From the News

Get Real and Stay in the Game

The title of this blog comes from something my husband Doug always says — “Get real and stay in the game.”

In his professional work as an executive coach and in his religious life as a former and current bishop, he counsels with a lot of people about their problems and challenges.

He said most of his advice centers around two things: helping people get real about what is happening in their lives and helping them find hope and stay in the game.

I have been thinking about this as it relates to the many troubling, daunting issues of our day.

When we first started hearing about COVID, I thought it would disrupt our lives for a short time.

Yet, here we are, entering fall, and we are wondering when or if we’ll ever “get back” to life as we knew it pre-pandemic.

This has made me think about Doug’s mantra — get real and stay in the game.

What does it mean to get real and stay in the game in the COVID world and even in this raucous political era?

Sometimes I feel like I’m cycling through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief in rapid succession.

A Psychology Today article in March suggested that our experience with COVID 19 may look like the five stages of the grief cycle — denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.

It mentioned that we may grieve our loss of freedoms, or a future we envisioned, or the lives and roles we left behind.

We might miss our old way of life, and on some level, face the questions of our own mortality. (I’ve certainly faced those questions!)

The first stage of grief is denial. I’ve definitely visited this stage more than once, believing the pandemic is overblown or maybe isn’t a real threat at all, trying to minimize its affect or the level of my risk. If I deny its potency, I feel more in control, and less vulnerable.

The second stage is anger, and I’ve been here too – trying to blame somebody – a political party, a world leader, a country, anybody!  That doesn’t usually work so then I sink into a state of plain old virus fatigue and I pretend life is normal because I’m just so sick of it.

And then there is bargaining, the third step, which is another step I often revisit. I tell myself that if I wear my mask, social distance, wash my hands, and be careful, I’ll be fine. So, I can go to my fitness classes, walk with my neighbor, eat in an actual restaurant, fly on a packed airplane, and the list goes on. I need to bargain with the virus and all the confusing messaging around it so that I can feel some sense of personal victory over it.

Despair is the fourth stage, and it’s a step I avoid. That’s when I face reality and recognize all that I’ve lost. I mourn the loss of old routines and find myself wondering if life will ever be good or normal again. Will I ever go to church without a mask and actually socialize with my friends? Will I ever hug people or go to the theater and not feel completely claustrophobic behind my mask? Can I ever touch things in a store again? Will we ever be able to take the extended trip to Italy?

If I let myself stop here, it can be very discouraging, so I do my best to make these visits to the land of despair and depression very brief.

The fifth stage of grief is acceptance, which is really where I want to stay the longest. That’s when I realize I can’t control the pandemic, the racial unrest, the rioting and protests, the political divisiveness, all the injustices or unfairness in the world, or even the things my friends post on social media. And, instead of being crippled, depressed, utterly confused and afraid, I try to pivot quickly and adopt a healthier mindset that helps me accept that just because things are different, it doesn’t mean that goodness and beauty are permanently sucked out of my life.

I accept that life is not the same but I choose to believe that it can still be rich, rewarding, and beautiful.

In a Linkedin presentation on The Power of Hope: Get Real and Stay in the Game, Doug told a story of how our daughter, Annie got real and stayed in the game.

“[Annie] had a goal to run a half marathon… With the virus, the half marathon was canceled. She had been training for months. She really wanted to run the race, but the official pathway was blocked. She decided she would run it anyway on the day it was scheduled. She charted out her own course and ran it all by herself. She accomplished the goal, albeit by a different pathway, literally. When she got home, she took the top of a yogurt cup, made a medal out of it, and hung it on herself. She came in first in her division, but she also came in second, third, and last in her division.”

Annie’s victory!

This is what it means to get real and stay in the game.

Even when we are rapidly cycling through the stages of grief over what we feel has been lost, we can still find pathways of hope and hang on.

What can you do to get real and stay in the game? I’d love to know!

From the News, Personal

Playing the Glad Game

It’s time to play Pollyanna’s Glad Game.

I’m so over the pandemic.

I’ve been desperately wanting all the craziness in the world to just be over already.

You know it’s bad when you keep asking yourself, “What else?” Fully expecting there to be one more thing day after day.

We woke up early on Sunday morning to about 75 messages — some of them texts from family asking, “Are you okay? Were you evacuated?” and most of the rest of them in a neighborhood chat group that was blowing up with photos, videos, and questions about nearby fires that seemed to be heading our way.

I have to admit that I slept through all the danger.

While neighbors were watching the fires burn all night, thankfully, I was sound asleep.

And, just for the record, we are fine.

We were never threatened by the fires.

And, our neighbors to the west were evacuated but no homes or lives were lost thanks to some quick-acting always-on-the-job firemen who took care of it.

Then, last night, we saw another fire off in the distance from our deck, and found out some friends on the other side of the lake from us were evacuated for yet another fire.

So, what else?

That’s the question on everyone’s minds.

There are so many layers of unrest in our world that I’m losing track. There’s the pandemic, killer hornets, earthquakes and the aftershocks, protests and rioting, nasty partisan politics, and the list goes on.

Yet… there is something else.

Like the volunteer fireman who was helping with the evacuations and traffic control Saturday night who said when he arrived on the scene, “It was the perfect storm of bad circumstances all coming together for disaster…The flames were headed toward homes. Kids were hiking in the trails above the fire. The wind was howling and fanning huge flames. Then something happened. The wind stopped. It just stopped. For no logical reason, it just went calm…The wind should have blown this into a real tragedy, but somehow it stopped. Why it stopped is for you to figure out.”

Or like the fact that I hear things like this from my friends, family and neighbors:

  • Things are great for us. I don’t know what it is but my family is thriving.
  • My disabled son found an apartment and moved out on his own for the first time, and he’s loving it! I’m so proud of him.
  • I am getting more done in my home and yard than I ever have before.
  • I love working from home. It’s the best. I get to spend time with my family. I’m not sure I want it to ever go back to the office.
  • Our gospel study is deeper and more rewarding than it’s ever been.
  • I can go for walks because my older kids can take care of my younger ones and that has never happened before because they’ve always been so busy with so many extracurricular activities.
  • My husband lost his job but somehow, we’re okay. We’re confident that we’ll be fine and that he’ll find something when the world settles down. I don’t know what it is but we feel really at peace.
  • I have been trying to find a new, affordable apartment for a long time, and the perfect one just opened up.
  • I have experienced chronic pain for years and recently fell. I was afraid it would make everything worse. Miraculously, it made everything better. I can’t explain it.
  • I’m having Zoom calls with old friends, and it’s been so fun to reconnect.

The list goes on.

like having at least one daughter close by… 🙂
Or finding this beauty on my front porch from an anonymous neighbor (thanks Diann!)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know bad things are happening. We’ve had a few of our own.

But, I keep remembering an article I read by Sheri Dew, who said, “Many of you have no doubt had the same experience I’ve had of late. Grocery stores with long lines, no paper products or bottled water, and eerie rows of empty shelves. There are areas in the world where this is not uncommon, but in the United States and other industrialized nations, that is not the case. I imagine that for many around the world, there have been recent moments that almost felt post-apocalyptic.”

I nodded my head about the post-apocalyptic part because that’s definitely how it feels.

Then, she quoted LDS leader Elder Neil Anderson who said, ““As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.”

Image by Jorge Guillen from Pixabay

To me, that says, even when the world seems bad, if we do our part, God does his.

We took a short road trip to Yellowstone last week and the peace, stunning sunsets, wildlife, and natural beauty just took our breath away. We didn’t want to leave. It was a good reminder that there is still beauty in the world.

It reminds me of the book Where the Red Fern Grows when the little boy, Billy, desperately wants a pair of coon hound dogs. His grandpa says, “Well, it’s been my experience that God helps those who help themselves. If you want God’s help bad enough, you’ll meet him halfway.”

Maybe, for me, part of meeting him halfway is looking for the compensatory blessings rather than seeing everything as signs of the apocalypse, which you have to admit is pretty easy these days.

If you’re seeing some compensatory blessings during these upside down, crazy times, please share them with me! I need all the positivity I can get.

Pollyanna’s Glad Game needs to be in full swing.

Parenting, Relationships

When Mom’s Have Had Enough

During these days of isolation, I have been purging files — cleaning out family history folders and having my daughter help me scan photos, documents, and histories and post them on FamilySearch.

It makes us both feel productive, and I love reducing the loads of paper I’ve been hauling around for so long.

The process can be a little slow and tedious because I take too much time reading, remembering, and then, wondering whether I can actually throw some things away that have such sentimental value.

Like how can I throw this away — a photo of my five-year-old self?

Today, I found a little gem that I wrote many years ago that must be shared because it probably expresses how some moms might feel today after having their kids home from school now for what feels like forever.

I love my kids. The snow is pretty. I love my kids. The snow is pretty.

I’ve been repeating this mantra now for weeks.

It is not working anymore.

I love my kids, but enough already.

They need to be in school.

I need them to be in school.

First, it was 9/11 when they were in lockdown at school and we couldn’t wait to get them home, but we couldn’t go anywhere without worrying about terrorists.

Then, it was the snippers on the loose, and we couldn’t go anywhere for fear of being shot. The kids couldn’t even play outside at recess.

And, now it’s the snow that just won’t stop, requiring school to be canceled for what seems like forever.

The news folks aren’t helping things because they report on the snow with such enthusiasm and excitement.

Enough already with the news!

I find myself being mad at D.C. and its wimpy ways when it comes to snow.

I tell my kids, “When I grew up in Utah, we never missed school because of the snow.”

“Whatever, mom” they say as they roll their eyes back into their pretty little heads.

Did I mention that these eye-rolling-whatever-mom kids should be in school?

I’m worried about them losing all their brain power because they watch TV shows that suck out all their intelligence. I’m sure I’m going to find the contents of their brains spilled out in messy puddles all over the house any day now.

I want to talk to them about things other than code orange days, evacuation plans, and hoarding duct tape. (Why we need the tape is beyond me.)

And why do we keep hearing that we need evacuation plans? Evacuating is not an option because we can barely get out of our neighborhoods, let alone to our “planned family safety zones.”

Maybe an evacuation wouldn’t be so bad right now.

Wait, what am I saying?

I didn’t really mean that.

You know I didn’t really mean it. It’s just that I’m feeling a little frayed around the edges, a little more irritable than usual.

I tried yoga to calm myself down and I felt very zen until I walked into the family room and heard Sponge Bob Square Pans’ squeaky prepubescent voice singing about living in a pineapple under the sea…again.

My only coping mechanism is to go into the bathroom where I can be alone. Except that doesn’t work either because the dog parks himself outside the door and whines until I come out.

So, I try to propel myself forward by envisioning the happy day when life is normal and these beautiful, yellow stretch limousines pull up near our house and my girls can’t wait to climb in them. These luxury vehicles carry them away to a wonderful place of learning called SCHOOL, and they are happy to be there because they have missed seeing their friends, discussing math, science, English, and history, and learning songs in French. They can’t wait to do their homework and go to soccer practice, dance class, and resume piano lessons.

I imagine they are safe and the world is a good place, and I can go to the gym, the grocery store, the mall, have lunch with my friends, keep the house clean, cook less, turn the TV off, and then happily gather with them in the late afternoon to hear all about what happened while they were at school. I will soak it up because I will have missed them so much in those short hours we were apart.

Oh, imagine the joy that will one day be mine.

But, for now, I repeat these words: “I love my kids. The snow is pretty. I love my kids. The snow is pretty.”

Advice, Change

Pandemic Survival

As we live in the surreal, bewildering world of Covid-19, I repeatedly find myself thinking and feeling like I did after I was diagnosed with cancer over 10 years ago.

The lessons I learned then are helping me now.

Like a pandemic, that diagnosis made me feel helpless, confused, uncertain about the future, and worried about everything I touched, breathed, or came in contact with.

The grocery store became a petri dish, the nail salon, mall, and everywhere else became unsanitary places to avoid.

I had no control over what was happening, and every day it seemed like there was more bad news.

My life suddenly narrowed from being busy, involved, and overly social to being singularly focused on my own survival and the well-being of my family.

How many times did I hear that I had a “new normal?”

How many times did doctors tell me there was no way of predicting what might happen?

I hated the loss of control.

So, as the news has poured out endlessly over the last few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the lessons I learned from surviving cancer that are helping me through this pandemic.

Here are a few of them. Maybe they’ll help you:

  1. Remember this is temporary. Life will not always be this way. Repeat this often. Let it become your mantra.

  2. You’re not alone — even if it feels that way. Other people feel like you do. They understand the loneliness, isolation, and fear.

  3. You will get through it. No matter what happens, you’ll survive. Even if the very worst happens, everything will eventually be okay.

  4. Plan for the future. Have something to look forward to. Imagine it in great detail, and when you feel the stress mounting, go there in your mind. Think about how it will feel, how you will enjoy it, and what a celebration it will be. I imagined being with my family at the beach, soft hair growing back on my head, the sand between my toes, the sounds of laughter as my girls played in the ocean waves, and the relief on Doug’s face because we made it through. Imagining all the small details propelled me through some hard days.

  5. Have faith. There is a God. He is in charge and if you believe in, trust, and rely on his words, you will feel at peace. God sent us here for a mortal experience and that means bad things will come our way. That’s just part of the plan. Our job is to respond well, learn, and become better through the hard times — choose faith over fear.  

  6. Rely on friends and family. I was overwhelmed with the love and kindness of others. It reminded me that even in the worst-case scenarios of life, good, helpful people are everywhere. Watch for them, appreciate them.

  7. Be someone who helps others.  We can be those good people. Doug is calling a friend every day which cheers him up and lets someone else know they’re loved. A neighbor just left us a cellophane-wrapped roll of toilet paper with a note that said, “When life gets crazy, roll with it.”  Check on people. They will appreciate it and it will make you feel better.

  8. Join in the worldwide fast tomorrow, April 10, on Good Friday, and pray that the virus can be controlled, caregivers will be protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized. Fast for two meals or 24 hours. You decide how long you want to sacrifice.  

  9. We also have posted this graphic on our refrigerator to remind us of who we want to be during and after Covid-19.

 

I hope some of these tips are helpful. And, I’d love to know some of your tips.

How are you getting through these upside-down, inside-out days? Please share!

About Me, Change, Memoir

Finding a Life Plan

For the last several months, I have had an ongoing debate about this blog…

Should I keep writing or give it up?

I blog for purely selfish reasons — writing helps me figure out what I’m thinking and feeling.

That’s it.

No product to promote, no message to shout or cause to advance.

I just like to write.

The most common comment I receive about my blog posts is, “You always write what I’m thinking!” Knowing my posts resonate with others motivates me to keep writing.

Lately, however, I’ve wondered because I seem to be thinking about different kinds of things — things that indicate a new stage of life, so I’m not sure whether they still resonate.

Here is a partial list:

  • Funerals. I’ve attended a lot of them lately, mostly parents of friends. That says something, doesn’t it?
  • Making new friends, keeping up with old ones.
  • Missing my mom every single day.
  • Parenting adult children — How do you do that? What is my role now? How do you know when to stand back and when to jump in?
  • Planning a high school class reunion when for the first time, my brother’s name is on the “deceased” list of classmates.
  • What it’s like to retire or semi-retire or whatever we call what we’re doing.
  • How strange it feels not to have a template for what’s next in life.
  • Living in the belly of the beast in terms of religion.
  • Selling our home on the Outer Banks, our last toehold on the east coast.
  • Going on a church mission — when is the right time to do that? And, how do people just up and leave their homes and lives for two years?

And, that’s probably not everything.

Are these relatable topics?

Maybe the crux of this dilemma is not in the specifics of what I’m wondering about, but the overarching theme that I’m in a new phase of life, and I don’t have anything figured out.

Ironically, at this stage of my life, I have less figured out than ever before.

As I write this, I think of Norman Thayer in the movie, “On Golden Pond.” (I realize that’s an early 1980s reference that may be lost on some.)

When the movie came out, I laughed at Norman, who at 80-years-old, perused the want-ads, hoping to find a “career opportunity.” (I do that!)

I understand now that he didn’t really want a job, he just wanted to feel relevant and have a well-defined daily routine and path because he was in a new stage of life, one that frightened him in some ways.

I’m not 80 and I’m not lost like poor Norman, but I get the larger point of him trying to figure out his life when everything seemed to be new and different.

Now, the point of this blog is not to have my friends tell me I’m relevant, well-qualified for a job or to solicit comments about my capabilities. It’s just to point out that new phases of life bring new questions and challenges.

Does anybody else want an accurate GPS for life that says turn right, go three miles, turn left, make a U-turn or even “rerouting?”

If only Siri or Alexa could help us with that!

In all stages of life, there are unanswered questions and we have no choice but to walk by faith, believing that the answer is just around the corner or that the path is about to appear — if not the entire road, at least the next step.

When you’re traveling in the ruts, you want the freedom to move out of them.

When the ruts are gone — like Norman Thayer’s — you might not want the old ones back, but you want new ones to reappear because having your feet on a path toward your envisioned destination brings peace, security, hope, and excitement.

In the end, maybe all the things I think about are the same things everybody else thinks about (with some variations on the theme)– change, what’s next? Where are the ruts in the road? Where is this unseen road taking me?

Maybe, no matter what stage of life we’re in, we never really have it figured out.

I guess it comes down to that elusive concept of faith.

We have to believe we’re on a good path, leading to a beautiful place — even when, from where we stand, we can’t see the path, where it’s going or where we’ll end up.

So, maybe you don’t miss your mom every day and you don’t wonder about how to be a good parent to adult children or how to retire well or any of my other concerns. But, I’m sure you have some questions you’re asking about your future and your path.

Am I right?

And, maybe I just keep blogging because even if nobody else learns something, I do.