Years

Wearing Colors

My youngest sister just celebrated one of those landmark birthdays, the last of my four sibs to cross that line.  I expected it to make me feel older, but it really hasn’t. I look at each of them and see  how beautiful they are – each vibrant and young in their own way. And I’m not THAT much older…relatively…

When I had this particular birthday my baby sister sent me a red hat in a beautiful old-fashioned, rose-covered hat box. It was a joke and I loved it. I still looked young and felt even younger. That sweet, silly, extravagant hat has been sitting in wait for my sister to join me in this decade, which we will share for the next year, until it’s time for me to leave it behind.

I bought her a purple shirt to go with the red hat. The shirt, I must add, is a lightweight wicking shirt to be worn as she runs – 5Ks and half marathons – or maybe bikes with her husband across the state in 4 days.  This one is definitely not aging!

To add to the fun, I ordered a copy of that iconic book, “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” edited by Sandra Martz. I’ve read the poem, “Warning”,  from which that line originates many times, but didn’t realize it had come to rest in an anthology on women and aging. The book is out of print, so it had to be specially ordered. When it arrived, I opened it in search of that poem, wanting to mark it so that my sister would be sure to see it. A half hour later, I was still standing next to the open Amazon box and reading poem after poem with tears gathering at the corners of my eyes. It is a wonder of language that words have the power to touch places in our hearts and open them wide. I will share a selection of these poems over the next few days.

This first share is more whimsical and I dedicate its presence here to my siblings, Valerie, Linda, Steven, and Catherine. I love you. ❤

~~~~~~~~~

WARNING
by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Advertisements

Gotta Fly

Have you ever heard of the Fly Lady? Marla Cilley is the Fly Lady and she will gently, but firmly usher you into a life of order and serenity. I first heard of her maybe a dozen years ago when her book “Sink Reflections” was on the shelf at the library.

I was amazed at how she could encourage anyone to take heart and conquer the demons of perfectionism, procrastination, and clutter. Using her advice it is possible to overcome inertia and an overwhelming to do list.

When you hear the words order and serenity it sounds very zen and meditation-y – and it is! – but it starts with cleaning your house. So if you’re expecting Thick Naht Hanh or Pema Chodron or the Dalai Lama, you’ll be disappointed, but I guarantee that these FLY feelings are kith and kin, and who knows, maybe one thing will lead to another.

Maybe, these thoughts could be the precursors to manageable New Year’s Resolutions or, better yet Resolves to New & Improved Lifestyles. We are just three weeks away from the new year after all.

Marla’s methods are simple, but effective. Here are a couple of her standards.

1. It starts with a clean sink – do this one thing, do it well, then keep it up

2. Take small bites of tasks – you can do anything for 15 minutes – set a timer!

3. Perfectionism leads to procrastination – oh, yeah!

4. Routines, zones, timed work sessions, 27-fling-boogies (I’ll let you explore these as desired)

Marla’s world has fun acronyms, too. For example: CHAOS = Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome (the way we feel when our house needs a good cleaning)  and FLY=Finally Loving Yourself (by making your life easier)

I found myself thinking about flying a lot the last couple of days, because my December so far has been very overcast. Depression has moved in like a 1/2 ton gorilla sitting on my chest.  Yeah, that sounds more funny than, not, but I can assure you, I am not laughing.  In fact, tears have been a nearby threat for days. And that has not been me for years. I don’t know what is going on, but I need to push it away. Hard.

That’s where Marla comes in. Part of this state I am in is comprised of anxiety – and I think that is from an extensive to do list. I’ve handled the most pressing items left in the wake of a fairly irresponsible November, but the holidays are just around the corner and there are a gajillion things to do –  at home and at work.

So, I’m going to try to FLY.  I’m going to get up and go to work every day. I’m going to pay my bills and cook food and wash clothes and clean the bathroom.

And I’m going to write every day, because writing is the best way to fly.

Cilley, M. (2002). Sink Reflections. Bantam.

Friends

Two or three weeks ago, I read and responded to a blog post on the topic of friendships. That posting began succinctly with a statement to the effect that strangers can become best friends, but that best friends can become strangers or worse – people who hurt or betray us. The gist was that friendships change and we must be prepared to adapt, while remaining kind, honest and loving.

With these words as the impetus, I spent a long morning in thought. I wrote as I meditated on friendships, relationships, and our need for connection with others. And because I put so much of myself into it, I wanted to include it in my own blog.

Our friendships are more numerous than our romantic relationships and are as varied as the people we share them with. They begin and are based on so many factors – where we live, activities we participate in, where we work, go to school, or exercise ~ each circumstance, a jumping off point from casual acquaintance to the possibility of true life-long friendship.

One thing about people that doesn’t change is that they change – not necessarily in big ways – but we are all changing. Every day our experiences and interactions adjust our knowledge, our feelings, and our beliefs. We are still ourselves, but we have a changed view of the world and the people we share it with. Because we are each involved in the same process, there is the possibility that some differences will begin to effect relationships.

Sometimes, also, relationships are formed around a developmental task the individuals are working on. Their relationship is part of their unconscious push to work on that task. When one or both complete that task, then the relationship dissolves. If someone continues to form relationships that result in the same sort of challenges, that can indicate where an individual is striving to grow. This also explains why some friendships fade away at certain times in our lives – early childhood, grade school, young adulthood, etc. Those are natural boundaries in life’s progression.

Just like romantic relationships, some friendships can be life-long bonds between soul mates. Losing a friend like that can be as life-changing as a divorce or a death. I lost my best friend through death. Nothing could ever change our history, our mutual respect, the experiences we went through together, or the unconditional love we shared, but with every passing year we were changing. She was very deeply immersed in a life focused on a fundamentalist religion while I was pulled in a completely different direction spiritually. Though she is gone now and I’ll never know with certainty, I believe our friendship would have survived these differences, but some of our closeness would have been lost, because our beliefs were no longer shared in common. (I think particularly of her today – her birthday was October 13.)

Though it probably sounds rather cynical, it seems life is composed of one loss after another. We strive continually for love, peace and happiness, but those greatest of desires are elusive and fleeting. Despite our disappointments and losses, we get up, brush ourselves off, and with hope as our inspiration we fight onward. If we’re fortunate, our lives are a series of serene interludes seasoned with the blissful highs of exuberant happiness and breathtaking love and our lows only the briefest of punctuations, the poignancy that underlines the sweetness of our highs.

And friendship ~ it is the best and dearest of what our lives can hold. It’s our friendships that make our lives. And how happy I am to learn that despite a busy schedule and limited social outlets, there is still the hope of great friendship.

What I’ve learned in this wondrous world of cyber connectedness is that time, age, circumstance, and geographic separation do not constitute barriers to friendship; it takes curiosity, respect, a mutual desire for connection, and a willingness to invest the self. Cyber friendships are a pen-pal kind of friendship, but I have great faith in that mode. Much of my best friendship was based on letters. My best friend and I were apart geographically more years than we lived near one another.

Written words can be a more precise and deliberate mode of communication. The act of writing itself creates a secure and open atmosphere. It lends an intimacy that makes it easy to reveal the authentic person. Within the bounds of such trust and sharing lies the basis of lasting friendship.

In my life I have many relationships ~ family, friends, coworkers. Despite the numbers of them, none come even close to the kind of friendship I shared once upon a time. I have to wonder why. Is it my time of life? Have I changed so much that such closeness is not possible? Was it a developmental task or a series of developmental tasks that kept us in tandem for so long? Whatever it may be, I am enjoying the friendships I am building in the ether. They offer me the opportunity to experience other cultures and lives. There are a couple that I really care about, though I must admit, I feel more like an aunt, than a friend. Perhaps this is my way of holding onto youth. Certainly, there is much more room for reflection here.

I will wind this up by sharing some songs. My best friend and I had a custom of “giving” each other songs from time to time.

I gave her this one:
You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor

She gave me this one:
That’s What Friends are For by Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & Elton John

And I will leave you with a newer one I enjoy very much:
Hi, Friend by DeadMau5

🙂

Ready or Not, Life is Full of Surprises

It has been months since I posted anything here and though that’s not completely unexpected for me, I’m disappointed that I’ve let it lapse for so long. There have been reasons for this.

First off, my job changed drastically and quite unexpectedly. I’ve worked in the same library system for 13+ years, at the same location for five years and felt happy and content there. But my employer has a strategy of shuffling managerial staff around for various reasons. They do it periodically and it usually involves three or four people. Despite the fact that this is the way things work, I was taken completely off guard when I received a call on a Thursday afternoon in late March informing me I was being moved.

My first reaction was tears – couldn’t stop them. Several people who were there cried as well and we shared hugs and thoughts meant to focus on the bright side.

This was not the first transfer I’ve been part of, but it was the most poignant. Eight of us were relocated and I went from the most genteel location to one of the least. Not only was this unexpected, but it was precipitous. The move was effective a week from the following Monday.

That night my mother-in-law, Frances, had a stroke, though we didn’t realize it, yet. And on Friday she was hospitalized. The damage from the stroke was devastating and irreversible and she passed away on April 1st.

Frances was laid to rest in the same cemetery where Robert’s and my son, Joshua, was buried. We decided to have him moved to the same grave as his grandmother. It was something that had never been done there before, but they did a good job of it. They wrapped his tiny casket in a blanket and placed it on Frances’ casket as it was being lowered.

This delayed my start at the new location and added greater depth to the grief I was already feeling. I don’t want to make this move sound awful – or say that I don’t like it. The part of me that loves humanity and yearns to spend efforts on loving and helping others receives this with open arms and grateful heart. It’s the part who loved her previous coworkers and the part that’s a little anxious about rough social challenges that feels reticence.

So yes, this branch has some seriously rough spots. We have armed off-duty police officers on guard during the busiest parts of the day. And yes, we’ve made four 9-1-1 calls since I arrived – three with me the manager on duty, two involving knives…both of those were last week! This element is the reason I didn’t want to come. Several years ago – at a more tame branch – I was attacked by an autistic woman. She boxed my ears and ruptured one of my ear drums. So, I know that working in a nicer area doesn’t guarantee my safety, but psychologically, it feels like it.

This year my branch was one of three chosen as a site to extend the government subsidized free lunch program to children during the summer months. I can’t say enough about how wonderful this is and how it touches me, but I will say that it is a huge amount of work, especially for people who are used to dishing up novels and knowledge, rather than sandwiches and milk.

So, I’m learning a new location, a new community, a new staff, a new work partner – and it all takes mental and emotional energy. Did I mention that summers at the library are insanely busy? Plus, we’ve had the usual vacations, meetings, and training as well as some not-so-usual ones as we prepare for huge renovations in 2015.

In the end, what I’m saying is that I’ve been a little preoccupied and out of the spirit for blogging, but I’m working on rekindling the spark.

There is also the matter of the alternate identity I’ve been creating. She is known to only 3 or 4 people, so she gives me greater autonomy and anonymity for research and contacts related to my reading and writing projects. That ID has a blog, too, but she’s been subject to the same pressures as I have and she’s been silent as well, though she’s having some fun recently learning how to use instagram.

I wanted to attach a picture to this post, but can’t seem to manage it using this phone. That’s another skill to add to the growing list of things to learn. They say learning new things will keep you young, so I’ve got time.

Later…
I’m using a regular PC now and have a picture to attach. I hope it won’t seem to be in poor taste. It shows Frances and Joshua’s final resting place together. Frances doesn’t have a marker, yet, but Joshua’s is 18 years old and stands there for them both.

20140405_12191020140716_120633

Questions Old & New

Image

The local library offers Ed2Go and Learn4Life classes free to its patrons. There are a wide range of courses to interest just about anyone, but I haven’t paid a lot of attention to them.  When I finished my masters at the end of 2006, I swore off anything formal-education-like.

Then in November I gave in to a long-time desire to return to writing and participated in NaNoWriMo. I’ve forgotten my final word count, but it was around 35,000. Printed out, it’s about 80 pages and is half a story. It needs a lot of work, but I love my characters, so I want to give them their HEA.

Enter:  free 6-week writing course. Day 1 was 2/19.  So far, it’s fairly general. The instructor had a couple of suggested text books and I have them ordered.  There is also a class discussion forum which I have’t tried, yet. It’s a nice low-pressure get-out-of-it-what-you-put-into-it kind of class. I’m hoping for motivation, direction and some specific instruction for proceeding with my work.

Interestingly enough, one of the texts is called “Goal, Motivation and Conflict.”

Image

Motivation is probably the most critical of the qualities I am hoping for – for me more than my characters. I have been struggling to stay present…to be a participant in life. Depression has been dogging me hard the past year. No idea why. I have literally been living in books.  And I’d love that to change.

But I ask myself, is writing books better than reading them?  Can changing role from receiver to creator change the fact of living in a fabricated world?  Will it open a door beyond angst? Will it provide a passage from anxiety to serenity?  Can constructing happy endings play a part in generating real life counterparts? Or will it be a mode of passing time until life or brain chemicals or circumstances bring about an easier state of being?

Perhaps I will emerge at the end of six weeks with some answers, lighter insides, or at the least a HEA ending for my characters.

Music Plays Me

Image

My kitty, Mei-Mei, is never far away and especially loves to help me with the computer late at night. Honestly, she has this thing about playing with the cord on the earphones.  Sigh…

I’ve been thinking a lot about music lately. Thinking about how I push the button to start it up, but the reality is –> the music plays me…especially listening through headphones.  It pushes deep and satisfying  places in my brain. It plugs directly into my nervous system through my ears overwhelming my entire consciousness. Not only does it shut out the auditory world and distractions around me, but it focuses my attention. It pushes on places in my brain that have the power to make me move and steers my emotions. Sometimes in the silence afterwards, there is even a transitory effect of calm and serenity that feels like brain chemicals moving more synchronously and shoving hard against depression.

I keep listening to this Skrillex song, “Make It Bun Dem” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGpzGu9Yp6Y, retrieved 1.14.14). There is something about it that keeps me listening to it over and over. Am I the only one who does this?  When I feel strong attraction to a song, I can’t get enough of it. Only the presence of others who can hear me playing it is enough to make me stop. That is one of the appealing things about headphones…and cars…and being home alone.

If anyone could see the counts in my iTunes lists, they might be appalled.  A quick check just now reveals these high players on my recent favorites list: Too Close by Alex Clare,  Hayling by FC Kahuma, I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry, Superman by Five for Fighing, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N Roses,  When the Night Kills the Day by Monochrome Hearts,  Waste by Smashmouth and  Satellite by Smashmouth… but I won’t continue…and just so you know I skipped a few in there, too.  And I have to further qualify the list by saying that this is only since I had to move exclusively onto my laptop after a serious crash on my PC. Only a small portion of my music actually showed up here when I reauthorized iTunes. This short list is just where I’ve been sticking lately.

Can’t remember ever not loving music. Mainly I listen, but I used to play piano and guitar. Even wrote some of my own music when I was in highschool. Had a gorgeous Alvarez Yairi 12-string.  It eventually fell on the sacrificial fire of practical need and once it was gone, the making-music part of me went with it… down for the count. I was also in choirs and groups in the earlier parts of my life…could sing first soprano, though my voice has much less range and is quite unpracticed these days.  Ultimately, the listening has been an affirming richness in my life.  Music is waaaay up there with things that I would have trouble living without.

I will leave you with a song that is high on my list of true favorites. Every night Robert and I fall asleep listening to the same album. It is a Windham Hill anthology called Celtic Christmas III.  We started the fall-asleep-to-music thing early in our marriage. We started out listening to Windham Hill’s Bach Variations album and graduated from there to Celtic Christmas II. When III came out, we switched to that and have been listening to it ever since…probably 16 or 18 years….every night, sometimes playing it more than once if one of us is having trouble sleeping….that’s a really big count right there!

But of all the songs on that album, my absolute favorite is – “Black is the Color” by James McNally. It begins with wavering, chirring sounds like night creatures and the plaintive calling of a flute that mellows to rich and sultry low flute. There is a gradual gathering of more musical accompaniment and drums, at first like heart beats, until it builds to this gorgeous, sensuous presence. It can bring tears to my eyes. And it is gentle. And it is soothing. And it could hold you in the steadfastness of its measures.

“Black is the Color” by James McNally (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjoI0QTKcg4, retrieved 1.15.14)

Sweet Dreams…

Image

Seasons

Seasons in the Potter's Field

Tucked incongruously amongst hotels, service stations and fast food restaurants, an impoverished memorial park waits in patient resignation as it falls slow victim to neglect and decay.

In spring, it wears a hopeful look, not so different from the rest of the world awakening from winter slumbers. The kindness of new life, slight and nascent, has the same optimistic feel whether in a well-tended garden or embracing a marker that tilts disconsolately in a cold field.

But then summer brings with it a cruel vitality that speeds the rate of decay with every thriving leaf and limb. Each burgeoning bit of flora, hastening the decrepitude of the place.

When autumn days shorten, they slow time and kindly paint the field in warm sepia and earthy tones of umber and ocher. Though still there is the look of abandonment, it is a look more in keeping with its somber station.

Though I have driven past this place uncountable times, not once have I stopped to take more than a passing look. But today it called and I could not turn my back. I grabbed my camera and began a slow perambulation of the fields, taking pictures as I went.

What a different look the place wears in snow! All the edges smoothed and the ground evened out, only the smallest glimpses of collapse and erosion. And the brilliant glint and glitter of sun on crystal hint at the beauty lost beneath the surface.

As I walked a circuit of the place, I thought about the lives that had been and the lives that continue and about the unfathomable dimensions of time and space, but the cold was so bitter, it kept me firmly tethered to my body at my camera hand. I gained no wisdom, no serenity, only the bracing air in my lungs and the brilliant clarity of sun shining on snow.

When I had, at long last, circled back around to where I had started, the dry, cold gusts blowing snow across the fields had obliterated any trace of my passing. No prints remained to show where I’d begun, yet when I looked behind me, there was the evidence. I HAD been there.