Buttons Come and Buttons Go

Good morning, Dear Reader. One of you mentioned that you noticed I had gone ‘radio silent’, which is true. And thank you for noticing.

During the first week of absence, I had COVID, and while I wasn’t on my deathbed, I wasn’t well and didn’t have the energy to write. The following week ushered in the full moon in Aquarius and all its nonsense, which kinda sucked. The next week I just didn’t feel like it. How’s that for honest? I’m rarely at a loss for words when writing, but truthfully…I had a case of the blahs. I was all out of plant analogies, and sometimes, when your heart is not ready to share…the keyboard is, well, a foe.

I’d love to tell you that the autumn season may have finally arrived here in the Ozarks. The weather has been in the upper 80’s which has been a blessing, but you gotta love Southern Missouri and her fickle nature. I bet we are in for a few high temp days still yet, but for now it’s cool enough to walk around the block without passing out, and I ordered a hot chocolate at Scooter’s yesterday, so there’s that. 

The ‘fall’ is coming early for me regarding moods and transitions. I felt a shift coming on a few weeks ago, so I haven’t had a drop of whiskey since early August (or wine or coffee). There is no need to throw depressants and stimulants into a body that is already feeling some funky vibes. Feel me? 

So, I guess…grab that drink and settle in. I’ll join you with a cup of Earl Grey with milk – you know, British style – and we can talk about change.

I won’t go into any personal details today, but there’s always change, right? That’s the one thing we can count on in life. I used to fight it like a Highlander in the middle of a Scottish revolution – gathering my sword and blindly swinging, kicking, and screaming the entire time. (Too much Outlander, maybe?) Now, I just think, “I’m not sure I really understand what is happening here, but it’s happening. I’ll just buckle up and close my eyes.” Not great in war. But okay when anxiety levels are through the roof. Amiright?

With all change, it doesn’t just affect you, I’ve learned. Others are either directly involved or catch some shrapnel in the process. When I make inevitable decisions, my heart breaks – not only for myself but anyone else who may suffer the fallout. As much as I wanted to sell a recently shared home with a relative, I also knew that she would be sad. That made me sad. I’ve been a people-pleaser for so long that I sometimes can’t separate my feelings from those of others. Being an Empath can really suck at times. My sense of loyalty encompasses me in a shroud of guilt, even when I know the change is best for me. I guess I haven’t really learned the difference between ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-care’ as much as I’d like to have by now. I ‘grin and bare it’ so often that there are moments when I just can’t move for fear I will explode into a million tiny pieces.

When I struggle with certain decisions or challenges, I (as a writer) will typically look to children’s literature for the answer. Adults can make life so complicated, and sometimes I need a new view. Take Charlotte’s Web, for example. This novel is a great children’s story even if Kansas banned it once. Stupid, Kansas. If you think about it, the story is one of vulnerability, friendship, diversity, inclusion, and grief. Reading such a book through the lens of adult experiences reveals themes one can’t visualize as a child. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve experienced all of that, right? We can see how mean that rat is. How much Wilbur wants to have friends. How grieved all of them are when Charlotte dies. (Ooops. Did I just spoil the ending for you? Sorry ’bout that.)

This entire month, I’ve wrestled with change, and while I cuddled in my blanket in a quiet space, I reminisced about another story that was one of my son’s favorites. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean is – at it’s core – a story about non-attachment, letting go, and moving on. It is a story about accepting that change comes and goes, and it’s up to us to decide how to handle that change. (That link is an audio version of the book. Come on. Take five minutes. It’s really good.)

When faced with change, we can do one of three things: Accept, fight, or ignore it. I don’t recommend that last one. The change will happen whether we participate in it or not. If we can stop kicking and screaming long enough, we might see that change often happens for us, not to us. And sometimes…sometimes…the lessons amid change are not just your lessons. Maybe, just maybe, there are lessons others are to learn during that time, too. 

I don’t know. Too deep?

{Sigh} Okay. Well. 

Maybe it’s a job. A relationship. A pattern of behavior. Whatever. We can always find something in our life that is begging for change. Transitions are complex – I’m not invalidating that at all. But there are some ways we can navigate change to stay as calm as we can during it. I can offer two nuggets today. That’s all I have the energy to deliver.

First, admit to yourself that change is hard. Change can be both good and challenging at the same time. Give yourself time to process the change. ‘Sit in the space’ and accept that you don’t know what will come next (Buddhists call this space “emptiness”). I’ll readily admit – this is absolutely terrifying to me. The Type A, Virgo, INTJ gal that I am prefers the ‘waterfall’ method rather than Agile (That’s project management speak. You can google it.) But rarely is life consistent with the ‘waterfall’ method. Most of the time, in life, the minimum viable product is all you get. At some moment, it will all be clear. Not usually during the process, though. The hope is that in the end, we all have what we need and what we want. But the process can be daunting and frustrating. I won’t lie to you about that.

Secondly, avoid asking everyone you know for their help and opinions. I went through my most recent change in absolute silence. I only shared with others after the change was in motion. I don’t know if that was helpful, but it was certainly out of the norm. I knew though that I didn’t need a bunch of other people clouding my thought process and projecting their own fears and anxieties on me. So, I didn’t gather the masses and start asking for their advice. I went to Spirit, and I listened to my heart. My heart. Not my head. Big difference.

How do you like them apples? Fun times today, huh? Yup.

And, in my melancholy mood, I leave you with a song. Life’s changes can feel like a landslide at times, but there are so many seasons of our lives, and each one brings a new direction if we let it. You may be going through the worse time of your life right now – and I empathize with you. I really, really do. I also know that it will, eventually, get better – especially if you lean into it.

(Oh, and next week is my birthday. Send me good vibes. I’d love some of those.)

A Body In Motion Stays In Motion

Good morning, Dear Reader! I come to you from what feels like the depths of hell. It’s a gazillion degrees outside and rising. How people can live south of the equator and still function is beyond me. I can’t wait for this heat to break. Even though we did find ourselves with a 77* day over the weekend, I’m feeling a bit ungrateful.

I’ve been mulling today’s post over in my mind since arriving home from my little road trip through Iowa and Minnesota last month. I was able to see all of the covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa. Still, the one bridge that stuck out the most was the one I saw as I crossed back into Missouri on my way home.

The Locust Creek Covered Bridge is located in Linn County and was built in 1868. It is the longest of Missouri’s four remaining covered bridges – almost 151 feet. 

As I arrived, I noticed no bridge at all, only a little walking bridge that took me over the fair-sized river. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to find, but I’ll tell you one thing: I was a bit confused. This little walking bridge was definitely not a covered bridge, and I was concerned I was in the wrong place. 

As I read the posted literature, I realized the bridge I was there to see was about a quarter-mile through the woods. Odd, huh? I grabbed my water bottle and proceeded with caution on the trail nonetheless. As I meandered through the forest, I realized I was walking away from the river, which seemed problematic. Despite having no knowledge of the bridge’s history or of Linn County, I stuck with it.

And then I saw it.

It was breathtaking.

And it was in the middle of the prairie. Which made zero sense.

How in the world does a bridge end up in the middle of the woods, with no running water under it? I mean, isn’t carrying folks over a body of water the entire point of a massive bridge? 

And that, folks, is where we are today.

So grab a drink and settle in. Let’s discuss what can happen when you refuse to be flexible.

According to the overly reliable source, Wikipedia, I was able to find out this about our beloved state bridge:

After World War II, the course of Locust Creek was changed and the bridge spanned a dry creek bed. Over time the creek bed filled with silt, leaving the bridge resting on mud much of the time. In 1968, the State of Missouri acquired the bridge and established the Locust Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site, then repaired the bridge, replacing its roof, sheeting, and flooring. The Missouri Department of Conservation undertook another major improvement in 1991, raising the bridge by six feet to protect the wooden frame and flooring from the marshy ground.

Did you catch that? The creek’s course was changed. To put it another way: The creek moved, but the bridge did not. (You can read more here). And because the bridge could not proceed with the creek – its original purpose was no longer viable or valuable. Now, it’s just a place for older people to take pictures, young people to have parties, and stupid people to ruin with their graffiti.

The point? A body in motion stays in motion. 

To fulfill our purpose in life, we must be willing to move and be transformed by whatever nature throws our way. I’m still unclear on who or what was responsible for changing the creek’s course. Still, I am sure of one thing: Due to its inability to move with the water, the bridge is magnificent – and basically worthless.

Fast forward a month. Over the weekend, I sat with a dear friend who lost the love of her life to brain cancer last year. It was her birthday, and we enjoyed the company and drank copious amounts of wine. This year has been everything for her: devastating, foggy, blurred. I’m sure it sometimes felt as though she was standing in quicksand. And yet, her business is growing, she enrolled in University to earn her undergrad, and she started teaching courses. Although the course of her life was altered, she did not stand still. She grieved – and is still mourning. In fact, proven by the number of tears shed at one point in the evening, it is clear that we all are still grieving the loss of the man everyone liked. But instead of sitting in a recliner and waiting to die, she got busy doing the things he would have wanted her to do. The course of her river changed. Unlike the Locust Creek Bridge, she moved with it.

Our lovely bridge was acquired in 1968 (a hundred years after it was built) by the State of Missouri and deemed a historical site by someone important. The bridge was repaired and is now maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation. People come from all over to see it. But it stayed dormant for a century before anyone cared enough to invest in it. What a waste of time.

When life experiences change your course, you have every right to mourn the loss of a dream, a job, a relationship – whatever. Facing grief and its insidious scramble of emotions is normal. But, after a while, staying put and waiting for someone else to fix the issue will only result in you missing the entire point of living your life. 

I get it. A bridge can’t really fend for itself because it is an inanimate object. But we aren’t. We can fend for ourselves. And we can nurture others along the way, too. We must be willing to go with the flow and move with whatever life throws our way to remain in service. In service to what, you ask. The fuck if I know. At the bare minimum? Ourselves.

You may not feel like it. You may not want to right away after something devastating changes the course of your life. My divorce and all its deception left me stagnant for a bit while I caught my breath. For you, it may be the loss of a loved one or a business that simply never took hold. Life will throw us all kinds of situations, and we will all find ourselves a bit off course at times. It’s okay to grieve. It’s not okay to stay in the prairie where the silt and mud will eventually take over.

That’s a lot to swallow this morning over coffee, isn’t it? Well, then, I suppose I need to leave you with this song today. There were quite a few suggestions from my fan base on how I can get you to listen to these. The songs – for the most part – wrap the story up neatly. I often spend more time researching the right music than I do figuring out how to make sense of the stories I want to share. If I laid on enough guilt, now you can have a listen.

Until next time, if you liked this post and thought others might, too, then share away on all the socials. Hugs and kisses, Kids. Hugs and kisses.