Taking the Polar Express to Christmas Memories

We have a strong Christmas tradition at our house. On the snowiest day after December 1st, we get out our old copy of the film “Polar Express”, make some hot chocolate and watch again the story of keeping the magic alive. Each year we seem to see new details that we have never noticed before. This year this quote really struck home for me:

“The Thing About Trains…It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to GET ON…”

I already had the theme of transformation on my mind before we started watching. How much had our lives transformed themselves since we started watching this movie? What had brought on these major changes and how did we have enough faith to believe in those dreams? We had followed our dreams all the way south to Walsenburg, and then built a new home because we believed so much in harnessing the power of the sun to make our lives better. Mike had so much confidence in his ability to construct a exemplary passive solar home, and I believed in his ability to make our lives better.

Granted, our first year here was rough by any standard. We could find only one place to rent in Walsenburg for that year and it was a hundred years old and mighty crusty. Building a house is always messy, and especially in mid-winter in a rural area with few qualified workers.

We gave up on the idea of having a Christmas tree that year, because our stuff was scattered everywhere and we didn’t have room for one anyway! We just hung our stockings on the wall and called it good.

But the house did get finished eventually, (in July) and we moved in August 1st 2015. The next Christmas was a delight! We were able to go out and cut our own tree on our land. What a beauty!

As the years go by, holidays like Christmas can become a touchstone as we think back to many previous and precious holidays with friends and family. I was inspired to look back at so many old family photographs this week. I wanted to put together a special baby brag book for my Mom to fill her with joy, because she has always LOVED KIDS!

Just to remind her of past holidays with her kids (as little ones), her grandkids and…

…our special addition Nicky, who arrived in August 2021!

Bring me a higher midlife love!

Once there was a sad woman deep into a midlife depression. She had completely given up on trusting others. Nothing in her past had encouraged her to take the kinds of risks that would be required to find true love at age 49, and yet she had come to the conclusion that she would only want to go on if she could believe in love again. After she got a divorce from her unloving partner and then lost her job and career, she figured, what did she have to lose? Why not open a local matchmaking business where she would meet directly with others who were older and disillusioned with love, so she did. After she had attracted a nice group she threw a Summer Solstice party in her backyard and dances around town.

It was fun meeting with others and talking about love. She learned so much from these willing participants in her midlife love experiment. She grew to love her female members and wanted more for them. There just weren’t enough men to match with her women, so she came up with the scheme to use herself as “bait” on Match.com. She figured to would create a very broad profile to attract more positive, loving older men to meet with her members. Perhaps there was still a chance to find love in midlife!

One day she was driving around and she heard a song on the radio. This song was the perfect upbeat expression of her fondest dream, “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood. It was a transformational moment for her. She was finally finding new faith in love! She went to buy that CD. She had her new theme song! This song best expressed the positive future she could envision for herself.

You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true?

The first man she met through her Match.com profile walked into her living room with a big bouquet, shiny gray green eyes and a lovely smile. He called himself “Tall guy” on Match and yes, he was truly one tall glass of water for my dehydrated soul. We spent the next ten hours talking and talking. I couldn’t believe how many experiences we had in common! Finally someone I could trust, but it would take quite a while…

Fast forward to today, over sixteen years later. Mike and I now live in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in our wonderful solar home with amazing views. This home is so full of love!

I just found the perfect name for our home on the edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountains!

Can you trust your own inner wisdom and finally get where you want to go this time? I say yes! To learn more, check out my book:

How To Believe In Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom

My dream: Welcoming new residents to this area!

Since moving to the Walsenburg-La Veta area in the summer of 2014, I have held a dream. Long ago I read the novel “The Significance of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert (a marvelous read!) about a girl raised by a shipping magnet and captain, who invited the interesting people he met all over the world to his home in Philadelphia for a type of ‘salon’ experience. I loved that idea! So when my previous blog “Midlife Crisis Queen” crashed in 2014, I started this one, with the purpose of informing others who might be considering a move to this area. I didn’t want others to experience what I did here, a lack of friendly folks when they got here. I thought, why not offer friendship? Moving to a new rural area can be quite intimidating for some.

As usual, it was a good idea, but it took quite a while to come to fruition. Now this spring I have welcomed three very interesting and excited couples who have moved here, or are working up to it. The most interesting coincidence has been that Mike and I share so many common interests with these newcomers! They are counselors, engineers, artists and writers, all excited about making this area their new home. They have their own visions of music festivals and writing groups, etc.

For me this is my best, recent example of the power of holding a vision until it emerges on its own power. I fully believe now that what we focus on grows, so I try to keep my focus on positive possibilities in my future. Intelligent, interesting newcomers are arriving first on my e-mail and then at my door. Such an exciting new development! I will do what I can to make their transition a little less traumatic because that’s what I do and that is who I am… Now I have a vision of a garden party with great music, food and entertainment out on our patio, welcoming newcomers from everywhere 🙂

“What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

Escaping Anxiety

I have discovered a magazine I really enjoy lately: Travel & Leisure. I like their first-hand accounts of experiencing a new place. First of all, I have been to many of the places described in this journal. I have also always been a bit of a master at taking vacations in my own head. The Internet has made that so much easier. And at a time when so many of us are seeking escape from our predictable daily lives, I look forward to the next issue of this magazine to help me decide where I want to go next.

Yesterday, I started reading an article about escaping anxiety at a Riviera Maya healing resort. The writer spoke of “living with anxiety for many years; my mind wanders constantly.” Luckily, this author found themselves relaxing into “extreme calm” surrounded by nature, chimes, horns, drums, and gongs.

When I spoke to Mike about this, he immediately pointed out that “going on vacation can be quite anxiety-producing.” Mike, always the realist. Yes, first choosing a trip to take, buying tickets, flying, etc. can be quite stressful, especially with my new handicap, being on oxygen full-time. Did you know that most portable oxygen machines aren’t allowed on airplanes? Who knew?

So is a trip the best way to escape anxiety? Well, that depends on where your anxiety comes from. I learned the most about my lifelong case of anxiety (really fear of others) by moving away from society.

Almost seven years ago now, Mike and I built a passive solar home out in rural southern Colorado. On our three acres with very few neighbors, I finally found myself truly relaxing after a few years. I believe living close to nature instead of others was the main ingredient in this process. Yes, we have some serious snowstorms and amazing wind storms down here, but I feel secure and comfortable looking up at the Spanish Peaks each morning. Nature feels so much more safe to me than most other human beings.

What was most interesting to me was my eventual perception of the nearly unconscious vigilance I apparently felt my whole life in cities. That slowly melting away out here. Whenever I’m in cities now, I feel that subtle fear slowly creeping back. I believe it is the simple equation of having too many people per square mile, the constant possibility of someone disturbing us or worse. When I’m at home, that need for keeping a careful watch over my life and my loved ones slowly recedes and I find peace like I have never known before.

So, where does someone like that go on vacation?

How to cheer yourself up!

Here it is 2020 World Mental Health Day in the midst of too many good reasons to feel bad. Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health.

Five Warning Signs of Mental Illness

Long-lasting sadness or irritability.

Extremely high and low moods.

Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.

Social withdrawal.

Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with these signs, but that also means I have experience in dealing with them successfully. After years of depression, five years of great counseling in my thirties, and a degree in counseling psychology, I have learned how to take better care of my own mental health. That is not to say I don’t have my down days, especially under the present circumstances!

Here are some ways I have learned to combat the blues:

Never underestimate the power of finding a GREAT therapist. I know it isn’t easy shopping for the best therapist for you when you feel bad, but trust your feelings in selecting the right person to help you over this difficult time in your life.

Mental health days have been important to me throughout my life. While in therapy and feeling deeply sad about understanding my past, my therapist encouraged me to take a day off now and then to be with my feelings. This was essential in helping me feel better. I was severely co-dependent at that time. I remember one day I said to my therapist I felt bad about feeling sorry for myself. She quickly responded with:

“At least you are feeling something for yourself!”

Then, when you start feeling better, start taking mental health days to celebrate feeling better! A few times I needed to call in and say: “I’m feeling too good to come to work today!” No not really, but that’s the way I felt… I remember one day I went out and bought myself some great new furniture. Now, every time I look at that dresser, I remember how great it made me feel to give myself a nice gift.

These days I have been trying a new affirmation out. Every morning when I wake up the first thing I see is my little sign across the room that says:

Today I’m going to love my life!

I find that when I focus on what I am grateful for, I truly have so many reasons to love my life. Consider the fact that we are alive in a great country at one of the BEST times in human history. At least you weren’t born in the 17th century, when “life was nasty, short and brutal.” Today many Americans have the opportunity to live long, pain-free lives. We have the benefits of medicine and science helping us to improve our lives and the lives of others. LUCKY US! We truly do have good reasons to love our lives, and if we don’t we are quite free to change them! This is what I learned from my own midlife crisis. Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.

If none of this works, try chocolate. It works for me!

You’ve got to go crazy sometimes, or you might go crazy!

The Coronavirus Marriage Test: Who the hell am I living with here?

With all the conversations about how sheltering in place has led to binge-eating, binge-drinking, and increasing mental health challenges, one topic I have latched onto is divorce in the time of Coronavirus. Of course, forced proximity for long periods of time can breed contempt, but crises like these also cause us to suddenly come to terms with our pending mortality.

Do I really want to spend the rest of my life with this person?” Just like a big fat midlife crisis, the fear of sudden death can lead to positive life changes.

From my perspective, this sudden forced increase in intimacy is like instant retirement. As I think back, one of the most important reasons for my divorce at age 45 was the realization that this marriage would not survive either a sudden, serious illness in myself or long periods of unrelenting time together. Our love was not that strong and my “wasband” at that time was a total blamer and shamer. These days he reminds me of our esteemed President Donny dumb dumb. The man never heard of the concept of taking responsibility for his choices or actions, EVER!

I eventually came to call my first marriage ‘criticism central.’ That is when I knew I had to get out!

But then on the other hand, it is good to know that our recent enforced togetherness has in some cases led to resolution rather than dissolution. Some couples in the process of getting a divorce now say that being stuck together caused them to resolve their differences and decide to stay together. They dismissed their case.

Like I said, sudden intimacy, much like retirement, either improves your opinion of your partner or makes you want to yell, “Get me out of here!”

I am happy to report Mike and I still don’t hate each other….