Two weddings, two babies and a funeral … a pandemic love story

Two weddings, two babies and a funeral … a pandemic love story

Eighteen months of life during pandemic.

How can time feel like a slog and a sprint in the same moment? How can our hearts process it all when life comes at us with this kind of intensity?

The bittersweet joy of a wedding, with the oldest generation notably absent, followed four weeks later by Dad’s death. 

The thrill of a new engagement, at the beginning of that oddly quiet and strange holiday season we all stayed home, miles apart.

That Christmas day itself, the early morning “we’re pregnant!” call from the newlyweds, followed that night by “it’s a girl!” from  the not-so-newlyweds. The anxiety and concern. When will it be safe to visit? Will all this be over when the next baby arrives? 

A moment of serendipity with my sister, finding the perfect dress for next spring’s wedding (Will we all be able to gather safely by then? I have hope. I buy the dress.) during time that was meant for visiting Mom … until the latest lockdown at her facility nixed that plan.

Through it all, a growing realization that some of my closest family is my chosen tribe, the ones who are just enough removed from the immediacy of it all to open their arms wide and let me rest there a bit. 

There has been love. Big, heaving gobs of love that rose from frustration, celebration, disappointment, anticipation, grief, joy, loneliness, and uncertainty. My heart now understands it can hold two or more emotions in any given moment, where happy sits hand-in-hand with sad, and grief is comforted by grace.

The past 18 months have been an epic love story for this family, with enough requisite plot twists and revelations to make it a juicy read. We are stronger together than we’ve ever been. I am grateful.

Some might call it a drama; at times it feels more like a rom-com. Really though, it’s a mystery. It’s life, in 2021. It’s love, pandemic-style. And there is no telling where this beautiful, crazy love story goes from here. 

To the beautiful, amazing, soulful people in my family — by blood, by marriage, and by choice — you are my heroes.

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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We are not prepared for this …

We are not prepared for this …

I learned at a young age the value of being prepared. The snow scraper and kitty litter stayed in the trunk October through April (if you get it, raise your hand). Now perched in coastal NC, I replenish the “Spam, hash and Oreo stash” faithfully every May (again, show of hands and shout out your own variation of storm prep essentials).

I’m back in Central NY this week. Relentless rain leftover from Fred the Storm finds me and my sister digging up memories of Mom furiously digging ditches around our childhood home during another leftover storm to keep the water from pouring into the basement. I had no idea at the time how strong she was.)

Emergencies we can handle. We are completely unprepared for the long, slow drawn-out crisis of “life as we know” it at this age, at this point in our lives, during this season in our country’s history. My long-planned visit to see Mom (the main reason I’m here this week) has been cancelled due to Covid. I know what to do in an emergency … but what about this kind of non-urgent yet highly important non-crisis?

How have we been prepped to watch our parents as they age, as the people we know slip away and are replaced by people still familiar yet wholly strange? 

How are we prepared for being the grownups in the room, on social media in online conversations or face-to-face interactions in the world, as society convulses in the weirdest ways? What prepared us for waking up from the American Dream to the reality of masks, hand sanitizer and relentless debate?

Nobody told me to be ready for any of this. And it’s not just me. It’s so many of my friends when we get real about what’s going on in our lives. 

Nobody warned us about dying parents and stressed out kids and ugly neighbors and divisions that can’t seem to be bridged by simple common empathy. Nobody mentioned we might go days without a decent night’s sleep, for no apparent reason. Nobody thought to tell us that our mental health was as real — and as vulnerable — as our physical health. Nobody warned us there would be days when, after a productive and largely successful earlier part of our lives, we would have to learn all over again how to do life.

I’m tired. I’m worn out with it all. Trying to make sense of it all. Trying to keep a positive light shining. Trying to hold on the what matters, even as we accept what’s new. It’s too much. And it has to be done regardless. So I go back to what I know. 

I know my way around a bag of kitty litter on black ice in a freezing wind. I know how to recover when the car starts to fishtail. I know where my portable Coleman stove is at all times. I can always boil water. 

So that’s where I’ll start … with what I know. 

I know the world is absolutely loaded with gorgeous, kind souls. I also know that many of those gorgeous souls are feeling the same way I am. Disoriented. A bit adrift. Wondering how we got here, yes, but not wasting too much energy on that question when faced with the more urgent questions of what do I do now.

What I know with all my heart is that I can’t let my questions distract me from the joyous parts of the life … the reunions, new beginnings and happy stories deserve, no, demand, my attention. Your tribe, your circle, your people deserve your presence.

We are not hothouse flowers. We do not wilt when things aren’t just so. We have good roots, strong stems and lasting beauty that changes with us. Our voices are still clear and true.

So maybe we have not be adequately warned so about life as we now know it. Let’s lean in to the gorgeous, kind souls that surround us, and figure it all out together. 

Feeling it.

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We forgot to tell the bees …

We forgot to tell the bees …

I don’t remember where I first heard of “telling the bees,” but I had a beautiful reminder of the soulful tradition when I read The Beekeeper’s Promise last summer. 

The practice of notifying the hives or telling the bees when a momentous event (usually the death of the master or mistress, but also births, weddings, children, etc.) appears in many European folklore traditions, as bees are often seen as a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Some say it has its roots in the Celtic culture; this resonates with my soul beautifully.

I though back to this when my dad died in October. He wasn’t a beekeeper … yet he had a large and far-flung “hive” of family and friends. His address book (translated to an Excel spreadsheet over the years) was massive. My siblings and I spent hours on the phone reaching out and sharing the news of his passing. In the process we shared laughs, tears and a reconnection with people we hadn’t talk to in years. It was healing just to have those conversations, even while we knew we were sharing sad news.

Because Dad died during the pandemic, gathering was limited to family and the closest friends, with a private funeral Mass and no calling hours. Still, we felt so very grateful we at least could gather in church to send Dad on his way. His faith was strong; not having a funeral would have been unimaginable.

So many thousands of others this past year weren’t so fortunate. The unimaginable became the everyday. So many missed funerals, cancelled weddings, newborns with no grandparents to visit … so much loss of all kinds. Lost jobs, lost incomes, lost friendships, lost beliefs, lost hopes … in too many cases even lost faith as the things we used to believe were bedrock began to crack into pieces.

Collectively, we had no way to tell the bees. 

Life continued.

For many it looks entirely different now … even if nothing really changed on the surface. For me, it’s a greater clarity of what’s important in my life, and what I can (should) gracefully and gratefully let go. It’s the gathering of the tribe, when we reconnect back around a central hive and share our stories. It’s the moments around a fire pit, the shared meals, seeing the band play live again.

Just beginning to tell my stories again, I’m exploring my feelings and realizations — even though I don’t have it all figured out. For me, writing is how I get there. Putting the foggy gray feelings into black and white forces me to makes at least some sense of it all. 

I’m not the same person I was in the winter of 2020. Yeah, I miss her. She was a lot of fun, relaxed, happy, productive. Still, I’m learning to embrace who I’ve become. She’s still fun, with an extra portion of grace and strength and some eyes-wide-open disbelief at some of the things I never noticed before. 

I need to speak my truth of the loss and fear and darkness of last year, so my hive begins to understand. 

I need to tell the bees.

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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No, I’m not a hot mess

No, I’m not a hot mess

I’m walking along the beach listening to one in a series of mediations from the Chopra Center on the energy of attraction and manifesting desires.

I’ve listened to this series probably five times; each time through it I have a powerful experience of manifesting a particular dream or desire — a new client, a buyer for my house, an outcome with a relationship. And each time, my faith in the process is renewed.

This time it was a simple idea that rang through me: The more whole we realize we are, the more powerful our intentions.

“When you pursue love, beauty, creativity, innovation, meaning and a higher vision of life, the energy of attraction becomes much stronger.” Deepak Chopra, M.D.

The key to easily manifesting desires is remembering we are indeed whole, at a deeply spiritual level. We are not the hot-mess train-wreck lovable disasters we joke about. Yes, on the physical plane we may have lacks, needs, struggles, traumas, scars, yoga hair, bad credit scores and frustrations that keep us mired. Yet when we move deeper into the core of who we really are, we find that center where we are indeed whole. Unbroken. Undamaged.

Still resonating with this idea, I looked down at the sand on the edge of the surf, and saw the tip of a conch shell sticking up. I unburied the shell with my foot, and pulled out a beauty … 6 inches long with gorgeous coloring and a beautiful swirl. And just to reinforce the lesson for the day, there was a hole in the outer level of the shell.

It was exactly what I needed to find.

Here was this thing of exquisite natural beauty, not perfect by a shell hunter’s standards, yet absolutely whole. I held the shell in my hand, almost in tears at the perfect lesson. (This shell will live on my desk so I never forget that the outer “damage” doesn’t matter … wholeness exists on a much deeper level.)

The dreams and desires that come from our deepest selves hold the key to bliss. Honor what your heart is telling you, and set aside the idea that you have to fix yourself, or anything and anyone else, before you can be worthy of your dream.

You just have to look past what you think is missing to see the complete and beautiful reality.

Bliss on …

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Rethinking whalebone in a post-pandemic world …

Rethinking whalebone in a post-pandemic world …

It reads like something you might have seen in any media outlet this time last year.

“From Syracuse, N.Y., to Idaho Falls, Idaho, some stores were shut, while others limited hours and crowd capacity, or encouraged phone orders. Merchants discouraged exchanges and returns to limit transmission,” notes this post from WWWD.

Sounds right … even though the author is describing the impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak on the fashion world.

“Through the fall of 1918, sales of blankets, comforters and winter underwear (a precursor to today’s stay-at-home ath-leisure?) were up, while sales of ready-to-wear and children’s wear were hard hit. (Many mothers were afraid to take their children to stores.) Suit sales also dropped.”

It was the 100-years-ago version of Netflix and chill.

As our fashionista ancestors came out of the pandemic and the post-lockdown depression morphed into the Roaring Twenties, they made some choices. Flapper fashion began to rule the runways (this was the age of Coco Channel, Lanvin, Gucci, etc) and one thing in particular was relegated to the burn bin: the corset.

There was a lot of burning going on.

“This was also the time when women were given the right to vote in the United States. This new found freedom and desire to have fun, caused a shift in female fashion,” writes Jordan Anderson in NSS Magazine. “It was the birth of a new woman who abandoned the traditional corset silhouette for something much more freeing.  Dresses were shorter,  looser with a lower or non existent waistline and more revealing aspects like short sleeves and lower bust lines as trends moved further away from the Victorian era of dressing.”

The parallels can’t be ignore. Now, strong, clear voices are calling out oppression … in all its insidious, rib-cracking, air-sucking, life-stifling forms . Glass ceilings and walls are cracking under the strain, and there’s growing awareness that the old normal isn’t simply undergoing growing pains; it’s gone.

The political and social shockwaves took a personal joy ride for me yesterday, talking with my daughter when she called from California. We had one of our beautifully rambling talks, and got on the subject of buying clothes as she begins to plan going back to the office. (It was her comment about the Spanish Flu and the corset drop that inspired this post. She is always dropping these profound nuggets into our conversations, one of the reasons I love talking with her.)

Like so many of us, she feels that she’s gone through some profound change this past year. She likens it to packing for summer camp, when you get to decide who you want to be around so many people who don’t know you from “before.”

The challenge? Being intentional with her choices. Does she buy fast fashion that will last her a season or two, then get pitched? Or will she opt for fewer, higher quality pieces that will stay in her wardrobe for years?

The same discussion goes for relationships. Do we still want to amass a “following” on social media that we call friends, or will we spend our time cultivating deeper connections with lasting value? Neither is “wrong” (you do you, girlfriend), as long as you decide, with intention, how you want your life to look.

As we remember how to be public beings again, are we going to strap on the mental, social and emotional corsets of old, bound to the way things “should” be done, longing to ease back into the familiar? Or will we look around with wide, clear eyes and realize yes, things have changed, in ourselves and each other? Things are profoundly changed now, in ways we can’t measure yet.

Me, I’m spending a lot of time deciding on the next best version of myself, and how she moves in the world. What matters to her, what turns her off. What fills her soul, and what drains her. What makes her better … and what brings her down. I need this guidepost to navigate so much that is new to me right now, so much change and disruption and blossoming and retreating and growing and shifting, so much light and dark fighting for me attention.

This is the work of a lifetime, an epic moment in our country’s and our world’s history. And maybe it deserves more than the ratty pair of yoga capris I’ve lived in for the last several months. Or, maybe that just doesn’t matter right now.

(Update … my daughter just informed me she went to Target sans bra after our conversation. And I couldn’t be prouder.)

Live with intention first, action next. This is where I’ll be.

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

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Fear … the worst motivator a gal ever had

Fear … the worst motivator a gal ever had

Being afraid … of missing out, of losing out, of disappointing people, of not being enough … of anything and everything. It’s a great motivator to force us to make decisions. When you’re afraid you feel the need to do something … ANYTHING … to make the feeling stop. It forces us to think of solutions to our current situation, and do something about it.

Here’s the problem though — the decisions I’ve made when I’ve been afraid have pretty much not moved the needle toward the life I imagine myself living.

Sure, if you’re facing actual physical danger the motivation of being afraid is life-saving. But really, folks, how often is the tiger lurking behind that tree a real tiger with real claws and real fangs? (Happy guy with the bobcat in his driveway not-withstanding. Google the video if you haven’t see it yet)

When we are in that state of uncertainty or anxiety, and feel the need to act, how do we avoid doing something we might regret a ways down the path?

Rule #6 – Name Your Fear

For me I reach for Rule #6 for a Blissy Life … Name your fear. Be still for a moment and listen to your heart to help you understand what you’re really afraid of. More often than not, my immediate fear is replaced by deeper wants or needs that won’t be satisfied by a quick decision … decisions that might even make the problem worse in the long run.

This is especially true for me when I’m afraid of “breaking the rules.” Going off book from the expectations of others (or myself) and taking my own weird, gorgeous path. I strongly believe that fear is the main reason we too often accept society’s “rules,” instead of living by our own.

The idea of following our own path, disregarding the safe and the predictable, is scary. What if I fail? What if I disappoint people? What if I change my mind?

So we take the easy, less frightening path …and miss out on on what could have been amazing.

What are you afraid of? What keeps you up at night? What prevents you from choosing what your heart wants, instead of what you “should” do? Maybe it’s time to take a deeper look at what’s really driving that anxiety. Behind the fear is the real “why” we can all embrace if we have the faith and the love to do so.

Much love

(A note on anxiety)

Anxiety can be a symptom of real and urgent mental health conditions. Reach out to a health professional if your anxiety is getting in the way of you living your life. And know that you have my love, support and understanding. I’ve been there.

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores.

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Oh. Em. PEE. – the Stench That Launched a New Hobby

Oh. Em. PEE. – the Stench That Launched a New Hobby

For the past few weeks, I have been taking the carpet cleaner to the second level of my home. Like, really giving the carpet up there a ‘what for’. There is a smell in my house and I don’t like it. Actually, I don’t like a lot of things in this situation. I don’t like going upstairs, it is the boy’s area and frankly, it just smells. I hate the smell of their bathroom. I hate the smell of the carpet. I strongly dislike boy funk. Before I lugged the machine up there, I thought that the smells of rotting pee (that, for some reason, I was the ONLY one who can smell it) were from the boy’s bathroom. I constantly used the Alexa to ask someone, anyone, I don’t care if it wasn’t you, but please flush that toilet!

But the smell never went away.

I went upstairs and I scrubbed their bathroom for them. Normally, this is Dave’s job and one that he doesn’t take very seriously. I took an afternoon and was very serious about it. I made that room sparkle. But, the very next day, OMFeta, the smell!

I’m not going to claim super smarts here. I mean, the fact that I have to medicate my sweet pupper, Libby, for incontinence and that my house was smelling like pee never seemed to connect in my frazzled brain. Until the gross day when it did. See, upstairs, in the hallway, there is a long nook area. It is meant to house a few desks, I believe. There is task lighting built-in, multiple outlets and switches. I always used it as a place to store kid’s toys. There is a cubby area and a soft *grass like* rug.

The day had been a bit humid when I smelled the smell that finally got so bad that even the hubs started to notice it. I worked with the kids to remove all the toys, get them into bins and move out the furniture and remove the cozy rug. The cozy, pee-stained, rug. The staining on the carpet underneath was disgusting. There are no washing instructions on the rug. I guess that IKEA assumed that it would not be used as an old lady pupper pee pad. But it was and out to the garage it went.

Over multiple days and two and a half bottles of carpet cleaner (according to the bottles, each were enough to do two large rooms apiece), I turned about 20’x8’ of disgusting into the cleanest carpet in the entire house.

The smell was starting to go away. I mean, no one else could smell it, but I think that it is engraved into my nose memory, because even when I go outside, I can smell it.

But I had a thought, why stop there? I have decided that pulling gross water from my carpets my be my new 2021 hobby. Forget the Banana Bread of 2020, this hot new, still in quarantine, hobby is Carpet Cleaning.

I made Dave clean his room. I mean, really clean his room. We reorganized with a new bookcase that would actually hold his books, and a new closet organizer to allow him to store his gaming stuff. Everything got vacuumed like it was the first time. Then, I roared with my Rug Doctor and together, the Dr and I washed his floor. We did it over a series of a few days, and gave it a total of four passes with soap and once with just the water. In the end, Dave was begging for his room back, the carpet looked amazing, but was still pulling out slightly dirty water.

After I put everything back into Dave’s room, Hank caught me in his room, looking around. The Dr stood in the doorway, blocking him from his own room. Hank’s room is next. I fully believe that whereas his room doesn’t really smell like anything more than little boy sweat, that his carpet is going to be a treasure trove of dirty. I am excited to tackle his room. Next, the stairs, then the library, then the main floor hall, and then, and then…

The day that I run out of carpet, I am going to have to either find a new hobby or start all over.

As for that cozy, grass like, snuggly, perfectly soft, pee rug? I may tackle it later. Maybe in the dead of summer, when the sun is at it highest and the hose water is at it’s coldest. I may lay it out on the driveway and stare at it, with my iced coffee in hand, and just will it to stop being gross by the power of a mom’s glare.  Or maybe, I’ll just learn the lesson and pitch it.

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Say you’re sorry.

Say you’re sorry.

It was a mantra of sorts growing up in my house. Knowing when and how to apologize sincerely … when mistakes are made, when you know you did something that was hurtful or wrong … is a good thing. Manners are a good thing in any family, and a sincere apology goes a long way toward rebuilding trust and harmony.

But let’s not take it too far.

Anything that becomes rote becomes mindless.

I was deep in a conversation with a friend the other day when things touched a nerve and emotions came to the surface. She immediately apologized, something I think so many of do when the tears well up.

We don’t want to make others uncomfortable, or think maybe they said or did something wrong. That’s admirable, but not apology-worthy.

Apologizing for an honest reaction, a raw emotion, diminishes the value of that emotion. It also diminishes the receiver of the apology, in an interesting way. When someone feels safe enough around me to have those raw moments, without fear of me judging them, I’m honored, not chagrined. I can handle your tears, your fears, your insecurities just as well as I can handle your joy and your laughter.

When “sorry not sorry” became an internet trope, it encapsulated our collective need to own our feelings, share our thoughts, without prejudging them on our own behalf.

You want to cry? Cool.

You’re mad as hell? Awesome.

You’re so confused you don’t even know what you feel? Been there.

We all have dreams and desires and wishes and needs that others can only guess at. Let’s stop assuming that these are something we ought to apologize for.

So don’t jump right to the apology. If you’re about to get all Level 10 emotional, a little heads up might be in order, but an apology in definitely not required.

Love the heart that beats inside you.

Carol Pearson is the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life and the founder of the 10 Little Rules Books Series.

 

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