Tag Archives: relationships

Directly in the path…

25 Aug

2 the bluff overlooking the pensacola bay at grandparents home  only constant in our lives

Category Five

It is both what you say
and how you say it,
marbles falling heavily
from your mouth hitting
the floor and shattering,
each word a moth made
of steel.

It is the way you clench your
fists, break only things that
belong to me,

and the way you move,
direct, calculated,

like the eye of
a hurricane before striking.

©2000Beverly Sweet/Scheidt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Home, with party hats!

21 Sep

Home; I could stop writing now and most of you could relate to the emotions the word carries, but when it comes to words and emotions, I’m no minimalist.  Currently home is a small rental nestled deep in the flat plains in the expansive outreaches of southwest Texas, just on the cusp of the legendary Texas Hill Country; but to imply this particular house is responsible for evoking a sense of home within my heart is like saying birds like trees. The implication is far too general, yet oddly, too specific to authentically represent the complexities of absolute truth.

1103 24thwelcome to our world

front walkwayyard 3yard 1passion flower

I could play word-games by saying things like I’m in a transitioning phase, or have entered yet another level of self-discovery, or I’ve fully embraced the autumn of life, or even; I didn’t move back to Texas to die, I moved here to live, and, actually, each cute little quip would be true.  But truer yet is the fact that I’ve simply taken another mindful step in the natural progression of life.

Make no mistake; time is rushing past like a fastidious parade and one can either pretend to sit on the sidelines or concede that, in deed, he is responsible for the chaos and beauty of his own life. It’s not particularly why or how something begins, but how it is handled that builds character. I never forget that.

So I’m back in my home state, MIA only a few years although it felt much longer.  I’m resettling into myself, slipping back into my slow, southern drawl, stretching each vowel till it dissolves in complete silence in a natural death.  I’ve reconnected with the chicken-fried steak and sunsets that absolutely blow my mind.

chicken fried steak

sunset

I’m rising with the sun but maintaining night owl habits. I seem to need less sleep and am filling with energy.

Routine and consistency juxtapose spontaneous activity as Richard and I split time between two worlds, ours and our daughter, Billie, her husband, Brian, and two grandchildren who live down the street.  Their zest for life keeps us on our toes as we dash with renewed vigor in an attempt to share every minute offered.

Tonight we are attending an official birthday party for their dog, Maggie, and their cat, Bella.  Fig, our precious canine, is on the guest list, as is Loki, our mischievous scoundrel of a cat, who seems to have already made plans for the night.  Fig, however, never misses the opportunity to party.

dog in party hat

Although homemade doggie treats are on the birthday kiddies menu, I’m not sure what ours consist of, most likely not chicken fried steak; none-the-less, gifts and party hats have been purchased, the punch bowl has been removed from dizzying heights of ancient kitchen cabinets and prepared to receive a ginger-aide and fruit juice concoction guaranteed to curl chest hair.

In the process of down-sizing, we’ve unearthed pure gold. It hasn’t been an easy process.  Selling a home, packing and moving is a real challenge at any age but at 65 it’s a real stinker!  Our children live in Texas.  I was born and raised here; Richard was a Texan at heart who woke every morning to the reality of New Jersey.  When he first moved to Texas in 2006, he said he had realized a life long dream.

Against all odds, Richard and I found one another and built a good life together.  Now we are home again and it’s another beautiful day in paradise. And we absolutely plan on enjoying it!

rick and bev summer 2014

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

23 Jan

sister-hood-award

I’d like to thank Irene Waters: Reflections and Nightmares- Writer and Memoirist-   Http://irenewaters19.com  for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the world Bloggers Award. I thoroughly enjoy Irene’s blog; her photography is amazing and the insights she offers about life’s journey are always enlightening.  In the blogosphere, I’m still sort of a Newbie, so receiving recognition for my work, which is really my pleasure, encourages me to keep sharing my heart.

~ ~The Rules ~ ~

  1. Provide a link to and thank the blogger who nominated you for this award.
  2. Answer ten questions.
  3. Nominate 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read. Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know they have been nominated.
  4. Include the award logo within your blog post.

~~Questions~~

1.  Your favorite color…. Green

2.  Your favorite animal … I love them all

3.  Your favorite non-alcoholic drink …. Chamomile tea

4.    Facebook or Twitter….. Facebook, I’m still figuring out Twitter

5.    Your favorite pattern …..  Spirals

6.    Do you prefer getting or giving presents…. Giving

7.    Your favorite number … 11

8.    Your favorite day of the week … Thursday

9.    Your favorite flower …. Echinacea

10.  What is your passion? ….. Reading and writing Poetry

There are so many deserving blog sites and so little time.  I’m going to list and link a few of my fem-favorites understanding not all will be able to participate in the nomination process.

http://humoringthegoddess.com

http://secondhalfwoman.wordpress.com

http://tllsci.wordpress.com

http://theempathyqueen.wordpress.com

http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

http://forgivingdreams.wordpress.com

http://thehipgrandmother.wordpress.com

http://momof3isnuts.wordpress.com

http://mainstreetmusings.wordpress.com

http://architar.wordpress.com

Don’t worry about hurting my feelings; I assure you, I completely understand time constraints.  : )  I do hope you all visit any link that speaks to you!

*** Please note: the blog address for Wanton Word Flirt has been corrected.  Please explore this delightful site at http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

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

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.

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

  

 

 

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.   

Image

For the Sake of the Game

25 Apr

Our first impressions were less than stellar, although I knew from the start I’d love her; I also knew she would never love me, but my belief that we’d meet somewhere in the middle was strong enough to propel me forward through four years of suspicion and cynicism, and the expected comparisons made in such situations. What I could never have foreseen was the revolving door that first brought her into my life and then swept her away while neither of us was actually looking.

She was brash and provocative. She craved attention so deeply that at first I believed she might be narcissistic; but as time passed, I saw she wasn’t, it was something else. We were doomed from the start as unspoken assumptions and judgments, unfair comparisons, and other frailties worked their way through the back roads of our psyches, pulling us in opposite directions, though I believe with all of my heart she wanted to find her way to a safe, shared space as badly I did.

I knew what I wanted, I wanted to teach; she wasn’t interested in learning. I wanted to talk but she covered her ears. I wanted to repair the tattered philosophy of self-destruction she wore like a breast plate against the world, but she was determined to keep it in place.

Ten years later, it’s easier to accept the truth, as painful as it is. It’s easy to say the words, I was wrong, but it is harder to sit with myself understanding that ten years ago, I looked a woman-child straight in the face, accusing her without speaking.

I was the nurse with a strong background in psychology, yet I failed to understand that she wanted to learn, that she wanted, also, to teach. I had forgotten that until a teacher acknowledges a student’s actual presence, nothing can be either taught or learned. I forgot the imperative of listening and failed to bring Zen energy into the center of the volcano; thus, it’s blast was devastating.

She appalled me with her survival skills; I was undone by her behavior. I was offended by her disrespect and rudeness, outspoken as I am. The union of a woman from the south and a Yankee steam pipefitter proved catalyst for trapped explosive air to burst from timeworn vaults of anger, resentment, and simmering sibling rivalry in a near fatal explosion of wills. When the matriarch of the loosely attached tribe drew a line in the sand, everyone, spare us, crossed over. Apparently, gloves were off.

Several years later, we submitted to gravity, falling southward like dead weight, waking, rubbing our eyes from the social and environmental changes that enveloped us in Southwest Texas heat. It wasn’t a single bomb that exploded in the years that followed, but more a series of eruptions that unintentionally helped us define ourselves, singly and communally. During those years, I found myself thinking more and more about the life we’d left behind; more specifically, the adult stepchild I’d never really known. So I followed her across social media fields like a birdwatcher on the trail of a magnificently rare species, hiding in anonymity without leaving an obvious trace.

I admire the gem I will never touch, never have the privilege of wearing. I admire it from afar. I’d reach out in conciliatory kindness if I believed no one would get hurt. But I remain in the company of a wounded man, deeply it seems, so deep everything inside shields the pain. And I am as fiercely protective of his feelings and dreams as I am in love with him.

In the end, if we’re honest, we can admit life is a lot like the game of Survivor; alliances are made and either kept or broken. Individuals silently plot routes for victory or escape. Everyone wants to live even if survival means we lose pieces of ourselves along the way. Choices are made. Promises are kept until ultimately they are broken for the sake of the game.

Secrets We Keep…

24 Feb

There is nothing natural about a dam.  A dam, whether man-made or built by beavers, is a deliberate barrier intended to obstruct and control.  Some dams are magnificent works of stone and steel architecture; others are innocuous mounds of grass laden dirt.  Almost everyone agrees dams are useful.  On another day, I might argue that point, but not today; but a general point of consensus is the fact that when dams are breached, they have the capacity to unleash untold grief on anyone and everything standing downstream.

Consider this: we are all dams to one extent or another, you, me, your great-great-grandmother, and the bully down the street.  We are emotionally bound by the secrets we keep. 

Because we are dams, it is important to understand that we are never completely honest with ourselves, rendering us unable to be fully honest with others.  Every perception we hold as a personal truth is tainted because you cannot build a strong, balanced house on blemished soil.  Secrets limit our potential to realize the full extent of our purpose; they restrict the natural evolution of trust, self-confidence and a healthy sense of interdependence with others. 

Secrets separate us from each other, but even more alarming, they separate us from ourselves, resulting in inner conflict, the war against the interior world of our humanly being, often with catastrophic results.  If we can learn to accept that each secret we keep is a stone in the structure of our dam, then we can learn how to safely repair the vulnerable spots that will be left once deception is removed.

This past week has been tumultuous for me; I’ve been bombarded by secret armies inside secret battles raging within.  And the feelings and emotions that have surfaced have left me shaky and raw.  It began with an unfortunate response from a weak man who is a powerful politician.  The tone of his response washed over me like acid rain.

Of course, I did not agree with what he had to say; I rarely do.  I’ve had an ongoing email discourse with his office for several years, and have yet to feel my voice has actually been heard.  So I am well acquainted with feeling powerless in the context of a political environment; but what I felt, this time, was not rage or disbelief, but something guttural, something rancid inside, beginning to churn.

I was operating on two levels of my brain, timidly consciously, and boldly subconsciously; the subconscious reaction was causing physical discomfort.  But I’d not yet figured that out, so to connect the two, conscious perception with subconscious instinct, I began taking steps, making decisions without knowing why, or what I believed doing so might achieve.

One of the things I decided to do was to share the senator’s response with a feminist activist I admire.  The senator’s mindset is dangerously narrow; his presentation of misinformation as fact and his personal beliefs presented as law, was worthy of sharing with a writer of her experience.   I put it all in her capable hands, believing I’d feel relief; but none came, actually, quite the opposite, as suddenly I began to chew my nails and lose sleep. 

I was very anxious without obvious reason.  When my friend asked if she could publish my correspondence with the senator, I immediately agreed; unleashing an internal sort of terror that left me nauseous.  I retired to my favorite chair in the corner of my bedroom where I do most of my writing, my comfort zone, for lack of a better description, and began to focus, setting a clear intention to get to the bottom of the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing.

Absolutely nothing happened.  I sat mute with a flat-lining brain until ultimately deciding I’d done enough for one day.  Sleep that night was restless; my dreams were filled with barren or bloody landscapes.  In one, my husband bought all new furniture and rearranged our house.  He bought new clothes for himself.  He bought himself a modern car, trying to pawn the old work truck off on me.

When I woke, I was as calm as a clam: the subconscious-conscious connection had been made. 

Richard and Morgan were both working; the house was quiet.  Midway through the afternoon, the letters were published.  Within the first two hours, 3,000 people had read them.  Middle Aged Woman Talking had done a good job of furthering the fight for a more balanced government.  And I’d done my part, sharing my story.  The day passed uneventfully, emotions in check.  Early evening found Richard and me on a date, dinner and Latte’, easy conversation and a long, slow drive home over the mountain.  Naked tree branches casts shadows in the full moon’s light, creating interesting but frightening patterns across lonely back roads.  There was complete silence in the air.  My ears searched for the slightest sound, but none was there.

1 o’clock in the morning; I am sitting on the couch in front of a roaring orange fire.  Richard is waiting for me in bed.  Morgan is singing downstairs.  Suddenly a dam bursts, flooding the living room.  I tread water as best I can, but it keeps filling my mouth and lungs.  Suddenly I realize the choking sounds are gasps I am making as I cry from a pit of hell buried so deep inside, it feels as if I am dying as it erupts.

Suddenly I am 7 again, and feelings of utter emptiness are so overwhelming, I want to run away from them, but it too late.  I realize I’ve been running from this moment for 57 years.  Now it is on me, a fire burning my skin…water filling my lungs…rabid dogs eating my legs.  The secret I’d kept, a stone in the dam, had loosened.  When I broke the rule, telling one story to a journalist, all the other old stories rattled their dark bones, begging for a proper burial. 

It was a long night of revelation.  It was a child coming to terms with brutality, and the woman she’d grown into, acknowledging injustice and vowing to protect the child who had survived. 

The world looks different this morning.  The sun is even more beautiful than yesterday.  The naked branches cast uncompromising shadows in the forest.  Raw earth from the missing stone’s bruise begins to fill with fresh soil.  Invisible seeds from the garden filter through the air, some landing in the empty space.  By summer, the dam will be much stronger.  And the distance between the child and I will narrow, and the miles between us and the past will lengthen as the old ones come to terms with their private demons while passing from this test, here on earth, to the next place.