Thursday, December 28, 2023

"To Be or Not to Be?" The Question That Answers Itself

contemplation #2

Twenty years ago, I chronicled blog posts leading up to my milestone 50th Birthday. At that time, I was dreaming about what I was going to “be when I grow up.” Children off to college, divorce drama quieted, and a career doing what I considered good work. Life was finally opening for me, giving me the opportunity to do “all those things” I had planned.

Who knew I would be unceremoniously perp-walked (along with the majority of the award-winning team I was part of) out of the job I thought I would have for life. Who knew that seeking a new position would become a trudge through unanswered applications, waste-of-time interviews, and real anxiety about bankruptcy and homelessness. I had never in my life not gotten a job I applied for. The employment world threw water on me, and I melted like the Wicked Witch of the West. “Oh, what a world!”

I’m not going to recite the adventures of those intervening years, except to say, my children grew up to be successful adults (and parents), I’ve been gainfully employed, (in fact I have three areas of “work” to keep me busy), and—after suspecting, and being content with a home for just me and my dog—I found the love of my life. We were committed to each other in Vegas, at the top of the Stratosphere with enthusiastic onlookers hanging over the railings of the next floor.

I’m ready to chronicle 2024 to mark a new one-year countdown to another landmark birthday. I know that I am less interested in what I want to “be” and more focused on who I “am.”  I am reducing my fixation on distant success landmarks. I am not giving up on any of the work I love to do, just teaching myself to be more in the present. And if, in the present, I must backtrack, change my path or forge through a quagmire, I will do it mindfully.

 It does come as a surprise that “are you still working?” is a constant query, by medical professionals, casual acquaintances, and every piece of medical plan solicitation, “Hurry up! Time is running out!” I know they mean the “enrollment period,” but it is a reminder that time is running out in a more final way. Of course, just as in the Wicked Witch’s hourglass timer, the sand starts pouring the day we are born, and eventually runs out.

January 1, 2024 is right around the corner. April 7, 2025 is not that far away. Time to grab that broomstick, because I’ll soon be cruising somewhere at 70 – whether it is a milestone, steppingstone or stumbling block!

©2023 Noreen Braman




“To be, or not to be?” That is the wrong question.

contemplation #1

Hamlet’s question was a contemplation of death. The choice to exist or not exist. One of the answers is final. The other answer is what leads to my contemplation – “What happens when you choose ‘to be’?”

In early childhood, the question starts “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some of us a vision of becoming a “grown up,” and all that it entails is a straight line. Career paths, family choices, carried in our heads as vague ambitions or firm plans. Others of us take the long and curvy “someday” path, even sometimes backtracking. In fact, there are people, like me, who spend most of their lives looking for, working for, or dreaming about what we will BE-come. Eventually.


I’ve decided that it is time for me to get off the “someday I’ll be…” merry-go-round. No, unlike Hamlet, it is not a consideration of death. It is perhaps inspired by the inevitability of death, creating a pivot point on that curvy road. Notice to stop waiting for what I am going to be, and concentrating on what I am – more precisely, who I am.


At this moment, who and what I am is an amalgamated construction of all I have experienced up to today. Wonderful life experiences, heartbreaking trauma. Family life, professional life, and the puzzle pieces that haven’t quite fit into the picture, but are still out there on the table.


Recently, I’ve been exploring my personal strengths, learning about the idea of spending more time using and improving them, rather that trying to cure my weaknesses. For 68 years I’ve been hiking up a mountain, waiting to finally get to the top, the place where I will finally be me. I’ve forgotten to stop, turn around, and look at how far I have come. How many hills and bumps and icy streams I’ve passed – and heights I have already reached. And yes, I see the muddy butt-slide trails where things didn’t go as planned. Even more important than taking all that in, is feeling what is under my feet, embracing the place where I am at, and recognizing who, and what I am. Taking that knowledge and those personal strengths as a new path, a new map, supporting who I am. As long as I be.


©2023 Noreen Braman


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Here We Come A'Caroling, like it or not!


The year is 2023.  On television, a choir is performing a very entertaining version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I am smiling at their wonderful voices and song-related pantomime. Then, they get into the troublesome part of the song. The part where the number of drummers, pipers, and lords-a-leaping get mixed up. This version was different from the version I grew up with.  “Bah Humbug!” I thought. And then, I reminded myself of this, written when my children were young. I don’t even want to know what they are singing with their own kids this year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Here we Come A’ Caroling

 After one endures the trauma and turmoil of divorce, it is hoped that certain life lessons are learned. Lessons that one vows to never repeat, never tolerate, or never live through again. Unfortunately, one makes the mistake of thinking that these lessons are related to huge issues such as trust, money, in-laws and leaving up the toilet seat. And we vow to discuss these things before ever entering another serious relationship. However, I am here to tell you that there are other, more subtle areas of discussion. One of the most important is Christmas Music.

Most of us think of Christmas music as that group of “ho ho ho,” and “fa la la,” songs that permeate the air from the Fourth of July through January. Pleasant enough, a bit repetitive, and mostly undistinguished. We hear it on the radio, in the mall, and in the background of every television commercial – no matter what the product. It seems that “Christmas Music” is something everyone can agree on – especially in the home. The Christmas Music stand-off was not a cause of the divorce (or was it?) but it hung over my head as our children grew up.

I never discussed Christmas music before I got married – he never told me about his, and I never told him about mine. As we arranged our combined music collection in our newlywed apartment, we took turns laughing at some of the ridiculous selections we had. Somehow, we each assumed that those “silly” selections (both his and mine – although secretly I didn’t think any of my choices were silly) would never be heard again. We should have been warned: in our now-huge assortment of music, there were no duplicates. My classical music stood rigidly on the shelf next to his acid rock. John Denver and Mick Jagger eyed each other suspiciously inside the cabinet. It was a minor annoyance for months, until our first Christmas arrived.

For me, the holiday is not complete without songs performed by Perry Como and Johnny Mathis, as well as several renditions of the Nutcracker. Growing up, I truly believed that the only “real” Christmas music was on the three albums my mother dusted off every year and played on her “hi-fi.” In church, I belted out all the English and Latin verses to “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” without even glancing in the hymnal. Years later, I realized that there were a multitude of recordings available, but by then they just didn’t sound “right.”

However, I soon found out, just the mention of my favorites would make my husband’s blood pressure rise. Older than me, he was a true devotee of classic rock and roll. While I was playing big band classics in my high school jazz band, he was grooving with the flower children. I should have realized that a Rolling Stones fan would have a different concept of holiday music, but soon the sound of Yoko Ono warbling in the house made me want to crush the stereo.

Although we had met during the disco era, and had sentimental feeling about most of that music, the worst thing forced on me during Christmas was my husband’s collection of obnoxious disco “medley” recordings. With titles like “High on Christmas,” they featured holiday songs homogenized into one long-playing disco beat monstrosity.  It was fun to hustle with John Travolta and sing “YMCA” with the Village People, but hearing “Joy to the World” a la Disco Fever was unbearable.

Imagine my surprise to find records by Mario Lanza! The majestic sound of his voice does justice to any carol. I thought, finally, my husband was coming to his senses, accepting the “right sound.” Actually, Mario was a throwback to my husband’s own childhood and his Italian heritage. I never could get him to admit that Lanza beats Springsteen any day in the Christmas music department. Unfortunately, Bruce, Yoko and the disco queens serenaded our holidays for many years.

Of course, once we had children, I vowed to raise them on my holiday music. For years, their father and I raced to the stereo to make sure they were hearing “real” Christmas music. Of course, the kids were not listening at all. They were in their rooms, playing “Rainbow Brite Sings Christmas Favorites.” (Where did that come from?) I’ve already made a note to have a heart-to-heart talk with their future spouses.


Friday, December 22, 2023

The Daughter of Laughter & Chaos

December Solstice -The Longest Night of the Year


Tonight is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. This observation may be one of the oldest events that humans recognized. At least it was part of ancient systems of telling time by paying attention to the movements of celestial objects.The Winter Solstice not only marked the harsh winter season - the time of cold and snow - but also the reassurance that the light would now be increasing. A reliable sign that warmth and sunshine would return. It gave hope during a difficult time of year.

For me, the Winter Solstice helps me boost my resilience by reminding me that difficult times come to our lives with regularity, just as joyous times do. While dark days seem to arrive unbidden, we can help ourselves "get through them" by creating and seeking ways to build our resilience.

As the New Year dawns with a few more minutes of light, let's resolve to take advantage of that light, by looking for laughter, being open to friendship and love, and finding appreciation and gratitude on a daily basis. (remembering that there will be days that the only thing you may be grateful for is that a difficult day is over, and you are hopeful for a better day ahead.) With thanks to all of you for supporting and following me, wishing you happiness in this season of celebrations, and the gift of laughter in the coming New Year.

©2023 Noreen Braman

Read the rest of the December Solstice Smile Side of Life Newsletter

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