Borrowed time: when you run out of somedays

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Borrowed time


I need to press pause here, in the midst of my ramblings about the pursuit of happiness, my dreams, Someday. Trivial musings in light of world affairs. And Rob, the cashier at my local grocery store who I write about in ‘Slow down, listen more…’ and ‘How (not) to be miserable…’ The one diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. As I head out of the store recently, I stop at his register. My heart aches for this kind man, a smile on his lips even as he presses a tissue to his mouth, coughing and gasping for his next breath. The cancer has spread and the third round of chemo, he says, is kicking his butt. His jeans hang from barely there hips; his hugs are bones at best. Yet he lights up when he mentions his recent trip to California. And next month—for his birthday—he is traveling to Hawaii. We all live on borrowed time. Rob is simply living his somedays now.

What about you?

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How to listen without acting like a complete fool


 Real listener

… Real listeners don’t charm, flatter, provoke or interrupt…
They suspend the self and listen.
~ Michael P. Nichols

A pet peeve of mine is when I try to express myself verbally and the listener cuts me off. This happened a couple of nights ago and was explained away with the words: I already know what you’re going to say… you always repeat yourself… you’re going to tell me X, Y and Z. Well guess what? Wrong. That wasn’t what I had planned to say. And I don’t always repeat myself. Similar topic, but that’s not the point. Nichols’ quote also states: ‘Listeners who pretend interest don’t fool us for long—even though they sometimes fool themselves.’ Newsflash: When we feign interest, we appear insincere and self-absorbed. But, when we offer our sincere attention to another, we humbly convey—without words—that they are important to us and what they have to say matters. I have work to do in this area, myself.

Do you feel heard today?

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Slow down, listen more… and bring muffins

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Rob was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. For years we engaged in small talk at my neighborhood grocery store while he checked out my items. It tickled him when I’d set a 14 pound container of cat litter on the conveyor belt next to 12 rolls of double-ply toilet paper. Eventually, he moved off the registers onto scanning during night shift and our paths didn’t cross again until a few days ago toward the end of his shift. After we smiled and hugged in greeting, he told me about the cancer, the surgeries. The chemotherapy. Two mornings later, we hugged again and I handed him a lunch bag stuffed with tissue paper and a dozen homemade muffins. Often, we might question why certain people show up in our lives, yet it could be as simple as offering kindness. And muffins. I think if we slow down a little, and listen more, we might find our answer.

Do you know someone who could use a hug—or muffins—today?

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So much to do, so little time to think

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Someday is not a day of the week

A recurring theme in my blog posts revolves around Someday, as well as a void I seek to fill by immersing myself in writing or prayer, yoga or volunteer opportunities, cooking or cleaning, crafting or shopping or time with friends. I’ve also been spreading my creative wings and attending art classes and writing workshops and, when I’m not engaged, I’m either watching TV or listening to music, playing online games or losing myself in a fictional world of print. Anything, and everything, to keep my mind from slowing down enough to explore the void and discern what it is I’m truly missing. The persistent busy-ness only creates a temporary fix. I know this, because it’s in the quiet moments just as I fall asleep at night and each morning before I’m fully awake when I ache for Someday and the life I hold an image of. If I stop, and listen, it only reminds me how long I still have to wait.

What is your image of Someday?

Moms don’t get sick

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[Image credit: David Castillo Dominici]

The spreading myself thin(ner) thing happened and that’s likely why I got sick last week.  I kept piling the commitments on top of each another until I was running ragged.  After getting sick, however, I took time off from working out and Yoga, stopped cleaning the house, served leftovers and take-out pizza for dinner.  And there was a day or two where I left for work with piles of laundry and an unmade bed.  I took sick time, missed church and an HOA Board Meeting, plus a charity benefit.  But in the midst of it all, I saw something very clearly even through the haze of my fuzzy head.  Nothing happened.  I didn’t lose my awesome mom award; the neighbors didn’t storm my house and dub me an unfit homemaker.  My family didn’t starve.  And surprise, surprise —my body didn’t fall apart (yet).  I think I’d better listen, slow down and cut back, though, before it does.

Are you afraid life will fall apart if you get sick?

The here and now

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[Image credit: m_bartosch]

My oldest sister regularly sends me “snail mail” care packages.  Sometimes these mailings include a card; other times articles, recipes, devotionals or cartoons.  A recent blurb she clipped out for me was “Living in the Here and Now,” which talked about focusing on … well … the here and now.  I frequently cover this concept in my posts when I get carried away with my dreams for Someday and lose sight of Today. The article goes on to cite a few tips to help us appreciate the present.  1) Avoid multitasking (oops, that’s my middle name) by giving our attention to either a person we’re with or job we’re doing; 2) pause by taking a breath before answering the phone or checking email; 3) listen to our bodies because emotions can trigger physical responses; 4) remain active … and involved; 5) scratch the to-do list (did you hear that, Franklin?) and 6) be patient — this doesn’t happen overnight.

How are you at living in the here and now?

When actions speak louder than words

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[Image credit: Stuart Miles]

I’m a writer, so words are my life. It’s funny how many times I am unable to appropriately express how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking, but I always take what others say as literal. And when actions (allegedly) don’t match up to the words spoken, I get confused and hurt. But maybe the problem doesn’t lie with the speaker; rather, it’s how I interpret what is said through my own filter of understanding. Instead of jumping to conclusions or reading more or less into a conversation, perhaps I should paraphrase what I think I heard and ask for clarification as necessary. Of course, it’s important my actions coincide with my words, as well. Or perhaps I simply need to speak less and listen more.

Do your actions speak the same language as you do?