Annual exercise, assessment, and looking ahead. Am I making progress or running in place?
You know I have done this off and on since 2010. I’ve reviewed the letters I’ve sent you, and it seems like the same issues are still there. What progress are we making? Apparently, you are behaving in the same old ways, even though, I know, you are not happy with the results. On the other hand, some major life changes have taken place in that time. You’ve lost two younger brothers, and other friends and relatives. You retired. You’ve had cancer. Your dad is getting dementia along with his arthritis and feebleness. You aren’t just the housekeeper any more, you are a full-time caretaker.
So what are the ongoing issues you aren’t changing? You don’t write as much as you’d like. In fact, you write less since you’ve retired than you did when you were working. You still want to lose 15-25 pounds. You still aren’t doing as much exercise on a daily basis as your cardiologist tells you. You’re still dealing with disorganization and clutter, despite having thrown out tons of stuff and making monthly donations. You still have no romantic interests. You don’t even know someone to consider. When are things going to change? When will you say that you are totally happy with the way your life is going?
I know you have a lot of negative messages in your head. They have been there since your childhood and teens. “You don’t deserve to be happy. . . to succeed. . .to be loved . . . etc.” “You’re dumb, you’re stupid, you’re ugly, you are a failure.” That’s why in these letters, I have always tried to be gentle with you, to cajole you, and not sound like a drill sergeant. You don’t need more scolding or put-downs. But you have got to let go of those voices. That girl in high school who told the whole class how ugly you were was a low class, shallow, hateful person. You never thought she was pretty, but you let that voice ring in your head for decades. What made her an authority? You gave her way too much power, and it’s time to kick her to the curb.
It’s only been the last few years that you realized poverty influenced you and your three brothers more than anything else. You never discussed it, so you didn’t realize they felt the same way you did. We couldn’t complain; there was always a roof over your head and food on the table. You had a garden, which you guys had to help work. Your dad worked two jobs most of the time. You always had both parents in your home. They knew how to make you feel secure and happy. You never realized you had a shabby Christmas until you went back to school and heard what all the other kids got. You wondered why Santa liked them more, but all of you kept quiet. In high school, it was more obvious you didn’t have clothes as nice as the other girls; you didn’t have money to hang out with the other kids, or to get the latest gadgets. You didn’t want people to come to your house when they lived in such nice houses. There was just this overriding sense of shame that you and all your brothers felt. You knew your parents did the best they could, and all four of you got jobs as soon as you were able. All four of you felt inferior to what you thought was the rest of the world. Your brothers, as adults, have experienced some financial success on a small scale, and have been vindicated somewhat. However, you married a man who left you bankrupt in many ways. This particular road might be a dead end for you at this point. You don't have to be ashamed. Lots of decent people don't have any more than you do; being at the lower lower end of the income scale doesn't diminish your value as a person .
Considering your health, this may be the beginning of your last decade. You probably won’t make it another ten years. If you do, you want to remain independent. You don’t want to become disabled while your father is depending on you to run his home and care for him. Get that exercise. Walk, cut grass, weed flower beds, rake, whatever it takes. You can’t take care of him, if you’re sickly. Maybe the exercise will take care of a pound or two, but don’t count on it. When tempted to dip into Dad’s snacks, remind yourself you have to be healthy enough to take care of him, and put down the chip bag.
You don’t want to keep up the same issues year after year. Either get rid of all the clutter (it’s never once and for all, ‘cause you keep getting gifts and buying more stuff), or learn to live with it and be happy. Marie Kondo doesn’t live in your house. She’s just another person to make you feel unworthy. You do need to keep clean all your work surfaces, whether in the kitchen, the laundry room or your writing space. You don't need hindrances or distractions when you're working towards your goals.
Just write. "They" say that isn't a worthwhile goal. You have to be specific and set timelines. But, you don't have to justify yourself to anyone else. It’s the effort that satisfies. Don’t worry about polishing, or publishing. I want to see something new, if only a paragraph, every week. Blogs don't count. But you do need some organization here. You remember all the major works you’ve tried,but now can’t find them. How can you edit or add if you can’t find them on your laptop or in the cloud? You’re going to have to hook up your old hard drive and see what you can find. If you have to, you can start from scratch and write down those stories engraved in your head. Try entering at least one contest every month, just as an exercise.
And you have to get all the family history in a format that other family members can go through when you’re not around, and make sense of it. Those family tree programs are great for the researcher, but are meaningless to the average person who can’t navigate them. Write some anecdotes, and sketch out your research as user-friendly as possible.
I know you want to travel and visit far off places. I know you want love and romance; you feel like you were cheated. Men your age want younger women. Or the few widowers either want a replacement like the late wife or can't conceive of anyone else as a companion. I can’t help you with that. You may have to find your fulfillment in writing. Create the perfect romance on paper. Write about exocitc places or people who have traveled.
I hope I can write to you next year, either here or privately, and report some happy changes. Don’t let old voices or enemies stand in your way. Rise above them, and listen to your own voice. This has got to be your year.
Your Nurturing, Rational Self