Thunderstorms

Living in the city makes it difficult to see and feel an incoming thunderstorm. The dark clouds are visible but distance is hard to measure and the horizon is hazy. One of my favorite memories from childhood was sitting on the front porch steps and watching a thunderstorm come in. With my eye on the horizon I watched the storm clouds form. There was rumbling and changing cloud colors. It was striking to see the dark clouds on the horizon and the beautiful rich green of the Iowa countryside in one frame. It was beauty with an edge of danger.

The air was intense and immediate. I was small and just a spectator. There was nothing I needed to do but sit and watch. Anticipation was part of the fascination but I was patient. I wasn’t waiting for Santa Claus. It seemed there was so much to be seen in slow motion. Just before the rain began to fall, there was a change in the air like a sharp intake of breath. Would it be a bad storm? Bad was the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. All I needed to do was run inside the house and I would be safe. I knew what corner of the basement to run to in case of tornado! I had a plan, but usually I was on the porch when the rain and wind came. If Mom didn’t insist I come in I stayed on the porch until I was getting wet from the rain blowing onto the porch.

Grown up concerns about damage to crops and property were not on my radar. I never worried that hail might damage the crops or fields would be flooded. Just a few years ago I was looking out my patio door and watching the hail pummel my 2 tomato plants. I was fascinated by the hail but worried that my plants would be destroyed. Awe and worry in the same moment. I remember digging the hail stones out of the bed and freezing my fingers. 90 degrees and ice is falling from the sky. The plants survived and even thrived to produce a bumper crop of tomatoes. The farmers in the area were not as fortunate and crops looked like they had been shredded and never came back.

When I go to my AlAnon meetings I am reminded I am powerless over alcohol, people, places and things and I remember the thunderstorms in Iowa. I was powerless over the storms and I accepted that powerlessness easily. I am a grown up and acceptance does not come easily these days. I see and feel my body getting battered by age and I often want to fight the changes the years bring. What about watching and feeling the changes with curiosity and awe like I watched the storms come in? After the storm and the rain, the air was so clean and full of hope.

Thunderstorms

Coffee Grounds

 

 

Annie Lamont is my hero. She is fearless, funny and vulnerable. It’s more than she is a good writer, or writes well, she is…. the teacher, the healer, a mother and a best friend. If I could write and live half as well as she does I would be successful beyond my wildest dreams.

For now I will be humble and learn from the words I write. I will ask good questions, participate in the discussion, and remember that I am the student not the teacher. I write to define myself. I really do pull words out of thin air and put them on the page, hoping I can put them in the right order. Initially I may write nonsense, but I keep going and wrestle with the sentences. Sometimes it looks like All-Star wrestling —lots of hype but no substance. When I least expect it my words begin to dance, pirouetting across the page…got a little carried away …clogging or crawling, not pirouetting. Whatever the style of dance, my words got rythym..

What’s the word I am looking for? What do they call that? Words are labels, they name people, places and things i.e. table and chair,Tom, Dick and Harry, Paris and Iowa. We identify these words as nouns. Then of course we have verbs, the “doing” or action words: walking, thinking, laughing, yelling, etc. Adjectives describe nouns: i.e.red table and chair; Tom,Dick and Harry are gay; beautiful Paris, green Iowa, etc…. Those of you who loved to diagram sentences know that we still need adverbs to express “how” : running quickly, walking slowly, swearing loudly, etc…. So isn’t it a miracle that words can create sentences, sentences become paragraphs, paragraphs fill a page and pages can be put together to make a book? I appreciate this miracle even though I have never gotten past the paragraphs on the page level.

We communicate with words, but the problem is that words can have emotional meaning too. Words are very powerful. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” is an alternative fact: definition, a lie. Labels are very dangerous when negative adjectives are associated; cheap Jews, stupid blacks, sinful gays etc…. Personal relationships are full of land mines that can be detonated with angry, judgmental words. Loving and kind words can disarm some of the land mines, and build connections.

Mean what you say, and say what you mean. Ronald Dahl said, “Don’t gobblegunk around with words.” Good advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee Grounds

Princess With A Pea

Admit it! You too were sick of the princess’ complaining about not being able to sleep because of a teensy pea under the 9th mattress on her bed. I wanted to tell her to just get over it! Or take a sleeping pill! I surprised myself today by using the Princess and the Pea tale to describe my state of mind. There’s a pea in my psyche and it is most irritating to me —I can’t get over it and Zanax and/or a sleeping pill are not options for me. I know I am not a princess but I sure am sensitive and just plain bothered lately.

Dis-ease. Irritated. Narked.(British) Vexed. All of the above. It’s no dark night of the soul, more like a tiny rock in your shoe that needs to come out. I can limp along for awhile but its such a relief to get the rock out of there. Maybe the irritant is my job. I have such varied duties from day to day it is hard to feel any mastery, but I like the variety and maybe there is nothing to ‘master” except my need to feel in control. Speaking of control, or lack of control, of course I am not working out as long and hard as I should and I can’t seem to lose those last 10 pounds( more like 20!) either. I am disappointed in myself for my lack of discipline and resolve. I can’t even return calls or stay on top of emails. There’s more but I’m too tired to think about it.

No wonder my psyche is narked ! I have a boulder of failed expectations under my mattress that is already lumpy with 2 dogs snoring away. There’s a lot of little negatives, regrets, disappointments and self -recriminations unsettling and stealing my peace of mind. What it all boils down to is I need to be perfect and meet all expectations of others and myself while maintaining perfect control. No problem! There’s that nagging feeling of nagging myself! No one likes to be nagged and picking on myself makes minor issues into major issues. What would happen if I let go of all my expectations and accepted myself just as I am? I could maybe take some deep breaths, relax and fall asleep on a bed of nails.

Nighty-night.

Princess With A Pea

Falling Asleep

My hearing is the first sense to awaken. I am dreaming, and then I hear a very quiet whimper on the inhales of my dog Mia’s breaths. I am awake, then asleep for several cycles. Mia’s whimpers are becoming louder and soon I am awake and hearing each whimper. Mia has to go outside and pee. I want to stay under the covers, but I have to respond to her need to pee. “Okay, okay I hear you.” I say this every morning but I doubt she cares. Roscoe wakes and winds up for the day. There are mornings when I need to peel myself off the sheets and make a super human effort to throw the covers off. Does anyone really jump out of bed completely awake, ready to face the day? If so, I hate them!

I have always been fascinated by the mystery of sleep. Awake one moment and asleep the next, how does that work? I think sleep is not turned on and off like a light switch, but is on a dimmer switch. Muscles relax, breathing gets slower and deeper, the mind wanders into mazes and the next thing you know you wake up and it is then you realize you were asleep. My emotions seem to happen in the same way–slowly, growing with intensity and soon I am wandering through the maze with my fire and my heart. The next thing I know, I “wake” up and realize I have fallen in love or I am so sad I don’t know if I can survive it. Most of life is lived in between sleep and full awareness, somewhere on this continuum which rests on the fulcrum of denial. I can refuse to deal with a painful situation and deny it is happening, but I may start having bad dreams and night terrors. Asleep or awake, pain must be reckoned with.

When I live my life on automatic I am not asleep nor am I fully awake. Habit and memory keep me moving, but I am not becoming more aware or more human. I am “sleep walking” through life. If I bump someone they may say “Pay Attention , you idiot!”. I can only attend to my life when I am awake and using all my senses. In the first few months after Roger died, sleep walking was the only way I got through. I did not want to be fully awake, I was pretty sure it was a nightmare and I would wake up and all would be fine. I was obsessed with needing to know when the exact moment was that Roger became “not ” Roger and dementia claimed him. Even though I understood that dementia happened in increments , I wanted to know when the scales tipped to “not” Roger.

As he got sicker Roger slept a lot and he could not stay awake by sheer will-power. Was sleep more real to him than being awake? What were his dreams like? There are some things that are not limited by time, no before and after. I don’t remember who said this or where I read it, but I understand it more now: “I would not know until I knew.”

Falling Asleep

Aches and Pains

My shoulder hurts, sometimes the pain is dull, sometimes it hurts like hell. I have numerous issues with my hands—arthritis, carpal tunnel, numbness…. a litany of complaints. Don’t you just hate it when “old” people sit around and complain about all of their aches and pains? Just a simple “How are you?”, and you’re sorry you asked. Oh my God, I am one of those “old” people! With thousands of connections and moving parts, it is no surprise my body-years have caused wear and tear on the ole’ bones. I can relate to the Tin Man who locks up and can’t move without the oil can.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how much pain are you in? Glad you asked , I’m at 20! Is childbirth more or less painful than a heart attack or kidney stones? Loneliness is usually thought of as a dull ache, a heart attack more like stabbing pain. Where does it hurt? I may have a headache,a tooth ache or a heart ache. We say “He broke my heart when he left me.” or “I was so scared I almost had a heart attack.” The line between physical and emotional pain, if it even exists, is very fuzzy. I think emotional pain can be present in every cell in my body. I have fear so where does it hurt, on a scale from 1 to 10 how afraid am I, and can you make it go away?

Age and physical activity can cause the body’s’ joints to wear out. Heart aches, traumas, disappointments, anxieties and worries age the body/mind and can become the weight that holds the door shut to joy, and keeps the pain in. Is this just the way it is or is there another way to face toxic emotional pain? Can we be healing even while we are hurting? The physical body may be aging and dying , but at the same time the spiritual/emotional body may be experiencing a renaissance. Aging often brings a freedom that evades the young. This ‘How important is it?” or “Who gives a f__k?” attitude can not be reached by thinking. Only experience, feeling our pain and an open heart can get me and you to freedom.

Emotional baggage can be let go of, but only death allows the body to be let go. The emotional traumas we acquire through the years can die before we face death in the physical plane. I may be saddled with an aging body and the aches and pains attached to my body, but I have much fewer emotional/spiritual aches and pains. My spirit will remain, lighter and freer after I let my body go. This sounds pretty good to me.

Aches and Pains

Sister Series

Recently I wrote a poem about being a book end for the Sister Book series. I am the oldest of 8 sisters and my youngest sister Lisa is the other bookend. Lisa and I keep the books on the shelf from falling over. Having worked in a bookstore for many years, I remember the almost constant job of straightening the books and keeping them in alphabetical order. Keeping my sisters in order is nearly impossible! At any given time one or more sisters may be mis-shelved or out of stock. Family tragedies like death, depression and divorce have struck all of us. One of the threads running through all of our stories is cancer. Half of us have had cancer and that is not counting my own skin cancers. Actually all of us have had cancer because a diagnosis for one is a diagnosis for all of us. One for all and all for one. The Sisters move closer, the bookends lean in to hold the cancer victim upright and on the shelf.

Once again, cancer is making a forced entry into one sister. Surgery is today and we are waiting to hear from her partner that she is out of surgery and in recovery. There will be a flurry of calls, texts and emails between the sisters to spread the news. A collective prayer and fierce hope will follow as we wait for pathology results. We have learned from the past that cancer means a lot of waiting. We all hope surgery will be the only treatment needed but we also know there are other outcomes.

Later: She is out of surgery and in recovery. Things look pretty good. Pathology reports are the next hurdle and so we all wait some more…. The sisters are holding strong.

Sister Series

Early Bird Special

Who has dinner at 5 o”Clock? The Early Bird Special is for Seniors who might fall asleep in their soup at 7. I am now an “Early Bird”! The time I left to go out for the night in my 20’s is now my bedtime. This is why my friend Susan and I found ourselves at 5 o’clock on a Friday night at Avo’s listening to a band called “The Monday Night Band”. We were part of a crowd representing all ages from a couple of cute toddlers, to young adults, to oldies but goodies like Susan and I. Mostly I was glad to be out of the house and experimenting with being a social animal. Susan and I talked about how our old lady bodies don’t fit with how we feel inside. We look one way and feel another. This is what getting old feels like, this disconnect between interior and exterior.

I don’t believe that our bodies betray us or we need to hold on to youth at all costs.
Living, loving, learning, and earning our wrinkles, is an honest approach to aging. Running from the years on the calendar just makes me tired. It takes courage to stop running and allow the moments to add up to the sum of our lives. But back to Susan and I out on the town at the 5 o’clock hour ….we complained some about how we couldn’t hear each other, decided the band was pretty good (not great), and lamented that the men we found attractive were 20-30 years younger than us. We were invisible to them and certainly long past the adjective “sexy”. I am past my prime and my body has a stamp on it: “Best before yesterday”! Men can morph into distinguished older men, but women “look good for their age” or just fade away.

Since our night out on the town I have become obsessed with my hair. Does my short hair make me look un-feminine? Should I grow it out? Where is my curling iron? I do want to look good and not blend into the woodwork. I keep thinking that there is nothing sadder than an old wallflower. How do I shove off from the wall and get on the dance floor? If I am not asked to dance do I have the courage to take the first step and find a dance partner?

I’m not convinced that opening the Pandoras Box of male/female relationships is a wise move. I loved Roger with all my heart and sometimes I feel disloyal to him when I think about a new relationship. I know this isn’t true, but I still struggle with this feeling. My fear is weakening, and grief taught me waiting for “when…” is a losing proposition. I am popping my head out of my hole, looking around, and trying not to scurry back into my hole at the slightest sound of life. Look for me, but remember you have to come early for the “Early Bird Special”.

Early Bird Special