How Does Your Garden Grow?

Right now I have 3 orchids blooming and 2 more budding and soon to bloom.  I remember hearing and reading about how difficult orchids are to grow, but with benign neglect and the  southern sunlight, mine are thriving. For years my vision for my front bed along my driveway has been a show of hens and chicks of many kinds and colors amid a rocky landscape. I have pulled out the tulips in the bed many times and the damn things keep coming back. Guess what? I have decided that the tulips are beautiful and I would miss them terribly if they were not greeting me each spring. In spite of my best efforts to kill them, they present themselves each spring and I have grown to love their determination to win me over. Both my orchids and tulips are not coaxed into blooming, they just do.

Like with my flowers, I have found that a hands off approach to the people I love seems to be the best way for me to witness their uniqueness and beauty. I can stop coaxing, manipulating, begging, giving advice and be amazed at the beauty of the human spirit. Doing less and staying out of the way allows others to bloom in their own way and at their own pace. My hands are not for molding, they are for holding others with love. I don’t always remember this, but this is my intent and I am making progress. People bloom when they are ready and nothing I do can change that fact.

But what about my relationship with myself? Surely letting myself just “be” would result in me becoming a nasty and mean fat blob, smoking up a storm and guzzling liquor every Saturday night. Without will power, vigilance and my inner drill Sargent what would I do? Would I even get off the couch? Getting older gives me a longer history to learn from and decide if more of the same is likely to encourage me to grow and bloom. My inner Drill Sargent may get me to follow orders for a bit, but when her back is turned I may be reading, crocheting, or walking. No marching when I am off duty! Wait a minute! I don’t even remember signing up for the “I’m not good enough, try harder!” platoon, but I must have got drafted in my childhood. So hind sight is 20/20 and going forward I can choose to do less and play more, to be less fearful and explore more and to love myself as I am and as I grow. I take lots of photos of flowers so perhaps my intuition is telling me that I can bloom too.

The next time you see a bouquet of flowers, especially one you have bought or grown for yourself take time to appreciate each bloom. Give each flower the gift of your attention and awe. Do the same for yourself!

Autobiography in Shoes

One, two buckle my shoe…. I loved them, the black patent leather Mary Jane shoes I had in second grade. I shined them up with just a tiny dab of Vaseline and lots of buffing. The pure white anklets I wore with them were just perfect. Of course I also had my school shoes,   serviceable but boring black oxfords. My Mom insisted that I save my patent leather shoes for church and special occasions, the oxfords were for school. My boots were red rubber ones with the single side button closure. My genius and somewhat devious plot was to wear my patent leather shoes under my boots and waltz out to school. It worked a few times, but on good weather days I had a hard time justifying the boots and besides my Mom had found my ugly shoes hidden in the back of the closet. So began my shoe obsession.

Shoe wise, elementary and high school were a bit boring, except for platform shoes and go-go boots. I had the best platform shoes, at least 2 inches of platform and they were cool. I still miss them and wish I had held on to them. Go-go boots, were not in my shoe wardrobe, but I do remember a couple of the popular girls had them.  I also had “gym” shoes for PE, which were like Keds with a bit of attitude and we could wear them all day-if it was gym day.  This was long before running shoes, cross trainers, and a  $200.00 price tag. I am so embarrassed to admit I used white shoe polish on the canvas to keep them pristine white. Flip flops “came out”of the shower and could be worn as sandals. Nail polish on toe nails?  Of course!

As a single young woman, I was willing to sacrifice comfort for high heels that showed off my legs. High heels were sexy and being sexy was good. To hell with the pinched toes and blisters, I looked pretty damn good in high heels. Often the heels tapered to less than a dime in size and I cringe to think of my wobbly ankles. Very pointy toes were also the norm, my foot was  wider than the shoe but somehow I got my foot in my glass slippers. When the toes of shoes got rounder I joined other women in a collective sigh of relief. For every day you might have caught me in Earth shoes, the heel of the shoe was lower than the toe because this was better for the foot.  Gym shoes had graduated to a casual shoe for everyday wear, think Converse for guys and classic Reebok’s for aerobic classes.

And then it happened. I came down to earth. I started to run every day and running shoes were my obsession. One shelf of athletic shoes exploded to shelves and shelves and even whole departments, and that was in my closet! I was on my feet all day at the bookstore and decided down with the heels, and up with the flats. Tired of suffering, my new mantra was comfort. My pregnant shoes were more the size of snowshoes, but my swollen feet needed lots of room .When I met Roger my one concern was he was just my height. Flats were important so I did not tower over him, which I considered a fate worse than death. Soon I grew to love how I could look into his eyes without craning my neck. 

These days I have shoes and boots for every possibility. Running shoes, hiking shoes, walking shoes, sandals, boots for looks and boots for snow, dressy flats, casual shoes for hanging out, black shoes, brown shoes , lace ups, slipons and many cool sneakers/athletic shoes I never use for athletics. I even have slippers which Roscoe chews on and runs around the house with to taunt me.  I challenge you to walk a mile in my shoes!

A Happy Ending

When Roger was in rehab after a hospitalization I realized he would not be coming home after his “rehabilitation”, and in fact would never be coming home again. It was the deepest loneliness and sadness I have ever felt. I would go home after my nightly visits and search for videos of dog rescues on You Tube. You know the ones where a poor dog is on its own, starving, dirty and afraid of humans. I  knew that no matter how bleak things looked the dog would be rescued, cared for, cleaned up and adopted by a loving owner. I was obsessed with the happy ending. I watched countless rescues because I needed to know that happy endings were possible.  But not for me….

Movies, books and lives should not have sad endings. If I ask about a book or movie and I hear the ending was sad I am very reluctant to read or watch it, sad endings are silly when the human creator can control the story.  Sad endings are the tornado from the Wizard of Oz, I don’t want to be carried away by sadness. Sticking my head in the sand, whistling Dixie or just plain old denial haven’t  stoped sadness and sad stories from infiltrating my awareness.   What was the point I asked my college friends, if everyone was going to die? Isn’t death the ultimate sad ending?  No human can edit death out of the human story.  Roger died and none of us will escape death.

Can we talk about Death?  It seems to me it is easier to talk about wars, murders and  yucky bodily functions, or almost anything,  than it is to have a conversation about death. The philosophy or psychology supporting hospice care is the concept of a “good death”.  Do we lose our “battle” with cancer when death occurs? How long do we “fight” to defeat death?

I think surrendering to death may be the best path to a good life. Staying alive at all costs is not cheating death, it could be cheating life.  Acceptance, peace, reconciliation, freedom and surrender are pillars of a good death. I was honored to be with Roger when died; I felt like I was witnessing the birth of his soul. A happy ending.

Hide and Seek

Almost everyone has played the child’s game Hide and Seek: the “It” person tries to find all the other players who have hidden from “It”. The game is not rocket science or brain surgery. Don’t you wonder what actual rocket scientists and brain surgeons say to each other? It’s not sentence diagraming or soil analysis? Back to Hide and Seek! The seeker has to count to an agreed upon # with their eyes closed, and everyone runs and hides. When the counting is done the seeker begins to seek. Child size bodies fit in much smaller hiding places than adults do and children can run faster too, so there is a measure of difficulty.  Quick thinking was also important as the time frame for hiding was only minutes long.

We, meaning my brothers, sisters and a Roman Legion of cousins, took Hide and Seek up a notch and played it outside in the dark. We called it No Bears Out Tonight!  Don’t think about bears! Our farm had a HUGE lawn, trees, bushes and out buildings so there were lots of places to hide. In the dark, alone and fearing lions and tigers and bears and bugs. I can still remember laying on my belly in the grass hoping and not hoping that I would be found before a monster got me. Living on the edge of fear and excitement was what was so much fun…

Smart phones and lap tops have put technology front and center in the adult version of Hide and Seek. There’s ghosting where a party hides from the other party by going silent on their phone: texts and phone calls are not returned. This is the easy way out of a relationship and very hurtful to the party being ghosted.  The seeker seeks and does not find the hidden who has decided not to play anymore. On the opposite spectrum, cyber stalking is relentless negative contact seeking to frighten the other party. The threat is “You cannot hide from me!”. Of course we all know about hiding in plain sight: phubbing is eyes focused on the tiny screen of a phone hiding from personal contact with the person in front of you. 

Flipping back and forth between being the seeker or the hidden is the normal state of affairs. When I close my front door and I am alone I usually sigh with relief . I want to be hidden for awhile, hidden from the demands of the day and the people who expect me to play my role. After my fill of peace and solitude I seek relationship with family and friends. I call my friend to see if she is up for taking the dogs for a walk, or call another friend to meet for coffee. I just did a mental zigzag and realized that “friend” and “fiend” are just 1 letter away from each other. My mind does work in odd ways. 

“The Diary of Anne Frank” was one of my favorite books as a teenager.  I was fascinated by how her family hid from the Nazis in the attic of a building and how Anne still wrote in her diary knowing that they could be found and killed at any moment. The confines of her hiding place did not stop her from seeking the best life had to offer her. I think I would call that courage.