south dakota, vermont & cape cod

1. South Dakota (heading west)

2. Vermont (a rainy day road trip)

3. Scorton Creek (meandering to Cape Cod Bay)

beautiful obstacles

beautiful:  exciting aesthetic pleasure

obstacle:  something that impedes progress or achievement

I’m beginning to understand that life’s obstacles are an invitation, not an interruption.

 

cognitive, emotional or compassionate?

This morning I read an article by in the Washington Post. There’s been a lot of discussion about empathy lately, however this was the clearest explanation about the three types I’ve ever read.

I thought a quick reference would be useful.  Seeing this in black & white allows me to understand empathy much more clearly.  I hope this is helpful for you too.

three types of empathy

With cognitive empathy, you understand what someone else is thinking and feeling.  Great for business discussions, making plans and solving conflicts.

With emotional empathy, you actually feel their pain. This can be exhausting and take a toll on our health, relationships and sense of well-being.  I’ve started asking myself; is this actually my pain?  Often, it is not.

EXCERPT FROM WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE:  “Neuroscientific research on empathy shows that if you’re empathizing with a person who is in pain, anxious or depressed, your brain will show activation of very similar circuits as the brain of the person with whom you’re empathizing,” notes Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.” 

LINK: Washington Post article about empathy

And there’s compassionate empathy, where you feel concern about someone’s suffering and you’re motivated to help in some way.  I think of all of our nation’s recent natural disasters…we’re moved by compassion to send money or participate in clothing drives.  When we are motivated (or activated), we don’t have to actually feel this pain.  This can be a self-esteem boost and isn’t usually draining.  We feel empowered that we took action.

 

 

 

ancestral wisdom…

Today, I picked up, “The Literature of South Dakota” by John R. Milton.  This book was a gift to me from my grandfather when I was in college.  It fell open onto a short story, “ARCADIA IN AVERNUS” written by my great, great uncle, Will Otis Lillibridge 1878-1909.  Actually a pretty racy story for the time.  “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” is the subtitle.  Here’s the summary.The literature of South Dakota

Unhappy wife leaves marriage of convenience for another man, the couple running away to the Dakota prairie to set up housekeeping. All seems romantically well… until the ex shows up. Surprisingly modern (if a little theatrical) novella from the early 1900’s. From the posthumous collection of Lillibridge short stories, A Breath of Prairie, 1911. Arcadia In Avernus
There’s a term that’s haunting me.  In the short story a woman has a dream that she’s in a desolate place and she hears out of the darkness the sounds of human suffering.  The voices grow louder and she sees a man and woman walking toward her.  They are bent beneath a tremendous burden and both have wounds where they’ve carried the load.
lillibridge swing and farmhouse wall
In her dream she asks the man, “What rough load is that you carry?” and he wearily answers, The burden of conventionality“.
“We dare not drop it”, says the woman, hopelessly, “lest that light, which is the searchlight of public opinion return, showing us different from the others”.
He answers her gently, “But the burden isn’t useless, the condemnation of society is an hourly reality.”
We all must carry the burden of conventionality sometimes.  However, we also can choose to write novels (or join the circus or whatever) because we just never know how much time we have.
Thank you Uncle Will, you’re unconventionalness is a source of inspiration indeed.

Lillibridge looking back at SD

 

 

fade & shift

Memory…is the diary we all carry with us.

—Oscar Wilde

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elusive sleep & alien identity theft

Sometimes I’m unable to sleep because I’m so jazzed about something I’m working on that sleep seems like a waste of time.  However, this time it’s something else.  Lisa Lillibridge alien inside myselfI’m pretty sure it has to do with closing in on fifty-one, hormones, grief, puzzling rage, extraordinary joy, occasional alien identity theft and letting go.

Sometimes it all actually feels this alien to me and I barely recognize myself.  I know that non middle-aged women tend to believe (at least from my experience) that menopause is an excuse to explain away shitty behavior, lack of energy or out of the blue tears.  It’s really not an excuse and it’s often as confusing to me as it is to my poor family.

A generation ago, it was less frequent that Moms would be going through menopause with teenagers still in the house.  Not that it didn’t happen, but it was less common.  I feel sort of sorry for my twin daughters right now.   My relationship was different with their brother.  He was not twins.  He was never a 17-year-old girl.  He’s not living at home right now.  He was not a mirror to me the way my girls are.

My girls are living with the Many Faces of Mom during their stressful last year of high school.  Sometimes I freak out thinking that I haven’t taught them what they need to know before they head off to college in a year. I have to trust that I have and allow them to learn the rest on their own.  It’s time to let go a little bit more.

However, I feel like after going through pregnancies, nursing and giving up my sense of self to care for these little monsters (that I heart breakingly love) that I’m due a little break now.  Is that so wrong?  Isn’t that what menopause is?  Transition from one stage to another.

Nothing in my life has been as dramatic of a shift as becoming a Mom…and now in some weird way, when my girls are a year away from leaving home, my body is making me feel like I’m in the first trimester of my pregnancy.

Fatigue. Uncertainty.  Cravings.  More fatigue.  Headaches and more even uncertainty.

Nature’s cruel joke or a reminder of how tied to them I am on a cellular level?

 

South Dakota—my interior geography

Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding.  In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet.  I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.

This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.

South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world. 

Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island.  I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home.  It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions.  (photo below)

IMG_2852Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.

I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories.  However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them. 

I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger.  I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.

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