Posted in Personal Journal Blog

That One True Purpose

Lately, I’ve felt like the whole world has opened up. Not because I won the lottery or found out that secretly I’m the air to a small country in the middle of nowhere. No, not because of that. I feel this way because I have finally found myself. I have found my voice and that one true purpose. Making this statement is colossal, right?! I know that every human being out there at some point in their life has wondered why the hell they are here. I have for years. It didn’t click for me until recently at the age of 53. It was an accident that I found my purpose. I had hit my lowest point in life and thrown my hands in the air in defeat, swore never to leave my bed again, and then my purpose found me.

The life I’ve lived has shaped my purpose. I am the youngest of five kids, and by nature and according to Alfred Adler’s Birth Order Theory, I am a textbook 5th or last child. I’m a risk-taker, outgoing, creative, self-centered (but come on, who isn’t), competitive, bored easily, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, (oh yeah, I like to be pampered), and have a sense of humor, did I say I like to be pampered? There is also a bit about being financially irresponsible, but that’s not me. I am that person who was journaling paper budgets six months in advance in those black-bound school journals before you could use digital budgeting tools like PocketGuard or Mint. I am the organizer in our house, the cleaner, fixer, mover, shaker, and disciplinarian. At the beginning of my relationship with Paul, we had a sleepover at my mom’s place (if that’s what you want to call it); I walked past the bathroom door as he had just opened it on his way out. I stood back and watched him silently go through my bathroom drawers. I would say that was creepy, but It was entertaining to watch the horror on his face over finding my hair ties, bobby pins, hair clips, and barrettes all separated and placed neatly into individual little Tupperware containers. I held my laughter in as he lifted one of the containers from the drawer, examined my severe organization, and let out an audible “holy shit!” Yeah, no, I think the creepy one in that scenario was me. Paul is still with me after 28 years and brings in the cash while I write, mother, obsessively rearrange our kitchen cabinet contents, wage war against plastic, and manage our finances and the house. He enriches our lives by sharing silly antics with our daughters, drumming up raucous play sessions, imposing his cool dude presence, and cleaning up the kitchen after I cook nightly. We are a well-suited match. He doesn’t worry much. There was a time when that was detrimental to our relationship because I obsessively stress enough for all 5 of us and got frustrated that his head was empty while mine was racing with thoughts (that green-eyed monster, jealousy is ugly).

Being a worrier, I find it hard to let go of things. Worrying less gets better as I get older because I don’t have the energy anymore. Worrying involves digging up a lot of information stored in our being. Humans process thoughts over and over again deep into their subconscious, where conclusions are formulated in a REM state; which I can never achieve because I’m too busy laying awake worrying and counting the number of popcorn bubbles on our stucco ceiling or naming all of the shapes I can see in the little bumpy plaster splatters. So worry is not really my only actual problem; there’s also insomnia; I’ve had that for as long as I could remember. I’m like Buffy the Vampire slayer, only older, puffier, and brunettish, only in the sense that she was a vampire, and they come out at night. I am a night dweller too, and I’m in no way scared of the light of the sun, but I do like to sleep in, so don’t ever invite me to catch a sunrise, please. If you wake me up anywhere before 7:30 or 11:30 am, I just can’t. Oh, I’m exaggerating, 9:30 am. If I didn’t take citalopram and journal, relieving myself with a brain dump, I would never close my eyes (hey, if I do a plug for Citalopram, do I get a kickback like my Dr’s? Come on, big Pharma, throw me a bone!). I usually fall asleep at about 2 am and then wake up late. I lay in bed reading, talking to our girls in NZ on FaceTime, or writing in the notes on my iPhone. At one point in time, I traced our entire family tree back to the 1400s, hiding under my covers. It’s a wonder my poor husband doesn’t have sleep issues because there is always a little glow of phone light coming from my side of the bed. I hold off on looking at social media until the early hours of the morning, 8:00 am. You early risers probably think I’m pathetic; I know, I can feel the way you’re eyeing the page, all judgie like. Just because Ben Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” doesn’t mean me and those like me are doomed to be broken, starving artists with limited intelligence and foolish banter till the day we die.

I make sense of my world by putting it into words and taking photos. I am creative. Most creatives have some quirky issues and are sometimes highly intelligent (I’m not saying I’m a genius or anything, but I am smarter than the average bear). People like me aren’t savvy in the conventional; you test well on national standards tests way, but in a more creative thinking outside of the box way. I wasn’t a standard student, and I wasn’t academically gifted. My teachers recognized my gift as a singer early on, and they tailored my school schedule to nurture my talents. I had voice and dance lessons after school, and by the end of high school, I had four music classes out of 7 a day. I would even get pulled out of academic courses to work on creative projects. I was fortunate to have a middle school and high school in tune and sympathetic to my needs. Big shout out to Gulfview Middle School and Naples High School. Best schools ever! 💙💛🦅

Even though I was encouraged to sing and be the captain of the majorette squad, I missed out in the English lit area. All of the brainy kids were in the classes that would have nurtured my desire to be a writer. I was fortunate to be put in Mr. Glancy’s class my senior year, he taught the advanced English lit classes, and he inspired me to read and love it. He had the cool factor and was skilled at getting inside the student’s heads. He could see I was a bit of an oddball but didn’t dismiss me. No, he sat me at the front of the room to sleep with my head on my backpack and made me wake up and engage. I’m thankful for that.

As I look back at all of the journaling I have done in my stack of notebooks and online, I realize that I have been a natural-born writer all along. I worked so hard at my singing career, but my silent true passion was always right at my fingertips. When I gave up hope during the isolation of covid, the only safe place to turn was inward, and that spilled out of my fingers onto paper and up to the cloud. I have been feverishly writing since that morning in March 2021 when I woke up and frantically searched the house for every one of my old journals and online diaries. I was desperate to speak my mind and didn’t want to burden others with my issues, beliefs, and ideas. I did what came naturally to me and wrote about the pain and confusion I felt. Over the weeks that followed, my dear husband noticed a calmness in me. My writing was healing me, lifting me, and giving me purpose. He has been so happy for me, and I have felt such relief and been much easier to be around (I’ve even started laughing at myself again). My lost feeling hadn’t started during COVID; in fact, the more I dive into my memories and document my journey, I find that I was wandering longer than I or anyone else knew. I know who and what I am now; I have a voice that I am not afraid to use. I’ve found a space I can be my authentic self in, and while doing it, I can share my words and help others find themselves hopefully (or I may just confuse you even further than you are now).

The world has indeed opened up as my mind has opened, as I’ve let go of my fear of failing and worry over being perfect. I’ve learned to take care of myself first now. I understand that taking care of Jeri gives me the strength to be there for others and still know when I need to back off. Yes, I am a writer, blogger, wordsmith, and expert through my life experiences. I am excited to be alive again and looking forward to seeing how my words touch others and continue to heal me. I am at peace knowing that one true purpose has finally found me.

This is where the magic happens.
Posted in Personal Journal Blog, writing

#GetThePlasticOuttaHere!

When a lot of us came back from evacuation following hurricane Irma, we found that our yards were filled with knocked-over trees, brush, and branches everywhere! Some neighborhoods were flooded, people had lost their homes completely, electricity was out, telephone lines were down; it was a real mess. The Naples water table had been contaminated and our water was not potable. A lot of people had stocked up on plastic bottles or jugs of water while preparing for the hurricane’s arrival.

I remember growing up in Naples during hurricane season and one of the things that my mom used to do when a hurricane was coming was sterilize and scrub out the bathtub. She would fill it with water in case we needed it for the toilet, whenever we needed to flush it. We never ended up using the water in the tub but it was a precaution in case our water supply was cut off as a result of the storm. If you’ve never been in Florida or any of the southern states for that matter, during hurricane season then you might not be familiar with hurricane preparedness. Getting ready for a hurricane here is similar to getting ready for a blizzard or a snowstorm up north. However, in Florida, we board up our windows or pull down or hurricane shutters, instead of putting chains on our car tires.

People run out to the store and buy canned food, water, and maybe charcoal for the grill. When I was a child, we used to buy little tins of butane for chafing dishes or fondue pots and oil for our oil lamps. Yes, seriously, we had oil lamps; they were made out of clear glass with a fabric wick, and the oil was golden yellow or pink sometimes. I don’t even know if anybody has those anymore. To this day, we fill our cars and propane bottles with gas and buy flashlights, tons of batteries, and first aid kits. Those who can afford it purchase nice new shiny generators that run off fossil fuel and can power an electric air conditioning unit, if you have one handy. This is super practical and brilliant. I wish we would’ve thought of that before Irma hit.

You see, hurricane season is during the hottest months of the year here in Florida (August, September, and October). Naples is down at the bottom of the state. It’s damp, hot, muggy, and sticky, and there is no going outside to cool off when there’s no electricity. We have mosquitoes by the millions, more little bloodsucking insects than people.

We get hurricane days off school in Florida the same way kids have snow days up north. I looked forward to those as a youngster, what school-aged child and teacher or two didn’t? We would prepare the house while listening to the radio and watch the news waiting for the meteorologist from the Florida Hurricane Center in Miami to come on. I would check outside periodically to see how the sky looked. Yes, that’s right, we would check to see if the sky was turning a gray-green hue because sometimes this indicates a tornado being close by. We kept our eye out for funnel clouds, and if there was an announcement that there was a tornado in our area, we had to take shelter. We would take our battery-powered radio into the tub with many pillows and wait for the announcement that it was all clear to come out. We didn’t have the weather channel. We didn’t have a weather app or read weather radars on our phones. I’m talking about when we didn’t have computers in our homes in the 70s and 80s. We used to get updates on the hurricane’s speed and position every half hour through a “special bulletin” either on the television or again on the radio if the tv wasn’t working. I would sit underneath the dining room table with my pillow and blanket in a central part of our house, far away from any windows that could shatter. Anxiously I would listen for the coordinates announced by the broadcaster and plot them on the little hurricane map in the back of the Florida phonebook!! Does anyone else remember that? Please don’t tell me I was the only person nerdy enough to sit there with my marker, all through the night plotting the course of our impending doom as some wild as hurricane approached us? It was scary and exciting at the same time.

When the eye of the storm approached, it was silent and still. We would go outside to secure things. I always felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, emerging cautiously from her farmhouse after flying through the black and white sky and landing with a massive bump on top of the wicked witch of the East. I was so disappointed when I got out the door to find that I wasn’t going to be greeted by a bunch of cheery, singing munchkins offering me loads of candy and gifts. No, it was those pesky mosquitoes and loads of branches and palm fronds. Those were the days, young innocent, naïve, and thinking that the event of a hurricane was exciting and fun.

Anyway, back to the reason I started this story, during Irma, which was in 2017. We didn’t have any water at the house, but my husband had a stockpile of it at work!! I was so thankful and went with him to pick some up. I don’t know what I thought he had on hand in the shop, but it was not what I had expected. It was a mountain of individual PLASTIC BOTTLES, WRAPPED IN PLASTIC!!! As a stared at the heap of water, a movie reel of world disaster playing through my mind, and I pictured a little atomic mushroom cloud exploding over my head! I said, “man, I don’t want that!” Paul replied, “well, what else are you going to drink? Where are you going to get water”? Stuck between a spring rock and a plastic hard place, I hated to take it to the house but had no choice.

Months after Irma had left her mark on our state, there were still plastic bottles of water floating around our home and in the refrigerator. I kept seeing them laying half-drunk all over the place. Why were my family members still drinking or just opening these??!! What happened to glasses and the filtered water from the fridge? I said, that’s it! #gettheplasticouttahere!

Knowing that plastic takes up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill and enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the earth four times, I had decided to wage war on plastic water bottles. It’s a war that will be hard-won if at all. We have left a mammoth size carbon footprint stamped across Mother Earth’s heart and the repeated blows are taking her down. I’m pretty sure my husband and children think I’m over the top about this but I know I’m not. You see there will continue to be hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods; more than ever before because we are making our planet sick. The intensity of the storms we will weather will get stronger and stronger until mother earth just totally loses her s**t.

I see the rich spending trillions and trillions of dollars building rockets to send us to make homes on Mars, a place where there’s no breathable air for human beings. And I wonder, “why are people trying to find a way off of our planet with their money, instead of spending their money to come up with ways to fix our problems here, on earth where we belong? It doesn’t make sense to me. I have always believed that the only way to fix a problem is to work through it, not go around it or, in this case, Rocket Off into space away from it. I take the matter of caring for mother earth very seriously because I want my children and grandchildren to live long, healthy, happy lives. I want them to grow and thrive and discover the beauty in this world that we have and still have the ability to share with others. We need to change yesterday, decades ago. We can’t evacuate from the earth like we’re evacuating from a hurricane. We’re past the preparedness stage, and the reality is, unlike the beloved character Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we are not going to be able to click our heels three times say the words “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home” and magically return to the place we once loved and the people we shared it with. The storm is coming, and there will be no pulling down shutters on this one.

AUTHORS NOTE: We can change the ending of this story. The only requirement for a happy ending is that EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US CHANGE OUR WAYS, today, right this minute.