A few nights ago, I happened to catch the moon rise at two-thirty in the morning. Marbled and orange, it hugged the horizon, its color borrowed from Earth’s own essence. I could call it fortuitous that I happened to see it, but in truth, I was up then, grasping at a trail of thoughts, hoping to capture them on my cell phone before they drifted back into the ether. It’s the writer’s curse. The minute your mind relaxes, the ideas burble up and flow out.
It was also late one night when I had another “ah-ha” moment, when I realized the swirl of chatter about the Roaring 20s was contemporary, a reference to the decade rolling over before our eyes, and anticipation of the new decade just ahead. Sometimes, when we are too focused on the minutiae, we don’t see the point right in front of us. We are blind to what really matters.
Ideas which come to me at night could be called unconscious thought, but I think the better label is hindsight.
And because of my love of words and for the search for deeper meaning; i.e; “feeding the famished,” I tend to become entangled in the wrappings of metaphor.
In so doing, I often avoid writing about the truth in some of its ugliest terms.
With the help of hindsight’s 2020, I am forcing myself to look back over the past years.
It has to begin with the year 2019 because it’s been incredibly difficult, likely the worst year I’ve ever had.
I have been buoyed up by the strength of a fellow author who wrote of her losses this year to write the truth of my life as it stands today, even if it hurts to share it.
Back in April, I lost a position with an organization that I’ve dedicated myself to for over 25 years. Although it was a volunteer position, the intent and method with which the company and its board treated me nearly ripped out my soul, leaving me with a raw question of whether humanity had fallen off course in its quest for self-aggrandizement.
And then, in September, my darling daughter Isabel succumbed to her bipolar demons, falling down the rabbit hole chasing after them. Currently homeless, she is as unreachable as was Odysseus on his journey. Like Alice, she has likely “stumble[d] into a bizarre and disoriented alternate reality.” My greatest wish is that someday Isabel resurfaces in our lives. Confused, perhaps, but generally intact, ready to pursue a path of healing.
2019 has been bordered by grief, for what was lost, for what might have been. In that, I’ve experienced a sort of bereavement, torn against my will from an organization I loved and cared about. And lightyears worse has been the grieving process for my daughter. The aspirations shattered by her diagnosis and its subsequent unraveling are equal to the ether of my thoughts when I cannot harness them.
Fortunately, my collie Mopsy has been able to show me that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Mopsy, who is going on 11, has the tenacious drive and determination of the runt she is. Wiry and fiesty, and in spite of her birth order, she is the Alpha of our pack. Mopsy can make her sister Flopsy cower by a steady look in the eye. She can also entice Flopsy out of her comfortably plump lethargy. With a low growl followed by a well-calculated heel nip, the aging dogs become a blur of fangs, claws, and ruffling fur as they chase each other round and round the kitchen, down the hall, and back again.
Where Mopsy excels, though, is innovative thought.
She has a yen for Kleenex, the more used, the better. Since I know this and — when I remember — place tissues out of reach, Mopsy has taken to knocking over the toilet paper stand in our guest bathroom and pulling the (clean) rolls off the chrome arm. After yanking off a couple, she settles in for a nice chew.
It gives me hope that Mopsy, who’s creeping up on 77 years this March, has found a new path to make her life more pleasant. For Mopsy, that means it’s easier to get what she wants.
She is helping me see how I can take what’s important to me — writing and the people who matter to me — and use that to find clarity.
In that vein of seeking clarity and a meaning to life, I’ve always encouraged my daughter Isabel to search for ladybugs, at least five a day. Ladybugs are a metaphor for randomness that can be viewed positively.
I hope she is putting our ladybug system to good use, wherever she may be.
But I’ve also realized I need to search for my own ladybugs. They are the harbingers of hindsight. Here are my first steps:
🐞 I can only control my actions.
🐞 I’m going to stop shouldering the blame for the actions of others. They are who they are; their actions are theirs to claim.
🐞 The best action is reaction, and I am in control of that.
🐞 If I drain myself, I will have nothing left to give anyone.
🐞 It’s essential to focus less on giving to others who don’t want what I can give them, and more on time spent searching for the universal story, one that crystalizes who I am. Who we are.
I’m not sad to see 2019 go. Some years are like that. I am anticipating the Roaring ’20s with great curiosity and some trepidation. Everything in life has its inherent challenges.
I’m not saying there will be less of me that gives, that the nurturing of others will end. But like Mopsy, I plan to live stronger and stop hiding the truth of myself behind what I think people will accept, behind words I hope won’t make people cringe.
Life is an unknowable journey, but it’s better to take it, than not. And while pursuing life, it’s okay to give some of it back to yourself.
Beautiful!! Wishing a happy 2020!
And to you, as well.
Beautifully written, Emily! I wish you a special 2020
Thanks, Sue… and to you as well.
Ah Emily, your beautiful writing both belies and expands the depth of what you experienced last year. I cannot imagine your pain but I am so very confident that life will be better for you and your family. Last bullet on your list: be kind to yourself.
Thinking of you Doug and family. Sending Prayers 🙏as support ❤️to you all. To a better year to come.
I hope your 2020 is filled with answered prayers, smiles, and lots of hugs and kisses. 🌹😘
Thank you, Myra.
Your writing is beautiful and touches my heart on so many levels. Having also experienced some of the loss and heartache you wrote about, I am making a commitment to incorporate your “ladybugs” into my own life. May 2020 bring peace and happiness to you.
I think a commitment to ladybug finding is the perfect activity for the new year. Peace to you, too. Thank you for sharing.
What a beautiful and poignant blog. A mother’s prayers for her children are very powerful and I pray yours are answered very soon. 💕🙏
Oh Emily. My heart hurts for you and Doug. Although my daughter doesn’t struggle with bi- polar issues, we HAVE been dealing with mental health issues for over 10 years. I get it. I get the nights worrying….. the trying to come up with answers….. solutions….. medicines etc. I get the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring ….. the letting go… the parental pain of not being able to help our child.
Your writing is raw and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
On another note….. I, too, am so ready for 2019 to be in the rear view mirror. I’m ready to reclaim my health…. physically as well as emotionally. It’s been a VERY tough year navigating thIs cancer journey. I may need to “steal” a few of your ladybug suggestions.
Love and hugs to you and Doug.
I know you can identify with so much of this, Colleen, and the bullet points you’ve hit on — they encapsulate the struggle so well. I also know what a strong person you are and admire how you have tackled cancer this year. Maybe a Ladybug Club is in order. Love and peace to you and your family.
You are a gifted writer Emily! I so admire your strength in sharing your story to spread awareness of mental health issues. Continued prayers to your entire family❤️🙏
Thank you, Kelly. Writing helps clear my head, and if I can help others work through these issues by sharing, I think it’s worth it.
I am thankful that you shared the deep heartache of what that horrible board did. I for one appreciated all of your hard work on behalf of that organization. So many of us in the organization (not naming names here) were mortified and deeply hurt for you. And angry. I hope that your daughter can find her way back. It is scary to know you can do nothing for her except to pray. My son spent a winter on the streets of Denver many years ago and that was the worst winter of my life. So I understand. Take care.
Thank you, Claire, on so many levels for this. I am bolstered by the continued support of people from the organization who knew it was wrong, and that helps so much. Even more so, thank you for sharing your story about your son. It is a horrible situation to have a child living like this, and not be able to reach out. It’s my hope that, like in your son’s case, my daughter’s will be temporary.
Thank you for sharing so beautifully! Prayers for your family and especially for your Mother heart!
Excellent job of sharing. Although our trials and tribulations of 2019 were not the same. I too can’t wait to put it in the rear view mirror. I hope and pray she finds her way to your embrace and support soon.
Thank you, Jocelyn. I send a hope and wish for a healthy, happy future for you.
You are such a beautiful and wonderful soul!! You deserve all the happiness and resolution the Roaring 20’s will bring!!💞
Thank you for keeping me cheery! 💗
Thinking of you & Doug. May the new year bring you much happiness!!!
And to you and your family, too, Joanie!
❤️Thank you for sharing Emily cheers to the Roaring 20’s
Yes, fabulous and meaningful blog. You truly are more beautiful then ever, inside and outside!❤️
Loved your holiday card!
Love you ALL!
May 2020 be filled with love and peace and strength and health! 😘😘
Fabulous blog! Thinking of all of you and sending love. Gary and I enjoyed receiving your holiday card. Thank you.
Emily this piece was beautiful. We can all learn from ladybugs. Just know that you and Dr K have friends you can lean on during this very difficult time as always.
Beautiful article,Emily. It’s rare that people work on achieving true self awareness as you have expressed so eloquently here. Hopefully your words will help others see that potential in themselves.
With love to you, Doug and your family.
You are more beautiful than ever..
Cheers to you and the ‘roaring twenties ‘♥️
Emily, I hold you, Doug and Jordan in my heart, with hopes that you will find resolution and peace in the year to come. Love to you.
Excellent!! Oh my Emily!! ❤️🙏
Beautiful, Emily. Holding you and your dearest daughter in my thoughts and prayers.🙏❤️
What an amazing gift you have with words… a blessing to all. Thank you for sharing.
Emily, having known you from childhood, I hold you deep in my heart and grieve and rejoice with you through the trials and joys of the years. Now, we watch and wait with hope and expectation of better things in 2020. Thanks for sharing so beautifully!
Dearest Emily, Your writing is beautiful. I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter. I can’t imagine what it’s like. My hope is you can soon count ladybugs together.
Love and Peace🌸
Thank you for sharing. Your vulnerability in this piece is respected and admired. Your truth and words also serves to help others.
We have a granddaughter and a former daughter-in-law who are bi- polar as well! We know what you are going through!! Love to you!
I’m so sorry, Shirley. One thing that has happened with my posting this is a greater awareness of just how common bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are. So many people have these challenges. Thank you for sharing that. 💗
🐞 your vulnerability and truth make this article so beautiful and touching. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you. It was scary to write, but cathartic.
I so often read your articles and am always enamored by your choice of words and phrases ,so often wishing I could emulate these,
This one is a most gripping one for me. As your Father I feel your heartache and it so much accelerates my own. Mom and I spend many hours with our own feelings with this ,but as a Parent I can feel so strongly with my Daughter’s anguish “why did this have to happen, and when will it “hopefully end with healing for all the ones involved .
We will all get through this and I, for one, am glad 2019 will be over soon. We all had huge issues. Some we got though and some are still on going. I simply pray that I is safe, warm, eating right, and maybe even working at something to push her ahead for her next assignment! You are incredibly strong. I don’t have that strength.
A smart and brave commentary on deeply painful battles. Emily, your strength is an inspiration. Wishing for a better year in 2020 for you and Isabel. May we all be a little more like Mopsy.
Hugs my friend. ❤️
Thank you for sharing what’s in your heart, Emily. It’s seems that no matter how hard life is, you find a way to be positive. Thinking of you and your family.
Thank you, Deb. I am trying really hard to stay positive. The year hasn’t been a fun one but I am working towards swimming upwards.
Love this Emily. Thanks for sharing. Thinking of you and your family.
Thank you, Carol.
Emily, Emily, Emily! This brings back a flood of memories! I journaled during that time, but my writing is so amateur that when I get back to Fort Collins, and find my journaling it’s going to be interesting reading what I wrote some 28-30 years ago. Hoping I can find them. I just know You will make it through! When we met at Lolly’s that one day and finding what our commonalities are, my heart leaped out. My dog Jack and my mother Madgie helped us through to the other side. Then the bout with cancer and getting through that with Dr. K. This is why I know it will all work out.
You and I do have that kinship. I would love to sit down over coffee and have a heart to heart. And that Roaring 20s theme is so YOU!
My heart breaks for your lovely daughter and your family. My son is in a similar situation being lost in the drug world and all of the bad decisions it entails. Every so often, we get a glimmer of hope but nothing has lasted. Prayers to you and Dr. K.
I’m so sorry to hear about your son, Laura. It seems that, no matter what we do to help them on a path we think is a good one, things happen which are beyond our control. I guess part of that is encouraging them to be individuals. Thinking of you and Rich, and sending love.
Me too! I will be home in May. Going to put you on a list to get together! You hang in there. I’m going shopping for some flapper clothes. Ha! Can’t wear the shoes that would be required to make the outfit pop. Visiting Hearst Castle this last week so brings back that era.
Take some pictures if they’ve got any vintage clothing on display so you can be inspired! Such a beautiful spot of Cally.
Thank you! For being you, sharing & words, thoughts many needed to hear, you needed to say. For 2020, let’s all be more Mopsy. 👐
Thank you, Colleen. I worry when I say too much, but this had to come out, eventually. I really appreciate your Mopsy-inspired encouragement.
Courageously and beautifully said, Emily. You did it better than I was able and took it further. Just a great job in every way.
Thank you, Lynne. As I wrote, you were there with me, giving me the courage to do it. I hope both of our 2020s provide us not only hindsight, but peace — and with that, a revived creativity.
Emily, thanks so much for sharing your very raw pain. I cannot imagine the fear you are having. God will put someone in your daughter’s path that will lead her back home. I will pray for her safety and your comfort. God Bless.
Thank you, Jill. I have hope, but some days less than others. We’ll see where it goes.
I LOVE this one! You are a survivor, sister!
Thanks, Michelle. And particularly thanks for your continued boosts, visits (even while I’m ironing :)) and words of advice. We are all going to get through this — and fix what needs to be fixed!
Powerful, insightful, meaningful…. full. May a better year and decade, lay ahead.
Thank you, Judi.