Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is Sprung

Today I had to go to the doctor so I could get a refill on my blood pressure medication. The office would not refill my prescription without a visit. I was not happy about the $20.00 co-pay. Gosh, finances are so tight that a mere 20 bucks having to be spent is cause alone for my blood pressure to rise!

I noticed these blooming flowers driving into the medical complex parking lot and vowed to snap a photo on my way out. Here the past two weeks we have been having a strange heat wave. Today it hit 87 degrees and everything is blooming a good month or two ahead of schedule. None of us have ever seen such an early spring. In fact, up until this year, there has never even been a day hitting 70 in March and we have now had a week of them.

It was good I had to see the doctor because my blood pressure continues to be high and cause for concern. So I got a new prescription. Considering that high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks run in my family this is probably a prudent measure. The doctor does not believe my exercising more or trying to lose weight will have much of an impact but I am vowing to try to improve more in these areas. Even though my sons are older, I still need to be around for them as long as I can. I need to make more of an effort taking care of myself and being healthy mentally and emotionally. The doctor does believe that stress is a factor along with my genetics.

I wonder if I weren't widowed would I not be dealing with this issue? I know for sure that I wouldn't be experiencing this level of stress in my life, nor would I have had the amount of stress I've experienced since my husband's death. Higher stress and widowhood might be correlated for some of us.

Anyway, despite the gloomy prognosis, I tried to see a bit of beauty in the day and to pay attention to it. For me, these pretty red blooms did the trick.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patty's Day

I am very, very tired of late. My youngest told me the other day that I need to snap out of my funk. Kind of just drifting and going through the motions. In four months we will be gone from this location and I have started to panic at all that needs to get accomplished by then. Having moved from a large home three years ago, I am aware of all that is entailed with a major relocation. Doing it all on my own again... Packing, sorting, tossing, physically moving furniture and boxes, the emotions involved with discarding the old...

Spring has sprung early. I should be relieved that Old Man Winter is gone for another season but am almost too weary to rejoice in the warm weather. I also seem to suffer from PMS-related depression so mid-month my anxiety increases and my mood plummets.

This is where I am - not particularly a good place but where I am for the now. I have been reflecting on and trying to prepare mindfully for the strength I will need to really embrace four months from now when both boys will be at college and I'll be a widowed empty-nester. The reality of this part of my life and I think widowhood in general, is that widows have to constantly reinvent themselves and forge new paths in their lives. That is very tiring to face over and over, yet alone have to live through.

Eight years of raising my sons on my own after almost three years of care giving to a sick and dying husband. It all catches up with you. To move past this period of my life is long overdue. It is fitting and necessary to be physically moving from this location as it will represent a new beginning and options for me and my family. Leaving the area is the best prescription for us.

But in the meantime, I still have to live and get through the upcoming days and months. Hope a little St. Patrick's Day luck will come our way and to everyone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Communications 100

Ready to see more green.

My college son received the highest midterm exam grade, a 98%, out of all three of the communication classes his professor teaches. Considering that my son only made average grades in high school, his doing so well in college, is indeed a pleasure. I've been thinking about communication over the winter, sparked in part by two commercials that have been airing. Both are for cell phone minutes.

In viewing these commercials, I've been struck by the disparity that can sometimes exist in our great country. Many times. there are contradictions in certain beliefs vs. behaviors. I think this disparity can come up during periods of grief and widowhood and end up making difficult situations more so. But for now I will focus on the topic of communication.

Both commercials feature teens. In the first, an adolescent male about age 16 is sitting on the steps of his home talking to his girlfriend. His apparent father is reading the paper in a wing chair at the bottom of the stairs. The son does not realize his dad is there. He and his girlfriend are arguing over who is the better listener. He goes so far as to sing a song he made up for his girlfriend, which in and of itself is hilarious. In a monotone he sings, "Kristen, you are such a good listener." The expression on his father's face if priceless.

Now the second commercial involves another teen couple arguing only this time the girl is telling her boyfriend she is going to give him the silent treatment. This is because her cell phone plan offers enough minutes for her to be able to be on the phone without needing to talk.

Two different commercials and two entirely different views on communication. One advocates the importance of communication and listening, while the other portrays the very real action of people who supposedly care for one another, not speaking as a form of punishment. Whenever I see the silent treatment commercial I want to scream because giving anyone the silent treatment is insulting, immature, nonproductive and hardly a good way of communicating. But we all know people who resort to the silent treatment and we may even have engaged in it ourselves.

Two very divergent ways of looking at communication in our society. I want the teens in the silent treatment commercial to hang out with Kristen and her boyfriend who are at least doing their best to model respectful communication by really listening to each other!

I once read a definition that made an impact with me. It was that the definition of a mature individual as one who can be angry, upset or disappointed with someone but still love them. This would imply that even if we are at odds with a loved one that we have the strength to separate that issue away from our love for them and not end up giving them the silent treatment.

It makes me sad to see the silent treatment being portrayed in a commercial involving teens as an appropriate way of communication. I am also dismayed that so often we end up almost hating our loved ones and certainly treat them in less than kind and loving ways. Why is our society so adversarial? Why is it okay to treat people horribly by being mean, nasty or not even speaking with them?

We all need to listen more, speak less, and offer way less in regard to advice and our personal opinions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Show Me the Kindness

Photo Caption: Winter Thaw - Finally, Hopefully!

My thoughts have been on kindness the past week. My college boy posts an inspirational weekly quote on Facebook and a recent one was a reminder to be kind to one another. When I saw this I was pretty blown away. Knowing a bit about human development, it is rather rare to have a 19-year-old displaying the level of emotional maturity as my son. Seems to me most college freshman are using Facebook as a social outlet period. For my son to try and use it beyond that to enlighten and do some good in the world makes me downright proud.

I think that most people would consider themselves kind individuals. I mean, who has the courage or self-insight to admit they are unkind? To be unkind isn't flattering and to be kind is one of those basic, take-it-for-granted characteristics we all want more of in our lives. But I really don't find that people are kind. Over the past years I have seen way more selfishness or self-serving behavior vs. kindness. Probably exhibited by people who in the next instant would rate themselves highly on the kindness scale!

I did some research because this subject is perplexing to me and found an explanation of sorts as to why many people aren't kind. As a society, our country does not value kindness and instead values materalism, success and so on more highly. Getting ahead, dog-eat dog, being competitive and winning are all actions in direct contrast to kindness - a more gentle, refined approach and one that sometimes involves not "winning" or being the best.

Everyday I see evidence of unkindness. One example, people passing me and giving me the finger because I'm not driving over the limit. Sometimes I read comments to a news item or event and am amazed at how most are self-rightous, ignorant and rude. For example, there was a news story about folks receivng government assistance and the resulting comments downgrading and insulting these citizens was appalling. Only a few comments were kindhearted, positive and encouraging to these people in need of help. Even on a subject as trivial as the t.v. show "The Bacheolor." This season is controversial with viewers despising the bacheolor and one of the female contestant's, Courtney. To read such negative and meanspirited comments from people who have never met these media-created celebrities is scary to me. How do people get off on attacking and criticizing others, including people they don't even know? When did this become acceptable? Is this how people feel better about themselves? By putting others down? Something is really off kilter here.

A few years ago, going through my divorce, which remains the most painful experience of my life, I made a conscious effort to be more kind. I saw life as a series of decisions or reactions all of which I have control over. So when responding, I'd make a conscious effort to choose a kind action. Sometimes I failed, even knowing I was being less than stellar. But I think by being conscious of my desire to be more kind, I ended up responding far more kindly than if I hadn't been making an effort to do so.

Although I haven't held that same level of kindness consciousness in recent months, it still is in the back of my mind. And I'd say that my son reminded me of the need to be more aware of this in my day-to-day life. I would say that most of us, even those of us making this a priority, can always be more kind in our interactions. We just need to make it more of a priority. Thinking back on this, I actually believe that one New Year's my sole resolution for that year was to simply "Be Kind." For those people who already feel they are kind enough, I say show me the kindness. What do you do, say and how do you act to promote kindness in this world?