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itty and the monster

7 Oct

spooky door 1

 

The first time I opened the door I was eighteen.  Since he wasn’t a stranger, I invited him in, never dreaming he’d stay so long.  Had I known better, I’d have pretended no one was home, saving us all a lot of grief.

He always wore black and had irritating quirks and peculiar ways.  I’d say he was funny like that, but actually, he never cracked even the tiniest smile; instead, he was all business, heavy and bleak, like the kind of storm where the air suddenly ripens with so much moisture it’s nearly impossible to breathe.

I always blamed Mother for bringing him home the first time, but looking back I honestly believe he was really Dad’s associate, one of those obnoxious, burly types that sometimes followed him around.  What I didn’t know until years later was that he was an old family friend whose relatives before him had deep, troubling relationships with generations of my kin.

It’s both ironic and perhaps a bit unusual that his predecessors were acquainted with both sides of my family, maternal and paternal; but the longer I live, the more I recognize repetitive patterns that are so distinct it’s impossible to confuse them with coincidence.

I might call our meeting fate, but I prefer to view fate through rosier lenses.  Mother used to get disgusted with what she called my romantic view of life; she would still judge my perspective as frivolous if she could, but she has Alzheimer’s now.  Still, some days I can see it in her eyes, that disapproving scowl, that once strong and swift index finger wagging in my face, telling me how ridiculously selfish I am, how I am a carbon copy of my father’s mother, that self-centered, manipulative shrew and it still stings.

My grandmother, whom I greatly adored, and whom I try daily to emulate in the strong-minded survivalist spirit she so perfectly emitted, was the life-jacket to which I clung with all my might; even though at sixteen she’d opened the door to her father’s confidant, letting him in.

By forty I sometimes confused the dark man with a livelier one.  Sometimes they seemed to share the same body, like Yin and Yang on speed.  Ten years later I understood the lively guy never existed; he was a defense mechanism, an automatic response to having spent so much time with the heavy guy back in my youth.

It used to be all about me, and I carried Mother’s sharp words in my arms like I was carrying shrapnel I’d pulled from my body, guarding it in case I needed it again.  Today if depression knocks on my door, I cop a real attitude. It’s not about me anymore; it’s always about somebody else, someone I love or have never met.  Someone I heard about on the ten o’clock news, or a child, or an old person.  Or wounded soldiers and abused animals.  Or melting icebergs.  Or cleared rain forests, or beached Dolphin and Whales.  Or bad air and dwindling water supplies. Or war and cruelty.

Today I’m the hard-core shrew pounding my own chest, but I’m pretty lucky; no one throws stones or spits out my name.  No one tries to bust my spunk, they leave me alone because I’m just being me.  They call me Mom or Nonnie, or honey, or friend, but you can call me

itty.

 bev

 

 

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Crones in Fuchsia

13 Sep

The bathroom at the end of the hall has no windows.  When I close the door behind me, it can either feel like a moss green and latte cell, or a safe house; whichever depends on how I’m feeling at the time.

This morning, it was sanctuary.

I knew the day wasn’t going to be easy no matter what kind of spin I put on it, because yesterday I received a letter beginning with the words: Welcome to Medicare.  My plan was to keep today light to stave off age related issues of insecurity, but if I’d really wanted a retreat day, I would have skipped checking in with my Facebook page, wouldn’t I?

tarot the fool

A friend had posted an article relating to internet security that was thoughtful, and while not alarming, I confess, it fed my paranoid side that is suspicious of rapid change.  Like any animal with a head larger than mine, I don’t completely trust it without a proper courting phase allowing me time to ease into the unfamiliar, rather than busting through its doors.

This morning a Facebook entry hit a raw nerve, sending me into the shadow that Medicare began the day before, and I found myself heading to the room without windows at the end of the hall.

Small windowless rooms, most notably closets, have long been my sanctuary when the big, bad wolves of the world close in.  As a child, I believed I was invisible cowering inside, safe from sharp teeth.  As an adolescent, I could feel myself blending into walls, crouching behind an assortment of clothes that played to the particular role I assigned myself for the day.  As a young wife, closets offered refuge from the raging bull in the other room.  In middle age, I became my own closet, moving in, putting the pieces back together again.  At this stage in life, closets are just another chore needing attention.

dark closet

But this morning, thanks to Medicare and Facebook, the small, windowless room whisked me back in time, and for a moment I crouched in deference to the past that made me the woman I am today. And I covered the crone’s lips in bright fuchsia lipstick before opening another door and entering.

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Contradictions in Place

17 May

Is it just me or is life full of contradictions?  The sweetest people I know have diabetes and can’t eat sweet things, those with the biggest, most generous hearts have heart disease, and the friendliest folks I’ve ever met, often are pretty lonely in everyday life.  Those with the biggest smiles have been forced to invest thousands in rotten teeth.  And some of funniest people in the world are depressed. 

I’m in a new phase.  I am the consummate observer these days, working like mad to detach myself from the prospect of falling into modern culture’s habit of discounting or discarding the elderly amongst us.  I’m in this phase as a matter of self-defense, being that I am one of the elderly amongst us these days. Populist judgment isn’t the only conceptual ideology I’m detaching from either; I’m dropping old wives tales, cultural mythology, political rancor, mainstream media and processed foods.  (Well, I’m giving that whole process food thingy my best shot anyway.)

I’ve been forced to reevaluate my life once again, (seems its a cyclical process), and as I enter that whole practice of introspection, I realize I’m in the autumn of my existence, but not to worry, fall has always been my favorite season, (followed by winter and spring.)  So I’m looking at it this way: I get  to spend, hopefully, years in my all-time favorite seasons!  Also, how apropos for a person like me who believes in an afterlife, that spring should follow winter’s death.

My mother is 86 years old.  She often tells me the Golden Years are hard and cold.  I hope not.  I’m personally expecting them to be the most introspective years of life.  I’m visualizing a quieter, slower time with a great deal of rocking in my favorite old black rocking chair, staring at the trees off my deck, and spending long hours in the peaceful solitude of quilting.  But the truth is, I don’t know what to expect, no one does. So, under these particular circumstances, the best thing I think I can do is to be aware and not waste precious time being frustrated.  I believe I can save myself a great deal of grief  by watching the signs along the way, because I know that everything is connected.  One thing leads to another, and that leads to fresh opportunities and change.  My observation that life is full of contradictions arose from my introspective space where I concluded a person can be so sweet or kind to others that he ends up giving pieces of himself away, never fulfilling his own need for sweetness, and out of a sense of exigency or self-preservation, his body responds; his pancreas slowing, or simply shutting down.  Maybe the same can be said of one who has dealt with a broken heart, or the person who continually helps others, but never asks for help himself. 

I know this is the truth: the earth is changing.  I see it in the woods where I live.  I see it in the animals here.  We are all part of this good earth, an extension of naturalness under assault.  I can live with as small of a carbon footprint as is personally possible, but I cannot change the velocity of world-speed, or the stealth-like consequences of progress. Still, I have power; I can observe and consider paths chosen and paths ignored, and I can add those observations to the well of learned wisdom I share with others.

My bones are tired; they are swollen and sore from a life full of activity.  Still, they press on.  The person with the greatest heart I have ever known is my husband, Richard.  He has persistent heart disease.  Rick and I met and married in 2003.  I thought our love would heal him.  What it did was make him stronger and more determined to do the right thing for himself. I can’t list everything marrying Richard has done for me; there’s not enough paper in the world, but his love saves me everyday.  

I recently shared my life philosophy with a blogger friend of mine, telling her I approach every day as if it is a vacation day.  No matter how busy I am, no matter how many tasks must be completed, I’m off the clock!  On vacation, you give yourself time to rest, time to heal and regroup before stepping back into the real world.  Vacation is my real world.  I have permission to sit out a day, or a week, or a month, whatever I need because  I give it to myself.  And I watch the signs, follow the trails and mysterious hints nature gives.

Today it is overcast outside, drizzling rain, cool, crisp breeze;  a day best spent tending to inside things … like sitting on the covered deck blowing bubbles.   

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Watch the Signs…

21 Feb

Not street signs, although it’s always a good idea to know where you’re going and what rules you must follow to get there, but when I say Watch the Signs, I’m shooting lower and deeper.  Reality isn’t something you witness with your eyes; it’s the place you live under your skin, beneath your bones, inside your heart and mind.  Reality isn’t easily recognized; you’d think it would be, but actually, you’ll probably spend a great deal of your life occupying space, nesting in a specific place, wearing a variety of particular roles and calling it all real

Lately I’ve noticed more and more people seem content to play that game their whole life, never asking if there is anything more, or if there is something they might have missed. I did that myself for many years.  When you’re busy taking care of a family, there isn’t a lot of time left over for considering the philosophical implications of the decisions you make in daily life; but if you run full blast on empty long enough, you’re going to collide with something so powerful; it knocks you off your feet.  For me, being down was the perfect time to ‘go in’. 

What I discovered in the long process of introspection, was alarming.  I made a list of the qualities I believed most fairly represented me as a person.  Every day I had to mark something off of that list.  The list was a litany of illusions; it was protocol for being me. I would have liked to believe I’d simply outgrown the list, but by this time, I’d quit lying to myself.  I had to take the truth on the chin.  As I came to terms with each illusion, it was easy to see why I’d felt one way or another, why I’d made one choice over another; and it was easy to forgive myself once I identified and embraced the source of my need to please others more than to take care of myself.

This wasn’t the blame game; it wasn’t a pity party either; this was solid interior work.  Every so often, I fall off the philosophical wagon, but I don’t stay in the dirt very long.  It has become second nature to remove myself from the chatter and clatter of messaging meant to demean, rather than to elevate or educate.  I am careful of the quality, intent and content of things I put into my mind through television, books and articles, and banter with friends and acquaintances. Once introduced, even if not fully digested, information alters the process of perception. *  ** 

The voice I’m most interested in is my own; that does not make me selfish, rather it acknowledges the importance of accessing lessons I’ve learned as I’ve grown from a child into a mature woman in the autumn of life. 

Self-Is, I say daily. Self-knows. 

There is a line we cross to reach nirvana, once crossed, you can never go back, but even if you lose your footing, you understand you will not die in the fall. 

This morning I was thinking of all the things on my to-do list and feeling overwhelmed.  I walked to the window in my bedroom and looked into the forest.  It was 8 o’clock,but still dark; thunder rumbled from the north side of the mountain to the south, and sleet fell in crystal sheets.  The mobile art my father made that hangs in our pink Dogwood tree, was encrusted in ice, long icicles spinning in the wind like kitchen knives.  Young pine trees were bent to the ground forming surreal arches; bright, yellow Daffodils gleamed like yellow diamonds, and I spoke out loud to the God of such things, asking

Why do I feel as if there isn’t enough time to get everything done, why not just begin?  Why does today feel like a burden?        

I’d scarcely gotten the questions out of my mouth when a large piece of bark peeled from the side of a tree, falling to the frozen ground, revealing the answer.

The tree used a storm to rid itself of unwanted diseased bark

I can use this time to deal with old wood I still carry.  I’ll have ample time to go inside again, to dig through my own storm, to deal with lingering or new issues, and to mindfully prepare my inner soil for the promise of spring.

If you follow all the signs, you’ll see that the answers are hidden in plain sight, and instead of feeling as if you’re carrying an insurmountable weight on your shoulders, you’ll begin to understand that weight grounds us only for as long as we need. 

And that revelation in itself, will give you wings.

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  • The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
  • The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.