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I’ve been M.I.A. for about a month now. Big things and big changes have been sweeping through my life, and most of what I’ve been writing has been in my journal (home for all the news that’s not fit to print).
One of the big things I’ve been dealing with is this:
At about five in the morning on December 21st, my dad collapsed (a couple of times), and they took him to the emergency room. After about seven hours of running every conceivable test that you can run on a body, they finally pinpointed what was causing the trouble – he had 80% blockage in his ‘widow-maker’ artery (runs along the front of the heart – and isn’t it nice that it’s named that & that the doctors and nurses actually call it that in front of you? Neat. Thanks. We weren’t scared enough) and 60-70% blockage in one of the arteries that runs alongside his heart.
He went from feeling fine and fit the day before, to facing open heart surgery the next morning. My dad is a 57 year old non-smoking, non-drinking, daily bran-eating, daily walker with a physique that could be featured in medical texts as ideal for the male of the species.
He also has a family history of high cholesterol that is unaffected by diet or exercise (as in, didn’t matter how many bran muffins my dad snarfed down, or how many miles he walked, he was going to have to deal with this anyway). His father died of a major heart attack at age 65, again somewhat unexpectedly – a fact which was forefront in all of our minds during this.
So, we were all thrown for the proverbial loop. And it called all sorts of things into question, made each of us face and deal with things that we’d been burying or looking away from. And I’m grateful.
I played the ‘what-if’ game about it all (I am the uncontested champion of this game), and no matter how I ran the scenarios through in my head, they did not turn out nearly as prettily as reality did. And so, I couldn’t be anything other than grateful. Grateful that it all happened, and grateful that it all went precisely the way that it did.
In the intervening weeks, dad’s done a lot of healing physically. I’d been more worried about his mental/emotional healing – when you discover the body’s ability to betray, you end up feeling whammied, and I was worried about how he’d handle the whammy. I shouldn’t have worried – I should have just trusted. Dad’s coping well – and he has a lot of time for introspection, since he’s in enforced low-activity for at least six weeks following the surgery.
I went over there this week to help them denude the house of all the Christmas hoopla, since pop can’t lift more than 5 to 10 pounds. And dad turns to me and says, “You still plan on taking me grocery shopping today?” And I, of course, said, “Absolutely!” when I was really thinking, “Hunh? Didn’t remember that…but okey dokey.”
I was probably the best one to bring – I let him have his way and do things his way…until he shouldn’t. I’m not shy about calling people out, and we all know it. So, I was the perfect policeman. We had a great talk the whole way there, and the whole time we were shopping.
And on the way home, the talk turned to how he was dealing with his recovery, and some of the things that were starting to glimmer in the murk for him. I mentioned that Dave (my brother) was probably having the hardest time with all of this. And dad, in typical understated fashion, said, “Well, he probably thought I was dying in his arms, so I suppose he would be.”
And I told him that wasn’t the reason. It was because when Dave was young, he hungered for my father’s attention (which for a variety of reasons, wasn’t available), and then when Dave got older, my dad hungered for more connection with his son…and now Dave is mulling all of it over, and wanting to deepen their relationship. But they’re both the stoic and stubborn products of our Austrian ancestry (which seems to cancel out the Irish in the worst possible ways…), and they don’t reach out well. So, I dropped my pebble into that still pond, and trusted that the ripples would wreak whatever changes to the shoreline that they were meant to – or not – and I let it go.
And then I turned to him and told him that I’d had a hard time with all of this, too, but not for the same reasons. I said that I just wasn’t ready to lose my father yet – I was greedy and wanted many more years together. He smiled. And I said that I felt like he and I were square, that we’d done all the reconnecting and that we had a good relationship, and that I didn’t have regrets – only the greedy desire for more of it. I asked him if he felt the same, and he smiled and said, “Yeah Carolyn, we’re good.”
I know how lucky I am to be able to have that conversation with my dad, and to know deeply that it’s true. I also know that I made my own luck there. I reached out to him in my typically tactless and blunt fashion when I was done being an angsty teen and told him I didn’t like the vibe we had and that I wanted more…and what I wanted it to look like. And then we built it.
In the course of our grocery shopping conversation/excursion, I told him that I regretted nothing about my life. It didn’t strike me until right now, that he’d looked at me kind of oddly, and said, “Really?” with the kind of incredulity that implies sincere and invested interest in the answer. No, dad, I regret nothing. Because all of it brought me here, made me who I am now in this moment. Even the worst stuff shaped me (and I’ve gone through some muddy and bloody trenches in my short life) – and is, perhaps, what I ended up being most grateful for since it affected the deepest and most lasting change.
I know he’s on his own road to reconciling his regrets and healing relationships. I know I can’t do it for him, and I wouldn’t if I could. All I can do is let him see me, and the way I’ve chosen to deal with life as a teacher, and rejoice that he still has the opportunity to choose to engage in it…or choose to let it fall away again.
It may appear that I am lackadaisical about all of this – I assure you I’m not. It’s more a matter of having put out the blaze, and looking at the smoldering foundation, and knowing that there’s both time and opportunity for the owner to build anew. And being grateful for it.
Aaaah. Mercury Retrograde, we meet again. Every machine I use at work has been doing the impossible, the unexplainable, the unfathomable – at the most inconvenient moment possible. My smart phone is acting stupid. My computer is schizophrenic, and my internet access is uber dodgy.
To top it off, it’s like someone took a front-end-loader to my psyche and unearthed a whole bunch of debris and effluvia and garbage and yuck that I thought I’d killed and buried. It’s like zombieland in there – the dead have risen – and it’s, apparently time to burn ‘em down or feed ‘em.
Relationships are going wonky – upended, and flipped inside-side out. I am wrong-footed, and even more tactless than usual. Everything is coming out wrong, and I’ve had to repeat myself so often I’m beginning to wonder if I only think I’m talking, but nothing’s really coming out.
Mercury – the fleet-footed messenger of the gods – goes AWOL a few times a year, leaving all of us asking, “Now, where’d that little b@$tard make off to?” He rules communication – and by extension technology, among other things.
Re-treat • Re-peat • Re-examine • Re-visit • Re-imagine
Re-purpose • Re-vise • Re-assess • Re-connect • Re-lease
Re-think • Re-do • Re-sume • Re-solve
I made a decision earlier this year to stop allowing Mercury Retrograde to throw me for a loop – and to just roll with the energy of it instead. Go with the flow, and do and be and pay attention to what was coming up.
I made a decision to stop saying, “Why is this happening to me right now?” Instead, I look at whatever comes as a little present – it’s here and it’s happening because this must be the perfect time to deal with it – whatever ‘it’ is.
What’s been interesting, and rather unexpected, this go-round is that things are being revisited (as in, “I know we’ve been by here before – I recognize that Laundromat.”) – which I expect – but they’ve also transitioned. Things are shifting and changing in my life in ways I hadn’t anticipated – in big ways. I’m trying to hold an attitude of welcome – because (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…) you can do a thing with grace, or you can be pulled toward it on your face. Because some things just are, and some things have to happen.
I am determined to maintain that attitude. Because I’ve learned this: I may think that what I’m being served is a shit-sandwich, but I always end up being grateful for the meal. So, here’s to cleaning my plate, and hoping that I address it all now, so that I don’t end up dealing with it all over again. And again, and again, and again…..
(Mercury Retrograde strikes again! I accidentally posted this when I meant to preview it! So, I apologize if you subscribe and got it twice!)
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
It’s happened! It’s positively momentous! I’ve seen…….my first Robin of Spring!
Every year, I am like a child with this – I wait and wait and watch, and when I finally spot one, it’s officially Spring for me (no matter what the almanacs, meteorologists, and calendars say). I’ve done this ever since I could remember, even as a small girl.
Wisconsin winters are long, and tough. And, there’s something about the return of this bird, with his bold slash of crimson and his lilting song that speaks of promise and secrets, of renewal and rebirth.
Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment. (Ellis Peters)
Every Spring of my life, there have been mornings spent in bed, with windows opened to the fresh breeze, just listening to this song. When I think about them, it’s like I am there again in that moment, smelling the green air, and feeling the wet on the wind.
I feel jubilant today! Celebratory! Mad-cap! I want to go have adventures, and roam, and be outside!
Here’s hoping the rest of you are feeling Spring Fever, too!
It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! (Mark Twain)
At some point in the past year, one of my friends mentioned that there was this site out there on the world-wide-web called “fmylife.com,” where people could go to post about their ridiculous and outrageous misadventures, the twists and turns of fate, and the crappity things that happen to them.
Being an intrepid web-traveler, I figured I’d give it a shot. Posts ranged from the truly horrific and tragic to the whiney, superficial, and dramatic. I came, I read, and initially, I sat there in sympathy and commiseration with these anonymous unfortunates.
I felt encouraged to focus on all of the small annoyances in my own life, and to mull over the larger tragedies – and then, to just sit there…in that. Not terribly healthy. And then, I realized that wading through this effluvia had an undesirable and marked effect on me – it dragged me down into the slushy muck of self-pity with them. I’m fully aware of how easy it is to slide off the path and into this mire on my own, and I don’t want that kind of encouragement, thanks. I haven’t gone back to their site.
Some weeks later, I stumbled across a site started in response (and perhaps rebuttal?) to FML, called Givesmehope.com (GMH). Instead of posting all of the ways their lives have been fouled up, people write about all of the wonderful, touching experiences they’ve had, heard about, or witnessed – all of the times, ways, and shapes in which they’ve encountered the love of the Divine here on earth.
As I read through the many posts, a lump grew in my throat, and I found myself tilting my head back in order to blink my tears away. Generally, I am not one of those gals who cries at refrigerator commercials and stuff, so I was a little surprised at how affected I was. And, then, insidious, a small voice in the back of my mind murmured, “It’s probably all made up…people don’t do that for one another…what tripe…can’t believe you’re swallowing this ridiculous twaddle…don’t believe it…” and so on and so forth. This “loop” brought me up short and gave me a lot to ponder.
Why did I have such an easy, effortless time believing the negativity posted on one site, and such a hard time believing the optimism on another? And…why did I care if it were true or not? Each post on the GMH site reflected someone’s willingness to believe in compassion, love and unconditional kindness – and that, I decided, was the true thing; Their willingness to believe in goodness.
I started to think about all of the hopeful moments on my own journey, all the times I chose love over fear, all the strangers who’ve extended me love or kindness without expecting anything in return. And then I felt it – that glow, that feeling of utter connectedness to everyone and everything – that sense of knowing that what you foster within yourself, you offer to the world, whether you know it or not.
And, I could see how these two websites symbolized one of the most eternal choices we are given; to choose to live in love and foster love, or to live in fear and spread fear. Every moment of every day of our lives, we are presented with choice.
On Sunday, my only day “off,” I was rushing around, hurried and harried, and growing increasingly crabby, as I tried to get a whole mess of chores and stuff done, so I could get to my folks’ to do our laundry. In my myopic state, I could only see all that I had left TO DO. I was getting into my car in the parking lot of the last store, when an old man parked next to me and said, “It looks like you’re leaving home!” I burst out laughing – I carry loads of stuff with me all of the time and my fiancé, my dad, and my grandpa have said that to me pretty much every time they see me. The old man’s interest and concern snapped me out of my funk, kept me laughing all the way to my folks’ house, and GMH.
It’s so easy to lapse into fear and the negativity that fear breeds – “I have so much to do…how will I ever get all of this done…why is this all on me….” etc., etc., etc. I’m grateful to the Universe for all those “wake-up” moments that remind me that I have a choice here – love or fear.
For your daily dose of optimism, visit:
(Founders of givesmehope.com, Gaby Montero and Emerson Spartz, say “We’re tired of hearing about what’s wrong with this world…who couldn’t use a few more reasons to hope each day?”)
I have always loved autumn. I love the jeweled trees, the leaf-bedecked streets. I love the crispness of the air, and the bite in the wind – an atmosphere where all facades are cleared away and the truth of things emerges.
I love to look around and see what the seasons of creation have wrought – to watch as plump pumpkins appear on doorsteps, and woodsmoke begins to waft through twilight evenings. I love this time of harvest – of bringing in all the products of growth.
I love to look out over the fields and see the jittery bones of cornstalks marching off into the distance, mellow-golden soldiers standing at the ready, anticipating the time when their usefulness comes to an end. I love the birds bunching from one field to the next, schooling and pooling in the air-sea. I love the geese announcing their plans to travel, their intention to shift their families to warmer climes and sunnier shores.
I have never had the sense of depression or moroseness that others have about this enchanted season – I look around me and see celebration, wholeness, fullness, cycle – birth and rebirth. The endings encountered now give way to new opportunities – autumn speaks to me of that lull that always seems to follow bursts of growth – where we are given time to settle into the changes that have come so that we may start off again rested, and with a strong step.
I like the sleepiness of the fall – I like that everything sinks slowly down, back into the earth. I like to watch this process of rejuvenation. Autumn is only sad if you believe that there will never be another spring, that there will never be another time of fecund growth and boisterous creation.
My life mirrors this cycle – instead of mourning the endings (for they surely and inevitably come), I try to find the gift in the experience I’ve had, and look to the potential of the new coming to me over the horizon. For me, autumn is more about the potential and promise of the new beginning than it is about mourning change.
I love the way that people seem to regain their sense of wonder, their childlike fascination, with the beauty and the majesty and the mystery of our world – autumn is a visceral, visual reminder that the cycles continue, the world has her own agenda. It reconnects us to something primal and deep – the naturalness of change, the necessity of change… and the accompanying promise of a new gift to follow.
All week, I had a low, low grade fever – just enough to make my skin sensitive and my eyelids hurt. All week, I felt exhausted, even though I went to bed earlier than usual and took naps during my lunches. And all week, I had a sore throat – just enough to make me uncomfortable and make each breath scrape as it passed. All week, I kept thinking, “Okay, what’s going on here? Am I sick, or what?”
By Thursday night, I was just weary, and I’d had one of those days that wore me down from start to finish. One of those days where I just wished that my mother would come along and tuck me into her pocket and keep me there all day. One of those days where I simply wanted my mom.
So, I called her and told her that – something which I have not been particularly likely to do lately. I told her I loved her, and that all day long, I’d simply longed to be her daughter, and to be cared for by her.
This was momentous, because it’s been brought to my awareness that I have been courting her displeasure and disapproval. All along, I’d been telling myself and anyone else who would listen that what I really wanted was her approval and that I just couldn’t understand why she just couldn’t accept me and who I am and why she and I no longer seemed able to be friends. (Whine, whine, poor me, poor me. Puke.)
I started to do a lot of soul searching about it. I came to see the truth of my behavior, and the results of my behavior. And, as a good friend and mentor pointed out, my mother and I were locked together in a dance – where I darted in, and she pulled away. Where I pushed and she retreated.
In my heart, was this the kind of relationship I wanted to have with her? No. But it was definitely the one my ego was choosing for me. And now that I had come into consciousness about it, I had to make a choice. I could either allow things to continue as they were – but in full knowledge of the situation and the predictable outcome – or I could choose differently.
I thought about what I really want to have between my mom and myself. All I really want is to love her. All I can control are my own actions, and my own reactions. I can make different choices. I can take different steps in our dance – offering her the choice to take different steps, too.
My phone call to her Thursday night was part of the new dance. The one where I get to love her for the wonderful woman she is, for the wonderful mother she is, for the wonderful spirit she is.
Tomorrow is the new moon – the time to set intentions for the coming cycle, the time of beginnings and startings. I intend to dance to a new tune with my mom, and to just allow myself to love her, to appreciate her. I intend to allow this to seep into my consciousness, and to allow these new steps to gradually become a comfortable habit.
And above all? I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do this now. I know that she and I don’t have forever as these people in this life – and in this life, I intend to open my heart and just love her.
Love you Mom …