Magic

My mom was my hero. Of course, I did not fully understand this when she was alive. I found her advice annoying, her calls intrusive, her desire to love me infantilizing. I took her for granted. How sad for me. And how normal. She was my greatest supporter, cheerleader, and die hard fan.

It took me time to be secure enough to accept her offerings without feeling belittled, to feel proud of the different and exceptional woman she was. She didn’t fit the mold of the era, she was outspoken, smart, divorced, and a working woman long before it was popular to be one. She gave me a role model I didn’t want, not when I was young. I wanted her to be avalable for my school trips and make cookies with me after school like the other moms. She was instead an avid reader, a communicator, a loving and difficult parent, and a representative of resilience. After work, we’d sit in the kitchen while she cooked dinner and we would discuss our days, then when the dishes were clean, we’d curl up on the couch to watch our favorite television programs each with a generous helping of our favorite ice cream in a deep bowl. On weekends we’d listen to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and sometimes Johnny Mathis and dance around the living room, leaping and hopping and laughing.

I resisted what she gave, not intentionally, I was a child who longed for normalcy, I wanted our family to be average, common, like my friends. She offered an extraordinary, wide open to criticism existence. She was in the Army at 18 years old during World War II. She taught me, albeit begrudgingly on my part, that women were strong and capable and only limited by themselves and their beliefs. She taught me how to be a mother, what unconditional love and sincere devotion looked like, and how to be a powerful and less than perfect human being.

I now realize how liberating and empowering that was. How magical my time with her turned out to be. I have everything to thank her for.

And mom, I miss you intensely, but I also appreciate you beyond my ability to express. I expect, on some divine plane, you already know this.

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Untethering

My lack of interest in writing can mean one of two things; I’m content and do not feel the need, or I’m suppressing.

I believe it’s the former, and personal history will back up the decades I was too busy, tired, or happy to write.

Yet, not writing, from the point of view of a discipline, distresses my psyche.

I know there are ‘shoulds‘ here:

A writer should write

If I care about my blog and followers I should  be posting

I should have something of worth to say

And yet, without the voice in my head telling me what I should want, I do not want to write. Not on a continual, scheduled basis.

There are areas of my life in flux and said flux causes anxiety. I am a magical thinker, and a positive thinker. When life drops uncertainty on to the grey matter of my brain (which it inevitably does), it’s like nerve endings in electric sockets. Shocking, annoying, provoking, jolting, uncomfortable. I like to believe I have answers, I like to believe I’m in control.

Surprise!

No, wake up call.

Yesterday – with a wind and rain storm keeping me dutifully inside – I am given continual reminders about staying exactly where I am in time, in the present.

Reminder Number One: I am on the phone with a friend of 40+ years and we are discussing transitions that we are facing. We discuss happiness, pain, stories that have endured as long as we have, how to let go, how (or if) we can forgive. The end result we reach is that staying in the present – not the past that is gone or the future that hasn’t happened yet – helps our anxiety subside.

Reminder Number Two: Facebook sends me a blog post that I’d written in March of 2014. Of course I can no longer locate it so I cannot insert a link, but it was all about what we had been discussing. There is nothing new about this conversation or its component parts, Aristotle, too, wondered.

Reminder Number Three: I pick up a magazine that I’d gotten halfway through and turn to an article by Miuccia Prada. “Crises are always positive because they force you to think,” says Miuccia Prada, reflecting on Italy’s political and economic woes. “You redesign reality. When everything is going well, people get lazy!” Yep.

Reminder Number Four: I turn on the television and for three minutes I watch ‘The Talk’. In those few minutes someone says, “God bless the broken road, because that’s how we grow. When things aren’t going as we want, the universe isn’t giving us a hard time – no – it’s giving us a heads up to change the thoughts and decisions that got us to this point in the first place so that we can move on.” Hello, world.

Reminder Number Five: I am reading a book titled, the untethered soul, the journey beyond yourself  by Michael Singer. It speaks to me on so many levels that by the time I finished the first chapter I vowed to read it again and again. It is about consciousness, and that voice in our heads that never shuts up. It is about staying open, not closing off, even when something that we perceive as bad is happening. Relax and release, he says.

Reminder Number Five: My youngest son drops by to have dinner before heading out to a weekend bachelor party. We eat and laugh and remain squarely in each moment. Not only is it exactly where I want to be, but it is exactly what it is; son and mom enjoying time together. I am acutely aware that all present realities are not sunny, but they are all we have. So my lesson is to remain in them, no matter what my judgments of them are, because they too will pass.

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First Sex Ed. The Death Ed.

In Sunday’s New York Times (February 19, 2017) a wonderful article quietly graced the bottom halves of pages 6 and 7.

First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed.

The title drew me immediately, and the contents didn’t disappoint. The author is a doctor who practices critical and palliative care in a California hospital, and she is drawing a parallel between two relatively taboo subjects. Sex and Death. We aren’t taught to discuss or even research sexual safety, alternatives, procedure, S.T.D.’s. That isn’t cool. And we assuredly are not taught to think about, never mind discuss, end-of-life wishes. That is morbid. We prefer to believe, beyond hope and reason, that we will not be the ones to ever die.

How ignorantly indulgent and self delusional can we remain?

“The sooner we start talking about how we die, the better.” Dr. Jessica Zitter writes. She means having conversations not only with her dying patients, often too late, but with high school teenagers. This allows students to explore the future deaths of relatives and/or friends, have discussions about death, loss, cancer, dementia, and see films about unrealistic rescues, respirators, and restraints.

After which they play a game called “Go Wish”.  Students are asked to identify their most important preferences and values. There are talks about strategies that can be used to communicate these preferences to health care teams or family.

How much longer will we remain illiterate? Should we care about another’s dying wishes or bother to learn how to communicate with them?

It is never easy to usher in conversation on topics that society would rather not discuss. Yet, without those uncomfortable and difficult conversations, how will we ever reach a time when death is treated consciously, humanely, and lovingly?

I, for one, open up the discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Depth and Honesty

Writing friends are different from regular friends, it doesn’t take the same amount of time to get to know one another because we share ourselves in serious, heart heavy stories. Even when we use humor.

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The Write

My writing life is close to a blank slate of late. This can be viewed in varying ways. Is it open, available, and receptive or is it simply nothing?

Hamilton Island

It is both.

After giving myself a hard time about not writing often enough, I’ve concluded this is neither a good or bad situation, it simply is. And, for me, it is nothing new (although at times I long for those intense expressive days).

I’ve been this way since my early teens. I know there are popular philosophies stating that one must write daily, keep the muscle oiled and taut, which makes perfect sense, for someone else. Knowing ourselves is essential to understanding what will and will not work. We are not cookie cutters of one another and I wouldn’t want to be.

At differing points in my life I’ve journaled, wrote three sentences a day, blogged, composed a memoir, sent poems to loved ones. But momentarily, I am blank. Spurts of inspiration occasionally occur and a poem arrives. But that is the extent of it for now.

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And I am okay with that. When I have something to say, when it is fiery or painful or loud or insistent, I write. Until then, I’ll explore elsewhere.

Life is short, and we all deserve (even our own) kindness.

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Today

Today a nor’easter barrels into Connecticut with the force of a bully. The aftermath will deposit 10-18 inches of snowy white powder on every conceivable surface.

Today horrific highway conditions show tractor trailers jackknifed and cars stranded on streets and roadways. The danger is pervasive, there is nowhere to go, no errand that can be run.

Yet peering out the window is magnificent. It’s beautiful and peaceful.

The snow is magical for me. As a child growing up in Brooklyn, my cousin and I would climb atop ten foot mounds hoisted on sidewalks by Department of Sanitation trucks to clear the streets. Those snow-day treks were adventures in exploration and physical prowess ending in warm baths and hot chocolate. Later,  I learned to ski and then drive in those slippery conditions.

The woman versus nature theme was emboldening and humbling. Nature with her irrational and random powers to pull and harm and Wendy with her human frailties and mental capacities wanting to overcome what might stand in her way.

Today I have no such need or desire. I stay inside where it is warm, where it is safe. Where food will satisfy hunger, heat will satisfy warmth, and where walls and windows are protection from the elements.

Today, I am happy to be still and see the beauty from within.

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Forgiveness and Self Love

I’ve decided to forgive myself. I have generations of women I’m carrying along with me. That’s okay, they deserve forgiveness too.

Koala

It’s been a long time coming as forgiveness – in my case – is also tied up with being in the present. Not forgiving myself had the unintended consequence of keeping me stuck in my past and in my mind’s future. This recurring predicament happened because I too easily slipped into those time slots as though they were current. In these time/space continuums, I’d allow a past or possible future issue to live in my present and alter my equilibrium.

This forgiveness, which has taken me so long to achieve, and which I know is more than a one time occurrence, I simply chose to grant myself. Today.

I want to spend my time in the present, the here and now. This lesson has piggybacked on the forgiveness lesson, both needing acknowledgment and acceptance to show themselves. I fought the idea of forgiveness partly because I didn’t know how to achieve it. I was in the past where I could not affect change, or in the future where I had no power.

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This is a lesson I have learned and forgotten more than once. I was acutely aware of time when my parents were terminally ill because being in the present was the only timing that mattered. The severity of the situation helped keep me there, it was more circumstantial than zen on my part. Still, I experienced it. Then life settled down, and back I went to old familiar ways of being.

On January 20th, I will be celebrating a five year anniversary with the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with.

When my mother told me shortly before her death that I should be with someone who has integrity, is generous, accepts my children, and treats me like a queen – I understood but that didn’t make it happen any sooner. It took another two years. Get thee not riled my feminist friends- being someone’s queen is not a bad thing, it’s glorious when offered authentically. It can signify devotion, love, and respect.

And most of us, men and women alike, deserve that.

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My mother, you may remember, was one of the first women other than nurses to join the US Army so her feminism and heroism and courage must not be misjudged. She was exceptional, political, difficult, honest and she loved me without reservation.

So for now, feeling content and protected in the moment is where I choose to remain. I’ll also work to stay conscious so as not to give myself a hard time when I realize I have not. I will meditate, gently make corrections, and continue along the road. Sometimes you have to take a breath, stay committed and open, and see what happens.

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