Penitentiary

Waking in the morning is a rebooting of my memory and leads me to see that I am here. It tells me it’s the same place I was located yesterday with all its problems and intrinsic challenges. And as the day passes in a rather surreal sense, I wonder why I bother and when I can press pause, or stop…  And have the decreasing energy I feel cease to flow like a river from my soul.

When you live your dream it’s supposed to mean that each day is an effort towards a goal that has meaning, something more than trudging hopelessly uphill through scorching sand.  Where is the sense of satisfaction and achievement? When do I become accomplished and confident? When do I feel strong and wise?

Each day that passes my energy saps.  My body fails a little at a time, my songs are shorter, my limbs are weaker.  And I wonder, when it stops will I be afraid? Or will I be grateful to finally be at peace, no longer required to struggle and work.  I’m tired.  I think I’ll go lie down.

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The Boat Of the Moment

Sometimes life gets so crazy you just want to curl up in a ball and wait for everything to blow over.  I know it will pass and that my current demands will recede, but in the moment life feels rather overwhelming.  In spite of all that, I feel I’m able to maintain a mostly positive demeanor and I really appreciate that.  Over the years, I have gained more patience for challenges, with life, among my children, and even just facing things that are hard.

So what’s hard about life right now?  Well, during a recent trip to Florida, we fell in love with a beautiful boat.  We’re hoping that this will be the boat that becomes ours and is not just another “boat of them moment.”  There have been many boats that have caught our eyes over the years – so much so that I started calling whatever boat had our attention the “Boat of the moment” (BOTM) because feelings for the boat were always so strong.  We would find a boat and focus on some attribute that made us feel that no other boat could possibly equal the fine points that the BOTM had.  They were infatuations and they lasted only until another boat came along which spoke to us in a different way that overwhelmed the previous boat’s attractions.

I can’t say for certain if this boat is the one, because that has changed far too many times.  But what I will say is we came back home and put our house back on the market.  Within days we had a cash offer and today, we made an offer on our current BOTM.  I hope everything works out, I’m excited at the prospect of taking one more step towards the life we want to live.  I appreciate our ability to make an offer on this boat.

Finally – I want to say I am also happy that I found a name for BOTM.  As we’ve been boat hunting for a long time now, I have never found a boat name that really suited us or a boat we’d found.  Nothing resonated or seemed anywhere near as cool as the name I found for our current boat – “On A Whim.”  It seemed terrible to christen our new, larger fancier, more permanent boat with a name that was anything less awesome than the name of our first boat.

It was yesterday morning when the name finally came to me.  I was half asleep and trying to think about how the story of finding our boat would play out in a boat name.  I’d figured out that it would be appropriate to call it something like “Lemonade” because it was the only positive outcome of our misbegotten trip to Florida.  That trip seemed to epitomize the concept that if something can go wrong, it will.  Finding the boat, was the one bright spot on a horrible experience.  And that was when it occurred to me – as I rejected “Lemonade”, and “Silver Lining” that the boat should be named “On the Bright Side”.  I immediately knew it was the right name – that it fit the boat like a missing glove.  I sat up from my jumbled half sleep and called to Rusty, urgently.

“Rusty!  Rusty!!! I thought of the name of our new boat!”

And he thought the name was perfect; as did all three of my children.  Since I finally found a fitting name, does this mean the boat is destined to be ours?  I don’t know, but if one believes in signs, this seems like a good one.

Adrenaline

To Verlee Louise – I love you still

“It’s really nice out here mom.”  My 15 year old daughter is sitting on the porch steps, looking out over our barren but now very tidy garden.  She’s right, it is very lovely out.  And as much as she attributes it to the garden – I think more of it comes from the golden orb above.  The sun has been shining so spectacularly this week.  Even as I sit here typing on my computer, my back is warmed by the sun beaming through a large window.  It has been such a rainy winter and these warm days of early spring sunshine are a welcome beam into my soul.  I know it’s supposed to rain later this week, but for now I will enjoy the delight of crisp days and the scent of fresh blooming flowers.

I felt bad for my teacher first thing this morning.  She was about 5 minutes late to class, which isn’t like her – you can tell she’s the sort who attempts to maintain a good level of organization and responsibility. She croaked her welcome with a very froggy voice, hardly recognizable from the enthusiastic, if slightly awkward way she usually greats us.  I wondered why she’d even bothered to come to class and said as much – but she assured us we would be much too far behind if she had given in to her virus’s cruel efforts.

It made me appreciate that in the past 4 years, I’ve only been dreadfully ill with some sort of cold, twice.  I used to be the sort of person who caught every illness that drifted my way.  And when I caught it, I would be far more impacted than anyone else who had born it before me.  I had been this way since I was a child and wondered when my immune system would learn enough about the world I live in to exact a more moderating impact on my body.  I’m so grateful that my time seems to have come and I watch the children come and go with sniffles that rarely seem to impact me anymore.  It was with empathy and consternation that I watched my instructor futilely spraying Lysol on everything she touched, choking on the thick perfumed scent congesting my nose.   Hopefully my good fortune will hold and her attempts at disinfection are unnecessary.

For my psychopathology class, I decided to write a paper on my experience growing up with someone who had schizophrenia.  My stepmother Lee was a very important part of my life.  I valued her contributions to my well being and stability as a young child.  But as time passed, she slipped deeper into her own hallucinations and horrifying visions.  Initially, I didn’t know how to respond to her disease or her, but with time and understanding I continued our relationship and grew more supportive in what small ways I could.  Writing that paper describing her impact on my life and the reverse, made me remember how much I value what she gave me in life.  And so my final appreciation for today is Verlee.  She passed on 14 years ago, but I still think of her and miss her greatly.  She was a person who affected me deeply.

mom lee and baroo

My stepmother “Lee” (Verlee) – who was immensely important to me during my childhood. This picture was taken not long after we’d first met and she gave me the little dog you see – Baroo.

 

#3simplethings

changing perceptions; what is barren? What is pain?

Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful when you are suffering from chronic pain.  I don’t like to think of myself that way – it sounds so debilitating and it’s not a label I want to take on.  But I realize it doesn’t matter how much I ignore it, struggle through it or try to find ways around it, chronic pain is a part of my life right now.  I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me, as my mother has been debilitated with back problems for almost as long as I can remember.  But I find, that I prefer to live in a world that ignores the things that are trying to hold me back, like my pain.

I’ve been trying physical therapy, exercise, massage, cold packs and now, I’m trying a cortisol shot.  I really didn’t want to go there, but the doctor felt it would allow things to calm enough that I could then stretch and exercise the area to allow recovery into a point without pain.  Well, that sounds lovely – I hope it works.  Today, I did the injection.  They tell me it will take about 3 days or so to really kick in – though it feels alright now, because the injected some numbing stuff in with the cortisone.  I’m still stiff though – which may mean it wasn’t the right spot.

What I really want to say about this, is that even though I struggle with stiffness and hurt a lot, I’m so grateful that I do feel pain.  That I am able to walk.  That this is not so debilitating that I can’t go forward and do what I dream.  I am grateful to be boat shopping and experiencing this life.  I may not be as lucky as some, but I am more lucky than others and I appreciate that.

I’m also so appreciative of Rich – again.  We’ve hired him to do some of the weeding and getting things done around our yard.  I look outside and it looks barren, but organized again.  The garden is ready – ready for me to plant more squash and tomatoes and maybe some flowers.  I want the yard to look beautiful this summer for when we put the house up for sale.  So, this is the year to plant all those lovely annuals that really make the yard charming.  It will become an asset, “curb appeal” will be a positive factor in our favor.  For right now, I’m grateful that the yard is cleaned up, edged and weeded.  Those chores take me for ever and can be quite overwhelming.

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The front yard may seem bare – but it’s like a blank canvas ready for spring perennials and the careful placement of some new annuals. The center of bare dirt will hold another garden of fresh squash, tomatoes and whatever else piques my interest this year.

This morning when I went in for my injection, I was scared.  I’ve heard many times how a cortisone injection is one of the most painful shots you can have.  So, having it in my spine definitely gave me trepidation.  But the people who helped me, the nurses and aids were so kind.  And as they gave me magazines to entertain myself I found these shoes with springs in the heels.  They claim to lesson the impact of walking on your joints and your spine.  That got me so excited!  Maybe whether or not I get the shot will matter less than getting the shoes.  I do think a lot of my problem has to do with impact – and I hope this helps.  I came home and ordered a pair.  It will be interesting to see how they feel, and even more so, how I feel.

The zone of “flow”

Tonight, I cooked a creamed spinach with bites of chicken and mushroom which I put over pasta for me and steamed cauliflower for him.  You would expect that creamed spinach would be creamy, being as it’s doused in a creamy sauce that includes… cream.  But somehow baby spinach itself gains a silken texture that enhances the dish so that each bite feels like a soft velvet in your mouth and full of rich flavors that were moderated only by the soft noodles underneath.

I value that I am able to envision what I want to cook – and if It’s something different that I’ve either never made, or haven’t made in a long time – I can surf a few recipe sites to get an idea of the general way the ingredients are put together to then create my own inventions.  Cooking isn’t something I really love doing, but eating always has been and it’s nice to be able to make tasty things that I enjoy.

When you work at something long enough, you gain a level of skill that is above average – there is a certain flow to completion.  That flow feels good.  It’s interesting because I never used to think of myself as a writer.  When I would try to put down words, things felt awkward.  As I would try to describe what I wanted to say – the words were either stilted and slamming down like a mallet or they would twist and squirm into something so unrecognizable I’d realize I was completely failing to get my meaning across.  Because of the frustration, I avoided essays or things that required a certain form.  It was only in personal letters written to particular individuals that my words and stories would flow.

I’m not sure when I realized that I am able to tell stories that aren’t just letters and have the stories build the same way as when I’m talking to one particular person.  When the words are flowing well, it is that same high of being in a state of “flow” that carries me along.  I appreciate that writing comes easier for me now – but I appreciate even more that it has led to better editing.

Today I had to work on cruising reports for the sailing club newsletter.  I’m in charge of gathering and compiling all the reports from people who are out sailing on their boats.  What is given to me varies greatly in length and content, but all of it needs editing.  Sometimes it’s to improve the flow, other times it’s to shorten and pick out the most relevant and interesting details.  But I’ve notice that I am now able to see grammatical errors, or even simple ways to improve the sound of even the professional writers who submit works to us.  It is another ability to flow into something with a passion and turn words into a story that feels very good.

I’m glad for the skills that I have grown over time – they certainly weren’t talents I inherited from birth and have taken a great deal of time and attention to build into something resembling a professional competence.

Daughters

Fiona Sings – she is a little bird chirping with words and tunes that evolve in her mind.  I remember doing that when I was a child, I used to sing – random bits of songs I invented.  Usually, there was no particular refrain, or tune even.  I just liked singing.  Fiona does too – we’re alike in many ways, and this is one I really relate to.  It hurts my heart a little when  someone tells her to be quiet and stop singing.  She’s just expressing her internal sunshine, and it’s lovely.

Annika is amazing.  She makes friends so easily – but not shallowly.  She cares deeply for the people who come into her circle, encouraging them and nurturing them with her boundless energy and self confidence.  She’s warm, considerate, funny and empathetic.  That’s not to say she doesn’t have moments of her own insecurity, but that probably is what keeps her human instead of ascending to the heavens in pure divinity.  It might seem like I’m exaggerating – but really I’m not.  She’s amazing.

Linnea is so sweet to small things.  She notices the tiny creatures who are helpless and loves them.  I noticed it with the turtle at school – how she doted on it, and became responsible for its care.  It was amazing how the turtle responded.  I don’t usually think of reptiles as being that interactive with their people.  But the turtle definitely differentiates Linnea from other people and saves a special excited shuffle just for her.  It’s also been amazing to watch Linnea with Rachel’s new baby.  Not only is she fascinated by his cuteness (because he is adorable)… but she loves him and pays attention to his needs.  She looks at the subtle cues that he needs space, or attention and he reflects back to her the same sort of exuberant wiggling I see in the turtle.

This is merging into a fourth, but I can’t leave out Lara, though she’s no longer a child.  She has always been a very tender soul, bright like the sun, but easily overwhelmed.  Sometimes it can be hard to find her, as she hides like a sweet morsel afraid of being consumed by the vicious world around her.  But her voice shines through loud and strong if you are fortunate to find some of her writing.  It is there she expresses herself so completely and with passion that you see the strength that is deep inside her.

My girls are amazing in a myriad of different ways – like facets of a jewel.  I adore them.  I’m so fortunate to be a part of their lives.  I appreciate them all, every day – I love them, very much.

My three things

I’m always looking for ways to improve my life.  Sometimes I find really big things, but sometimes it’s smaller.  It’s not that my life isn’t good enough – it’s just sometimes I think maybe I’m not grateful enough – or fail to appreciate the here and now enough.

A while ago I was tagged on facebook to write three things I appreciated every day for 7 days or some such, and then I was supposed to tag a bunch of people.  Most of the people I knew had already done the exercise… but I also thought it was kind of sad that we all did this for seven days and then stopped.  Why did we stop?  I loved reading other people’s stories, and I wanted to keep sharing mine.  So, I made this big pronouncement that I wasn’t going to tag anyone, but that I would continue to write what I appreciated and everyone else should too.

It was amazing how no one took my advice… not even myself.  I did not continue to write about all the things I appreciated, instead I shared articles and liked people’s posts and occasionally made noisy statements about things that made me passionate.  But the daily appreciation fell to the wayside.  A few days ago, I read another one of the articles in my newsfeed – and it spoke about how to really be happy, in the here and now, we should write, every day – every morning ideally – three things that we appreciate.

I remembered my decision to do so – and how it had fallen to the wayside almost immediately (did i even make one post beyond the requisite 7?  I don’t think I did…)  And I felt inspired, to take up what I had so casually set aside.  So, for a couple of days, I posted three things.  I didn’t make any sort of big pronouncement about it… I just started doing it.  A few people have liked it, including myself.  Maybe most importantly, myself.  But I realized that I would rather do this someplace where I could share it with people who aren’t on facebook.  And I wanted someplace to keep these memories of things that happen day in and day out that are important, and that I’m thankful for.  So, I’m going to start writing them here.  And hopefully – I’ll do it daily – or at least most days.

To start – I’m grateful for word press.  It makes a cool place, to keep my writing and allows me to share it with others.  It’s really easy to publish to facebook, linked-in and probably other places I don’t really frequent, but maybe other people I know do.  I enjoy typing my thoughts and I’m happy I have this place.

Secondly – I’m really really grateful that Rusty’s surgery went well.  It was a minor surgery, but any sort of invasive procedure is scary.  He’s sitting here patiently waiting for me to write this, while his eye is covered in ice to keep the swelling down.  I love him so much – it would be scary for me, if something happened to him.  So I really appreciate that the surgery went well.

Finally, I’m grateful to Chloe.  It’s kind of silly, but I have this class I’ve really been enjoying.  The professor is so thoughtful and interesting and he has a lot of insights about psychology and theory and politics.  But he’s old.  And he’s come through a very bad bout with cancer.  He lost his wife.  He’s only just returned to teaching and there is definitely some cognitive decline.  Tomorrow, is his birthday.  Chloe is a sweet girl in my class.  The one who asks a lot of questions, but also asks who you are, and introduces her self in a friendly and forthright manner.  Chloe, decided that we should celebrate our professors birthday – because even though he tends to meander in thoughts, he is a real treasure and we are lucky to be learning from him.  She made a card, and had us sign it.  She asked us to bring in cupcakes, but when no one volunteered – she made a cake herself (actually – 4 people brought in goodies, so it turned into a potluck of sweets.)  And when we played the song that Nick had picked out for his shabbatz birthday – he cried as he blew out the candles, so touched was he that we cared.  So yes, I’m grateful to Chloe, for orchestrating and organizing that.  It mattered.