The Mask

Do You Really Know Him?The MaskPhoto by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash

Mask: a covering for all or part of a face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or terrify others; disguise

The visual jagged lines and penetrating noise on the TV screen screamed at him. The piercing sound of the static and the visual snow made him cringe as he continued to get ready to leave his torturous dwelling…..

The police officer chuckled loudly and raised his eyebrows as she patiently told the story. The handsome officer thought it was just another fight with the boyfriend. He snickered loudly and said he would see what he could do. Every day at least one of these situations crossed the main desk so he was ready to go back to his mundane paperwork. As she notices his total obliviousness for her, she keeps her composure. She hands him a 200 page bound document of text and emails received and exclaimed, “For your reading pleasure, officer.” His face hung low as he realized she was not joking and he was caught in his not-so-nice response. Not just another everyday dispute. Here’s how it all happened….

One cold, bleak night after Thanksgiving, feeling lonely, with nothing better to do, she ventured out to meet the online stranger she had been talking to for weeks now. In his profile picture, he looked handsome with dark hair and a moustache, a nice smile. He seemed much thinner and older than his profile picture. She didn’t remember noticing his height online but they met eye to eye. That was usually the case. Misrepresentation online happens all the time. It’s a chance you take when you decide to meet a stranger from a dating website. Online dating has brought about some lasting marriages and some terrible memories as well.

Actually, he seemed quite serious and quiet, yet very much a gentleman as he offered to treat her for dinner. Most meets were a quick cup of coffee or a drink. She didn’t know what intrigued her about him, but she conversed freely through the date and allowed him to walk her to her car. It may be his gentlemanliness after a rash of horrible, meaningless dates in the past few months. He texted her as soon as she got home. She thought that was odd yet very sweet that he was so concerned with her safety driving home alone. He seemed like an ordinary nice guy.

She had never met anyone like him. He was so kind and attentive. A well-known boat repairman at the local marinas, he took pride in his livelihood. He repaired motors at home during winter months when business was slow. Money was never an object to him and he spent it quite freely. He was much freer during the winter, and told her he worked at two marinas in the summer. He mentioned that seeing him now was a luxury and she should enjoy it because once April arrived he would be extremely busy getting his customers out on the water. Because it was winter and he worked at his own pace, he told her he would work around her schedule so they could spend as much time together as possible. This was perfect as he wanted to get to know her and she was enjoying all the attention for a change.

By Alex Iby on Unsplash

The first few days, he called several times a day and she saw him again on that Saturday night. She was impressed by the way he put so much thought into whatever they did together. Every date revealed his thought process and it always involved pleasing her. He was sweet and respectful. She never met anyone like him before. So she saw him during the week for dinner and on weekends as well, sometimes they just went to a movie.

Once in a while he would “appease her” and get a drink at her favorite bar where her friends always met. He did mention more than once, though, that only single women without boyfriends should drink at bars and men never thought highly of them. Her friends were very gracious when meeting him and anytime he was around. They even tried to have conversations with him. She ignored most of his comments attributing it to the “boyfriend taking control” attitude. No one ever said a negative word to her. At the bar, he didn’t socialize; he just stared forward as if he was in a constant trance.

The Knicks game was interrupted again. Why won’t that interference stop on the television set? Do they know I am here? Did they follow us? Why won’t they leave me alone? I’m happy now. I have met a beautiful woman. He stared blindly into space until she revived him that it was time to leave.

One night he suggested they try this special restaurant near Bear Mountain that he always talked about. It was a far drive but she agreed as she knew he put so much thought into their time together and she had never been there. But as they started getting closer to Bear Mountain she regretted her decision. The bends in the road were sharp and scary. No lights for miles. It felt as if they would just fall into a ditch. She continued to tell him she didn’t want to go anymore and that these roads made her nervous. It was so dark and it frightened her to almost tears. He finally conceded after going around the same treacherous turns and he went to another place. But he did not speak much during dinner. She figured he was just disappointed because his plan had failed. Not every date can be perfect.

By Nathanaël Desmeules on Unsplash

He wondered where they were. Were they watching him? Were they waiting in a ditch off the road? Were they interfering with what was supposed to be a romantic dinner in Bear Mountain? He heard the static ringing in his ears and tried to push it away. It wouldn’t stop.

She did notice that every once in a while, he would twitch. This was particularly evident the night after the Bear Mountain drive. Or go into a trance and tell her about this woman, Frances, who hurt him deeply. This was his last relationship which lasted about two years. He said she took over his television screen and made a big static wave through it. He could even see her face in the screen in a long, white dress. Somehow he felt that her and her new boyfriend hacked his cable box. He turned the TV on one night and waited for the snowy lines to appear and they did not. He pushed it away saying they were watching and would not do it when she was there. Their purpose was to drive him insane. He did not understand why anyone would do this especially since she was the one cheating. He did everything for her just like he did for any woman he was dating. She was frightened thinking that someone would do this to this sweet, harmless man.. She figured he exaggerated about the television situation after having a few drinks. Needless to say, she never watched television with him. He was obviously a bit quirky.

“Please make it stop”, he would shout out alone in his apartment, every time he turned on the television. He ventured into the backyard to see who was there messing with his electricity and his television screen. It took many hours for him to fall asleep that night.

By Zach Vessels on Unsplash

She would notice certain abnormalities about him but then brush them off again as she spent more time with him. He was overly interested in her. On their two week anniversary he bought her a sparkling, white gold ring with a garnet stone in it. She did not want to accept it. He said it meant nothing – he just saw it and thought she would like it. .

He continued to overindulge her. He brought over packages of lobster ravioli for her daughter’s birthday. On Super Bowl Sunday she was visiting with friends and he showed up to surprise her later, bringing an abundance of flavors of ice cream for all of them to choose from. It crossed her mind that most men don’t want to spend this momentous football day with women, but he was different. One day he spent two hours in Stop and Shop looking for the perfect lunch for her now that her doctor put her on a low cholesterol diet. He came over to give her a foot rub when she had a long day. When her mom needed repairs on her apartment, he ran over and helped out which, of course, won her over too.

One night they decided to try this small, quaint Cajun restaurant in the neighborhood. She was looking forward to some delicious catfish and hearing the band after dinner. They ordered a cocktail and sat at the bar waiting for their table to be ready. He quivered, started gazing into space and then abruptly wanted to leave. He claimed a man was glancing her way and made him extremely uncomfortable. Then, when the lead singer of the band said hello to her he started twitching. It was a shortened date as he did not speak very much during dinner when they ended up at the local pub. They ate quickly and then he took her home. He mentioned how it was difficult to have such a beautiful girlfriend that everyone wanted. He could not get rid of them all so they just had to get away from them. This frightened her a bit. Part of her was flattered and the other scared to death.

She went home that evening with a weird feeling. Not all dates are perfect, so she tried to brush it off. Something in the back of her head kept shouting at her to pay more attention to this man who wore a mask, sometimes happy and sometimes very dark. She couldn’t shake this feeling for days.

Her children were not especially thrilled with him, maybe because he was always around. Her nosy aunt investigated him but found nothing at all. The old woman continued to be obnoxiously rude whenever he was in the house. She just ignored them and continued on her way with him. Didn’t they understand she was just dating him. They should be happy for her. He was harmless after all and just a little bit possessive. In her heart, she felt as if he was just a temporary boyfriend that treated her right and nothing else. She wanted to enjoy this. She would not have any feelings for him. That was her plan this time.

The last man she had feelings for turned out to be a complete liar. He was not divorced yet and still married with children. He lied to her consistently without her being suspicious. He made her laugh whenever they were together so she never even questioned his last minute cancellations. As she looked back at the times he canceled on her, she realized that she was completely blinded. She was no longer blinded and would never be again. She was just enjoying being treated like a princess. She knew he was not “the one” but she was just enjoying the good treatment she hadn’t had in a very long time. He had no children so he was always willing to compromise plans for her children. Who could ask for more?

But can you be treated as a princess for a price?

In February, he surprised her with a three day trip to Florida. First, they would stop in Juno Beach and see her best friend before taking a scenic drive to Key West. It sounded like an exciting, fun time. He even arranged it so that they would be back for her daughter’s birthday, which he knew she would never miss. She was reluctant yet at the same time embraced this fun adventure.

By John McArthur on Unsplash

The trip was interesting and memorable to say the least. They arrived at West Palm Beach airport without any problems. He rented this beautiful red sports car and they were on our way to her friend’s house. Her friends were polite, very happy to meet him and treated them to delicious, homemade pizza. Conversation flowed and all seemed to be going well. They were only there for a few hours and then were on their way to Key West. This is where the horror began.

About one hour into the trip, he became violently ill. They had to stop on numerous occasions as he was vomiting uncontrollably. She was petrified for two reasons – she was alone with basically a stranger that was so ill and she was frightened of getting to Key West. What if something happened to him? What would she tell the authorities? Who would she call? Suddenly, she felt so all alone. What made her decide to take this trip? When would she learn the word no and not always worry about others’ feelings? At one point in the trip, he was so sick, she had to do all the driving. There was nowhere to stop and she was in a state that she was so unfamiliar with. She was petrified during the rest of the ride as he continued vomiting and she was driving on what seemed like a one foot wide bridge with trucks with huge beaming headlights blinding her the other way. It seemed as if this narrow bridge would never end. She just kept praying. She had never been here before and had no idea where she was going. She never prayed so hard. She swore when she got back home she would kiss the ground and her children.

They checked into the hotel finally sometime after midnight. He was deathly ill. She looked around and never felt so alone. How long would it take for two days to pass? The next day she wandered the main strip. She did not feel confident to take the car and go see the tourist sites in Key West. She managed to pick up a fast food meal for herself and just stayed at the pool with a book. She could not concentrate on reading or even enjoy the serenity of the pool and beach area. She did not enjoy one second of the two days she was there. In fact, today when people asked her if she ever went to Key West she would always say no. She did not experience anything. It was just a hotel room with a sick man and no one around to talk to. On the last day, before they were leaving, he mustered up energy to go to lunch with her in Old Town. She had the grouper that he had been talking about since they met. It was pleasant but again she felt all alone in the world and knew she made the biggest mistake traveling with him. He wasn’t feeling perfect so again she had to drive the five hours back to the West Palm Beach airport. She asked him to change the flight to Key West airport but apparently there were no flights available. He checked on line (apparently) and they decided to stick with West Palm airport. In hindsight she should have packed her bag that first night and either gone back to her friend’s house or taken a flight from Key West airport home. That’s what credit cards are for. These type of emergencies. The thought had crossed her mind but how could she leave a violently ill man alone and what if something happened to him. Wouldn’t it lead back to her, the innocent girlfriend on this whirlwind horror trip from hell?

They finally flew home and he seemed to be getting better. She never felt so relieved. It was one of the happiest feelings of her life, being home and away from the loneliness and fear of her vacation. They celebrated her daughter’s birthday the next day. She felt continued tension from the dislike in the air. It was so thick it was unbearable. She knew that she had made a grave mistake dating him. Her family was the world to her and she would not want to make them unhappy. The children had enough to deal with in the aftermath of her divorce. What was she going to do?

His constant attention and sometimes jealousy got on her nerves. It’s like he had two faces –one that said “have fun with your friends” and one that was not happy at all when she talked about her friends that were unattached. That’s when he wore….the mask.

The mask surfaced again about a week after returning from Florida. She received a call while she was having dinner with her girlfriend that her sweet neighbor had died. It was already 7:30 and the wake was only that night. Quickly, they paid the bill and went to the wake together. On the way there she texted him and told him what happened. This triggered a series of continuous texts from him. He went insane claiming that she’s making up the wake, and where was she really going. He said he was having a heart attack and couldn’t believe that this was happening and who was she really going to see. Where is she really going? Why is she doing this to me? She knew she had to break up with him. Didn’t he realize she didn’t even have to tell him anything because she was going home after dinner originally? He continued texting long after the wake was over. She realized that he was not only possessive and quirky, but he was mentally unstable. She had to think of something and fast. She couldn’t stop shaking. She figured it would be right after her birthday weekend away with her friends which was starting the next day.

The “big” birthday was coming up. She planned a weekend away with her friends. She couldn’t wait. They would have a nice dinner and go bar hopping, and then stay at the Marriott. She should have realized he was too easy going about this plan, but at that moment she was happy to be going with her friends and not having to see him for the entire weekend. She felt such a relief and freedom she hadn’t felt in months. She would deal with him when she returned. For now, she was completely focused on what she was wearing and how extremely relieved she would feel when she was away from home, away from him, and out with her friends who made her laugh and always have a great time. She wanted herself back so badly. Remember that fun girl – where did she go? Why does she need a man to make her happy? She certainly didn’t.

Before making the 7:00 train, her friends suggested stopping for appetizers at one of the local restaurants. They talked about this appetizer special that was delicious. She wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea but since they planned this special weekend for her, she went along with it. Waiting inside the restaurant was a surprise party for her. Her family had planned it (even though she did not want it) and all her friends were there to surprise her. And of course, he was there. No wonder he didn’t give her a hard time about going away. She felt faint just realizing this. From his reaction to the wake the other night she should have known that he wasn’t totally thrilled with her being away and not with him. She wanted to break up with him after the weekend away and couldn’t wait to be free of him and enjoying her friends and her freedom again. And there he was…. Which mask was he wearing tonight? How would she survive this party? If only she told her friends what was happening…. Then maybe he would not have been invited. He just stood in the corner and smiled deeply.

Well, she got absolutely drunk because she didn’t expect this and also because he was there beaming with happiness. Of course he was happy – she was with him and not going away for the weekend. No one else would be looking at her. He had that evil look in his eyes. All along he didn’t argue with her about it because he knew that she wasn’t really going away after all. Her friends from work were in attendance – she didn’t want them to know her age. Her friends from Long Island and her dear Florida friend was also there. So here she was drinking Absolut and Cranberry (she lost count) and then started with Espresso Martinis. Every picture from that evening showed her with a drink in her hand and with a very big grin. Finally, they get her home and to bed. Her best friend was going to stay with her. Her friend tried to get her comfortable while he was in her bedroom telling people to leave. He kept repeating that he was going to marry her and he was in charge. Her family started a screaming match with him. He was eventually thrown out. She was too busy being sick to know all that was being said, but felt relief with just her friends and family staying with her. She knew something was terribly wrong with him. That night she was called the most hyper drunk because she was so ossified from the alcohol and so awake from all the espresso. She laughed and cried all night long. What a wonderful surprise but now what was she going to do about this imposter?

By Kobby Mendez on Unsplash

The next day she could barely move. Her friends took all presents he left behind (one was a diamond ring they didn’t let her see) and they immediately packed them up to mail back to him. After ridiculous attempts to call her, her friend picked up the phone and told him to stop calling and to pick up his stuff on the front steps (he purposely left his wallet) and to never ever call her or see her again. They let him know that they were returning all gifts. This is when the real nightmare began….

Phone calls, emails. Texts ….hundreds a day and continuous, just seconds apart. Why don’t you believe me? I will take you away from all those bad people and we will live happily ever after.

By Nathana Rebouças on Unsplash

Wherever she went he followed. Looking quietly through the blinds she saw his car drive past her house all the time, sometimes a few times in one hour. If she was outside a restaurant smoking a cigarette with a group of people, she would get a text and a phone call from him. He always left a voicemail and always called her “honey bunny”. At night he would send hundreds of emails repeating over and over that she did not understand how much he loved her and that he was going to marry her. He sent her an insurance policy for $500k that he listed her as sole beneficiary and as his fiancé. She just kept printing and saving, printing and saving. The folder was so thick she couldn’t keep it all together. It was out of control. She answered a few texts saying she was contacting the police. Even the smallest response gave him courage to do even more harassing. Is there hope now that she answered me? She won’t really call the police, will she? Her responses could be angry, threatening or vicious and he would apparently think it meant he was getting through. He kept on saying she would never find anyone like him.

He went into her Facebook account and contacted all her friends that he met at her birthday party and begged them to speak to her. He brought her three girlfriends (whom she was planning to go away with) bouquets of flowers. He showed up at her mother’s house, her aunt’s house and it just kept going on and on. Everyone was frightened by his actions. Her kids were afraid to leave the house. They were angry with her and she knew she had let them down.

The nightmare continued. She still threatened to call the cops. Deep down he didn’t believe her. Her girlfriend (she witnessed entire event at her house) called him and begged him to leave her and everyone else alone. He said he would. That lasted a few days and then it began again. He would always send her letters and cards using her maiden name (when they dated he said she should get rid of her married name as she was divorced). He sent emails with pictures of a new dog he bought which was an exact duplicate of her dog. He claimed that the dogs could be in love just like they were. They had rhyming names. Buddy and Bunny could be in love like we are. She was sick to her stomach. The next few months she received flowers, cologne, cigarettes and cards at least once a week. She returned them all. He would not get the hint or understand. The ringing in my ears doesn’t stop. Even my television doesn’t show me any pictures anymore. Just static noise.

Months later, it calmed down a little bit and she started dating someone else. Every time she was out she always had to look behind her. She felt sick all the time. She tried to move on but she needed him to go away. It would stop for a few days or a week and then start all over again. The blue Toyota, the phone calls, emails and more texts….

Finally, she took all the paperwork to the cops. They laughed, they read and they called him and advised him if this continued charges would be filed. He sent her an email finally saying that he would not be in touch any longer because he could not lose his business but that he would always love her. She figured this was it and he was gone.

A few months passed and she was waiting to meet her new boyfriend. He was returning from a short vacation. He was calling her to tell her that he was running late. She never got the message since she was the phone calls started again and she was so busy trying to disconnect them. So she went to where she was meeting her boyfriend who ended up not showing. She left in haste and became very angry. Why does she get herself involved in situations? She was angry with herself.

If she had gotten his message she would have known that he was delayed and coming in about an hour. She left and when she tried to talk to him later they ended up in a fight. He said if she couldn’t wait for him, he wanted nothing to do with her. She was heart- broken. She had a connection with him and felt as if the other situation was behind her. But no, the mask appeared again and ruined her day.

This situation put her over the edge. She called him and said to leave her alone or the cops would be at his door. He begged her to listen to what he had to say and that he did everything for her own good. That no one would love her the way he did. My business is too important to lose – I better step back for a bit. And then there was silence for a while.

A few weeks before Christmas, she came home one night and found a wreath on her car with a purple bow. He knew she loved purple, who else would have left it there?! She gave the wreath to her friend because hanging it up would have meant she accepted it and would give him his power back. She had to let him go away for good, no matter what it took. She looked out her window constantly and knew she saw a small navy Toyota truck pass by a few times a night. She continued to be frightened.

By Brooke Lark on Unsplash

He would be silent for a few weeks and then send her an email. Even after the cops went to his door, he still needed to send an email or text her or pass her house. He emailed her stating the cops visited and that he would no longer bother her. Liar, liar!!! Finally, she decided to ignore him and hoped he would go away. The contact became less and less. She was moving on with her life.

One day it just all stopped. No calls, no emails, no texts. She felt finally free. She found out around a year later that he passed away suddenly. His family found him on the ground. Apparently it was kidney and liver disease. Was this what was ailing him in Florida? His mother had died a few months before him and his sister-in-law passed away a few weeks before that. And then– him. It seemed weird. His brother was the only remaining member in their three family residence. Very suspicious story—had he been sick all along hence, the insurance policy, the engagement ring, the thin, gaunt look compared to his profile picture…. A story for another time…..

She would never know what really happened to him, but she finally felt free of the mask that shadowed her life for almost two years. She no longer shivered when a small blue Toyota pickup truck drove by her, but she always noticed and held her breath.

Elaine Gallagher

Elaine Gallagher

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What is Gratitude?

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. It also means the readiness to show appreciation for kindness and to be willing to return kindness. Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness for what you have and not always wanting more. When you are grateful, you acknowledge the goodness in your life and feel positive emotions, enjoy and relish good experiences, and continue to build strong relationships.

Be grateful and thankful….

How does grateful feel? It is a feeling of being thankful and appreciative. An example would be how you feel when a friend does something exceptionally nice for you.

How Do We Practice Gratitude?

  1. Notice good things in life, look for them and always appreciate them.
  2. Savor and pay attention to all these good things in your life.
  3. Express your gratitude to others and to yourself. Thank someone.

In the Bible, it says “Give thanks to all circumstances; for this is the will of God”. When you regularly practice gratitude, you take time to notice and reflect on things you are thankful for and, overall, you will experience positive emotions. This can lead to more sleep, feeling more alive with more compassion and kindness. Gratitude also enhances your immune systems.

Give thanks to all circumstances.

People are more successful when they practice gratitude. They reach their goals and make 20% more progress than those who do not practice gratitude.

Practice Gratitude Daily

Take time each day to practice gratitude and you will definitely see a significant increase in your happiness and your overall physical health. Daily practice improves sleep, boosts immunity and may decrease the risk of disease. It is hard to practice gratitude and we have to work hard to cultivate this daily practice.

Here are some ways to practice gratitude daily:

            . meditate on things you are grateful to have in your life. Practice mindfulness on step at a time and a little more each day.

Take time every day for yourself….

            . think about what you are grateful for as soon as you wake up (someone or something)

            . reflect on people or things you are thankful for at work when you are done for the day. Sometimes thinking of someone after a long day is all you need for a boost.

            . keep a list of what you are grateful for handy (and update it often) to look at throughout your day.

Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Gratitude changes your life because it makes you reflect and appreciate what you have in your life rather than what you don’t have. It can change your life by being a very powerful source of inspiration that you can tap into. Just pay attention to the simple beauty in everyday life and what we often take for granted. More people are feeling grateful after living through this pandemic and fearing tomorrow. It helps us to reflect and appreciate all that we have. In these times, it is even more important to reflect on how grateful we are.

Show Gratitude to Someone Who Helps You

How can you show gratitude to someone who helps you? There are many ways to do this. Just a few ideas:

            . a card or handwritten note expressing your gratitude

            . a hug

Express yourself….
Think without interruption….

            . a compliment

            . perform a random act of kindness

            . provide encouragement when they need it

. a quick text to say you are thinking of someone.

Make a List of What You are Grateful For

Think about what you are grateful for in your life and make a list. It can include:

            . your parents

            . your family

            . your best friend

            . your teachers

            . your colleagues

Next to each item on your grateful list state reasons why you are grateful for them. For example, I am grateful for my parents because they gave me life and raised me with love and support.

Does Gratitude Relieve Stress?

Being grateful for what you have in your life can immediately enhance your mood and give you happiness in the inside. This can help strengthen and create a positive nature within ourselves which can combat stress. If you have positive thoughts before you go to sleep, you will sleep better.

Express Gratitude Daily

There are ways to express gratitude daily:

  1. Write in a journal that you keep with you and only use to express gratitude.

( I purchased a premade journal that I find useful)

Continue reading “What is Gratitude?”

What is Happiness?

What is happiness? Can it be defined in a word, in a sentence, in a song? Why are we not happy even when things are going right in our lives? Do we know what happiness really is?

Happiness is a feeling….

Did you know that happiness does not depend on what we have? Happiness depends on how we feel about what we have. Did you notice some people are happier with less and miserable with more? Happiness is such a powerful human emotion yet often the least understood. Happy people have more control over their physical health and “happiness” as well. When we are happy we feel more self-worth and confidence. We are often disappointed when we get something we hope for, yet we are still not happy. You can honestly see when someone is happy by they way they carry around some sort of positive brilliance wherever they go.

We can define happiness as having meaning and satisfaction with one’s life. It is not merely about material things. It is experiencing a sense of purpose. It is not simply an external pleasure. It is connecting with others, having meaningful relationships in your life, and feeling a sense of community around you. Many people have learned that money definitely does not buy happiness.

Happiness in Relationships

We are defined often by the people in our lives. We cherish our relationships and they should be the primary source of our happiness. When a major relationship in our life fails to bring happiness, we are reluctant and afraid to make changes in fear of not finding anything better to give us true happiness. People who are happy in their marriage or relationship, happy with their close group of friends and extended family, are often the people who understand the true meaning of happiness. It can’t be bought, it must be felt.

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Happiness in our Career

Whether we choose a career or just a job to get through our lives, what we do every day is a major part of our overall happiness. When you jump out of bed because you love what you do then you are experiencing happiness and fulfillment. When you work too many hours, and not happily, this has an affect directly on the other possible parts of happiness in your life. Most people are afraid to take risks and often stay in a mundane work environment for fear of trying something new that interests them, and also fear of failing.

Happiness with Ourselves

Yes, we are a society that looks at physical appearance and a person’s attractiveness, so many of us feel if we lose weight, buy new clothes, etc., we will become happier people. We will become healthier, but happiness is so much deeper than that. We should never stop trying to eat healthier, increase physical activity and take care of our bodies. However, we need to have a combination of needs met in order for this to add to our happiness.

Breathe in happiness…..

Honestly, I can talk about happiness for pages on end. Right now, each of us has a specific key to find their true happiness. It is usually a combination of many things, but mostly a feeling of self-worth and contentment in many major areas of our lives. Each day is a journey to achieving this happiness. Happiness changes along the journey and we need to notice the changes in our own individual needs.

I hope that you can find a way to make yourself happy, even in these not so normal times. Perhaps this is the best time to evaluate what really makes us happy and to see life for what it really is, when so many people around us are suffering.

Some synonyms for happiness:

jovial, harmonious, ideal, delightful, dazzling, flourishing…..

Can you think of some to add to that list?

A New Year With New Hope

It is the end of December of one of the worst years most of us have lived through and we are counting the days until 2021, with hope in our hearts…. Some people lost loved ones, some people lost jobs and others just survived the consequences and loneliness of isolation and separation because of the pandemic.

We all know that this awful year will not leave us at the stroke of midnight, however, we have hopes that things will only get better, month by month. Yes, they do predict that numbers will rise after the holidays, but hopefully as people start getting vaccinated, this will continue to change for the better. Many people question whether they feel comfortable taking the vaccine, so it will be a wait and see kind of New Year, but one filled with hope…

Look towards the year ahead.

Every new year we compose a list of “promises”, or resolutions, that we have made for the new year such as losing weight, eating healthier, forgiving others, and the list continues. This year all of our lists will be different but one thing that they will all have in common is that we will all enter the new year with hope and with an appreciation of human life and a special appreciation of the little things in life that are really the most important.

So as we enter 2021, leaving awful 2020 behind here are some thoughts of what we are hoping for:

1. The end of the pandemic:

We all are hoping that the new year will bring an end to the pandemic so that people can get back to their lives. Many will have to rebuild their lives with new jobs, new places to live and a new acceptance of what has been taken away through the pandemic.

2. Loving each other again:

Not only did we suffer a pandemic, but the year 2020 also consisted of riots, hatred and a presidential election like no other in history. Our country is divided more so than ever before and we are not sure how to heal. Will we ever get along with someone who believes in the opposite political party? When did your political affiliation make you less of a friend, brother or sister? What happened to the days when people accepted each other for their different opinions, their different upbringings and their life choices. Instead of embracing each other, we have become a nation divided. I am not sure that this will change in 2021 but hopefully it will get better.

Plan for a better year for all of us.

3. Enjoying the small moments:

After being locked up in our homes for months, wearing masks and not hugging our loved ones, hopefully this year will bring us back to some state of normalcy. For example, just going to a movie or concert will be so special after not leaving our homes. Having a family gathering, whether it be a wedding or birthday, without worrying about contact or testing, will be a wonderful change for all of us. As we enter back into our lives, I hope that we all take a step back each time we have a new experience in 2021 and cherish it as it was taken away from us during the pandemic.

4. Continue kindness:

People were humble and kind during the pandemic. Neighborhoods thought of new ways to make celebrating happen, like Zoom parties, drive through holiday displays and drive-in movies even made a comeback. We were kind to let people ahead of us online, to keep our six foot distance and to respect the rules that our government placed on us during the pandemic.

5. Kids can be kids again:

Not only have adults had loss and frustration, but our children had their school lives ripped apart. From playing with their friends and enjoying learning in school, they ended up in front of a laptop that they didn’t know how to navigate and were expected to complete their studies as if nothing had happened. Parents, struggling with their own work changes, became teachers. Teachers became round the clock workers trying to please everyone and prove their worth. We know our children will be behind academically, but what will be the effect on them socially? When life returns to normal (maybe the next school year), we need to treat them with extra kindness and support as they re-enter the normal world of school.

Look at life through a child’s eyes.

6. Families can begin to heal:

Many people died during the pandemic and most were not “celebrated” the way we are accustomed to. There were no wakes, funerals, or memorials. Thankfully, social media did become a way for people to express condolences and love during this very trying period. These families will not get their loved ones back and will have to figure out how to continue without them in 2021. We need to be there for them and for each other.

A new year with new hope….

So let’s take a deep breath and think about what we want for the new year. I know that I want people to be happy, to enjoy life and to be able to be together without fear. I am going to hope for that hug, that kiss, and that sharing with loved ones that I have missed during this long, debilitating pandemic. Of course, I am going to go back on my diet and start my exercise program with enthusiasm, but that will not be my goal for 2021. My hope for 2021 is the end of the pandemic, the restoration of society and our lives as back to normal as they possibly can be.

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope that this next year finds you healthy, happy and most of all appreciative of all the small moments in our lives.

All I Want for Christmas

This year we will be writing different kinds of Christmas lists. Most of them will not include extravagant gifts but rather necessities that we will get for Christmas after surviving this tumultuous year. When thinking about Christmas this year, there is nothing material that I need and I am very thankful for that.

Spread some Christmas joy.

So I wrote a different kind of Christmas list this year. All I want is:

The end of this pandemic:

After the year we have had with Covid and isolation and people dying, let us all work towards a better year with hopes for those who have been affected by this virus and for our society to slowly return back to normal. The pandemic has made us all realize how important the small stuff is, but now I think we are ready to go back to our everyday lives, looking back in appreciation, and becoming a whole society again.

Unemployment numbers going down:

So many people lost their jobs this year during the pandemic. The biggest rate of job loss was found in the small business market. I hope that 2021 allows these people the opportunity to find their paths again, whether by finding a new job or reestablishing their business. When shopping this Christmas, think of the small business owner who really needs to make up for losses this holiday season. So even if you have to make a trip to the store, versus ordering online, give that extra effort for the small business you enjoy during the year. You want them to make it and continue to grow in your community.

A more peaceful society

Now that the Presidential election is over (whether it is your candidate or not), let us all strive to live in a more peaceful society. Amidst the pandemic, we saw the Black Lives Matter protests because of George Floyd, resistance because of a Supreme Court judge, and finally protesting over vote counting. Let us put this all behind us and work towards a better society in 2021. Haven’t we suffered enough in 2020, people losing lives, families torn apart and the list continues. So let one of our Christmas wishes (and New Year goals) be to live in a more peaceful society.

More people loving each other

Celebrate

After this unusually horrible year, we should dig deep into our hearts and souls and forgive others for petty occurrences that wouldn’t matter in time of disease, death and job loss. As we are recovering our economy let us also recover our relationships. It’s not too late to call that friend or relative that you have lost touch with. We have learned unfortunately that life is way too tough and we should forgive, mend fences and go on with our lives in a loving manner. Also, take more time with family. Instead of rushing back to our crazy days, take a step back each day and remember the parts of lockdown that were wonderful, like spending more time with children and loved ones.

Hopes for the New Year

In thinking ahead to 2021, let’s resurrect our resolutions to be more conducive to what we are living in now. Yes, we all want to eat better, lose weight, etc. but our goals should be a bit different this year after exiting such a whirlwind year we don’t want to repeat. Some thoughts could be:

  1. Take more time to do your daily routine. Relish in every moment.
  2. Make self-care a priority.
  3. Love each other more.
  4. Evaluate your finances and establish new goals.
  5. Be more considerate of others, including strangers.

There is much to think about as we enter this holiday season. Many of us will have to give us seeing family at a distance, having our usual work holiday parties and just entertaining and enjoying each other’s company. It will be a difficult Christmas for many but let us think of the true meaning of Christmas and enjoy the “little things that life has given us.” Watch the Hallmark Channel, bake some cookies, call an old friend and listen to Christmas music to fill your soul. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all and most of all, I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy 2021.

Merry Christmas from my house to yours……

Preparing For Next Lockdown

It is the middle of November and all the news broadcasts talk about limiting number of guests for Thanksgiving, closing bars and restaurants early, limiting gym and bowling alley times and even potentially schools going back to remote. The numbers are up in most states and people are starting to feel a new frenzy and a new state of worry. Will it be easier this time?

Most of us are tired of the lockdown but have become more comfortable staying at home. Here is a list of ways you can prepare for the next possible lockdown without going into a frenzy.

Be protected.
  1. Write a list of movies and shows you want to catch up on.

Since the beginning of the lockdown, people are exchanging suggestions and sharing their binging activities. With many of our network shows back like The Good Doctor and This Is Us, we see ourselves getting into a routine usually set aside for winter months. Throughout lockdown I tried to only watch TV at night as to not become all consumed or a “couch potato”. So take out a notebook and write down your wish list for TV but make a time recommendation for yourself, such as 7:00-11:00 pm. I always make it that and vow not to watch TV (once in awhile I will sneak in the news) during the day.

Choose your next movie.

2. Make a schedule for your days.

In your schedule include the times you will exercise, eat, take a nap and anything else that is part of your day. This will make you feel less likely bored or out of control. I think most of the time if we stop to ponder what is happening, we will enter a funk and not do anything but get sad. Think of all the projects you never got around to. When this pandemic is over, everyone should be organized in a perfectly clean home.

3. Do your holiday shopping online.

Take your time browsing emails and Black Friday ads. In the past, we have been running to our jobs with barely enough time to wrap a gift. Well, if you can think of this as an advantage, so be it. Start shopping and comparison pricing which we don’t often have time for. Make a list of gifts you need and money you can spend on each. Ask family members what they really want this year because now that you have time you won’t just buy a gift the day before without thinking it through.

Pick out the perfect gift.

4. Make goals for when the pandemic ends.

Look to the future and decide what will make you happy, what you want to accomplish and even where you want to travel to. Now is the time to research what you want, without rushing, and come up with a detailed, yet doable plan.

I just set aside one of my nice journals and am entitling it “After the Pandemic” where I can write my thoughts as they come to me, so I don’t forget when everyone is rushing back to life.

4. Call an old friend you didn’t during Phase 1.

Reach out to an old friend that you perhaps connect with on facebook and always say you miss and want to talk to. Now is the time to make these reconnections because when work is in full gear and life goes back to normal, we get back to having limited time. So take advantage of this “unlimited” time and reach out to others. Reach out to a neighbor who may need help– it will be much appreciated.

Call an old friend.

5. Say “I Love You” every single day.

We don’t know when our last day is so don’t take any chances. Call your aunt, tell your best friend you miss her and love your family every single day. Every day is a gift that we cannot afford to lose. This year we will be even more grateful and thankful as we sit around and enjoy a meal with our loved ones on Thanksgiving, whether virtually or in person.

We got this. We got through the first one so we are pros now. Take one day at a time and always remember there are better days ahead. Wear a mask, use sanitizer and be aware of people around you. Be safe and we will be celebrating together very soon.

Good times ahead.

Election Day Havoc

I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to this election day being over. Aren’t you tired of those political ads that just bash each other? Neither one is saying what they will really do if they become president, rather they are just saying horrible “facts” about the other. We have become a country of arguing liberals who would rather protest, banter or show anger than actually do something about the situation at hand which is simply: We need to fix our country. And we need to fix it NOW!

Our country needs to work together to become better.

We are still in the midst of a pandemic, waiting on a vaccine, and the two candidates just argue about who started the virus, who doesn’t care about the virus and so on and so on. After awhile I just hear blah, blah, blah, blah…..

Before the pandemic we were experiencing a resilient economy, extremely low unemployment and job security. Now we are experiencing one of the highest unemployment rates, people losing jobs, people dying from Covid, and most of all a scared society. Then, in the middle we have George Floyd’s death which inspired riots and looting. Yes, it was not acceptable for him to be brutally killed. But is it acceptable for people in major cities to be afraid for their lives. Streets burned down, stores looted and we are now a society of uncaring individuals who feel the need to protest. The liberals even fought about the choice for Supreme Court judge. They did not care about her vast experience and knowledge but rather her beliefs in abortion and conservatism. Let’s get real people. Let’s pledge allegiance to our flag and be proud Americans once again.

Personally, when all the votes are tallied and this is over I will be enjoying a large drink. I may not be happy with the results but I will be very glad to not hear about this election and hear people bashing each other. Let’s try to fix our society, move on with our lives when the vaccine in developed and learn to be appreciative of what our country represents. Our country needs to return to your heart and you need to regain respect for it. As Americans, we need to cut our party ties and go forward with rebuilding the best country in the world.

Don’t forget to Vote!!

I will be renewing my wine subscription to California Wines. We all need to relax after this and enjoy our families for the holidays.

May the best man win. Or not. Let’s just move forward and hope for a better 2021.

Remember the freedoms we share….

Life Interrupted

Do you remember your mother or grandmother telling you to always make sure your bed is made before you leave the house? Do you tend to clean right before going on a vacation?

Everything in its place….

Many of us have this in our heads that God forbid we have an accident and do not return to our homes, we don’t want people to think we are messy. This unfortunately, gets harder to do when you are older. If you experience a fall or just aren’t feeling well and have to go to the hospital, the last thing you are thinking about is the neatness of your home.

When my mother passed away years ago, I remember cleaning out her apartment. She suffered a stroke so was not prepared to be leaving her things behind. Looking through someone’s life through their house is often eye awakening as well as sad. You find things they treasured and also find unfinished projects that will never be done by them.

After this happened to me, I went home and began the decluttering process. If I don’t want to leave this in my home if I were to die unexpectedly or have to go into a nursing home, then I should get rid of it. Don’t put off using what you buy. Some people will buy new clothes and not wear them, new technology and not try it, and an abundance of other acquisitions that are often left in the packaging.

What’s in your closet?

I have been on a decluttering mission. I read articles, make lists and put goals on my to-do list. I want to be organized so I know what I have, where it is, and if it necessary to keep. Just recently I cleaned out half my work wardrobe as I retired from my full time job and just working from home. In my home, I have dedicated areas for my Virtual Gym classes, my freelance writing, my online teaching and just a reading nook when I want to rest.

Organize those books…..

As my mother-in-law sits in rehab waiting to be placed in Assisted Living, I wonder if she is feeling any regret to leaving so many items to sort through in her home. We look at it as a beautiful tour of her life and we can pick and choose what she brings to her next stage. This experience makes you cherish your parents, what is close to their heart, and treasure what is important to them.

Life interrupted …. it can happen at any time, in any way, and not just to an elderly person. Hence, the don’t go out without clean underwear saying we have heard over and over again. We know it doesn’t make literal sense but it makes sense that we should know what our life represents when someone may walk into our interrupted household. No, it cannot always be clean and tidy. However, we should be diligent in decluttering, donating, and purging as often as necessary.

Organize your drawers….

In fact, I interrupt this post to go declutter that junk drawer that has been annoying for a few weeks now. Just one project, and one day at a time. You will feel so accomplished.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and it made you reflect. Feel free to check out some of my other posts. Also, check out my stories on Vocal Media at:

Https://vocal.media/authors/elaine-gallagher

19 Years Later…… Still Painful

How many of you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? I remember that I was teaching a math lesson and had no idea what was going on in the world around me. It was a typical, beautiful September day without a cloud in the sky and we were getting ready to do our math work in groups. Then, one of my colleagues, an out of classroom teacher, came in and told me that I had to call my husband. I immediately thought that something was wrong with the kids or my mother and said I would call in a moment. She said that the principal insisted that I call right now.

This alarmed me. I left the room and called my husband. It was busy, busy, busy….. What was going on ? At that very moment, my mother called and told me that my husband was safe and that my kids were coming home from school. Needless to say I did not expect to hear the words from her mouth that the twin towers were struck down and they are closing New York City. I froze. What do I do first? At least I knew my family was safe, so my next job was to ensure that my students were safe and not aware of what was going on.

We had an emergency staff meeting where we watched and cried as we saw our beloved towers fall, not knowing who we knew that was in that rubble or who had even started this unforeseen event. We would never be the same, from that moment forward.

We will never forget…..

Slowly the children were picked up. We were told not to say anything to our primary grade students and let their families take them home, hug them and explain what is happening in the world. I can’t even tell you if I remember getting home but I just remember hugging my daughters so tightly that I could not let go. We sat together in awe watching the news until their father arrived safe and sound. We had a quiet but not relaxing family dinner.

After dinner we went to our church to pray for the safe return of Lieutenant Joseph Leavey, our beloved parishioner and friend who was working at his firehouse at the South Street seaport when the towers were hit. We prayed and prayed for his safety. Most of us knew he was not returning but we held onto that hope. We had just had a joyous Church barbeque two days prior and I remember sitting with him talking about school starting and our plans for the fall. Joe would never return home as would not eight other members of our Pelham community. These included two brothers, Joseph and Peter Shea, who were neighbors and their children were friends with mine. It included Month Horde who’s daughter Molly played softball with my daughter. Also, our chief of Police’s son did not return home. The stories continue and we lost 9 people in Pelham, New York where a beautiful memory garden with all their names stands tall.

This year the memory of this day is affecting us differently. We are living in a country that is trying to survive the worst pandemic we have seen in over 100 years. The country is also trying to survive the rioting, looting and horrible treatment of others we witness every day on the news. This coupled with the division of political parties as we near closer to our presidential election. Personally, I feel the pain all over again every September 11. This year I am not teaching and did not get to read the book Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman about the fireboat that went to save some survivors and look for others after that horrific event.

Personally, I hope that everyone takes time to reflect on this horrible memory yet remember the unity we felt as a state and as a country. I only wish that we can feel that unity again. Unfortunately, no matter which way the election turns out, there will be retribution to face and possibly more rioting and lives lost.

Take time today to say a prayer for our heroes we lost on September 11, 2001. We will never forget…….

Sorting It Out After Retirement

My retirement has been far from normal. My original plan was to retire in June after teaching my last class of second grade. The year was off to a great start in September when I met my wonderful class and I was so excited to celebrate all my “lasts” with them. Unfortunately, that only lasted until March and even though I was approaching retirement, I was now starting with my firsts. My first time using Google Classroom and Slides, learning virtual learning programs and teaching my class online. No one knew what to expect and I think we did the best we could. I did not feel the same end of school year feeling and definitely not the bittersweet one I expected. And now as the new school year approaches and I am not involved in it, I have some sorting out to do to figure out what it is I want to do with the rest of my life.

I will always be a teacher in my heart

Before my initial plan to retire, I did some freelance writing on my blogs and also for some clients on Upwork. Since school ended I continue to write for clients on Upwork and I have recently started and shared a series of my articles on Vocal Media. I have written articles on education. Also, I have shared my love of cooking and written articles with my recipes and cooking suggestions. I have broadened my portfolio to include some travel blogs for my travel during Covid.

As the new school year approaches and my colleagues are returning to work without me I plan to “make a plan” for myself. I did not retire because I was too old to work but rather because I wanted to spend more time with my retired husband and also pursue some of my other passions which have been dormant during my crazy, mixed up days as a teacher. Those are days that I will always treasure and because of my pension, I am thankful that I can pursue my other interests.

So what do people want to do when they retire?

Relaxation
  1. Spend time with others – now is the time to get together with friends, go to places you never had time to visit, and really make yourself happy by little indulgences you are now able to enjoy.
  2. Spend time with family – For me having a new grandson (who lives very far away) gives me an opportunity to love him and visit him whenever I can without the restrictions of school holidays.
  3. Spend time on myself – This includes taking time for fitness which was always done in a rush. I can now work around my free time and take a fitness class daily if I want and I don’t have to rush in the door, change in 5 minutes to scamper off to a class while totally exhausted.
  4. Give Back – Once the pandemic eases up, I would like to dedicate part of my retirement to helping others whether it be volunteering at a library to read aloud to children (one of my favorite activities as a teacher) or raise money for a cause I truly believe in. I was always interested in this and because of the time commitment I just never pursued it.
  5. Do nothing – This is the hardest for me. Accepting that it is okay to sometimes do nothing and that it is totally fine. If I just want to sit and read, or take my time checking emails or watch a non-thinking type of program on television, I now can do all that and not feel guilty. Well, I am working on that part.

Well, I am just starting my retirement journey so I will have to take small steps. Small steps to get by all the people that exclaim “oh you’re so lucky” or “now you can do whatever you want” without feeling guilty about it. I always have to remember the endless years of full-time work that took up most of my life. So here it — the beginning of the journey of retirement. Well, I’m tired now so I think I will go take a nap.

Being with others.

If you would like to read some articles about my educational journey, please visit https://ellyelementary.wordpress.com.