I’ve told a LOT of stories that start with loss. That’s the point. Loss is both an ending and a beginning. That concept is so important to remember, let’s say it again: Loss is both an ending and a beginning. As you adjust to grieving about the loss – typically one of life’s Big Three as I call them, loss of a loved one, loss of your health, loss of your livelihood – you are also at the start of something new. And, guess what? You get to choose how that new story goes.
Recently, I’ve experienced my own loss. After 20 years of life together, my son left home for Marine Corps boot camp. Make no mistake, this is happy grief. But it’s still a loss for both of us. No doubt, he’s grieving the phenomenal home I created for us. Yeah, I’m SURE that each morning the call to reveille is a shock to his system. Yet, I’m also rattling around my home – me, the cats and le pooch – we’re all adjusting to the new normal. Ssshhh…don’t tell, it’s not without its benefits. OMG. It really is the start of something new.
At nearly the same time, I also started a new job. OMG. Whew!
It’s made me think a LOT about loss – and new beginnings – which happen just about simultaneously but sometimes – most times – we’re in the throes of grief, it’s excruciating to think of the new as something to welcome. Amid all our grief, how can we consider that this change, this loss, can bring something fresh into our lives?
I wonder if we recognize that loss is a trigger event. I know, for sure, I measure my life before such a loss, and after. It’s not about the loss, itself. It’s what we do when we face loss, or experience difficult times, and difficult people – or just what we do when faced with sea change in our lives. The experience can wreck us. It certainly turns our world upside down. And we go through a metamorphosis. As we transform, it can strengthen us, if we let it.
First and foremost, do not wallow. It’s okay to be in a dark place when shit rains down like hellfire upon you. But don’t wallow for long. There are people counting on you. Most of all, you count. Just for the sake of you. First and foremost. Give yourself the grace of time to grieve and grow. Time heals, truly.
It’s not rocket science but at the time, when we’re grieving and sad, and in that dark place, it’s hard to think about what-to-do to recover from loss. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t quit. Winston Churchill said, “Never give in. Never. Never. Never.” Given what the British were facing at that point in World War II, his was a pretty big ask. Yet, your next step is to make a plan.
Years ago, after I graduated from college, I packed up my worldly belongings – all of which fit into the back of my 1983 Honda hatchback – and moved to Northern California. Not too long after I arrived, I realized that it was going to be a very difficult experience. I pretty much backed myself into a corner and had to figure my way out of said corner. There’s a saying that the road to hell is paved on good intentions. My father told me that when you’re driving through Hell, keep driving. He meant, figure out a way out. Make a plan. So I did just that. Found a way through it and a year and a half later, it all worked out. And I was all the better for that experience.
Understand that your plan will adapt and shift, over time. I learned during that experience of mine a long time ago that life is about makin’ plans and breakin’ plans and makin’ new ones. Oh boy, THAT is true. You try something and then you learn something – some of your plan works out and some of it maybe doesn’t and so you adapt your plan and keep tryin’.
So, yeah, Yoda, there IS a try and not just in rugby. Trying things is part of life. You do and try and experiment, and you have to go back to the drawing board, and yep, try again. Every famous inventor failed a kajillion times, first, and then they got it right. Right? It’s the same with your new beginning after a loss. If it was easy, everybody would do it.
Make mid-course corrections. Keep trying and adapting. View your failures and mistakes as part of the continuum of your living, learning, and growing experience. Do it some more. There are really no mistakes to any plan and to any action. It only represents our choices. Some choices lead to unintended results and that opens up a whole new beginning and set of experiences. Just make a plan and get started by working on it.
Remember, it always works out. Always. Promise.
As a recovering pleaser, I’ve spent a LOT of time figuring out what really matters to me. And, also what doesn’t.
There was a time I twisted myself into an emotional pretzel just to get approval, love, some imaginary measure of success. Yeah, I feel to all that a huge amount of gratitude.
All that twisting and turning and gnashing of teeth helped me to get real. From those experiences, I learned to give absolutely ZERO fucks about the things that don’t really matter. And, you know, what does or doesn’t matter is different for me than it might be for you.
Once I stopped trying to please others, it took me a hot minute to figure out what makes me feel good and a sense of purpose and, well, happy.
In determining my way forward, I learned a LOT about the power of asking myself and others a few questions.
The positive energy by asking open-ended questions helps us get unstuck. Whatever we're facing, if we generate question energy, it helps us consider the possibilities. Questions raise our vibe. They expand our opportunities and future. We think of options we never did before.
It helps if we ask “what” and “why” questions. The “how” figures itself out. Promise. As the possibilities begin to emerge, we expand our minds and our considerations. We might be shown, like a light from actual heaven, that wonderful, unexpected thing that aligns our priorities, might (probably) be revealed. Ah, blissful serendipity.
There is a parable of the delivery truck. A group of grown men: engineers, construction executives, and highway workers, all gathered around the opening of a tunnel on the highway. The problem was obvious: The delivery truck was too big, just by a little bit, for the tunnel. They considered blasting the tunnel to raise its ceiling height, they considered how much dynamite they would need to blow the entire mountainside away.
All the options focused on what to do with the tunnel.
Then a little girl rode by on her bike. She saw what they were up to and walked over then tugged on the jacket of the Chief Thinker.
She asked, “What if you just let some air out of the tires?”
She didn’t ask how they were going to let air out nor how long it would take. She just wanted to consider what if?
One of the highway workers stooped down and spun the cap off the tire value and bent it a little to let out some air. Soon, all four tires, and the truck, were lower. Someone drove it through the tunnel to the other side, then put some air back in the tires and it went on its way.
As a recovering pleaser I really had to start at the beginning in order to figure out what mattered, most, to me. For so long, I’d done everything I SHOULD do, that I OUGHT to do that I’d NEVER considered what I really WANTED to be or do. So, starting at the beginning I had to just ask myself some pretty basic questions.
What feels good?
When do I enjoy myself so much that I lose track of time?
What makes me laugh?
What makes me happy?
Here’s a few more: What have I yet to consider to…feel good, that might be fun? That I say “YES” to with my whole heart and soul?
These questions led me back to singing, again, after abandoning it when I went to college to pursue a practical career. I was so stuck, back then, I couldn’t even ask myself, why not do both? I didn’t consider the possibilities before me for a practical career and to sing for fun.
Now, I wonder how in the actual fuck I didn’t sing for all those years. Right now, I don’t see myself as the next Susan Boyle, who was “discovered” mid-life on Britain’s Got Talent. Right now, I just enjoy it and it makes me happy. And, you can bet I’m doing more of that!
We will generate quite a head of steam from all that Question Energy. Like me, you may rediscover hobbies and things that you used to LOVE and that made you HAPPY. As a result, there will probably be a LOT more questions, like:
What have I yet to consider?
What possibilities are before me?
What magic can I create today?
What is my next step?
What else is possible?
I have three words that have followed me around for about a decade. They are: Fun. Easy. Profitable. Anyone who knows me knows I’m no slacker. Yet, I’ve done so much that I SHOULD do, so much that I OUGHT to do, rarely had I considered what’s enjoyable, what comes effortless, and what generates a wealth of love, joy, money, and happiness for my investment of time and focus. Good words, right?
Yep. So, now, if I say YES with my whole heart, if it makes me feel good and I’m happy and lose track of time, I’m IN for a lot more. Lately I’ve asked myself a whole slew more questions:
What would be the ONE thing that aligns all my priorities, raises my vibration, and fills me with a sense of purpose?
What would I do? What would it be like, from the time I wake up and all throughout the day?
When someone – typically a friend, lover, or family – issues an ultimatum, it’s never good.
“Help me understand,” is both the answer and the question I’ll ask in return, most of the time. Every once in a while they will come on so strong that I still, to this day, just freeze up. Takes a bit for me to get my proverbial breath back. Seriously, ultimatums are typically arbitrary and meant to shift power. The other person wants to redefine or eliminate boundaries by letting you know that it’s either what they want or they will withhold whatever thing matters most to you with them.
If they know your love language, and loved ones always do, they will take away the one thing or do the one thing that crushes you. For example, my love language is the language of actions – either in time spent together, sharing a kind sentiment, doing something thoughtful…actions. If someone wants to really hurt me, they will remove themselves altogether from my life. Conversely, when I’m REALLY mad or sad, my radio goes silent. I am so jumbled up, I don’t know what to say…or do…to get unstuck. Takes a bit.
I have to remind myself…
Breathe. Ask a question or two. I know I’m being given an ultimatum if none of the options I offer are acceptable – that they want me to do what they want me to do when they want me to do it. K. Good to know.
As fully functioning adults, we get to decide what clothes to wear, how to celebrate the holidays, what type of food to eat, and what to do with our spare time. Within reason, if the person I love – whether friend, lover, or family – issues an ultimatum on some arbitrary, inflexible thing and will not consider any reasonable alternative….it’s a dun-a-matum!
No more questions should be asked. Remember, give ZERO fucks and move on.
Defining and maintaining our boundaries usually has short term pain and long term gain. Yep. Shedding unhealthy people, situations, and activities might hurt in the moment, but over time, it’s a specific gift allowing you to focus on what matters, most.
There are even more questions as you go through this transformation and metamorphosis. When those inevitable good and wonderful things happen (or when they are not yet happening) my dad taught me to ask another question.
He was an early-adopter on the power of manifestation before the Law of Attraction was a thing. When I was little, and something great happened, he would ask, “Hey, Jax, how does it get any better?”
Over time, I challenged him and asked, “If I got it any better, would I want it any better? And, what would that be like?”
Actual Fact: The universe LOVES to defy itself. If you pose this question, get ready. Something wonderful is coming. Promise.
I’ve recently even added a full on gauntlet thrown down, flat-out challenge:
Yep, T3. T to the third power. Results have yet to be shown, so I give a full disclaimer that you may want to buckle up, buttercup.
My fond wish is to generate a nuclear power-plant worth of positive possibilities with all these questions. We’ve got this. Take it one step-at-a-time. And, never underestimate the power of a question.
I am a recovering pleaser. I swear, to actual G-O-D, I should wear a “HELLO, my name is…” sticker that says “Jacquie Goodwill, Recovering Pleaser” on it. Oh, the road to here was a long and messy one. I mark ‘then’ and ‘now’ and how far I’ve come in my journey – my life is so much better for it. Here’s what I’m about…there are no platitudes in my world. I will encourage you. I will share my sometimes inelegant journey to maybe inspire a better, smoother route for others.
It wasn’t all kittens and rainbows, that’s for sure.
First, I just got backed up against the wall by my mom – she’s gone now, and before she passed, she suffered a series of three strokes that I will always say “healed” her and rewired her actual brain, but that’s another story. Finally standing up to my mother was the actual hardest thing I did up to that point in my life. It got the proverbial ball rolling to heal my heart and soul and end the disease-to-please.
I say it was hard because no one is supposed to really defy their own mother. At least not in my family. I was labeled the ungrateful daughter and was vilified to everyone. In her defense, in her more lucid moments, she used to say, “You’re going to write one of those tell-all stories about me, like Joan Crawford, and people will call me Mommy Dearest.”
I promised my mom, I wouldn’t ever do that. Yet, there was a time that pleasing her kept me from being torn-the-fuck-up. There were definite benefits for backing her up and doing what my mom wanted or approved of. Now, when I’m really threatened by someone who has a lot of perceived power over me and who is trying to push me to do what they want me to do, I recognize it.
Today, I will breathe in then out, and consciously think ‘It’s okay, Jax, you don’t have to just roll over and say yes, to get along. Or, I think ‘Now, don’t freak out and go into fight-or-flight mode.’
Once I ended the day-in-and-day-out, living-to-please mentality, I chose to end my marriage. You would think that I would be on my way to recovery except for the fact that almost immediately after that I received my father. He landed in my lap as a poster child of co-morbidities, of heart failure and cancer. Oh, and he was penniless. Shocker. Whatever he was, whatever he’d done, he was still my father. And he was, at one point, the most encouraging and positive person in my dysfunctional family.
That says a lot.
So, I welcomed my dad with open arms and he lived with my young son and I. Over the next two years, I served as his primary caregiver. By the time he died, I was worn-the-fuck-out and I hadn’t really processed all that loss – whether it was the loss of my relationship with my mom, the ldeath of my father, or the ending of my marriage. I had to swallow some bitter pills that showed me my role in the dysfunctional family circus – the court jester, the referee, the ring master and definitely not the real, authentic me.
All of my growth and development had been put on hold while I took care of my dad. Not too long after he died, my industry went through a sea change and I lost or left a job three times in three years.
So, what do we do when the rules we lived by prove untrue? What happens when our expectation of what is supposed to happen when we DO the things and pray for the outcomes and swing for the fence – when all that falls apart?
Up until that point, I lived a fantasy. I believed that if I was good enough, perfect enough, nice enough, did enough for everybody else, they would all see what a good person I was and do (or not do) what would be best for me.
Sometimes, if whatever I was doing really did please them (whomever ‘they’ were). Sometimes whatever I did to fit in and get along worked for me (and them). I got lucky. Other times, I wore myself out pleasing and doing and nurturing and loving and caring for every. Fucking. Thing. Instead of me. Ahead of me. Hell, I didn’t even really know what it was that I wanted. I was just living to please and stay ahead of things – whatever those things were.
And, I owe those people and those experiences a great, big, fat Thank YOU.
I learned the absolute importance of giving ZERO FUCKS.
Giving ZERO FUCKS doesn’t mean we don’t care, at all. This means we figure out what really matters, most. When we know what matters most in our lives, we then give absolutely ZERO fucks about the things that really don’t. I could (and will) tell a tome on the way to figure out what really matters and what to give absolutely ZERO fucks over…
Once you know, for sure, what does or doesn’t matter to you, everything gets a LOT easier. And funnier. Like LOL, funny.
Enter ZERO FUCK FRIDAYS…
Someone wants you to do, or say, or give or perform some mental or emotional death-defying feat. Something you know goes 100% against what matters most to you (whatever that is).
And on Fridays, among our formerly domesticated, Feral Housewives’ group, part of our recovery includes observing ZFF! t’s recited like a mantra and serves as a weekly reminder: All HAIL ZERO FUCK Fridays! Let the games begin! Laugh out loud, and at the hilarity of it all. Once we know what matters, the silly things that don’t are funny!
What does or doesn’t matter is different for me than it might be for you. You can sometimes write your name in the layer of dust on my furniture. My kitchen floor is made of a variegated colored tile so the need to clean it is not as often apparent. But don’t you dare let my car get dirty. Oil changes, vacuuming, and cleaning that yucky film off the inside windshield is a weekly priority for me.
What’s (really) important to you? If you don’t know, kick start some Question Energy and figure it the fuck out.
After that, keep in regular practice. As a recovering pleaser, I’m so grateful for Zero Fuck Fridays to remind myself what really matters. I hope the same, for you.
Hello, my name is [INSERT NAME HERE, typically mine] and I am a recovering pleaseaholic.
Oh yeah. The reasons why come from a long history of being taught love gets doled out based on what one does, rather than just being – and while I’ve worked with specific intent to recover, my pleaser vibe gets trod upon and tested now and then, especially at the holidays.
Especially when I’m tired, or grieving – or going through one of the Big Three: Loss of my health, a loved one, or my livelihood. Basically, whenever I may more easily feel indebted to or ingratiated to another. It’s at those times it’s more difficult for me to maintain my boundaries.
Let’s face it, there are some people who view the proverbial white picket fences that serve to maintain our sense of self – our self-respect and dignity – as mere demarcation lines to step right over and prove to us that they are in charge. They are the Queen Bee or Sheriff of Nottingham – and can do whatever they please. Whenever they want to.
We want to be part of a loving, extended family. We want our kids to grow and assume the reins of their own lives. We yearn for a sense of camaraderie and team spirit among our school or work colleagues. We want to be height-weight appropriate. And yet. ALL of these things require us to be crystal clear about what that means – not just why we want it.
Our why can be a great motivator but it’s really all about when the rubber hits the road. It’s what we do that matters, most. When I was at rock-fucking-bottom, my affirmations were about encouragement; to feel good, to find things and feelings that were light and loving, and inspiring to life me up from a dark, lonely, and hopeless place.
As I grew strong and healed – and this is true whether healing emotionally or physically – my affirmations shifted a bit. I needed to LAUGH, out loud and a LOT. To help me hold fast and with consistency to those things that were good and right for me…laughter really was the best!
To be honest, the reason I spiraled, lost, and felt hopeless was due at least in some smaller or greater degree to me and my choices…okay, it was ALL me. I bargained with myself. I was NOT doing what was truly right for me in the long haul. I was, maybe – well, probably – doing what was easy, or what helped me get along and get through the moment. I wanted to please and be accepted and approved of, and yes, loved. In the moment.
Healing from that challenged me to get crystal clear about what felt good, and what was truly right or best for me, personally. It also required me to give absolutely ZERO FUCKS about what wasn’t…good or right. At. ALL.
We all give a little in these situations, now and then.
Until, inch by inch, we’ve given so much that we’ve caved in completely.
The white picket fence that surrounds our self – heart and soul – becomes a gauntlet for others to demonstrate that they can just blow right past our boundaries. I daresay, people are not evil – or at least the vast majority have good intentions. Isn’t the road to hell paved on them? What’s important, what may be very well and good for one person is not so much for another.
If not, WTF? That’s why it’s important to give ZERO FUCKS about things that don’t really matter to you. That way, you can focus on what does – You can breathe life into and DO the things that make you feel good, lighter-than-air, things that make you lose track of time and fill you with a sense of purpose. Yep. Those things.
Give absolutely ZERO FUCKS about the rest.
One morning, my guides came to visit as I slept.
They reminded me to trust.
I had been carrying a burden not meant for me. Caring for everyone else. Careworn and worried about the past, present, and future.
My own spirit was cracked, dry, and spread thin. I certainly had a lack of faith and was full of fear, back then.
Whatever it is you’re facing, whether any one of the big three, as I call them – the loss of a job, loss of health, or loss of a loved one – it’s just loss. You question and can lose faith and you can gain a lot of fear. After I lost my job for the third time in three years, I tossed and turned and my sleep was restless. I would wake up in the middle of the night and overthink everything.
Until that night when I dreamed vivid dreams.
I dreamt of my brothers even though I don’t have any brothers. It’s funny how the mind works to sort through the things it doesn’t understand yet.
My brothers had all come to help me. My laptop — the heart, soul, and repository of my intellectual capital — had been dismantled. As I looked over the undone pieces, I reasoned it was the work of some child who went at it like some kind of puzzle or game. He or she didn’t realize the enormity of this sabotage. At least that was what I hoped.
I stood there trying to fit it back together. I succeeded in managing to find a couple recognizable pieces, including the battery and its casing and figured out where that was supposed to go. I held it over my desk, fragile as a quail’s egg.
My brothers, three of them, all appeared and they surrounded me. One of them asked if he could take a look. The other two distracted me for a moment with some senseless conversation I could barely follow. Yet, they made me laugh a little. They soothed me, a bit.
My third brother returned to our circle and presented my laptop, made whole again. He smiled at me as I looked it over, joyful, and then set it back on my desk. Turning back toward him, I stepped into his embrace. I thanked him and assured him that one day he would make a fine husband for a lucky woman. She would be blessed by his compassionate diligence.
He continued holding me, warmly, past that moment typical for people to step away. His hug was warm and gentle. He kept holding on until I relaxed and accepted his kind affection.
Then it happened. In that moment I knew he was not my brother but one of my guardian angels. He and my other two guides came to remind me. Their message was so that I really knew, by feel, the gratitude that comes with choosing to trust that it all works out. To feel it and remember it, way down into the deepest parts of my heart and soul.
I am safe. All is well. I am full of comfort and joy. I can trust that everything will work out because I will make it so. I will choose the things that are right and good for me. I choose. I believe. It always works out. Always.
With that in mind, it was also my reminder to reach for things that I respond to with an absolute “YES!” I am the one to gut-check myself, asking “what can I choose, to feel good? To find my joy and light? To recover my balance and purpose?”
Broken laptops. Broken marriages and relationships. Jobs lost. Illness. Injury. They are the stuff of life that we can never really anticipate. It’s our mindset that matters, most. In all things.
I am here to LOVE; myself first. And whomever tells me that they come, first, needs to be last. I am the one who sets the pace. I SHOW others how to treat me. Each and every day. I do that. It’s essential that I fill my heart – some call it my bucket – and love myself, first and foremost. I have ample reserves, reflected in grace, generosity, patience, when I feel good, within me.
That dream and visit with my heavenly guides served as both a reminder and a precious gift. I will carry their reassurance inside myself as gentle encouragement saved especially for those moments of doubt that inevitably come, for I am human.
It’s just that easy. It’s my choice. To create miracle spaces, go play, have some fun, and feel good. Know that help will come when I choose the path that feels right and happy, not the darkened, ominous one.
Help will come when I need it. Especially when I’m moving toward what is good and right and feels light and joyful for me. Every. Stinkin. Time.
Commit to falling in love with everything, from the moment I wake up and all throughout the day. That is because how I FEEL is more important that what I specifically DO at any given moment. My thoughts become things…I make magical things out of thin air. We ALL do.
Cue the ethereal moaning and roiling fog. Yeah. No. You can have your headless horseman and gnarled-handed specter. Tis the season, yet this ghost story is the stuff of legend. No disembodied voices from my disarming visitor.
It starts at an old hotel in the days leading up to Halloween. Doesn’t a disturbing-and-creepy story often begin in a refurbished historical landmark? Now, the lobby was fresh, and all the way up to the rooms, and the oh, so modern-day amenities. Guests like me enjoyed walk-in showers, Bluetooth Wi-Fi connectivity – all the latest gadgets and comfort at our fingertips. Yet, none of that erases strong cellular memory seeping from the marrow bones of a hundred years of life, love, and loss that was spread and layered over brick and mortar.
There’s no such thing as ghosts. Go ahead, dare them!
I was staying overnight before a job interview because my next day was set to start with a breakfast meeting at o-dark-thirty. That night, I just couldn’t sleep. Kept waking up and seeing the clock tick for minutes then hours; counting sheep didn’t help. We’ve all had those types of nights. Finally, I drifted off sometime around the witching hour.
Sometime around 5:30 in the morning, I woke to something shaking me at the foot of my bed.
I prop myself up on my right elbow, wiping the sleep from my eyes.
What in the … h-e-double-toothpick!
He was just there, standing beside me at the corner of my night stand, wearing nothing but a large, white towel wrapped around his torso.
Grey hair encircles his balding head, wrapping from ear to ear around the back of his skull. It stuck out every which way. He’d obviously just emerged from a sauna. His grey chest hairs covered him like a rug. I swear, I could almost see water droplets trailing down his skin.
“It’s time to get up!” he barks at me, one hand waving in the air. Oh, God in Heaven, please do NOT let go of that towel. Then he turns around begins walking away, shaking his grey head.
Kids, nowadays, I can actually feel him thinking. No discipline. I have a helluva job on my hands.
Hey, wait a minute. I’m not a kid. Uh, well, I guess to him I probably am just a toddler.
He stomps away from me; hard. Heel, toe. Heel, toe. His energy hits the floor with a thunk. Still gripping towel with his left hand, his back to me, he’s muttering things just beyond me – I can’t quite hear what he’s saying. He’s STILL shaking his head, reminding me more than a little bit of Mr. Wilson, the old curmudgeon from Dennis the Menace. He’s about to turn the corner and walk down the entry hall of my room.
I fling back my bed covers. My life depends on it (because it did) and follow him.
“It’s going to be a BIG day!” he squawks out. This time, BOTH of his hands go into the air as if they were exclamation marks. Goal Posts. A referee’s touchdown signal. You get the point.
I see his bare ass as the towel drops to the floor and he pads, scratching an itch right above his right cheek. I’m not kidding. He actually scratched his bare ass. He HAD to know I was watching. Both he and his towel on the floor disappear into thin air!
And, truly, it WAS a BIG day. Anything that happened at my job interview paled in comparison to his wake-up call for me. He is observation was absolutely spot on! I will always remember it.
So, yeah, during this nostalgic, haunted season, be sure to keep your sense of humor. You might just be surprised. And amazed. And laugh your bare ass off!
I sure did!
There once was a race car driver who tore up the track and won every race he entered. He left dust in his trail, along with every other car that challenged him. He was quite the champion.
He was all fire and strength and speed with a touch of magic behind the wheel – music followed him, spilling out of his race car everywhere he drove. Blue ribbons and trophies filled all the walls and shelves of his home. He even had fancy glossy photos that he autographed for his adoring fans…when The Driver had time, of course, for he was very busy and also very important. His days were filled with racing and winning and finding new places to display all the awards he received.
This was all well and good until one day, he stopped winning.
Hermes, The Greek God of speed, served as The Driver’s Luck Keeper. He watched and listened to all that went on with The Driver. And, well, he just pushed his luck, too far. So, Hermes took it all back.
The Driver woke one morning to find himself not in his beloved race car but behind the wheel of an Uber, as a driver for hire. He took grandma to doctor appointments, shuttled nameless people who missed the train and were late for work, and chauffeured the occasional person to various social events. He was still in the driver’s seat, mind you. Yet, he lost his fame and fortune. He was at the whim of whomever got into his car.
Well, his powerful, fast race car was transformed into a tiny, non-descript, four-door electric car. The kind that looked and felt like one that drove a kiddie carnival ride track. He hunched over the steering wheel with his knees folded in order to fit in his new driver’s seat.
“Driver, I need to go to the grocery store!” demanded one old matron, as she climbed into the back seat.
“Driver, my son needs to get to soccer practice and home again,” said a very busy professional woman. “His nanny will be with him and she’ll tell me if you get him there, late.”
“Driver, please drop me around the corner from the gala event,” pleaded another fare. “I don’t want anyone to see me in this horrid, tiny car.”
At this point, the driver felt very sorry for himself. He remembered back to his victory laps while holding the checkered flag out of his race car window. He could taste the champagne he’d opened on the track, feeling the bubbles tickling his nose as he was congratulated for winning yet another race.
What was worse, The Driver still didn’t know what he had done to lose his good luck. Yet, away it went – no place good that was for sure. He thought it must be just that someone sent him an ill wish at just the wrong time. That had to be it!
He couldn’t have done anything, himself, to actually push his luck away.
He found himself back at the home of the boy needing a driver to and from soccer practice. Once again, his nanny came along to chaperone the ride.
Before they got in his Uber, The Driver overheard the boy’s mother tell his nanny, “Make sure you keep an eye on my son so that he doesn’t cause any more trouble.”
The boy entered the little car with his head hung, low. Piecing it together, The Driver figured the boy had just been punished for some minor transgression that boys will do – maybe something as despicable as not coming clean about not changing his underwear, daily. Instead of serving as a watchful, judgmental eye, the boy’s nanny did a remarkable thing. She started telling funny stories of when she was his age and, she herself, got in trouble for being silly.
As she talked, the boy laughed about her childish foibles. See, she seemed to say, you’re not so bad. She chose to make sure the boy knew he was loved and that he was okay. The Driver listened and yearned to join in such fun but he didn’t know how.
So instead, he interrupted their conversation.
“We are here, too early,” he announced. “So we should just go home and come back, later.”
“We’re not that early,” the nanny waved him off and returned to laughing with the boy.
This frustrated The Driver. He did not like being dismissed like that; it reminded him of all he’d lost. As the car idled in the parking lot, he decided what to do, next, to interrupt the pair.
“You need to remember your other pair of shoes,” his tone admonishing the boy as he nodded his head to the sneakers cast aside in the back seat because the boy had just donned his soccer cleats.
At this point in the proceedings the Nanny thought the driver was quite funny. Turning to face him from her spot in the passenger’s seat, she addressed The Driver, directly.
“Driver, you are here to drive,” she laughed, in all mock-seriousness. Then she turned her fun onto The Driver, himself.
“Next time, if you want, I will drive and you can take care of the boy.”
The driver could not be mad at the nanny because she was surely teasing him.
“Fair enough,” he shot back. “Next time, you drive.”
“Done,” she said, sternly, yet her eyes were laughing.
The very next day, The Driver was, indeed, called again to deliver the boy and his nanny to and from soccer practice. As soon as they rounded the corner from his home, the nanny called out, and waved her hands over the dashboard as if conjuring magic.
The Driver planned on being professional. He planned to say nothing of their agreement the day prior.
“Why should I stop?” He challenged.
The nanny laughed. “I said stop because we made a deal yesterday. I think you are worried that you may just find out that I’m a better driver than you.”
At that the boy laughed and slapped his knee. “But the real question is, will you be as good a nanny as she is?” he asked. Oh, the challenge was tossed and The Driver could not back down.
So, the nanny slid behind the steering wheel and The Driver became the boy’s nanny on the way to soccer practice.
“What does your nanny do for you?”
The Driver was dumbfounded. He looked wildly in the air as the nanny drove his car. Clearly, she’d driven lots of times but he had never been a nanny.
“It’s pretty simple, really,” she assured The Driver.
“How is it simple? What do I do?” Oh, this nanny business was going to be harder than he thought. He really wished he hadn’t pushed his luck as a race car driver. He loved that and he was good at it.
“You’re half-way there, already,” the nanny stopped his train of thought as it sped down the track. “Remember, yesterday, you wanted to make sure we didn’t arrive too early and to be sure to grab his sneakers after putting on his cleats.”
“What was I doing then?”
“You were thinking about what he needed. You thought what was best for him. That’s love, Driver. Oops, I mean Nanny.”
“How will I know what else he needs?”
That seemed simple enough. So, The Driver-now-nanny asked what the boy brought with him. And after a couple of questions, the only thing the boy seemed to forget was a bottle of water.
“I have bottled water in my trunk,” he sighed in relief.
“See?” The Nanny-turned-Driver laughed. “You’re a pro, already.”
“Thank you,” he said, genuinely, as they left the car after practice. “That was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied. “And, yes, it was fun.”
The glow of gratitude lingered inside the car. The Driver felt so good, he took his little ride over to the car wash. He cleaned it, inside and out, until everything sparkled and smelled fresh. Standing back to admire his handiwork, he thought a moment about his race car days and all the people who helped out. All those races he won. They were victories for everyone on his team, whether it was the cook who made meals and tidied the pantry or the man who detailed his car before each race. Everyone.
It wasn’t his burden, alone, to carry. Nor was it entirely his own victory. And, had he thanked them? Not just to say ‘thank you’ but had he expressed his gratitude in ways that were meaningful and honored each of them?
That was it. That was why he pushed his luck away.
So, every time a person entered his car, The Driver donned a new perspective. He became The Nanny. He asked, “How’s your day? What’s happening wherever are you headed? Do you have everything you need?”
People remembered resumes, lunch pails, presentation folders, wallets, purses, cell phones, and also extra pairs of shoes.
From atop Mount Olympus, Hermes was watching.
And, funny. The Driver’s good luck? Well, it came back.
Soon enough, he was sitting in the race car driver’s seat again. Gone was the cramped carnival ride Uber car. He even won a race. But the victory lap was different. He jumped out and let the pit crew boss drive the car around the victory lap, holding the checkered flag, instead of him. In fact, each member of the team took a turn. By the time they were done, the detailer, the cook, and yes, even The Nanny and the boy got a ride.
He thanked them, all.
After that, he always asked.
And he loved them, all. In ways that honored them. In ways that were meaningful to each of them.
As luck would have it, he kept winning races. And, yes, of course, he lived happily ever after.
Once upon a time there lived a magnificent magical king. He came from a long line of them and no one could quite remember when this royal line had acquired their magic. But it was there, nonetheless, after several generations.
This magnificent, magical king ruled his happy kingdom with a firm, loving hand. He consulted the great college of the minds. He helped till the fertile fields with his loyal farmers. He even met with the great yak dairymen, whose prized yak’s milk made the most delicious yak’s cheese that was renowned throughout many, many kingdoms.
But the king’s greatest joy came from the royal gardens, where he fashioned great hedges in the shapes of all manner of creatures. His children laughed and played in the tree houses and mazes he created for them.
All the while his smiling eyes crinkled when he laughed and the court’s helpers would capture those magical drops of tears that shot out each time his eyes crinkled up in merriment. These magical tears were then sprinkled on the fertile fields, dropped into the yaks’ water and even dripped on the great sculpted animal hedges in the king’s garden.
The magnificent, magical king’s kingdom was abundant, green and his people were happy.
All of them, except one.
The king married a beautiful woman, a princess from the neighboring kingdom whose college of the minds was not so acclaimed, whose fields were not so fertile and whose yak’s produced watery milk that could not become cheese. And while the queen was beautiful, her heart was cold with jealousy and covetous for the great magic from the king. She thought she could acquire it by having his children. And though she bore many, the magic drops never sprang from her eyes. Sadly, only sour grey salt water came forth; and only when she cried bitterly, for she rarely laughed and never so much as to cry tears of joy.
So one day the queen stole the king’s magic bucket full of happy, golden tears. She went back from where she came and the magnificent, magical king fell into a grieving darkness. For even though she was unworthy, the goodly king loved her as the mother of his many dear children. He was despondent at her abandonment.
The kingdom was plunged into a long, dark night. The great college of the minds was closed, the fertile fields sowed no more fruit and the yak’s milk went sour.
But then a miraculous thing happened. The great court physician heard a whisper in his ear. Why, yes, he thought, maybe if we could find a way for the king to laugh again…maybe, just maybe we could find a new golden bucket to catch his magical tears. Maybe.
A call was then issued for a new court jester; some fool who could make the king laugh. And only a young woman arrived. Even though she was dressed like a fool, she didn’t look very foolish at all.
Nonetheless, a decree had been issued, so she was put to the test.
“Tell me a joke,” said the king.
“I have none to tell you that would make you laugh,” the maiden jester replied. “But I have a question and if you can answer it, precisely, your kingdom will be restored.”
“Okay then,” said the king. “Give me the question.”
“How many stars are in the sky?” asked the fool.
“How many?” The king asked, incredulous. “How can I answer such a question? My people would be counting forever. We would be lost with our heads in the clouds.” And with that he slightly chuckled, just ever so little, at the ridiculous thought of it all.
The great court physician, who had just finished a cup of tea, saw three magical tears form and caught them – quite unnoticed by anyone else – in his teacup.
“It is a fair question my king,” he answered, winking at the fool, who was the only other living thing in the kingdom who noticed the tears. “Let us try to answer this great question, for your kingdom’s sake.”
So the king set his court helpers to counting. Since the whole kingdom lived in darkness, they could count and count and count.
Soon it became obvious how hard the task was. So the king summoned the maiden jester again.
“This is a ridiculous question,” he demanded. “How can I answer such a thing?”
The maiden fool just smiled. Then she replied, “You used to have such a great college of the minds. Why don’t you travel there and consult them for answers? For isn’t a ridiculous question just a riddle? Maybe they can help.”
The king assembled a royal entourage and brought the maiden jester with him. First, they traveled through the once-fertile fields. “Why don’t we stop here?” she suggested.
“I have not visited my fields in so long,” said the king. “It would be good to consult with my royal farmers again.”
So they stopped. The king walked the once-fertile fields and learned that even though the kingdom was dark, the farmers were still hard at work, turning compost and yak’s manure into the earth.
He smiled at their ingenuity and three more tears sprang forth, quickly and quietly caught by the court physician in his teacup.
The king was inspired and asked the maiden jester if they could visit the yak’s dairy before consulting the great college of the minds.
“Of course,” said the jester, smiling a knowing smile; for she noticed that not only had the king shed three more magic tears but the darkness was lessening. A grey, pre-morning twilight gathered in the sky above. The king’s sadness was lifting.
When they arrived at the dairy what did they find? Why, a herd of pregnant yak cows happily munching on sweet hay in their stalls. They rested in glowing dairy barns, lit with the warmth from a stone mason’s immense fireplaces, constructed in the center of each barn.
The king simply stared in amazement. He was unable to speak, humbled at the sight of it all.
The head dairyman approached the king. “As it was dark and we had no milk to make cheese, we thought it was an appropriate time to strengthen and grow our herd. With all of the abundance these many years, we’ve stored up much grain and hay. These have fed and fattened our pregnant yak cows.”
“But don’t you worry about what will happen when you use up all the food stores?” The king pleaded. The maiden fool watched closely as the head dairyman paused thoughtfully before replying to the king.
“You are a magnificent, magical king sire,” he spoke softly. “Even as such, there will be times of darkness in our kingdom. It is at these times that we rest and renew ourselves so we may be ready for the light to return.”
At this, the king wept. Not tears of sadness but tears of release, of forgiveness, then gratitude and finally, of joy. So many golden magic tears fell out of the crinkles in his smiling eyes that the dairy men and maids filled all their buckets, milk jugs and finally, all the watering troughs. Morning sunlight came.
It burst out in abundance over the far horizon, painting the sky with a myriad of pastel colors. All those who saw it were filled with awe and wonder at this immense sign of restoration to their magnificent, magical kingdom.
The king turned to the maiden fool and said quietly “as you asked, I know the precise answer to your riddle about the stars in the sky.”
She smiled a radiant smile and replied: “Then tell me now, my king.”
“It does not matter the number of stars in the sky my maiden fool,” he said, still wiping golden tears of gratitude and joy from the crinkles in his smiling eyes. “It matters that they are there to light the darkness through the long and gloomy night. And, it is infinitely more important that their constant presence guides our way until the daylight returns.”
At once, the maiden fool reached for the physician’s tea cup and drank the six tears left by the magnificent, magical king. She was transformed into a glowing fairy princess – revealing her true nature and removing the maiden fool’s disguise.
And the two rode tighter in the king’s coach, inspecting fields, visiting the great college of the minds, all the while falling in love with each passing day.
“Thank you for rescuing me,” said the king as he kissed her gently yet another time.
“Thank yourself, my magnificent, magical king,” replied the fairy princess. “Your joy was inside you all the time, and like the stars in the sky, I was only there to guide you and light your way until your soul was restored.”
And they indeed did live, mostly, happily ever after. Even in the times of darkness, their love and joy helped restore them – for themselves, each other and the kingdom they shared.
So, then what of the beautiful, but jealous queen?
Of course she returned when her magical bucket of tears was empty and the kingdom was green, abundant and happy once more.
The king, whose heart was full of joy, held no resentment toward the queen. In fact, he filled the bucket once more for her before sending her on her way.
“When you learn to crinkle your eyes in a smile and cry your own tears of joy and gratitude, you will fill your own bucket with magic,” the king said kindly. “My wish for you is to learn how to fill it yourself.”
And whether she did or not, we will never know. For that is her journey and yet another story.
For ours was fun, but now it’s done.
Those of you who know me, know how much I take note of my dreams. They are a specific source of encouragement and inspiration. I love dreaming, whether while I sleep at night or during my sacred nap time. I let my mind and my imagination take flight in ways that the laws of physics just don’t allow in our waking world.
What does this have to do with day drinking, you might ask?
Day Drinking on a Monday—whether coffee, tea, or something stronger-- offers insight on how to recover from major life losses. These include the loss of a loved one through death, divorce, abandonment or rejection; the loss of one’s health, whether through injury or illness; and finally, the loss of one’s livelihood.
As we grieve those losses and work to heal, sometimes a specific source of encouragement and inspiration comes to us in our dreams. And, in my experience, some of those dreams aren’t actually dreams, they are visits from loved ones who are on the proverbial other side. They’ve passed on.
Some of you may be quasi-agnostic, down-right atheist, or simply believe the Judeo-Christian theory that when we die we go to eternal rest—for lack of a better term, we’re put to sleep until the rapture will call us all to heaven. My experiences led me along another path. I believe that when we die, we cross over to a new existence. My grandma Betty, my mother’s mom, visited me in my dreams one year and gave me an understanding of the active new lives we lead on the other side of this one.
In life my grandmother was a quiet soul. She could disappear from a party better than anyone and it would be an hour before anyone realized she was gone. I’ve never gained that skill, much to my great chagrin. She also observed a tradition to not get involved in parenting her kid’s kids. Despite living three doors down, she wouldn’t weigh in too often about things going on between her daughter and her daughter’s kids. Which was unfortunate because my mom was a tortured soul and could have used a bit of my grandmother’s intervention. But that’s a whole different chapter on day drinking!
At any rate, when she passed on I had a perfunctory sort of grief and moved along in life. That’s why it struck me as odd when I dreamt of her one night. In my dream she arrived, looking young and beautiful, about 30 years old—I figured that out, later, I remembered some dated pictures of her. Anyway, in the dream she showed me that she has a “job” in heaven—to inspire teams of doctors and nurses as they care for their patients. I was not surprised at that since she was a nurse, herself, during her life on earth. I served as translator for her in one specific case because the team couldn’t understand her.
Later, she and I had a de-brief of sorts and I asked why I could understand her but they couldn’t. She explained that because we shared love between us, I could raise my vibration to hear her. Basically, as an evolved soul, she spoke at a higher, heavenly level that they couldn’t hear. Made sense, as I thought of heaven as being “above”, even though now I think it’s just all around us, but in another dimension.
Then she stood from her big, fancy desk. Yep, we were sitting in her heavenly office, and she hugged me. As she embraced me, she said “Don’t worry about Sam, I’m watching over him.”
Which I totally didn’t understand. You see, my husband’s name was “Sam” and I wasn’t worried about him. He was away, overseas in the Middle East, but far beyond any active fighting area and I was a seasoned military wife. I had no qualms or reservations about him while deployed. So, I just chalked it up as crazy dream #442 and moved on.
A few weeks later, I learned I was pregnant and her dreams took on a whole new dimension in my life.
So, my sister made a promise to my grandmother as she neared death—to take care of our mother. In exchange, my grandmother had a final wish for my dear sister and she needed me to make it happen. Sometime in the fourth month of my pregnancy, I dreamed of my grandmother again, she came to me wearing a flowy gown and was, again, young and beautiful. This time the message was about a special ring that she wanted to ensure I passed along to my sister. It was during this dream I knew, for sure, that these were not just dreams but actual visits from her. You see, I had that very ring in the drawer of my nightstand.
At the time, my mother asked me to get it appraised because she wanted to sell it—the ring featured a beautiful marquis-cut diamond set on a striking diagonal. It was unusual and didn’t look good on her hand. Before this second visit from my grandmother, I tried it on, too. It was just as ill-suited on me. A couple weeks after I received my grandmother’s request, my sister came to see me. I waited for a moment alone with her to give her the ring. When she saw it, her eyes lit up! She said she always loved it and hoped grandma would’ve given it to her when she passed on. I told her about the dream and gave her the ring, including the recent appraisal. When my sister put it on her finger, I swear I saw a pink aura surround her. I just knew she was meant to have it. It looked lovely on her beautiful hand.
My mother was so mad at me when I later shared what I’d done, even though she admitted that’s what grandma wanted, too. I took a deep breath and told her about the dream—rather than disbelieving me, she wondered why my grandmother didn’t visit her, instead. I bit my tongue but consciously thought about the fact she’d already been given the chance to do the right thing but didn’t.
My final dream with my grandmother happened in my last month of pregnancy. In this dream, my grandmother was old and lying in a hospital bed. My mother was curled up next to her in the bed and I stood over them, next to what felt like a member of the medical staff. I stroked my mother’s hair and told her that she needed to get up out of the bed and let her go. It was my grandmother’s time to pass on. At this moment, I specifically thought, oh, this must be an actual dream because grandma is old and not flowy and beautiful as she was in the other two dreams.
At that precise moment I knew I was wrong! She reached for my hand, now resting beside her on the bed. Nobody—not my mother nor the doctor—saw it. Then my grandmother silently squeezed my hand and opened one eye and gave me a conspiring wink. She was having a ball and playing her role up to the hilt—crazy, cockamamie soul that she now is! Oh, for however mousey, quiet, and reserved she was, in life, my grandmother is most certainly powerful, active and lives large-and-in-charge on the other side. OMG! Over the next few weeks preceding the birth of my son, I felt alternatively frustrated and then would burst into laughing out loud at her antics. She was that outrageous to me.
So, I’m in the delivery room. I’m huffing and puffing and working hard. Yeah, now I know why childbirth is called “labor.” My son has the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and we have quite a time at the moment of delivery. Just as he makes his arrival, I look up at the clock because I want to know the EXACT time and I see shadow on the wall. It’s the silhouette of my grandmother, standing next to the obstetrician who is lifting Samuel and making sure he can breathe. Then it hits me. In the first dream, my grandmother assured me not to worry about my son, who is now named Samuel, and she didn’t know at the time that I would call him by his full name.
About an hour after delivery I was able to walk into the area they were caring for him. He had aspirated meconium and was having a tough time breathing so he was under an oxy-hood. Everyone was freaked-the-fuck out, except me. And, because I was so calm, the doctor and nurses had me scoot up close to him and hold his tiny hand and talk to him. His heart rate and breathing calmed, immediately, though he was still airlifted to a neo-natal intensive care unit. I spent his first night of life away from him and at 2 AM, at peach pie with the Labor and Delivery staff who were celebrating someone’s birthday.
These staff members were great to me—still marveling at how calm I was. Yet, I knew he was fine. My grandmother was on the job. And I knew that she always would be. That belief was confirmed just a few years later, when I woke him for the day and he said “Mommy, where is my purple train? Grandma Betty came to see me and she brought me a magic purple train and we played trains.”
I assured him it was being kept safe in a magic place and then found a Thomas the Tank Engine character that was purple and bought it for him. Thanks, Grandma Betty.
My grandmother was given, I think, another special day pass to visit and my mother finally got her own dream. I think it was to assure her that heaven is peaceful and beautiful and would welcome her, when the time came. They visited family and then enjoyed an angel concert at which they invited my mother to sing with them. My mother both feared heaven, thinking she wouldn’t be welcome, and also despised her singing voice. She shared with me her amazement that her singing was not only in tune but was in beautiful harmony to the angels.
Wow. Just wow.
As I’ve mentioned at the outset, Day Drinking on a Monday comes from my experiences and other now-veterans on the front lines of life's tragedies. NONE of us are therapists. We all got knocked down in the sometimes dark and dirty game of life and found a way to pick ourselves up, dust the seats of our pants off and get back into that game.
It's okay to be in a dark place when shit rains down like hellfire upon you.
But don't wallow for long.
There are people and places counting on you.
Most of all, you count.
Just for the sake of you.
We are here to encourage and inspire one another. Sometimes that comes from those of us, here on earth. Sometimes it comes from those who love us and want the best for us but have already moved on to the next life. The veil between here and heaven is allowed to thin, now and then, so they can express love or give us important messages. Yes, sometimes a dream is just a dream.
Other times, it’s so much more.
And, it’s okay if you haven’t had—or recognized—one of these experiences, yet. Whether it comes to us as a thought or a memory that flits across our mind, or in the form of an unusual experience, or even comes to us in a dream, I know that our loved ones want us to know they are always around us.
My fervent prayer is that you get through all of this. Whatever you’re going through, I hope you get through it, that you’re healthy, happy, and prosperous—becoming an actual magnet for true love in all its forms, for joy, and kindness. To go from survivor-to-thriver as a love-and-money-magnet…that is my wish for you…for us, all.
Remember, the love you don’t express is the only regret you take with you to the other side. Be an encourager and one who works to help others, now. Love and friendship and loyalty—those are the only things that really matter in this life and the next.
I once knew a girl, not thin and not tall.
How she’ll be remembered—not that way, at all.
Janet McJudgerson, with her lemony face.
All pinched up and pious and with nary a trace
of love or compassion but I’ll never tell
since all of my life I knew her so well.
She stared back from the mirror and hated my hair.
My lips and my waist size, and how could I dare
leave the house in those clothes? With friends such as those?
Who loved me despite of the zit on my nose.
Janet McJudgerson saw every small thing through a lense so distorted
I looked over my shoulder and wondered, aloud,
“Will I ever, or never, fit in with her crowd?”
And then something magical, loving and true…
A thought came to me, “hey you, just be you.”
And then I began a journey so long--devoid of a map—so much could go wrong.
A step at a time, I made my own pace
unpacking and thinking—I found a new place.
Confidence, courage, compassion anew.
I honored my feelings and said “oh, fuck you,”
to every dark thought and critical view.
One day, some time later, came a knock at my door.
A shadow, it stood there with a girl, about four.
They meant me no harm when they came a-callin’.
The shadow and girl just seemed so crestfallen.
I opened the door, welcoming them.
“Come in, my good friends,” I said, waving them in.
The Shadow demanded some answers, you see.
“I’m in charge of this girl. I protect her from ‘me’.”
He meant ‘you’ pointing at me, he said it, plain.
“Whether ‘me’ or it’s ‘you’, we’re one in the same.
She’s the little girl ‘you’, whose heart you held dear.
Whose love and her loyalty, you never feared,
until you began trying to be someone else
and love everyone—except for yourself.
I nodded and listened, considering all,
of this girl here, before me, not thin and not tall.
And then I did something—held my arms out
Welcoming her…to embrace
that I’ve loved her so much, my whole life—she is me!
And Janet McJudgerson, well,
you know, what could be?
She hugged me back, and she
She told the shadow, “I’ll stay for a while.”
So we could catch up and chat as dear friends,
and make peace with myself and my heart, once again.