It’s uniquely warm in northern Vermont today. In the predawn hour, I made coffee then sat out on my deck for a while listening to the honking of geese, early morning traffic sounds, and autumn leaves rustling. I felt a slight breeze on my face…so lovely.
All we have is here and now…
The lyrics from Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warner’s 1980s hit Up Where We Belong have been camping out in my psyche for the last few days. I thought I better explore them further…turns out they have a pretty good message.
Some hang on to used to be Live their lives looking behind All we have is here and now All our lives, out there to find
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
I know my thoughts of the past(or the stories I attach to them anyway) sometimes make me feel like a victim of sorts. And when I’m feeling anxious (fearful) about the future, those jangly thoughts will gleefully swoop in with a dizzying amount of bullshit that can affect every aspect of my life. Presence makes me calmer. That calm makes me a better human, partner, parent, and friend.
All I have is here and now...
Up Where We Belong is the theme song to the 1982 film, An Officer and A Gentleman. I just had to share a short memory with you. When I was in high school, my newly married sister and I took our grandmother to see the matinee after a day of shopping in Sioux Falls. I had never seen a movie with my grandmother before, let alone one with sex scenes…good grief. My grandmother covered her eyes with a sneaky, slightly open hand during those scenes hoping we wouldn’t notice. 😃 After the movie, we had to stop for gas on the way home. Laurie got out to pump, my grandmother was flabbergasted, she turned and said, “Your grandfather would be so disappointed if he saw that his granddaughter pumping her own gas.”. Cheers to those memories that make us giggle.
Now that I’m fifty-four and finally growing up, I’m trying to make a daily, or hell hourly grand bargain with myself of more presence. I’m discovering that staying in the moment gives me some emotional agility that helps me better handle whatever’s thrown my way…grandma was really onto something while we watched An Officer and A Gentleman. She was a very anxious woman, but in that moment she chose presence with her granddaughters and it was just wonderful.
My memories will forever come and go, shifting in both context and intensity as the years roll by. I don’t want to live in a constant state of regret, longing, or fear. I want to live in the fullness of the present. I know I will often fail and let my mind race. My grand bargain to myself is to keep trying to stay more in the moment.
I live in Vermont. We’ve been mostly compliant with what our leadership has recommended for our health. We’ve felt a strong sense of being in this very difficult and unusual time together.
NOTE: Vermont has a republican governor and I doubt Vermonters will shift course this November either. Governor Scott’s messaging about the pandemic has been consistent and based on science, not ideology.
Covid cases are surging all over the world. Our children and young adults are going to school online in front of computers all day long, every parent’s nightmare. We’ve lost 222,157 Americans as of this morning, COVID19 cases and hospitalization rates are rising in many states.
Unnecessarily millions of people are out of work, evicted or about to be evicted. Businesses have shuttered. Our first responders are exhausted, have held phones for families to say goodbye to loved ones and lost their lives too. Scientists are vilified. Family and friends are divided and fighting over a highly contagious virus that has affected everyone in the world in some way or another…and yet, even our health is highly political.
Why? What’s been gained? Lost?
This documentary is available for streaming—watch the short trailer here:
“Lies don’t end relationships the truth does.” ―Shannon L. Alder
I’m a bit shaky as I write this and I know it might upset many people. I’m posting the link to Totally Under Control because I think it’s the right thing to do right now. My own family hasn’t been immune to division & separation during this administration, and it’s all quite heartbreaking. This isn’t politics as usual. I hope we can at least agree on that.
This morning I awakened at about the time I got the call from my sister two years ago letting me know that our father had died. I get up early, not usually in the 4 o’clock hour though.
I wasn’t surprised I stirred early today with Dad on my mind. I got up, quietly pulled on yesterday’s clothes, and waited for the clock on the stove to say 5:00 before I made my coffee. I sat outside and watched the sun begin to rise over the Cape Cod Bay.
My Dad was not an early riser, definitely more of a sunset guybut he would’ve appreciated my sunrise images, especially the coyote tracks in the sand and my obsession with them now.
The coyote is the mascot of my Dad’s much-loved, alma mater—the University of South Dakota.GO YOTES!
A few days before Dad died I called to tell him that Jeff and I got stung by jellyfish while on a kayak excursion. We were FaceTiming so I showed him the welts on my arms and described the way they stung…sort of electric-like if my memory serves me correctly. I had a flight booked to come see him in a few days so we kept our call short.
This morning I remembered a song Dad used to sing to me:
Lisa, Lisa I’ve been thinkin’
what a fine world this would be,
if all the Lisa’s were transported…
far beyond the northern sea.
I miss you Dad, thanks for the company this morning.
The acronym FOG—Fear, Obligation, and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You.
I have loved fog since I was a child, my favorite weatherphenomenon by far. What I find so alluring and mysterious about fog is what’s UNSEEN. That’s precisely why I find this the perfect acronym for these complex and often confusing emotions.
We don’t know what’s happening around us until the sun burns away what’s obscured from our vision and then we’re able to gain more clarity.
Fear is a mental process that that triggers a physical response in humans when confronted by a threat.
Obligation comes from an innate sense of community responsibility. We are born with an instinctive sense of obligation to those around us.
Guilt comes from the same root as obligation. Most of us feel guilt when we do something that we think hurts others or disappoints of others.
“Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They can be our parents or partners, bosses or coworkers, friends or lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to win the pay-off they want: our compliance.”
Source: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
When someone is trapped in the FOG of an unhealthy relationship, a common method of control is the use of gaslighting.
Gaslighting deploys often repeated phrases and makes us doubt our own beliefs, even when there’s overwhelming and well-documented information to the contrary.
Here’s an example of gaslighting: The world-wide virus, Covid19 is a Hoax, a Plandemic designed to make this administration look bad before the 2020 election.
This can’t possibly be true—173,000 people in America have died so far from the virus and 1000 Americans are dying every day. Being told repeatedly that the US is managing the virus better than most other countries is false, often repeated, and done deliberately to make people doubt the well-documented reality that the virus is ravaging our nation on so many levels. There were protocols in place for how to manage a likely pandemic. They have been ignored by the Trump administration.
Clearing away the FOG will allow more visibility into the reality of your relationships and how they may be affecting your health and quality of life. No one should live in a constant state of FEAR, OBLIGATION, and GUILT.
If you find yourself in a challenging relationship of any kind, the OUT of the FOG website provides very help information. There are tips about how to take care of yourself, respond with compassion to difficult circumstances, put appropriate (and loving) boundaries in place, and when to seek professional guidance to navigate turbulent emotional waters.
macro: intended for use with relatively large quantities or on a large scale
A constant macro view can be exhausting—wasting our time and talents. Most days require us to narrow our focus, take a micro view, and determine where & how we can make the most difference to the people and circumstances we face in our lives.
As I age, it seems much of life is experienced within the gray areas of uncertainty. Thankfully, now at fifty-three, I’m finding not knowing is sort of interesting, perhaps even a bit wonderfully mysterious.
I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, she writes about hope and fear—
“Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something: they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.”
HOPEverb: to cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true
FEAR verb:to be afraid of, expect with alarm
Hope was on my mind, so this morning Dusty Springfield’s 1964 song—Wishin’ and Hopin’ popped into my head as didEmily Dickinson’s poem—Hope Is A Things With Feathers. Oh you brilliant, creative women…you’ve been homesteading in my psyche the last few days. Thank you, your timing is impeccable.
Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms That won’t get you into his arms So if you’re lookin’ to find love you can share All you gotta dois hold him and kiss him and love him And show him that you care
Songwriters: Hal David / Burt Bacharach—Artist: Dusty Springfield
All of this hope talk made me think about parenting, religion, and my childhood. My mother’s prayers for me when I was growing up were that I would eventually become someone or something else—an idealized version of the raw potential she saw in me. Please help Lisa stop picking her fingernails, overeating, cussing, being lazy, not caring about her grades, reading the wrong books, listening to the wrong music, drinking beer, or NOT believing the way I do.
I don’t blame her, this was her programming. I’m sure it felt quite loving hopin’ and prayin’ for my needed improvements. She feared who I might possibly become, and truly believed her prayers could turn things around for me. Her faith then required that she gave the God of her understanding credit whenever my improvements, no matter how barely detectable emerged.
I did the same thing to my children—always hopin’ they would become the best version of themselves. I guess I thought wishin’ for the hidden potential in them to emerge would reflect what a stellar job I’ve done mothering and flatter my ego. Damn, that was my programming too.
Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers reveals the unsettling nature of the never ending loop of constant hope…and never stops – at all -.
Hopin’ I believed would make all of my sleepless nights and heartache worthwhile. However, instead, what I’m finally understanding is that all of that motherly wishin, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ kept me from accepting them as they were/are in the present. I’m truly sorry Ellis, Lucy, and Willa that I did not learn this sooner.
Wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ doesn’t seem to actually be working in any part of my life now that I give it more though...and never stops – at all—thanks Emily for that reminder.
What if I practiced more acceptance in all areas of my life? What would that feel like? Complacent? Uncaring? UnAmerican? Untethered? Unbelievable?
Let’s experiment, take a moment…breathe, just let the word acceptance settle into our soul a bit…repeat it a few times. Thoughts?
What if right now in America we just quit wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ for things to be different than they are? What if collectively we ACCEPTED that the God of our personal understanding is desperately trying to reveal to us that all of the political division, rage, wounded egos, destruction, inequality, brutality, greed, spiritual aches, righteousness, grief, and suffering requires our heart’s immediate attention right now and we can no longer keep hopin’ and prayin’ for it to magically disappear?
All you gotta doishold him and kiss himand love him Andshow him others that you care