The Company You Keep

No doubt about it, 2020 hasn’t exactly turned out to be a banner year.  Aside from the birth of our new granddaughter (which was a wonderful gift), it has mostly been a series of hardships that had to be both accepted and endured.  From learning that our dog tested positive for heart worm in February, to the arrival of the Covid virus in Spring and the subsequent lock-downs which resulted in the cancellation of every single event and gathering we had been looking forward to, to the worry of our granddaughter’s premature birth, followed closely by my husband’s cancer diagnosis, I feel as if I’ve hardly had a chance to draw a breath, much less process it all.

But like everyone else whose world has been turn upside down in the past few months, I don’t really have a choice other than to do my best to cope with this new reality.  And so I do what I can to adapt and learn new coping strategies.  It helps to do the small things that cheer me up, like buying fresh flowers for our house or making sure I always have a stack of new books to read when I can find the time.  I’ve learned the importance of self-care, and am getting much better at saying “no” to obligations that  threaten to overwhelm me.  If nothing else, I’ve  come to accept my limitations, and that’s a good thing.

I’ve also discovered the importance of discernment.  There are days when I take a break from the news, knowing that all the craziness and conflict will still be there when I actually feel strong enough to hear it.  I hit the “unfollow” button on Facebook in order to keep my newsfeed free from the petty bickering and tribal chest-thumping that many feel obligated to post on a daily basis.  Sometimes I let my phone go directly to voice mail, particularly when it rings just as I am sitting down to a hot meal or settling into a comfortable chair with a good book.   It took a while, but I’ve finally learned not to feel guilty about that.

More importantly, I’ve learned to be a bit more particular about the people I talk to on a regular basis.  I’ve always believed in accepting others for exactly who they are, and that is still the case.  But now that I find myself living almost constantly on the fine line between coping and feeling completely overwhelmed, I realize that I need to spend most of my time only with those who have the ability to cheer me up and keep me hopeful. One good thing about hard times is that you discover some of the people you know are really, really, good at being supportive.  They’re the ones who listen to you without judgement, who assure you that things really will get better, and who know how to make you laugh when all you thought you could do was cry.

IMG_6698I still love all my friends and family, and value my relationship with each and every one of them.  But right now, in this particular situation, I’m gravitating toward those who are helping me cope.  And that’s okay, I think.  If nothing else, they’re showing me exactly what I need to do when it’s my turn to “pay it forward” and help someone else who is in need.  Because the one thing I know about dealing with hardships is that it’s so much easier when you don’t have to face them alone.

100 thoughts on “The Company You Keep

  1. So very true Ann, from your first sentence to your last. 2020 has tested each and every one of us and like you I find these days I’m very careful about who I listen to and gravitating towards those who choose to see the light and not allow themselves to be pulled down into the fear and negativity. That doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge those emotions when they rise up, but now more than ever we need to protect ourselves and our energy. Amen to staying away from the media which does nothing but perpetuate fear. Take care and keep enjoying those small simple things that bring you joy. Sending hugs xx

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Miriam! We do think alike, which is why I always look forward to your posts. You know how to find the good in any situation, and how to acknowledge the hard stuff without wallowing in it. That’s how I cope, and I need to stay in the company of those who do the same thing. Thank you so much for all your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a chastening post that brings to the fore the smallness of being a human and the petty matters that undeservedly clamour for your time. Without doubt, adversities are the best test of people as humans, acquaintances and friends. I am happy you have stumbled upon gems amongst the pebbles, and have rearranged the priorities of your life. You certainly seem ready for the storm, and yet the storm is not your destination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right, adversity does test us and show us not only how strong we can be, but what’s truly important. That is why, even though I’m sometimes discouraged, I’m mostly hopeful. We will get through this….personal problems and as a society….and be stronger for it in the end, I think. Thank you for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, I still exchange emails with my favorite college professor, a man fluent in Old English. He is my age and we discuss many things. Once he wrote to me “Þaes ofereode; Þisses swa mæg. This, too, shall pass.” I had heard it before, of course, and never liked the feel of finality in the saying.

    I looked it up and it was from a 10th century poem by a man remembered as Deor and starts by recalling the suffering and sorrows of a strong man. Wiki translated “Þaes ofereode; Þisses swa mæg” as “That went away, this also may.” Now I feel differently about the idea of “this too shall pass,” knowing it was not written as an ending.

    We choose little of what happens to us, more about how we deal with it. Mostly you are gentle and mean well to those around you. You have bent but never broken. This little funk? This too shall pass.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing that information! I agree, it makes me like the sentiment more. And I also agree that we can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to it. Honestly, even writing this post helped. Sometimes I think we just need to name our feelings and own them, and then we can begin the process of moving on.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s cancer diagnosis. It is never a good time to have to go through that. I think you “pay it forward” for many people through your blog. I don’t know you but I always enjoy your blog, either for a smile or a giggle or a “oh I know EXACTLY what you mean” and then I feel better. So thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sorry for the diagnosis Ann but know that most of us survive!

    Being more selective about answering the phone or disengaging from news and haggles is great self-preservation. And fostering those more caring relationships is crucial when we need some nurturing ourselves …

    Most are fragile and it’s great to acknowledge those yo-yoing emotions 🙂
    I often end with ‘take care’ but I see you are doing that already 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kate! The cancer diagnosis was hard to hear, but luckily, it was caught in the early stages and the diagnosis is good. We just have to get through the treatment, which is better than it used to be but still very unpleasant. Meanwhile, I practice self-care as much as possible and encourage my husband to do the same. Your supportive comments help!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Ann, Sorry about your husband’s cancer diagnosis, I hope he is doing okay.
    You are so right, I agree with every word you wrote! And know that every post of your blog is part of the solution, and sets an excellent example.
    Sending all good wishes, Rachel

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well done Ann for coming to those realizations and accepting them. So many people behave as if they can be everything to everybody, and are addicted to the news media, and all the doom and gloom that is presents.
    Given the various events going on in your life at the moment, you have every right to step back and focus on yourself. You have every right to simply be selective as to where you spend your time or, as it was succinctly presented to me many years ago, you cannot take care of anything in this world unless first you take care of yourself.
    There comes a point where we should all acknowledge our own significance and, without being self-serving or egotistical, treat ourselves just as we would anybody else who is so special.
    We had the heart-worm experience with Ray soon after we adopted him, and the 12 months that followed were very demanding and totally revolved around Ray. Be prepared to be even more selective as to how you allocate your time during the treatment time frame … and the time thereafter up until your dog is tested and gets the “all clear” from the vet. Take care Ann.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Colin! Yes, the heart worm can be very scary. We were lucky in that our vet told us that Finn was young and otherwise healthy, and thought his chances of surviving the treatment were very good. We began the treatment in February and he got the “all clear” in July. Keeping him quiet during the treatment wasn’t as tough as we thought, because he was a bit lethargic. Happily, he is now back to his usual energetic self, living up to his nickname of “Bubbles!”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It is important to pull back from all the negativity and seek rays of hope. The news cycle is terrible and listening to the political opinions on a scientific subject is not helpful. We still have only our small bubble, but physical distance visit on our deck, by phone or Skype, as often as we can. Exercise is paramount and yesterday, we did what I call the Covid triathlon, 50 minutes of Tai Chi, a 14 km bike ride and a 5.5 km walk. We feel much better for it. Getting away from it all is much different these days. Stay well Ann. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Allan! I agree, getting outside and exercising helps so much, as does limiting my exposure to politics and news, all of which seems intent on dividing us as much as possible. I get that conflict gets people votes and generates more attention for the media, but I do wish they would think of the consequences of setting people against each other just a little bit. Congrats on your “Covid triathalon!” That’s rather impressive. Some days, all I do is take my dog for a walk…..

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joanna! Thankfully, his cancer was caught in the early stages, so the prognosis is good. He’s already done the radiation and is started on his chemo. Not fun, but manageable so far. And he has a very good attitude about it….you know Dave, he is strong and competitive and has no intention of letting cancer get the upper hand!

      Like

  9. I completely understand where your head is at. I’m in exactly the same place. My new best friend is snooze for 30 days on Facebook, because I just can’t deal with the rash of negative information that is being churned out (and this includes snoozing both my mother and my sister) I am having trouble dealing with things….I’m not happy that I’ve become like this but it’s the reality….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think when what we have to deal with just piles up a bit too high, it’s essential to step back and pick and choose what, and who, we interact with on a regular basis. I will never understand people who use Facebook as a way of chastising or ridiculing everyone they disagree with, because they aren’t accomplishing anything except adding fuel to the fire. You’ve had a lot to cope with in these past few months, so self-care is absolutely the answer for you. And sometimes that means hitting the “snooze” or “unfollow” button. Do it and don’t feel guilty!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t understand why people are hanging up on their friends. I love a good debate, but the amount of people being called stupid is ridiculous. And everyone has a opinion on how others should be living their lives! I just can’t

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Amen to all of that. Well said. No guilt in anything you are doing to navigate through tough times. In fact, there’s a scripture from Solomon (can’t remember chapter/verse at the moment) which says something about when overwhelmed or the days are depressing, build a fire. I’m sure a fireplace or campfire for comfort, not to torch a shoe store.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Yes, I’m sure the idea is to build a fire for warmth and comfort, not as a way to destroy or attack others. And there is something so fascinating about a fire in a fireplace or fire pit which can soothe and comfort us. There are times to be strong and engaged with the world, and there are times to step back a bit and tend to our own wounds. I guess the trick is knowing which is which. Thanks for your insightful comment, Alan!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I can identify with a lot of what you feel. My sister describes this as the worst year ever. I’m sure there have been worse years, but it sure feels lousy. The low times come and pass. You’ve got a good set of coping skills. Keep it up; don’t stop trying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! My guess is your sister means its the worst year she’s had to deal with, and it probably is. Personally, I haven’t dealt with such a stressful year since 1993, when we had a series of setbacks, one right after another, and were young and vulnerable and hadn’t yet developed good coping skills. What makes this year so hard is that most of us haven’t lived through such tough times before, and this pandemic is effecting the whole world, so it feels as if there is no place to escape it. But you’re right, this will pass and we will appreciate things so much more when it does!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree with you 100%. Whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, our emotional resources are limited. Your approach to shut out trivial and petty things is the right path to a healthier and more rewarding life. My wife and I have also made many changes. We still have an old-fashioned landline. We set our phone to two rings before the answering machine kicks in. It helps to screen calls that are truly annoying or come at the wrong time. Thank you, Ann, for your thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great idea about setting your phone to just two rings before the answering machine kicks in! We have a landline too, in addition to our cell phones, so I’m going to figure out how to do that. And I completely agree about our limited emotional resources…it takes us a while to figure that one out, I think, but once we do, we learn to focus only on what is important and to let the other stuff go. I also try to ask myself, “Is there anything I can do about this problem?” If the answer is no, then I know there is no point in me obsessing about it. Recognizing our limitations does make life so much better!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Just when you think you. Ant take one more “thing”, there’s another added to your plate. By now, yours is the size of a platter! You absolutely have to take care of you so you can take care of them. Rest does a soul good and I wish you rest when you can and all the supportive friends by your side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Lorie! I hadn’t realized just how much I needed the rest until recently, but now that I do, I already feel so much better. I will say, though, that I’ve learned not to ask the question, “what else can go wrong?” Because then I find out! Ha!

      Like

  14. Oh, Ann, a big hug to you and your family. I also sometimes feel overwhelmed with too much of what is going on. So I just step back from it for a while and come back when I feel ready. And I agree that, during those challenging times, a good supporting company to keep is extremely important.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Svet! I hope you are taking care of yourself too…these times can just grind us down if we allow them to. But it has taught me which people make me feel better about things and which (without meaning to) make me feel worse. And so I’m more careful about who I talk to about the big issues these days!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Dear Ann, I must have missed an earlier post about your husband’s cancer diagnosis. I feel totally gutted for you both, and for your children and grandchildren too. I hope treatment is available. Conserve your energy and enjoy each other’s company. Covid will look after itself. Your grand-daughter will grow into a bonnie lass whom I am sure, will give you lots of smiles and enjoyment. We shall be here if you need a chat, a laugh or many shoulders to cry on. This will be tough but I know you will meet this challenge with grace and love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Tracy! The blogging community is so supportive (and you’re a valued part of that), and I’ve already drawn comfort and strength from it. You didn’t miss a post, this is the first time I’ve mentioned my husband’s cancer. I wanted to wait until we knew exactly what we’re dealing with and until he had the chance to let all his family and friends know, as I didn’t want them to find out about it via my blog. But the cancer was caught early and his prognosis is good. He’s already had radiation, is now into his chemo and may or may not have surgery at the end, depending on how effective the radiation and chemo turns out to be. It’s amazing how far they’ve come with cancer treatments, although the side effects from the chemo can be challenging. But the doctors and nurses we’ve dealt with are excellent, and that helps so much. Thanks for your encouraging words!!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. So true, Ann! 2020 has certainly strengthened some relationships and allowed me to step back from others with no regret. And a big lesson of all this has been learning to accept our limitations and not rail against the things we cannot change (but rail like hell against the things we can).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, “pick your battles” is very timely advice right now, isn’t it? Personally, I’ve been very intentional about that…working on the things that I can change, and learning to let go of the things I can’t. It helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. A fabulous and timely post. I guess I’ve been lucky, because we’re retired, and our lives haven’t changed much. Plus, we’re homebodies anyway, but we do have best friends right next door, and thank goodness we have gotten together occasionally, carefully. I’m so sorry about your husband’s cancer. Awful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mimi! My life has changed a lot since this pandemic began, but not always in bad ways. I’ve spent much more time with my grandson since his daycare was closed for almost three months. And now I’m taking care of my granddaughter, as her parents are working but she can’t start daycare until next month. And I consider that time well spent! Thanks for your kind words about my husband’s cancer. Luckily, it was caught in the early stages, so his prognosis is good. He just has to get through the treatment.

      Liked by 1 person

    • They are pretty, aren’t they? I’ve driven through fields of sunflowers in Kansas, but had no idea there were some near St. Louis as well. My daughter and her family took that photo….I want to go see them in person next year!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Your husband will be in my prayers as he goes through his treatments. I know you will be a bright light to him, as you are to many others. You radiate so much positive energy and support for other people. I hope all that positivity will return to you now as your husband heals. Jeremiah 33:6: “I will bring health and healing.” You do need to take care of yourself too…get enough sleep, eat healthy food, enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. God bless you and keep you strong…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. Knowing that people are praying for him helps so much. We feel very fortunate that it was caught early and that he is receiving very good medical care, and we both work hard to keep a positive attitude towards it. I plan to do everything I can to support him, and as he says, “faith helps, a lot!”

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Yes, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. It has been a rough year and now your husband’s diagnosis. I hope the prognosis is good and you find strength in each other! I think that you are strong! And you don’t need those who are negative around you and sometimes that includes the news!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! It does seem to be piling on right now, but you’re right, we’re strong and we will deal with it together. Luckily, his prognosis is very good as the cancer was caught early and the doctors seem confident that the treatment will work. Meanwhile, I am definitely limiting my exposure to negativity!

      Like

    • Thanks, Kathy! This is the first time I’ve mentioned it on my blog, as I wanted to respect his privacy in the early stages of the diagnosis. Now he is comfortable with everyone knowing, and we are coping pretty well. His prognosis is good, so we are just taking his treatment one day at a time.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. This might be the most difficult year ever for all of us. And you’ve taken it to a new level. I’m sorry to read about all of this, but know that you’ll manage in your own way. Sending good thoughts your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ally! This is an awful year for the whole world, so we all have that in common. Then there are the personal challenges that most of us have on top of that, which are a bit different but I still think we understand what others are feeling through it all. I only wish the rest of the world were as kind and supportive as the blogging community is…..just think how much easier this year would be if that were the case!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I feel much the same way about remaining in a positive headspace, which is much more difficult when one is surrounded with negative influences. Glad to read in the comments that your husbands prognosis is good, and I wish him a quick and full recovery, Ann.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. “now that I find myself living almost constantly on the fine line between coping and feeling completely overwhelmed, I realize that I need to spend most of my time only with those who have the ability to cheer me up and keep me hopeful.” This sentence really struck me, Ann. That’s exactly how I feel and the kind of people that I’m surrounding myself with – people who are realistic about the threat, but hopeful and kind. ❤ Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. No wonder you’ve been struggling to keep a positive attitude; you’ve been doing it not only for yourself and your children and grandchildren, but also for your husband. I’m so glad to read that things are going well. Cancer isn’t the death sentence it used to be; treatments aren’t easy, to be sure, but they’re much more effective. We’ll hope for sure and steady progress toward remission and full health.

    As for the rest of it, I had to smile a bit when I read your musings about positive and negative people and influences. It reminded me of a song I grew up with. It was released in 1945, while WWII still was going on, but it stayed popular for some time. My mother used to sing it to me when I was feeling down as a kid. You might be too young to remember it, but this great song sure fits with what you’ve written here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do remember that song, and it is so true! I imagine that the world needed to hear that very badly during World War II, which was so much worse than the pandemic we are enduring now. And thank you for the encouraging words. You’re right, they have come so far on cancer treatment, and luckily, my husband’s prognosis is good. We just need to get through the treatments and look forward to the day when this is all behind us. Life really will be good again, I think!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. hello Ann, I really didnt know about your situation. Once you told in your blog that You are going through with difficult times, Now I can understand that it was that. I appreciate your ways of how you deal with these situations and one should learn them from you. I am also sending you good vibes for speedy recovery of your dear husband. I wish good days come to your way soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. You’ve had a very hard year and the idea of avoiding people who are not making you feel better or happier is very good. You shouldn’t feel bad for this, because you are taking care of yourself and that means you can take better care of the people you love and need your support.
    I’m sending lots of virtual hugs. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Sorry to hear about your husband’s cancer diagnosis…keeping good thoughts. And I share your avoidance of staring too long at the trainwreck in our nation’s capitol. It’s taken me three months to get back in the game…hopefully, we can both maintain a positive outlook.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Ann,
    Great job of making your own self-care a priority. No one else can know how depleted we are except ourselves. Last weekend, I took a day to escape to the river with no news, no voices, no anything except the sound of the water and a good book. Keep taking care of yourself so you can love others with your whole heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. It’s more than okay to act like this, Ann, it’s absolutely necessary in my humble opinion. I learned years ago that some people are like vampires, sucking out all your energy by dumping their psycho waste on you, and never have one positive thing to say about their lives, other people, things… it’s definitely better to keep those people at a distance in order to feel good yourself.
    And yay to reading a book instead of answering your phone – good choice! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sarah! I’m one of those people who has a hard time with the concept that I don’t have to do everything that is asked of me, so this is a new attitude for me. But also a very essential and useful one, so I’m very happy with my progress! Right now, I’m surrounding myself with those who help, rather than those who drain my physical and emotional energy. And it helps, enormously!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.