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Due to my visual and memory issues, I’ve asked Lori and SueBE to proofread my posts for me, and for one post, Lori showed me how to use an “em-dash” as opposed to an “en-dash.”

Hold on. There are two types of dashes? How long has this been going on?!? I can’t seem to find that button on my keyboard. Is there one? I don’t remember it from school (insert em-dash here once I find it) eons ago (em-dash again) and, in all my years (em-d) over 50 of them (em-d) have been punctuating incorrectly.

It’s like finding a new/retro toy! How does this thing work? Where can I use it? Let me think of sentences in which I can insert this new (to me) kind of punctuation. Bear with me (em-dash) just for a moment (em-dash) while I collect my thoughts.

Okay, I found the secret code online. To insert an “em-dash” on a laptop, you press the “Alt” key, and on the numeric keypad, type 0151.

The em-dash seems like a parking spot for a pause. It’s longer than an en-dash and more meaty, if you will. Yes. Maybe it stands for the letter “M”, as in “Meaty.”

Or maybe the “M” stands for “Metaphor.” Sometimes, you put your own needs on hold to take care of everybody else. You might fall into the trap of Placeholder Syndrome. The spot you’re in now is a pause in your own life’s sentence, like a jail cell that you carry with you.

You think, I’ll just wait until retirement to pursue my dreams. Or, I’ll wait until the kids are squared away, and then I’ll put myself first.  Maybe that “M” stands for “Me.” So I’d say to you — respectfully, of course — today is the day.

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Last month, I had some visiting nurses taking care of me, and I was always glad to see them. Along with my medical check-ups, I noticed they had to do a lot of paperwork.

As a former secretary, I suggested that an office coordinator could help them with administrative tasks. They said they didn’t have an administrative specialist, so they ended up spending part of our visits on tasks such as documenting, ordering equipment, and scheduling appointments.

If you’re like me, well… lucky you! 🙂 I jest, of course. But if you’re like me, you want to take care of everybody. Especially if they’re taking care of you. This isn’t bad, of course, unless you end up depleting yourself in the process.

It occurred to me: How do we learn self-care? It really isn’t taught in school or at home by example. I heard someone talking about a friend who had passed away, and she said, “She put everyone else first.” I used to think that was a good thing. Now, I’m not saying you should be self-absorbed and obnoxious. Just that in order to live your best life, you have to put yourself on the list. In fact, your needs should be right at the top. You can’t draw from an empty well. If you’re replenishing everyone around you to the exclusion of your own sustenance, that’s a moment to stop. If you can’t find yourself anywhere on your to-do list for the day, it’s time for a checklist check-up.

We’ve all been there: driving on an unfamiliar road, suddenly realizing we’ve gone past our turn. That’s never a good thing, especially if you’ve just finished a large coffee and a bottle of water. You really need to find a pitstop, as it were.

If you miss your exit while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, you’ll have to travel a long way down the road until you can finally turn around. Once you realize you’ve passed your off-ramp, it might be ten minutes until there’s a U-Turn.

If a situation seems to be draining the life out of you, it’s critical to the care of your soul that you get out of that situation. You may be shaking your head. But you don’t understand. If it’s a marriage, I can’t leave. My religion won’t allow it. It will have a negative effect on the children. Or if it’s a job, There are bills to pay. Health benefits I need. I can’t walk away with no job lined up.

Fair enough.

But until you can extricate yourself from it, or somehow improve it, think of this time in your life as a long, wrong turn. Stay as true to yourself and your future as you can while still stuck in this present, untenable situation. Map it out. Plan ahead. Draft a blueprint in your mind of the life you actually do want to live.

What would you do if your blessings showed up at your door one day? If the situation suddenly changed and you were free to live on your own terms? That’s the place to store your soul while you put a down payment on better days. Then, when you get to the next stop, you’ll be ready. This time in your life will be on the road behind you, visible only in the rear view mirror.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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