HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP when you leave at seventeen rarely home more than two weeks at a time months, years and decades can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood only once in the summer of ‘88 a recent college grad wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled my tonsils required more I stayed a whole month once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas off to the southern hemisphere a young pioneer in search adventure and different stars now, when visiting after a lifetime lived elsewhere grey hairs visible no matter my efforts I find myself sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts driving Dad’s truck windows down, hair blowing mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty the prairie a determined cellular homesteader forever staking a claim in my blood and bones I want to sneak out to the bar play Space Invaders sadly, no longer a standard unlike 1982 drink beer, eat junk food and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up Looking back with midlife sensibilities I realize those late nights in high school tenth grade, I believe laser focused, playing Space Invaders provided a surprisingly valuable education initials entered, quarters stacked protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance my peripheral vision unknowingly trained to notice things beyond immediate scope bonus points pinged while friends waited impatiently twenty more minutes, please under a waning August moon only one lunar phase ago I was still my father’s daughter a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager pretending time actually plays tricks wanting desperately to disregard reality one more visit on the calendar one more phone call cheeseburger or ice cream cone one more evening watching Everybody Loves Raymond M.A.S.H. or Mayberry RFD twenty more minutes, please quarters stacked no longer Space Invaders the nearly forgotten teenage relic of a heartbroken fifty-something fatherless daughter once again, I am protecting my bunkers monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship paying very close attention to what's just beyond my immediate scope just twenty more minutes, please
This bouquet from a friend was so lovely when she dropped it off ten days ago or so. I have to admit something that perhaps won’t surprise you. I actually enjoy flowers even more when they start to turn a tiny bit brown, curl on the edges and drop a few pedals.
I know many of you won’t understand this, that’s OK. I promise I won’t send you a decaying bouquet. Although one time, while a student at the University of Wyoming a boyfriend in South Dakota sent me a red rose in the mail. It was almost black, shriveled and curled when it arrived. I still found it oddly beautiful.
When I no longer have to trim the stems of a bouquet, check the water or pinch the drooping leaves, I feel some odd sense of relief. The flowers, no longer expected to be perfect, are free to naturally fade and droop. And I get to enjoy the inevitable state of fading beauty, often leaving the pedals wherever they fall.
I lost my Dad in the early morning hours of August 30th. He was a generous, loving, humorous and complex man. He also was in a great deal of pain. Thankfully he no longer is. But, damnit, he isn’t here anymore either. Now, I’m in pain and I would like to talk with him about what bullshit it is to lose someone I love. He knew this pain, he lost his baby brother, my Uncle Tom, almost exactly one year ago.
I flew home to South Dakota from Vermont the morning Dad died. I wept through both airports—Burlington, Vermont and Chicago’s O’Hare. I had a light blanket wrapped around my shoulders that dried my tears as needed. I walked to my gate in Chicago, blanket draped and carrying a garment bag. I caught the eye of a few people who offered nods of acknowledgement and held my gaze, maybe understanding that grief is messy.
Oddly, I kept hoping I could tell someone, anyone that I just lost my Dad. I now understand what to do if I see someone else in the shape I was in. To hell with privacy. I will offer a hug. Or I will buy them a coffee. Or I will ask them why they are crying and listen, even if I only have a minute before my flight.
I arrived mid-afternoon. Flowers, casseroles, baked goods, fruit baskets, cheese and meat trays had already begun arriving at the house. The doorbell was ringing. The landline was ringing. Our cell phones were ringing and pinging. Hugs and tears filled Mom’s back entryway and helped eased the weight of it all.
I knew the process of the “business” of death wasn’t going to be easy. However, writing the obituary, picking out Dad’s casket and clothes, making phone calls and so on—these things kept us busy. Busy is needed those first few days. Making arrangements gave us something to focus on with a deadline, providing a little scaffolding to a messy emotional process.
There were times before the prayer service and funeral, I wanted the whole world to just leave me alone in my sorrow, because I just lost my Dad.
Thankfully the world didn’t.
I’m now keenly aware of how I didn’t give nearly enough attention to the loss of other people’s parents. I’m sorry if I seemed cavalier. I just didn’t know how much even a small gesture could mean. I always thought of grief as a private process. I understand better now what’s necessary to get through it all.
I’m so sorry for your loss, no matter how many years it’s been for you.
The outpouring of love, time and culinary talents from the good folks in Burke, South Dakota made it the whole process a lot more bearable. No one would’ve loved having all of those goodies around more than John. Right, Dad? Although I think he would’ve hidden the bag of Dorothy’s famous peanut butter cookies in the freezer and pretended they were already gone.
I’m grateful to you all. Thank you so much.
PLEASE NOTE: Is there a metabolic trick that helps burn the calories (mostly from homemade baked goods) that are delivered to the family during a time of loss?
grief + baked goods + casseroles + visiting + crying + fatigue = COMFORT
John Lowell Lillibridge lived 79 years, 3 months & 21 days.
Rest, in peace, Big Guy.
You will be greatly missed.
I’m writing a work of fiction about a middle-age woman, newly empty-nested and figuring out her next stage of life. This week my husband, Jeff and I dropped off our twin daughters at college—Lucy at American University & Willa at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
It won’t take you too long to figure out who “Alice” is in my excerpt.
“Although, she didn’t have the feeling so many of her friends described of instant familiarity with their babies…some bullshit, mysterious, ancient connection. She felt something else, far less magical, perhaps it was a twin thing.
Alice remembers how immediately after holding Frankie and Pearl for the first time she had a feeling that she was ignoring one baby whenever she turned her head and looked at the other. I’m already screwing this up. She couldn’t possibly have known in that moment that this feeling would never leave her. Alice’s head and heart already on a constant swivel, less than an hour after giving birth to twins.”
As many of you already know, it’s quite an emotional roller coaster to send the last of your brood out into the world. I’m only 16 hours in, so this is all still pretty raw for me.
I believe whenever my wholeheartedness is required,
the process just can’t be rushed.
In the remarkably funny (and raunchy) Netflix series Big Mouth, the character of Jessie’s mother, Shannon has the best line to describe what I’m feeling right now.
“Let’s finish basic training before we go to Fallujah.”
She was describing using a maxi pad, when her daughter asked about tampons. A great line for lots of situations though.
BIG MOUTH was created by Jennifer Flackett, Andrew Goldberg, Nick Kroll and Mark Levin. The voice of Jessie’s mother, Shannon is Jessica Chaffin.
(PLEASE NOTE: Do not watch BIG MOUTH with young kids.)
The Ideal Mother is a Terrible Parent
I stumbled upon this article recently, which helped knock back some of those ever present parenting “should haves”. Thank you Erin W.
“Eventually I smothered the ideal mother. I killed her dead. I introduced myself to my kids and started practicing “organic parenting.” I yell, I curse, I kiss and I hug. I hold onto them and push them away. They hold onto me and push me away. Together, we horrify and delight each other, all the time.” (I love this line wholeheartedly.)
My solace will come from many sources. I’m riding the unpredictable waves as they roll in and I’m trying to listen to my inner self . I know she’ll guide this process far better than any outside sources ever could. I have to be willing to actually listen though.
Hang in there fellow empty nesters.
In my dream, I wake up in a city of unknown origin, I think New York. However, it could’ve been any big American city. It was busy, loud and there were tons of people on the street. At first I was disoriented, then I keep saying to myself, Life is Kind. A mantra of sorts, to keep me from being afraid of anyone or anything.
I start walking, it’s midmorning and the first person I encounter is a homeless man. He seems quite drunk, but his eyes are kind and clear and a bright very unique shade between between blue and green. He looks at me, smiles and says, “For a beer, I’ll tell you a story”.
Well, there are few things I enjoy more than a cold beer and a good story.
In my dream, I even thought, “Well, it’s midday, there are lots of people around, it will be OK…Life is Kind”. He stood up, took my hand and led me around the corner and down just a few stairs. The outside looked pretty dirty, scary actually and I hesitated, pulling back from his hold. He calmly said, “It will be OK”.
He opened the door and it was surprisingly a cool, sun-filled space that looked more like a diner than a dingy bar. People were talking and laughing, kids playing and there was a lively piano player. The bartender welcomed us warmly. We sat at the end of the bar where it was a little quieter. The old man ordered us two beers, looked me in the eye and smiled.
With no transition, or any recollection of the old man’s story I’m now back out on the street. I’m suddenly surrounded by young, tall, black men. They are talking and laughing, goofing off, they notice that I’m uncomfortable, but I stay right in the middle of their group. I walk a few blocks with them and then to get out of the pod, I have to excuse myself and duck around them, awkwardly bumping into and nearly tripping a few of the guys. They’re all jumping up to touch things, like light fixtures and the tops of signs.
They start giving me crap about being afraid of them because they’re black. I turned to them, said, “I’m not afraid of you because you’re black. I’m afraid of you because of your youth and there’s so many of you and you’re all so big. It’s intimidating to me today.”
“Oh, Ok, yeah, I sort of get that, my grandma said something like that too”, one of the boys offered. He thumped his chest to me and smiled. They all said goodbye in mumbles and waves and off they went jumping down the street into the afternoon light.
I turn the corner and bump, literally bump into this a woman and knock a bunch of papers and books onto the ground. She’s dressed in a well-tailored grey, plaid suit with a skirt and jacket, high end, high heels and a pink, silky blouse with a bow at the neck. Her slightly grey hair was fixed in a stiff, old lady hairstyle like my grandmother had done every Friday morning. Teased, smoothed and fastened with pins, a satin pillowcase required to keep it all tidy until her next appointment.
I apologize for knocking things out of her hands. She’s rushed and while we’re gathering everything back together, she says, “We can have lunch at two. I have a very busy day. I’ll see you at (I don’t remember the name). I can’t wait to catch up.”
Well, we all know how dreams go. So, even though I have no idea who this person is, I can’t wait to catch up either…waiting until two o’clock seemed like an eternity.
I kept walking around until the appointed time. I was very excited about my lunch and all of the catching up we’re going to do. I arrived at the place and everything is odd, the scale of everything really strange and disorienting. The stairs have a very difficult to maneuver tall rise between steps. The tables were all different heights. The lights were bright on some tables and really dark on others.
I suddenly hear someone a little out of breath in my ear. I get a quick hug from behind and a peck on the cheek. Then I see my lunch date. Who appeared was an older gentleman in a pink shirt, a bow tie, a grey striped suit and beautiful shoes. “Huh” was all I thought to myself. He launched into news and notes about his day and his life. He talked about his children, his work and relayed a story about recently missing a flight. He asked me about my projects and if I had seen someone we allegedly had in common recently.
All of this was so very ordinary. I didn’t question that who I thought I was meeting for lunch was an older woman. I just went with along with it and enjoyed his company. Apparently that missed flight story was a hoot.
He paid for lunch and said that he needed to head back to the office. He asked if I minded heights. I said that I sort of did, but that it depended on the situation. “Ok, follow me”, he said and we headed toward the back of the restaurant. He was walking quickly. I kept up. We got to an unusual door, walked out into an alley and went about seven steps to what seemed like nowhere. It was strange, but he was confident and I went along.
“Can you climb?” he asked me. I said that I could. “Jump?” I told him that I could, but that I didn’t really want to. He climbed up the wall, got to the top, swing his legs around, sat a minute and jumped down, now out of my sight. I climbed up. Swung my legs around and looked down. It was about ten feet. I then said, “I don’t want to jump this far, I’m training for the senior olympics. I don’t want to hurt my ankles or knees.”
“It will be fine, dear. I’ll catch you.” I jumped. I landed in the arms of my lunch date. An older woman in a plaid, grey suit, wearing a pink blouse and high heels. She caught me, shifted me upright, gave me a hug and said, “Let’s do this again soon”.
Then, I woke up.
I love this dream so much.
I’m going to put this dream in the category of:
WATCH YOUR JUDGEMENT & ASSUMPTIONS, LISA.
I don’t excel at sleeping. I really never have, but now in middle age, my sleep is interrupted constantly. I’ve decided to not fight it, embrace my natural rhythms and see how the universe wants me to use my extra waking time. Last night was no exception.
I went to sleep around 10:30 and was wide awake at 2:50. Our cat, Karen was sleeping soundly next to me. My husband is gone and I don’t mind waking up Karen, so I felt free to roam. I got up to pee and I noticed that all of the windows were covered with the soft, haze of humidity.
The whole world seems to be trapped in heat and haze right now.
I wondered how I could photograph Cape Cod’s humidity in the middle of the night without leaving my bedroom. I took a few shots. The camera wasn’t capturing what I could see. I decided that wasn’t the inspiration I was searching for, not at all what the universe wanted me to do in the middle of the night on August 9th.
I decided to get back into bed and listen to a guided mediation on the INSIGHT app, which I highly recommend. I have a favorite voice, Sarah Blondin who guides me with her Live Awake series. I consider her a very close friend. Sarah’s voice and words have provided so much, well, insight and spark since I downloaded the app in January.
This morning at 3:10am I chose Life is Kind. Here is the start to her meditation.
“Though we are strangers, we are kindred in spirit. There’s no difference between us. We are the same.
We are here in the name of our hearts, in the name of opening, in the name of unstitching what has overtime grown closed within. We are each here in the name of reuniting with our soft centers. It is the place we are most alive, most accepted, most whole.
It is where we seek refuge from the from the weight of the world.”
I fell back asleep shortly after these lines and had a remarkable, beautiful and kind dream.
I’ll share that dream with you tomorrow.
The way our brain equates repetition for truth.
YOU ONLY USE 10 percent of your brain.
Eating carrots improves your eyesight.
Crime in the United States is at an all-time high.
NONE OF THESE STATEMENTS ARE TRUE.
They FEEL TRUE because of repetition.
“Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”
—Hitler in Mein Kampf
“But the facts don’t actually matter: People repeat them so often that you believe them. Welcome to the “illusory truth effect,” a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth. Marketers and politicians are masters of manipulating this particular cognitive bias—which perhaps you have become more familiar with lately.”
After I read this, I wondered…
What can I do if I notice my brain is on autopilot?
Pinch myself? Snap a rubber band on my wrist?
Seek more sources to confirm or dispel my TRUTHS?
Let me know if you come up with a trick.
SOURCE: WANT TO MAKE A LIE SEEM TRUE? SAY IT AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN.
by Emily Dreyfuss
I realize that TV shows from comic books (even the genius of the MARVEL world) don’t work for everyone. So, I wanted to just share a few passages of dialogue from the FX show LEGION that really made me think about how we think. I recorded this passage on my phone while watching the show and I’ve listened to it a few times. Today, I finally transcribed it.
“So what have we learned? That a delusion is an idea. That an idea can be contagious. That human beings are pattern-seeking animals. By which, I mean we prefer ideas that fit a pattern.
In other words, we don’t believe what we see. We see what we believe. And when we are stressed or our beliefs are challenged… When we feel threatened… The ideas we have can become irrational, one delusion leading to another, and another, as the human mind struggles to maintain its identity. And when this occurs, what starts as an egg can become a monster.”
—LEGION Season 2 Episode 7 on FX
APOPHENIA is the tendency to perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. Apophenia has come to imply a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information, such as gambling.
After seeing episode 7 of LEGION, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time trying to make ideas & events fit a certain pattern of thought. I committed to noticing when I was pattern seeking. It’s really challenging at first. However, with practice, I now feel more in control of my mind. I haven’t eliminated the tendency, but I’ve increased my ability to notice more quickly when it’s happening.
“And now we come to the most alarming delusion of all. The idea that other people don’t matter. Their feelings. Their needs. Imagine a cave where those inside never see the outside world. Instead, they see shadows of that world projected on the cave wall. The world they see in the shadows is not the real world. But it’s real to them. If you were to show them the world as it actually is, they would reject it as incomprehensible.”
—LEGION Season 2 Episode 8 on FX
LEGION (David Charles Haller) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, part of the X-Men series. He is the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. Legion takes the role of an antihero who has a severe mental illness including a form of dissociative identity disorder, in which each of his alternate personas controls one of his many superpowers.
The television series Legion premiered on FX network in 2017. The lead character is portrayed by Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey). The series is developed, written, directed, and produced by Noah Hawley.
Relationships. Advertising. Entertainment. Politics. Religion.
Mostly though, I believe the distortion can be how we see ourselves.
Next, I stumbled upon this article on the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY website and thought it was worth sharing. Joe Navarro has studied the life, teachings and behavior of cult-leaders; Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Bhagwan Rajneesh and Warren Jeffs, just to name a few.
What he said was that these individuals were or are all pathologically narcissistic.
Then I started wondering about the differences between narcissism v. self-esteem. It’s pretty stark and worth understanding better. I thought I knew the difference. I didn’t really.
Here’s a quick guide of the differences.
Hey, the more we know, well, the more we know, right?
We all possess some narcissistic traits. I’ve certainly had to take a look at myself. It wasn’t easy at the time, but I’m grateful I did, and my relationships improved because of more awareness
It’s the extremes of these traits we need to notice.
Healthy narcissism is the characteristic of possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life, as unhealthy narcissists tend to be.
Joe Navarro (former FBI agent): “From my studies of cults and cult leaders during my time in the FBI, I learned early on that there are some things to look for that, at a minimum, say caution, this individual is dangerous, and in all likelihood will cause harm to others.”
They all have or had an over-abundant belief that they were special, that they and they alone had the answers to problems, and that they had to be revered. They demanded perfect loyalty from followers, they overvalued themselves and devalued those around them, they were intolerant of criticism, and above all they did not like being questioned or challenged.
And yet, in spite of these less than charming traits, they had no trouble attracting those who were willing to overlook these features.”
Here are some of the traits to watch out for and avoid if possible.
Link to entire list: https://www.psychologytoday.com/dangerous-cult-leaders
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.
- Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
- Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.
- Has a sense of entitlement—expecting to be treated special at all times.
- Is arrogant and haughty in behavior or attitude.
- Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows them to bend rules and break laws.
- Is hypersensitive to how they are seen or perceived by others.
- Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
- Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.
- Insisits in always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.
- Doesn’t listen well to others, communication is one-way in the form of dictates.
- Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling.
- Behaves as though people are objects to be used or exploited for personal gain.
- When criticized, lash out not just with anger but with rage.
- Refers to non-members or non-believers as “the enemy.”
- Habitually puts down others as inferior.
- Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere them.
- The word “I” dominates their conversations, oblivious to how often they reference themself.
- Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly – if so, acts out with rage.
- Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything, never apologize for their actions.
- Believes they possess the answers and solutions to world problems.
- Works the least but demands the most.
- Highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.
- Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from believers.
- Sees self as “unstoppable”, perhaps has even said so.
- Conceals background or family which would disclose ordinary they are.
“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”
— Aldous Huxley, writer & philosopher