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Aunt Bea Moves Out

28 May

Several years ago my husband and I moved to Arkansas with the intention of retiring there, but sometimes intentions collide with reality.  Our Retirement Plan A crashed when unforeseen medical issues led us back to Texas.

Rick and I shared four and one half years in the forests and mountains of the Natural State, experiencing the inspiring beauty and relentless wrath of nature.  In those woods I found pieces of myself I didn’t know existed, and unearthed passions I could have only dreamed.

The forest captured my heart, stirring instincts I’d never acknowledged, and inner strength I didn’t know I possessed as I surrendered preconceived notions to her mossy floors, and released the burden of loss into the canopy of her open arms.

Unity with the earth blossomed as I followed the umbilicus between us, and when I fell in love with my garden, I began a second blog at WordPress: Aunt-Bea-Me was born.

Growing was not Mayberry-eske but the delightful Aunt Bea character in the television series of the old Andy Griffith show was the stuff of my fantasies.  She was sensible and silly at the same time.  She was consistent. You could count on her for everything from a fried chicken dinner to common sense.  She laughed a lot and was never pretentious.

When the world was too harsh, I pulled Aunt Bea from the recesses of my mind and looked to her for comfort.  As an adult, Arkansas became my Aunt Bea.

Rick and I have been back in Texas for four years.  Texas is more than my state, it is the root on which I planted my seeds.  Once again I am living in the garden of my children, and am deeply blessed by their love and attention.  Surprisingly, I find my voice much stronger than before.  I have grown into an opinionated old bird and lost any fear I harbored along the way.

I’ve toughened with the times.

Months ago I considered abandoning the Aunt-Bea-Me blog, but before I made a final decision I did a little research on Frances Bavier, the actress who played Aunt Bea.  I was surprised.  Ms. Bavier grew tired then aggravated with the role assigned her; it turns out she and Mr. Griffith were never really friends.  They were much more adversarial than I could have imagined.  Ms. Bavier said she felt she no longer existed as an individual because people associated her with a single role she played.

She admitted to having a love/hate relationship with the character Aunt Bea; so in an effort to break away from something that seemed to own her, she shifted directions to save herself.  Ms. Bavier began to isolate herself from the world through a long, lonely process of withdrawal, and in 1989 she died alone.  In the presence of a dozen plus cats and a rundown dirty home, Frances Bavier made her escape.

We all are a bit like Frances Bavier.  Through my writing, poetry and musings I present various facets of myself to an audience of strangers who sometimes assign a single aspect of that voice as the ultimate and total truth of my entire presence on earth.

A year and a half ago I became aware I was expending a great deal of energy on Facebook.  The more “friends” I made, the more pieces there were to connect. I seemed to waste a lot of time explaining, defining or justifying myself to people I didn’t even know. It isn’t a polite world out there anymore, and I never stay too long in bitterness; so as difficult as it is for a writer to walk away from an audience, I decided I needed to.

Life’s amazing whirlwind sweeps us to corners or to the middle of the room.  Frances Bavier chose a corner.  I’ve moved closer to the middle of the room myself.  The fantasy of a dear, sweet Aunt Bea carried me through many a storm, but the reality of Frances Bavier’s life reminds me today that isolation can overtake the spirit if it stays too long in a corner.

My Aunt-Bea-Me blog is coming down.  It has served me well.  But the time to move away from my safe space has long passed, and I am moving on.

Because time is precious.  And because there is a season for all things.

Bev

 

 

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

 

 

I love, I love not

17 Jun

Having grown past the shock of the persistence of aging, I found myself in a sea of remorse with nothing more than metaphoric water wings, of which I relied completely upon to carry me through each subsequent stage of grief.  The wings themselves consisted of waning bits of optimism, tireless stocks of hope and self-deprecating humor, the company of other relics caught in the same storm, and loving encouragement from my children.

the old gang

When least expected, I awoke from the madness feeling confident and completely at peace.  All signs of panic had vanished; it was as if having been victim of a terrible virus I’d assumed would last to the end of my times, I had spontaneously healed.

Thus, in earnest, began Phase II, a great reconciliation, of sorts.  It was an otherwise unremarkable period with the exception of occasional energy bursts and perplexing eruptions of silliness and laughter that oddly coincided with the arrival and duration of spring.

This amazing lack of anxiety caught me off guard; I began making lists of things to do, and then, quite un-expectantly, did them.  My dad always said there is something wrong with everything, and indeed, his philosophy proved true for me as I felt myself inexplicably turn from teacher to observer of the puzzling phenomenon called life.  Suddenly it no longer felt like a requirement to give my opinion on every subject entering my personal space, quite the opposite; I was compelled by invisible unknown forces to keep my mouth shut while listening to the opinions of others.

Although I’d sincerely tried to do this before, I had been unsuccessful. Strangely, this time it was a natural progression, a silver-haired right of passage that effortlessly squashed  the Queen EGO, who had, until that very moment, commandeered and dominated the entire mother-ship.  In subsequent days, I felt as if I’d awakened on another planet; so much of what I had grown accustomed to had disappeared.  But as weeks passed, I indulged in the novelty of sweet surrender, growing stronger but less attached everyday.  It wasn’t as if I no longer cared; I did, but the emotional baggage attached to evolving current and personal events had disappeared, leaving me fresh and full of vigor.

waking on another planet

Currently, I’m in what can only be called Phase III, the playground of the devil; a mental sphere separating old habits of strict discipline and strong opinions to a more abstract conceptual attitude about everything, as I simply continue to hold my tongue.  All of this change and I am still not afraid.

The brevity of life eventually makes prophets and soothsayers of us all as we observe the cycles and repercussions of evolving life.  I can sit for hours watching the wind play in the trees.  I can lose myself in the flight of fire flies, or I can calmly observe younger generations rushing into each day with the zeal and urgency of a mob of small children with new toys they don’t want to share, or with the apathy of defeated orphans.  I can sign a dozen petitions a day, write letters to politicians I know no one of power will ever read, and make 10 telephone calls a week imploring one person or another to do the right thing while feeling as if my entire body is floating above the lunacy of it all.

fireflies

As far as the drama unfolding across the world that bravely, or foolishly, is fastidiously shared via social media, I have a pretty good idea how it will all end.  It’s like watching a re-run of history repeating itself as if no one was paying attention the first time around. And I can choose to either shake my head in disbelief, or consciously disconnect from the chatter of angry old men and women who’ve soured on everything that doesn’t fit under the narrow microscopic lenses of their own philosophies as they systematically crack the whip across the backs of the unfortunate.

I can do all this without falling apart.

Sometimes I make eye contact with everyone in the grocery store.  Other times, I stare at my shoes, leaving my tongue at home on a comfortable chair, or in a loaf of rising bread, or in the melodies of old Patsy Cline songs.  Some days I love the world, some days I do not.  Some days I relate, see myself in everyone else; but there are days I look past every face letting each blend in a massive blur of anonymity, and I feel absolutely nothing.

grocery store crowd

My New Age friends are quick to say everything is as it should be, but they’re full of bologna.  No one is supposed to starve to death.  No one is supposed to be raped or tortured.  Philosophically speaking, some days it is sunshine, others, it is rain; but even in the depths of the darkest storm, even with the floor boards coming loose and tripping us up,  we can agree to quit fighting ourself, understanding that if everyone else did the same thing, the world would immediately begin to heal.

I don’t worry much that there are so few years left in my life to live, instead I worry for the quality and abundance of those left in my children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Morgan's birthday 2012

chris and billie  Brian and kiddos Crissy and Trent Chris and kids roller rink

ashley

I refuse to wring my hands or join the angry disillusioned masses of seniors scorching the good earth as they march against time trying to bring back the old days.  The old days are gone; we need to learn from them.  Today didn’t just happen; we formed it, all of us, but many of us will die, leaving the mess for others to clean up even as they struggle with their own generational responsibilities and challenges.

The only constant in my off and on love affair with life are the feelings I have toward children.  Their plights and futures put an extra kick in every pump of my heart.  I worry about all of them; borders and nationalities mean nothing to me.

Last month, I watched a child standing in a food line with her mother who apparently has Down syndrome.  There was nothing I could do to change the trajectory of her life.  That gives me pause; reality hurts my soul, but reality is also the cold earth warming in the early days of new spring, and fresh life growing in mossy clumps across the base of winter worn trees. And soft tunes carried on the wind from the strings of a child’s violin to the rocking chair on my back porch.  And clouds gathering.  And bad news on the television every day, and weddings and births.  And hope for future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Mountain Wisdom

24 Apr

west mt 2

I never know when I’ll find myself on that mountain.  Going there is more instinct than thought.  West Mountain draws me like a magnet, but before leaving Seabrook, Texas, it was the Seabrook Ship Yard that called my name.

seabrook shipyard 1

 A small winding road off Hiway146, oftentimes under water from impulsive tides and persistent land erosion, faithfully led me past yachts moored in covered shelters, and sailboats loosely attached to floating piers, opening like a subtle bloom into a grassy field lined with pink and red oleanders and a fine assortment of lazy palms.  I’ve parked my old Chevy a thousand times at the point overlooking an arm of Clear Lake that passes beneath the fancy Kemah Bridge, merging unceremoniously with the Gulf Bay.  The bay runs for miles and miles through small, scattered coastal towns on its way to Galveston Island, where it explodes in deep blues and, closer to shore, unassuming hues of sienna and umber.

I was exploring my new neighborhood nearly 30 years ago when I stumbled across this perfect oasis, a comforting hidden harbor that seemed to sense my need for soothing isolation.  We’d lost a child I was emotionally attached to in the busy pediatric hospital where I worked.  Christopher was a ward of the state.  He was fair with soft blond hair and amazing blue eyes, and in spite of a myriad of physical disabilities and disease, he managed to ignore the ventilator pumping breath through his tattered, fragile lungs, and the tracheostomy and feeding tubes he’d endured from birth, to play happily, most days, in his crib.

Everyone loved Chris, but Chris was my baby in the sense that I’d cared for him as a student nurse, and then joined the unit he called home when my studies were complete.  I’d shared almost all of his tiny, 2 year old baby life and was so much richer for the gift of having the opportunity to do so.

Christopher died on my day off, and no one had thought to call me.  It was just an oversight, everyone thought someone else had called me; it happens.  When I showed up for my shift and his bed was empty, I was devastated to learn we’d lost this delightful, brave child, andI  took it to heart the same way I took every death I co-experienced throughout my nursing career, each being deeply personal and intensely important to me.

So the day after I’d learned Christopher had died, I discovered my own safe haven and thereafter, for many, many years to come, found myself sitting in its tall, thick grasses, the salty/fishy scent of the sea filling my head with naturalness and inner peace.  Every visit I made transformed loss into peace, and helped ground me emotionally.

seabrook shipyard2

The Seabrook Ship Yard was my growing place.  My wounds healed there.  The chaos and drama of external life and qiet intuitive inner life met there, supporting each other as I worked to define what kind of woman I wanted to be.

Now I live in the mountains and these deep silent woods transform me once again.  Every time I visit the Peak of West Mountain, I discover a new truth or remember a long forgotten piece of intuitive knowledge I’ve misplaced along life’s long, jagged highway.  Sitting high above the city amongst dogwood, pine, maple and great elms, I am suddenly surrounded by everyone I have ever loved, each perfect soul already having completed his worldly journey.

I hear their voices in woodland sounds and see their bright shining faces smiling back at me from a deep canopy of trees. I feel their presence in every pore of my skin, and every hair on my head. Every time my little car climbs that beautiful mountain, the Universe challenges me to see things differently, and challenges me to walk directly into the fire unafraid.

Those who have come before me give me the vision to realize nothing is impossible, and they remind me that every little thing that happens in this life offers another chance to grow.

I scattered the ashes of my ex-husband on that mountain.  He’s growing wild and carefree in those woods, and each wound he suffered, self-inflicted or absorbed by the blunt intentional force of others, heals cleanly, mends wholly.  His memory and triumphs are born again with each new season.

Curving up West Mountain2

Today as I rounded the final curve going up the peak, my iPod began playing Amazing Grace.  I chuckled to myself.  The song got it right, I was blind but now I see; but the song doesn’t go nearly far enough.  I can hear too, and I can understand; but mostly, I can feel.  And here on this perfect piece of sacred earth, I can share what I’ve learned with others.  I sat on the mountain for a long while.  The longer I stayed, the calmer I felt.  When I began descending, another song clicked on the iPod, but that’s another story for another day.

 

Surprise Me With a Cookie Every Now and Then, PLEASE!

22 Feb

I feel like Parker Schnabel on Gold Rush digging my way through a bunch of worthless crap trying to reach the treasure I believe is under it all.  According to my calculations it ought to be ‘right here’.  The problem is the longer and harder I dig, the lower my confidence sinks.

I’m starving to death for a win!  Somebody take away this stinking plate of slop and moldy bread and give the old lady a cookie.  Please.

Putting gears in reverse, let’s back up a bit in order to see the big picture.  Last June my heart went haywire and I ended up in the hospital.  Eventually cardiologists diagnosed me with an abnormal heart rhythm; they also discovered a coronary artery was plastered nearly shut with cholesterol.  I ended up with a stent and a few medications.  A few weeks later I felt absolutely great and had the energy of a hyperactive child!  It was truly amazing!

Life goes on; in November I had a tooth extracted, and that went well until I reacted to an antibiotic the dentist prescribed.  By mid-November, I felt pretty darned crummy so I went to our family doctor who treated me with two new drugs: one, I later learned, counter-acted my cardiac medicine, and the second drug came with a whole new set of problems of its own.

A week later in spite of multiple phone conversations with the doctor who tells me all of this “is to be expected”; I’m sinking like a stone.  Rich loads my lethargic carcass into the car and takes me to the doctor who is appropriately “shocked” by my condition.  He admits me to the hospital and puts me on an IV antibiotic, saying whatever allergic reaction I had is long gone, but I’m suffering from some sort of non-specific infection based on hospital blood studies.  Long story short, the new IV drug did its best to kill me.

Enter a new doctor.  I am treated for severe allergic reactions, taken off the drug that has neutralized my heart medicine, stabilized and sent home with a minor UTI that no one wants to attempt to treat until my body “rebounds” a bit.

Time passes; I simply do not regain my strength.  Thanksgiving comes and goes.  Christmas comes and goes.  The new year, my birthday, all are miserable.  I’m nearly afraid to go to any doctor, but when I do it’s around the first of February.  He prescribes a 7 day round of a gentler, friendlier antibiotic for the miserable, relentless, merciless urinary tract infection.  I finish the prescription with no problem!  I actually feel pretty good again, not great, but good.

February 8th, I take Rich to Little Rock to a neurologist.  Over a period of 6 weeks the muscles in his left hand have begun to shrink in obvious muscle wasting and we want to know why he is dropping forks and having such a hard time writing.  It takes 6 LONG weeks of referrals and scheduling to see a neurologist.  All along, I can’t think of anything except the shocking changes in my husband’s hand.

On the way up the stairs to his appointment, I have to keep stopping to rest; my chest hurts, and it’s hard to breathe.  Rich panics, I minimalize.  The truth is I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and absolutely determined to get help for Rich.  It has taken us such a long time to reach these stairs; I damn well am going to climb them.

Over his protests, I push on.

Once inside, we are assured “most likely” Rich’s muscle wasting is the manifestation of significant peripheral neuropathies related to his 25 year battle with diabetes. To know the depth of what we are up against, and to set a proper plan of care, further tests are set for February 19th.

Riding back home to Hot Springs, I begin to relax.  While peripheral neuropathy is a very serious and progressive condition, I am relieved the doctor hadn’t taken one look at my husband’s hand and said something like, “I think this might be ALS.”

While my chest pain has subsided, I feel heavy and weak. When Rich asks how I feel, I smile and say, “Better.” We stop at Subway for takeout then go to bed early.  The next morning I call the cardiologist.  He says my experience with the stair case is pretty much like failing a stress test and fears my stent may be clogged.

Check it out.

Another heart cath.

Routine.

Only not.

This time the catheter tip tears a hole in a coronary artery.  With each beat of my heart, I feel life spilling out.  I see Rich’s face, hear Father’s voice; I have missed him so much since he died 2 years ago.

I try to tell the doctors I don’t feel right, but instead say “Daddy”.

I wake in ICU.  Good news, bad.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t need emergency by-pass, but my arteries are seriously diseased.  And I’ve bled into my chest cavity and it will take a little while for the blood to be reabsorbed.

Stabilize.  Rest.  But not for long.  The next day, back to surgery for placement of a 3rd stent, without which, disaster is sure to follow.

What follows in life, what leads?  How can you tell anyway, and does it matter, does anything really matter in the end or the beginning, or all the beautiful and flawed pieces in between?

Where the hell is the pony under all of the crap? Where’s a cookie for a woman starving?  An ice cream cone for the man she loves?

My husband nearly gray with fear, his hand like a soft claw touching my steel face, his eyes semi-liquid changing like the sky, hazel, blue, gray, hazel again.  The muscles in his face too smooth, (his glucose is low), idly hang like sheets or sails waiting for the wind.  But wind doesn’t come.  Or perhaps it does.  Except this time, when it does, it’s the worst storm of our lives.

Neurological test results are back.

I’m sitting in a wheelchair on a keg of 1,000 new drugs, my heart, a waiting fuse, the doctor’s words, a reluctant yet persistent match.     Then it all explodes.  The neurologist’s eyes locked into mine.  Suddenly she is a mime full of woe; but if mimes can’t talk, why is she using words?     ‘Serious.     Urgent.     Significant Underlying neuromuscular disease.       Invasive.      Tests.   Watch for twitching.   She looks at me as if I am a widow.    itty?  itty?  Can you hear me?’

The world disappears inside a microscopic black hole.  Rich and I hold hands, swirl through choking, cruel air until at last he is pushing my wheelchair back to the car that doesn’t matter anymore, to drive back to the house that isn’t home.  Home is a perfect crystal, it is the fiber of the irrefutable love that binds us together with steel and silken threads we’ve earned and created along the way.

Rich  asked me to share with readers that our lives have been challenging for a long time, but it wasn’t until the past four years, that those challenges have focused on health.  We moved to Arkansas full of hope and energy.  Three weeks after arriving, Rich had a heart attack.  One thing led to another,and in the span of four short years, we’ve both been hospitalized five times.  We don’t blame Arkansas, well, maybe a little; the reality is timing.  We are stoic people who avoid drama like the  plague.  We are quiet old folks who have a lot of fun together.  We retired to Arkansas because it is one of the most beautiful states we’ve ever seen. We assumed our health would stay strong and consistent; we believed we’d face each new challenge life threw at us the way we always have.

We’ll keep fighting, but if we have our way, it will be closer to our family.  Neither of us is a  Parker Schnabel; we’re not 19 any more with the bright shiny world beckoning.  But we know our places in it.  And we know ours hearts, as battered and bullied as they are, and we know our love is a universe of defiance and intensity, as well as a gentle cradle for holding all that is precious, and an indestructible bastion of never letting go – even past the last days of this long walk we make together.  And we take great comfort in knowing we will always walk together, never alone, through long, twisting hallways and sunny great rooms inside fortress grounds and gardens we build every day out of love.

black hole 2

Naked Truth

20 Feb

Transparency is a popular word these days.  Along with buzz words like the War Against Women and Wage Inequality, transparency vies for a place of its own in competitive environments of media/politico/socio/economic Halls of Fame, pushing its agenda across a multitude of venues that are either frothing in glee or utter disdain at a seemingly never ending chain of bad human behavior.

The public need for vengeance and humiliation appears to have exploded like a watermelon packed with explosives as we sit mesmerized in our living rooms, or travel from place to place in the soft glow of cell phones, laptops, tablets and notebooks, or as we churn and steam over dinner plates prepared and consumed in front of television sets primed with intentionally choreographed entertain-o-news intended to evoke divisive rage.

In this kind of environment a transparency movement is inevitable, I believe, because something or someone must at least pretend to understand the plight of the little guys with their feelings of being misunderstood, maligned, oppressed, and dismissed.  Thus the transparency movement began calling out bigger boys like corporate greed, unemployment realities, the high and mighty1%; it began challenging assertions that America is a nation of takers, and that piss-poor- trickle-down economic policies will ultimately work.

Encouraged, transparency enthusiasts shifted gears until their tactics began to blur.  Soon it was impossible to distinguish one political machine from the other, and for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say two camps battle on, each raving over a litany of ill-will subjects such as Wall Street, political corruption, the Koch brothers, and a frightening epidemic of self-righteous foot in mouth diseased fools blubbering on and on about anything vaguely reproductive. Eventually, the pure idea turned into a loud, sometimes whiney movement nobly begun, dissolved in business as usual.

In spite of a resilient supply of pro-transparency advocates, the concept itself is not a well-practiced one.  It’s fairly obvious why politicians, bureaucrats, big money and traditional mass media shy away from exposing the truths of their deep pocket roots, but on one level or another, in spite of, or perhaps because of intensifying and intrusive traffic along social media highways, ordinary folks are beginning to take cover too.

We’re beginning to learn that there is a price to be paid for speaking up.  There is also the arrogant temptation that one’s strong personally-held opinions are so powerfully right-on that they should erase those of others who are equally sure they hold the key to what ails a nation.  There is the covert open door into our lives from sneaky powers that be.  There is the possibility that we’re never actually talking to the person we think we are.  There is a smoldering population of people waiting in fear or anger for a piece of ‘justice’.

All of this brings me to the point I’m trying to make: I have always struggled with the dichotomy of personal disclosure.  Is it better for the soul and the psyche to ‘put it all out there’, or will details and personal histories actually effect real change? And why should I believe my perceptions and philosophies might serve others as well as they have served me? And even if they do, who cares?

Even as I wrestle with the question, a grass root movement to drop off the grid and return to the privacy of the cave has begun.  New pioneers are stepping backward in time in monumental efforts to move forward.  Personally, I can relate to the voices that drive the wild herd deeper into the forests and mountains of anonymity.

It’s all a process.

I come from a long line of well-trained secret-keepers; breaking the habit is hard and painful.  It’s not so much that I love a happy ending, but more that I need one. On a personal level these past four years have been excruciating.  A long time ago I quit believing ‘everything is as it should be’ in spite of the fact that I’ve lost several New Age-y friends as a consequence. I remain steadfast, however, in my belief that there is something to be learned from each and every bit of bounty and crap that touches my life.  One might think I would be a master of wisdom by now, that in deed, we all would, but instead I find myself wrestling more and more every day with the demons of change and passing time.

I’ve chosen which side of transparency best suits me understanding that honoring that choice has cost me the warm, fluffy comfort of the old Pollyanna spirit that used to buffer and keep me safe from the great abyss.

In the past I’ve tempered each word with sugar and hope.  Not anymore.  Not now.  I’ve drawn a new line in the sand of the battlefields in my mind, and I’ve crossed.  It doesn’t matter who the hell I am, I have an opinion, and I refuse to stay captive to traditional boxes in spite of implied or absolute threats.

No magic parachutes or making nice anymore, my friends.  No spin, no bubbles, no unicorns or canned sappy endings.  All that remains in my hands after the blood has spilled through these fingers is the terrible, powerful girth and weight of my own true words.

 viking power 8 great

 

Observation in Grey: January

23 Jan

cedar waxwing 2

Low heavy sky.

Biting wind and bitter cold.

The emeralds and languid turquoise of

summer reduced to neutrals.

Inside this old house drafts refuse to be tamed.

From a window as cold to the touch as ice

I watch for a sign.

Atop thin tips of willowy branches in a barren bush

a Cedar WaxWing inspects a world stripped of nonessentials.

We are so close our eyes lock.

Each studies the other.

What are we looking for?

What do we hope to find?

Where is the thread that connects us?

Wind gusts, howls.

The ancient Magnolia bends in its breath.

From far away, a dirty plastic bag has filled with bluster and taken flight.

Now it rushes between the bird and me.

Cedar Wax Wing cocks his head, but doesn’t fly.

It’s a stare-down of epic proportions,

one animal exploring another,

each with needs,

each searching,

each starving to death to know.

©bss

Finding Hello in Good-bye

29 Dec

staircase to the unknownIn early November, an unexpected storm disrupted my life.  Perhaps I should have seen it coming, but I did not, in spite of a nagging feeling inside that something was amiss.  I pride myself on listening to myself, following innate instincts, and falling back on lessons learned from past experiences.  This time the message never made it to my brain, but churned restlessly in my gut as I struggled to connect dots.

My belief was that if I could identify the source of imbalance I felt inside, I would either be able to stay, or right, whatever fate waited for me on the steps of life’s door, or meet it head on, confidence in tact, and resolve, in a sensible way, any body blow it might deliver.

That philosophy proved both naïve and arrogant in lieu of the vulnerabilities of the human condition that evolve in dichotomy, the mind filling with wisdom as the body simultaneously empties with age.  So, when the thug-illness burst through the front door, like any unsuspecting soul, I absorbed its rage, and was swept away in the insane bureaucracy of doctors and hospitals and voodoo poisons conversely intended to heal.

HerbBottle (3)

Once home, huddled safely inside my upholstered cave, I began the process of understanding why I could never, try as I may, have anticipated the events that brought me to this uncomfortable introspective space.  But when the light bulb lit, and a band somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind began playing boisterous choruses of Halleluiah, I began to see the impotence and futility of trying to see into the future in order to avoid or manipulate its impact on the present.

As this new truth emerged, setting me free, so to speak, a new reality appeared, once again taking the wind from my sails as my sweet husband, Rich, the rock on which I have built my life, fell prey himself to an illness uniquely his own.  Thus the feeble bird tended the injured bird as, together, we tried to discern forests from trees.

old couple in love 1

The double whammy of fate proved itself a game changer as we struggled to meld growing physical limitations with solid but stubborn mental competence hell-bent on experiencing the Golden Years as portrayed by cell phone and miracle drug commercials on TV.

The irony of marketed possibilities in old age juxtaposed the actuality of incoming mail filled with term life insurance, funeral and burial policies clashed, rising to a crescendo until nothing would do but to address the 800 pound gorilla in our living room.  Thus began the shift in the landscape of our lives.  And I must say, neither took it very well, the idea of exchanging high adventure for a more sensible plan was like sucking lemons, but we pushed on, readying ourselves for the respite and sheer joy of a Christmas visit from a daughter, her husband and their son.

Two hours before their arrival, the power went out.  But it wasn’t as hard to adjust to the unexpected as it might have been the month before, because surviving last month’s challenge had empowered Rich and me to rise like phoenixes, rendering this latest variance in foreseen reality a virtual bleep on the radar screen.

candle burning

Nothing, absolutely nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm for spending time with family.  Two hours into the visit, over dinner lit by emergency stash fluorescent lanterns, the power came on, and each of us jumped from our seats to embrace in full light.

Christmas was perfection, the best Rich and I have experienced since leaving Texas on our excellent adventure, causing us to ponder the desires and circumstances that led us far from the herd in the first place.  To be honest, the herd had fully dispersed before we broke from the land that held us and served as a constant reminder that even the best laid plans can go horribly awry.

During long, sweet conversations at Christmas, the subject of the recent illnesses that passed like a plague over our house arose, opening a door we never dreamed we might need to enter.  It seems the helplessness of crossing long miles on small budgets while meeting the needs of minor children and demanding work schedules had torn at the heart strings of our daughter and her husband as they were forced to watch from afar as Rich and I struggled to deal with devastating circumstances alone.

Last night Rich told me he and his brother never know how to say Good-bye when they talk on the phone.  I know how that feels. Endings are hard for me; beginnings, not so much.  So the only way I know how to approach change is to find a way to transform it into something I’ll want to embrace rather than ignore.

I’m quite ambivalent about getting old, part of me is so ready, and part is not.  The fact that we need help from others to manage the sharp edges of life is a bomb dropping for anyone, but for those unaccustomed to asking or accepting help, it is a concept nearly impossible to accede.

I have to remind myself that sometimes Plan B exceeds the expectation and reward of Plan A.  When our granddaughter, Morgan, graduates in another year and moves to Austin to get her Masters in Physics, more than likely Rich and I will be packing once again for Texas.

river hondo

The natural beauty of Arkansas will be hard to leave in spite of having made very few friends while being here.  In two weeks I turn 65; it would be nice to enjoy the Golden Years in the presence of family, making the most of each good day, and knowing we are not alone on less impressive days.

And so this nest that felt so right only months ago, suddenly feels a little tight around the hips, and we find ourselves contemplating unexpected plans to return, perhaps, for the last time, home.  Perchance this is how it always is, the evolution of parental roles, one generation passing the torch to the next in an act as necessary and natural as the changing of seasons.  But because we have an option, because we have a say in the matter, because both of our children have offered their homes to us, Rich and I count ourselves as two of the very lucky ones.

welcome to hondo

Finding Calm in the midst of Chaos

6 Dec

the sky is falliingWeather reports zealously predicted the emergence of a winter storm of near epic proportions.  As I listened, I was struck by the sound of rising alarm in the voices of meteorologists who paced like caged tigers, and I wondered again where the days of calm and objectivity had gone, seemingly having disappeared like two old friends descending the last mountain, looking back over their shoulders to companions left behind, giving a final thumbs up to them, as if nothing would ever change, as if time and the world would repeat itself as it always had when the sun rose each morning; but the world did change, and comfort once gained from soothing, consistent voices vanished in a populist culture of serial disasters, each horrible and mesmerizing; each uglier than its predecessor, yet understood to be just another wrung on an endless ladder of adrenaline-driven-drama yet to come.

Hoping for the best, planning for the worst, we drove to the market in preparation of the power outage that was sure to come.  How did we know the power would disappear?  Well, actually we received a text message from Entergy explaining that 8,000 workers were on their way to the area, and that outages were expected to last “5-7 days”.  It seemed more a promise than a possibility.

As we drove, we passed 3 or 4 gas stations, each with long, winding lines and a carbon monoxide fog hanging overhead like another warning, or perhaps, a final obituary.

Inside the store, signs of the new world shrank the warehouse sized building into the likes of a small parlor filled with warring tribes, each combatant wearing armor, his or her eyes straight ahead, and the cold dead stench of fear rising.

The bread aisle was empty.

The water aisle was empty.

no water

A half-gallon of milk cost $4.43.

I had a bag of tortillas in my hand until an old man shoved me and snatched it away; pushing his cart away as fast and hard as he could.  On any other day, perhaps he would have offered to reach it for me, taken it from the high shelf and put it in my hand, or maybe he might have smiled as we passed each other on Aisle 8.  But today he was not himself, or perhaps he had never been more himself until the very moment he stole a bag of tortillas from a stranger’s hand.

It caught me off-guard; for a moment, I needed to step away from the crowd, so I huddled next to an end-cap of nonessentials like cotton balls or hair color.  Narrowing my focus, I listened to the sounds emitted from the surging crowd.  Expecting growls of altercation, I was surprised to hear excitement, like a growing anticipation for an adventure yet defined.  At first I believed I was witnessing the emergence of community, a gathering of like-minded souls preparing to endure shared battle, but the longer I listened, I more clearly I began to understand, and I trembled with the knowledge that what I heard was more akin to observers at a public hanging, or a gathering of the pious howling in jubilation at the burning of a accused witch.

Rich and I left carrying nuts and fruit, a couple of bags of chips and 3 bottles of marinara.  We drove like lunatics away from the crowds, weaving through debris already strewn by the wind throughout back roads and city streets.

Once home, we dug through the Recycle Bin, dragging out empty plastic bottles that we washed with hot, soapy water.  After they’d dried, we filled them with fresh tap water.

We unpacked winter blankets.

We filled a basket with candles, matches, flashlights and batteries.

We ate peanut butter sandwiches and shared the last piece of pumpkin pie from the back of the refrigerator.  Then we snuggled under the knitted blanket I’d bought at an estate sale from two daughters who didn’t want it, who had valued it at $3.00, never understanding the emotion and time, the love and careful attention their mother had invested in it.

Then we turned on the outside Christmas lights, rolled up the blinds, settled in, held hands, and watched the snow begin to fall.

snow flakes

90 is the new 30, the frustrating numbers we believe

9 Oct

used car salesman and old lady

I heard it on TV!

40 is the new 20.

60 is the new 40.

Bull pucky!   If you believe that, maybe it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, and while you’re at it, come to terms with the fact that you might be buying yellow bricks from a bunch of munchkins from Planet Oz.

Illusion is the new truth out there, my friends!

What’s real in my house is the troubling personal reality that 90 minutes has become the new 30 minutes and the end results are starting to suck big time since I’m working with what I have and not so much with what I need, or used to have, or think I ought to have.

I remember working like a son of a gun without ending the day with cascading waves of muscles cramps and insomnia.  I remember when a glass of white wine was all it took to unwind. But the fact that it takes 90 minutes for me to do what I used to do in 30 is a fact of life, and as distasteful as it seems, I live around it as I go about the comical but satisfying process of remaining true to myself.  This time-ability-experiential -shift hasn’t changed who I am; it’s only decreased my production levels requiring me to regularly adjust priorities.

Yesterday my dentist was trying to sell me on his idea of how to best care for my teeth, saying his plan would ensure dental happiness for the next 30 years.  I looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“I have no plans to need teeth in 30 years”, I said, to which he replied, “You need to change the paradigm you use to see life.”

I have to hand it to him, it was a great line, but paying $10,000 for a couple of teeth isn’t going to impact anything except my wallet, and honest to goodness, I don’t want to see 95!

Years ago I made a deliberate choice to live my own way.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make. It turned my entire life upside down, and during the first year that followed, I sometimes wondered if the consequences of that choice weren’t signs that I’d lost my mind.  One the best (and worst) aspects of my personality is an over-developed sense of tenacity; I’m “in it” for the long haul no matter how long or short, how wicked or delightful the ride might be.

I lost friends.  I disappointed family.  I hung in.  I pushed on and here I am!

Happiness is fleeting and situational at best, so to say I’ve been happy ever since would be dishonest, but I have enormous inner peace and intermittent bursts of sudden, unexplained joy.

Eventually my family came around, but there is space between us that didn’t feel as if it was there before.  This was disappointing until I began to understand that life is not intended to remain constant.  The human condition is based on constant evolving change as we grow from single cells into complex beings of great potential.  We accept, we reject, and we settle or compromise.  We break free from the pack.  We stumble and fall.  We get up and try again, or lie face down in the dirt unwilling to gamble on the uncertainty of the unknown.  We grow large or we shrink.  We bend or we break. Some of us try to stay in the same place but the wind blows and the night sky dims our vision, and well known plains and valleys in the geography of our existence evolves around us, forcing our hand.

If we are true to our core selves, resisting social rhetoric and religious dogma, we win!  We get to rub Ben Gay on our swollen legs at night and drink warm milk or pop Tylenol PM in hopes of getting a decent night’s sleep.

We get to have good or bad dreams, and we get to remember or forget them when we wake in the morning.  We get to choose whether or not we want to watch the 5 o’clock news.  We get to decide if we eat sensibly or forgive ourselves for eating chocolate cake for dinner.

We get to keep inching along that long narrow ledge on the steepest side of the highest mountain, and it’s our choice whether or not we leap into the near-blue invisible arms of the sky or sit in place, watching the clouds swirl around us.  We can be kings and queens or the village idiot.  We can shut up, put up and hang on.  Or not.

 

A Glimpse into the Irreplaceable Past

22 Sep

 yardsale2

Sprawling across the front lawn belonging to a 75-ish woman, yesterdays Yard Sale was the result of the mental planning and great physical efforts of two other women, one 45-ish, the other 35-ish. The 40-something gem is a jewel of a woman of whom such a description aptly fits, but the same could be said of the others relative to the fact that one is her mother, and the other, her best friend.

The odd duck in the lot was me, the 65-ish old chick who lives next door to the gem and her best friend.  I was propped up by the presence of my own best friend, Rick, my husband, who attended the foray in the capacity of muscle, security, neighbor, buddy, and loyal assistant.

The day was perfectly beautiful with bright shining sun and a slight breeze, and temperatures’ ranging from the low 60’s to low 70’s.  Having decided to forego listing our sale in the classifieds, the weather proved our best advertisement, drawing sleepy heads, weary of too many days of unseasonable heat, out of their air-conditioned caves and back into the streets in search of community.

It was a very good day to make new friends, which we did, but what impressed me most was the symbology of the items we’d each chosen to sell.  It was a clear representation of the past in a spectrum of odd collections displayed in a mishmash fashion across plastic tables, in acknowledgement of sentimental journeys spanning generations.

Each item we discarded was a piece of our individual and collective pasts.  I can’t speak for the others, but I’d struggled for weeks culling out cabinets and closets trying to come to terms with letting go of objects that represented my past in a genuine effort to simplify the present.  For me, nothing is simply what it appears to be; that small glass bowl with its etched lid is the party I hosted when I was 25 and all my girlfriends were nearly weightless in joy and anticipation of the futures they’d planned.  It was toddlers toddling around our knees, picking cookies off dainty trays and eating them with the kind of zeal only a child can express.

etched jar

The two decorated stacking boxes were freedom at 51, they were inner courage surfacing, lust and excitement coming of age when I felt for the very first time, it was finally my turn.  Putting price tags on them for $2.50 and $4.00 seemed a slap in the face to the most extreme journey I’d taken in my life.

The end tables were tradition.  The handmade Christmas ornaments are hopes I once held for a houseful of grandchildren clamoring each holiday season to help Nonnie and Newt decorate their tree.

I know in my head, none of these items are actually pieces of my identity, only small material representations of dreams I’ve dreamt and discarded along the way as the path turned one way and then another, and each old ideal diminished in the face of a new and far brighter reality.

identity art

But the struggle to release is real.  It’s a mother entering the winter of her life finally realizing she simply must cut the cord and set her grown children completely free to flounder and fall before soaring amongst the stars in the boundless sky.  It’s burying a dead ex-husband and allowing the truth to exist by accepting that each flaw in the relationship helped you learn how to fill the tiny cracks that kept you fractured from the deepest, most authentic aspects of yourself.

It is understanding how embracing the hard times and then letting them go, strengthens your fortitude, making it easier to face the deep unknown.

It’s not a tattered old crocheted blanket; it’s the tears you shed creating it as you divested yourself from longings that, if followed, would deeply affect your children’s lives.  It is not a silly piece of art; it’s your father’s imagination, your mother’s strong hands, your sister’s laughter, your brother’s serious side, a glimpse into the irreplaceable past.

But at the end of the day, hard choices must be made.  Sitting in the shade with new friends and the love of my life, making new friends, placing old treasures into stranger’s hands, I’m cutting loose threads of the past in order to create a clearer path for today.  Even so, late in the day, when a man hassles me over the price of my two decorated boxes, I pass on the deal, deciding to keep this particular symbol for myself.

The seasons of our lives are not loved and respected because of successes we enjoy, nor are they despised and weakened by the challenges we face, but are to be richly honored for moving us each closer to authenticity and the inner sanctuary of unconditional love and absolute peace.

The wise know without the storm, there would be no majestic cliff from which to stand and observe the seemingly random, yet perfectly organized chaos of changing weather.  Without rapids in the river, sharp ridges would not be tamed into smooth stone. Yesterdays’ Yard Sale brought five people together uniting their pasts by sharing and releasing a variety of personal treasures.  These treasures attracted other collectors, and in the process relative strangers journeys’ intersected in an act of true community.

Last night I dreamed I was in a boat that was being carried by rushing currents through a narrow river stream.  Branches from a forest of trees created a low canopy that was ominous.  I could feel my heart beat faster and faster as the water drew my small boat closer to the obstacles ahead, but just as I was about to be hit in the face by a branch, it would suddenly arch toward the sky, freeing my way.  For miles I traveled watching the beautiful spectacle.  My daughters were standing on either side of the riverbed, each peaceful and smiling.  They waved as I passed, then turned and walked away.

I saw my deceased ex-husband on a hill.  He was standing with Rick.  As I approached, he shook Rick’s hand and then faded away.  Rick walked to the edge of the shore, waiting for me; then he slipped easily into my boat.  Suddenly the boat was a ship, and the sea lay open and inviting before us.  And when I awoke this morning, I swear I could taste salt on my lips and hear waves breaking on shore.  Yesterday was a beautiful season.  So is today.

season tree

  And I know tomorrow will be too, no matter when it begins or how long it stays.

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.

images

 

 

 

Ambivalence: Dealing With It, Understanding it is Fear’s First Cousin

2 Sep

I always experience a blend of excitement and sadness this time of year. It feels like each day is suspended on a great curve or a massive arch, and having passed the midway point in yet another season, summer achingly descends toward its inevitable end while fall waits around the corner, giddy with anticipation. For summer, each ever-shortening minute seems to mourn the loss of delicate carefree days, but fall is like a child anticipating the first day of school, bursting with energy and full of endless possibilities. 

I hate to see the flowers go, but I love the spectrum of autumn colors, and savor the thought of shorter days and lengthening nights; its nature’s way of slowing us down, bringing a little work/rest balance to our lives.  When the forest erupts in nearly indescribable color, there’s pep in my step that is missing in the heat of deep summer.  I love the bounce and the crisp air that carries with it a hint of wood burning in distant fire pits and fireplaces.  Still, I miss the elegance of blossoming flowers, the sound of bees congregating over the oregano and thyme, the fragrance of sage and rosemary, lavender, Thai basil and lemon eucalyptus.

my love affair with flowers continues MY STUFF1

Each year the changing of seasons is a bit different from the last.  If it’s been a particularly wet summer, the landscape captures the story of persistent rain beating the ground, distending the earths belly with forced feedings that erode fragile ecosystems, destroy newly fallen seeds, and drown insects and other small creatures.  The bodies of summer are carried by rushing streams of rainwater until snagged by mounds of debris that have collected in nooks and crannies across uneven ground.  These makeshift cemeteries will be their last resting place as they ferment and dissolve back into the earth that bore them.  The initial fragrance of rain intersecting dry earth deepens to a musky scent before succumbing to the eventual stench of decay. 

Even the trees seemingly weep, their branches weary, and bark swollen.  While I celebrate the bounty of water, simultaneously I mourn the loss of my precious flowers as they lay their heads to the ground in absolute surrender.  Manically, I’m up again watching the birds feed on fat worms plucked from sodden grasses, easily satisfying their appetites in a ritual of sustainability and regeneration.  If summer has been cruel, if skies have refused to provide water to the dry pleading soil below, the landscape withers in brittle tales of want and desire.  And the earth splits in spidering cracks and crevices, creating safe havens for insects, invertebrates and small mammals. 

cracked earth 1

The trees on the horizon shrink in rising dust, their parched leaves defeated, and dropping by the handfuls with even a hint of a breeze. And as far as the eye can see, there is a backdrop of scarcity and woe.  Soon we move indoors in search of something more, leaving the earth to endure the scalding heat alone.

Evenings are one of the few rewards we find for having suffered the dog days of summer.  Late afternoon often marks the arrival of migratory birds in search of something to eat or drink,  Their musical voices are soothing and reminiscent of old women haggling in a market place.  By dusk, when fireflies begin to light the hem of the woods, we return to the thick, warm air, languishing in lawn chairs, shooing flies and gnats from the corners of our mouths as we talk about the weather, or dream aloud of cooler days to come.

I match each season to the cadence of my own life.  On the cusp of fall, I find myself finishing projects I began in the spring and nurtured all summer long, and compiling list after list of things that must be done in preparation for the cold, dark void of winter that is building just around the corner. 

I’m plucking the dry heads off daisies, sunflowers and Echinacea and scattering their seeds throughout my gardens.  I’m preparing a list of bushes and tree limbs to prune in late October.  I’m harvesting and drying herbs to use in the cold months when their roots are resting beneath ice or snow.  I’m starting construction on small Halloween gifts for the children on my street who delight me year after year with their eager faces squealing “Trick or Treat!”

MY STUFF 2 halloween door

I’m a little early with what I call my Annual Fall Clean-Out, the time set aside to sort through everything I’ve collected or saved since early spring. I’m editing the clutter.  If I don’t, everything I own suddenly owns me, and I become a slave to their upkeep.  I’m getting too old for heavy cleaning and shuffling stuff from place to place anymore, so I’m downsizing in my own way.  I admit to the absurdity and obvious conflict of being both a serial cleaner and one tittering on the abysmal brink of hoarding, and confess that I run myself wild saving for what may or may not ever happen, while throwing away what isn’t actually needed.  I understand that I am my own particular disease just as much as I am its own particular cure.

bandaide on heart

Today is September 2nd.  Outside, if feels as if summer is still with us, but our calendar is filling with autumn activities.  Soon the leaves will turn and begin to fall, and I will pile them on top of all my flower beds to insulate against the bitter cold that lies ahead.  Summer was slow starting for us this year, and already the night temperatures are dipping into the 60’s.  I remember standing on our deck on the fourth of July and telling my husband that winter would arrive soon.

“Sooner than we’ll be ready for it, I fear,” he said.

Time passes so quickly these days.  It seems we are always looking over our shoulders toward yesterday, yesterday when the babies were born and life was joyfully packed with activity and pseudo-drama.  Yesterday, when everyone we loved was still alive, still laughing or causing grief.  Yesterday, when tomorrow seemed a million years away.  But I’ve no time for ambivalent thoughts today.  My sister telephoned; she and her husband and my brother and Mom are coming for a visit at the end of the month.  I have so much to do before they arrive…and there is so much to look forward to, so many busy pleasures and rich experiences for Rich and I to explore before the bone cold winter hand knocks at our front door and whispers our names.

old couple in love 1

  

 

 

Keeping Secrets and Caring for Our Shadow Side

19 Aug

top secret stamp itty

It’s a challenge at times, especially when they rise to the surface, refusing to be ignored.  I can push with all of my might, using laser-beam focus, but it doesn’t help a bit.  Mama used to say ‘some things take on a life all of their own’, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that every single thought, every action and consequence, does exactly that.

A few minutes ago, this was a blank page; now it’s a presentation of my personal beliefs.  Each time I strike a key on the keyboard, the page develops into something more complex than it was when I decided to sit down at the desk. I could stop writing now, but even if I do, I’ve already planted a tiny seed that could grow into a monster, or turn into dust that will simply blow away.

It’s a risk I can’t wait to take.

The world is alive.  Sometimes I picture myself as a tiny cosmic dot hanging onto the bushy outer fur of the world as it races across countries and vast bodies of water, timelines and contrasting poles, picking up speed without breaking stride.  It takes every bit of my strength to stay in place, and not be shaken from the world’s great back like a dog would shake off fleas.

There are days I can admit I am a parasite, and other days I am certain I am a vaccine.  But in either state of mind, I am honest with, and forgiving of myself.  It takes a lot of energy just to talk, but it takes me much more to be silent.  My mind is an ocean churning.  There are dangerous rip tides, under tows and furtive currents to be considered.  There are the whirlpools of life and death struggles playing out beyond eyesight.  My mind is full of formidable forests growing from its sandy floor.  There are centuries old shipwrecks hiding bones and lost treasure.  There are species of fish never before seen. In the sea, I am not at the top of the food chain, I am a little fish in a very big pond; that’s how my mind sees my body, and I can either be lunch or a servant to the brain that owns me.

ocean surge itty

I love the sea as much as I am frightened by it.

For years friends urged me to write a book.  My response never wavered, “Who am I to tell anyone how to do anything?” I would ask.  Yet here I am, shooting off my mouth about my philosophy on secret keeping.  I’m able to rationalize this by convincing myself that no one here has ever lost any money over anything I’ve said.  I’ve never tried to present myself as an expert on anything; I’ve never tried to sell my ideas.  I have sold poetry I’ve written, but I don’t do poetry on the two blogs I write.  I keep blogs the same way I used to keep journals.  Getting older has its perks; I’m no longer interested in what others think about me, and while I know I’m not an authority on any given subject, at this age, I give myself permission to say what I think.

If I have to lie to keep a secret, I don’t keep it anymore; I set the darned thing free.  I haven’t had to do that but a couple of times in my life, but each time I have, I’ve felt robbed afterwards.  No one has ever forced me to divulge anything, but I have been convinced to submit to another person’s will before.  Going against my own values is never good; it’s an act of weakness that makes me ashamed of myself, and I hate feeling that way.

Anything can be a secret really.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy information.  Maybe it was nothing until you decided to elevate it by designating it as a ‘secret’.  Nothing moves a non-issue to the front of the line like good branding.

I have lots of secrets.  If I let them go, I lose part of my mystique, and I’m not about to voluntarily give any of that up at this stage.  I have so many secrets, matter of fact, that I categorize them with indexing ranging from recipes to sex.  (Got your attention, didn’t I?)

Whatever task I attempt, I carry my baggage along for the ride.  I’ve gotten rid of most of what I wanted to get rid of, but I’ve kept an awful lot.  My husband is a fixer.  He always wants to improve everything from a situation to a point of view.  I resist being fixed.  I read a book years ago about Native American philosophy and was transfixed by the whole Shadow Side perspective.  There is light, and there is darkness.  The author explained his ancestor’s respect for the difference between the two, and their understanding of the necessity of each.  Without the light, nothing will live or thrive.  But there are times the light is threatened, and to ensure its survival, man calls on his shadow side to protect it.

light and dark itty

Calling forth the shadow is not done lightly, nor without ceremony.  A ceremony sets an intention; in the case of protecting something as important as a value or the ability to live the kind of life one loves, it is the starting line.  A purification/dedication fire is lit and dancing begins.  Prayers are offered to the Great Ones above.  Finally, paint representing the savage nature of the shadow inside, is smeared across the face.  Then the battle begins.

warpainted woman face itty

The author emphasized the importance of knowing when to pull out one’s shadow and when to put it back again.  To enjoy the acts involved in destruction is to become stuck in one’s shadow. To be stuck in darkness prohibits light.

I appreciate the truth about myself, but it doesn’t matter to or affect anyone but me.   I’ve learned how beautiful the light is, and how necessary it is to ensure its survival.  I’m comfortable with my shadow side too.  The secrets I keep, keep my shadow alive.  I respect any memory that has impacted my life so powerfully that I chose to keep it secret.  I’ve given a name to my shadow side, (that’s a secret too), but I often consult her opinion on issues before I act; I find her wisdom invaluable.  I choose my battles carefully these days, but once I determine a battle is completely necessary, I light a candle, set an intention, ask the Universe for support and guidance, and then I do what I believe is best, no matter the price.

victorious woman standing in low tide itty

Dealing With the Past Everyday, Whether it’s Horse Poop or Ice Cream

9 Aug

I’ll speak for myself, but I know for a fact there is one other person who agrees with my philosophy about the past’s influence on the present. Because of that, it makes it easier for us to comfort and lift each other up whenever needed. Lynette is my best friend although it will 10 years in October since we last saw each other. If I dwell on that fact, I emotionally hemorrhage; so on a lighter note, here’s a photo of us back in 2001 or 2002.

Hugs Lynette and Bev

Most of my followers probably expect me to be satisfied with the silver lining in the dark cloud, but finding satisfaction depends on surviving the storm and being willing to assess (and reassess) its damage. Sometimes it seems we are victimized by outside forces we can’t control; and there are cases when that certainly is true: a serious illness, the loss of a child…but 98% of the time, whatever smacks us upside the head has everything to do with an issue we’ve been trying to avoid. The issue and the storms we find ourselves in rarely seem to connect, but after doing the inner work , we find they do.

sea storm BLOG

I have a past as colorful and choppy as mosaic art; it can also be compared to a Pointillist landscape composed of thousands of tiny dots placed on a canvas in seemingly random order, but when viewed from a distance, each individual dot becomes an integral piece in a cohesive story.

                whole face pointillist

In 2000, when I opened a door, my world changed. I tried to pretend it away, but once opened, some doors can never be closed again. Because I was such a master of hiding the truth from everyone who knew me at the time, when I entered that door, my support system fell away, and I found myself on the journey of my life, alone.

Opening one door leads to opening another, which is exactly what I did. But here are a few interesting observations I made along the way: sometimes what lies on the other side of the door is too beautiful to look at for long. Sometimes what appears to be a diamond turns out to be broken glass. And often we simply can’t make our minds up about which door to open in the first place, so gingerly, we turn the handles, meekly peeking in; but once we discover the secret behind the door, we close then open it again and again,  doing that whole  c-r-a-z-y thing where we keep expecting a different outcome while doing the same old thing.

hallway with doors

The great thing about opening doors is the fact that you find the courage to walk on the tight rope of each individual, unscripted moment of life without a safety net, and OMG!, that’s a powerful feeling.

Although for several years I lost my familiar community of family and friends, I wasn’t actually alone for very long. Wandering the hall of opened doors, there was, at first, only a trickling of equally timid souls weaving in and out, walking close or around me.  But the deeper into the guts of the unknown I traveled, the more lively and heavily populated the crowds became.

Lynette was one the earliest hall-walkers I met, and once introduced, we buddied up for the duration of the trip.

The first door I opened, the biggest one, the one responsible for prompting the entire journey, was a door I kept opening and closing. Even as my ever-changing perception of what was on the other side vacillated from horror to ecstasy and back, I never slammed it shut. After a few years, I decided the best thing to do was to turn away from it.

winding trails

What walking away taught me was that entering it in the first place was the best choice I’d ever made, and that trying to completely seal that particular door would prove impossible in this lifetime. For me, that first door represents the precise group of Pointillist dots that form my legs. Without keeping everything I experienced on the other side of the door in my heart; I would not be able to move forward.

While not quite afraid of the pivotal door, for me it’s like the sea, I have a healthy respect of its power while admiring its seductive ruthlessness, its beauty, and the impulsiveness of unyielding focus. If I pretended the past never happened, I’d be doomed to repeat it.

woman and sea merged BLOG

 

I’ve been working everyday since 1997.  And I’ll continue to work for the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes to support the world I created having opened a series of amazing doors.

An Opportunistic Example of Blatant Self-Promotion

27 Jul

I’ve created a lighter, more spontaneous blog site and am asking IttyMac readers to check it out. As disgusting as groveling is, consider this a grovel of epic proportions. When you read the About Me section, you may think you’re on the wrong page, but I can assure you, you are not!

The purpose of a second blog is to make a fool out of myself by parading my homelife and domestic kingdom for all to see. I feel the need to do so as a matter of recreational divergency from the heaviness of social issues. I am, after all, by nature, a fun sort of girl with many home style interests. In lieu of keeping dozens of personal journals, I’ve opted for a more interactive forum. I look forward to seeing you at ittymac.wordpress as well. But this is an attempt to update my blog resume’. With that in mind, check out my new digs at:

https://auntbeame.wordpress.com

sweet innocence

A Wise Defense

26 Jul

If you try your best, it is still quite difficult to shut out the noise of the world, perhaps that’s not a bad thing because little would change without collective outrage against the status quo. But there is only so much energy a person can expend before annoyances burgeon into total outrage. A thoughtful person who deeply knows him/herself respects the boundaries he sets in efforts to keep enough energy available to successfully run the Mother Ship. A good rule of thumb: Carry social concerns and controversies in direct proportion to weight you can safely bear without causing damage to your mental and physical balance. Do what you can to further causes you are passionate about mindfully; that’s another way of saying the same thing.

The desire to continue my own inner journey is often inspired by observing the chaos of others. The further they move from the light, the more driven I become to reflect its radiance.

Life is the teacher, we are students. Some learn quickly, others never try. Some people in the classroom act out, hoping to illicit a response from others. Often it works, distracting many from tasks at hand. There are pools of negativity everywhere we look. They have always existed, but the smaller the world becomes with the tools of social networking, the more aware we become of their existence. Social media consists of many students of the world. Some use global social media in an attempt to increase numbers in their angry crowds. Like follows like, but loud attracts the attention of many who have not yet formed strong consciences regarding issues presented; thus, it is a formula that, sadly, works.

When I hear, read, or witness words of hatred, I am inspired to react in two different ways. The first is to fall into the abyss, heat rising in my gut, evoking a primal urge to strike back. The second is to intercede and settle the matter, hoping against all odds that the terrible hate-filled events were mere misunderstandings. These are initial reactions, but both are far from practical responses.

Throw hatred in my path and even though I want to kick it out of the way, I have learned that’s like kicking a hornets nest, or trying to reason with a rattlesnake. But as a human, emotions must be respected, so I allow myself to experience the feelings of having been offended, and then I move in.

For me, the best way to accomplish this is to try to identify the source energy of the particular hatred involved, examining everything I discover from a philosophical perspective. Almost always hatred can be traced back to fear. Each of us shows our true colors by the words we choose to speak, by the banners we carry, the projects we begin and the arguments we end. To create something beautiful and beneficial does not require one to be a god, but a steward of positive intentions, deliberate actions, and unwavering focus. All that is needed to destroy is a carefully chosen word of dissent angrily spoken.

Words are powerfully constructive tools when used to build, but they are weapons of mass destruction when intended to destroy. Conflict cannot be avoided in life; for me, the goal isn’t to be giddy with hope or combatively defensive, but to counter the extremes in a spirit of generosity, choosing to use language fostered in the quiet, practical countenance of inner peace before speaking, or setting words to paper.

Throw a rock at my right eye; I will not offer my left as your next target. I will not throw another stone at you. I will not satisfy your cruelty with screams or tears. But I will look you in the eye and I will know you. I will see your weakness and your fear. I will maintain my peace, and the fact of knowing you as I will, shall weaken the hatred that propels you to do and say irrational things.

I cannot shout louder than an angry crowd, but wisdom and introspection will protect me from catching hatred’s demoralizing disease. There is a cure for hatred. To find it, we’ve only to look inside.

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