I was having an email conversation with a friend recently about how some things have changed for the better this year, even though it still feels like being a character in a bad zombie movie sometimes. She wrote that her family has been calmer and more focused since staying home, and I replied that my husband and I also have been feeling much more relaxed.

Giving myself permission to let things develop at their natural pace, without pushing myself to do more or feeling inadequate if I don’t yet have a clear sense of what to do, has made so much difference. Before now, I hadn’t realized how far I had gotten away from the simple enjoyment of being.

Word-art that says "I simply am."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

July 30, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Res judicata is a Latin phrase that means “a thing adjudicated.” It refers to the legal doctrine that after the final judgment in a case, the parties are bound by that judgment and are not allowed to keep on arguing the same issue against the same opponent by filing a new case. If they try, the judge will promptly dismiss the new case on the opponent’s request.

I work in legal publishing, and although I don’t often dream about my work, last night I dreamed that I was using legal terminology to write about my personal life. The only thing I remember about what I wrote in that dream was “No res judicata.” While still in the dream, I took a moment to reflect on that observation about my life, and then—just before waking up—I said to myself “Hey, this is really good!” And I woke up feeling remarkably cheerful.

The meaning of that dream seemed plain enough—I am not bound by the past. No matter what problems might have stressed me before, today’s issues are different enough that it’s not the same case. I am free to grow and flourish in new and better circumstances.

My backyard willow hedge, bright and green in summer.

The photo illustrating this post isn’t new; it shows my backyard willow hedge five years ago, and it was posted on this blog then. I reposted it because the hedge started dying back the year after the photo was taken, stressed by hot and dry summers after two unusually cold winters. A casualty of climate change, perhaps. It had more dead branches this year, and I finally decided to cut off all the old growth and let the willows grow back from the base, giving the hedge a fresh start without the burden of its past stress. I am hopeful that in another five years, the hedge will be tall and healthy again. No res judicata.

We had rain most of the day—cool, steady showers that soothed the parched grass and perked up the drooping shrubs. I was glad to see it because we certainly needed some rain. But, at the same time, the dark clouds gave me a gloomy feeling. The lack of sunlight made it harder to distract myself with cheerful thoughts and get worries and doubts out of my head.

The storm had mostly passed over when I finished my workday, though, and the sun was coming out. The world looked bright and refreshed.

Word-art that says "When the dark clouds of doubt, anger or worry begin to move upon you, steady yourself in the knowledge that in time, the storm will pass." -Bryant McGill

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

A friend recently asked me if I still had some old emails from a list we had both participated in ten years ago. I said yes, I had them archived in Outlook. When I looked, though, I had only a year’s worth of messages, and there should have been more.

After a while I remembered that I had joined the list originally using a web-based email account, rather than the address from my Internet provider, which I started using for the list later. So I went to the former account, which I hadn’t used in many years, and found it was still active. I didn’t have any further use for it, so I gave my friend the login information and told him that he could do whatever he liked with the old messages.

The annoying little gremlins (as Brené Brown calls them) in the back of my mind then started yapping at me that I was losing my sharpness. How could I forget all about an email account when I’d had no problems keeping track of multiple accounts in the past? Somehow I’d gotten myself lost, wandering around foggily in a dim, dark place without a clue how to climb back out.

Waterfall in a cave with a forest looming overhead.

Of course, such thoughts made no sense, as I realized soon enough. The Internet is full of old accounts that people abandoned and totally forgot. That’s just the way of things in the modern world—we now have a lot more random stuff floating around than we used to have. Expecting to keep it all in mind and perfectly organized, forever, is just plain ridiculous. No need for perfectionist anxiety in that regard!

Since my husband started working from home in March, he has mostly taken over doing the grocery shopping. That took me a little while to get used to, although it’s clear that he does not mind doing it, because buying groceries always had been one of my chores.

Then I asked myself, well, why shouldn’t I relax and enjoy having the groceries just show up without any effort on my part, like everyone else in the family always did before now? After all, I’m just as worthy of being nurtured and cared for as anyone else.

Word-art with words like "Worthy" and "Appreciative" on a woman's silhouette.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

July 15, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

After a rainy Sunday afternoon, we’ve gotten back to a more normal July weather pattern around here. The pleasant sunshine brings to mind the long summer days of childhood, rambling through the woods and picking wild blackberries in the meadows.

Blackberries ready to be picked.

(Photo credit: Bob Richmond)

The image that I had on my art display on Tuesday was a seashore animation, which showed waves breaking on the sand beneath a gorgeous blue sky. Although the art display is silent, I felt as if I could hear the rhythmic sounds of waves and seagulls very close by.

Then my imaginary view expanded to take in a patch of blackberries near the village of Channelwood. A hillside, dotted with wildflowers, sloped gently down to the beach on the island’s eastern shore. The sea looked calm on this bright, clear day.

Picking berries next to me was my younger self Queenie, dressed as usual like an 1890s farmgirl with a bonnet, braids, and a long gingham dress and stockings. I didn’t have a basket, but Queenie had a good-sized one, which was about half full.

“I remember how much I enjoyed picking berries when I was a kid,” I said, after I had picked a handful and put them into Queenie’s basket. “Those summer days felt like they would go on forever. Going back to school seemed very far away, and being grown up was almost too distant even to imagine.”

“There wasn’t anywhere you needed to be,” Queenie put in, as she carefully disentangled a bramble that had gotten caught on her dress. “There wasn’t anything you needed to do.”

“Yes. Or at least it seemed that way, which amounted to the same thing.” I looked up from the blackberries and, for a moment, let my gaze rest on the hazy blue line of the horizon. “Of course I needed to be home in time for dinner, and I wore a wind-up watch—that was a few years before digital. I remember winding it before school on dark winter mornings. But that watch isn’t part of my summer memories; the days seem timeless as I recall them now, without anything to measure or limit them.”

Queenie picked a few more berries before she spoke again.

“It’s not entirely true that there is nothing I need to do. I’ll have to get back to the village after a while. Ella wants the berries so she can bake blackberry tarts, and I have some chores to do after that. Right now, though, I don’t feel a need to be anywhere else. Maybe that’s all it takes to have a view into forever.”

We’ve had a strange weather pattern in my area all week, with very hot midday sun followed by clouds and thunder in the afternoon, but no rain at all. It has me feeling jumpy, as if something is about to burst.

The power went off this afternoon for about a half-hour, interrupting both my work and my husband’s work, although it didn’t look like there were any storms nearby. I wish the rain would pour down in buckets and get it over with! But, as that doesn’t seem to be happening, I am reminding myself to just breathe, to be present in the here and now, and to enjoy the clear moonlit nights.

Word-art with a bird, the moon, and words like "Observe" and "Breathe."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I didn’t feel inclined to do much writing last week because, among other things, I wasn’t getting anywhere trying to imagine the future. What with the entire world having been totally upended this year, I felt as if I’d lost whatever intuitive sense of direction I might once have had. Because telling stories to make sense of a confusing modern world is the central theme of this blog, it seemed rather pointless to write about being lost in a sea of befuddlement. (Well, except that putting the word “befuddlement” into a sentence just now was kind of fun.)

Then I started reading an apocalyptic business book that projected automation would destroy most of the world’s jobs in the near future. Before this year, I had dismissed that scenario as highly unlikely because it looked like we had plenty of jobs, with more coming open because of retirements and lower birthrates. But now, with a pandemic that could go on for a long time, what business owner wouldn’t want to replace sickly, unpredictable, and expensive humans with robots and intelligent software?

Large robot leaning over a wall.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

That line of thinking put me into quite a funk, and I considered talking it over with my 119-year-old future self, Fannie the Fantastically Adventurous. She might be able to offer some helpful insights and encouragement. But no, that wouldn’t do; I already wrote a post last year in which I asked Fannie for career advice. Something more was needed.

“Yoo hoo!” A waving hand appeared in my imaginary inner landscape, connected to an arm that was nicely toned, if a bit wrinkled. The rest of the body soon came into view, dressed in lime-green workout shorts with a matching tank top and sports bra. This visitor had just been outside on a humid afternoon, judging from the damp, sweaty curls tumbling in all directions over her shoulders. A thin line of gray roots was barely visible under the brown curls.

“I’m Kass,” she informed me, “your 76-year-old future self.”

“Is that short for Cassandra?” I asked, wondering where a future me would have gotten that name. Usually when new characters introduced themselves, I knew their origins; but this time I had no clue whatsoever.

“No, it’s Kass with a K. And it’s short for kicking yours.” Kass smirked in a way that made her look more like a juvenile delinquent than a respectable lady of her claimed 76 years.

I briefly considered tossing her back into whatever murky pool of my subconscious mind had spawned her. Curiosity got the better of me, though; and I decided to take her bait, even if doing so might have been against my better judgment.

“If you’re from my future, aren’t you supposed to be kind and forgiving toward me?” I demanded. “That’s the whole point of imaginary conversations with younger selves, right? You help them to put things in perspective and to understand that their mistakes weren’t really as bad as they might have thought.”

Kass waved a hand in a dismissive gesture and made a “pfft” sound.

“Yeah, right—like you were kind and forgiving when you told our past self Queenie to take a hike?”

“Well, okay, that wasn’t very nice,” I had to admit. “But I did it without thinking, I apologized to her, and then I went back later and told her she was brave for standing up to social pressure.”

“Aren’t you the noble one.” Kass sneered, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at me. “I’m not feeling nearly that altruistic right now, and that’s mainly because I am still recovering from all your ridiculous fears and insecurities. Fannie has had a much longer time to mellow into a wise old woman; I’m not nearly there yet. Just this afternoon, I was out for what should have been a nice relaxing jog in the park, until your annoying self-pitying thought loops about life’s unfairness showed up and ruined it.”

“Queenie had a few things to say when I felt like that,” I pointed out. “She told me that it wasn’t fair to blame a bad day on a younger self, who was likely finding it hard enough to stay positive without the added stress of being responsible for how her future selves might feel. And I would add that is especially true in 2020, when everyone in the world is stressed out.”

“Aw, boo-hoo-hoo, so unfair, poor tragic long-suffering little you. Cue the violins.” Kass made exaggerated fiddling motions in the air. “We both know that you’re super lucky, compared to what happened to a lot of people. So get over yourself already.”

She dropped her hands into a more relaxed position at her sides and took a deep breath before going on. “And in particular, you need to stop judging yourself as a stuck-in-a-rut failure for not having a clear sense of career direction—or any other kind of direction that you feel you’re lacking. You live in a time when the world is changing so fast that almost anything might happen. Recognizing that fact doesn’t make you less insightful or motivated than anyone else.”

Turning that over in my mind, I couldn’t dispute her point. Clarity wasn’t easy to come by these days; and framing its lack as some kind of personal failure did not, in truth, make any sense.

“As for work,” Kass concluded, “just think what might have happened if you’d felt inspired to change careers or start a new business in 2019. Many people did just that—and then the pandemic hit, and they lost everything. So, your uncertainty turned out to be a blessing, even if it didn’t seem like one. Be grateful for it, give yourself permission to chill out and relax for now—and be open to new opportunities finding you later, when the time is right.”

She gave me a smile that actually looked like it might be a real, good-natured smile this time. “And then, maybe, I can finish my next jog without interruption.”

I live in a mostly quiet urban-sprawl neighborhood where deer and rabbits wander around, looking cute except when they eat the landscaping. We are close enough to restaurants and taverns with outdoor dining areas that sometimes, on Friday or Saturday evenings, music drifts through our bedroom walls. That generally doesn’t bother me because the music is not nearly as loud as our noisy old air conditioner before we replaced it two years ago.

And considering what has happened this year, I can’t complain at all. It’s good to hear something that is more like normal life.

Word-art that says "So many of us around the world are singing out our windows, reminding one another we are here, and we are here for each other, and we have a song."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.