Open Up, Buttercup

Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.” – Maya Angelou

The other day on the carpool home from school, my daughter teed off when her friend said something about being called on in class. “I never get called on in class!” and “I never get to say my ideas!”

Self-pity is the emotion that I have the most trouble with. I think the idea that we should never feel or express self-pity was inculcated in me from an early age. My memory is that it was communicated in statements like “You can join us again when you are feeling more positive.” Or “Can I join the pity party?” or “Toughen up, Buttercup.”

So I think I came by my intolerance of self-pity in myself or others honestly from probably generations of family habits. But a little self-reflection shows me that the complete shutdown in my ability to listen and feel when self-pity appears is neither the person or parent I want to be.

I was mulling this over when I heard a Ten Percent Happier podcast with therapist Dr. Jacob Ham that helped clarify the underlying question. In the course of the conversation the topic of whether you have to love yourself to love another came up. Dr. Ham’s answer was it depends – “It depends if your fear is so great that it inhibits connection to yourself or another.”

While my natural inclination is not to name the feeling as fear, it gets at the heart of the question of solving things in ourselves so they don’t hinder our connection to others. I still have trouble thinking of self-pity as anything useful – but I also know my resistance tells me that it’s inhibiting the Flow of life somewhere and it’s worth a look.

In the car when I was listening to my daughter’s complaints, I could relate that I often see a skewed version of events when I’m tired or not feeling well. In my daughter’s case, I think she was both tired and hungry so I asked if we could come back to it after we filled her tank.

She said it was frustrating not to feel seen at times but after acknowledging that, we made a list of things she wants to do so that she can speak up about her ideas like raising her hand more enthusiastically. We’ll see if it works but I’m just grateful that I held on long enough to participate in the conversation.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Upward Spiral

Your ability to understand and empathize with others depends mightily on having a steady diet of positivity resonance, as do your potentials for wisdom, spirituality, and health.” – Barbara Frederickson

On Monday Mr D and I went to the grocery store between dropping Miss O at school and dropping him at daycare. While its our special time together, I also love to get some things done and he gets to ride in an elevator so it works all around.

As we were going down a narrow aisle, two boys from the nearby middle school or high school passed us and I thought to myself about the one with the blue hair, “What a nice kid!” I can’t put my finger on exactly what he did – maybe it was the way he looked me in the eye or moved his body to the side to give us extra space, but it was a noticeably pleasant passing.

Two mornings later, we were in the same store, doing the same thing when we came upon the blue haired boy in the self-checkout section. He was asking the attendant to cancel his purchase because he didn’t have enough money. But before they could do that, I stepped across and put my credit card in to pay for the $5.46 purchase. I suspect the boy had $5 and hadn’t counted on the extra cost.

He thanked me, no big deal, and went on his way with his friend. It was a beautiful full circle moment.

It feels like several things I’ve read and listened to lately have had a similar theme – the science of how much our bodies respond to the people around us, even strangers at the grocery store. That our nervous systems are wired to pick up signals from others. The more that we focus our minds on what our bodies already know which is that even our small connections to other people matter, we create an upward spiral of positive resonance.

With the mask mandate lifted in my state so that I see more faces, it feels like I’ve been noticing so many delightful moments of connections with strangers. It’s amazing how wonderful they feel when I make an effort to notice them, recount them to others or remember them and feel the little zing again.

So I pass this one on to you and the upward spiral of positive resonances continues!

(featured photo is of Mr D in a grocery store at a younger age)

It’s Love Calling

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

To some degree I always write about what I don’t understand in hopes that the words on the page will put some order to the giant gaping hole of the mysteries that I can’t comprehend.

But today I’m writing about a bigger mystery than usual. The best I can hope for with these words is just to describe the size and shape of something that I can’t fully grasp.

The other day my phone rang. I’m notorious for not answering my phone especially when, as was the case here, it’s just a number and not attached to anyone in my contact list. So I didn’t answer, there was no voice mail. It rang again, there was no voice mail. It rang again an hour later from the same number. I knew in my bones after the second call who it was so the third time I picked it up.

It was my friend Bill and he just said, “Wynne” in this deep voice that sounds like it could be the voice of God. And I replied, “I knew it was you calling.”

This friend only calls me about once every five years. When he calls, it’s always from a new number so it never comes up as a name. And yet, somehow I always know it’s him.

In the five years since he last called, I had another baby, my son. And he’s moved twice to different countries. Now he lives halfway around the world in Eastern Europe.  

I ask him about his parents who I’ve never met. He tells me through tears that he lost both of them 7 months apart a couple years back. He asks me about work and I tell him I’m doing the same thing — it doesn’t feed my soul but it feeds my kids. So I tell him that I’m writing.

In worldly terms, we don’t know each other that well.  We’ve maybe spent a dozen days together over 25 years. But we have this deep connection that was instantly apparent when we met.

It’s something I can only describe in metaphors. The connection is like plugging into a bolt of lightening when you only need a 200 amp current. The results are apt to blow a circuit and also are a little dangerous. It’s a mistake we made when we were younger and tried dating only to find it chaotic and unworkable. He’s a road sign, not a destination.

When he calls it’s always at a point when I’ve gotten so busy playing the roles I have in life that I’ve forgotten that there is a core, central “me” that is lovable.

The calls remind me to come alive in a way that is more than what I do. They speak to me of great love even though its quite clear that we will never be in each other’s lives on a daily basis. It’s more that we share the same core so when he calls it sparks some primal memory in me to remember to take care of that precious center of my life. The sacred space in me that touches the sacred space in others.

The connection we share is inexplicable in practical terms. There should be no way that we can speak so deeply to each other and be a reminder of anything. The only thing that rings true is that it’s a spiritual connection that affirms that God is Love and Love is God.

In the end, I said to him. “Thank you for calling until I picked up.” And he replied, “I will always call you until you pick up.”

I’ll close with the final text he sent me after the call. I had written to him, “I suspect possible in our comprehension is a small sample of what is truly possible in the Universe. And you are evidence of that gift.”

And he replied, “That I am the evidence that is closely related to the everything that you must give daily, is the best of compliments. You, Wynne, creator, inventor, leader and human are truly one of the most beautiful humans I know! Thank you for finding me.”

I bet that we won’t communicate again for another 5 years. And that will be enough. Because maybe what we remind each other of isn’t anything about the specifics in life, it’s the big picture Life where love reigns and we are all known in our core.

And Then I Woke Up with a Tattoo

Knowledge increases by sharing, not by saving.” – Lyrical

About 10 months ago when I started to blog regularly, I remember LA of the Waking Up on the Wrong Side of Fifty blog saying in a comment that I would develop great blog friends. Given that the platform lends itself to self-awareness and sharing, it’s a reasonable assumption. But I didn’t really understand the familiarity that develops when you follow someone, dare to comment and create a history over time.

Now that I do, I’m so grateful for the blog community. The awesome power of sharing wisdom, practicing putting words to this experience of life and telling stories. I have learned so much and I have laughed a lot. It’s like spending an extended time sitting around a table swapping stories with people from around the world.

And then coming home with a tattoo!

Thanks to the hilarious Betsy from the ParentingIsFunny blog. Her friend had them made for her birthday and in recapping the adventure she offered to send extras to anyone who would wear one. Happy birthday, Betsy!