Author Archives: Robin Botie

Caring and Kindness Needed

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, felt like a rat when she made it difficult for a friend who was homeless after Hurricane Irma.Doing a good thing doesn’t count for much of anything unless you do it with caring and kindness. Knowing how loss hurts, I want to be helpful and do nice things for others. But too often I lose track of my caring and kindness. I forget how to support someone in pain.

At the end of last weekend, I cried when my son left town. Miserable in my empty house, I tried to feed the hole in my heart with ice cream. I made popcorn, and watched three episodes of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. Nothing helped. It felt like grieving and loss, all over again.

After days of mourning I got back to appreciating the quiet house, and loving the privacy where I could dance wildly with the dog and sing to my dead daughter. Except for all the TV images of people suffering severe losses in hurricanes, I was feeling fairly comfortable when I got an email from one of my friends in Florida, “Hi. I’m homeless. Do you have a room…?”

Right away I emailed back, yes, she could have my guest room. But before hitting SEND, I listed all the reasons why she wouldn’t want to stay in my home: the smelly dog, the neighbor coming and going, lights out at 9:30, no storage space available, meetings with writers and bereaved parents scheduled there at all hours…. And I made a list of My New House Rules, which I didn’t include in the email but meant to have ready in case she still accepted my offer after reading all the listed conditions and deficiencies. I almost phoned her to talk her out of the idea of staying in my home. But she’d already (almost immediately) emailed me back. And there was so much relief and gratefulness and joy in her email – that I suddenly felt like a rat.

 

Did you ever lose your caring and kindness? Your patience? What animal do you turn into when you aren’t at your finest?

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Hugs of Joy, Hugs of Sorrow

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photoshops multiples of her Havanese dog looking for a woodchuck while Botie looks for trouble in every corner of the world: hurricanes, data hackers, cancer, earthquakes....It used to be that when you heard the words, “Guess what,” you’d know right away someone was pregnant. Just those two words could send you gushing with emotion, jumping up and down, and hugging for joy.

This morning, a friend greeted me with two other words, also heavy with connotation. “Bad news,” she said. And even though it came from out of the blue, and there’s been little other than “bad news” all over the world these days, I knew immediately: it was cancer. Her husband had been diagnosed with cancer. And all we could do was listen to each other’s wailings, and try to hold one another up. And hug.

We hug in happiness and we hug in sorrow. It takes only two words to understand which kind of hugging you’ll be doing. And after a long while of hanging onto people because you’re miserable and need comfort, it sure would feel good to embrace them in joy. So I looked high and low for something uplifting to report on this week. North, south, east or west there was nothing but trouble. Hurricane Irma’s devastation, storm surge, threats of intercontinental ballistic missiles, Mexico’s strongest earthquake in 85 years, hackers making huge data breaches, more cancer, friends’ fathers’ failing health…. My blog, the weekly hug I send my readers, seemed doomed to be another depressing pity party.

It’s embarrassing and difficult to be searching for joyfulness with this much suffering going on all over. So I’m opting out of joy this week. I’m taking time off to howl hysterically in my own private hissy fit. But I’ll leave you with this photo-shopped scene of my best friend. Here, Suki’s hoping she’ll catch up with the woodchuck that lives under our patio. Intent on nabbing the chuck, she doesn’t always hear the two words that make her smile for the camera, “Cookie, Suki.” This is the closest I can come to sending you a happy hug at the moment.

 

How was your week? How are your relatives that live in Texas and Florida and all the places that got hit by hurricanes? What was the most memorable hug you ever had?

 

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Happy I’m Alive

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, is in a small boat photographing Cayuga Lake and thinking of the flooding in Texas and the people who lost everything.I’m in a boat the size of my Prius. On Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, New York. Here, the weather was calm and sunny while Texas got blasted with Hurricane Harvey and epic flooding. The TV images still swamp my mind: boats floating between houses; the elderly couple supported by strangers as they trudged through knee-deep water to reach the rescue boat; tops of cars like small islands in oceans of flooded streets; the dog walking alone carrying a bag of dog-food in his mouth as people evacuated their homes holding whatever precious possessions they could carry.

On CNN I watched as evacuees were interviewed in busy shelters, one after another reporting, “I’m just happy I’m alive.” They’d lost their homes and belongings, beloved pets, neighbors, the feeling of safety, their dreams… their way of life. Some lost loved ones. Some lost everything they had. So much suffering and loss. Yet after all they’d been through they were grateful, “happy to be alive.” Hopeful. There was something more to look forward to, to live for.

The way I see it, loss can scar your life or be its reawakening. You can drown in your troubles and be swallowed up forever in disaster. Or you can allow it to fuel you, make you stronger, make you do something to help yourself and others.

How much hope and energy are you willing to invest in an uncertain future? Nothing is guaranteed. Anything is possible. The future depends on what life throws at you as much as what you choose for yourself. And the road to recovery can be long and rocky.

Six years ago I lost my daughter in a storm called cancer. And here I am floating in a boat, watching the water and surrounding green hills, and finding a million things that make me want to sing. My life is sad and it is beautiful. Many days I am only a breath away from a flood of tears. But I, too, am happy to be alive.

 

How has the hurricane hit you? What is the storm that stands out in your memory, that changed you?

 

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Anxiety Addiction Intensifies for First Radio Interview

Robin Botie photoshops her anxiety addicted self at her first radio interview on Tish pearlman's Out of Bound Radio Show.Looming fear. Stress. Dread. My name is Robin and I am addicted to anxiety.

It started way before cancer or my daughter dying, and long before I knew about global warming. Even before the last election, I was hooked on worrying. Always poised for danger, I feel lost without something to worry about; as soon as one anxiety is resolved I replace it with a new concern. I confess: being anxious is my normal. It excites me; it numbs me. Most of the time it consumes me. And this past week it totally possessed me.

Fortunately there wasn’t much notice before I learned I was to be interviewed by Tish Pearlman for her Out of Bounds Radio Show. But I suffered several sleepless nights, wondering if I would be able to focus and keep my train of thought. What if Tish asked me something I didn’t know or couldn’t remember the answer to? Bad enough that I struggle to remember words even when I’m not under pressure, what if I got tongue-tied? All week I panicked in full force fight-or-flight mode, considering canceling yet preparing for every worst-case scenario. On Interview Day, armed with seven typed pages of notes, I trudged up the stairs to the Rep Studio.

And yes, during the interview, all the things I worried about happened. The blanking out, the forgetting, the trouble concentrating…. And as I struggled to understand and respond to one of the questions, I remember telling myself, Okay, this can be edited out. But when the interview was over I forgot to mention it. Relief spread over me like a warm fuzzy blanket, and I sat there, speechless, as Tish smiled, letting me know I could go.

Later, in the middle of that night I woke up horrified, remembering that one particularly embarrassing response that had nothing to do with anything I wanted to say. The entire remainder of the long night, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head until I emailed Tish in the morning, and she emailed me back, No … don’t think we can edit it out.

So now I’m inviting you all to tune in and see if you can find that embarrassing part of the interview. Because sometimes, to get over extended anxiety attacks, it’s best to take deep breaths, tear the insulting idea up out of the dark depths of your sensitive psyche, acknowledge your emotional disruption, and then blast the whole issue apart by sharing it all over Facebook for the world to see.

BROADCAST DATES and TIMES:

Sat Sept 2  at 3:30pm pm: WEOS-FM ( 90.3 & 89.5 Geneva/Seneca Falls region) Live Stream: WEOS.org  for those out of region

Sun Sept 10 at 11:30am: WSKG-FM (89.3 Binghamton, 90.9 Ithaca 91.7 Cooperstown/Oneonta, 91.1 Corning/Elmira, 88.7 Hornell/Alfred)
LIVE STREAM: WSKG.org    for those out of region

After broadcast, shows are available at www.outofboundsradioshow.com

What craziness keeps you awake nights? What advice can you offer for dealing with excess worrying and panic attacks?

 

 

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The End of an Era

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a restoration of a photo of her young children, now the end of an era.My mother’s house in Massachusetts had sold, and I was desperately searching the shelves to take away something to remember all the sweet times over the twenty years in that place. Tears welled as I took a final glance around, said goodbye, and went out the door for the last time.
“It’s the end of an era,” friends kept telling me, when I arrived home sad and dazed. I thought about that. I tried to envision all my personal eras: childhood on New York’s Long Island, college and graduate school upstate, two decades in business designing my world as Silk Oak, and the years spent raising my babies into adulthood. But the “end of an era” meant far more than simply the loss of this time and place. Something bigger was ending.

For as long as I can remember, there were adults in my life I looked up to, ones higher up than my parents. There were important people who took care of us and I trusted them. Kind Doctor Strauss, the firemen who stopped our boiler from exploding, the tall policeman who occasionally visited PS94 to talk to us about safety, my teachers, … my President. The ones who had my best interests in mind. I felt safe and secure because I was in what my father called “the best country in the world” and we had really strong leaders. Later, I got to vote for some of my leaders. How amazing when the ones I voted for were elected; how much faith I had when the other team won, that we would still be lead judiciously even though under another brand of wisdom. Those days when I casually wondered what a World War must have felt like, or when I didn’t have to consider that I might possibly be a next target of racism or discrimination – that was an era.

Losing my mother’s place where I loved spending long weekends is sad. Losing the ceramic bird and beautiful white blankets my mom said I had to leave behind for the new owners is mildly heartbreaking. But losing my security and the trust that my leaders are looking out for me – this is indeed the end of life, as I’ve known it.

 

What does “the end of an era” mean to you in your life? What helps you deal with disappointments and worries in the world today?

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Blooming and Blossoming Aunts and Uncles

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photographs a lotus pond thick with lotuses at all stages of life.I’m running out of aunts and uncles. Last week my beautiful, brave Aunt Ilse died. Now I’m down to one aunt and one uncle. Plus another aunt who is really my first cousin once removed. Somehow, while I was mooning over all my cousins’ children’s babies wishing I could hold a grandbaby of my own, I hadn’t noticed the shifting of our family tree.

It used to be there were enough of them to fill every holiday, enough aunts and uncles to have favorites. My cousins’ parents. They weren’t at all like the parents of my friends. No, these adults were mine, as in My Aunt Bope and My Uncle Max. They showed an interest in me; perhaps they were seeking similarities to their siblings. If I did something remarkable, like get married or have kids, they gave me gifts. They gave my children gifts. They always seemed happy to see me. And at each stage of my life, I’ve loved being in their company. But over the years they’ve been disappearing.

There were only a few days between the joyful family event that brought my tribe traveling west to Colorado and then south to Ilse’s funeral in Florida. In between, in Ithaca, I met up with my photographer friends at a lotus pond. We took pictures of young shoots emerging from the muddy pond bottom, new pointy-leaf buds, and unfurling blooms already pinked out or still green like their stalks. Some of the flowers had petals opened wide and falling. There were old dried up, naked pods standing tall or bent downward. The pond was thick with lotuses at all stages of lotus life.

Stages. Changes that happen between life and death. The shifts I’ve made from thinking in terms of my tiny shrinking family (my single child left, one remaining uncle, one of this and one of that…) to considering the whole family forest. My cousins and my cousins’ children are now aunts and uncles. They branch out with partners and step-kids and “extendeds.” Thanks to all their blooming and blossoming, our tribe continues to grow.

And maybe it will be my funeral they gather at next. Or maybe, I’ll soar up into the sea of clouds above the magnificent flowering earth, and be the one to outlive them all.

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