A Step at a Time

The proverb The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step[i] shows up in various forms, with somewhat different endings. The point, though, remains the same. All beginnings require some action.

Last week I wrote about Life Plans and how, with all the challenges and opportunities, life doesn’t often go as planned. From my youth, I can cite nearly endless examples. The future model became a grocery store check-out clerk. The promising businessman from the wealthy family disappeared in a cloud of addiction. The future preschool owner became a medical doctor. The shy girl who planned to teach moved to Europe and went into broadcasting. The future school administrator sold insurance. While I know a few people who worked in the field they planned to, most did not. Still, they seem happy.

During my high school (secondary school) years, my dad repeatedly assured me that he would never help a female (me) with any college costs, nor would he disclose his income by filling out financial aid forms. Guidance counselors assured me of my capabilities and the importance of a university education. Knowing my dad meant what he said, I held onto my high school enrollment in a college-bound educational track instead of focusing on vocational training, but all my elective classes related to clerical skills I believed would help me secure work. And they did.

After graduation, I married young and my spouse groused constantly about my interest in education. Nevertheless, I took college classes – one or two at a time – and I worked.

What I wanted to be as a child – an elementary school teacher – sounded delightful until I volunteered in a classroom. It took one day for me to acknowledge few students would appear as a mini-Me, filled with a love of learning and a desire to make the world a better place. In fact, the classroom environment felt more like the inside of a food processor at full speed, without the pulverizing but complete with action, distraction, and some combat.

That cold day, one student came to school without a coat (shivering and swearing they were not chilly), two had thrown a small blanket over the head of the bus driver with the bus in motion on a busy street, and one student kept falling asleep between complaints of being hungry. The other challenges elude me, except a pair of kids who found cursing and passing gas a hilarious pastime. Before the first recess ended, the teacher dug up a coat from an abandoned-objects box secreted somewhere on the school grounds, engaged in a stern and motivational talk with the miscreants, and provided snacks for the hungry child (this was at a time before everyone understood allergies could be fatal and nobody ever talked about gluten). Amid the spurts of teaching, the 25 bodies in the classroom remained in some sort of constant motion and need.

When I left the school, I felt adrift and as if the life raft I’d been floating on had become a bit deflated and wobbly. I could not envision myself doing that every day (though long periods of time off work sounded heavenly). On the way home, I realized that the time in the classroom had taught me a lot about the challenges teachers face as well as my own perceptions. Clerical work seemed a bit more pleasant while I pondered other options, feeling like a late-20-something dud.

When I received an offer to fast-track from clerical work into a tech program (nerdy me loved that), I jumped at the chance and pushed myself to focus on an undergrad degree to improve my promotion potential. When my marriage crashed and burned, a decision to face some completely unplanned and generally unpleasant events in both my marriage and my youth led me to seek help from a therapist and then a healing group. Still, I never planned to transition from computer programming to social services.

However, while working part-time as a fund-raising assistant, I received an opportunity to help low-income people overcome their fear of computers, so took a full-time job in non-profit world. From there, I did not plan to get a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology, work in a mental health field, or work with houseless people. Yet that’s where I found my career home. For a while, I kept meeting people who wanted to share their painful stories with me, seeking reassurance. I felt honored to be trusted to hold a space for them to examine their experiences and drawn to that healing path. I took the road later in life than many, but the experience of grad school and the opportunities it gave me: better than any Plan.

All that to say, I hope you appreciate each step you have taken along your life’s path so far and acknowledge what you have accomplished – whether it’s surviving or you’re a future Nobel, Oscar, or Pulitzer winner. Give yourself a pat on the back.

You deserve to celebrate your accomplishments. May you have the strength to take each step forward with appreciation.

May you be healthy, happy, safe, and strong.

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions/experiences nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. This is intended to uplift and educate, not as counseling or professional advice. If you are in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[ii] If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline[iii] to connect with someone who will have your best interests at heart. Your tender heart deserves respect.

Copyright 2021 D.R. deLuis


[i] From Chapter 64 of the Dao De Jing ascribed to Lao Tzu. See Wikipedia for more information.

[ii] One potential resource for finding an affordable counselor is www.opencounseling.com and most communities offer a 2-1-1 number where you can get info on local resources.

[iii] If you’re not comfortable speaking with someone, try reaching out to the Crisis Text Line. In the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808. To speak with someone, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.

The Virus and Me

Yes, several weeks ago I tested positive for COVID-19.

My plan to follow guidelines with scrupulous care and therefore safely avoid getting sick did not work. Lots of other people refused to wear masks or did not wear them properly so I quit shopping in most markets and opted for contact-less pickup or delivery, though it really strained my budget. Still, essential workers in the home had to work and even the most careful folks can end up beside someone at work who unknowingly breached safety guidelines. Grandchildren had to attend school and that opened the door to other potential virus connections. While I avoided social interactions, a forgotten rapid stranger-encounter may have occurred at exactly the worst time.

And so it was, while cooking soup one night, I grabbed extra spices because the simmering mixture on the stove didn’t taste like much of anything.[i] A passing grandson commented, “Wow, that smells really good!”

Ding-ding-ding. Who would think my wake-up call would come as I stood over the stove?!

I quickly realized I could not smell anything and that my taste buds seemed to have sheltered off-site. However, I checked my temperature repeatedly and it remained normal, I didn’t have a cough or chest pains, and I believed my fatigue and crankiness related to not sleeping well. Out of concern for others, though fairly certain I did not have COVID-19, I decided to go to a drive-up location to test, just in case.

That old saying, ‘When it rains it pours,’ comes to mind. In one 7-day span, I tested positive for the virus that devastated the world, got knocked over during a windstorm (with 75mph gusts) by a large flying trampoline (true, I swear) (family rescued me from the wannabe-fighter-jet), and somehow found time to break a tooth. No emergencies (and I’m getting better at crafting temporary dental fillings), but responsible medical and dental offices don’t want to treat folks who tested positive for the virus. Beyond that, some offices request a lengthy wait after the end of symptoms and want proof of a negative test, something the health department said could take weeks or months.

In short, it has been quite an eventful period for me. I want to blame the moon or stars, scream about bad timing and stinky luck, but sometimes the unexpected happens. Somehow, we humans, graced as we are with resilience, move on after we adjust. And perhaps, in those adjustments, we learn.

Here’s what I’ve learned about self-care from my experience:

Paying attention to our body and our needs is really important. The virus delivers different symptoms to different people, behaving in both kooky and horrifying ways. It appears I got the kooky-version and I’m so thankful that I seem to have bounced back. I’m thankful my immune system was up to the task. I felt “off,” but it took me I-don’t-know-how-many-days to catch on. During those-days I pushed aside the fatigue instead of slowing down. New practice: I’ve set aside a minute, twice a day, to check-in with my body through a quick head-to-toe scan.

We can do our very best to follow the rules and still get sick. It’s tempting to give up. However, it’s important for everyone to suck it up and continue to do our best to follow safety guidelines to protect ourselves and others. For info, follow your local health department online, or visit the websites for the CDC[ii] and WHO[iii] to review their guidelines. New practice: once or twice a week (not 20-times daily) I check for updates in public health guidelines, vaccine availability. Every day I continue to show I care about myself and others by following those guidelines.

My experience is that time invested in worry is not well spent, except when it motivates us to do better. My suggestion is to redirect any time devoted to worrying into whatever informs or uplifts you, and that we all continue to behave as if we treasure our life and the lives of those around us. Every evening I check in, asking myself: What did I do for the good of others? What did I do for fun?

Late last week I tested negative and now have medical and dental appointments.

As far as losing my senses of smell and taste, I’m hopeful for their full return. I can smell some things now (like lemons, bananas, and eucalyptus) but the scents fade quickly. On the bright side: my grandsons’ notorious little-boy-farts do not bother me. 😊 Nuts and cinnamon, favorites of mine, do not register. Even expensive coffee tastes bitter and burnt so I’m having fun exploring teas. On the amazing side: sunflower seeds, soy sauce, raspberries, my favorite (Miyoko’s) non-dairy cheese, and Medjool dates have super-charged swoon-worthy taste.

Life is like that, right? Those unexpected challenges feel like losses or “bad luck,” but often something else awakens if we pay attention. So, please pay attention. Treat yourself and your communities with the gentleness you deserve. Take odd symptoms seriously. Limit the suffering.

You deserve peace and joy. May you have the strength to keep yourself safe, may you walk in strength, and may your life flow with ease. You deserve it.

May you be healthy, happy, strong, and safe.

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions/experiences nor resources I mention are meant as cures, treatment, or medical advice. This is intended to uplift and educate, not as counseling or professional services. If you are in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[iv] If you are considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline[v] to connect with someone who will have your best interests at heart. If you feel adrift and need help such as supplemental food, try calling 2-1-1. Most communities in the US use this number to connect callers to a resource directory and some offer the service online as well. If you feel ill, please contact a medical professional. Your tender heart deserves respect.

Copyright 2021 D.R. deLuis


[i] I routinely use a tasting-spoon that never touches the stirring-spoon or what I’m cooking. I also wash my hands far too often when handling food, but I like to think that’s a safety-first attitude rather than OCD-ish trait. 😉

[ii] Visit the CDC website for additional info at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/need-to-know.html

[iii] Tips from the World Health Organization are available here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

[iv] One potential resource for finding an affordable counselor is www.opencounseling.com and most communities offer a 2-1-1 number where you can get info on local resources.

[v] If you’re uncomfortable speaking with someone, try reaching out to the Crisis Text Line. In the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808. To speak with someone, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.

Off-Path Interlude

Several weeks ago I developed a few mild symptoms that I didn’t pay attention to, and a few weeks ago I tested positive for COVID-19. My symptoms remained mercifully mild and hanging out by myself to take naps felt somewhat like the kind of vacation I should have rewarded myself with years ago. The lingering fear, though, and knowing it could go downhill quickly, kept me on edge.

Thankfully, everyone who lives in my house is currently healthy. My isolation period ended some time ago. Though I’m still cautious and a bit nap-prone, I didn’t plan to write about this at all until a few days ago.

While waiting for my no-contact grocery order, I sat in my vehicle at a local market, mask on, windows half-down to enjoy fresh air on a warm-enough afternoon. I heard someone in the parking lot holler to another person, presumably a friend, “Do you know anyone who has actually tested positive for covid?”

I turned to observe, drawn by the topic. Both folks, dressed casually, appeared to be in their 30s. The second person shrugged and yelled, “No. Not a single person. You?”

The first person sounded disgusted. “Nope.” And, after a pause, shouted, “This is ridiculous. A scam. I’m tired of this bullsh*t.” The other person said, “We’re young, we’d never get it even if it was real.” For a moment I thought about shouting at them Oh, it’s Real! but my grocery order arrived and I popped the trunk so the friendly shopper could stow my items.

I remembered my parents’ terror during the polio epidemic. We went from going to the local lake every weekend from Spring through late Autumn as toddlers to staying home all the time. My dad, tired of feeling exiled, initiated family Sunday Drives then to avoid going stir-crazy. During those early drives, we had zero opportunities to leave the vehicle, but they still felt like freedom.

At that time, everybody seemed afraid of polio. Nobody thought it a scam or created in a lab or the work of uber-wealthy folks. If they did, they certainly didn’t say it aloud.

When the latest (Salk) vaccine was announced in the mid-1950s, my brother and I were barely walking and my mother admitted she remained deeply suspicious because early vaccine versions had problems.[i] However, around that time the daughter of a close family friend contracted polio, and at age 4 Nancy ended up in an iron lung.

My father took me and my brother to get the polio vaccine a couple years later at an overflowing city-wide event hosted by what would become the March of Dimes. Doctors and nurses handed out information and administered vaccinations. Mom stayed home, worried. But though Nancy was a couple years older and I’d only been allowed to talk to her from a distance, we considered ourselves friends. Dad told me to be brave for her because “Nancy’s dad said he would never forgive me if I didn’t get you kids vaccinated.

Our families connected periodically, always at Nancy’s house because she needed her iron lung[ii] to survive. At some time after being vaccinated, dad and mom approved of me connecting more closely with Nancy. Sometimes I brushed her hair, but mostly we talked a lot about what we would do when she could run again, the freedom of double-digit ages, how she would never complain about having chores, how she imagined her ponytail flying behind her as she sprinted down the block and I chased her on my bicycle. When we drew pictures of that future, Nancy sketched with a pen in her mouth. I never imagined she would die at the barely-double-digit age of 10, before her dream of running again came true, but I learned life is precious and fragile. When I think of her, though, even now, I see her running so fast her long ponytail is airborne behind her.

Her parents disappeared from our lives after Nancy’s death. My mom told me that the family had lost most of their friends when she contracted polio and that people gave them a wide berth, leaving them feeling a bit adrift. All I knew was that they had moved on.

And that day, sitting in the market’s parking lot, I moved on, heading home with my groceries. I thought about how people may have unintentionally shamed Nancy’s parents and how lonely they must have felt after she contracted the disease. And then I wondered how many people now know someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but the person quietly isolated and didn’t share the info.

After all, folks who get ill have additional worries, more pressing than how to deal with potential unfair judgement, like how to protect others while they recover and surviving the virus. Some, like essential workers who can’t afford to stop working, admit feeling guilty about taking the risk, even when they’re wearing PPE and scrupulously following protocols. Others feel shame because some folks invariably assume those who got ill did so because they didn’t take precautions. Add to that a sufficient number of general nay-sayers, like the folks I observed. It’s not so simple as it seems.

From the polio epidemic, I remember the fear of the disease and, later, the relief about the vaccine. But for the record, if anyone asks you if you know anyone who had the virus – and you didn’t know anyone before – feel free to say you know of this grandma who had COVID-19.

More next week on my kooky symptoms, how that went, and what I learned from this unexpected off-path interlude.

Until then, may you find the flexibility to deal with those moments when life seems to go off the rails, adjust to the time away from your usual path, and still know contentment.

May you be healthy, happy, safe, and strong. You deserve it.

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions/experiences nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. This is intended to uplift and educate, not as counseling or professional advice. If you’re in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[iii] If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline[iv] to connect with someone who will have your best interests at heart.

Copyright 2021 D.R. deLuis


[i] There are many more complex explanations and histories, but this easy-to-read and brief article shows people had reason to worry at that time. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/salk-announces-polio-vaccine

[ii] For more info on this device and photos, see https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/what-america-looked-like-polio-children-paralyzed-in-iron-lungs/251098/

[iii] One potential resource for finding an affordable counselor is www.opencounseling.com and most communities offer a 2-1-1 number where you can get info on local resources.

[iv] If you’re uncomfortable speaking with someone, try reaching out to the Crisis Text Line. In the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808. To speak with someone, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.

Why Self-Care?

A few years ago, sitting with a client, I posed an often-used query in response to their lengthy merciless explanation about how they got evicted. Their self-judgment far exceeded what I felt they deserved. What, I had often asked, would you say to a good friend who had that same experience?

At that moment it occurred to me that I rarely, if ever, followed that advice. I would make flippant remarks like How much worse could it get? When dating I’d comment wryly I seem to have an invisible-to-me “Weirdos-Only” tattoo on my forehead. When I had a bad day at work, I’d drag myself to my car, sit and mutter, I should have done better; I could have done more. Instead of getting more rest, though, I pushed myself. Always, push-push-push. Longer work hours, time off only to visit family rather than places on my wish list. Eventually something would happen: a torn ligament, food poisoning, a virus that knocked me off my feet. And those were the only times I really took a moment to pause.

A year or more before I left my job to care for my grandkids, I realized I needed to do better with self-care. I returned to meditating and creative writing, knowing that for me they worked well. Days that started with meditation and included time for writing consistently ended with me feeling more content or at peace and less scrambled.

Recently I listened to someone preaching about other-care and how self-care turns us into selfish little beasties. They’d heard this at church and I realized that at one time in my life, I thought that might be true. But from the perspective of the last few years, looking back over decades, I see my lack of self-care created more suffering, rather than less, for others. Caring for an abusive spouse, for example, served no good purpose (he could never feel satisfied so expanded his abuse to include others). Working such long days that I stumbled in a daze through my off-hours: no good purpose (my best work occurred on days when I felt rested).

That’s how the self-care journey started. And it faltered. Most of us stumble now and then, either over an obstacle or because we weren’t paying attention. After pauses, I started again. Eventually the missteps morphed, in my perspective, into learning excursions.

And that’s how I realized the importance of self-care. Writing about it, even just once a week, helps me because it’s not something that comes naturally to me. My life, particularly since the pandemic started, remains chaotic. My old routines have shattered. Building new ones hasn’t worked well. Learning to go with the flow: Eek! I’m getting better at it.

Making time for things that help me feel calm and aware, I’ve noticed, also make me a better person. More patient. When I lose patience, much quicker to realize what I’m doing. More loving. More likely to use statements like “I feel attacked when you raise your voice like that” than “Why the hell are you YELLING?” Nothing big, right? But it feels big. Different. Better for me and those around me.

As a child I adapted to situations. As an eldest child, I never questioned my responsibility to care for others before care of self. Sometimes caring for others makes sense: children need nudges and protection and a lot of support. But we all deserve enough time to feel rested, calm, content, at peace with our lives and who we have become. In a culture where we have so much, I remain convinced that self-care (not to be confused with a sense of entitlement) makes us better people.

We all deserve the gift of time to engage in activities that uplift and fulfill us (without causing harm to others[i]). Whether it’s meditation or taking a walk, dancing or listening to music, journalling or writing a novel, slowing down or speeding up, solitude or time in a crowd, staring at the ocean or skiing … find a way to incorporate what fulfills you into your life.

That can feel daunting. Most of us have limited resources. Exercising your creativity may help.

For example, some venues rely on at least a few volunteers and by volunteering I’ve been able to attend events (fairs, theater productions, speeches, expos, community events) free that I otherwise couldn’t afford. I’ve also known folks who started side businesses that filled their lives with joy. A social worker I knew wanted to travel, so started a travel company providing unique small group tours to distant destinations for people with physical or other limitations who were unable or uncomfortable traveling alone or in large groups.

The old airline guidance about putting on your own oxygen mask first still stands. Take care of yourself. You deserve it. And it will give you the strength and courage to be there for others in your world.

May you find the time to do what uplifts and comforts you. May you discover resources to support your journey. May you remember to support others, too, on their journey.

May you be healthy, happy, strong, and safe.

Copyright 2021 D. R. deLuis

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions/experiences nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. This is intended to uplift and educate, not as counseling or professional advice. If you’re in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[ii]  If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline.[iii] You deserve support and to know someone has your back.


[i] By causing intentional harm, I refer to actions like leaving children unsupervised, violence to self or others, and exercising prejudices like racism, sexism, fat-phobia, anti-LGBTQ+, ageism, and others.

[ii] Most areas in the U.S. offer a “2-1-1” service that can provide information about local resources. In addition, one website (there are many) with info about finding an affordable therapist is Open Counseling at www.opencounseling.com .

[iii] National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. To reach the Crisis Text Line in the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808.

Unwelcome Visitor

In the middle of a pandemic, I realize it’s somewhat fanciful to think my household would make it through this relatively unscathed. We’ll all have scars from this. Disbelievers who swear it’s a massive hoax that took a mind-boggling amount of cooperation to launch and sustain will be forever looking over their shoulders for the next trick to be played on them. Folks who realize God (or perhaps accidental good sense) gave us science and one another for care and protection may rarely wake up feeling safe because the disbelievers will ignore their own safety at our peril.

But, yes, COVID-19, an unwelcome visitor, is in the house. Where I live, in a multi-generational household, I had hoped my diligence would be rewarded with a pass. You know, A Pass. Freedom from the virus because we mask-up when we’re off the property. For this elder, two essential workers, and two young children early in their elementary school lives who attended hybrid (in-person and on-line) classes, the Pass has been revoked.

While I’m still hoping to avoid symptoms, I’m keenly aware that being older and fat and identifying as Hispanic and not-a-celebrity and lower-income puts me in a category unlikely to receive full-throttle medical care should it come to that. In other words, to me the spread holds potentially dire consequences.

And I’m one of the lucky ones! I have health insurance. If I do need to see a doctor, I won’t need to rob a bank or win the lottery jackpot to cover the cost. In fact, instead of writing this morning, my intention was to contact my insurance provider’s “Advice Line” to explain the situation and get some pointers. All circuits are busy, that unwelcome phone voice tells me. Try again later.

So, instead, I took time to meditate, now I return to the power of words, later I’ll walk around the backyard listening to a podcast. And I’ll try again later.

As a young girl, I remember vague discussions about this shadowy thing the adults called The Polio Epidemic.[i] The grown-ups I knew seemed genuinely afraid, though I don’t remember a single person – even Uncle Eddie who everyone thought was crazy – believing it might be fake. Perhaps they were blessed with the lack of social media apps. My parents argued about the vaccine, my mom preferring that we all avoid the outside world (and, therefore, The Polio). The general warm-weather lock-down must have spanned a few years during which nobody knew much and everybody knew someone who had been devastated by the disease.

My dad put his foot down when the Red Cross launched a huge immunization drive. As a military veteran he had been subjected to vaccines and suspected that they may have helped his survival chances in faraway places. In spite of mom’s objections, he took my brother and me to a large auditorium where nurses in white dresses and doctors in white lab coats took information and mingled with what seemed like hundreds of children receiving shots. Dad said it was the right thing to do.  He reassured me with, “Sometimes you gotta trust experts and science, Punk.” He was right.

There are so many variables to control in this pandemic world. Do your best anyway. Logically, even if the sickness is indeed fake (even though a family member who tested positive a few days ago is coughing in a nearby room, with more family members on their way to be tested because one has symptoms), taking precautions violates no civil liberties. Washing hands, keeping hand sanitizer nearby, masking up (unless you have a legitimate medical reason not to), and keeping your distance from others are simple and effective strategies.[ii] If you’re upset at the inconvenience of masking up, find or make a badass mask to express your displeasure.

Self-care includes caring about yourself and others in practical ways.

I know we’re all tired from the restrictions and, personally, I’m so thankful for the folks who make contact-less pickup work and so exhausted from watching people flagrantly disregard safety precautions. Remember, even one hasty break from restrictions may have a nasty ripple effect. Even giving it my best shot – I’m fairly certain I’ve followed the guidelines consistently – there are no 100% guarantees. Right now, I have no symptoms, but I’m acutely aware of how vulnerable we all are.

Considering the well-being of others is the right thing to do, whether or not the dreaded virus is visiting your household and whether or not you think it’s real or a threat. Show a little respect.

That’s all I have to say right now.

May you appreciate your life, your body, and all living beings. May we all be healthy, happy, safe, and strong.

Copyright 2021 D. R. deLuis


[i] For more on the history of Polio (worldwide) and the use of the vaccine, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_polio.

[ii] For updated information, including where and when to test, visit your local health department website. Free testing is available in many locations. For more info, check out the World Health Organization website at www.who.int, see what’s posted at www.cdc.gov or contact your family doctor for information and advice.

Friendship Magic

Around this time of year, an old friend always pops into my mind. I think part of the reason is because Kay knew how to do holidays. Truly, she had a talent for making even little things special and her gift wrapping: sublime! She crafted bows of such artistry that they deserved a lighted display case at a Smithsonian Museum[i]. The rest of her life overflowed with substance, and lacked flash. Faith and family were her priorities. She dressed simply, seemed to avoid makeup, didn’t have expensive tastes, lived for pots of home-brewed plain-ol’ coffee, and prepared for all holidays with total abandon.

Prior to her cancer diagnosis, my little ragtag ‘ohana and her clan used to go out on picnics, bowling, have marathon board game sessions, or just hang out to eat and talk-story – always family style. She would volunteer to go early to pick out the best picnic table at a nearby park for our Easter feast and figure out the perfect time to attend fairs and community events. She cracked jokes with her husband, but as often sat quietly and observed others’ antics. She never asked for favors, didn’t depend on others for help. Without reservation, she treasured her daughter and son.

After the diagnosis, Kay started calling me for Adventures when she felt chipper. She rarely offered pleasantries and assumed I’d recognize her voice. My phone would ring. In those days “caller ID” cost extra, so on my shoestring budget I never knew who waited at the other end. I’d answer with a careful “Hello.” She would utter two words: “An adventure?” For some reason, good sense or my better angels would spur me to say, “Uh, yeah! What are you thinking?”

We enjoyed dozens of spur-of-the-moment adventures, most of them in southern Arizona.

We went to a Mariachi Festival where I stood about 15 feet away from the crowd and watched Kay twirl and laugh in the shade of an ancient tree. She stood within a yard or two of the musicians when she turned to me, grinning, and shouted, “I LOVE mariachi music!” Although we had known one another for years, that took me by surprise. How could I not know that?

We roamed Tumacácori[ii], looking at pottery and art and eating freshly made corn tortillas behind the museum/mission church. We went to rivers and hummingbird sanctuaries and monuments and museums tucked into the miles of mountains around Sierra Vista. We went to vineyards and toured wineries even though Kay didn’t like wine. We watched a ceremony in Skeleton Canyon (near San Simon) with the Buffalo Soldiers[iii] commemorating Geronimo’s surrender. We went to Mission San Xavier del Bac outside Tucson to pray and visited with a few local artists. We went to a ghost town (a trailer in the middle of nowhere that displayed items for sale on an honor system and offered free brochures that provided info/served as a warning system about the prolific local pit viper[iv] population).

There were a few longer journeys. We went to Disneyland once. When I picked her up at her house for the 7-hour drive and hastily arranged 4-day trip, I asked what her spouse said about the trip. He and I worked together; I didn’t want him upset with me. “Oh,” she chuckled, “I left him a note.” What?! We walked, talked, and laughed our way around the Magic Kingdom. We took a side-trip to wet our feet in the Pacific because we didn’t want any regrets during the journey back home.

There is one Adventure I most cherish, though. It had touches of spirit, magic, and the kind of trust that some friends share. This is one I keep thinking about.

If you’re at all familiar with the old War Chiefs, you’ve heard of Cochise. He’s apparently buried in an unknown and secret site up in what’s known as Cochise Stronghold or Cochise Memorial. The Stronghold, an oasis of sorts in a box canyon, sits in southern Arizona. On the way, Kay reminded me that she picked up a few things from her Apache dad (she didn’t connect as well with her mom, described as a generic-white debutante-type) before she informed me she wanted to go the Stronghold to find Cochise’s grave to have a little ceremony and pray. Now, lots of experts have tried, and failed, to find that grave, but … what the heck?! We went.

We took back-roads to the narrow lane into the canyon. That day, Southern Arizona looked like a drenched blanket. Mile after mile of craggy soaked land stretched out beneath an endless swath of dark clouds that dumped heavy rains and rattled teeth with thunderstorms. But Real Adventurers ignore minor inconveniences.

As we got closer to the Stronghold – me driving, Kay riding shotgun, my daughter in the back seat – we realized the pouring rain might interfere with our mission. We recalled a passage from the Bible – our version: “whenever two or more are gathered in God’s name, God is there” – and so we prayed for a break in the storm so we could enjoy the Stronghold and accomplish what had become our mission.

My grandmother used to call them “Angel Rays” – when light bounces through holes in the clouds. As we approached, an Angel Ray opened over the Stronghold and expanded. We recited my favorite prayer – Thank You – a few times and arrived at the one sunny spot we saw that day. All the campers and other visitors had fled, so we wandered the rocky, soggy area in peace. We trusted God or intuition or luck to guide our meanderings as the hole in the clouds above us began to shrink. We paused to talk about turning back, but Kay felt sure we were close. Another 20 yards and around a bend, we stopped.

The spot, scattered with trees, boulders, and small plants, transfixed us. The foliage danced in a sun-powered spotlight, a bouncy little breeze shook rain off the trees and shrubs while the rest of the area looked decidedly gray. Like something from a great movie scene, except this one belonged to Mother Nature without help from a fabulous special effects team, little bits of foliage and droplets of water from the leaves flitted around in this extraordinary golden light, surrounded by dark shadows around us that washed out the surrounding color.

We didn’t even discuss the location. While I stood aside, Kay led an informal, haphazard little ceremony. I didn’t ask Kay about her motivation. My prayer thanked Cochise for leading us to that beautiful place. She mentioned blessing him, his ancestors, and his descendants. She took a moment for silent reflection and asked that my daughter and I head back to the car. She promised to catch up.

My daughter and I moved as quickly as we could over soaked ground. The sun had disappeared behind charcoal clouds so when we reached the vehicle, we climbed in and sat with the engine idling, like a getaway car, heater running as we peered anxiously into the shrubbery until Kay appeared.

She scrambled into her seat, closed the door, and as the door latch clicked the clouds released a near solid curtain of water. We sat in the parking area and laughed as rain drummed that unique booming and soothing all-nature rhythm on the roof of the car.

Whenever this comes to mind, though I miss my friend who left this world shortly after that trip, I remember there is magic in this life. Magic in friendship. Magic in making time for adventures. Magic in nature. Magic in connecting.

I remind myself to cultivate a sense of wonder. To look for awe as a self-care practice. And to both acknowledge and treasure those moments.

So here’s my wish for you this year:

May you Appreciate What’s Around You. May you experience Joyful Adventures. May Magic and a Miracle or Two surprise you. May you enjoy Shelter from Life’s Storms. And may you Laugh in the Rain.

Copyright 2021 D. R. deLuis


[i] In case you’re not aware, and since I mentioned the Smithsonian, I feel compelled to mention the Smithsonian recently opened a new National Museum of African American Arts History and Culture. For info, visit: https://nmaahc.si.edu/.

[ii] For a bit more info about the area, including the very small unincorporated area and park, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumacacori,_Arizona. The annual art festival offered a lot of diversion the first weekend in December, though check the schedule. Nearby Tubac also has a fun vibe and lovely art festival. For more info: https://tubacaz.com/festival-of-the-arts/.

[iii] For more information, one brief description can be found here: https://www.azcentral.com/story/travel/arizona/road-trips/2018/09/10/fort-huachuca-arizona-buffalo-soldiers/953088002/. A longer history is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Soldier.

[iv] Primarily Western Diamondbacks (rattlesnakes).

Old-Year/New-Year

With the end of each calendar year some people look back in horror. Who could blame anyone this year for feeling challenged and drained? I think it’s safe to say very few of us approach any year-end without having lost something or someone dear and, along with that, we often lose some sense of comfort and peace. Change remains inevitable, though, and a year like 2020 packed enough challenges to knock some of us off kilter.

Some weary or introverted folks may greet the new year with quiet contemplation or much-needed rest. In spite of the danger, some of us will always prefer to go out with bunches of friends to either complain about the bad breaks of the old year or to jump for joy at the prospect of a new year. Whether taking time to commiserate or to celebrate, for the safety of us all, please plan ahead. Consider the purpose of your gathering so you can employ your creativity and make these rousing festivals virtual gatherings or outdoors distanced events. [i]

Though the past 12 months may have been trying, uplifting, or a bit of both, I’m hoping you’ll give some thought to how you’ll offer farewell to the old year and greet the new one. Rituals have a healthy place in most of our lives, so after the Thanksgiving Turkey and the Christmas Tree, crafting an Old-Year / New Year Ritual sounds like a good idea to me.

As a child, it seemed every adult I knew followed a similar Ritual every new year. They stocked up on their favorite alcoholic beverages, ice, and special (expensive) snacks they normally avoided. All shared their list of crazy resolutions, most of which failed at lightning speed. My dad’s resolution, several years running, was to quit drinking. That resolution lasted about 24 hours – or until he remembered he had received some quality booze for Christmas and ignoring it would insult the giver. Unforgivable! 😊 My mom’s resolution involved giving up either bread or coffee, both of which she loved. That lasted about 12 hours or until the new percolator or toaster she bought on sale after Christmas convinced her that abandoning her morning cup of “Joe” with toast would make the gleaming new appliances a waste of money. 😊 Sinful!

Studies now show that resolutions fail for most of us within a relatively brief period of time (a few weeks). When we “fail” at resolutions, we often judge ourselves harshly, blame ourselves, and end up mired in negative feelings.

Like my parents and many others, I haven’t excelled with things labeled Resolutions. However, a decade or more ago I stumbled upon a better way for me to wrap up an old year and move forward into a new one. My inspiration came at some point in an interview I watched. Dr Maya Angelou commented that before she fell asleep each night, she would mentally review the day. She would note areas in which she did well and those in which she felt some improvement was needed. Inspired by that, my year-end / new-year routine evolved.

It’s simple. I ask myself some easy questions.

  • Looking back on the past year: What went well? What needs improvement? Is there anywhere I need to make amends?
  • Looking forward to the new year: What do I feel fiercely drawn to and curious about? How do I want to improve as a human being?

I don’t spend a lot of time waxing poetic, but I do make some simple notes and consider the mechanics of improving areas where I fell short, making amends if they’re due, and selecting areas for study if they’re something I’m curious about or believe would make me a better human. I take action by modifying existing routines. For example, reading and writing time (or studying) come in the evening when the grandkids sleep. Meditation, enjoying some physical activity, and other self-care fits into small pockets of time each day. If I get out of whack with new routines, I can rewind, evaluate, adjust, and try again. Having those annual (and sometimes in-between) reviews and priorities helps me.

That doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for everyone! When I started this journey, I lived near a fairly large hill that I would literally climb the last day of the year to sit, look around, pray, and make copious notes. The following day I’d take time outdoors on my patio if it wasn’t snowing or super-cold to write out plans for the new year. That felt burdensome and eventually I pared it down.

Find something that works well for you. Be sure anything you try feels like a loving method of self-inquiry. Some ideas:

  • RAIN (Recognize what is happening, Allow the experience, Investigate with interest and care, Nurture with self-compassion) or “The Work” with its clear written guides may help you look at areas or beliefs that seem to block your progress or warrant more consideration.[ii]
  • Write down a few questions you find meaningful and simply respond to them within a time-frame (don’t overthink the answers; you can edit later). Try making a few notes – not going overboard – so you can look back later and determine how the experience helped you (or if it didn’t).
  • Express yourself by crafting a “treasure map” with pictures you draw or cut out (from ads, newspapers, magazines) and paste on a large poster-board, cardboard from a box, or pieces of paper. One smaller section can represent what you’ve overcome and what you’ve achieved. The rest can remind you where you’d like to be at year-end next year.

In any case, leave room for making adjustments. Life has a way of surprising us.

I believe every ending and each beginning carry with them opportunities to reflect and learn. May you have the luxury of enough free time to review the past year with kindness and to envision the new year with hope.

May you be happy, healthy, safe, and strong.

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions, my experiences, nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. If you’re in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[iii]  If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline.[iv] You deserve support and to know someone has your back.

Copyright D.R. deLuis 2020


[i] For a good guide, check out Priya Parker’s book: The Art of Gathering. She has some great ideas that include ways to make your gathering, however distanced, truly meaningful to all who attend.

[ii] For more information on RAIN, visit https://www.tarabrach.com/rain/. Another option is Byron Katie’s “The Work” explained at https://thework.com/ . Info on RAIN as well as links to videos to practice the technique, and info on The Work with a link to worksheets to guide The Work are free resources. If another option works better for you, use that.

[iii] Most areas in the U.S. offer a “2-1-1” service that can provide information about local resources. In addition, one website (there are many) with info about finding an affordable therapist is Open Counseling at www.opencounseling.com .

[iv] National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. To reach the Crisis Text Line in the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808.

Keeping Up with HoHoHo

Self-care matters to me. I decided several years ago to make time to practice self-care on a daily basis. Starting small, I experimented with different techniques to determine what works best for me, and I most often succeed in sticking with my self-care regimen. But not always.

Sometimes it feels as if Life has a mind of its own and takes off in one direction when I have every intention of moving in the opposite direction. Somehow, I had envisioned that stay-at-home holidays this year with close family would feel simple and easy. No big stresses about getting the “right” gift for people who typically attend the big festivities. No expectations about my role in the big multi-family gathering with people I don’t know very well. Just a few no-pressure people to locate treasures for and a quiet day.

Whew, I thought, this will be easy. I knew I’d miss watching the related kids open their gifts, but I still get to watch my grandkids open their gifts in person (we live in the same house) and we’ll still have a special dinner and we’ll probably all eat too much. Church services will be attended online and if we connect with anyone outside our pod, it will be via video-chat. Entertainment will come in the form of new games, books, and movies received.

In spite of doing my best when planning and starting early enough, it just didn’t work out. To deal with the oops, I decided to pay more for what the grandkids wanted though it irked me and cracked my budget. Items I’ve never had problems purchasing (jumbo rolls of gift-wrap and snazzy cards) disappeared quickly so I cavalierly decided to make my own. (I thought, How long could it take? Real world answer: Longer than I imagined!) When I ran out of yarn, I swapped out another color for the out-of-stock shade and opted to hope for the best with that small project. I rushed through my sewing the one afternoon when space became available.

In the midst of all the craziness, I didn’t make self-care a priority.

A rough estimate: about 40,764 times in the last few weeks (I wasn’t counting), I clocked myself doing things that are not in my best interests in order to maintain pursuit of a level of holiday perfection that I’ve never achieved. I’ve stayed up past midnight making cards, crafting gift-wrap, or making gifts when I know I’m awake with my grandkids by 6. I’ve relied on caffeine to help me come to life and deal with the list of must-do items. Not a part of my healthy repertoire.

Though I had expected more of myself, I am officially taking time right now to pat myself on the back. I didn’t sacrifice every moment of me-time (I would have in the past). Even five years ago I would not have realized that the pace I set doomed me to living in a self-crafted level of hell for a time. I caught on quickly this time.  Here are some hints for the busy times in life when you need to cut yourself some slack:

  • Acknowledge that your life is extra-busy, particularly when you’re magically expecting everything to work out within teensy timeframes with no room for error or slack.
    • Take action: Pause  for a moment. Take a deep breath. Acknowledge to yourself that you’ve got a lot going on. Use your own words. Mine: This is difficult. I feel pressured. I’m doing my best. This is temporary.
  • Maintain your most important self-care practice(s). They may change shape or form but keep to those things.
    • Take action: Again, stop for a moment. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself what two or three things most matter to you in self-care. Focus on those and plan to pick others back up later. Although I didn’t feel like doing it, here’s what I did:
      • I kept up with my meditation practice. Yes, some days I meditate in the car while waiting to pick up my grandsons after school instead of in my room just after sunrise. Some evenings I shorten the time because I’m tired. I held onto the habit of doing those, though.
      • I compromised with half the walking time I had planned, added my Nordic Walking Poles to make the stroll easier on my knees and harder in general.
  • Having lived decades with insufficient sleep, I know how it feels to drag yourself through the day feeling as if you’ll never catch up.
    • Take action: Take some time to wind down before you fall asleep. If there’s something low-priority on your do-it-now list, drop it and take that time to go to bed earlier or nap if you can. If not, do NOT chastise yourself for staying up too late: negative feedback rarely helps. In any case, remind yourself: I’m doing the best I can and that is enough.
  • Some things we think save time, really don’t help us. Do not scrimp on the basics like dental care or regular meals.
    • Take action: To keep up with your basic needs, take things off the must-do list or ask for help with them! Lately I’ve noticed I’m skipping meals while I’m tangled up in projects or rushing to pick someone or something up. Although many folks feel that behavior is a good thing, particularly for fat women like me, studies inform us this action creates a detrimental hunger-boomerang that results in a sharply increased risk of eating with abandon. Find some hearty snacks (cheese or meat sticks, granola or nut bars, toast or crackers with nut butter, whatever you enjoy) and keep them nearby to fill in until you can take time to toss a meal together.

Whether things go wonderfully according to plan or fall into another dimension you didn’t expect, may your plans go well-enough, may your work be rewarded, and may you notice many happy surprises this season.

May you be happy, healthy, safe, and strong.

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions, my experiences, nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. If you’re in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[i]  If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline.[ii] You deserve support and to know someone has your back.

Copyright D.R. deLuis 2020


[i] Most areas in the U.S. offer a “2-1-1” service that can provide information about local resources. In addition, one website (there are many) with info about finding an affordable therapist is Open Counseling at www.opencounseling.com .

[ii] National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. To reach the Crisis Text Line in the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808.

Venting Season

Though we have always held to some regional differences in the USA, and at the risk of sounding like one of those stick-in-the-mud old-ladies, it seems to me that we once behaved more respectfully, at least within our communities. Of course, last minute holiday shoppers got pushy and neighbors always tried to outdo one another (or at least keep up), and our foundation, built upon racism and social Darwinism, has always needed replacement, but it appears the hint of civility that kept us moving forward with hope evaporated somewhere along the line. Welcome to venting season, what I think the world needs, and what’s inspiring.

It feels as if the stress of going after one another and living in social-media hideaways during the tainted election season of 2016 accentuated a downhill slide. The upheaval within the taken-for-granted internal-goings-on of a nation turned us toward what some point out as strengthening the 1%/oligarchs while others insist average-folks now fare better (even if we sacrificed in areas like environment, health, and income)[i]. All this, followed by the pandemic and wrapped up by the contentious election of 2020, drained us. Here’s hoping we get our act together, have the courage to examine our feelings, and make time to work through them in order to find peace in government, in business, and in our communities. Now is the time for some grassroots organizing of a little widespread self-care so we can initiate healing.

Once my great aunt Jeannie and my dad had a falling-out. She talked, more than once, over the announcer during a world-series game. Dad asked her, a couple of times, to take the chatter elsewhere. Finally, he shouted, stood, and threw curses her direction. The woman who had gotten my dad through the loss of his mother vowed to never speak to him again. He threatened to call the police or shoot her for trespassing if she put one foot on his property. They both overstepped their bounds and trampled feelings. The insults lasted a few minutes. The feud lasted a few months, until an intervention by a gaggle of great aunties broke the chill between them. Dad grudgingly apologized and Jeannie promised to take any conversations to another room during televised sporting events. Things did not go back to the way they had been, though. The two spoke but became more guarded and less spontaneous. The harsh words they exchanged remained a sheer barrier, and that lesson hit home for me. For better or worse, relationships change, adapt, move forward. They don’t go backward. Even the relationship with self. Make time for that.

Industries are hurting. People are hurting. Our medical system is stretched thin. Tourism, a business that supports workers around the world, limps along these days, scanning the horizon for signs of fuller flights. My quarterly road trips to a nearby state to visit my son who has some physical and mental challenges flew off the table. In my many previous travels, via air and ground, I noticed most of us manage to behave like quiet and respectful tourists while visiting other communities and countries, though among the quiet, there seem to congregate pairs (and, face it, families) shepherded by big-mouthed ignoramuses who will continue to give us happy travelers a bad name. Like it or not, they are part of us, the glaring exceptions among the rule followers. The bright sides, though? We have learned to live with one another – the respectful and the obnoxious – on tour buses and in tourist traps, so we can figure out how to do that in other contexts. And while tourism-based businesses surely suffer from the loss of income, I know many people who celebrate having their glorious scenery relatively tourist-free. What a great opportunity for community care: to enjoy nearby attractions and support local merchants and take some comfort in knowing we’re all in this together.

Religion, here, seemed to play a sad role in this move away from graciousness and kindness. Take the self-proclaimed “religious” groups that insist (with the apparent blessing of the all-new Supreme Court) they have a right to spread the ‘Rona plague in order to host joyous celebrations of their interpretation of the guidance of a Rabbi/Carpenter who stated all the rules boiled down to loving God, loving your neighbor, and loving yourself. A reasonable person might consider spreading a potentially deadly virus with abandon as a contradiction to those guidelines, but there’s a Biblical passage about gathering in God’s name and somehow that – and, I suspect, a loss of income tied to empty seats – seems enough to demand the “right” to host close indoor gatherings in spite of the known health consequences. Tangling capitalism and church complicates theology, particularly among people who feel downtrodden. Yet, there are lessons to be learned; find a spiritual discipline that supports you, helps you grow, and expands your mind and circle of friends. 

Growing up in a Catholic household, mom insisted on weekly trips to “Confession” where we admitted our sins and asked forgiveness, then did penance. The significance of taking time to try to make things right – usually by a brief period of prayer and contemplation, but sometimes in more physical ways — didn’t descend upon me until a new evangelical church congregation became my temporary faith home. Those evangelicals, it turned out, were not as different from the Catholics as they believed, including enthusiasm when discussing persecution of Christians (though others sometimes feel the Christians more guilty of persecution). However, one preacher felt neither he nor his flock had a need to seek forgiveness or make amends. He explained, “I’m washed in the blood of Christ, so no matter what I do I’m forgiven.” I get it, but I believe we should expect more of ourselves. Though I remain grateful to both faith groups for what I learned through them, I appreciate the evangelicals for their music and the Catholics for their idea of redemption. For me, seeking or offering forgiveness[ii], taking time to consider errors, and making corrections turned out to serve as excellent acts of self-care.

According to the Pew Research Center, about two-thirds of the world population identify as something other than Christian, with most Christians living in Africa (631 million), 601 million in Latin America, 571 million in Europe, and 205 million in the US. About 70% of us living in the US claim some affiliation with Christianity (though far fewer profess to be church members and less of those regularly attend church services). Other faith categories are Islam, no religious affiliation, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a long list of others. The fasted growing group appears to be no-religious-affiliation.

Yet the notion has arisen more than once during my lifetime that the USA springs from the loins of God and is, somehow, therefore a Christian nation. As a child I noticed, even though I entered the world years post-WWII, folks like my parents realized that war exacted a heavy toll. Growing up, though, it wasn’t military might that inspired my grandparents, my parents, or my generation. For my dad, the American way, headquartered in Detroit, remained my dad’s hope for the USA. He loved to talk about Motor City. American exceptionalism during my parents’ prime revolved around those hard-hat factory workers churning out internal-combustion engines in vehicles that were engineered like works of art. That working-class ideal lacked the polish of later years when the athlete or the ruthless Wall Street junk-bond millionaire, driving sleek Euro imports, sped into our heroic imagination. How we moved from respecting hard work to idolizing those who appeared uber-wealthy says a lot about our shift in priorities. The value of knowing our 3 to 5 priority areas becomes evident when life requires hard decisions and helps when day-to-day priorities conflict. Give time to those. There’s freedom in both recognizing those and being open to shift values over time. Make a list. Note yours. Career. Education. Health. Family. Connection. Story-telling. Learning. Travel. Exploration. Friends.

When I attended elementary school, during a period after the Dark Ages and around the time the Beatles invaded, we celebrated that we welcomed all people from all countries and all religious faiths. We understood our forefathers whose ancestors fled religious tyranny refused to name a national religion. We learned those early patriots fought for freedom for all-religions (including no-religious-affiliation) and freedom from the oppressive taxation system of the crown. From 1776 until around 1950, during the McCarthy Era, “In God we trust” (an anti-communist catch phrase) does not appear on money, and the Pledge of Allegiance, with it’s anti-immigrant roots in the 1890s, didn’t include the words “under God” until 1954.[iii] Still, we have been known, in our zeal and with open hearts, to accept notions like ‘Christian nation’ and legislation like the ‘Patriot Act,’ even when they only represent some of us or make us less free. We may need to question things more and reserve unbridled support for people and pets we know personally.

As a nation and a world community of human beings, I have high hopes we find our higher selves. I still believe the journey will require a grassroots movement and bodacious self-care skills, so here’s a quick tip.

In Practice…

This helps me when I’m feeling overwhelmed and start catastrophizing (I’m fabulous at that but rarely go there since I began practicing this!) or lost in a negative thought.

Briefly become aware of the negative thought or flight into catastrophe. Just notice where your mind is headed. Question the situation that exists only in your mind and do it as often as necessary (this may take some repetition).

If Catastrophizing: Say to yourself, either aloud or in your head, [Your-Name], this is not real. OR  [Your-Name], this is not happening. (Repeat, if needed.) Remind yourself: Obsessing about it now will not make it easier if this ever happens.[iv]

If you have identified Negative thoughts that haunt you: Challenge your thinking. Ask yourself: [Your-Name], is this thought helping or hurting? If the thought is hurting, make a decision to question and reframe the thought. For example, restate thoughts away from shame-inducing while acknowledging guilt: “I’m so stupid” becomes “Touching that hot pan was a stupid thing to do.”

Using your name may feel awkward. It did for me, at first. I’d read a study that showed this technique really helps most people, so I tried. For me, it’s two thumbs up!

Wrap Up…

May your expectations of yourself be kind. May you find the tools you need for self-care and both the time and the will to use them.

May you be happy, healthy, safe, and strong.

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions, my experiences, nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. If you’re in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[v]  If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline.[vi] You deserve support and to know someone has your back.

Copyright D.R. deLuis 2020


[i] According to world-recognized economist Mariana Mazzucato, from 1975 to 2016 the US GDP tripled when adjusted for inflation, from $5.49 trillion to $17.29 trillion. During that period, productivity increased by 60%. During the same period real hourly wages have stagnated or fallen, pointing to 4 decades of economic gains that all went to a tiny elite uber-wealthy group. This uneven growth accelerated the last few years, leaving a handful (~60 people) holding the equivalent wealth of 3.5 billion world citizens.

[ii] To be clear, forgiveness can be offered from afar and I believe nobody has a responsibility to forgive another or to request forgiveness in person, in writing, or by any particular means.

[iii] See this article for more info: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/11/03/the-ugly-history-of-the-pledge-of-allegiance-and-why-it-matters/

[iv] If you live near a tsunami zone, in a flood-prone area, live in an area where tornados or earthquakes are possible, packing a bag and creating a safety plan makes good sense, is excellent self-care, and is not obsessive (even if your happy-go-lucky friends say it is).

[v] Most areas in the U.S. offer a “2-1-1” service that can provide information about local resources. In addition, one website (there are many) with info about finding an affordable therapist is Open Counseling at www.opencounseling.com .

[vi] National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. To reach the Crisis Text Line in the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808. And if you check references, kudos and thanks. May you prosper beyond your wildest imagination.

Lessons on Boundaries

Growing up with parents who both lost their parents while they were still young had a few advantages and many disadvantages. Both parents admitted parental roles didn’t come naturally to them, though they wanted children. It’s no wonder they struggled; they hadn’t witnessed much parenting and what they did see varied wildly. On the other hand, their challenged youth brought wonderful additions to the household: aunties and uncles and cousins, some by blood and others by choice, many of whom had provided mom or dad respite, in addition to folks my father randomly encountered. He seemed to collect stray people, so the notion of boundaries didn’t dare step foot on the property my dad considered his own.

The father I knew really never knew his father. His dad abandoned him and his mom when dad was an infant and died when dad was three. My grandmother struggled to survive as a live-in housekeeper and cook, so dad bounced between friends’ and relatives’ homes as a child. He seemed to have spent a lot of time with older adults or by himself. A gifted storyteller, he truly relaxed in taverns and small local bars, considered anyone who drank with him a friend, and brought home fellow-drinkers from all walks of life, cultures, races, and educational levels. The door also remained open to all his family and family-ish folks, with never a need to call first.

My mother, on the other hand, lived in poverty, knew her violent dad, and lost both parents by age 9. From that age until she finished high school, she lived in orphanages with strict rules. She slept in congregate quarters with lots of other children. She craved privacy and found strict rules comforting. Had she been given the power, I suspect she would have constructed a moat to keep the house inaccessible and hired assassins to sit on the roof to make sure nobody but immediate family (and perhaps a few selected others) stepped on the grounds, let alone inside the house.

The lessons I learned about boundaries as a child, laced with the popular value Children are to be seen and not heard, included two contradictory rules. Rule #1: good people let everybody in all the time for any reason and live as if mi casa es su casa (my house is your house), holding no expectation of reciprocation. Rule #2: good people refuse to let anyone into their homes or lives unless they have been properly vetted and sworn to follow house rules (no using the bathroom, no snooping, no borrowing, and with one or two designated exceptions, no spontaneous visits).

Because mom ruled the house weekdays, not even school friends who lived nearby could stop by to play. Instead we would meet in the alley and entertain ourselves behind cover. Because dad ruled the house weekends, impromptu parties erupted with clusters of guests as varied as fund-raising priests from Northern Ireland, motorcycle club members, and professional wrestlers on tour (dad loved to share Haystack Calhoun and Pepper Gomez allegedly stepped foot in his house)(I slept through the visit so cannot corroborate).

No wonder I had such difficulty creating and holding boundaries in my life, flopping between social butterfly and wannabe-hermit. Taking in abandoned animals/strangers and then adopting creatures back out when neighbors or landlords complained. Feeling guilty for sandwiching 5-minute beach visits in the midst of back-to-back meetings on long work days as if time to breathe seemed frivolous.

Lessons arrive in many guises. Two memorable teachable moments pop into my mind.

The scene: shopping alone after work in a K-Mart store in rural Arizona, a single mom picking up items for somebody’s school project. Focused on a quick in-and-out, I didn’t give attention to anything but the task at hand. My cart pulled to the side, I surveyed a display of merchandise. In the middle of the aisle, a red-faced scruffy man in a not-so-white t-shirt and jeans that barely stayed up, bumped his cart head-on into mine, blocking my passage up the aisle with his cart and belligerence. He looked at me with disgust. Startled, I waited. About three feet behind him I saw a woman. She stopped, avoided eye contact, and didn’t speak. The man observed, quite loudly, “They shouldn’t allow fat women like you in this store. You take up too much room in the aisles!” I cannot remember the remainder of his rant, but he continued for a short while. I had not blocked the aisle in any way, hadn’t noticed him, never met him before. Eventually he shook his head, moved his cart, and stormed away.

As he left, I wished I had thought of something to say to him. My dad would have bought him a drink. My mom would have fled, quickly, leaving the cart behind, complaining to the manager on her way out the door. I finished my shopping. On my way home I thought about it, feeling hurt and then feeling angry. What made him think I wanted his opinion?! A quote from a Wayne Dyer book I’d read returned to me: What other people think of me is none of my business. I repeated, Your opinion of me is none of my business. It helped me calm myself and I realized the stranger’s behavior violated a few of my values related to judging people and to manners. I began to think about boundaries.

As a single parent working full-time, attending college classes at night, I kept a roof over our heads. We had vacations every year and did a lot of weekend family activities. Neither perfect nor wealthy, I handled things well enough. I used your opinion of me is none of my business often until random folks quit offering their opinions to me. I introduced the word “No” into my vocabulary to reduce my stress. My lesson: know my values and boundaries ahead of time.

The second lesson in boundaries arrived when a friend’s breast cancer returned. She wanted to talk about death and dying. Her spouse, she said, refused to listen, and even after her doctor offered a grim prognosis and suggested she get her affairs in order, the doctor also encouraged her to stay positive through treatment. She remembered one night, before her first diagnosis, when our families got together to play board games and eat. I had quoted something I read about death and dying by Dr Bernie S Siegel. I regretted my enthusiasm about the book and I really did not want to talk with this woman who was near my age about dying. But she needed to talk, and my friend-boundary said Listen.

You would think that hanging out with someone who felt death hovered nearby might feel sad. Instead, it freed us both in many ways. She said it gave her blessed relief. For me, once death was on the table, no topic was off the table. The change in her amazed me. Some days she’d call me, too tired and sick to move, and I’d go visit and read to her from Love, Medicine and Miracles (her choice, not mine). When her spouse found out, he told me to never return. Still, she called and informed me I would not abandon her. How could I? Normally restrained, she disappeared at a street fair we attended together. I found her dancing under a tree as a mariachi group played nearby. She shouted in my direction, “I LOVE mariachi music!” I laughed. I didn’t know that! At another event I lost track of her when she followed a small Mardi Gras parade, gathering strings of beads and hooting at the musicians. The last weekend she phoned and told me she needed time outdoors and asked me to pick her up right away. A storm dumped buckets of rain as far as we could see, but she hopped in the car and we headed for a memorial to a fallen war chief. She talked about her parents (her white mom as the formidable one, her Apache dad as the kind and quiet one). We commanded the rain to stop (it did) so we could search for the warrior’s hidden grave (didn’t find it, of course, but a rainbow convinced us we might be close). She shared obnoxious observations like “You take on too much and expect too little from other people in your life.” I did not even consider telling her that her opinion was none of my business.

At her funeral I had zero regrets. I’m crying right now, but I still celebrate that time together and our talks about life, magic, prayer, God, the human spirit, and death. I remain so thankful I didn’t let fear create a boundary.

That’s the thing about boundaries. They need to reflect our values and matter to us.

You have a right to set and hold boundaries around general expectations as well as some responsibility to be clear about them with others. By general expectations I mean things like requesting a significant other contact you if they’re running late, regarding raised voices (I grew up amid passionate arguments so I don’t mind raised voices, but some people find them very aggressive), sarcasm, personal insults, assisting with household or common-area work tasks (yes, please!), tipping (please don’t be cheap), violence (no, including threats), and any topic that matters to you.

Speaking of things that matter, a friend of mine has a 300-question guide he uses to size up potential relationships. While I laughed about it, I also applauded him for taking time to figure out if others’ values mesh with his. We all need to acknowledge our values, know what’s not flexible, and recognize changes as time passes. Lifelong learning is important to me. I love travel and learning other languages. My views of the “isms” (like Racism, Sexism, Ageism, Size-ism) aren’t very negotiable. Knowing what’s important to you should matter to others in your life. Politics. Money. Credit cards? Family. Social media time. Education? Reading. Religion and spirituality. Ambition? Fortune-tellers. Sports. Holidays?

My dad referred to New Year’s Eve as “amateur night for budding alcoholics,” so he always turned in early that evening. For me, it’s a time to reflect on one year and welcome the new with hope and joy.

Value and the associated boundaries may change over time. I worried about spoiling my children. My grandkids? So few worries. Growing up, my dad shut down certain discussions, including professional sports, during family gatherings because they resulted in insults and angry exchanges. In my world, Super Bowl Sunday exists for eating, laughing, and talking smack about opposing teams. Never witnessed food policing or a temper flare, even for a minute.

Some time ago I watched a video with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. He refrains from violence, of course, but he told a story. A pesky mosquito comes to visit us.  We wave it away. And wave it away. And wave it away. And without thinking, whack. An act of violence against the mosquito. He chuckled and made a comment about all of us doing our best and moving forward. Amen to that.

For tips on maintaining boundaries, check out this article.[i]

Will be back next week.  Until then, may you be healthy, happy, safe, and strong.

Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions, my experiences, nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. If you’re in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[ii]  If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline.[iii] You deserve support and to know someone has your back.

Copyright D.R. deLuis 2020


[i] https://psychcentral.com/blog/when-people-cross-your-boundaries/

[ii] Most areas in the U.S. offer a “2-1-1” service that can provide information about local resources. In addition, one website (there are many) with info about finding an affordable therapist is Open Counseling at www.opencounseling.com .

[iii] National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255; to reach the Crisis Text Line in the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808.