experience with landscaping. The space felt huge, and my heart healed.

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How do we accept our brokenness? It’s so difficult to sit with pain and sorrow and guilt until it changes us. It’s much easier to try to fix it or numb out. The easier path is not the transformative one. I don’t have answers on how to accept your brokenness, but I know how I accept mine.

Be still and know that I am God.

~~Psalm 46:10

 

 

Seeing Others as We Are: Projection

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There have been people in my life who offer me feedback and I think, “Who are they talking about?” I get a confused feeling in my gut that tells me that something is wrong. I’ve received critical feedback that is dead on, and it feels differently in my gut. I may not like it, but I know it’s truth.

This feeling in my gut when I hear feedback that doesn’t even sound like me triggers all my codependency urges. This experience is old. It goes back to a time when my motives and my very being were run through a filter that distorted who I was. People who have those filters – psychology calls it projecting – are generally unaware but believe vehemently that what they see in the other person is truth. In fact they are looking at a mirror image of themselves.

I’ve spent way too many hours of my time in these discussions where I try to explain myself or point out the facts in my life that do not support that view. But because they have to believe it to support their own denial, They are invested more in defending their perspective than in the health of the relationship. I usually begin the task I describe as “trying to nail jello to a tree”. It never works. I get exhausted, and the relationship crumbles due to the very personal nature of the conflict.

Projection is so hard to combat because the person projecting really believes that what they are seeing is true. And I know I’ve projected things on to people. It’s sort of a normal human thing, but it becomes even more distorted and dangerous to relationships when people are not self-aware of their own shortcomings. I’m certainly not an expert in this as I’m not a psychologist but I have become more aware of  its impact on my life as I’ve worked through problems over the years. And I recognize it much more readily now.

This article explains projection in much more detail. It also brings up the very real possibility that because someone projects something onto us about their own disfunction many times, we start to believe that is who we are. Words become reality because our inner critic takes up the mantra. Years and years of hearing those words in our heads ends up creating the monster projected. Truth really doesn’t matter. Words do, in fact, kill.

What is the answer if you’ve been impacted by years and years of projection? Find out who you really are, and immerse yourself in that life. Question the criticism of people in your life instead of just believing it without evidence. Silence the voice in your head by paying more attention to the people who see the real you. Stop trying to argue with people who project on to you and realize they will never see you as a person. Get some psychological help or go to a support group so you hear alternative voices that can help you reframe reality. One day you will be able to confidently say, “That’s not even me they are talking about,” and you will truly recognize it.

In healing, you get to create the life you want instead of the one that is handed to you. There is no greater gift.

 

Randomness: Enjoy Yourself

Who would have ever thought we would get old? I look into the faces of my contemporaries and see the lines gathering. Some have been brave enough to go completely gray naturally, while the rest of us keep daring ourselves to stop coloring. The face in the mirror looks older every year, but I still have hope I have a chunk of time ahead of me. But the clock is ticking … TICK TOCK… TICK TOCK…. TICK TOCK.

A few of my childhood friends have died in the last few years, and with each one my own mortality stares me down. “Don’t waste time,” the grimmest of reapers taunts, “I’ll be coming for you sooner than you think.” And the clock chimes yet again.

I decided when I turned 50 I was going to simplify my life and be more mindful of how I spent my time. I’d spent countless days and nights trying to make relationships work that didn’t and wasting too much time on people who didn’t deserve my affections. The time until I turned 50 – holy cow – flew by. I woke up one day and I had no idea what I’d done with my life. I committed to making intentional choices about the rest of my vacation here on earth. When I lay my head down for the last time, I’d like to feel satisfied with my adventure.

While I think this is the BEST time of my life, it’s not lost on me that it feels like the most precious… and perhaps the most fleeting.

“Enjoy yourself,” Doris Day says, “It’s later than you think.”

 

Randomness: Be Unforgettable

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They say that memories are burned into your brain in direct correlation with the intensity of the emotions you felt at the time. If an event happens that doesn’t affect you at all emotionally, there is little chance you will remember it in much detail. If you are abused or afraid or intensely angry or even joyful, you will remember every tiny detail. And in most cases, the emotion will bubble up or even sideline you with a similar intensity when you remember it later.

One of my favorite books is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. He says if you show a genuine interest in people by asking them questions about themselves and really listening, they will tell everyone they know what a great conversationalist you are. The words we speak don’t make the difference. It’s the way we make people feel that makes us memorable.

That knife cuts both ways, too. How do you want to be remembered? Who do you remember because of the way you made them feel?

 

Randomness: Feelings

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When I was going through my second divorce and all of the grief of my life was cascading over me in a relentless torrent of pain, it was all I could do to get through the day at work without falling apart. When I think of hard things, I think of those days. Because I only knew how to repress my feelings, put on a positive face and push through my life, I had let years and years of grief and pain build up inside me.

With the loss of that dream of being happily married, I felt like my world had come unhinged. What in the world was wrong with me that I couldn’t do the simplest of things as to keep a partner? How would I function being single in a world where couplehood is golden? What would my lonely-ass life look like as a single gal? Did God hate me so much that he created me to be an unloveable mess of a person? Was that my journey on this earth? The grief… the fear … the loss of everything I wanted … the rubble of my dreams … the pain of my inadequacy … it was all ….. too …. much.

I broke. The dam that was holding back the losses of my life cracked wide open. The cascade of hurts and fears and insecurities of a lifetime literally knocked me off my feet. Sometimes I’d hold it together at work. Some days I wouldn’t. My life was work, 12-step meetings and weekly sessions with my therapist. I’d trudge up the stairs to my apartment and start crying before I hit the top of the stairs. Locking the door behind me, I’d lay on the floor or on my bed and cry. I thought the crying would NEVER end.

Oddly enough, I look back at that time as one of the best in my life. I was forced to feel. Humans are meant to feel. We are not meant to cram feelings behind a dam of expectations. The pain was so scary because I thought it would never end, but I had people around me that told me to trust the process of grieving. Everything else I had ever believed turned out to be a lie, so I believed them.

So, today, whatever you are going through, know that you are on the path. Trudge that walk you need to trudge. Trust the process. And if all you do today is hold it together, know that I am proud of you. This walk … your unique trudge … is your walk of greatness. Real joy is somewhere on the other side. But for today, enjoy being a feeling, breathing, awesome child of God. Your feelings will lead you out.

 

Randomness: Be Sweet

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I get tired of being tough. In fact, over the last few years I gave it up. I want to be soft. I want to be sensitive. I want to wrap myself in the world like it’s a soft woolen blanket. I want to cry when I’m hurt, be hugged when I’m lonely and be sweet to strangers. But under all that softness, I know that I am tough. I’ve been to hell and back and bought the t-shirt. Knowing that I am tough gives me the freedom to be soft.

Let yourself bask in the knowledge that you are one tough cookie. It will make you all sweet on the inside.

 

Yoopers, Fudgies and Trolls: North Country Trail Conference

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Two years ago when I was hiking in North Carolina, I ran into a couple who was very active in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They told me I should check it out. Promises of meeting like-minded people and getting inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail really attracted me to the idea but I never got on the ball to make plans to go. So, when I saw that the North Country Trail Association had a conference, I registered on the first day it was open. I was so excited!

I planned my vacation around the weekend festivities in Marquette, my new favorite place. I also prepared myself to create a Plan B in case I got there and didn’t feel comfortable. I do get socially anxious sometimes when I’m around new people, so I never know how it’s going to go. Besides, all these folks know each other, so I was a little unsure if I’d feel like a fifth wheel. So, Plan B was in place, and I showed up Thursday morning for the first hike.

It was a lovely hike to Little Garlic Falls in the Little Garlic River. The trail reminded me so much of the Appalachians. The beautiful little stream snaked through a dense forest with rocks and evergreen trees. Although it wasn’t as hilly as North Carolina, it was every bit as beautiful and not nearly as well-traveled. We sat on a boulder and had lunch at the waterfall while the others crawled over the boulders and crossed to the other side of the stream.

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It was easy to talk to people on the hike, but I was a bit worried about dinner. I arrived at the social hour at 5 PM, and there was no one there but me. Eventually, a few other people arrived, and I started to talk with a couple from the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Pat and Bob were long-time members and very active in trail work. We talked for awhile, and they invited me to sit at their table. I met the rest of their group, and happily I met my “family” for the week. Every night we dined together and enjoyed the programs. I even took Ashok to their campfire at the campgrounds on Friday. They were very nice and were very excited to have someone new to add to their hiking and trail work group.

As we talked, they each held up their hands to show me where they live in Michigan. If you’ve ever noticed, Michigan is shaped like a pair of mittens. The Lower Peninsula is one, and the Upper Peninsula is the mate. They also informed me that there were two kinds of people in the world – Yoopers and people who want to be Yoopers. ( A Yooper is a person from the UP.) Furthermore, they said that anyone from below the Mackinac Bridge (me) was a troll. If a Troll moves up to the UP, they are then called a Fudgie. Apparently, you are only born a Yooper……you can never become one.

So, any dream of becoming a Yooper was dashed at that point. However, I can certainly visit. I liked pretty much everybody I met up there, and the conference was highly educational and entertaining. The first night we had a phenomenal presentation on history of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. It has the largest stand of old-growth forest in the country. I cannot wait to get over there and do some hiking.

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I attended a long distance hiking session, a “comedy on the trail” session and a fascinating session where Alex Maier showed his documentary about hiking across the UP. I gasped out loud when I saw the stars and the Northern Lights, and I made a mental note to get out to see that as soon as I can. I’m going to include the links to his documentary below for your enjoyment. It is worth watching to see this beautiful country through the lens of a great filmmaker. He even has some great footage of his winter backpacking. I don’t know if I’m up for that yet, but it was really interesting and beautiful to see!

Have a great week, y’all! Don’t ever be afraid to try something new. You never know how it might change your life.

Yooper Tours Teaser 

On Da North Country Trail: Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

My Best Cup in Marquette: Dead River Coffee Roasters

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While some people go on winery tours in Michigan and others explore the various breweries that populate every little small town in the state, I look for the best and the yummiest coffeehouses. Coffee is my drug of choice – mainly because the rest of my drugs of choice no longer serve me. Gratefully, there are people who are passionate about roasting dark and mysterious coffee beans and turning them into a deep, luxurious vehicle for transporting caffeine. It makes me thirsty just thinking about it. Luckily, I’m in a coffee shop now. The elixir beckons….

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Today’s coffeehouse of choice is Dead River Coffee Roasters on Baraga Street in Marquette. I asked the barista, “What’s your specialty?”, and he suggested a cup of their Brazilian brew. I laced it with half-and-half and commenced to enjoy. It is smooth and dark and deep-flavored. It is not too acidic. I wish I could tell you all of the flavors that are in it, but I don’t possess a sophisticated palate. I just know what I like, and I like this.

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I also like the shop. It’s a bit unruly in design with the coffee roaster sitting right up front. I hear the mechanical whish whish of the beans as they are stirred for roasting. It is a masculine-looking place in comparison to most coffeehouses with their bakery goods and feminine decor. Their website design is simple, too. Its one and only page says basically what it needs to say – We take good coffee seriously. There’s nothing fancy to see here. It’s just a place to sit with some really good coffee. I have to respect that.

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So, I’m almost done with my cup, and, with my sensitivity to caffeine, I can only have one cup this late in the day. I have an event to attend tonight at the University for the North Country Trail Association. Tonight’s presentation is on the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Area. They are trying to make it into a National Park. I’ve hiked there in the past. I’d like to go again. I guess I’ll need to make yet another trip to the Upper Peninsula in the future. And now I have a superb place to grab my coffee as I’m driving through. I might even sit awhile… but there are NO DOGS allowed. Sigh…..

 

Going Up and Up and Up: The UP

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“Go West, young man,” is the rallying cry that drove many of our forefathers to the Western U.S. to find their fortunes. For some reason, my compass always tells me to “Go North, young lady”. Now that I live north, the only place to go is to the top of the world that ends at Lake Superior – the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I went from Calumet to Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor….

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Because I was heading even further north this time to the Keewenaw Peninsula, my GPS sent me around Lake Michigan on the Wisconsin side. I drove up to Green Bay on Sunday. My friend Dan who is visiting in Michigan this week told me to be sure and explore Door County. I thought it might add too much time to the drive, but when I realized it was only about an hour and back out of the way, I jumped at the chance.

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I only had a few hours there, but we stopped at a cherry farm to score lots of cherry yummies and had a cup of coffee and a potato pancake in Sturgeon Bay. Sturgeon Bay is a lovely sort of canal that runs across the peninsula. Big ships were parked at the docks alongside one of the biggest yachts I’d ever seen. I spent a little time watching the water go by and then took off to Cave Point which was recommended in a brochure.

 

I thought I’d go by Cave Point and Whitefish Dunes State Park, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they were right next door to each other. In fact, I walked in and out of the parks as I strolled along the almost-California-like shoreline. This was a stunning rugged place that sounded almost as beautiful as it looked. Water crashed and popped under the cliffs like small explosions. I can’t even imagine the intensity of a winter storm.

Scenes from Door County

 

After dragging myself away from the peaceful place, I set my GPS to north, and up, up, up I went. I ended up in Calumet MI. On my itinerary it was just a place to stay, but Calumet was much more interesting than I imagined. The Keewenaw peninsula was a rich copper mining area in the days when America was installing electricity all over the country. Native Americans first mined copper here for tools. Then immigrants landed in the frozen land to find their fortunes in copper mining.

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Eventually greed, the Great Depression and a big strike dealt a blow. It didn’t kill the industry, but it would never bounce back. I would have loved to have taken some of the tours provided by the National Historical Park, but most of them were not scheduled while I was there. It was fascinating to run downtown through the mostly empty magnificent old buildings. The city’s population was over 60,000 in its heyday, and now it’s only about 1,000. But all of those beautiful buildings and mining operations are still standing. It was like a big, beautiful ghost town.

The Drive to Copper Harbor

 

I continued to drive north. This last stretch is the narrow peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior. Even though the UP is remote, this area is even more remote than the rest. It is also extremely beautiful. Known for its outdoor adventures, the upper Keewenaw is just as crowded in winter as in summer. People are either snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking or hiking. And there is always fishing.

And then there is the Jampot…. a monastery of baking monks.

 

I stayed in Copper Harbor which is a tiny little town on Lake Superior. The entire village wasn’t more than a half-mile long. I stopped at an ice cream parlor and talked to the teenage girls that worked there. They said summer is fun, but they get out and snowmobile and ski in the winter. They said there are always kids playing hockey on the lakes, and snowmobiles are constantly flying by. They spent a little time talking about some of the boys they know and which ones were dangerous snowmobile drivers. In the summer they find natural diving boards for diving into the freezing waters.

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The whole trip has been interesting to say the least. It’s been beautiful, too, but I’ve enjoyed learning about this area. I bought myself a pendant with greenstone, the state gem. Apparently, it’s hard to find now. I suppose now that I’m a Michigander, I should have one!

I’ll be in touch later….