Monday, December 05, 2011
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
I am an admirer. I am also a daughter, living in the grip of dementia with my own 89 year-old mother. I deal daily with a person who relies on me more than I am able to provide. Some days it is difficult to be the compassionate person I’d like to think I am. Most days I trudge through compassion, guilt and anger.
I read about your mother’s death. My heart is with you and your family tonight. I just want you to know you said something about your mother that reminded me what is difficult to remember about mine on most days. You said,
"I owe it to my mother, who never got a chance to go to college,
who had a very difficult childhood, but who gave me a belief that
I could do whatever I set my mind.”
In all the emotion wrapped around my mother’s demise I sometimes forget the legacy she leaves. What you said about your mother is true of mine. She is also responsible for me being an excellent cook (we first experimented with a walnut chicken in 1965—a pretty exotic dish when compared to 50s and 60s meals). She bought her own home, ran her own business, and raised me mostly by herself when women around her were still living Donna Reed’s dream. At 40 she was riding skateboards down the hill next to our house and insisted we tell the doctor she fell off a ladder when she wiped out on a tree. She taught me that tomorrow will always be better and be sure that the ones you love know it because they could be gone tomorrow.
Thank you for thoughtful words that bring solace and remind us to be grateful. What a tribute to your Mom.
Respectfully and I must say fondly,
Sunday, October 09, 2011
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Monday, July 04, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Saturday, April 30, 2011
C sent me a note asking for suggestions for quicker progress with some of the things she has identified as issues. Like me, she is trying to go with the flow more and hard charge less. I couldn't help but think of me at one of my first appointments with my acupuncturist. He made me cry working on knots in my shoulders before doing the needle thing. "It was pain that went into these shoulders and pain that's going to have to come out," he assured me.
After placing the dozen-plus needles in calculated pressure points he told me to relax and "cook" for 15 minutes. As he left the room I asked, "Is there anything I can or should be doing while I lay here cooking?"
He laughed and said as he exited, "Leave it to you to want to DO something. If you must, connect the dots between needles. Otherwise you could just lay there."
In order to do something I needed to do nothing.
And so I'm thinking about C this afternoon and wondering if after all the thoughtful ground work she has done, if now is the time to sit back and watch herself unfold.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
When I teach I also talk a lot about being intentional. I believe we either set up the motion of our action or we let others' random forces direct our energy. So it was pretty embarrassing after a day of preaching the intention gospel I found my beloved car slammed into the back of a building-size Ford pickup in bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic. The impact exploded my air bags filled with a dust that smelled of burning carcinogen. The force fattened my lip and smacked my wrist, leaving a golf ball-size lump in a second. The good news is I was only going 25. The bad news is the cop called by the cheerful witness came long enough to write a report, hand me a $345 ticket for following too close, scold me and leave me waiting for the tow truck in the space between off-ramp and interstate freeway. Bad day.
Let's back up, though. This debacle happened at the end of a long line of misalignments. There was the crud I contracted on Christmas Eve and hobbled away from a month later long enough to travel with my adult children. There was the relapse upon my return, followed closely by an onslaught of allergies, sneezing and blowing until nauseous. There was the slight twist as I opened my office window leaving a pain in my back that whimpered when I breathed and yowled at the end of the day. And me with a heavy teaching load. When I left the classroom the afternoon I totaled my car, all I wanted was to be home on my heating pad in my jammies.
Each time I was knocked down, I would get up. I kept trying to surrender and take care of myself instead of examining my part in the downturn. It wasn't until the accident that I finally said, "What is the lesson here?" Truth be known, all my struggles can be traced to my difficulty assuming the rhythm of things happening around me. I love to make things happen. I struggle to let them happen. The fall had been filled challenges to my own ability to go with the flow.
- All the kids home for an extended time during the holidays (I wanted it to be special).
- One daughter's impending backpack trip to South America (if you are a parent I don't have to say more).
- My anxiety-ridden aging parent with failing memory (if you are the child of an aging parent I don't have to say more).
- My own developing writing voice (I want it to happen faster).
I confessed this abysmal behavior to one of my healer peeps. I told her that I felt like a fraud. She understood the feeling because even as she prescribes therapies and practices to her patients, she's unable to perform them perfectly in her own life. Her optimistic viewpoint is that even though we aren't perfect, we keep trying to learn the lessons and that gives us a slight lead on those who don't. That makes us teachers.
I'm reminded that even when we are smart and really trying, change is hard. Even when we know who we want to be, choosing behavior that matches is life's work. And while today I'm feeling okay about making baby steps of progress, I keep wondering how many times it will take to truly learn the lesson. Maybe I need to change all my passwords to "gowiththeflow1st."
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Employee 1: Hey Jack where's your car??
Jack: No, same ole volvo.
Jack: No, I think it's still out there.
Jack: I felt like making a change.
Employee 4: WHY DID YOU DO THAT?
Jack: Just to try something different.
Jack: I'm parked in YOUR spot? I didn't see your name painted on it.
Employee 5: Laughs
Jack: I tell you what, tomorrow I will park where Scott normally parks so you can have the spot back. He's not here anyway. Both laugh.
Jack was amazed by the number of people who walked right past his car and then expressed surprise to see him at work; curious about the hubbub he was able to create just parking in a different spot. He's so dazzled by this new power he's wondering what to change next.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
When I started writing I was asked to join a writer's group, a long-standing cadre of mostly poets, who met each month, read their work and asked for feedback. I can remember each time I was asked to give feedback on a poem, I prefaced my comments with, "I know nothing about poetry, but . . ."
I told those who asked, "I'm not sure what I write yet, I'm still looking for my voice, but I do know I don't write fiction and I don't write poetry." My writing was slow and tortuous. I went to my writer's group most often empty-handed. Until one day I was in the shower, actually present to the sensory experience and a poem spilled onto the page. I figured it was an accident until I found short poems popping out on a regular basis. I do write poetry.
I continued to write non-fiction and poetry until one day I was writing a very short piece about a little girl and her dad, a situation that didn't really turn out the way I wanted it to, so I wrote it my way. I wrote a tiny piece of fiction. Soon after I wrote a longer story with a moral inspired by a group of women. I was embarrassed at how preachy and self-serving it sounded. So I rewrote the story as a conversation amongst the women instead of first person-know-it-all. I wrote a bigger piece of fiction. The next thing I tackled was a fictionalized version of a very personal story of a friend. It's the best thing I've written to date. I do write fiction.
When asked what I write these days, I say, "most anything that speaks to me." I changed my story and am writing more and better everyday.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I noticed how we slipped into faster-on-the-other-side mode when we arrived in Mexico. Immediately we came alive, became observant and appreciative of how lovely things were. We hung out in the beautiful downtown area where everything happens. We visited the hometown sites and attractions. We noticed individual faces and stature. The truth is we already live in a amazing place. People who love us are here. We are about an hour from both the coast and the mountains. It is beautiful and green. There's a lot going on, whether or not we get out of our routine and go enjoy it, like we do when we're on vacation
My daughter, wise beyond her 17 years said on the train as we were gulping the scenery from London to the countryside, "I wouldn't want to live here."
"Why," I asked.
"Because I wouldn't want to sleep on the train."
We spend way more time speculating on the speed of the river elsewhere than we do enjoying the flow of our own side. Today I'm speculating: Is the water really faster on the other side?
Saturday, February 12, 2011
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
I mourn for you
Awareness before change
“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.
I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.
I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.
That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.
Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.
Awareness October 2009
Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.
The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.
I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.