Acceptance Or I Need More Gray

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This week I walked into my therapists office and told her that for this session I wanted her to pick a topic I needed to address and that I had been avoiding. A topic that would help me look at things from a different perspective and encourage personal growth.  Being that my therapist and I have been in contact with each other almost every week since “I Think I Might Want A Divorce Day” two years ago; I figured whatever she said would be something that I could easily wrap my brain around. I should have known better. What she chose was the notion of acceptance and opening my door wider to welcome it into my life. That BITCH (I say that with all the love in the world directed to her)

She began by stating that I needed to accept the distance that I feel with B so that I can create my own stability. It doesn’t mean I have to like it but that I need to acknowledge that it is what is true right now, and while my expectations of two years ago did not pan out, there is value in seeing what is in front of you and not trying to challenge or change it all the time. And what I discovered throughout this talk is this:  I truly have difficulty with the concept of acceptance, let alone the actions, that must accompany it.

Unfortunately, for me, I realized that acceptance means defeat. It means surrender and laying down. It means something “bad” vs. something “good.” And therein lies the problem said therapist tells me.  Acceptance is just a thing and I don’t need to assign value to it, like “good” vs. “bad.”  It is just what is. Nothing less and nothing more. According to her this either/or thinking complicates my life and does not allow for the possibility of acceptance. In fact, according to her I need more gray areas in my life and not as many absolutes and right vs. wrongs. Furthermore, this lack of acceptance on my part effects my relationships and I need to question whether this is where I want my resources to go. Is fighting acceptance worth it? she asks.

UGHHHH

So my assignment is to work on acceptance by just seeing all that is around me and not assigning meaning to it. She challenges me to acknowledge that by labeling these past two years as an exceedingly crappy set of circumstances (something “bad”) it means that I am giving up on seeing further possibility through letting go and experiencing all the gifts that acceptance brings with it. So I am giving this acceptance thing a try, while secretly hoping, that one of those gifts turns out to be a vintage VW bus.

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I’m Depressed

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I’m depressed. There. I said it. I’m depressed.

Frankly, it worries me as I have never allowed myself to go there. With so many people depending on me and a sister who spent time in a mental hospital; I have never before let myself plumb the depths of the despair I am feeling. However, now I am trying to give myself permission. Permission to explore what is on the other side of two years of marriage chaos and confusion. Permission to grieve for dreams that have been pushed aside by reality and for children who struggle due to the challenges of autism. Permission to just feel what I need to feel, even if it hurts. And permission to feel those deep rooted emotions and to not intellectualize my feelings as all the intellectualizing I do just makes me hurt worse.

I will confess this intense feeling of sadness scares me to my core. Not because I am afraid to feel those lows but because when you have had a family member who has experienced hospitalization due to her mental health issues and you have spent years dealing with hers…well, I just don’t want to put my family into that vat of pain and helplessness you can’t help but feel when surrounded with all of that. Yet, my therapist said to me that I have the skill set to survive if not thrive while looking at those things that make me uncomfortable and sad. And after reading Thomas Moore’s The Dark Night Of The Soul I know that there is plenty to be gained by going there for a brief respite. But still, I hesitate, my feet in cement for fear of going in too far or deep. For fear of becoming like my sister. Of letting people down.  Of not “performing” the requirements that are expected in this one act play that I am living.

I know I need to take a look at what is coming up from the depths of my soul. I know that I need to allow myself to feel these intense feelings. I suspect that it is similar to drilling for oil while trying to contain the amount that surfaces at one time. And its also acknowledging  that what comes up will have to be refined in different ways depending on how it will be used. And I acknowledge that any spills that occur will give me new skills to better contain the overflow the next time.

If I had my way I would stay in bed for a week and pull the covers over my head. I would play every sad song I have ever heard and have a Bailey’s on the rocks sitting on my bed stand sipping it over several hours. Oh hell, maybe I would guzzle it instead. That is what I wanted to do today. BUT…I had to make breakfast and lunch for everyone, take them to school, take a kid to the doctor and another to get her allergy shots. I had to wait for the dryer repairman, do the dishes, and mop the floor. I had to pay bills, get the oil changed and attend a meeting. Tomorrow it is more of the same.

So, here I sit, one toe half in and half out of this deep sadness. This depression. Perhaps if I am brave enough I will step on in and let it take me where I need to go.  To places I have never visited but probably should. Only afterwards will I understand that there are things to be gained from examining things below the surface. And who knows…I may just strike the motherlode while I am exploring with the sheets making the perfect tent in which to hide away from the world.

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A Knight’s Myth

 

You are no longer mine

Even though you are still here

In this castle you don’t want to be in

With a woman you don’t want to be with

With children who, well,…. who knows what they realize

But soon their lives will change

Their innocence forever gone

Wiped away by male menopause

That dreams of lusty new love

Perpetual hard-ons

And fireworks that light the night sky

With love’s first kiss

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You insist you are not angry

“Look how quite I am”

“Look how composed”

Head down, eyes masked

Yet the words you CHOOSE sting

The heat charring them before they leave your mouth

I know that you will not admit the anger

Because it would make you appear

Flawed to yourself

And you cannot have anyone think you are

Anything less than

Perfect

Gallant

Charming

Noble

A Hard working

Self-Sacrificing

Christian Man

With all the Qualities

That a knight is supposed to possess

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And you have to see yourself in this way

To like who you are

Because if you really looked deep inside

You would be devastated

By the little boy inside of you

Who cries out from pain of

An abusive mother

And an absent father

And a self that has been lost for so many years

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You think you have found yourself

Now that you have found your voice

But you have only skimmed the surface

Of your deep lake of hurt and anger

That drives you to change

EVERYTHING

But your deepest self

Because you are afraid if you really had to examine

The truth of who you are

And where you came from

Your tears would flood this earth

And there would be

No one there to dry your tears

And stop the carnage that you are creating

Maybe someday you will become like

That Knight you so desperately try to emulate

By being brave, true, and loyal to yourself alone

And by slaying that ancient dragon

That lives within your soul

But you will have to cross deep rivers

High Mountains

And Low Valleys

To get to the place

Which brings you peace

But by then

The castle will be empty

The princess gone

And you will have fought the battle

But lost the war

Everything you once loved

And everyone who loved you

GONE

And you will be

But a mere man seated at

The Roundtable all alone

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“FOR YOUR OWN GOOD” List

I don’t know about you, but there seems to be an exclusive list that it handed to each woman during the heat of labor which is promptly and conveniently ignored until the first child heads off to school. It is then, during Kindergarten Round Up, that you realize that every parent in the building decides what kind of person you are after watching your child interact for exactly 4.2 seconds and he is doomed to be a social pariah for the rest of his educational career. It is then, at that exact minute of total mom failure, that THE LIST suddenly re-emerges only to hang over our heads for eternity, flapping in that empty space that our brains used to occupy.
Every mother knows about THE LIST. It consists of all the things our kids must do at least once so that we can check the box that verifies to the world that we ARE A GOOD MOM.
Trying new food. The latest…brocollini….images-1
Yearly pictures at Sears…oops missed that one…but now that I am aware of that fact so by next Tuesday it will be done…semi-check.
Playing the piano and while he may not ready for Carnegie Hall, he does know where middle C is located…images-1
Now B is the sports minded one in our family but because two of our three children get crazed if something as small as an ant touches them, trying to knock out athletic activities…well… it’s a challenge. If I had my druthers I would just scratch that whole section off THE LIST because several family members consider high quality endurance sports akin to laying on the couch and dipping ruffled potato chips into a savory dip. (the endurance part comes when you have to turn the chip around and dip again being careful not to double-dip)
But I have to admit that I do have a fear that scratch outs might just not get you into heaven so I persist in introducing my kids to new sports, knowing in my heart of hearts, that is what all GOOD moms do. That feel-good, doing-the-right-thing, going for Mother Of The Year, attempt is what lead us to the Broken Leg Ice Skating Rink yesterday afternoon where the kids tried ice skating for the very first time.
 I will admit that sometimes it seems as though it takes a while for my kids to get comfortable with new activities. First, we have to check out each and every toilet in the entire facility. If the seat is comfortable then my kids might give it a try. If not, we are OUTTA there thanks to Andre’s unrelenting complaints about the lack of high-quality plastic engineering.
Next comes the vending machines. Anything that has hidden ingredients that make one of my kids break out in hives is considered an immediate success and suddenly every one wants a buck to insert into the machine as they rapidly make their way towards anaphylactic shock.
Finally, throw in a 16-year-old cashier who is making minimum wage but will answer every one of the 20,000 questions thrown at them about the history of said sport…the equipment used and the rules of the sport, then participation is a definite maybe because all bets are on that they can continue with the questions until the place closes for the evening. Better yet, if the cashier can quote numerous safety statistics; then its a go-home because no sport is even safe enough for my boys. Yes, even contemplating sports can be an exhausting endeavor.
So after spending one half- hour tying and re-tying the skates, using the bathroom…for the third time… and learning to walk on blades; the time had come for the kids to make their way onto the ice. If, as the old adage goes, you can smell fear; then the fumes around our family was like the pungent odor that follows us around for three hours after eating grandma’s chili. We just couldn’t shake it. As we left the bench, feet started going every which way but forward and the sound of our bottoms slapping the ice…HARD… reverberated throughout the arena. To top it off, I pulled my back out trying to hold up one child while falling down with another. Mom was done and judging from the little faces surrounding me, the vending machine owner was about to become a very rich man. AGAIN.
Yet, we persisted. Paul put his game face on and after one trip around the rink fell and got a bloody nose that spurted ten feet.  Gracie whined until her daddy escorted her like the princess she is around the rink. But I knew all was lost in regards to Andre when he spent ten minutes making it half-way around the rink with his toes turned in towards the wood paneling the entire time. Never have a seen a child so happy as when he took his blades off of the ice. His face actually beamed so brightly he was in danger of melting the ice.
Later, after exiting the rink, Andre looked up at me and said, “Well, those were absolutely the worst minutes I have ever spent in my entire life!” And needless to say, his assessment didn’t get any better despite being bribed with hot chocolate by B.
On the way home, Andre talked about the experience. His take?
“Well, I am glad that is over. I did it once, it’s a no-go and thank goodness I will never have to do that again. Now, mom, what else can we cross of your list of things I have to do?”
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“What list?””You know, the one that you have that makes me try everything for my own good even though we both know I am going to hate it. But still you try. Again and again. Pushing me to be a better kid so you can feel better about yourself as a mom. So really, if you think about it, this list is really about you and your feelings of inadequacy. Frankly, I think a therapist for you would cost a whole lot less than this “contrived family time.” I think that is something you need to seriously contemplate before one of us dies during these little mini-olympics of yours.”

And with that he was done.
But I’m not.
I want to know… how he knew about… THE LIST?
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Accepting Yourself

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As I work on learning to love myself again; I realize just how much effort it takes. Frankly, it shouldn’t. I am a good person, loving parent and partner, pay my taxes and volunteer. I don’t kick the dog, I praise little kids, and treat people pretty darn well. Yet, somehow, whatever I do or what I say is never enough to erase the tape it my head that says I am not “good enough.” The “maybe divorce” doesn’t help either. My husband’s questionable love for me taunts me with the false belief that if I was really “good enough” I wouldn’t be going through two years of marriage hell when in fact it may have everything to do with him and nothing with me. His fears, his disappointments with himself, his worries that he could die tomorrow and his wondering if this is all there is?

Sometimes I think it was easier to love myself when I was younger. I was naive, granted myself grace because of my youth, and I didn’t have a lot of living and experiences under my belt. With age comes plenty of time to look back over the past and see all that you “should” have done better. All you could have done differently. And as you get closer to death you start thinking about how you want to be remembered and shudder to think of some of the ways you might be.

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As human beings we spend years cultivating relationships. We spend inordinate amounts of our time pleasing others and trying to prove our worth. We nurture those we love and spend time working on issues we feel are important because there are people who are involved that we respect and love. Yet, often we neglect to cultivate the most important relationship that there is…the one with ourself. We forget to take care of our needs, seek out those things that sooth our soul, and refuse to give ourselves the breaks that we grant our friends and loved ones. Finally, I am realizing that the internal relationship we have with ourselves must be maintained, nurtured, and worked on just like the external relationships that we share with others. In fact, we must put more into building the relationship have we with ourself simply because we are 100 times harder on our soul than anyone else. Most often, we are our own worst critics and that criticism that we direct inwards does more damage than anything anyone else could say or do to us.

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When we are in love we love in hopes that it will last forever. When we cultivate friendships we hope that those relationships will be satisfying for each other until our last breath. We accept the flaws that we see in others so willingly; why can’t we do the same with ourselves?

I think it is because we resist acceptance of ourselves because there is nothing we have to do when we truly accept who we are and what is going on in our lives. We think that acceptance is too easy so we attempt to make it harder by telling ourselves we have to change and be something “better.” We have to make ourselves a new and improved version of our old selves to love ourselves and have others love us back. And while change may do us good we still need to just learn to accept ourselves with compassion and love no matter where we are in our journey. No more self criticism and no more beating ourselves up because we should be different than who we find ourselves to be or because we should have behaved differently than we have. If we accept ourselves we don’t have to fix, improve, or do it right all the time. We just have to focus on the here and now and who we are at this moment in time while accepting that we are doing the best we can within the confines of where we find ourselves today. It doesn’t mean that we won’t change it only means that we don’t have to in order to be lovable to ourselves and others.

Of course it is much easier to write all of this rather than live in a way in which acceptance of ourselves is the name of the game. It is hard work. But as we set aside uninterrupted time to spend with ourselves each day concentrating on who we are instead of who we are not; acceptance will creep in slowly until one day we finally understand that we are enough. Period.

So be it!

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Childhood Trauma

Negative Chatter

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My inner spirit has yet to be rekindled. I may have written about the importance of it a couple of weeks ago but for some reason I have yet to feel the spark. I have not been taking the time for me and as a result negative chatter is filling the air around me and is so thick I could cut it with a knife.

THOUGHT #1

“Why keep trying? He will never love you like he did again.”

THOUGHT #2

“Yes, I could have bet on the fact that I would be unable to reach B while he was at dinner with FRED and by golly I was right. Why is this? What is going on here?”

THOUGHT #3

“Can I ever trust again?”

Yep, my brain is suddenly like a chipmunk after a peanut…darting here, there, everywhere…but no place healthy or good for my soul.

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My headmaster just keeps churning out negative thoughts day in, day out. But why?

Is it because I am still so unsure of myself?

Is it because I am so unsure of my relationship?

Is it because I feel I am not being true to myself?

Is it because increasingly I feel like abandoning ship because I feel like nothing I do is ever right?

Or is it because I am just plain tired of the constant pushback that two boys with autism seem to relish every chance they get?

Whatever it is I know that I need to work hard to get rid of it. Because all this negativity is like wallowing in a shit-filled cow barn. If the methane doesn’t kill you the stink certainly will, coupled with the fact that there is so much of it piled around that I am afraid that I will get sucked down into it …never to return.

So, I am trying to implement past strategies that have worked.

I am shouting in my head “CANCEL, CANCEL,CANCEL” when a negative image or thought appears. I then look around and make a running commentary of what I see:

“Wow the sky is blue today. Look at that big fluffy cloud overt here. It looks so clean and white”….and so on.

Today I meditated and practiced visualization. I am trying to exercise more.

Yet, nothing is removing that chipmunk, whose cheeks are filled so full of negativity, from my brain. It’s kind of like having Alvin singing “Christmas Time Is Here” in your head 24/7 meaning that the A on Alvin’s shirt doesn’t just stand for his name.

 

I read this piece to my therapist. She says the rekindling has not begun because I am not using the proper things to build the fire with. The first being self love which has diminished so much since the “I might want a divorce.” Somehow that love of self has wafted away like the smoke that comes from lighting a fire. It no longer feels like I need a bit of kindling. Instead, it feels like I need to burn down an entire forest to revive my inner spirit.

My therapist also says that living with no air conditioner in 110 degree heat 43 C also fries your brain. She says she suspects this is what I am actually suffering from today. But all I know is the part for the air conditioner won’t come until Monday and someone better hide the matches because something is about to go up in smoke!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quieting My Soul

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It used to be that for my husband’s job we would move about every 2 years. I loved the excitement of it all. The new house, new town, new things to do. I loved purging my life of all the un’s … the un-used, the un-wanted and the un-needed. I loved starting life “over.”

For the past 10 years we have lived in one town but moved to three different houses. We have been in this one 5 years. About the longest we have ever lived in one place and to tell you the truth…I am ready to move. This wouldn’t be a problem except that it is…B refuses to move again. I get it. It is a pain to move….so much to do…taking apart, putting together, cleaning, painting, and organizing, Yet, I was good at it. Amazingly so. In fact, I got so good at moving I would have all my boxes unpacked within the first 72 hours. No boxes sitting in the garage waiting to be unpacked for me. I took that as a personal affront if things were not in place where they belonged…soul included. And for a while my soul would be at peace while it explored and planned and painted.

My soul is a nervous one. One that craves excitement, changes and challenges. My soul has a hard time sitting and staying in one place. And when my soul gets itchy I know that it is time to move. Yet, I can’t. B no longer wants to buy and sell houses; no longer wants the bother.

So how does one feed an itchy soul?

I am not sure. I am meditating which calms and centers me but still my soul is restless. I am working on my novel but still my soul wants to wander. Sometimes it feels as if my soul is akin to a ghost wandering the halls of an old mansion looking for a way to get back into herself. And I am just not sure how to quiet her.

Will it quiet when I am living where I really want to be? Will it quiet when my marriage is good again? Will it quiet when I know what the future holds for my two autistic sons? Or do some souls never quiet because they are always looking to stir things up and invite chaos into their lives?

People say doing things for others helps quiet the soul. I haven’t found that to be true yet but I am hoping to start volunteering for a local hospice program and perhaps that will help…being close to death often reminds you how precious it all is and plants seeds of contentment in your soul.

Or perhaps quieting the soul it is more ominous to me than I truly want to recognize. Maybe my soul believes that quieting itself means I have given up… that I no longer am wanting or expecting change, that I am content and therefore complacent, that I am accepting of whatever comes my way; no longer carving out a life of my own. Done. Finished. Bricked up like a fireplace in an old house so as to eliminate the drafts. And if this is what quieting the soul is all about then frankly it scares the crap out of me.

Sometimes I wonder if I am doomed to have a wandering soul and sometimes I wonder if wandering is better than a soul lost to complacency. I’m sure there must be a middle ground but I have been unable to find it. For now my soul wants a change but perhaps this time the change will have to be within me and not through external circumstances. Looking inward instead of out. I am not sure but I know without a doubt that change is acoming’.

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Conflict

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When I was younger I enjoyed conflict. It meant that I was letting things be known and getting things done. These days I just want peace. Gone are the days of spending two hours trying to convince B that I am “right.” Gone is the time spent crafting a great argument. I would much rather spend time meditating and sitting quietly than fighting.

Yet, there is something to be said about the positive effects of conflict. During conflict we are often forced to grow, to dig deep within ourselves to find the answers that are needed, and do a bit more in an effort to resolve the issues that are at the root of the problem. Oftentimes, conflict brings us some much needed insight about ourselves and our loved ones that can then be used to find solutions that best fit our mutual needs. Usually conflict forces us to do a bit more thinking, to take action, and encourages us to analyze patterns that are dug up when our nest is disturbed.

Conflict is hard, especially when we as a species, tend to want to chase rainbows and live our lives surrounded by sunny skies. Many of us avoid conflict like the plague. But conflict if managed with mutual respect and sharply attuned listening skills can unearth gems that can change our lives or our thought patterns. So while I am not encouraging anyone to go out and start a fight with their loved one; I am saying that the next time you are in conflict with your loved one try to look for the treasures that conflict can bring. You may find exactly what your relationship needs in order to take that next step by digging deep and listening carefully and in doing so; you might just find the peace that you have been searching for.

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I tell you that I’m leavin’,
You can’t believe it’s true!
You say….
Girl, there’s just no livin’ without you.
Don’t take your love away from me.
Don’t you leave my heart in misery.
‘Cause if you go, then I’ll be blue,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Remember when you held me tight,
And you kissed me all through the night.
Think of all that we been through,
And breakin’ up is hard to do.
They say that breakin’ up is hard to do,
Now I know, I know that it’s true.
Don’t say that this is the end.
Instead of breakin’ up I wish that
We were makin’ up again.
I beg of you don’t say goodbye,
Can’t we give our love just one more try?
Come on baby, let’s start anew,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Written by Howard Greenfield, Neil Sedaka • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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I arrived home Friday to a man who was so sweet I wondered where he had been for the past year-and-one-half. Since I had told him that I want him to leave, of course, there has been a change….there always is for this type of thing. I guess it is to be expected. Shaking things up puts the boulders on top until time slowly sinks them back to the bottom. Some things never change.

He missed me while I was on the coast. He believes you don’t let go of something we have had this long. Or so he says. Now when the fear of losing me is closer than he had  ever dreamt. Filling the pill boxes, carpooling, doctor appointments. Is it me he wants or my numerous occupations…nurse, taxi driver, cook, house cleaner, bill payer, laundry folder…the list is almost endless and so is my need to know.

We talk. I am insistent. He is adamant we need to keep trying and he is staying. I suggest that he take my letter to his therapist to see what she says. I tell him I bet that she will say that he should take this time for himself. I also tell him that I want him to give his therapist permission to talk to mine to see if there is any middle ground there. He agrees. We talk late into the night without hurting each other. What do you know!

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The next day we go to lunch and start talking about separation. It is not a pleasant conversation with plenty of “My lawyer said this” and “My lawyer said that.” That little exchange gave us a preview of what was to come and neither of us liked it. Yet, one thing has changed. Paul is noticing that we are apart more than together and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. He wonders why we have to leave? “Can’t we just be a family again?” he asks. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it shaking the earth under his feet.

Later, we decided to look at our calendars to see what kind of leaving can be done during the month of March.

Shit! I totally forgot that I leave with Gracie on Wednesday on a cross-country trip for a diving meet. Gone until the 7th.

B leaves the 10th for a business trip to Canada and Pennsylvania. He comes back the 17th.

The following week is the Highland Games that we have both committed to.

The next week is our anniversary with a trip to the East Coast to see our son. Neither of us wants to give that up. It should be interesting. Hopefully, we can communicate like the middle-age adults we are suppose to be rather then using our usual two-year-old communcation methods…me,me,me…you,you,you. Never just us.

Now we are into April.  Two more diving meets within the first two weeks and a business trip to Colorado. In between all of this, I am trying to become a volunteer for hospice which will require training.

All of this to say…who has time to break up? Doesn’t mean we won’t. Just means that there is a lot of booked time away from each other this coming month. Yet, Paul is noticing and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it. Deeply.

I think it is just what we need. It may not be my original plan but it’s good enough for now and sometimes that is all you can ask for.

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