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July 2019

My wife, Maureen, and I recently returned home from a great motorcycle adventure touring through Pennsylvania Amish country and into the mountains of Virginia. Each summer since I retired we hit the road on the bike for at least a month. In 2017 we traveled coast to coast; stopping each night in a different town, crossing 22 states and staying at lots of hotels. 2018 destination was Montana, by way of Canada, then across the northern states and then Yellowstone.  

This year we limited our adventure to ten days with multiple night stays in a couple of places, which made our adventure more spontaneous and relaxing. We took tons of barn pictures, (for my photo blog), played in the mountains, and took leisurely rides to check out local attractions. 

Most days we were back at a house we had rented by midafternoon, sitting on the porch watching young calves playing in the field directly across from the house. Each afternoon we also witnessed rain storms roll over the mountains a few miles in the distance. One afternoon we watched as a wall of rain slowly crept across the field in front of us eventually drumming out a beat on the tin roof over our heads and breaking the heat with a cooling breeze.  It was relaxing and meditative.

The moment we left our driveway at the start of our adventure we felt relaxed and in the flow. We allotted ourselves enough time with our plan for plenty of stops; limiting the amount of miles we would ride before we stopped for the night. 

Maureen’s excellent navigation skills always found uncongested back roads, nurturing food stops, and interesting parks and historical sites to visit.  We felt supported by the Universe with serendipitous happenings and with people we came in contact with. It’s easy to meet people when you roll into a restaurant, hotel or National Park and they spot all the travel stickers from across the country on our little trailer. We even had a mechanical breakdown on the bike where we were dead on the road. What could have been a catastrophe, turned out to be a minor hiccup, and we were offered support by people we had never met before. Incredible!

Sounds relaxing, right? 

It would be wonderful if I could maintain that sense of aliveness, support, nurturing, and love of life consistently, even when I’m not on a holiday, but unfortunately, stuff beyond my control still happens. Maureen and I were living in vacation mode while everything we left behind was still plodding on. 

We rolled into our driveway to find a lawn looking like a hayfield, a garden that resembled a jungle from all the weeds and wildlife that took up residence in there. The resident groundhog and rabbits were eating through the garden like a buffet.  

I have my OC responsibilities that need following up on, my adult children who need some help, and then, when I call my 99 year old mother who lives alone in Florida, I find her in total crisis. She lost her wallet (in her house), it’s been missing for two weeks with her credit card, medical ID, SS number (which she doesn’t remember), and she sounds horrible (raspy voice). She’s worried because she doesn’t know what to do, and therefore, hasn’t been eating or sleeping well.  It’s starting to affect her heart condition which is exacerbating her anxiety. Then it hits me! Shit! I’ve got a lot of stuff to take care of. 

Over the next couple of hours I triage what my priorities should be, plus the new responsibilities from the OC meeting I just attended, and I find that I’m getting aggravated and annoyed much easier. Every little extra chore feels like another rock I have to carry. I want to blame people for putting extra burdens on me or not meeting my expectations of them. My morning meditations start to get shorter and I skip one or two yoga classes because “there’s so much to do.” 

When I go outside to tend to my garden I find myself getting pissed at the rabbits and the fat ass groundhog that lives under my shed and continues to decimate my garden. And I feel violated! I want to kill them! 

Bing!  Oh yeah, that feeling of being violated. I breathe into the feeling of being violated, and recall the specific times I felt violated, impotent, scared and betrayed as a child and how angry I became from those violations.  Feeling violated is my biggest trigger. I breathe in deeply and remember I have the ability to be in my power even if I feel powerless. I’m not that wounded kid, I’m an adult, with tools, abilities, knowledge, wisdom and support. 

I recall a Celtic quote: “You don’t give a man a sword who can’t dance.” 

To be able to dance you need to remain flexible and light. If the man is rigid he’ll swing the sword right into his own personal hell. I had been too rigid and wanted to control and power my way through my issues. The way through was to release into my wounds, feel them, then breathe into my wellness with compassion and grace. So be it.

I deepened my morning meditations. I remain consistent with my yoga practice. I booked and enjoyed a 90 minute massage. I’m eating food that supports my health and lifestyle. And I breathe. Deeply. 

I realized, when dealing with my mother’s issue, I found my getting annoyed at her resistance to receiving help. It became clear to me that that my mom’s resistance was the shame and self-loathing she felt after losing her wallet and her inability to care for herself like she used to. It was by meeting her with empathy and compassion that we were able to resolve her problem. She now has her wallet and will soon be on her way to live with my brother. 

My garden is looking good, the critters, which I love, (nah, maybe just tolerate) and I seem to have come to an understanding, there’s plenty for all of us. My lawn is mowed, although it needs mowing again; and I’m finally writing this newsletter. 

I even had enough time to finally go through my sister’s papers and sort out what to keep and what I can let go of. The gift I received from that was the deep appreciation and pride I have for who my sister was and how she lived her extraordinary life. 

What steps do you take when you’re overwhelmed?

What do you need to put into your life to minimize stress?

How do you betray yourself when you’re flooded with responsibility?

Be well and remember. “We strive for perfection, and settle for progress.” 

In the spirit of brotherhood,

Paul Gemme and the COMEGA OC 

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