Learning a Lesson Through Jury Duty

It started with an innocent walk to the mailbox.  As I stood on the curb thumbing through the mail, the postcard that we all dread was there — SUMMONS — I had been called to Jury Duty.  It doesn’t happen too often so it comes as a surprise when there is a physical date to comply with.

Justice

This was the 5-day call in after 5:00 p.m. service.  While there is a chance of not being called in, it keeps you tethered to the court schedule for a week.  I made it through the first 3 days with “check back tomorrow” but on the 4th day — I was told to be at the court that afternoon at 1:00 p.m.  My heart sank and I knew there was no ignoring this. I do not like my schedule to be altered in any way.  I get anxiety when I have no choice in the matter.  After years of raising kids and having to be on their schedule, I am happy in my new freedom to arrange my day to balance work, exercise, writing and fun.

Time to Think

I was seated in the waiting room ready to be sent to a courtroom.  At that point, I realized that I needed to change my attitude and be present.  I was immediately called into the jury box and the hopeful thoughts of the attorneys and judge that I would fit their criteria. I listened intently to the instructions and what would be expected of me.  I was still frustrated with having to be in a room and not free to come and go.  The trial would go for 4 days which would put me into next week before I finished.

As I settled in to my fate, I glanced around the room at the cast of characters and then settled on the defendant.  This was a criminal case.   She looked scared and I suddenly felt bad for not wanting my own day to be altered when she was facing an interruption to her entire life.  It all became real in that moment.  Being placed on a criminal jury trial held much more weight than the civil law that I dealt with on a daily basis in my career. This was someone’s life at stake.

As the process continued I was still in the jury box at the end of the day and asked to be back at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.  I could not stop glancing at her eyes as each juror told their ability or inability to serve and determine her fate in a fair way.

As more specific details unfolded, I was asked if I could put aside any sympathy and allow certain evidence that might be a bit tough to hear.   I now felt the heaviness of what I was being asked to decide.  I had never made it this far in any prior jury service and could not honestly say that sympathy would not play a factor in my decision. I also knew that my own conscience would push me to want the full weight of punishment to keep her from further putting herself or others at risk.

The Judge had finished his instructions and now it was time for the attorneys to get more personal in their assessment of jurors.  I realized that I had to be honest with myself. I did not want to be in the position of not being fair or tough enough.  I looked at the Defendant again and wanted so badly to contribute to a good life for her.  I also wanted to be firm in my stance that a tough sentence might end this path for her.

After a few questions from each attorney, I realized that this case just hit too close to home for me to be unbiased.  As the Judge predicted, once you get into the details of the situation, you get drawn in.  You want to see how it all ends.  I would never know what happened to this person.

I made an honest assessment about myself and dismissal was the right decision.  I could not fit their criteria.  In that, I gave them the ability to move on to others who could make a better determination.

But — I was not free.  I thought about our legal system and knew that at least that Defendant had an opportunity to be represented.  I was hopeful that a fair verdict could be reached.   I kept seeing her face in my thoughts and hoped that her life would move forward in a better way.

How fair is it to make decisions without knowing the full story of a life. If found guilty, would it make a difference? Or would it breed hopelessness that anything would change for her, just another tough break.

I walked away appreciating that I had this experience and did not ignore my responsibility.  Empathy with no knowledge of life choices or the court system is the true bias.  We leave a lot to the judges we elect. Their humanity or inhumanity shapes our communities and we need to take it seriously when voting them in.

A Fulfilled Life

What would happen if you came across a description of a person looking for a job that matched everything you might need to keep your life fulfilled?  Instead of dating apps, there should be “making life better” apps.  Just imagine the possibilities.  It wouldn’t necessarily have to be something you could afford, just meeting each other’s goals at different times of life.  Here are my ideas:

  • Chef in training who needs referrals for a family who never have time to cook dinner
  • Retired professor who is bored and would offer extra tutoring to failing college students
  • Grandparents who do not live near their family to pick up kids from school and help with homework
  • Beginning author to write down lesser known family stories while hoping to find an agent to publish their book
  • Athletes who no longer play to organize a Physical Education Program at Elementary Schools

I know the list could be endless.  What a positive move it would be to match people who could offer each other experiences that move them along in life…… Who would be your perfect fit?

Who Is That Person For You?

When To Say No — When To Say Yes

I recently discovered an app called The Tapping Solution that has given me a great tool to combat my anxiety.  Being diagnosed with high blood pressure was something I denied for many years.  It became apparent that I could not talk myself out of it.  I kept explaining it away with excuses that ran from Whitecoat Syndrome to caffeine.  I was desperate to stay away from medication until one day it got so high that I was turned away from a dental appointment.  Time to face reality Sherry!  

In my need to understand my health situation, I needed to understand my patterns and my inability to change.  Of course there is age and facing the fact that my tolerance for going at all speeds, keeping on extra pounds since menopause and irregular exercise habits were key components to my diagnosis.  But in taking stock of my inner voice, I realized that I always deny that I am not 100% in health or energy. I told my doctor that there is no way that I can be sick or rendered slower because not only do people depend on me — I must always be available to say yes to anything asked of me.   She looked at me and just shook her head — “you need to learn to say no.”

I have been trying to understand what saying no means.  It is such a foreign concept to me that it never enters my mind to use the phrase “that doesn’t work for me.”  It has been a source of pride for me to make hard things easy for others.   This has been my life’s work, making others appreciate what I can do for them.  I do not know how to meet my needs first. More than that, what are my needs?

Always Teaching

The childhood lesson of chores before fun has stayed with me my whole life.  Leaving the house without the bed made or dishes in the dishwasher would ruin the rest of my day.  As sad as this sounds, it would haunt me all day to know that I left before the house was in order.

It seems this thought process follows me everywhere I go in my day.  If there is no time left for fun at the end of the day, then I accomplished something. Fun can wait.  Over time this has damaged my health and well being.  It is not sustainable to never think about what life has to offer other than work.  I need to add play to my life.  Why is it so hard for me  to think about discovering nature or activities that do not lead to a paycheck.  I never learned to value just me being me.  I defined love as what I could do for those I sought attention from.

My brain is hard wired and I need to make changes.  I need to say yes to myself and create a sense of whimsy about my day.  It’s not that I don’t laugh or feel joy — it’s those moments when I stop short of choosing freedom from what I “should” be doing.  Duty takes over and if done, I tap into tomorrow’s to do list.

Tapping and meditation have helped me slow down, listening and paying attention to the moment has given me perspective and the inevitable medication has lowered the high blood pressure that I fought so hard to will away.

I have developed a love of yoga and the calm it brings me.  Implementing the practice — me before work — is creating joy I never knew.  Simple fun — writing this blog, gym classes, green iced tea and my favorite coffee shop are “Yes’s” to me.   Work and play is a choice I make each day. Not one or the other.  Being centered in my life and core is essential to living my life well.  It is okay if others have to learn how to do the hard things without me.

New Goal Each Day

 

 

 

 

My Blog — My Story

 

Is There A Book In Me?

I have often thought of writing a book.  The problem is that I do not have the attention span to stay with one project for that long.  I look around and wonder what else I can investigate.  I prefer to accept that I have a curious mind as opposed to “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome.”  This is my own definition of my brain.  It is normal for me to change subjects constantly during the day.

Outside My Door — There Is Adventure

It is so tough for my family to follow me in conversation.  Luckily, I smile a lot so they at least see that I am happy.  The best conclusion to my day is one that is filled with new facts and a new set of subjects to master.

My Brain Each Day

So — I made a discovery this morning while sitting here with my thoughts at my favorite coffee shop — My blog can be my memoir.  I have no trouble focusing on an essay that comes freely from my brain to my fingers.  I can type faster than I can think (thank you high school typing class) — I can edit as I go and hit publish and poof it’s done.  Another chapter.  I don’t have to follow any order and every decade of my life is sprinkled throughout my focus for that day.  I work through my angel side and my demon side with every thought.

I would like to thank my mother for being a role model for writing.  She left a book of thoughts which give me comfort when I miss her.  I would like to thank my dad for my smile — when he was happy it was electric.

I thank my sister and brother for never letting me forget that I was the bossy one but acknowledge that I am always there to take care of things and encourage them — they are my rocks.

My husband, kids and grandkids are my reasons for joy.  When I am down, I can look at their faces and they reflect back the positivity that I have brought to their world.  I must never forget that they deserve to see my smile— just as I loved to see my dad smile.

Oh but wait — I am reading about artists, I need to get home to do a legal document for work, do I have everything I need for Kinsley’s Valentine’s Day Dance today, what will the weather bring this weekend? Like I said, Bright Shiny Object Syndrome — I am smiling.  I’m never far from my 18-year old self who had the whole world ahead of her.

Eighteen is Magical

 

Overwhelm Cannot Be Ignored

Everything In It’s Place

I know when I am overwhelmed.  I get angry too quickly and start cleaning like a maniac.  I snap at anyone who gets in my way and mutter under my breath that without me no one would survive.

The resolve is that I can feel it coming.  There are weeks that it is unavoidable to say no and the loss of control is unnerving.  Maybe it just takes getting frustrated to get me back on track.

Where does that feeling come from that says — only I can do things right?  Why is it so tough to adopt the mantra “If one day is not long enough, there is always the next day.”  Why do I need so much praise during this time that I feel like I’m falling apart.

I learned to create organization at a young age. It meant my outer world was taken care of at the expense of insight into my inner world.  I did not learn how to connect with my emotional self as a young girl and adult — the outer appearances were more important.  In my head overwhelm causes me to feel inadequate and I rush to make the outer world whole again.  Once everything is in place, I can feel relaxed and ready to take on my responsibilities.

My behavior is not fair.  I leave the people I care about the most, feeling  betrayed.  They know that I have always treasured being kind and I do not show kindness during my hurricane periods.  I must accomplish goals I set every day and prove that I am cherished.

All Smiles

The answer is NOT to keep busy.  That has been my avoidance “go to.”  The remedy is to slow down, finish what I can and realize that a good day is acknowledging all around me who create my happy world. The feeling of appreciation does not come from always doing and rescuing.  It comes from seeing everyone I touch, smile and feel at ease.  I have to learn to put fun ahead of tasks more often.

Learn to Play — Be a Kid

 

Creative Ways To Find A Life Purpose

My thoughts always center around women helping women.  I want to create gatherings with women of all ages to offer support, ideas and laughter.

 

Fun-Support-Laughter

When I think back to my grandmothers and my own mother, I know that there were times that their unfulfilled dreams were realized within the women groups they surrounded themselves with.  I always loved the laughter that came out of the conversations I listened to and tried hard to always be in the middle of the gatherings.

Sharing Ideas

Listening is something I am good at.  I have an innate curiosity to understand how people got to this moment in time.  I am an encourager to not hold back and to find a way to make challenges become reality.

I have lived this — I went back to college and graduated with my bachelor degree at age 51.  Five years later I trained and ran a half marathon.  I needed to prove to myself that I could start something hard and keep at it until I completed it.

I want to spread positivity and give permission to women of any age who feel stuck and unfulfilled that no matter how hard or impractical an idea is — just try.

Keep The Door Open

My Mother — A Gift I Didn’t Realize Until Now

Glennon Doyle to Oprah Winfrey……

“‘Hello my friend, my sister, my example, I’m sitting on a balcony on Cayman Island and right at this moment writing an essay about the word mother, what that word really means, how it’s less to me a fixed identity we can be or not be and more an energy we can offer or not offer. The essay is about how some of us who can check the box mother never really learn how to offer mothering love and how others of us who don’t check the box, harness it and offer it widely and wildly. The essay is about how much better off the world would be if we gathered up mothering love and used it like a floodlight instead of a pointed laser aimed only at the few we’ve been assigned.

As I’m writing this essay on the balcony, my sister just sent me a text that says, ‘G, Oprah’s mother died. She was 83. I wanted you to know.’ I just got that text a minute ago. I would never presume to guess what your relationship was like, how complex it was and is to be your mother’s daughter, what your feelings are this week, what your feelings have been or will be. I just wanted to say, that you are my example of how to gather up mothering love and use it as a floodlight to illuminate and warm the world. You are my and the world’s best example of grace, which means that we can somehow give what we’ve never even received. I don’t know much, but from everything you bravely say and kindly don’t say, I’ve gathered that you didn’t get the mothering love you deserved and needed as a little girl and a grown girl.

To me, that is what makes you a miracle. It is a miracle that somehow you took the broken pieces that she put in your hands, all of them and you spun them into gold and opened your hands wide and offered that gold back to the world. Which is not just a gift to the world, it is a gift directly back to your mother, because you worked with what she gave you, ensured that her legacy through you is gold. With your help, your mother’s legacy is gold. What a gift. If there is a Heaven, she can see that now. She can see that her miraculous daughter somehow, somehow turned her offerings to gold. God, bet she’s amazed and grateful. Well done, good faithful, miraculous, badass, servant. In your corner forever.’

Sometimes too many words can make a story impossible to understand.  I have tried for years to explain to myself and to others how I felt about my mother.  I faulted her for her behavior many times but I know that she was a very misunderstood person navigating a complicated world.  Glennon Doyle gave me clarity on how I can love and thank her without a lifelong sadness that I did not get what I hoped for.  I got more than I hoped for, I just had to wait until she was gone to appreciate her soul.

My mother put her broken pieces in my hand and helped me see myself as she saw me.  She understood my need to express myself.  She would sit quietly and watch me dramatize my emotional self. There were times she tried to keep me still and I now realize she was teaching me to listen. She brought music to my life and taught me to appreciate the words and that they can sometimes mirror feelings and dry my tears.  To this day, when stressed, I play piano music with the vision of her playing while I lay down on the floor next to her.

Mom’s Barn

In her dark days, when she reached for a drink to soothe her broken heart, her pen and paper gave her a voice where words were inadequate.  Reading her stories carefully, I unlocked the mystery of why she was so sad.  She took the parts of her life that she chose carefully and made them whole but died peacefully with her secrets of how many had betrayed her innocence and longing for parental love.

Her legacy is now clear. She listened and was kind.  She found a way to say what was so hard to accept through her music and writing. On one of her last days, I walked up to her and smiled wide — she opened her eyes and saw me — she knew me and I realized that she had all along.

 

 

My Life Needs Structure

DAYDREAMS

In my daydreams I imagine every day just waking up with no plan, nothing to do.  Let the day take me where I want it to go.  No stress, no calls, no responsibility.  No one needs me, no one interrupts my thoughts and the house just gets cleaned if I feel like it.

Then I am jolted back to reality and realize that would not be as wonderful as it sounds.

STRUCTURE

Structure keeps me engaged and gives me purpose.  Being needed for my expertise or ideas is a great feeling of self satisfaction.  Cleaning the house gives me the time to organize and renew it’s function.  A clean house is so much fun to walk around in.  Having a place to go every day keeps me from procrastination.

I’m starting a class to engage others who might be feeling the need for structure in their lives.  No matter what the circumstance, it can always be a mood lifter to know someone needs what you have to offer.   Change is so difficult and getting stuck in a daily loop of “nothing much matters, I can do it tomorrow” are words that lack any joy.

VARIETY

I also need variety to my days.  I have set up my schedule to be flexible and fluid.  I set a loose schedule at the law office but get the work done. I can take a substitute teaching job if I can fit it into my week.  I can schedule a weekend trip on a whim.

I need exercise in my week at least 5 days.  If not, I start to lose the motivation to keep it up.  Results come slower at my age but it is a true statement that the endorphins really do bring a great feeling.  Going to the gym is tough some days but I walk out saying “I’m so glad I went.”  I live by the mantra — just do something, it’s better than doing nothing.

HAPPY PLACES

I have identified a few “happy” places in my life.  My favorite coffee shop offers me a respite from sitting in the house.  I walk in to my favorite iced green tea, air conditioning (or the fireplace) and friendly people who call me by name.  This small town feeling in a community is life affirming.

I also love our backyard.  It is calm and peaceful and gives me a feeling of belonging to something bigger than me.  Watching animals, trees, plants and weather live together is a lesson that I love to watch.  My patio offers a comfortable place to write and just reconnect with my soul.

Driving is peaceful for me — I recently got a new car with amazing power and “car play” lets me listen to whatever I choose.  That is a huge benefit of technology! Music can just elevate my mood more than anything else — especially the songs from my high school years.  It brings me back to that girl who had a future only she could design.

CHOICES

The daydream of nothing to do has passed through my brain and while I still get overwhelmed at times, creating my life does not have to be pressure filled.  It comes down to choices — it has taken years to find a peaceful balance.  Saying “no” makes me happy.

My Journey Through Anxiety

I remember my first panic attacks.  I was 19 years old and newly married.  I was in a young marriage to run away from my miserable home life since my parents’ divorce.  Gone were my confident days and happy nights. Gone was the security of knowing everyone at home was safe.  Gone were my days in high school with friends and activities.  Gone was my smile.

I was grasping for anything that felt like family.  My husband and his family were chosen to fill my void.  They were intact and had dinner together every night.  They laughed.  I could bring our two kids here and they would be safe and loved.  It was not the same as my home and the feeling of belonging was a tall order.  I was asking too much of anyone to give me what I lost.

Pain of the past — fear of the future.  As I self soothed myself with another marriage, my panic attacks disappeared but anxiety was always at the surface of my day.  I developed a desperation to make sure everyone in my world was thriving.  I learned to smile and serve.  I pleased and never rocked the structure of what a family was supposed to be.  Fear became my friend and I valued being the victim of my story.

As the years went by I developed the inability to smile through my tears. I alone was responsible for my daily life.  If I let others choose my path, they would.  Saying no was excruciating for me and I let the waves keep coming.

The rescue came one day dialing the phone and a counselor said “come over I have a spot open for you.”  For once, I followed through and sat in her chair and worked on myself.  Gone was any hint of pity for my life. It was me in the chair finding my way out of the hole I was in.

I worked hard to climb my way out of victimhood.  I could not fall back on my safe haven of blame.  Choices were mine and I had not prioritized where I wanted my life to be.  I followed and blamed.  I stopped crying and set a goal for myself.

I lacked any experience in my life of being alone.  As we worked on a solution together — I realized that I never gave college a chance.  I began the process of enrolling at the local junior college.  It changed my confidence to be in a class where no one knew me or really cared what I was going through.  This was all me — I could succeed or quit on my own.

The earlier Sherry would have quit college when negative voices played all around me.  People were used to me making their lives my priority.  I had to be at class, I had homework, I was leaving everyone to their own life. I have never felt a greater sense of accomplishment than carrying and framing my diploma.  It was never just a piece of paper to me.

I do not have to have all the answers.  I do not need to solve everyone’s questions. The freedom I feel when I’m alone feeding my soul is joyful. I drive where I want and schedule myself according to morning or afternoon. I do not live on a time constraint. College taught me how to be alone. Writing gave me my voice.

As I age, I find anxiety in my health.  Once again I need to tackle this beast in my head. I know that I have the ability to find a way to work through this alone. My strength and confidence are solid and the foundation was set that day with the counselor.

Peace comes for me in small ways. Simple ideas work best.  Unreachable dreams just get in the way of everyday moments. Nature is a gift. Writing is an escape. Exercise is essential. Food can satisfy the need for nourishment but not be the mindless swallowing of feelings. Music can calm the wild thoughts and constant achieving.  I no longer need to see myself through other’s eyes.

 

 

 

 

When Change Cripples You

 

“Curiosity is the beginning of knowledge. Action is the beginning of change.”  James Clear

You lose your job. Your partner passes away. Your kids leave to start their adult lives. You get sick.  You retire.  You move.

Music Heals

Change can cripple you.  All of your plans for the future no longer matter. You are given a short time period to find new purpose. The energy and motivation necessary to get up out of bed just vanishes.  You feel cheated that you could not keep the journey alive. The devastation of every day is so unfair — why me, why now?

”What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow. Our life is the creation of our mind.” The Dhammapada (collection of Buddhist scriptures, on the power of your mind).

 

The changes have no particular order of how impossible they are. All are hard in their way,  it depends on each individual and what priorities are still viable. Each one can take the breath out of your soul.

I cannot give a concrete answer as to how to cope or move forward. I do believe, though, that hope is never lost and it takes a great amount of strength to find your spirit again.

Get out of bed, brush your hair and teeth and put on exercise clothes. That is a start —  find  a way to take a walk outside — don’t push yourself just walk till you feel you need to stop.  Walk a little more every day.  When you feel like being around people, find a coffee shop that feels comfortable.  Order your favorite drink and sit with your thoughts. Work up to talking to a friend.  Turn on music that has meaning to you. Dance!

Soothe Yourself

I am scared of what getting older may mean for my own changes.  It has taken so many years to develop the peace I have in my heart.  My husband has been by my side for close to 45 years.  Our kids have become amazing people who are kind and thoughtful.  Our grandkids are a joy to watch grow up learning about their strengths and hurdles.

It is so simple to say “enjoy your day” it is harder to actually live it.  I will do my best ……..

Our Yard —
My Happy Place

 

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