A Soul o Life

A journey of healing and self-discovery in the aftermath of losing my husband. I'm now seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and turning lemons into lemonade.

July 2, 2013
Soul-o Life
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Out of Control

I have a confession.  I’m a little crazy.  Not in a hoarding, 90 cats, walk around the neighborhood naked way… I just have a tiny bit of OCD.  My family would probably say it’s more than a tiny bit — but in the big scheme of things it’s really not.  I don’t have to lock the door 20 times or avoid cracks in sidewalks, I just have a few specific things that I’m very particular about.  Very particular.  Very.

I used to have this long metal tray on my coffee table that had 6 pear candles on it.  3 light green, 3 darker green.  I had them arranged in a particular pattern, you know, the way they should be.  My kids would come over and re-arrange them just to watch me put them back.  It was a ridiculous game they played with me, knowing I couldn’t leave them out of place… I finally got rid of the darn things because I couldn’t take it any more.  If I walk by the bathroom and the shower curtain is askew I have to straighten it.  The pillows on my sofa and chairs have to be a certain way.  If a guest comes over and sits down, I discreetly plump and straighten the pillows when they get up.  Vases, photos and decorative accessories have a certain place and that’s where they remain.  If they’re out of place, even in the slightest, I have to fix it.  I don’t find it a big deal to do these things, they’re just part of how I live.  And in all honesty, that’s about the extent of it.  My closets and cupboards are not in perfect order and my floors aren’t spotless.  I’m not a total loon, I just have a few things that I do that help me feel like I have control, order.

I’ve had these peculiarities all of my adult life.  They don’t hurt anyone and they keep my living area nice and tidy, so I don’t worry about them.  However, several years ago I was going through a really stressful ordeal and I developed a new compulsion for the first time in like 30 years… and it really bothered me.  It’s embarrassing to admit this.  I’m not really sure how it started but I began this new ritual:  I’d get in my car, put the key in the ignition, put my seatbelt on and then, before I could turn the key to start the car, I’d make a little sing-songy humming sound.  It was absurd!  But try as I might, I couldn’t stop myself.  And it began to really piss me off that I couldn’t control the situation.  I mean, how ridiculous to not be able to start your car without humming your stupid little “hmm, hmm” ??  I was determined to rid myself of this compulsion.  I did some research and came across an article that suggested changing my routine to break the cycle.  So I did.  I got in the car and instead of putting the key in the ignition and then buckling my seatbelt I reversed those two actions.  Seatbelt then key… and it worked.  I could then start the car without my little hmm, hmm.  You have no idea what a moment that was for me.  It was a miracle, a victory.  I never had that compulsion again.  Overcoming something so little, so silly made me feel like I was in control again.

I’ve learned that stress is an issue for people with OCD and can make compulsions stronger or even bring on new ones.  It certainly is true for me.  I’m a person who likes to have control.  Now that doesn’t mean I’m a controlling person.  I’m not trying to control anyone else’s life – nor do I even want to.  I just like to have control over my own  (even if it’s just over my pillows and shower curtains).  The last couple of years have really shown me that I have very little control over most things.  There are a lot of situations in my life right now that I’m struggling with, that I don’t know how to handle (translate: control) and this has caused me a huge amount of stress.  This time the stress didn’t result in a new compulsion… no, all that internal turmoil caused me to develop a nasty case of shingles.  Five long weeks into this debilitating, painful disease I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to reduce my stress and stop trying to control every situation in my life.  Frankly, my body - and mind – can’t take it anymore.  I can only do so much and then I just have to let go, let things happen, let the chips fall where they may.  So, as that article I read several years ago suggested, I’m going to change my routine.  I’m going to stop worrying and stressing… and I’m go to stop trying to control things.  Instead I’m going to practice gratitude, focus on the positive, on the possibilities and opportunities.  For the first time, I’m going to let myself get out of control.

You’ve been warned ;)

June 28, 2013
Soul-o Life
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Losing Power, Gaining Perspective

In a perfect storm of an aging building, poor wiring and mother nature, a lightning strike left my entire building powerless for 3 days.  Without power, powerless. No air conditioning, no lights, no television, no refrigerator.  A nightmare for a girl like me.  As hours turned into days my temperament went from annoyed to frustrated to teetering on a strange mix of homicidal/suicidal.  Well, that last one is more than a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift.  I was very put out and I didn’t mind telling anyone and everyone just how much.  I was a total b*tch.

This morning, as I lay in bed with a nagging headache, compounded by the hammering of the electrical workers installing the new meter panel, I decided to do a little mental exercise of practicing gratitude.  I lay very still and thought of those families for whom electricity is sometimes a luxury because their paychecks don’t stretch far enough to feed and house their families and power their homes.  And I was grateful that I am fortunate to have a reliable income that meets my needs.  I thought of the millions of homeless men, women and children who aren’t struggling to pay their light bill, they’re struggling to find shelter and their next meal.  And I was grateful for my home with all its creature comforts and my pantry, stocked with a few too many snacks.  I thought of people in rural areas throughout the world, of our men and women in combat, and of third world countries where people are forced to live moment by moment – and safety is a luxury - never mind electricity or running water.  And I was grateful that I was born in the United States and that I live in not only a safe, but a beautiful city where luxuries and opportunities abound.

I am a lucky human being, and I know it.  I am so grateful for the many wonderful things in my life.  My friends and family, my amazing grandchildren, my sweet little Maltese, my lovely comfortable home, my reliable, safe and payment-free car and last, but not least, my overall good health.  I have everything I need and then some.  Like I said, I’m lucky.  And if you’re reading this right now, my guess is so are you.  Isn’t it a shame that it sometimes takes a little inconvenience of the things we take for granted to remind us just how lucky we all are?

June 10, 2013
Soul-o Life
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A Failure to Communicate

I will start by admitting that I love social media and networks.   I’m on Facebook all the time, have a twitter account, adore Pinterest, and if I could figure out how to follow people on Instagram, I would.  And don’t even get me started on iPhone’s FaceTime!  I’m hooked, for sure.  As are many, perhaps even most people I know.  From my nieces and nephews to my own mother, everyone is an open book these days, posting their thoughts and photos at will for all their “people” to see.

But what I have started noticing is that with all these instant, easy-access forms of communication people are communicating less and less with each other.  We share our triumphs and air our grievances in quick little texts or posts, but few know the journey to our joys or the depths of our sorrows.  We share pictures of our families, our vacations, even our gardens yet we rarely sit down and talk about these same things, or really anything for that matter.  It seems the art of conversation is a thing of the past.

I’ll give you an example - my mother and I talk on the phone every day.  In the past, if she called and I didn’t answer, she’d leave a message.  If I didn’t call back soon, she’d call again – another message… and so on until we connected.   These days, she leaves comments on my posts.  Hmmm.  In full disclosure, we still talk almost daily on the phone, but often our conversation will be about something that was posted on Facebook.  How weird is that?

I have to say, as much as I love my social media, I miss the one on one conversations that I used to have with my people.  Last night a relatively new friend, (who had followed some recent struggles I had shared on FB) came to visit to cheer me up.  Yes, an actual visit.  In person.  What a wonderful treat it was to share some wine, some snacks and some real conversation with someone.  I didn’t realize how much I missed that.  Living alone can be challenging, and sometimes lonely.  Throw social media into the mix, and rather than it keeping you connected to others – involved in others lives and they in yours – it somehow makes your life feel more isolated.  The next time you have something you want to say to a friend (or relative for that matter) rather than posting it on Facebook or shooting them a text, pick up the phone and call them.  Have a real conversation.  Or better yet, plan a visit.  It could make someone’s day… and perhaps yours, too.

Oh, and please feel free to share ;)