I Am My Mother’s Mother

Recently, I watched an amazing movie, Life Itself. I highly recommend it. It’s a multi-generational tale, and it shows how the actions of one generation impacts the next and the next and the next. We all are intertwined, part of a legacy. We each carry with us the choices of our forefathers. Here’s a quote from one of the characters in the movie, Elena Dempsey-González:

I’m not sure whose story I have been telling. I’m not sure if it is mine, or if it’s some character’s I have yet to meet. I’m not sure of anything. All I know is that, at any moment, life will surprise me. It will bring me to my knees, and when it does, I will remind myself that I am my father. And I am my father’s father. I am my mother. And I am my mother’s mother. And while it may be easy to wallow in the tragedies that shape our lives, and while it’s natural to focus on those unspeakable moments that bring us to our knees, we must remind ourselves that if we get up, if we take the story a little bit farther… If we go far enough, there’s love.”

This got me thinking about my own family. I’ve written a lot in this blog about how, at age 49, I moved all the way across the continent to Seattle, a place where I had never been and knew no one, just to start over. People tell me that this was brave. I just thought I had nothing to lose, and it turned out that I had everything to gain. But I am not the first person in my family who has taken a leap like this. Far from it.

My mother, at age 48, moved us all from Connecticut to Florida. She, too, felt she had nothing to lose. I wish, for her sake, that that risk had worked out as well for her as mine did for me. I landed on my feet and then some. Her situation became much, much worse, in terms of finances and lifestyle and location. It’s really heartbreaking to think about. She deserved so much better.

Her mother, my grandmother, came through Ellis Island when she was 23. She learned English on the way over, using an English/Danish dictionary and the Saturday Evening Post. She had $10.00 in her pocket, and she was met in New York by a Danish minister. Her husband, my grandfather, worked his way over on a Danish ship.

My great grandmother and my great great grandmother on that side seem to have never left their home places, but my great great grandmother’s husband committed suicide, leaving her with seven children, and that must have been a challenge all its own.

My great great grandmother on my grandfather’s side was born in Sweden but moved to Denmark in her 20’s. That may not seem as extreme, but back then, I’m sure it was still a huge transition into the unknown. It would have been a language change. She went there looking for work. She most likely brought the BRCA1 genetic anomaly to our family as well, and many of us have been paying for that ever since. (Not all legacies are good ones.)

I don’t know as much about my Father’s side of the family, but I do know that his mother came to America from Ireland, young and single, and hoping to make a better life. She met my grandfather because she was a waitress in his restaurant. He liked to say that he only married her so he could stop paying her. In any case, he left her with 4 children to bring up on her own, which was far less than she deserved.

We each carry on a legacy. We each add to that legacy. I come from a long line of strong, risk-taking women. Sometimes those risks worked out, and sometimes they didn’t. But I’m grateful for all of them, because they led to me.

leap-of-faith-3238553_1280

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My Most Memorable Year

On my way to work the other day, I was thinking about the fact that, ten years from now, if people are asked what their most memorable year has been, a good percentage of them are going to say 2020. That’s heartbreaking, because this year SUCKS. I’m sure most of the memories from this year won’t be happy ones. I’ll be happy to get past this year and move on, no matter what that looks like. I think that’s the scariest bit. We have no idea what the world is going to be like after this year.

Fortunately, 2020 is not my most memorable year to date. If I had to pick one, it would be 2014, because it was overflowing with the really, really bad, but ended up really, really good. It was the most pivotal year of my life.

For starters, in 2014 I went to visit my favorite aunt, Betty, in Connecticut. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time I saw her face to face. I wish you could have known her. She was amazing.

Unfortunately, while I was there, I got a phone call from the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Office telling me that they found my boyfriend dead in his truck, still clutching his asthma inhaler, in the pharmacy parking lot a few short blocks from my apartment. Upon hearing that, I instantly came down with the flu, and couldn’t hear a thing for three days, which made flying home in tears quite fun. It felt like I was ground zero at a nuclear blast, such was the devastation this caused in my life.

There was a huge family conflict over whether or not I should attend his memorial service (thank God I ignored them and went), and the taking of all his possessions (and a few of mine) by his adult children. Other than that, I really don’t remember much about those next few months, except a lot of tears, forgetting to eat, and a constant ringing in my ears. I did go to work, though. I had to. Fortunately, there can be tears in bridgetending.

Not long after that, my landlord, who lived in the other half of the house, figured out that I’d probably not be able to make the rent without my boyfriend’s assistance, and she kicked me and my two dogs out of my apartment with no notice at all. I was too devastated at the time to fight it.

Fortunately I had a place to store my stuff, but I got to experience a brief stint of homelessness there. Nothing quite like sleeping with two dogs in a crapped out Buick LeSabre to make you appreciate all the comforts of home. Then I did a bit of couch surfing and realized who my friends really were.

Finally, I found a place to rent that I could just barely afford. I hunkered down in anticipation of an existence in which I would be all alone, working a dead end job, and living paycheck to paycheck. I was resigned to my fate.

I was talking to a coworker about just that when he mentioned that there was a job opening for a bridge operator in the City of Seattle. I had never been to Seattle. I had never even been to the state of Washington in my life. I didn’t know anyone there. But man, was I ever due for a do-over. My life was going nowhere fast and I was miserable. So what the hell, I applied. What did I have to lose?

And, what the hell? They hired me. Sight unseen. Over the phone. Just like that.

Now I had to figure out how I was going to move across the continent. Fortunately, my sister and my husband not only loaned me money, but they gave me a more viable van. And for the rest, I dipped into what little savings I had, and also did a crowdfunding campaign.

That campaign was amazing and humbling. Not only did friends from decades ago come out of the woodwork, but also total strangers gave me money. Without all that generosity, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Because of that, I do my best to pay it forward every chance I get.

House hunting from a distance is not at all fun, but somehow everything fell into place (including the breaking of a lease I had only signed 2 months before) and the next thing I knew, I was driving across the country with two dogs and entirely too much stuff.

The cross country trip was amazing. (Read more about it here.) You have no idea how vast this nation is until you drive 3100 miles across it. It’s magical. I will never forget that experience.

And then, on this very day (August 24th) in 2014, I arrived in Seattle. I was scared half to death, and second guessing myself the entire time, but I was also extremely excited for this fresh start. And my life has been, despite a few false starts, an ever-increasing high ever since.

Because I came here, I’m actually making a living wage for the first time in my life. Because I came here, I published my first book. Because I came here, I bought a wonderful little house. Because I came here, I met my amazing husband-to-be and was married for the first (and only) time ever.

No one at my wedding had known me more than a year or two. That kind of smarted. But, as a dear friend says, onward and upward and into the future!

I’ve met some wonderful people here and have had too many exciting experiences to list. (You may want to check out the archives of my blog for that.) And I’m happy to say that I feel as though I’ve made an excellent life for myself.

So, yeah, 2014 beats 2020 all to hell. And because of that, life is ever so good, and I am exactly where I want to be. You just never know what’s in store for you. Truly, what a ride…

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

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Rounding Tahoma

On the day in question, it was going to be hotter than blue blazes in the Seattle area. For my purposes, that’s about 90 degrees. I know that my Southern friends will scoff at that, but remember, we don’t have air conditioning. I was anticipating misery, so I began casting about for ways to beat the heat.

My husband and I decided that the best way of doing that would be to go to higher altitudes. Specifically, we planned to go to Mount Rainier National Park. We are lucky that this gorgeous mountain is but a day drip away for us.

Mount Rainier is called Tahoma by the Native Americans in this area. I think that’s a much better name.  Tahoma is 14,410 feet high, which means it’s the tallest peak in the Cascade Range. People have been visiting this mountain for more than 9,000 years. It became a national park in 1899.

We decided on this day that it would be fun to circumnavigate the entire mountain. This meant that we’d have to use roads that were quite often outside the park itself. But the views were spectacular regardless, and we got to visit some very enchanting small towns along the way.

Our first stop was for ice cream in the little town of Greenwater. We also got to check out a couple statues of Bigfoot. This made me wonder if the plural of Bigfoot is Bigfoots or Bigfeet. I don’t suppose this question will loom large in my life, but it was something to think about rather than feeling guilty about eating ice cream.

Next, we entered the park and headed toward the Sunrise Visitor Center. The State of Washington’s highest paved highway ends there at 6400 feet. Needless to say, we were treated to several switchbacks along the way, and the roadsides were blanketed by a variety of colorful subalpine wildflowers. We also encountered the fascinating remnants of some columnar lava, and enjoyed the glacier-clad slopes in the distance. We got to see Emmons Glacier, the largest American glacier outside of Alaska.

We had packed a picnic lunch, and enjoyed that in the Sunrise picnic area. Two million people visit this national park each year, but we had the picnic area pretty much to ourselves. We adhered to strict social distancing and mask guidelines whenever we saw another human. Mostly, we were surrounded by flowers, and got to watch some chipmunks play. I relished the peace and quiet.

I was a little sad that I wasn’t able to obtain a stamp for my National Parks Passport, because the ranger station was closed. But the gift shop was open, so we were able to add another fridge magnet to our collection. Yay!

After that, we headed south along the east side of the park. We were smack dab in the middle of nowhere, without even a hint of cell phone signal, when we came across a family standing beside their broken down car. They wrote down contact information for a relative, along with their membership number for AAA, and asked if we could please contact that relative as soon as we got a cell signal, and have him call a tow truck. We said we would. We also took a picture of where we thought he was located, more or less, on a map, because needless to say, there were no intersections or addresses to be had.

It took us about a half hour to get a signal and make contact, and we texted the map photo as well. By then it was about 6:30 pm, and we knew that this would be no quick rescue. At that elevation it would be quite cold when the sun went down, so we worried about them. We asked the relative to contact us and let us know they made it out safe. And in fact, they didn’t get home until around midnight. So that must have been a really rotten day for that poor family.

But for us, it was shaping up to be a lovely day indeed. We were getting to see Tahoma from all angles. It’s a formidable mountain. Here’s a quote from the national park brochure we received at the entrance:

“Mount Ranier is an active volcano. Active steam vents, periodic earth tremors, and historic eruptions provide evidence that Mount Rainier is sleeping, not dead.”

Steam still escapes from its summit. I’ve seen it from Seattle. It’s not a gigantic, eruptive plume. It’s just a gentle mist that wafts from the top at unexpected moments. It reminds me of the power of nature.

We stopped for dinner at the little town of Packwood. There are a few restaurants there that rely on the tourist trade, a museum, and an outfitter for outdoor pursuits. That’s about it. I don’t even remember if there’s a stop light. This town relies on gigantic swap meets twice a year, on Memorial Day and Labor Day, for the bulk of their income, and those swap meets have been cancelled due to the pandemic. I have no idea how this town will survive. The elk seem to still like visiting it, though. They were everywhere.

From there we entered the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was fun to see all the different people camping along the creeks. Personally, I’ve never camped outside of an official campground, because I like having an actual bathroom, but camping rough seems to be the thing to do in this area. It certainly is a bucolic setting.

We arrived home late in the evening, having successfully driven all the way around Tahoma. When we pulled into our driveway, we discovered that we had driven 214 miles. I cannot get over the beauty and variety of this state and this country. I feel so lucky to live here.

All the photos below were taken on our journey. Enjoy them. And I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Of all the fire mountains, which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” John Muir

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Seattle’s Volunteer Park

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Seattle’s Volunteer Park for the first time. I don’t know how I missed this gem after living in this county for nearly 6 years. This is definitely a place I’ll be bringing visitors from out of town to from now on.

Volunteer Park was designed by the Olmstead Brothers, the same guys who brought us Central Park in New York City. That had to be the coolest job ever. They got to travel around and design huge city parks that are still appreciated today.

In this era, it’s too late for that. Everything has already been built up. You’re as likely to see a new city park as you are to see a new major airport. I’m glad cities had the foresight to carve out natural spaces while they still could, or no city would be livable today. (But nothing in life is that simple. More about the eminent domain atrocities in Central Park in an upcoming post.)

The City of Seattle bought the land for Volunteer Park in 1876 for $2,000. That land is priceless today. Consider this: This mansion, right across the street from the park, is for sale. You can buy it for a cool 6.3 million dollars. (If you want it, here are the details. My realtor husband can hook you up.)

Mansion

To design the park, they had to move a cemetery, and I sure feel sorry for those bodies and the people who had to dig them up, because they had been relocated once before. They started in what is now Denny Park, moved to what is now Volunteer Park, and were then shunted right next door to Lake View Cemetery. May they finally rest in peace. (Bruce and Brandon Lee are also buried here.)

Volunteer Park was once called Lake View Park, but folks were confusing it with the cemetery. J. Willis Sayre, who fought in the Spanish-American War, convinced the city to rename it for the volunteers who fought in that war. And it has been so called ever since.

The park is 48.4 acres, and includes lawns and wooded areas, and has a wide variety of trees and flowers. It’s about 1/20th the size of Central Park, but still seemed massive to me. There is a gorgeous conservatory, currently closed due to the pandemic, which was built from a kit purchased from the Hitchings Company of New York. A lovely carriage drive winds through the park, and it is easy to imagine the horse drawn carriages that must have once used it.

The park also has a concert grove with a small stage, and a water tower which I’m told has spectacular views of the city… when it’s not closed due to the pandemic. There’s also an intriguing Seattle Asian Art Museum in a cool Art Deco building, which is, yeah, yeah, closed. There is also a very large and placid reservoir in front of the museum which greatly enhances the view.

Between the museum and the reservoir is a piece of art called Black Sun which I was told inspired the song Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. If you line your camera up just right (which I did not, exactly), you get a great view of the space needle through this sculpture. (A few years ago, I also visited Seattle’s Sound Garden, which inspired the band’s name. Alas, the wind wasn’t blowing at the time, so the sound garden remained mute.)

Apparently there are also some tennis courts on the grounds of Volunteer Park, but I didn’t see those. In season, there are also dahlia gardens, koi ponds, and a wading pool.

I look forward to visiting this lovely park again and again. Here are some photos that we took during our visit.

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The Very Model of a Modern Lemon

I just had to replace the catalytic converter on my 2002 Subaru Forester. This cost me more than the blue book value of the car. My brother-in-law would kill me if he knew, because he firmly believes one should never spend more than a car’s blue book value on a repair.

But I think there’s more to consider. First of all, this repair will add years to the life of the car. Now that it can breathe again, it’s really in pretty good shape. I trust that there will be many more years of driving in this car. It’s a reliable old work horse. Second, do I really want to spend money on a replacement, given the outrageous cost of cars these days? I might wind up with a 2003 something, but better the devil you know. And I like not having a car payment.

Yes, it would be nice to have heated seats and a rear view camera. It would be nice to be in a hybrid. It would be freakin’ amazing to be in something new. But it’s not really a high priority in my life. I’d rather spend the money on travel. And I mostly only use this car to get from home to work and back again. (And no, public transportation isn’t really an option given my schedule and my location.)

And even though this car is old enough to vote or drink in some states, it’s still just fine and dandy compared to the 2001 Dodge Caravan I used to drive. It got me from Florida to Washington state, so I’m grateful for it, but that vehicle was a lemon-flavored nightmare.

It had no heat and no functioning windshield wipers. In Seattle. I had to wrap myself in a horse blanket to drive in the winter, and any time the rain got bad, I would have to pull over.

After a good rain, if I drove up a hill, a torrent of water would come cascading out of the dashboard, and wash across the floor like a tsunami, only to pour out the back doors. This, of course, meant that I had a myriad of electrical problems and I was constantly replacing fuses. The radio didn’t work. There was also no air conditioning. The door windows would open and close at random intervals.

Since the car was constantly moist on the inside, and there was no heat, this meant that the humidity, when I’d drive the car in the morning, would build up on the inside of the windows. I was constantly toweling them off in transit so that I could see to drive. Even worse, on very cold winter mornings, I’d have to come out and scrape the frost from the outside and the inside of the windows.

To combat this inside window frost, I developed a strategy that now seems laughable, but at the time it was essential. I snaked a 100 foot extension cord out my bedroom window and into the car. On the car end, I attached a tiny portable heater that I would sit on the dashboard. On the bedroom end was a timer that would turn on the heater about 45 minutes before I woke up. Then, at least, there was a patch of window to see out of.

I finally had to get rid of that van when the entire thing started shuddering as I drove. I thought it was going to disintegrate. So I turned it in to the car dealer who sold me the Subaru. But I made them put it in writing that they would not sell it to someone else, and would not donate it to a charity, and wouldn’t even sell it for parts. They’d only have it crushed for scrap metal. Because that thing was a death trap, and I didn’t want to pass any part of it on to anyone else.

Now, I kind of laugh in horror at what I put up with in that van. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But now you know why I love my Subaru, and refuse to let a catalytic converter come between us.

lemon

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I Should Have Been in Italy Today

I have reached the nadir (I hope) of my quarantine depression today. Because today, after thirty long years of trying, my plane should have been touching down at the Venice Marco Polo Airport. We had made the airline reservations. We had booked all our hotels and Airbnb’s and train tickets for a two week, Italian extravaganza.

We had planned to spend three glorious days in Venice, then cross the top of the country by train to visit the Cinque Terra, then go on down to Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis. From there, we’d have settled in to Sorrento, to use it as a hub to visit Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast, and then spend a few days in Rome before returning home.

And then, COVID-19. So close. So freakin’ close.

It’s not the first time that my Italy plans have been scuttled. Economic downturns, relationship breakups, and a relocation to the west coast that took all the Italy savings I had been putting away faithfully every month, for 10 ½ years, are some of the many disappointments I’ve experienced. But this time I had actually held the freakin’ tickets in my hands. I had written out the itinerary. I had read the guidebooks and watched everything Rick Steves had to say on the subject. We had even paid for a consultation with one of his staff. What could possibly go wrong?

Now I’m wondering if international travel of any kind will actually be viable ever again. I suspect this isn’t going to be the last pandemic. It certainly wasn’t the first.

I realize that I look like a privileged, bourgeois brat to be whining about this when people are dying and losing their jobs. I know that I have it so much better than so many people. I’m extremely lucky.

But it’s really hard not to be sad when I was supposed to be in Italy today. It feels like I’m in a state of mourning that no one will understand. It feels like I really have no legitimate right to be upset, and that makes it so much worse.

This trip would have generated a lot of blog posts, too. Maybe I’ll make some spaghetti for dinner and try not to cry into it. I suppose I could blog about that. Or maybe not.

Venice

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Picnics

I used to have a gorgeous picnic basket. Made of beautifully woven reeds, with a double hinged lid, it had a removable wooden stilted platform inside so that you could keep your pie (of course) from being crushed by all the other food. It was complete with special slots to hold one’s cutlery.

I imagined many a romantic outing in gorgeous parks, taking in the view and sitting upon a pretty red and white checked blanket that I didn’t actually own. And the culinary delights, which I wouldn’t be able to cook, that would come out of that basket would be finished off by a bottle of wine, even though I don’t drink alcohol. And what the hell, why not, I’d be wearing something Victorian, with a gorgeous hat, which of course is not part of my wardrobe.

As you can imagine, I never used that basket. Not even once. And it didn’t make my relocation from the East coast to the West. It just took up too much space. I had to leave a lot behind.

No, my picnics usually consist of a Subway sandwich consumed while sitting alone on some rock or other. And that’s a pity, because food always tastes so much better outdoors. It makes me wish I were the pie baking sort.

In light of this pandemic, I think picnics should come back into fashion. None of us can afford much these days, and a lot is closed. But the weather is warming up and flowers are blooming, and all of that is free. There’s nothing to prevent us from lovingly preparing a meal that we’d be eating anyway, and sitting in our back yard or on our patio or even on the living room floor, and taking in the view of our partners in lockdown.

Yeah, it’s not a Victorian picnic complete with footmen to pour the wine, but it’ll do.

picnic

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My Fraught Relationship with Harvest Moon

The first time I heard the song Harvest Moon by Neil Young was around 2016. That surprises me, because the song came out in 1992 and I love Neil Young. How did this one pass me by? Of all his songs, this one is now my favorite. But every time I hear it, it hits me in the gut.

The first time I heard it, I was in a bar with a couple friends. I hadn’t been in the Seattle area for very long, and I was feeling very much like I didn’t fit in out here and never would. I was still grieving the abrupt and unexpected death of my boyfriend, and I felt extremely fragile.

On top of all that, this was a crowded venue with a live band. I only knew my two friends, but they knew pretty much everyone. I always feel marginalized in crowds, but this situation seemed to magnify those feelings.

And then the band started playing Harvest Moon, and like magic, everyone paired off and started to dance. Everyone, that is, except me and three guys across the room who weren’t looking at me at all. It was such a romantic moment. You could just feel the love. And I was all alone.

I missed my late boyfriend so much that it was a physical ache in my very core. And I felt as though I would feel this bad for the rest of my life. I had no idea how I’d survive that.

“Because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again…”

I burst into tears. I retreated to the bathroom. And then I had to leave. I cried all the way home.

Now, whenever I hear Harvest Moon, I remember that night. But fortunately things have changed for me. I did find love once more. I am no longer lonely. I can’t believe that I get to be happy again. I look forward to dancing with my husband to that song someday, should the situation present itself.

But I’ll probably still have a tiny tear in my eye, even as I smile and thank my lucky stars. Music can sure evoke deep and complex emotions, can’t it?

Harvest moon

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Breakthrough!

Whenever I work the day shift, once I’ve survived the commute and parked my car, I make my way over my drawbridge to the bridge tower. I’m usually not living my best life at that exact moment. I could never be mistaken for a morning person.

But during that foggy-brained walk, I almost always pass a guy who is walking in the opposite direction. I could set my watch by him. We both are creatures of habit, it seems.

I often wonder about this guy. Where is he going? Where is he coming from? He’s a bit scruffy, but he’s punctual as all get out.

So, about 9 months ago, I decided that I would say good morning as we passed each other. He did not even look up at me, and he said not a word. But this is Seattle, after all. People don’t just say good morning to strangers, as a general rule. It’s just not done. (I’ll never get used to that.)

The next day, I thought that maybe this time, my good morning wouldn’t take him by surprise. But I got the same reaction. No eye contact, no response.

Okay, this has become a challenge. I began to want, very badly, to get a good morning out of this guy. I was determined.

Months went by, and I continued to do my daily experiment. It became a bit of an effort to keep my pleasant tone when I could only assume I was going to get nothing back. But I did so because, when all is said and done, I really did hope he had a good morning.

After all that time with no eye contact whatsoever, I began to wonder if this gentleman had some sort of anxiety disorder. If so, were my good mornings construed as a type of bullying? Was I adding stress to his life? That certainly wasn’t my intention.

But I really didn’t know a thing about him. Maybe he was just less of a morning person than I was. Maybe he was a Seattleite from birth and his greeting muscle had atrophied. Maybe he doesn’t speak English. Maybe he just wanted to be left alone, but on the other hand, maybe he’s desperately lonely and just socially awkward.

I decided to press on, because if he never responded, it wasn’t like I’d beat him up or something. He’s an adult and can make his own choices. I’d just be a little sad.

Somewhere around month three, he began to give me eye contact. He didn’t smile, but he didn’t give me a hostile glare, either. Progress.

By the end of month six, I began to detect a change in expression. Was that a very slight, hesitant smile peeking out of his scruffy beard? Yes, I think so.

Then in early February, I got really sick with the head cold from hell, and I missed a week of work and sidewalk greetings. I wondered if he noticed. But I didn’t dwell on it, because I was too busy coughing up my lungs.

When I came back to work, to be honest, I still felt like utter crap. I’m sure I didn’t exactly look like my old self, either. I was so busy trying to ambulate through my vertigo that I didn’t bother to say good morning, or even look up, to him or anyone else, for about two weeks.

The following week, though, I was back to our old routine. This time I got the biggest smile ever. That really made me happy.

After that, his smile was more subdued, but it was still there. I’d like to think that I was a bright spot in his morning. I hoped so, at least.

And then today, it finally happened. I said good morning, and he smiled brightly. “Good morning!” he said.

I almost jumped for joy. I wanted to dance the rest of the way down the bridge. I wanted to look over my shoulder at him, but I didn’t want to intimidate him in any way, so I just walked, casually, to the bridge tower, climbed the stairs, and then started jumping up and down. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Do I plan to escalate this contact? No. I look forward to exchanging good mornings, of course, but I’ll leave it at that. We are strangers, and I’m perfectly content to let it stay that way. But now we’re strangers with benefits of a rated G sort.

Can I get a high five for persistence?

Good morning!!!!!!

colbert_high_five

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“What’s Your Problem?”

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. I’ve learned a great deal about communication from my healthy relationship with my husband. It makes me realize how messed up all my past relationships have been.

Years ago, pre-husband, when I had something that (I thought) was interesting to share, I’d say, “Hey Bob!” (Name changed because, to be honest, I really don’t care.)

He’d respond, “What’s your problem?”

That would take the wind out of my sails. Here, I wanted to tell him this cool thing I’d heard on NPR. I wanted to share a moment. A laugh. A smile. Instead of responding with enthusiasm, he’d come at me with his typical negativity.

For Bob, everything was a problem. Being alive was a problem. You’ve never met a sadder sack in your entire life. It made people uncomfortable. They wanted to avoid him. I didn’t realize how much his horrible attitude weighed me down until I got out from under it.

Who wants to be in a relationship where everything you say is interpreted as some sort of problem? I certainly didn’t. And even more insidious is the fact that clearly there was a lot under the surface that he was failing to say. He’d much rather be a martyr than assertively communicate and work out issues. No positive growth to be had there. Instead, I got the passive aggressive, “What’s your problem?”

Oh, I tried to talk to him about it on multiple occasions. He didn’t seem to think that any changes were needed, so I was left to realize that the problem was, in fact, his. I hope he hasn’t carried that on to future relationships. I would wish rather more for him than that.

But his Facebook page indicates that he’s still unhappy with life. It’s an endless litany of complaints, negativity, bitter humor, deep cynicism, and depression. Every once in a while there will be something pleasant in there, but if you count each post as positive or negative, the negative stuff outweighs those things ten to one, and half the time the positive things were posted to his page by someone else. It makes me sad just to look at it. It also makes me relieved that I’m no longer breathing that toxic air.

Now I’m married to someone who is interested in what I have to say. He also happens to have a lot of interesting things to say himself. I look forward to talking to him. It isn’t a chore for either of us. I save up stuff to tell him at that happy moment when I finally get home, and we communicate positively throughout the day. And now I realize that’s how it should be. How lucky am I?

Yes, life will throw its fair share of problems at you. There’s no denying that. But that’s not the lens through which I choose to view the world. It’s not my automatic assumption. I also happen to think that negativity is learned, and can be unlearned, but some people would rather wallow. I have no idea why. Clearly wallowing hasn’t made them happy or they wouldn’t feel the need to wallow.

I have this theory that people like this think that their attitude is something that they are helpless victims of, rather than it being a conscious choice. I would hate to feel that helpless. Yes, I struggle with depression, and there are days when I feel like crying, but for the most part, I spin my world rather than letting it spin me.

Your existence should not be a problem to overcome. There is so much to see and do and learn and be inspired by! There’s so much beauty and wonder! Life is such a gift and such an opportunity. It shouldn’t be squandered.

It’s delightful to be in a relationship that isn’t covered with a wet wool blanket of despair. My husband can put a positive spin on just about anything. If he sees dog poop in the road, he’ll say, “Thank goodness the dog wasn’t run over!”

I love that about him. So, so much. Life is good.

communication-pattern

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