Last Time I Checked

Goodbye Dear Sister

December 28, 2013
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The goodbye was left unsaid before my sister Sandy Kreiman died on November 6, 2013 at 1:30 am at a Phoenix Hospice facility where I hoped my brother and other sister would be – desperately hoped they would be and begged them to be – before she left us. They just barely made it after my urging. My goodbye was left unsaid, sad I am to say, long before I ever knew how much pain she was in, how lonely she was, how much she needed her family, and other support. The goodbye was left unsaid because I did not know she needed more contact with me, my family, and probably other loved ones in her life. The goodbye was left unsaid because there was not enough time between the time she was diagnosed on September 10 with stage 4 cancer and the time she died on November 6.

I’m reeling with the pain of losing my sister – my barely eldest sister, just 13 1/2 months older than I. I’m still reeling with the pain that we went through after our mom died, such a terrible ordeal, such an unexpected death – our mom was only 68. My sister was only 62! How can it be, I ask, that you lose a sibling younger than your own mother? How can it be than your sister dies, just barely older than you are? How can your sister leave you without saying goodbye?


Blogs are personal and global

May 2, 2010
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Let’s face it damn it, they are.  You vent knowing someone out there is eventually going to read it.  Ok, it could be by accident, serendipity, your lame kid suddenly getting curious about it, or you die and dh finds your blog ten years after and sees you’ve written about what a fucking jerk he can be sometimes.  For example . . .

I am admittedly fortunate to be up here faithfully in my beautiful office each day, but I don’t want my dh poking his head in the door and ruining my day with something negative.  I’d love to spread some magic dust – no – I’d like to wave a magical wand at him to change him before he pokes his head in my doorway.  I’d like to change him from negative, dramatic, and irritating to realizing that minute by minute we are living our lives and it’s not the next hour or the next day or the next weekend or month that matters.

Be with the moment.  Be mindful.  I wrote of the past but longed for just being in the moment with you.  You were not there.

We’re on our way

April 21, 2010
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Friday, April 16, 2010 (posted April 21)

to dinner at the Outback, unbeknownst to me until I call home and hear that is what is expected.  I’ve been away from home for a few hours, first at my Friday Pilate’s class, then in Ann Arbor doing some gardening shopping, getting some keys made at a really cool locksmith shop, and meeting some interesting people along the way.  Darling Husband sounds anxious about getting to dinner and getting back home for movie schedules.  I am open to whatever.  I have stopped to get a blood pressure monitor because my  reading was off the top at the urgent care facility where I was the day before to get my crazy itchy left eye looked at.  Reading: 175 over 104.  I have also walked over to the pet store next door, on a whim, to see if there any cute guinea pigs.  Not so much to replace the one that just died as much to say to my grandsons that life continues and enjoy this cute little creature who is living without a home right now.  It was a perfect moment.  The teenage girls working at the pet store tell me about him.  He was left waiting, and wanting perhaps, for a home for months because he grew and wasn’t a cute little baby anymore and that’s what people like to adopt.  But they had already figured that out; they had named him, and they reduced his value to $10 in the hopes someone like me would come in and give him a home.  At least he had a name unlike the ill-fated one that did not live more than two weeks in his new home  – Chewy, for Chewbacca, and that was perfect for a Star Wars loving father and his two sons who know more than I ever will about all the Star Wars characters and movies.

When I arrived at Tracy’s with Chewy, she thought my surprise was that I had picked up some special cookies or bakery goods.  I had to pause and ask her –  is this okay?  She was fine with it and called all the kids in (the girls who live kitty corner)  were over and they were all playing in the backyard).  Suddenly there were many eager fingers reaching inside the little cardboard box and exclaiming things like “he’s black,” “no, he’s brown,” “no, he’s black and brown.”  And “he looks like Chewbacca.  Chewbacca’s brown.” 

The short visit left me feeling as though I had left more of a burden than a gift, and I regretted the whim and the non-planning of the whole thing.  And when I called home and talked to DH, well, it was a conversation with a crabby guy, a guy who’s overworked and just trying to get through the next few years without losing his job.  I cheerfully suggested that we might call our good friends, but he said no, it was too late for that.  So, I rushed in and off we went to the Outback.  Dinner was good, DH a bit testy, but I don’t have to own that –  just tolerate it as best as I can.  We’ve purchased the special deal of buying a whole bottle of wine, less than it would cost for two classes.  They cut off the cork after corking the bottles and then bag them in a sealed bag per state law.  DH goes off to the bathroom while I pay the bill, and when he comes back he tells me he’s run into the husband of the wife of our aforementioned good friends.  It’s so unusual because when we used to go out to dinner with them almost every Friday night, they never wanted to go to the Outback.  Such a serendipitous surprise, and it ended our evening with much greater pleasure because of it.

Going back

April 15, 2010
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No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back.  ~ Turkish Proverb

It’s been so long since I have been able to sit down at my computer and do something fun that this is probably going to be a long post.  Last night’s (morning, I know) dream woke me up and I came downstairs around 4:30 am.  I’ve already spent a couple of hours answering my organization’s emails and clearing its clutter off my desk.  I spent a few minutes with darling husband talking about my dream.  I was sitting in a big truck (you know the ones that have those huge wheels) and it seemed that I purposely ran into a junky vehicle that had a man sitting inside of it.  This man appeared to be disheveled, and I had the feeling that he was dangerous or that I needed to protect myself from him.  The next part of my dream goes to an almost cave-like room.  Its walls are very primitive looking and uneven.  The man I hit enters and his appearance has improved; he appears more normal looking.  More people, some of them family, are with me now as this man announces he wants all our money.  I tell him that I don’t have any money in my wallet, even though I do, and he says he doesn’t believe me.  He looks angry now.  He starts to collect our money.  He says he has to leave but will be back and that no one had better try to leave.  I am the only one who tries to convince everyone else that this is our chance to get out.  The next part of my dream is a chase scene, but it is so scary that I wake up.  It would have been interesting to share this dream with my organization’s dream circle, but we disbanded.  Someone would listen to someone else’s dream and then start out by saying, “If this were my dream.”  Then they would talk about what it would mean to them if they had this dream.  Since this is my dream, I say that maybe the man represents my shadow side, what I’ve been feeling these many many weeks or maybe even months.  I certainly have felt alone (he’s alone in his truck), disheveled (sitting in my pajamas at my computer doing my organization’s work at its treasurer for hours at a time these past (almost) two years, but not dangerous.  I clearly felt that I needed to protect myself from this shadow.  I know exactly when I saw it and recognized it.  I know where I was, and I know what it is called:  anger.

I was sitting at my son-in-law’s computer completely stressed out because I had a finance committee meeting and ran into some problems with the spreadsheet I was using.  Here the budget was almost completed and I then saw in the new Excel version I was working with that the rows of the three columns showing the accounts and amounts of line items didn’t line up with one another.  When I arrived at my daughter’s house around noon, we actually went out to lunch because I was expecting to zip through the clean-up and even offered to play basketball with my grandson.  But I was working with an unfamiliar screen set-up and it became clearer minute by minute that my daughter could not help me and I would not have time to play basketball with Marty.  He came in every 15 minutes to ask me if I had finished my work yet.  It was during this time that I realized I was angry!  Angry that I put up with so much and have been stuck in my house on beautiful days working on behalf of my organization, angry I couldn’t play with Marty though I told him I would, especially after he brought me his hand-written note after the last time he interrupted me that said “Good Luck”, so angry that I had gone so far on this wrong road and wanted to get off it so badly, and so angry about betrayal, that I almost broke down and cried when I read Marty’s note.  He is just seven years old and showed me more consideration than anyone has in my organization.   

I’ve wanted to turn back from this wrong road for too long now.  I probably had this intuition even earlier last year, after many unpleasant encounters that I wrote about in Getting to Where You Are,  that would have made it the right thing to do for me at that time.  So if only I had turned back much sooner, I wouldn’t be stuck on this road in a truck and trying to protect myself.  The energy of this anger is physically dangerous to me.  My heart rate goes up, I’m getting bursts of short-lived headaches (I’ve never been  bothered much by headaches), and I am exhausted.  The cave may represent the primitive aspects of my organization or perhaps my own primordial archetype that has been repressed, thwarted, and even injured by the resistance to change in this organization and its tolerance of this woman’s relentless reach, which apparently does not exceed her grasp of the people and politics involved.  She presents herself as formidable, yet she is a tireless worker much like I.      

From the Collected Works of Carl Jung regarding the primordial:  “The primordial image, or archetype, is a figure – be it a demon, a human being, or a process  (my italics), that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears wherever creative fantasy is freely expressed.”  “In each of these images there is a little piece of human psychology and human fate, a remnant of the joys and sorrows that have been repeated countless times in our ancestral history.”  It’s a bit ironic for me to see joys and sorrows in this quote, partly because we have a ceremony of joys and sorrows in our organization.  But also because our joys in working together were few and far between and also because the sorrows were never expressed openly yet they are there, at least for me personally and on behalf of this mostly well-intended community.  I had personal joy in serving at times, but the final truth that is coming out is that this organization punishes those who bring up conflict.  And it doesn’t even have a structure in place that would have dealt the punishment out with some mercy.  Justice is big in this organization but mercy, or what I would call compassion, is sorely lacking.  I hurt but still have my own voice, something that I have struggled with for many years.  Using it.  Constructively and with a power that makes a change.      

“Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices.”  This last quote has redemptive meaning to me on a deeply personal level.  I am already feeling more like myself and feel that I may be able to share a final message that wraps up all that I have learned from both an individual and organizational perspective.  I’m not getting over it or my anger; I’m using them as tools to work through this.  I’m learning.  I’m open to a thoughtful inquiry but not especially interested in fixing this anymore other than to write something that I will post in The Last Word.  I reacted, or even over-reacted at times, to an environment that I had no control over; I was perhaps seen as trying to change this person when I really just wanted the behavior to stop.  There is a statement about this conflict that is floating around in a document meant only for certain people with a need to know that probably refers to me and that says it’s a classic case of projection.  The person who said that should be better informed about the difference between projecting our shadow side onto someone else and the strong reaction one might have to verbal abuse and bullying.  And she should have been there with me when I took the first brave step in our policy by talking with the president of our organization.  My talking in the first person is honest and real, and I’m willing to listen to someone else who can say “I” and not “you”.  If this person is projecting her shadow onto me, it would therefore mean (based on what she said) that she is not trustworthy, she does not respect me, she over-manages me, she does not like people to disagree with her, and she doesn’t care that I am upset.  As I said in a letter to one of the leaders about this process, and as I’ve probably said somewhere in this weblog, the conflict management process is broken.  From the chapter or volume The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, “The upheaval of our world and the upheaval of our consciousness are one and the same.”  I don’t doubt that this hasn’t taken its toll on both of us.  She is probably better equipped to handle it than I, however, because during the meeting with her she did not share any understanding or empathy of how I (or anyone else) might feel about her self-reported obnoxiousness.  If I’m carrying a bag of my shadow, it’s filled with feelings that I have to be nice all the time and want everyone to get along and just be happy.  It was startling to realize I was angry!  So if anything, I need to let some of this energy of anger be instead used as energy of action.  Like get the hell off the wrong road.  “A collective problem, if not recognized as such, always appears as a personal problem.”  This person will be off the board because of term limits, but she has ignored the conflict management agreement by addressing emails to me, making a completely unnecessary phone call to me, and at a special board meeting announcing she was going to stuff her foot in her mouth then proceeded to do so with gusto.  She then personalized a by-law change that would prevent immediate family members from serving on the board together by gesturing to my son-in-law who serves as a trustee and me.  She then remarked pointedly to him that we had a fiefdom going on.  My family is very involved as are most families in this organization.  A husband and wife team serve on the finance committee with me; the incoming president’s wife is a member of the nominating committee; the secretary’s wife serves on the conflict management team; his wife serves on another committee to which the secretary was board liaison last year; the list goes on and on.  Yet, wouldn’t you figure we’d all be trying to learn from our mistakes instead of doing a butcher job on a hard-working person who has only wanted to serve and put her time, talents, and treasures (no pun meant here) into this community?  This brings me back to my dream where I am being robbed of my money.  The money stands for the treasures I willingly shared, the sacrifices I made by giving up my personal time and time with my family.  The man also stands for more than a shadow figure for me.  He is the shadow side of my organization, robbing me when I felt I should not have to give anymore by staying through my term.  When he did not believe me when I said I had no money, he was right; I just don’t want to share my treasures with this organization anymore.       

My journey on this wrong road is almost finished.  There can’t possibly any more brutal bumps, can there?  I’ve gone too far to turn back – I’m closer to the end than the start!  I was not considered for renomination to the board.  The conflict was supposed to be confidential, yet the nominating committee chair knew of it because she “mentioned” it to me when she called me to tell me what I had already deduced after getting the committee’s report from the president.  I wasn’t entirely unprepared for the news, but I had expected to receive a call before the potential list of nominees was announced to the board.  And I was crazy enough to consider serving again!  This botched process, from the time I deduced I wasn’t being asked and let the chair know it would have been nice to be called, to the discovery of information that these committee members did not even know I was eligible to serve again, and to the realization that the new president’s wife is on the nominating committee, to my strong intuition that one of the finance committee members has been nominated and will serve as treasurer (and that word has been leaking out); led to final confirmation that I am on the wrong road!   “It is, moreover, only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures.”  From the chapter or volume Psychotherapists or the Clergy.  It’s the title this time that’s a bit ironic for me.  You can figure it’s either that I either need a psychotherapist or that there’s a member of the clergy involved in my life.   

I fully recognize that my ego is involved and that ” . . . even the enlightened person . . .  is never more than his own limited ego before the One who dwells within him, whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses him on all sides, fathomless as the abysm of the earth and vast as the sky.”  Answer to Job.  But please, leave my shadow alone. 

Here’s my paraphrasing of something I read about the large stone  that Jung hand-carved and placed in the garden of his home named Bollingen.  According to one website, he inscribed the stone with magical and alchemical symbols.  It says that in his last revelatory dream prior to his death, Jung saw a round stone engraved with the words “And this shall be a sign unto you of Wholeness and Oneness”.   I have traveled on the wrong road, but my next journey will be an awakening of mindfulness far away from it.  I am beginning to feel the freedom after writing this.  I am looking foward to becoming whole and one again.  

And I will remember Maya Angelou’s “When people show you who they are, believe them.”  And if they try to get you to travel with them, don’t get on the road!

Getting to Where We Are

February 17, 2010
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First draft February 13.  I’m sitting right here in my pajamas at 3 in the morning.  But that’s not what I mean.  I mean how do we consciously get to where we are at any given moment.  This is not a question.  How do we pay attention, enough attention, to what we say, do, and think.  Again, not a question.  I’m not asking.  I’m just saying.  Mindfulness.  Being mindful of what we are feeling from the stimuli coming at us.  Being mindful of what we are perceiving from the stimuli that are coming at us.  I recently went through a conflict resolution process with an organization I am involved in.  I’m on the board of trustees.  I’d had an ongoing and escalating conflict with another trustee.  I will use she/her for the sake of simplicity and fairness for the overuse of the masculine pronoun.  I was aware of what I was feeling and thinking about the stimuli coming at me from her during numerous meetings we attended together.  It felt unpleasant and critical.  I did not like it.  At an appropriate time, I told her how I felt.  She basically said too bad, that’s just how I am.  It happened again, and once again I tried telling her again how I felt.  It was even worse the second time.   She admitted to being obnoxious and warned me the behavior would most likely continue.  It did.  Until we finally had both had enough.  We agreed to go through our organization’s conflict resolution process.  We were guinea pigs, the first ones to test the process.  The members of the conflict resolution “team” had to research, learn, and prepare for it.  It was serious.  There were repercussions facing our organization and ourselves if the conflict remained unresolved or, as we later came to realize, unmanaged.  The team met with each of us separately to hear what we perceived to be the problem(s).  In slang, we were asked  “where are you coming from?”.   And the answer in slang might start with “here’s where I’m at on this.” 

A persistent state of conflict can have debilitating effects on a person.  You might begin to experience the Pavlov effect and react in a certain way every time you are subjected to a particular stimuli.  You may develop an avoidance reaction.  You may perceive that the person you are blaming the conflict on is not paying attention to what you say, do, or think or being mindful of where you are.   This was definitely part of my conflict with the other person.  It turns out that my perception was correct.  She was looking for me to say different things and even to say them differently than I was.  Last time I checked I wasn’t a mind reader, so it was impossible for me to know this was one of the major reasons for the conflict.  It was startling to realize how far apart in our communication styles and comprehension we were.  It was startling and even a bit scary to get inside this person’s head for a minute.  My nagging intuition had tried to tell me all along that there were certain things that just weren’t right.   Now mind you, I’m a volunteer and so is she.  I do the job I was elected to do and do it well.  She admitted to not trusting me and accused me of going over her head and confirmed that she expected me to listen to her because she is the president.  Hmmm . . . a confirmation of my intuition that she was micromanaging me and had a bit of an authoritarian approach to her work.  If I had known this earlier, we could have resolved the problem pretty quickly.  A simple phrase like “no you are not” and “quit telling me what to do” would probably have sufficed.  But then again, maybe not.  She was pretty persistent at the meeting that she would continue to treat me the same way.  When she indicated she would confront me if she had questions, I told her in no uncertain terms that this was not acceptable.  I was surprised the conflict management team wasn’t stepping in at that point, but perhaps they were waiting to see how we handled the conversation.  It was exasperating to hear her say this and see that she just didn’t get it.  That little glimpse inside her head showed me something foreign, something I’ve never seen so close up before – a lack of empathy.  It explained a lot about her and a lot about why I feel the way I do towards her whenever we are together.   That was scary.

I guess when you lack empathy it gives you license to say rude things to people, criticize their work, and try to make them believe that the way you feel is their fault.  Unfortunately I’m not the only person who has been harangued by her.  The good thing about this is that I know it’s not personal.  But what if this was the workplace and she really was my boss?  What if I were much younger and not able to handle complaining about her treatment of me?  In fact, if we were to call her behavior bullying, it is unlikely that it would even be recognized as such and the behavior would be sanctioned in the majority of companies, especially in the nonprofit sector.   We didn’t label her behavior or talk her into getting treatment for her lack of empathy.  The meeting was about managing our conflict, not resolving it.

There can be no getting to where you are unless you try to understand that the other person is also at a certain place.  If you can pay attention to what the other person is saying, doing, and thinking, you may be able to develop an understanding of where that person is coming from that helps you get to an even better place, which is to move past the conflict.  In my case, for a few moments anyway, I knew that she truly could not understand “where I was coming from.”  Even with the intervention of the conflict resolution process, we realized the conflict would only be managed.  As unpleasant as the conflict has been, at any given moment I’d rather be where I am than where she is.

Good Brother

February 15, 2010
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Wow, last time I checked I had a great brother and still do.  We talked for about an hour today as he drove back from oh I forget the name of the town in Wisconsin where he had visited a new squeeze, ha ha, just my fun term for the very neat sounding woman he has met and dated and talked with and talked to me about for OVER an hour today on his way back home.  It was good to hear his sweet descriptions of this encounter.  How I admire his brave willingness to go out “there” to eventually find a life partner.  So, should he decide to share my blog with her or any other “new squeeze”, here’s my 500 words to share with this lucky woman should this be my last day on earth. 

First, Mike is reasonable.  I have to tell him sometimes that he really said something (this usually pertains to something in his newsletter that he sends to his guy-friends but that I am privy to because he lets me edit sometimes) inappropriate or offensive.  We discuss this and he usually ends up agreeing with me.  In other words, he is willing to admit he can be a jerk sometimes, he is not afraid to admit he’s wrong sometimes, and when he doesn’t think he is a jerk or he is wrong, then he doesn’t try to make you feel like YOU are the jerk or YOU are the one who is wrong.   Mike and I share a trait where we both want to negotiate whatever it is that needs to be discussed or debated.  He does not get a manhood kind of attitude about anything.  He is willing to admit he is wrong, can be wrong, likes to be wrong, wants to be wrong, loves to be wrong, and that is because he realizes he can learn something from that.  Although he is a bit sensitive about the soup he makes for Thanksgiving, which is a tradition we have enjoyed for many years, he has let me wean him from the  Campbell Soup stock and pre-cut carrots and, this last year, he even let me talk him into brining the birds.

Next, Mike is lovable.  As in WHO DO YOU LOVE.   As in if you want someone to love you, you would want it to be my brother.  He wants a long-term relationship.  He wants what we all want; someone to love.  He wants to be respected and treated well.  He wants not to be hurt or disrespected.  Mike deserves this.  He is a good guy. 

Mike is a good dad and good uncle and a great uncle.  He is a good BIL. 

Is this 500 words?   I’ll have to attend to this later.  Darling husband just got home.  And he’s making stir-fry.

About author

These days, I am mostly happy. Not wildly happy. Happy as in feeling very content with my life. Happy with my darling husband and wonderful family. Happy I have a pooch to keep me company. Happy that I pretty much get to choose and do whatever I want. That kind of happy.