Little spoken; much understood.

Sunday, September 21, 2008–a journal entry.

It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m sitting in my mother’s room at the hospital.  Her roommate’s daughter has gone home for the day.  The room is quiet except for the occasional snoring of Miss Edna the roommate.  Mom’s name is Edna, too.  It was apparently a popular name back in the early 1900s.  Mom has never liked it but she accepted it as her lot in life.  She had to accept hardships much worse than her name over the years.

She is in extended care which, the best I can tell, is the last step before the nursing facility, which entails a quick move upstairs to the second floor.  Before the move the physical therapists are working with her twice a day to make her stronger.  Some days she participates enthusiastically;  others she tells them she doesn’t want to go, she’s too tired.  Her emotions have run the gamut from anger to sadness to reluctant acceptance since she came here about two weeks ago.

Today she’s calm.  On days like this she wants me to pull my chair up close so she can hold my hand.  In fact she wants to hold both my hands with both of hers.  She rolls on her side facing me.  I get as comfortable as I can and we soothe each other.  There is little conversation between us.  Little is needed.

It’s sweet that she thinks of my comfort.  She says to me, “Are you uncomfortable, Honey?  I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”   I reassure her, “I’m fine, Mom.”  And because of her increasing dementia she asks the same question five minutes later.  I lie to her again.

In a while she tells me, “Patty, I appreciate your taking care of me.”  I say, “I’m glad to do it, Momma.  You took care of me for a lot of years.”  As the tears roll down both our faces, she adds, “I wish I still could.”

We remain silent then until she starts to doze.  I kiss her cheek and whisper, “I love you, Mom,” as I take my leave for the night.

Mom died less than a year later on August 13, 2009.


Where’s the fun? In dysfunction!

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Dysfunction(al) is an overused word.  Think about it.  Everything is dysfunctional.  Families.  Governments.  Churches.  Courts.  Schools.  Couples.  Even an individual can be dysfunctional if he/she has dysfunctional brain cells.  And of course there’s Bob Dole’s favorite:  Erectile dysfunction.  (I wonder how much they paid him for that Viagra commercial and how did Liddy feel about it?)

When I was growing up I thought there were two types of family: the alcoholic one like mine and the Ozzie and Harriet one we watched on TV.  The two types were probably not as far removed from each other as I thought when I was a child.  What exactly was the reality beneath the smooth facade of the Nelsons?  Maybe Harriet nipped a little when she was home alone day after day.  Maybe Ozzie had a paramour.  Maybe Ricky spent so much time on his music that his grades bit the dust.  Maybe Dave, the first child (the hero) was single-handedly holding the family unit together.  Not an unrealistic scenario if today’s psychologists are right and all families really are dysfunctional.

When I first met my in-laws I thought they were like the TV family, not crazy like mine.  Of course I was wrong.  We were  no more dysfunctional than they were, they just hid it better.  One thing sticks out even today.  My father-in-law had about as much difficulty showing affection as my dad did.  (Could be their generation, the WWII men.)  I knew he cared about me but he never said he did.  I cared a great deal for him.  He was funny.  So he put a bit of fun in dysfunctional.  He passed away after D and I were separated.  I still miss him.  I imagine D misses him something awful.  He was a good, good man.

I learned a great deal growing up in my crazy family.  I learned to survive.  I learned to laugh.  I learned to run like hell when things got too crazy–sometimes by literally running and sometimes by simply removing myself geographically or emotionally or both.  I learned to take those skeletons out of the closet and make them dance from time to time because they really can be entertaining and funny now that I no longer live in the same house with them.  More and more every day I choose to forget the dys and look for the fun.

A sense of humor is the greatest gift!  So have fun with your dysfunction.  That may be why you have it.

Credit to Mary Engelbreit for the poster pictured above.

Mother nature’s daily adieu.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. ~ Rabindranath Tagore

One of my favorite things about living in the NC mountains was the daily glory of sunset.  I have so often thought that sunsets are best over the mountains or a body of water.  Imagine my delight when I discovered the beauty of sunset over rooftops in suburbia.  I took this photo from my front porch over the roofs of my neighbors’ houses.  (Click the picture to get the full effect.)  Beauty is wherever I find it.  And I find it everywhere.

I’ve realized recently that I notice more now that I live alone.  (I’ve been alone for slightly more than four years.)  There are fewer distractions.  I read somewhere that living alone has become the new normal.  Does that mean I can now be considered normal?  Maybe we shouldn’t take it quite that far.  (Giggle.)  But it is good to know that I have lots of company.

Living alone isn’t for sissies.  Whatever comes my way I have to manage by myself.  For example, I expected the storm restoration people to get back to me last week.  They didn’t.  Come Monday, I’ll have to put on my nice professional voice and call them.  My great granny used to say, “Remember, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  And I will.  And the roofers will replace my roof.  The painters will paint my deck and shutters.  The air conditioner folks will comb my AC units whatever the heck that means.  (I know the hail put little dents all over those little honeycomb-looking sections and they’re less efficient with the dents.)  Oh, the things I’ve learned that I never wanted to know!

A little perspective here:  The sun sets every day and I get to watch it.  And life is good.

A very strange event.

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.                         ~ Marcus Aurelius

I got up earlier than usual Monday morning.  I was feeling fine.  Singing out loud.  Dancing with Tom Petty while I cleaned house.  A good day.

Around midday I checked cyberworld and found that I had an e-mail from my ex-husband.  It was not very nice.  In fact, he threatened me with legal action.  It seems that someone had told him something about my blog and he didn’t like it.  I’m still  not entirely certain what the mystery person told him.  He already knew I was writing a blog.  I told him.  In fact, when we had our long talk several months ago, I told him that I sometimes made snide remarks in my blog but that I actually was over the divorce pain for the most part.  And I would think that he would know me well enough to realize that “snarky” is part of who I am, even part of my humor.  I also explained to him that the writing had been my therapy and was part of the reason I no longer had any ill will toward him.  I thought we had reached a new understanding, that we had communicated in a meaningful way.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was a bit taken aback by his anger and accusations.  But I’m happy to say that it lasted only briefly–as in two to five minutes.  And that’s when it dawned on me that I was left wondering what was going on with him and that whatever it was, it didn’t have the effect on me that it once would have.  I didn’t take on his burden.  I was able to detach from it and leave it alone.

I still don’t know who riled him up and I don’t want to know.  I suppose I’m afraid it’s someone I know and love.  Whoever it was didn’t have anyone’s best interest at heart.  I won’t guess at motive.  Could be ignorance.

Life teaches us lessons when we least expect to learn them.  I learned from this strange experience that I am well.  Better than I realized.  C’mon, Tom Petty, let’s sing and dance!

“We have met the enemy…”

We have met the enemy and he is us. ~ Pogo

I have an urgent need to write tonight.  There are dozens of matters on my mind and I don’t know which way to go.  I apologize in advance if I ramble.

I used the Pogo quote above because I think of it as a truism.  (In case you don’t know, Pogo is a comic strip ‘possum.) We are all our own worst enemies at one time or another.  Well, I won’t speak for you but I am.  I become my enemy when I’m angry or resentful or unforgiving.  As I’ve worked through the difficulties that lost love brings, I have found that I often have to stop, center myself, breathe deeply and visualize myself letting go of whatever is causing me pain.  Sometimes I go as far as to say, “Breathe in love and peace, breath out anger or jealousy or vengeful thoughts.”  Or whatever is causing me to be unhappy.  You get the picture.  It would be nice if I could do this exercise once or twice and be cured.  Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.  I have to get in a comfortable position and really focus for fifteen or twenty minutes.  If I’m unusually bad on a given day I have to do it three or four times that day.  And often I’ll think the pest is gone and it will crop up again when I least expect it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one person could do this exercise for another who is hurting?  But we cannot.  And it is so important to get these negative awful poisonous things out.  But first we have to know what we are dealing with and that entails taking a good hard look at ourselves.  Not so easy to do.  Can we breathe out anger if we can’t define it as anger?  I think we can.  At least enough to feel better temporarily.  That’s when I have to breathe in peace and breathe out whatever is making me miserable.  As in, I don’t know what it is, I just know I’m miserable.

So, D, this post is for you.  And if I could, I would breathe into you all the good things that you need and I would remove all the negatives that are making you sad or angry or miserable or unwell.  I wish I could make you well.  I can’t. But I can wish you well.  And I do.

What we learned here is love tastes bitter when it’s gone. ~ Rob Thomas

Today is a good day. I have arrived.

I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be.  I’m free to be what I want.             ~ Muhammad Ali

Like the turtle, I am sometimes slow in getting to where I want to be.  It takes a lot of soul-searching to figure out my truth and how to find it.  And I can only ever know my way and my truth, never that of someone else.

Today I learned a new truth.  My ex-husband can no longer push my emotional buttons.  It is a good day indeed.

An angry man opens his mouth and shuts his eyes. ~ Cato

I think it’s gonna rain today.

Human kindness is overflowing,                 And I think it’s going to rain today.                    ~ Randy Newman

11:45 a.m. The weather report promises showers today.  I’m hoping.  We need the rain and I need to stay upstairs in my sewing room and clean.

5:45 p.m.  I’ve always loved rainy summer days.  When I was a child I would lie in my room and read.  I still do that.  But today I’m in one of my organizational frenzies.  This is a large room and all my fabrics and art supplies reside here.  No matter how often I straighten and organize I still can’t find a thing.  I’m beginning to think I need to hire a professional to come in and help me out.  I have figured out that I have too much stuff and I’ve been getting rid of some of it, very slowly.  The closet is fairly roomy but is not organized in a way that makes sense.  So I went out and bought stacking storage bins to put in it.  Of course I need more than I thought.  Another trip to the store.  It’s looking like a pretty good solution.

I started out writing this post in a philosophical mood.  No intention of talking about cleaning and organizing.  Too boring.  I was actually waxing philosophical about rain.  I’ve been thinking about the different effects it can have on my mood.  Or does it?  I started to realize today as I was moving things around that it affects my mood only if my mood is iffy to begin with.  Or if it rains for days on end.

Today started with the sky looking very dark and I was wishing for one of those long, slow nourishing rains.  Didn’t happen.  It was very hot and sunny through the middle hours of the day.  But as you can see by the photo here, a brief and fairly heavy stormy rain blew in this afternoon.  I’ll take it. It wasn’t the kind of rain that encouraged me to get out and walk in it, something I love doing in the summer.  I did go in the back yard after the storm and found a puddle or two for my bare feet.  Didn’t find any mud to squish through my toes, though.  Sweet childhood memories.

I am remembering now a few years ago when two of my granddaughters were little girls.  We were living on the mountaintop then and it was raining hard but there was  no lightening or thunder.  (And no neighbors.)  They asked if they could go outside.  I told them they should take their clothes off first so we wouldn’t have to waste energy drying them.  I can still remember their looks of sheer glee.  It took them about two seconds to strip and hit the grass in the front yard.  They are much too old and sophisticated to do that now but I hope they will always have their memories of how free they felt that summer evening at Grammy and D’s house.

Secure…or not?

Security is a superstition, it does not exist in nature.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.                    ~ Helen Keller

I wonder how many of us have reminded our loved ones to “be careful.”  As I get older, I find myself more and more often telling them to “have fun” or “enjoy yourself.”  Certainly we want them (especially children) to exercise good judgment and even caution when they first start to solo.  But it was never my intention to make my children so cautious or fearful that they couldn’t have a good time.  I hope they didn’t interpret it that way.  When a child grows up scared of too many things she has a huge obstacle to overcome in adulthood.

I’ve thought a great deal about security these last few years.  I thought I had a secure marriage but I didn’t.  If what Helen Keller said is true, then is all security a myth?  A false security?  Another famous American woman had something to say about this as well.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the long run it is easier.”  She doesn’t mention the word security here but I think it is implicit in what she’s saying.  Okay.  Bear with me.  I’m trying to think this through for myself.  If there’s no real security, and if I can get an adrenalin rush from fear or from courage, why don’t I jump in feet first and sink or swim?

I wrote about finding adventure in a recent post.  I guess I’m still doing that.  Perhaps I’m trying to convince myself that I’m up to it, that I can be adventurous.  Margaret Deland said, “As soon as you feel too old to do a thing, do it.”  Understand I’m not feeling all that old.  But I have thought of a number of things recently that I might want to do, things that  I haven’t done in a long time, and I’ve shrugged them off and said, “Nah.  Maybe not.”  Tomorrow I’m going to make a list of things I might want to do.  Then I’m going to survey the list and say, “Why not?” or “Maybe so.”

Active voice.

We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice–that is, until we stop saying, “It got lost.” and say, “I lost it.” ~ Sidney J. Harris

I lost my husband.  I lost my marriage.  I lost the future I expected to have.

Every once in a while I read something that hits me between the eyes and tells me something about myself.  Using the active voice gives me a great deal more power than I have when I write in the passive.  I have been conscious of that in my writing for years.  (I even programmed Word to alert me when I use passive voice.)  For those too young to remember him, Sydney J. Harris was a journalist.  That means, of course, that he knew all about writing in the active versus the passive voice.  But his quote above tells me that he had learned to apply it to his life and his attitude about life.  That’s what I want to do.  What must I do in order to accomplish this goal?

When I say things such as: “I was dumped by my ex.” or “My marriage was sabotaged by my ex and his sweetie.”, I am portraying myself as a victim.  I am not claiming the power that is rightfully mine.  I’ve started to think of it as a type of  negative self-talk and it has to go.  Even though those passive statements are true, stating them that way is not helpful any longer.  Was I a victim?  Yes.  Am I now a victim?  Absolutely not.  Nor will I ever be again if I can remember to be active, powerful and assertive.

I talk to myself all the time now that I live alone.  Sometimes in my head and sometimes aloud.  I have recently become aware that the things I say to myself are often not very complimentary.  I intend to stop it.  I deserve good things and kind talk.  And so do you.

What was I thinking?

Is it really so difficult to tell a good action from a bad one? ~Mary McCarthy

Have you ever said or done something and then knew almost instantly that you shouldn’t have?  Like my blogger friend who stuck her hand in the mailbox slot to retrieve the mail instead of unlocking the box?  (You know who you are.  And I’m still laughing about that.)  I can mentally hear her saying, What was I thinking?  as she pulled her battered hand out.

I have my share of such incidents.  There’s the time I entered the car wash with the driver’s window open.  It took me about two seconds to get drenched.  What was I thinking?

And there’s the case of Congressman Anthony Weiner who sent pictures of his “weiner” through cyberspace to numerous women.  Yes, he’s married and his wife is three months pregnant.  When the paparazzi asked him what he was thinking, he admitted that he “wasn’t thinking.”  This story gets weirder and funnier.  Weiner’s wife works for Hillary Clinton.  And clueless Anthony called Bill Clinton up to apologize for his actions.  Bill Clinton?!?  What were you thinking, Anthony?

When I was a little girl and went to town with my mother we had a local blind man who played guitar and sang on the street in front of the barber shop with a tin cup at his side, hoping for donations.  We would listen for a bit and then my mom would take my hand and lead me away.  Well, I couldn’t get enough of him.  I think it was because of the music but also because he was blind.  So even though my mom was towing me away, I was still looking back.  She would then say to me, “Don’t stare, Honey, it’s not polite.”  But, Mom, he’s blind.  What was she thinking?  (Note:  The blind man was discovered during the 60s folk revival and now at the age of 87 is still playing and singing and most folks call him a national treasure.)

I am an impulsive type and I often say things I want to take back.  Some of them I am too embarrassed to tell you.  I’ve said before that when I write a post for this blog my fingers take over.  Well the same is true of my tongue when I talk.  Sometimes I wish I had some sort of beep that would sound when I say something stupid or inconsiderate or unkind.  I would like fewer opportunities to say, What was I thinking?  At least when I’m writing I can “save draft” and proofread my work.

Life is good.  Have a good weekend.