Pilgrim on a Lonely Journey

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

 

Image from Office of War Information, 1942, wikimedia commons.

Image from Office of War Information, 1942,
wikimedia commons.

 

Most of us will have mixed days. A bit of hassle and a family fuss getting out the door. Then we will roll our eyes at Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it will all be good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving will be a gut-wrenching ordeal — an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life but the crumbs of inadequacy and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

 

Canstock 2014 Girl Alone with Suitcase

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you too will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

 

 

Wherever you are in Life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, we wish you peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Power of Self-Indulgence

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Nicotine patches are flying off the shelves and personal trainers are working overtime as every gym across the nation fills with the January Resolutioners.

People on treadmills at gym US Air Force wikimedia

image from US Air Force, wikimedia commons

The Resolutioners are easy to spot, and their shelf life is plastered all over their approach.  The overweight guy who’s straining to press his maxed-out set of three? He’s done now because he just hurt himself. The lady sitting on the mat, looking around for someone to talk to between her two sets of ten stomach crunches? She’s out January 4th. January 5th if she’s with a friend. But the aging realtor in the power training class who ran out, vomited, and came back? She’s the one to watch. Ask her name. She’ll have the bikini bod by July. The difference? She wants to be there.

The hard fact is that people do what they want to do. Period. Most resolutions are about “should,” and shoulds never pan out.

Here’s an example for you. I took an aikido class where I was almost the only woman with a lot of hot babes. None of them smoked. I did. When faced with the gorgeous, clean-living martial arts hunks, I was ashamed of that fact. I decided I needed to either quit smoking or come to terms with it. Since quitting was difficult, and I didn’t like difficult, I chose to make peace with my choice.

I watched myself objectively. I discovered that I began by justifying the cigarette. Then I lit up and enjoyed the first third of it. That’s when the self-recrimination kicked in. . . . Why can’t I just quit? Those hunka hunka aikido guys would never want an ashtray-mouth like me. . . . I vowed it was my last cigarette forever and felt strong for a while because, in the words of an old friend, “Junkie always strong afta he fix.”

Since my resolution was to smoke proudly, like Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not, I short-circuited that cycle at the point of self-abuse and turned off the negative talk.

I told myself to just smoke or don’t. It worked, but not like I thought it would.

When I used smoking to beat myself up, I felt like a loser. When I felt like a loser, I had an excuse to fail in all of my goals. Beating myself up was a way of abdicating my responsibility to do my best in this life, right now, today. When I removed that self-abuse, I no longer had the Lame Loser Excuse. Smoking lost its appeal. It became nothing more than a dispassionate choice. I chose to quit and never looked back. Good thing since I could never afford it now.

Since then, my only resolution has been to do what I want. I vowed to be a secretary forever if I wanted. One year later, I started law school. I vowed to eat all the sweets I wanted. I lost 30 pounds. I vowed to only write when I wanted. I now have two bestselling novels to my credit.

That’s because something deep inside each of us wants what’s best for us. If we surrender to that voice, we rise above self-destruction.

Chocolate donut John wikimedia

image by John, wikimedia commons

In that spirit, these are my 2016 resolutions:

  1. I will eat all the donuts I want. Especially chocolate donuts.
  2. I will sleep in any time I want instead of going to the gym.
  3. I will yell at my children whenever I want. (Looking forward to that one.)
  4. I will buy every pair of shoes I want, even the ones that don’t fit well and serve no purpose.
  5. I will only write when I want.

And as for the January Resolutioners at the gym? Good for you! I’m rooting for you and hoping you will only come to the gym when you want. I’m hoping you will want often, and that I will see you on the beach in July.

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, now available on kindle and in paperback at Amazon and on nook and paperback at Barnes & Noble.

THE SPY BRIDE Final Cover 3 inch

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Coping with Grief in the Face of Holiday Cheer

Bayard & Holmes

Today we are pleased to welcome Sally Carey. Sally is a veteran Bereavement Coordinator for Hospice of Covenant Care in Westminster, CO. She has served the populations of the Denver area, helping people heal from the loss of their loved ones, for over ten years.

In recognition that the coming holidays are often the most difficult time of the year, particularly when we have suffered a deep and recent loss, we asked Sally to share her tips on how to make it through the holiday season.

Canstock Grief Statue

Ho, Ho, Hum

Coping with Holiday Cheer in the Face of Loss

By Sally Carey

The holiday season, under the best of times, brings it own stressors and expectations, which we have all learned to manage or mangle, for better or worse, over the years. Congratulations on learning how to keep a grain of your sanity intact, hopefully without leaving too many bodies in the wake of seasons past!

But what do we do when we’ve had some serious, life-challenging or life changing event like illness, job and/or home loss, estrangement, divorce or separation, or even a death, and the happy, happy holidays are assaulting us at every turn of the channel?

I know the fantasy of a Hawaiian vacation or leaving the country altogether might be appealing, but most of us don’t have that option. We still have to figure out a way to get food and find shelter from the storm of good cheer while holding down the fort.

What can help?

The answers are as unique and varied as each individual, and each setback or loss. Regardless of that variety, one thing that does help is to make a plan.

Making a plan can give you a sense of control when coping with circumstances that have been spiraling out of control.

Plan your script. What can you comfortably say when greeted by those who may or may not know about your changes or loss? What are the words that honestly and gently express your feelings and experience?  Try rehearsing a few phrases so you aren’t caught off guard. Anticipate their responses and your rejoinders along with questions to ask them that can shift the focus. These might be no-brainer responses in better times, but you might not be functioning at your peak right now. Have some ‘planned and canned’ statements in your protective arsenal.

Next, lower your expectations about what you can comfortably do – physically, financially, and socially.

Refocus on your values of the season and give yourself permission to reconsider how you want to express those.  If that means changing a tradition like giving gifts to everyone, sending cards to millions, hosting dinner, etc., think about the purpose of that tradition and find a simpler way to accomplish the goal.

For instance, instead of giving gifts or sending cards, make a donation to a charity or cause that is meaningful to you or to someone who has died. Do it in the name(s) of those you would normally give gifts, and it is a win/win for honoring values and including others. Another bonus is that typically the receiving organization will send out cards to those you’ve identified as donors so you don’t have to do anything else.

Instead of hosting a dinner, you could make a date to do something enjoyable together in the near future. You could also ask someone else to host it this time as a gift to you, or you could tone it down to a ‘cider and cookies’ gathering. It could be that this year, instead of any dinner, you prefer to go to a prayer service. Invite others to join you and maybe have coffee afterwards. A change in tradition does not mean you are forsaking a tradition forever. It just means you’re making it work for you this year.

If you are missing someone who has died, make a plan to remember & honor your loved one—a lit candle, some pictures on the mantle, a prayer service, a gift to their charity, a day of service or creating a service project in their name are a few ideas.

In doing this, you are creating new ways to maintain your enduring connection with the one you are missing. There aren’t any road maps for that challenge. Search your heart and maybe connect with other folks who have done this. You can also turn to your local grief support groups or hospice bereavement counselors to get ideas that are specific to you.

Most people want to avoid public tears and runny noses, so plan on how and when you may need to safely release your difficult thoughts and feelings before going out in public.

If you are “keeping a lid on it,” you will probably blow your cover at a less than ideal time and place. Letting yourself have the private down time for reflection and feeling and maybe falling apart will help you have control when you need it.

If you are out and about, always know where the nearest bathroom is in case you have to hide and wipe your tears and nose. Believe me. It’s not a pretty sight to be sniveling and snotting while asking for directions to the restroom! Your car can be a good safety zone too. It also helps to go places with a trusted person who can whisk you away and make explanations or apologies at the drop of a tear.

Go ahead and make some plans for limited sociability, but also make a Plan B, which could be to only stay a short time or to allow yourself a last minute cancellation.

Also, have an escape plan. That is, plan for a bit of escape in the form of pleasure and comforting activities. You need to balance sadness with enjoyment however you like to create that. And yes, it is fine to turn off the holiday music, TV, or annoying people. Find something else to help you tap into the love and kindness that is your well-spring any time of the year.

If you know someone who may be missing a loved one, simply inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings without trying to ‘fix’ them is a real gift.

Many feel they cannot share their sadness, as it isn’t ‘fitting’ with the season of happiness and joy.  Listen to them and honor their feelings. Letting them know they are normal even if they feel ‘out of it’ can be invaluable support for them. If you ask them to share some of their memories of the person or holidays past, it may bring up a tear or two, but it will surely affirm the value of their loved one and offer a treasured opportunity to share that with someone who cares.

The holidays during a time of loss can be devastating. But make a plan for handling people, give yourself plenty of down time, and remember that traditions altered are not traditions abandoned. And in all things be patient with yourself. This, too, shall pass.

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Our deepest thanks to Sally Carey, and many prayers for everyone working through grief, just trying to make it through December.

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The Power of Indulgence

By Piper Bayard

Nicotine patches are flying off the shelves and personal trainers are working overtime. And every gym across the nation is filled with the January Resolutioners.

People on treadmills at gym US Air Force wikimedia

image from US Air Force, wikimedia commons

The Resolutioners are easy to spot, and the gym rats know just how long each of them will stay.  The overweight guy who’s straining to press his maxed-out set of three? He’s done now because he just hurt himself. The lady sitting on the mat gossiping between her two sets of 10 stomach crunches? She left January 4th. January 5th if she’s with a friend. But the aging realtor in the power training class who ran out, vomited, and came back? She’s the one to watch. Ask her name. She’ll have the bikini bod by July. The difference? She wants to be there.

The hard fact is that people do what they want to do. Period. Most resolutions are about “should,” and shoulds never pan out.

I took an aikido class where I was almost the only woman with a lot of hot babes. None of them smoked. I did. When faced with the clean-living martial arts Chippendales, I was ashamed of that fact. I decided I needed to either quit or come to terms with my vice. Since quitting was difficult, and I didn’t like difficult, I chose to make peace with my choice.

I watched myself objectively. I discovered that I first justified the cigarette. Then I lit up and enjoyed the first third. That’s when the self-recrimination kicked in. . . . Why can’t I just quit? Those hunka hunka aikido guys would never want an ashtray-mouth like me. . . . I vowed it was my last cigarette forever and felt strong for a while because, in the words of an old friend, “Junkie always strong afta he fix.”

Since my resolution was to smoke proudly, like Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not, I short-circuited that cycle at the point of self-abuse and turned off the negative talk.

I told myself to just smoke or don’t. It worked, but not like I thought it would.

When I used smoking to beat myself up, I felt like a loser. When I felt like a loser, I thought I was a loser. When I thought I was a loser, I had an excuse to fail in all of my goals. When I removed that self-abuse, I no longer had the Lame Loser Excuse. Smoking lost its appeal. It became nothing more than a dispassionate choice. I chose to quit and never looked back. Good thing since I could never afford it now.

Since then, my only resolution has been to do what I want. I vowed to be a secretary forever if I wanted. One year later, I started law school. I vowed to eat all the sweets I wanted. I lost 30 pounds. I vowed to only write when I wanted. I now have a publisher. That’s because something deep inside of us wants what’s best for us. If we surrender to that voice, we rise above self-destruction.

Chocolate donut John wikimedia

image by John, wikimedia commons

In that spirit, these are my 2013 resolutions.

  1. I will eat all the donuts I want. Especially chocolate donuts.
  2. I will sleep in any time I want instead of going to the gym.
  3. I will yell at my children whenever I want. (Looking forward to that one.)
  4. I will buy every pair of shoes I want, even the ones that don’t fit well and serve no purpose.
  5. I will only write when I want.

And as for the January Resolutioners at the gym? Good for you! I’m rooting for you and hoping you will only come to the gym when you want. I’m hoping you will want often, and that I will see you on the beach in July.

In the Time of Gathering, Some are Better Off Alone

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

 

Image from Office of War Information, 1942, wikimedia commons.

Image from Office of War Information, 1942,
wikimedia commons.

 

Most of us will have mixed days. A bit of hassle and a family fuss getting out the door. Then we will roll our eyes at Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it will all be good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving will be a gut-wrenching ordeal — an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life but the crumbs of inadequacy and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

 

Canstock 2014 Girl Alone with Suitcase

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you too will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

 

 

Wherever you are in Life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, we wish you peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Looking Back at Fifty — You Can’t Fix Stupid

By Piper Bayard

I turned fifty in 2013, and in my life, I’ve learned that growing old sucks. Small strains take months to heal, old wounds are new aches and pains, and where the young woman I was had the world for a smile, the woman I am now knows the treasures only won with my labor. But as far as I can tell, growing old still beats the alternative, so I’m still doing it. At least for today.

While turning fifty is a traumatic event for so many people, I find it a release and a relief—an opportunity to embrace my inner curmudgeon. I’ve now earned the right to regale young people with my cautions and advice. If I had to narrow it down to ten gems, here’s what they are . . .

Canstock Treasure

  1. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting.
  2. If you change yourself, you will change your world.
  3. Embrace your deepest fears, and they will guide you to fulfillment and purpose—unless it’s a fear of bungee jumping. It’s probably okay to pass on that one.
  4. The best exercise is the one you will do.
  5. Be the person you want to meet, and you will meet the person you want.
  6. If your head is full of what you think you know, you have no room left to learn anything.
  7. It’s no skin off your butt to be kind.
  8. Everyone’s a head case. The only real question is if they are a head case you can live with.
  9. You can’t fix stupid.
  10. Intelligence is the ability to learn from your mistakes, and it has nothing to do with IQ.
  11. If you didn’t give birth to them or marry them, you’ve got no business criticizing them.
  12. Donuts are the world’s most powerful social grease, particularly at your kids’ school office.
  13. Never sweat the count. 🙂

What are the gems you’re willing to share from your experience? Come by our new site, Bayard & Holmes, and leave a comment. 

Looking Back at Fifty

Wishing you all a 2014 full of wonder, grace, and helpful life lessons. Happy New Year!

Holiday Survival — Dinnertime Dogma, Snooping Houseguests, and Christ’s Bar Mitzvah

By Piper Bayard

This month, Holmes and I are dedicated to spreading cheer and relieving the tension of the holidays. We invite you to send your questions to me, a pragmatic author/belly dancer and not-so-closet redneck, and Holmes, a man with experience in intelligence and covert operations who thinks 90% of life’s problems can be solved with sex, C4, or hollow points.

Brendan Stallard has a serious question for us, and it’s one that we’re sure many people have had to deal with over the years:

His problem relates to relatives who parrot dogma at the dinner table. “It seems as if all they want is to sit around the table and moan about the welfare mothers, tax dodgers and the grasping poor, and nod like idiot donkeys at one another at their meanness. They are all wealthy, and have never known much of hard work or poverty. I love them all dearly, as mad and crazy right wingers as they are.”

Reindeer fences SeppVei wikimedia public domain

Image by SeppVei.

Note how this reindeer fence makes an excellent boundary.

Some come in, some stay out, and we can still chat with them through the bars.

Bayard & Holmes:

You’re going to have to set some boundaries, and you have every right to do so. It’s your home. When people visit your home, they have to play by your rules or leave. And while hollow points and C4 might be fun, Christmas is always better if you can get through dinner without them so let’s look at alternatives.

You might want to call a truce to political discussions in advance of the gathering with a little, “Let’s agree to make this fun for everyone and stay away from politics this year.” People will still wander back to that topic by habit, at which you would be in a position to smile and say in a warm tone, “Hey, nooooo politics guys! It’s the holidays.”

No politics at a dinner table was a common social rule not very long ago so instituting that rule in your home would not be a radical departure from social norms. A smile and sweet tone of voice can make almost any rebuke acceptable to the other person. Just make sure you don’t answer their assertions with your own or the fight will be on.

A second approach would be to ignore their chatter and their opinions the way you might ignore a loud advertisement on the television. Envision yourself hitting a mute button and tune them out altogether.

The more extreme solution would be simply not inviting them. Our guess is that with good communication prior to the visit, though, you will not have to take that step.

Good luck! And please let us know how it goes.

Sneaking a Peek by Peter Fendi

Sneaking a Peek by Peter Fendi

Susie Lindau has an issue with nosey guests:

I wonder how to handle the obnoxious guest who tours the entire house including my closets and medicine cabinets?

Bayard:

The first thing that comes to mind is the memory of a young woman in my college dorm who was having issues with someone stealing her shampoo. My solution—I mean her solution—was to fill the shampoo bottle with hair remover.

Along those lines, I think it would be fun to take some sort of popular and attractive medication, like Ativan or Percocet, and put the bottle front and center in your medicine cabinet. However, before your party, take the real meds out and fill it with some sort of extreme laxative. Just remember to switch the meds back after everyone has gone home. When your guest is too “busy” the next day to leave his or her house, you can sit back and smile, knowing you’ve done the world a service.

Holmes:

Snooping when you are a guest in a home is something that CIA agents risk getting shot to do to targets in enemy states. It’s not reasonable conduct for legitimate guests.

Texanne and other readers suggested rigging loud alarms or other surprises to your medicine cabinet. This would be effective as long as you are up for the ensuing conversation with the violator. Perhaps I am naïve, but I have to wonder if your guest list is a touch to long. If these folks can’t be trusted with your medicine cabinet, can they be trusted to be in your home with your children?

Julie Glover is out of sync with the Holiday spirit:

How the heck can we get Christmas back down to 12 days? I’m a Scrooge until about December 15, when I think the Christmas season really should begin. If it wasn’t for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and my church’s candlelight service, I might want to give up celebrating Jesus’ birthday altogether and see if there’s a quieter holiday for his bar mitzvah instead. (Okay, now that I re-read that, maybe the question is, How can I get in the holiday spirit?)

Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall in Jerusalem uploaded by Alwynloh wikimedia

Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall in Jerusalem. Not Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah, but no doubt similar.

image by Alwynloh, wikimedia commons

Bayard:

I think you may be onto something with that bar mitzvah idea, especially since Christ’s bar mitzvah would have been the same time of year, I’m guessing. When people wish you a “Merry Christmas” respond with “Matzel Tov!” Then write up their reactions and publish them. That way, you haven’t offended anyone, you aren’t celebrating Christmas before you’re ready, and you get some fun and a blog out of it. It’s win/win all the way around.

Holmes:

Christmas season starts for YOU when YOU say it does. Decorate on the day that you want to and ignore Christmas until then. The fact that others are in a “Christmas groove” doesn’t mean that you have to be. It’s YOUR Christmas. Make it what you want it to be.

Carry a water pistol with you, perhaps something in a festive red and green, and when people assault you with their Christmas spirit, give them a quick squirt and say, “Merry Christmas, my ass!” That should serve you with the dual purpose of putting them in their place, and you in the holiday spirit.

Please tell us about your Holiday Survival dilemmas in the comments section below. Nothing warms our hearts during the holiday season like turning your problems into our opportunities. And remember, no question is out-of-bounds, but our answers might be.