Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Necessity of Self Care

It's been a rough and emotionally draining week. I haven't taken the time to do much in the way of self-care. I've been like a little hamster on a wheel, working hard not to fall off unaware that, in a way, it was my own feet that were moving me along too fast.

I discovered a new phone app and played with it a bit. I did a few things with it and this morning I spent a little time in my too crowded art room. I sent a long stream of consciousness style email to a friend, puking out most of the week's feelings and events. I created a snail mail card and wrote a note to another friend, sending her a secret she promises not to read. She's going to put it in a piece of her artwork (yes, I trust her). I included for her an old letter written by a service man in Germany to a woman in the states named Maude. I once worked in a place that had a bookkeeper named Maude.

 This is one of the photos I filtered with the new app. It's a drain square on the brick sidewalk where I walk each morning to get to my office. I've said this before, there are other ways I could enter my building. I like going this way because the walk somehow grounds me and prepares me for my day. It's a small sort of ritual. 

This is a group of playing cards I started altering a couple of years ago. I did the backgrounds all at once and I have been adding quotes and reminders on the cards. I have 44 done with about 12 left to go. I was shooting for 52 but I have 12 left without quotes so if I continue, I'll have extra. I'm thinking about picking one card a week and writing about whatever comes up when I see the card. Would any of you like to play along on something like that?

I did this one with a lettering app that offers free graphics every week. We call this plant hen and biddies. My aunt gave me a start, along with a couple of other plants, when I left her house after I finished done with radiation. Years ago, I kept many house plants in our home. Somehow I got out of the habit and it pleases me that these plants are doing so well. They are all in front of one sunny window right now but I hope some day to disperse them throughout the house. After the cancer, there is something poignant about growing and nurturing plants.

Yep, that's my two cents' worth for the day: Stay curious and don't forget to take care of yourself.

PS: I've run this piece of writing through the Hemingway editor website. You put in your writing and it calls you out for various things. I've edited this piece accordingly and now Hemingway editor's only two complaints are that 3 of my sentences are hard to read (suck it up reader, keep up or get left behind) and that I have 1 adverb. Hemingway editor is demanding that I remove it but I already reluctantly (take that, Hemingway editor) remove two adverbs and I don't see how I can remove "emotionally" from the description of my week, although maybe I could/should. What does the writing world have against adverbs (she asked plaintively)? I did not run this last paragraph through Hemingway editor. I don't need my sass to be be edited. Snail mail friend, I trust you implicitly.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

More on "My Prayer for Me"

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." 
Alfred Lord Tennyson
I used to joke and say I'd rather play it safe and avoid the possibility of being hurt. It wasn't all a joke. I was, deep inside, always a little wary, and sometimes, loved with reservation. But when my son died in 2011, I knew my deep love for him was worth far more than avoiding the pain of my heartache over him being gone. That's one of the reasons I say I learned so much about love from loving him. The loss of my son and a few other things in my life from the last few years have opened my heart in a way that it has never been opened before. The wariness has diminished greatly.

In the comments on the "My Prayer" post, Rach said, "I love how this is all about risking to open your self up but at the same time being cautious. That feels true to me." There is something in her words for me. We live in a world where people are going to hurt us, disappoint us, occasionally totally betray us. I think I lean towards being Pollyanna-ish at times, but beneath that is always the awareness of the possibility of being hurt. That's why I need those warnings in my prayer, or my creed, or my manifesto, to remind me that there is no magical way to avoid being hurt. It's going to happen. But that doesn't mean I need to live closed off and afraid of being hurt. 

Love, trust, faith, openness, allowing one's self to be seen--they are always going to be risky propositions. But if we can approach these choices thoughtfully with our eyes and heart wide open, the risks are so well worth it. Just don't go at it blind. Know that you are taking a risk. Know that you might get hurt. Perhaps that awareness will keep bitterness at bay. But also know that your risk might lead to a very satisfying and life-giving relationship. 

Maybe what I'm trying to say is that I have had a shift in my thinking. Maybe, in spite of what I've written here about risk and pain, I'm come to a place where I am less focused on avoiding pain and more focused on taking the risk of loving and being open? I don't know. What I know is that I am grateful for the teachers and healers in my life who have helped proved to me that, many times, the risk towards love is well worth taking.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

My Prayer For Me

Begin with love.
Be as kind as possible.
Keep your eyes open.
Be aware, be alert, be vigilant.
Accept and appreciate.
Be flexible and willing.
(for change will surely come,
life is not static.)

Take the risk of exposing
your heart/self
(be aware, be alert, be vigilant).
Open your arms wide like a child
to give; to receive.

Most of all, dear one:
Let your light shine.

I woke up one morning in the country last year and these words formed in my head so I wrote them down. This is my creed, my manifesto. Several of my personal values are covered in this short little piece. So many hints to my own growth in the last few years. I want to continue to grow, and to live.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Problem With Radiation

One of the trickier things for me during the radiation process was navigating the radiation waiting room. The room (hallway might be a more accurate term, since it was open on both ends) was probably 12-14 feet long and maybe 8 or 9 feet across. There were chairs lined up all in a row on both sides with small tables located somewhat in the middle of the row that held books and magazines. One of the tables had an unplugged CD/radio combo sitting on it. Thankfully (for me, at least) there was no television.  There were a few inspirational things hanging on the wall and a bulletin board with all kinds of notes and messages for the staff, a collection of thank yous that I assume were built up over the years and had to be stuck somewhere.

There was a clock on the wall that I nearly tore off the wall and stomped to pieces one day when I was the only one waiting. The ticking was so loud and rudely intruded upon my thoughts. But most of the time there were other women around, waiting their turn with the Machine.

The tricky thing was that I never really knew how to behave, always had to wonder, "is it going to be an introvert day or an extrovert day?" I'm not good at initiating conversations so if the tone was left up to me it was always an introvert day. I'd come in, maybe the other woman (women) would look up and we'd make eye contact and maybe utter a small greeting, then we'd each disappear back into our own heads, or old magazines, silently waiting to be called.

Other days, I'd arrive and there would be hearty greetings and talk about the traffic coming in to the hospital, or about home and when we would return, or how many treatments we had left. In the beginning I heard a couple of women talking about the "red devil" chemo treatment. Inside I was horrified and grateful I didn't have to deal with that. Many times, I also felt slightly guilty over still having my hair.

I joked with a friend that on the days the waiting area was crowded my space was going to be invaded by someone sitting in the chair next to me. She laughed and said they were just friends I hadn't yet met.
Maybe true but the time was so fleeting.

I had a brief encounter a couple of days with this woman who seemed to be a little bit older than me. She usually wore all black and had a lithe body. When she told me she did Zumba 6 days a week, I told her I'd have a tough time with Zumba because I have no rhythm and can't dance. She answered that people say that but it's just like painting or other art, anyone can do it. They just have to practice and let go of...and then she was called back for her appointment. Dang it. After that, the story I built in my head about her was that maybe she was a dancer before, an eccentric artsy-fartsy type of woman who was very secure in herself and her body. I think I would have liked to have gotten to know her better.

There were others too. But only small snippets of conversation and a shared threat hold me to them. We never even exchanged names.

Still, I wonder sometimes how they are all doing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

After The Rain (Haiku)

I played tennis last night. 
I was grateful the rain came and went before it was time to play. 
I'm also grateful to be healthy enough to play again.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Grieving a Friend I'd Never Met

Dear Jim,

I hate when my voice inside my head tells me to do something and I do. not. listen. For months now, I'd intended to email you and see how you were doing. This past week I got the idea to check your Facebook page and I found your obituary saying you had died in April.

Upon hearing you were gone, and not having followed my gut and contacted you, I did the next best thing I could do. I perused all my emails and comments you made on my blog over the years. You were an encouragement to me, Jim. You often pointed back to my spiritual roots and the strength that could be garnered in them. So many times I was grateful for the reminder. Our friend Cheryl remembered the way you always spoke to us with grace. I felt that too, and needed it.

Among my notes I found a place where you quoted from "A River Runs Through It,"

"Each of us here today will look upon a loved one in need and ask ourself the same question: We are willing to help, Lord; but what, if anything, is needed? If the Word is true, we can seldom help those who are closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourself to give, or that which we have to give is not wanted...And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them. We can love them completely, without completely understanding." Norman Maclean
I've come to understand this quote so much more than I did in 2005 when you first mentioned it. This was another of the things I enjoyed about you, your ability to pull references from other works and to present them at just the right time. I've checked "A River Runs Through It" out from the library at work. I think I've probably mentioned to you at some time that one of the perks of working at a university is that I get to keep library books for a full semester. It's a short book but I won't be pressured to read it too quickly. You'd probably be pleased to know that one of my work friends just "happened" to have mentioned the book and movie last week, before I knew you were gone, before I was reminded of your reference to the book (in that dark and learning time in my life that taught me so much about the power of love, and what love could and could not do), so I'm sure there is some wisdom there that I can use for this present time in my life.

I've also had the copy of Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim on Tinker Creek" on my bedside at the country. We wrote during the years of how you enjoyed her work and I started reading the book years ago but never finished it. I'll be picking that book up again as I remember you and grieve your loss.

I often dreamed that one day we'd get up that way, or you and your wife would come somewhere close to us, and I would get to meet and visit with you in person. It never worked out, but I'll keep you in my heart for a very long time. Your presence in my life was a blessing and it feels way too soon for you to have had to leave. I'll remember your wife and daughters and grandchildren in my prayers. And I'll pray for the others who will carry on your work in the rescue mission and in the juvenile detention center.

Oh, Jim, now I'm reading about how you were the dance king of the high school where you worked, for jitterbugging around the cafeteria! Why am I not surprised? How I would have loved to have seen that! 

 Jim Filer
10/13/41 - 04/21/16

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Artful Play

This is a potato vine I have growing in a glass of water in the window. It has strong healthy roots. It's time to take it out and plant it in the ground.
I've been playing more with watercolors. The tree is a poorly rendered sketch of the rain tree we planted in our son's memory. The lettering was added via an app on my phone.

For several reasons, I'm toying with the idea of taking a Facebook sabbatical during the month of August. One thing I'd hope is that I'd devote more time to posting here on the blog. The other thing I'd hope is that I'd finally get brave enough to share my blog on Facebook. It's beginning to seem silly not to.

Life continues on. I'm recovering from the side effects of the radiation. I played tennis one night this week, the first time in over two months. I've started the new medicine that I will be taking for 5-10 years, added vitamin D and calcium to my pill regime, and I'm still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing now that this latest chapter is behind me. :)