Pain In The Neck

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For about 25 years I have lived with chronic pain in my back and neck. It was the result of two on the job injuries one of which involved trying to catch and patient and his ventilator as he began falling off a gurney on the way to the shower. This was followed two weeks before or later (I no longer remember) when I caught an old lady who was going down on the floor. Several years later I was in a car accident. All of this has added up to chronic pain in my neck, shoulders, and back. If I don’t go crazy the pain/spasms are manageable but certain things set me off like repetitive bending and sitting for long periods of time. After all these years I have gotten pretty good at knowing where I can go and what I can do without setting myself up for painful back spasms.

Recently, my primary care physician sent me to a doctor who specializes in pain management. He is a nice guy who listens well and treats his patients with care. I had a workup and in the end he thought it would be helpful to have injections in my trigger points to break them up and hopefully provide some relief to the pain. I had had those same injections soon after the original injury and I passed out cold in the doctor’s office so I wasn’t looking forward to the procedure. In fact, I have been dreading it.

Well, today was the day and luckily it wasn’t as bad as it had been previously. I had ten shots in my neck/shoulders and while it made me woozy I am happy to report I remained upright and conscious the entire time!

I am now home with a massive headache and a lot of hope that this treatment will help decrease the chronic pain that I have endured for so long. Living with chronic pain has affected my life in so many ways. It has made me tired, grumpy, and hesitant to do/try things. It has made me uptight and has decreased my self-confidence. Usually I have managed to keep my discomfort under wraps so as not to burden others but not always. Sometimes I just got grumpy with those who love me the most and I am sure it contributed to my “maybe divorce.” I also believe that it is the root cause of my fibromyalgia.

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Happily, today, I truly believe that this time the injections will help. Like so many things going on in my life at this particular point and time, I expect to have a fundamental shift in how I interact with those around me and in how I treat myself if I can decrease or eliminate this pain. I am excited and am blessed that I live in a country in which this option is available to me and I can hardly wait to jump for joy again as chronic pain becomes a distant memory.

Reminder: If a loved one suffers from chronic pain…believe them when they say they are hurting and lighten their load if you can. Until you have endured you will not understand how daily doses of pain effect you and your family. Be kind, be patient, be gentle and ask what you can do to help. Who knows, someday the table may be turned and you will want the support that someone who has lived lived with chronic pain because they will understand what you need and will be there for you. Indeed, what goes around come around!

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Saying YES To The Ring

I have been pondering for the past couple of days how to write this post. I have started it, deleted it and started it again many times. For at this point, what I am about to write is embarrassing, very confusing, and probably tiring to all who read my blog.  Frankly, I know that if this on-and-off again relationship was happening to a friend or my daughters I would say, “Get the fuck out! You deserve a man who wants all of you all of the time!”

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Yet, sometimes life is not that cut-and-dried no matter how hard we try to make it so. Over thirty years of marriage is a long time together. It is doubly hard when you have two boys with autism and who do not do well with change. Add to that three children who have already lost their original families and splitting up becomes fraught with minefields that just are not present in most families.

Now to tell you this particular story I have to take you back to October. It was then that B asked me what I wanted for Christmas. At that time I flippantly told him a commitment ring but frankly I thought that the possibility of receiving one was nil. Winning the lottery had better odds. And anyway, who doesn’t like a ring, right, so what was the harm in asking?

Fast forward to Christmas night. As we were winding down from the days festivities I told B I thought we should tell the kids tomorrow that we were separating. Tears came to B’s eyes and all of a sudden he called the kids down to do THE board. You see, every year on Christmas day and July 4th, we measure our kids to see how much they have grown (seems we will need a longer board for Andre next July.) Then, just as the kids were about to go upstairs B told them to wait and proceeded to say. “Hey, guys, there is one more present here and it is for your mom.”

With that, he walked over to his briefcase and pulled out a jewelry box and in it sat a woven silver and gold ring. Nothing elaborate (that is not who I am) and nothing too expensive (not me either). As I looked at the ring in shock he said something to me and the kids along the order of:

“The silver in this ring represents our Silver Anniversary (25th) while the gold represents striving toward our Gold Anniversary (50th). In this ring there are little breaks and holes that represent life and how during our lives we have to navigate through them, around them, and out of them; to get back on the path we have chosen. So I am giving your Mom this ring to show her that I am committed  and will continue to try working together to reach our Golden Anniversary.”

My first thought: Maybe he really does love me…and tears

My second thought: I am not sure I want this. Maybe it really is time to be out on my own.

My third thought: Why did he say this in front of the kids?

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Luckily, the next day was Tuesday, the day I see my therapist. She said:

“I’m confused.”

That made two of us.

So we talked about the conflicting feelings this brought up. About how for the last week every time we talked about leaving and splitting up our family we both cried. How our guts were both twisted in knots and how discussing dividing children, assets and animals was devastating. And that in this heartache we had gotten closer at least for the past few weeks but that it should be viewed as temporary.

In the end, I decided to accept the ring…for now. Instead of deluding myself into thinking this ring is a piece of jewelry that signifies B’s commitment to me for life; I have decided to view it as a day-to-day pledge until I decide otherwise.

Last night we went to our joint therapist and I asked for clarification regarding the ring, the commitment and why he said what he did in front of the kids.I will say that I received some very well thought through answers to my questions and that we both acknowledged that we have a long way to go to save this marriage if it is even possible.

At this point I have no real answers about life or the status of my marriage. What I do know is that every day we manage to make it is one more day our children have had a chance to grow older and more mature. It is one more day that we have successfully re-committed to working hard and to trying our best to listen to what is in the others heart and act accordingly. And it is one more day that we have attempted to let love win, move towards acceptance of both ourselves and the other, and its one more time that we have had the chance to try to find peace in a relationship that once had little.

Sometimes life is hard.

Sometimes life is isn’t.

And maybe, just maybe, given a little more time, the hard times will decrease and the good times will grow more frequent and blossom. And maybe someday I will realize good times and bad are just part of life and that is just the way it is and I won’t take it personally. And maybe, just maybe when the good times are abundant I will be able to rejoice in them knowing that I have done everything humanly possible to make them happen….with or without him.

 

 

 

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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Marine Layer-10 Minute Poem Challenge

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The Marine Layer

Sleeps out past the shore

Creating a demarcation

Where the horizon meets the sea

It is a layer of dense, still clouds

Which lay alongside each other

In protective layers

Like you and me

Bonded together in the same place

At the same time

With an invisible line

That keeps us

One from the other

 

Dark and gloomy

You are and will ever be

Waiting for the darkness of night

When you can come

Back to the land

Unnoticed and unseen

Except for me

Waiting in a life raft

To pull you out of yourself….

And your self-imposed middle-aged crisis

 

Alas, I cannot reach you

Because the glow from the prism

Of the lighthouse

Is extinguished

Leaving a rudderless craft

Which bangs against the sharp rocks

Of your soul

A piece of you

That wants to see my boat

Splinter into a thousand wooden toothpicks

So that I drown in the light-less waters

Of your silent cruelty

Which wants to live alone

Or just without me

 

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

Death Of My Marriage

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Yesterday was the day that we decided to meet for lunch to exchange lists regarding how we would like to divide our property, arrange child custody issues, and the like. We have decided to try to forego lawyers and see if we can work this out between the two of us.

We slept the night before holding hands and when we woke up B tells me, “Maybe we should go back to the belief that divorce is not an option,” so when we went to the restaurant for lunch I half expected that he might give me a piece of paper that said I DO NOT WANT A DIVORCE but he came fully prepared. I guess there is a little part of me that is still floating down DE-NILE. A part that does not want to enter the raging, swirling currents of divorce that could at any time capsize my raft and suck me under the torrents of tears that seem originate at the mouth of this river.

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These days I find tears are always threatening to leak out of my eyes at the most inopportune times. Paul came downstairs and found streaks from tears that I quickly wiped off my face but he saw them and asked what was wrong. Thank goodness I am still wearing this arm sling because it hides a multitude of emotional sins that are bubbling at my surface surprising me as the burst forth when least expected.

“I’m okay, sweetie. My shoulder is I just hurting me right now,” has become a great response when my sad and raw sentiments threaten to take me down to places in which I do not want my children to see or dwell.

After Christmas we will detonate their world by blowing up all they believed to be right and true to smithereens. They will never be the same and I am afraid that my two sons with autism will regress/rage as a way to handle the major changes that their lives will undergo. Change is something that is very hard for people with autism to endure.

I also feel terribly guilty. As adoptees my children have already lost the first parents, their first country, their culture and their language. We were suppose to be their Forever Family and we have let them down. Paul’s therapist tells us his biggest fear is ending up alone with no family and I am sure it will set off feelings of abandonment for him. This is one of the things I am finding it difficult to find peace about and find the compassion to offer forgivness towards my husband destroying our lives together.

Last night B and I got into bed. We held hands all night and we both cried on and off. It was a night in which sleep eluded us but sorrow did not as it swept us up in its tight grip and kept any sweet dreams at bay.

Today is a new day…I think I will go back to sleep.

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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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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.