Improving. Day 7

I just went with my friend, Kristin, to a speaker event hosted by our shared alma mater, Wake Forest University.  Carla Harris, a Vice Chairman at Morgan Stanley and Chair of the National Women’s Business Council, delivered a talk on her “Pearls of Wisdom”.  Her talk was excellent, and she was very motivating.  She had several career suggestions that I am going to try.  She seems like she has it all figured out.

Then there is me.  Who doesn’t have it all figured out.

Which leads me to tonight’s faux Rosh Hashanah question.

Question:  How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?


I would like to spend more time in prayer, studying the Bible and communicating with God. While I have conversations with God in my head all the time, I don’t put a lot of time aside for prayer — deliberate praising, deliberate worship and deliberate asking for specific help. I have been much more actively engaged in our relationship in the past, and I know that I felt myself to be more calm, more relaxed and even more confident when I did.

This year, I feel like I have been in survival mode most of the year. My prayers have all been about “help me”, “comfort me”, “relieve me”, and “guide me”. I would like to spend more time praying about other people, other problems, about learning, about growing, about next adventures, about how I can help others instead of others helping me.

I love this picture. It hung over the dining table in my grandparents’ house, where we ate every Sunday lunch. Seeing it will always make me think of being with them and my family.

The best advice that I received this year that will guide me in my journey is not new and is not complicated. It was simply, “Cristy, you don’t have to have everything figured out right now.” It took a little while for that to sink in.  My first instinct when faced with my crisis (getting separated) was triage:  Stop the immediate bleeding and then see how to return everything to as close to normal as possible.

For me, that meant moving out quickly, buying a house quickly, asking myself questions about where I thought I would be in 3 years, 5 years, and trying to get everything situated just so as fast as possible.  I was working myself into a tail spin.  And then a couple of people gave me this really good advice.  “Cristy, you don’t have to have everything figured out right now.”  And when it did sink in, I was so relieved.

The plan that I had for my life was gone.  It was going to be different by necessity.  But, it was ok if I didn’t have that plan sketched out now.  Now, when my knees are still a little wobbly.  Now, when I’m still learning my options.  Now, when I’ve got more options than I had before.

I can accept that having some questions left unanswered is ok, and it means that I spend less time calling on God to help me figure out my situation and more time enjoying what I have and those around me.

By this time next year, I will be….

I got the 6th question in the series of questions for my 10 days of self-evaluation and reflection.  This one was pretty easy to answer, but has been hard for me to achieve in the past.  Is this the year?

Question:  Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?


I would like to be more physically fit. I had a health scare this year, and even though the scare could have happened if I were the most physically fit person in the world, it was still a glimpse into how quickly my health could be lost. No sense in hurrying things along by not taking care of my health.

I have never, never, ever, not ever (get the picture?) enjoyed exercising. I have enjoyed active pastimes, like dancing and walking with friends, but exercise for exercise’s sake — gross.

It’s like taxes, however. Must do, or the consequences won’t be to my liking.


I want to do this because I want to be healthy, not only during my middle-age years, but especially during my golden years (I actually hate that term).  The people on both sides of my family live long, long lives.  I have great-aunts that lived several years past their 100th birthdays.  My paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather both lived into their late 90s.  The odds are in my favor that I have only lived half of my life.  I would like to be as healthy, pain-free and mentally competent, as possible.  Especially since I have a lot of things that I want to do in the second half of my life.

Here’s to the second half!  I have a lot more smarts and confidence going into this half than when starting the last half.  Plus, starting the second half, I’m already mobile and have credit.  Score.

Friends Are Gifts: Day 5

Day five has rolled around.  Half way there during my 10 day, 10 questions as part of self-evaluation, reflection, faux Rosh Hashanah.  Answering this question was easy.

Question:  Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

I have had such a tumultuous year. I have often felt like nothing is under my control. This has definitely been a year that has underscored the fact that as much as we plan, as much as we envision the way that our lives will work out, it only takes one trip to the doctor, one conversation in the kitchen, one meeting at work to change the path that we previously had been traveling.

It’s not like I have lived this long without facing disappointment or disruption to my life plan before. I have definitely faced many, many upheavals in my life. Deaths, breakups, major depressions, work failures…. But I have never had so many happen together in such a short period of time.

My spiritual experience out of all of this is the deepening belief that when I feel like I have no control (which in fact, I don’t), I have to rely on God. And so far, He hasn’t let me down. I have survived every twist that has come my way, despite any doubts that I might have had about my own strength.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 6.46.49 PMAnd God has brought people into my life that have been critical to my healing and my ability to make it through difficult times, offering love and support. I am no one special, but I have special people for friends. They have special talents and gifts, and they have shared them with me. The fact that I keep expanding my circle of friends that help me grow and enrich me as a person, just at a time in my life when I need them the most, is a sign of God working in my life.

Lucky Me. Day 4

I have had a lovely day, continuing to settle into my new house, followed by dinner with some friends.  I love the weekends.

I have my fourth question for this period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  It’s a good question.  Have you, by chance, been thinking of how you would answer these questions?

Question: Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?


I was listening to NPR one morning when a story came on about how there were rapes taking place in many villages in India when the women and young girls went outside to use the bathroom.  The lack of any means of more hygienic way to use the bathroom was putting them at risk.  Click on the image below to read the transcript or to listen to the original broadcast.

Women shout slogans during a protest against the gang rape and hanging of two teenage girls. Beyond highlighting the rampant sexual violence in India, the crimes are drawing attention to a glaring and fundamental problem across the country that threatens women’s safety: the lack of toilets.

I was appalled by the story.  I was not naive enough to think that the rest of the world all had nice, indoor plumbing, with power flush and low flow toilets.  But it had never occurred to me that females were put at risk because of the absence of these items that I take for granted everyday.  These necessities that I expect to just be there.

When I first heard the broadcast on that June morning, I had a moment of clarity about how truly fortunate I was to live where I do and to be born into the socioeconomic level that I was.  I have problems, I have stresses, I see things around me that drive me crazy.  But I do not experience anything like this.

I have thought of this story many, many times since I first heard it.  When I have had bad days, I remind myself that I am a lucky female.

The Box — Day 3

Another day, another question in my 10 days of self-evaluation and reflection, aka faux Rosh Hashanah.  The first two questions invoked some strong emotions as I answered the questions.  But, I suppose it wouldn’t lead to true reflection if the questions were soft ball questions.  Asking things like, “Where do you like to eat lunch?” doesn’t really make you think….or maybe it does if you have strong feelings about lunch, lunch foods, lunch habits, and / or lunch places.  I don’t, so the questions that the website 10Q sends are more in line with my expectations.

Question:  Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?


It took me awhile to think of an answer for this question because my first inclination was to try to think of milestone birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births, etc. that took place this past year.  I couldn’t think of any that I would consider a major milestone.  But it was the 5th anniversary of my father’s death this year, and I relive that milestone each year.

My father’s death marked a major shift in the lives of my family, especially my father’s side of the family.  And while there has been healing, there will never be full recovery.

When I moved into my new house, I also moved a box of files that I brought home with me from Mexico, where my father had been living when he unexpectedly passed away.  Since the time of his death, this box has been sitting in closets, or workshops, or man caves.  Since we closed his estate last year, I had started to finally go through the box and decide what could be shredded and what needed to be saved.  After I moved, it was a project that I took on one weekend.

I only wish that my dad’s box looked so well. A trip from Mexico meant that it was very beat up.

I had looked through this box of files many, many times after my dad first died in an effort to find answers about his health and about his finances.  I knew that the box was a duke’s mixture of items — all the information on the house that he was in the process of buying when he died to a list of the #1 songs on the Billboard chart in 1965.  A single file folder could be a lot of nothing, or it could be full of valuable information.

I hadn’t gone through that box in a couple of years until this year.  And the simple act of cleaning out the box and sorting through his files had a deep impact on me.  I laughed out loud at some of the items that I found, like his application to his 50th high school reunion that took place a couple of months after he died.  On his application, he was asked to answer the question “What have you been doing the last 50 years?”  His response “Living life to the fullest and having a great time.”  Yep.  And he answered the question “What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?” by saying “Being the best at living life to the fullest and having a great time.”  Double yep.

I also felt incredibly sad as I found record of some of the times that he struggled, trying to make ends meet, and sometimes finding it hard to do.

Revisiting this box and its items, without the overwhelming grief that accompanied my first forays into its confines immediately after his death, allowed me to feel like I had spent the weekend communing in some small way with my dad.  That is a major happening, whichever way you look at it.

My 2nd Day of Reflection

I’m continuing to borrow a small piece of tradition during the Jewish New Year of 10 days of reflection and self-evaluation between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  I hope that I don’t offend any Jewish people in taking this small piece of a tradition out of the greater context of the holiday and the meanings behind the overall traditions.

My question from the 10Q website today to help provoke thought was:

Question 2.  Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?


While I may inwardly preen, it is actually hard to say out loud “I am proud of myself”. It’s not that I don’t do things for which I am proud — it’s that it feels boastful to say it out loud. I think that it’s a female thing. Or maybe it’s just me. Regardless, it’s not often that I say, “I did this, and I rocked it, and I’m proud of myself.”

But I will now.

I’m proud of the way that I handled finding out and then being in the hospital with my pulmonary embolism. Or my clotty clot clot, as I call it. For many days, I was scared, and tired, and in pain. And when I could finally stop being scared and was out of pain, I was just tired, and bored, and uncomfortable.  It was a bad 6 days and 5 nights.

I could have had a major pity party, feeling sorry for myself, but I didn’t. I could have been grumpy and cranky, but I wasn’t.

You have very little control of anything when you are in the hospital. You eat when they bring you food. You take a shower when the nurses unhook you from all the machines long enough to take a shower. You sleep when they leave you alone long enough to actually sleep. You get information about your health when they are ready to give you information, and not one minute early.

I had control of exactly one thing — my reaction to the situation. My reaction could have been days spent in anger, frustration and crankiness. Or it could have been days spent with patience, calmness and laughter where I could find it.

I am proud that I chose the laughter.

My Jewish Experiment: Day One

I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning, and the hosts mentioned that today was the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  One of the traditions of this very holy time is that Jews use the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to reflect on the year and spend time in self-evaluation and reflection.

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From Wikipedia, Definition of Rosh Hashanah

The segment went on to talk about how some Jews were blending their beliefs into the modern world by using technology during this ten day period, using a site called 10Q.  You can sign up for this website and each day for the 10 days get a thought provoking question in your inbox.  You answer it and submit.  At the end of the 10 days, your answers “go away” until next year during Rosh Hashanah.  Then you get your answers from the previous year (to help show how your life has progressed over the year), plus another 10 questions to answer for the current year.

This year has been a memorable, significant year in my life.  I have had a life-threatening illness, the dissolution of my marriage, and some fundamental challenges to the things that I believe.

If there was ever a time to reflect and complete self-evaluation, this is it.  And I liked the idea of tackling it, one question at a time, one day at a time.

So, here goes day one:

Question:  Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Wow!  Just go for broke, right out of the gate…

I have had several significant experiences this year.

1. I developed a pulmonary embolism and could have died
2. My husband asked me for a divorce
3. I bought a new house and began to rebuild a residence

The one that I would pick to discuss is buying a house and rebuilding my safe haven.

I am an introvert that is surrounded by people all day, so having a haven, a place to be still and to recharge my batteries is critical to my well being. After it became evident that my marriage was going to end, there was a time that we still shared a house. This might have been some of the most stressful time in my life because I lost having a safe zone. My house became a tension filled and unwelcoming, so finding a place to make safe again was so important.

I am slowly doing this with the purchase of a house. And I have felt every emotion possible in the months since. There is no way to describe how I feel without talking about almost all emotions.  Joy when the fence went in, keeping my dog safe. Anxiety and aggravation during the whole loan process. Loneliness during that first night on my own in the house. Relief when all the kitchen boxes were finally unpacked. Pissed off because I have to do this to begin with. Excited because it’s mine, mine, mine to do with whatever I want. Proud when the new color turned out just right. Worried that I am making decisions based on emotion, not rational thought. On, and on, and on.

Mostly, though, I am grateful. Grateful that I have a support system. Grateful that I am learning how to ask for help and to recognize that people find joy in helping.  Grateful that I am not alone, even during this time when I should feel the most alone.

I would never have chosen the circumstances that led me to rebuilding my safe haven — but I am a better person for knowing that I have all these wonderful people in my life.