#5TF: Saying Goodbye

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 2 – July 1 – July 7, 2017

This was a very bittersweet week for me, filled with both joy and sadness. On Monday, my paternal grandmother passed away. She was 91 years old.

Granny and I were always very close, even though I long ago fell out of touch with my dad. The exact reason why we lost contact eludes me now but I’m fairly certain it had something to do with my divorce and subsequent exit from the proverbial closet. Coming out is a very hard thing to do in a Southern family. My mother’s terrible reaction made me very reluctant to tell anyone else, including my Granny and my dad. Being 2,200 miles away then, it was easy to hide the truth from them while also living my life as I wanted. It may not have been the wisest of choices at the time but it was the one I made.

Granny’s funeral provided an opportunity for me glimpse the life that my dad has lived over the past 12 years and it seems to have been a good one. He and my step-mother have been married for more than 30 years and seem to love one another as much today as the day they got married. It was nice to see other people happy.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was getting a big hug from my nephew, who I haven’t seen since he was 7 years old. His hug was genuine and sincere and showed in that brief moment that he had grown into a kind and caring (and very handsome) young man. He is a sophomore in college now (at my alma mater) and works next door to where we live. My nephew was born when my brother and his girlfriend were only 16 years old so my dad and step-mom played a huge role in raising him. One hug was all it took for me to know they all did a wonderful job.

I am grateful for all the many things my Granny taught me – from how to make a quilt to how to haggle at a yard sale. She was an amazing woman and I will always treasure the times we spent together. I am grateful for Angie being beside me at the funeral. Though Granny had not been well in almost a year, her death hit me harder than expected. Without Angie’s support (and never-ending supply of Kleenex), I don’t know what I would have done.

This week, my sister celebrated her 40th birthday. (She’s the little kid in the photo above with Granny.) I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share her big day with her and her husband during a quiet lunch at a new Mexican restaurant in town. She also went with us to the funeral home to say goodbye to Granny. Though she drives me nuts on most days and I often cringe at her outspokenness, I am grateful she was there to carry the conversation when I couldn’t find the right things to say.

I need to let go of my habit of second guessing everyone. I have no idea what my dad would have said all those years ago if I’d talked to him about my life. I assumed he would react just as hatefully as my mom did but his reaction when I introduced him to Angie told a different story. He simply shook her hand and said, “It’s about time, isn’t it?” I still to this day second guess other people’s reactions and tend to avoid a lot of interactions based on what I think may happen. This is something I need to work on so that I’m not standing beside another casket one day wishing I’d done something different.

We made progress on our hiking goal, adding 16.4 miles to our combined total – in one day! We were off work on Monday for a long holiday weekend and had decided to hike the Bryant Grove Trail at Long Hunter State Park. It was on our unofficial “Summer Bucket List”. We completed the hike in 3 hours 21 minutes – with the last 4 miles hiked in the pouring rain. 

We also made unexpected progress in other areas of our life. Mending fences was never on our list of happiness goals but in seeing my family again, I can’t help but think that it is going to be an integral part of that process. I feel there’s a story there that I need to hear and probably more than a few happiness lessons we can learn from.

The funniest thing that happened week is best illustrated by the picture below. We had made it to the midway point of our 8-mile hike. The sky was blue. The sun was bright. Our plans were to set up our hammocks, take a swim in the lake, and have lunch before heading back down the trail. Just as we emerged from the woods, the sky quickly darkened and rain began to fall. Never one to be deterred, especially when hot and sweaty and in need of a good soak, Angie jumped in anyway – clothes and all. I followed her, just after I snapped this shot.

Mindfulness Amid the Chaos (May Recap)

May just may have been our best month yet – despite the fact that it was also a very crazy month. Let me explain…

When we declared “happiness” to be our pursuit for the year, our main objective was to regain control of our time and get back to doing the things that we enjoyed most in life. Sounds easy but sadly, even when you own your own time, you don’t always get to use it the way you want. This is especially true when certain members of your family act like complete idiots. Those particular family members, if they read this blog, would be highly offended by that statement but since they don’t, I feel really comfortable telling you this. Almost every day I find myself picking up the phone and uttering the words, “they did what??; which is usually answered with something unbelievable like, “left the baby at home alone”, “got fired”, “got arrested”, or, as was the case this month, “got evicted.”

In an environment where one family member (and her boyfriend) can wreak so much havoc, how can we possibly claim to have had a good month? I’ll tell you…it’s all about mindfulness and adaptability. Mindfulness gives you pause. It allows you to take a mental time-out when new information comes in and process that at your own speed. We don’t have to react to every (or any, for that matter) little thing that someone else does with his or her life. While it may be disconcerting and while we may wish they would choose differently, the choice is theirs not ours. The only thing we can control in these situations, is our reaction to them so this month we chose to offer them loving concern instead of our usual “I can’t believe you did this” outrage followed by “let us help you fix it”. And believe it or not, we found peace among the chaos. Enough peace that we were able to take back some of our time and use it for ourselves.

We picked strawberries.

We took Mom camping.

We fed the ducks (quite a few times).

We walked and hiked –   59.2 miles to be exact – and picnicked.

We gardened.

We letterboxed (a lot, including one special trip to Bowling Green, KY)

We had a few fun days with the little one.

And we started planning our fall vacation – 2 weeks in Canada!

We also did a good bit of decluttering (which I’ll talk about later), landed a freelance contract to write 3 grants before August, and stayed on track with our financial goals, even adding another investment to our portfolio. So yes, I think we had a pretty good month.

But back to the elephant on the page…

I’m the kind of person who likes to give others the benefit of the doubt and throughout this blog you’ll see places where I talk about my niece and her boyfriend as young and inexperienced and just trying to figure things out. I love them both very much but since being given a house by his parents in February, they have become someone I don’t recognize. Instead of seeing the house as a hand up, they saw it as a handout and immediately began skipping work; sticking their hands out for more and more. When no one would give them money, they stole things they thought they just had to have (like hair dye!). Even more than that, they nearly destroyed the beautiful little house, D.C.’s parents had taken the time to buy and furnish just for them. A few weekends ago, D.C.’s parents and I had a meeting and determined (with heavy heart) that it was in all of our best interests to let them fail. Sadly, D.C.’s parents are putting the house up for sale. If you’ve ever been in a situation that called for tough love, then you know how hard this is.

You may be wondering why in a blog about minimalism and happiness we would even mention family dysfunction at all. Because this is life. We all have crazy, mixed-up situations that draw us away from our personal journeys. How we choose to deal with them is often the defining point of that journey. Do we let other people’s problems slow or derail our own hopes and dreams? Often the answer is yes, though almost always – and especially in this case – it should be no.