Physical Struggles are not all Bad

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"Broken" 11x14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

“Broken” 11×14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

Yeah, I’m slowly getting better after having surgery, but I’ve gotten way behind on my blogs and my artwork. My house is in a sad state of affairs because I can’t lift, bend, or even bathe yet. Had the staples taken out yesterday, and now another five days of showers only.

But what’s the alternative? Have surgery or continue feeling crappy because I was too busy to have my stone-filled diseased gall bladder removed? I do know that in a few short weeks, I’ll start reaping the benefits of the surgery and catch up with my other responsibilities. There’s one thing about work. It usually waits for you.

I’ll take a physical struggle any day over one that you can’t see. I learned this from experience. During a difficult marriage I felt like Don Quixote fighting windmills and imaginary demons. One day when we had a deluge of water from a downpour, our basement windows filled with water. The whole family was outside with buckets scooping water out and away from the house.

"Tickles from God" acrylic on canvas

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

While bailing, I felt exhilarated. Here was an enemy I could actually see and I was doing everything in my power to defeat it. Every muscle in my body was engaged. Our family was working as a team. My husband and I were finally on the same side, fighting an enemy that was real. We were drenched when it was over, and we hadn’t succeeded in saving our basement carpet, but we were united around a common purpose.

The struggle invigorated me because:

  1. I had the tools,
  2. I knew what I was up against, and
  3. The outcome didn’t really matter because we all did the best that we could and we did it together.

I’ve had many challenges in my life, but most of them I worked on alone, and I was the benefactor of my efforts. The kitchen floor of our first tiny home was covered with black tiles that were so thickly coated with wax that every scratch and scuff showed. I made it a goal to restore its former beauty.

Each day I’d razor blade one or two tiles, three if my two babies were good. I kept at it doggedly. I made a decision that I didn’t care how long it took. I was more concerned about sticking to my goal and completing the task I had committed to.

"Looking Outward" (old window frame); acrylic on glass/canvas

“Looking Outward” (old window frame); acrylic on glass/canvas

Six months later the floor was done! I cleaned it and gave it a slight sheen. They looked like brand new tiles. This struggle not only gave me a better looking floor, but a sense of accomplishment. I had completed what I set out to do. I was determined. I knew that if I could do this floor, I could do anything I set my mind to.

In this way, I taught myself how to sew clothes for me and my children, make quilts, sew wall art, crochet, knit, cook, make bread and doughnuts, learn how to can fruits and vegetables, etc.

Over the years I followed this same “modus operandi.” I became tenacious to a fault. Sometimes I’d forge ahead even though it became obvious my efforts weren’t reaping what I’d hoped. Learning how to stop something that isn’t working is just as important as sticking to a goal and seeing it through. Once you determine when a project or a goal must be revisited, analyzed or changed you save valuable time and energy.

Your efforts must be guided and focused. What you learn from your failures and mistakes is just as important as what you glean from your successes. You have to figure out what struggles are worth it and which ones are not.

Don’t Let your Partner Browbeat or Bulldoze you!

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"Namesake" acrylic on canvas

“Namesake” acrylic on canvas

I’ve been married three times, so I’ve earned the right to “tell it like it is.” Three different men have been a part of my life, and each thought that his way was the best way and the only way!

I’ve had to relearn new ways and unlearn old habits. Just when I thought it was “economical to turn off the radio on my car when I stopped the engine,” I had to change because another spouse thought it didn’t make a diddly-squat difference.

One partner said that leaving the radio on was a drag on the battery. The other could care less. He left the radio constantly running believing that newer cars were up to the task. Who was right?

One man was a stickler for cleaning. Bathroom vents were vacuumed and washed at least monthly. The floors and baseboards were mopped weekly. Everything had to be in its place. When I was working, I felt my whole life orbited around his high expectations.

"The Dance" 11 x 14 pastel, matted and ready to frame

“The Dance” 11 x 14 pastel, matted and ready to frame

Another spouse was super casual. He could care less if I made the bed each day. He was relaxed and laidback, but then things that were in need of repair were put off. The bathroom vents were seldom touched. I found myself missing the spotless appearance of before, but happy that someone wasn’t constantly on my back.

The problem for me was that each husband expected me to comply and follow suit with his ways and wishes. If I did something my way or the way of “those who went before,” I was chastised and told, in no uncertain terms, how to do it the correct way.

All three couldn’t be right nor all three wrong. Ironically I taught my children to think independently. I told them there were several ways in which something could be accomplished. After showing them how I did something, I told them to find their own best way. They could do a chore anyway they wanted too as long as the end result met my expectations (a clean room).

I always felt a person was far more important than the things they owned or used. When we become myopic, and focus on habit and tradition over someone else’s feelings, we’re missing the whole point of bonding and forging close relationships.

When “It’s my way or the highway,” bitterness ensues. Marriage becomes a competition between two people who are at odds with each other. Cooperation is one thing, domineering is quite another. I remember the scalding reprimand I got when I cut too much off the top of a strawberry. I was told to use the point of the knife and scoop out the green leaf leaving the top of the fruit unscathed. This works well for one strawberry, but by the time you get through a box or a case you’re tired fingers turn the berries into mush.

Everything I learned in my home as a girl from my own dear mother was criticized and replaced by someone else’s means and methods. I was called wasteful by one spouse and too thrifty by another. My self-esteem floundered and I felt restricted and smothered. One abusive mate said I was the “worst woman’ he’d ever known,” and the other ignored me altogether; seldom smiled and never laughed at my jokes. It was like I spoke a foreign language.

When my current husband thought I was funny, understood what I was saying, and we started finishing each other’s sentences, I knew we had the essence of compatibility.

Once a woman breaks free – look out! My third husband caught the brunt of my former repression. Thank goodness he’s a patient man! We have good communication and he doesn’t feel threatened when I insist on doing things my own way as long as I allow him to do the same. It’s silly to waste time on trivial differences when there’s a whole world of exciting adventures to share.

A woman shouldn’t be treated (nor a man) as a doormat in order to make someone else feel powerful. Every person has the right to discover their own strengths and weaknesses. No one should have to endure demeaning or insulting remarks from someone who is supposed to “love and cherish” them. This goes for both parties! Physical and verbal abuse should never be tolerated. Your emotional wellbeing, perhaps your life is at stake! If you can’t get past it, if you can’t put a stop to it, get out!

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas