What Is Right With Me

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So often in life we concentrate on what is wrong with us – the things we cannot do, our shortcomings and our foibles. We examine our “issues” so often that we can recite them in our sleep and as the list grows sometimes it feels like there is so much “wrong” that we don’t know what we can possibly do to change what we have told ourselves is “fact.” So what if today, we changed things up a bit and decided to concentrate on all that is “right” with us. How would that influence our beliefs about ourselves and make a “so-so” day into one that shines and puts little skip in our steps.

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Here is my list for today in no particular order. I would love to see yours in the comments section.

  1. I am a good researcher. I find things others can’t.
  2. I am a good friend. I can keep a secret better than anyone.
  3. I am interested in others lives and enjoy being attentive to their experiences.
  4. I am interesting. I have a breadth of knowledge about many things and I try to keep up with current events.
  5. I am a fierce Momma Bear and advocate for my children and march on in my efforts when others would have given up.
  6. I fight for the things that I love.
  7. Family is important to me and I try to make sure that those I love know that they are valued and loved by me.
  8. I love to travel, meet people, and learn from my experiences.
  9. If a puzzle needs to be solved I am your gal.
  10. I am not afraid to walk up to a person and start a conversation.
  11. I am fun and do the unexpected like take photos of my friends who could not attend our group event, blow their pictures up, staple them to sticks, and carry them through the city with me photographing them at places like the CHEERS BAR in Boston.
  12. I am smart.
  13. I recognize and honor my intuitiveness.
  14. I work hard when something needs to be done.
  15. For the most part I am content with what I have and have no need to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  16. I know how much that I really don’t know.
  17. I am compassionate with loved ones and strangers.
  18. I am a good writer.
  19. I try to stay in touch with others and send cards and letters to others so that they know that they are on my mind.
  20. I work hard at preserving my family history so that my family can learn from our past.
  21. I am able to self-hypnotize so that I can quickly relax and get to a peaceful state of mind.
  22. When I do get down in spirit I work hard to lighten the load so I can return to a place of happiness.
  23. I do small things for myself (like a warm candle-lit bath) on a regular basis.
  24. I read on a regular basis.
  25. I exercise often.
  26. I am a seeker
  27. I sing well.
  28. Integrity is important to me. I try hard to be fair and honest.

Hopefully after making this list you too will see that there is so much good in and around you that when things become challenging you can whip out your list and give yourself a boost to face the coming day. We all have our gifts which need to be acknowledged and celebrated far more often than we do. In remembering what is good about ourselves we can offer it to others or wrap those things around our own selves like a blanket on a cold rainy day. For knowing ourselves gives us the ability to live freely so that what we do aligns with who we are. Amen!

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Out With The Old (2017) And In With The New!!! Or Get Me The Fuck Out Of This Crappy Year!!! Or Celebrate Change!!!

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In many ways, this past year has been one of the toughest of my life. It has been a year of sorrow and heartbreak as I watched my 30+ year marriage hang by a thread only to snap in December. But it has also been a year of tremendous growth as I have learned to sit with things longer before reacting, have found joy in places that were once unavailable to me, and I have located pieces of myself again which I thought were gone forever. Good and valuable pieces that I am proud of and am grateful to have re-captured in a slightly different form.

This past year I have walked down paths and met new friends who have been there for me while I cried on their shoulders. I discovered amazing people who have given me wisdom through new perspectives and helped me to realize that there is renewal in letting go and giving up so that future growth can occur.

My children have given me courage and a dogged determination to act in ways I once never dreamed possible. I have learned to appreciate them in a new light and with a sense of gratefulness that has brought joy to my spirit and wisdom to my soul.

Seeking peace has become a way of life and a way of viewing a future that is full of possibility and excitement while negative self-talk is becoming a slightly more distant phenomenon. I am trying, as I go into 2018, to avoid turmoil… self and otherwise so that anxiety is no longer walking in the shadows along side of me as I journey through the end of this life as I know it and the beginnings of a new life that I am about to confront head on.

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The changing relationship with my husband has shown me that pushing my own agenda is like walking through a land mine and that sometimes you just have to stand still until the bombs can be diffused. It has taught me that people change in ways you once never imagined and that their changes are THEIR changes and you don’t have to take them on as YOUR OWN. I also learned and am working on the idea that his changes and dislikes may have little to do with me in all actuality so that disappointment I have felt in myself may well have been misplaced.

I have also realized (after spending time in a sauna yesterday) that even skinny 65 yo women’s bodies look old and that acceptance and making peace with my less-than-perfect body will probably bring me a sense of freedom that has eluded me for years.

As I march into 2018, head held high, I thank you for putting up with my confusion and bull shit for these past several years.  Thank you for your wisdom, knowledge, and loving support. I know in real-life some of us could be best friends and leave our mark upon the world together though I think we might need the name of a bail bondsman handy!

I wish for all of you joy and wisdom in the coming year. Dance, dammit, dance…. preferably under the stars. Do something tough and do something you love often. Read tons of good books. Dream more. Eat more chocolate and take more time for yourself. Visit a place you have never been and kiss those you love more often. For those who suffer from chronic pain may it ebb. And lets try to remember that we never know just how much time we have on this earth so let’s all vow to use ours wisely.

And finally, may child-like Trump and childish Kim Jong-un not one up each another in a fit of spoilt “my dick is bigger than yours” and blow up the entire world just because they can.

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Amen!

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Making Things My Own

We own a rental house. It is where I will be moving when we separate. I could stay here but why? This is a bigger house with a pool and upkeep costs that I will just not be able to afford.

I will miss this house. I have painted every room and hung things just so. I have stood on the roof and painted the shutters. I have planted grapes, tons of multi-colored lilies, and some very unusual plants. I have a lot of memories here and have put so much of myself into our family and home. Yet, it will also be a relief to leave it and have a place that is mine alone. A place that I can re-do just like I have re-done myself in these past two-and-one-half years trying to avoid the “maybe divorce” that appears now to have been inevitable.

The other day I “visited” where I will be living. I snuck up to the back fence (which is falling down) and looked through. It brought back a few memories of when we lived here previously and as those thoughts appeared I smiled with happiness and appreciation of what was. But as I was standing there I mostly dreamed of what is to come.

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That playhouse we built in the backyard…well I am going to paint it violet…or maybe candy apple red… and I’ll add an upper porch on which I will drink my coffee in the morning and swing in the double swing that will hang beneath it in the early evening. I may also add a small studio in which I will do my writing undisturbed except for the call of the birds and an occasional bark from the pooch.

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It is a large yard so I will plant more David Austin roses, construct pathways and vegetable boxes, and place a fountain or two. This backyard will become my haven and an expression of who I am today. It will take a lot of work but getting to this place in my life has too. It has taken getting my hands dirty, tossing old ideas into the trash, and doing a lot of weeding of my soul in order to bloom. And bloom I will. For dreams, like gardens, can come alive if they are given the proper care and nourishment.  And because I have been sifting through the soil of my soul I am now ready to plant new ideas, new people, and my kind of beauty into my life once again. Sure, things will be a challenge as I go forth as a single person nearing 60 yo and you bet at times I am scared out of my whits but I also know that sometimes you just need to get a little dirt under your nails and drive a few nails to renew both yourself and your garden. It is my hope that we can both thrive.

 

 

Empathy and Tattoos

So yesterday I went and got my tattoo. Yes, it seems even strange to me the person who said she would never deface her body and here I am at 57 yo getting my first. I have to tell you that it felt great! A way of taking back myself and giving a gift to myself in the form of myself.. My authentic self. The tattoo is a message to myself.  It is a reminder of the way I hope to carry myself and to act throughout this process of separation and divorce. I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in the bathroom looking in the mirror trying to instill these words into action. 

I put a lot of thought into where I wanted it placed. It is very small and very personal to me. So I put it right below my shoulder where I have to make a conscious effort to see it. Without further ado:

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 I suspect there are times I will fail mightily as I try to maintain and even grow my dignity and grace, but somehow I also suspect that in just knowing it is there, like a ghost following behind my well-worn path; it will serve me well.
I did think that this thought from Thich Nhat Hanh might be a good alternative to DIGNITY & GRACE…but it was just too long and I am just too chicken…so I leave you with his lovely words.

 

Empathy

Down To The Wire

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Since my marriage is coming to an end it is odd how everything seems magnified. Often it feels like I am looking at life through a kaleidoscope no longer filled with vibrant and colorful pieces of glass but rather with carbon…cold, dark and black, which, under the right conditions could turn into diamonds but in reality are just lumps of coal.

Everything now seems to be on a time warp…minutes moving quicker towards the end of this relationship and my family as I know it. Because of this what I seem to be consumed with what will be seen as the LASTS. The movie we just took the kids too which will be our LAST seen together as a family. The dinner we went to last Friday the number of which that will take place in the future quickly dwindling down to nothing. The countdown to Christmas which will be the LAST holiday that we spend together as an intact unit.

Last night Gracie had her Christmas Concert at school. I had saved a seat for B who was running late but reluctantly gave it up to an old lady who there to watch her granddaughter play the cello. I thought that I might as well because soon B would not be sitting beside me sharing our lives together in these soft and lovely sorts of ways. I might just as well get used to it now I reckoned. And so I sat alone, my eyes squeezed tightly shut so that the tears could not dance down my face to strains of the Nutcracker led by a slightly off-key bass cello .

I took off my wedding ring the other day for it has become too painful to look at throughout the day. For instead of the brilliant glow it once cast out into the world now it seems as if only failure shimmers bright when the light hits the stone. It sits on my dresser in a dull brassy Chairman Mao box that I bought while in Jinan at a flea market. I wanted to buy it then, not because it was beautiful, but because it represented a time where individuality and beauty were eliminated and voices of those with “strong personalities” were buried in graves deep within the earth. Personalities like mine that were considered forceful and threatening by people like the “Great Leaders” and “My Husband” who did not want truth, authenticity and questioning authority to prevail.

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Perhaps someday I will take that ring and combine it with another to create something that is truly reflective of who I am today. Something tarnished and slightly jaded but also sassy, beautiful, and oh-so unique. A ring whose light shines true within a circle of knowledge about myself that is pure and unbroken and who has once again become a woman secure in the belief that her light should be celebrated not wasted on those who do not see her true value. For I know without a doubt that someday in the near future that a new creation will be sitting on the finger of this woman, who has survived all the pressure needed to create something and someone who is ever-lasting, strong and priceless out of something that once felt just a lump of coal. I look forward to that day.

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Veterans of War

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Last night I eyed the little old man sitting across from me in the Taco Bell. He was wearing a WWII veteran cap full of medals and although almost ancient he sat ramrod straight as if an officer might call him out for sloppy posture. In his hand was a Sudoku book and he was busy placing the numbers when he wasn’t looking around the place. Suddenly, he looked directly at me, his shiny blue eyes piercing my soul and gave me a smile that warmed my breaking heart. Then he went back to his game.

I had come to Taco Bell after sitting alone at a table in a restaurant waiting for my fellow book lovers to show up for our annual party and book exchange. As I waited tears would well up as I thought about the previous evening when B and I decided to divorce after I realized there was no hope that his feelings for me would ever change. I was devastated and contemplating life alone or, God forbid, someday dating.

Sitting there in a room full of strangers I felt more alone than I have in my entire life. Crazy thoughts of “my family would be better off without me than putting them through this ” circulated around in my brain, and although I knew I would never act upon them, tears leaked silently as I contemplated how my 30+ year marriage had reached such a gut-wrenching low. As I scanned the email to ensure I was at the right place I realized I was a week early and decided I needed to escape all the holiday merriment going on around me. That is how I ended up at the Taco Bell across the street.

I watched the old veteran for several minutes. He looked happy yet I felt a sense of loneliness cradling his well-worn soul. I decided to take a chance and invite myself to dinner. When I asked if I could join him he looked delighted. He introduced himself.

“Ken?” I asked, wishing that my soon-to-be hearing aids had arrived.

“No Kent,” came the reply. “Like Clark Kent, superhero, although I am afraid the red suit would look a little wrinkly at my age.”

We both chuckled.

Kent was 92. He had been married to Doris for 65 years and she had died four years ago. They used to come to Taco Bell and sit across from one another enjoying each other’s company while playing Sudoku. He missed her and the life they had built together.

“What is my purpose here?” he asked me soon after introductions were made. “I just want to know why I am still here and what am I supposed to do with the rest of my life. I have no clue.”

“Well, that is obvious,” I replied. “You are suppose to be sitting here eating dinner with a sad middle-aged woman and telling me the story of your life.”

And so he did. He spoke of being too young to join the war when the United States was attacked on December 7, 1941, and how two years later, on December 7, 1943, the principal of the school told all the young men that he would grant them their diplomas, a semester shy of graduation, if they would only go and serve their country. Being the good All-American boy that he was; Kent went and signed up that day.

When he went home to tell his father, a WWI veteran that he enlisted; his father told him that he would regret it, but he didn’t believe him until his first Christmas far away from home, with guns firing in the distance, with regrets that flew fast and furious like bullets around his head. On that wintry night narrowly escaping death he realized his old man was right after all. He just wanted to be home.

“When staring death in the eye, men act in three different ways. There are those who want to flee, those who cry, and those who pray. I was one of the later but if I am honest there were times I experienced all three as I fought in the Pacific,” he explained.

Kent still marveled at his first airplane ride and laughed as he re-counted his complete and utter embarrassment at getting air sick and throwing up in a hat in front of the pilot. He talked about endless days at sea and wondering if their big boat would be someone’s prize target. And he narrated the story of a fellow veteran who was in the Merchant Marine, whose ship was stopped by the Japanese, after delivering supplies to the troops. For an entire hour the enemy shined a light on the American boat until turning off the light and slipping into the night.

“Why didn’t they kill us?” his friend asked the commander.

“We were high in the water so they knew we didn’t have any supplies and they didn’t want to waste their ammo on us. They just wanted to give us a bit of a scare,” came the reply.

Eventually, Kent ended up in Saipan surrounded by water and the Japanese. He recalled how the enemy would slip into camp and night with a wire garrote and strangle an unsuspecting solider and how they learned to walk with their back to the huts so no one could attack them from behind. But by far the saddest day of the war for Kent was the day a plane load of soldiers were flying home soon after the war had ended. As the plane took off over the base personnel could hear the sputtering of the plane and watched as soldiers tried to parachute to safety only to hit the roofs of the buildings because there was not enough time for their chutes to open.  The ones who didn’t jump drown as the plane went down.

“A whole plane load of boys who had survived the war and were jubilant to be going home only to die as they were taking off. It never made sense to me,” Kent said with a far-away look in his eyes.

We spent two hours talking about the mundane: weather, walnuts (he was a farmer) and dogs and important topics like war and marriage.

When asked how he stayed married for 65  years he offered this advice:

“You wake up every morning, look in the mirror and tell yourself that come hell or high water, and am going to love this person no matter what. When you get to be my age you realize you just don’t remember those bad days but you do remember the good and the good far outnumber the bad anyway. Why hang onto bad feelings when you don’t have to?”

I told him my story. Married 30+ years, six kids, travel, building houses together and multiple moves to a man I had adored until he no longer adored me and did everything in his power to try to get me to leave. The night before, I had read him what he had written a year ago about how he loved to feel my touch and how much it meant to him. When I asked if he still felt that way he said, “No I don’t…. I’m just being honest”  which is his newest mantra. It was then I knew that it was time to end, what had been for the most part, the happiest years of my life with the person I adored most in the world. This veteran of marriage was being discharged.

“That husband of yours must be crazy,” Kent said quietly as he leaned forward and looked into my eyes. “Too bad he doesn’t realize that he’s got a good woman if she comes up and invites an old man to dinner. My wife used to do that too. Believe me when you are my age you are lonely and you appreciate someone taking the time to show you a little love and concern. But don’t worry, a nice good-looking gal like you will find love again. Just don’t waste your love on someone who doesn’t appreciate it.”

Sometimes it is amazing how God puts someone who we need right in our path when we need them which implants a beautiful facet of multi-colored lights within our soul.Yet, I have found that most of the time it is up to us to seek out for ourselves what it is that we need whether it be companionship, a safe haven or the quite assurance of a hug. For it is in the seeking that we find out what we truly need, that we become confident and brave, and it’s how we realize that we are never alone in this world even though it often feels that way.

Thank you Kent for being my guiding star last night. Your light helped to lead me out of the darkness into a world that is open to possibilities for this old broad. Your purpose in life seems fairly obvious to me…you are a beacon of hope offering your light to those that will take the time to listen.  I can hardly wait to see you next week when we meet for dinner again.  You truly are a great first “date” and you have given hope for the future.

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Hunt And Peck

So I had my shoulder surgery last Thursday and along with it a steady supply of good pain forgetting drugs which pretty much explains why I have not been writing along with the fact that I am pretty much reduced to hunt and peck which is truly a pain in the ass. There you go…the longest sentence known to mankind.Photo on 11-15-17 at 9.53 AM

Seems as though I am going to be wearing my new fashion accessory for at least another month which means that words are short and sweet…and I am not! This reminds me of when I broke my tailbone and had to carry around a blue rubber donut to sit on for six months and everyone assumed i had a terrible case of hemorrhoids. Let’s face it pain makes you grumpy and when you take meds to dull the pain you get constipation so everything kind of sucks all the way around…except girlfriends…who allow you to cry on their sofa about the state of your marriage, cover you with a nice warm blanket, and hold your heart for you while it is crumbling into a million pieces. And while B has been taking care of me his heart is not in it…he just wants to leave…and I can feel his heaviness in the air, between the sheets, and in his touch.

 

His girl friend (not girlfriend) of 33 years says “Really? Thirty years and now he wants to go? I mean, shit, most people cant make it 30 minutes! What makes it so unbearable at thirty years that he just can’t get over it?”

The only answer I can give is that he wants something else…he doesn’t know what…just anything but this. Anything that reminds him he is a perceived ‘failure’ at something as sacred as marriage.

And so….(this is where you write the end of the story because I’m too tired and need to take a happy pill) Besides, I bet your ending will be much better than mine.

 

Visiting With Ghosts

“I’m not being bossy, I’m just telling you what to do,” says my husband.

As you can imagine these are not the choicest of words to say to your wife or any other woman who is over 30.

Years ago I would have told this man where to shove it if those words were said to me. Today, it is more complicated…kids, a 30+ year history together, mortgages…and then there is the sex which has always been divine.  So what does one say when the man you have admired more than anyone in the world hits his 50’s, goes through male menopause, and suddenly becomes someone you no longer know. Somehow…”SCREW YOU ASSHOLE”… no longer feels like an option when you are trying to become your best self and live in a more authentic and pleasant sort of way.

But enough of that.

Today, I was sitting inside when I suddenly heard the roar of B’s hedger. I decided to go out and help him because his back has been hurting.  Upon arriving outside I find B taking it to the rose buses with blades the size of a helicopter and my beloved pink agastache already mowed almost to the ground.

“What are you doing?”

“The trick or treaters won’t be able to make it up the walk. Had to make room for them.”

“B, those were precious to me. I work hard to have a beautiful yard. Why don’t you honor what I do and how hard I work?”

“There you go again. I can’t do anything right.”

And with that we were off. He went his way thinking his wife is a bitch and I went back into the house fuming while feeling what I do is devalued. As I crossed over the threshold it occurred to me that I could be right and I could feel miffed… or… I could have peace. Which did I want? It was a no-brainer. Outside I went.

“B… we need to talk. I came outside to help you so you don’t have to bend over”

“I’m busy. I’ve been working all day. I don’t need your help.”

“Honey, I am done with this old pattern of relating. I say something and you respond that you can never do anything right. Then we both go off into our corners with our invisible boxing gloves on. It is time to do something different.”

He looks at me suspiciously.

“Look,” he says “The kids can’t go up our sidewalk without running into our bushes.”

“I understand that now but didn’t realize it was that much of a problem. But instead of destroying what I worked so hard to create it would be helpful if you would come to me and state your concern about the kids. Then you could say, “Honey, I am going to cut the agastache down if you don’t come out and take care of them your way.” That way I am responsible for what happens. Not you. And I get to do things in the manner I choose; in a way that preserves my plants and my dignity.”

“I didn’t mow them all down…”

“Honey, lets just agree to disagree and try harder not to do the same dance which gets us nowhere. Right now, I am choosing not to be right at all costs. Instead, I am choosing to create peace.”

Later, we went to the pumpkin patch with the kids. We all know that they are getting too old for this folderol but it is a tradition…something to hold onto when so many things are up in the air and our relationship is hanging like grapes on the vine. As we entered the farm, I reflected on our “Days From The Past” and I remembered the happiness our family had experienced here. I harkened back to the times when I saw B in a kinder, gentler sort of light and felt a soft glow surround my heart.

I suspect that sometimes this is what is needed…reminders of times gone right. Those moments in our lives when our joy outweighed our sorrows and fits of laughter outnumbered our tears. Days filled with pumpkins, sunflowers, corn mazes and a frosted cup of apple cider. Maybe these are the things we all need to sustain us when things in our lives morph into things we no longer recognize.

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So this Halloween, instead of paying attention to the ghosts of the present who rattle their chains in an effort to be heard; I think I shall visit with the ghosts of the past to gain a new perspective and appreciation for what was and could possibly be again.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Set oven to 350. Clean pumpkin seeds. Mix with melted butter, dark cherry vinegar, garlic salt, and rosemary. Roast for 25 minutes.

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Fast Pitch

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Well the condo is looking pretty good these days…wish I could say the same about myself.

It all started when I was on a ladder in the shower painting (a lovely shade of very pale gray, if I do say so myself.) Because laziness is a basic necessity while painting; I tend to stretch and paint rather than go up and down the ladder creating unnecessary stress on my knees. It would appear at my age that this type of thinking is a big mistake. For as I was reaching far further than the span of my wings; I fell backwards off the ladder and as I did, my armpit went over the door frame to the shower, while my body went forward. Ouch! Okay, it felt worse than ouch it was more like OUCH!

All week my shoulder and arm hurt but I kept thinking it would feel better soon. The next weekend I decided to be playful and tried to wrestle my husband on the beach. He promptly flipped me over like a grill master with a hamburger and as he did he accidently pushed down on my shoulder. OUCH!

And so for the past two months I have been in pain. Pain sleeping, when putting on my seatbelt, when reaching up, etc. Constant unrelenting pain that I have grinned and bared with grace.

Finally, I decided to go to the doctor who promptly sent me for an MRI which confirmed that I had a slap tear to my bicep. This would be fine except for the fact there is nothing that they can do but surgery in which they cut the bicep in the back, place a screw in your shoulder and re-attach the muscle into the screw. If you choose not to do the surgery, eventually that tear starts fraying and ” sawing” into other areas in the vicinity creating even worse damage resulting in a more comprehensive surgery with even more down time. As it is I will be in a sling for 4-6 weeks as this muscle kind of grows into the screw.

Surgery is set for November. The same weekend B and I were to go away together. Instead, I will be snoozing, with the help of some pain pills, in bed by myself. Another weekend shot. But I am okay with that because I am “re-inventing” myself and plan on telling everyone that the injury was due to my incredible 100 mile-per-hour fastball pitch which sounds much more impressive than falling off a ladder.  Even better, I will be stronger both mentally and eventually physically after mending and maybe this ole’ dog might even be able to learn some new tricks!

Life is good even when its not!

Trying To See The Light Through The Flames

I have to admit I am still searching for the light that is missing in this box into which I have crawled. Sadness seems to be the one emotion that I still feel. I am weary of being with a man who no longer loves me. The weariness lives in the marrow of my bones sucking them dry the richness of life squeezed out of them.

This weekend I was suppose to have a girls get together at my house on the coast. Everyone bailed. There was one reason or another and with this; I realized that there was not one person I could depend on. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends…and I vagely thought about how I had better start depending on myself alone. So I headed up to the house. Me, myself and I.

As I got closer to San Francisco the air became thicker, filled with the smoke of the fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Some of my favorite places in the world up in flames. You could smell charred houses, burnt grapes and the bodies of those who were unaccounted for. Lives once vibrant and hopeful now trying to figure out what they will do without their homes,without their jobs and all their earthly possessions gone. Ninety six thousand displaced people all living in survival mode.

I took the back way on Hwy 1 instead of my usual route through Santa Rosa knowing that the I did not want to witness all the devastation. Nor did I want to get trapped on a highway that could become an inferno. So I drove along the blue waters of the coast, skipping all the unpleasantness except those kinds of thoughts rattling around in my head.

I arrived here in time to watch the sun set on the ocean with bats dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the nighttime sky and the waves of the ocean beating like drums as they broke against the rocky shore. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank to 30 years of marriage that is in the same predicament as  Thelma and Louise hitting the gas and driving off a cliff into uncertainty.

The next morning was beautiful and as I walked the cliffs I started to feel like myself again as the mist in the air washed over me, cleansing my soul. As I ambled on, the winds began to pick up and I thought about all those firefighters 50 miles away who would soon be battling them along with the intense heat of the ash as it rained down from the sky.

Soon an old lady came into view. I judged her to be about 80 and she was carrying a jet-black cane over her head. We passed one another with a smile and a nod; each continuing our own way with our own thoughts. A mile later we met again as we retraced or steps but this time I asked her “Why are you carrying your cane over your head?”

“To remind me how strong I am,” was the answer.

“Why do you need reminding of that?” I asked “you look strong enough to me that I wouldn’t want to take you on in a back alley somewhere.”

She chuckled as she began to explain that she was a fire evacuee staying with a friend. On Sunday, in the dead of night, she was awakened by the fire fighters from the station two doors down who were banging on her door.

“You have got to get out. You have got to leave now,” they ordered.

She wrapped a house coat around herself, grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and her shoes,  went into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. Then she picked up her purse, called the dog and left her house.

“It’s all gone now,” she tells me with not an ounce of pity in her voice.

“Why did I get my toothbrush?” she looks at me and asks the question as if I might provide an answer that would satisfy her.

“I needed my medicines but left those behind. Yet, I took time to get my toothbrush. A $1.50 toothbrush,” she says with a shake of her head and a laugh. “Crazy isn’t it!”

She tells me that her Grandmother’s china is gone along with her deceased husband’s favorite books, her wedding dress, and everything else she owned in the world. Pictures of her children on their first day of school, her collection of salt and pepper shakers, all her clothes and her piano at which she sang to start every morning.

“But I will sing again,” she assures me with a smile. “For I am strong and I am happy and I am ALIVE!!!!” she says with a great belief in herself  and sense of joy that literally takes my breath away.

“I will begin again and who knows what I will become? Opportunity is banging at my door just like those firemen did,” she says with determination and grace as she heads off down the trail.

“It’s never too late to re-create yourself,” she yells back at me with a smile.

Later that day I offer my house up to any family who might need it. I talk on the telephone to a man who skirted the police blockades just to return to his house and sift through the ashes that now contain the contents of his entire life.

“I found my son’s bronzed baby shoes,” he informs me along with a few other trinkets of a life that felt meaningful and alive to him.

“We will just have to start over,” he tells me a sob stiffelled in his throat.

And although he cannot see me I find myself nodding my head at his words. For many times in our lives we are forced to start over, not of our own choosing, but because of forces that intrude unexpectantly. We can choose to see sorrow as an opportunity or we can wallow in our own misery until the end of time ultimately robbing ourselves of our accomplishments and the ability to morph into something we might not have expected… Someone better. Someone Kinder. Someone Wiser. And Someone who depends on themselves for their own happiness and to create a satisfying life no matter what is thrown in our way.

Today I met so many amazing people…. survivors and volunteers alike. And in these meetings I came away blessed. I hope they will be too.

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P.S. Thank you to all the fire fighters, healthcare workers, inmates, sheriff departments and all the volunteers who have saved lives while risking theirs.