From Cracks In the Writer’s Block Wall

1.  I don’t like to go inside to the prescription counter at the drugstore for my refills because that’s where all the sick people congregate. I’m not a germ-a-phobe, but I do try to be sensible.  Today, though, the drive-thru closed for remodeling. Only two people stood ahead of me in line and neither one coughed. Thank you, God. The woman at the head of the line had a problem so I had time to look at all the magazine covers under the counter.  Cosmopolitan screamed “BEST SEX EVER!!” in gigantic letters right next to Weight Watchers and Cooking Light.  I used to read Cosmopolitan before I had kids.  I remember not wanting my mother to see it, but today’s cover goes way beyond trashy to inappropriate. I’m quite sure I’m not in their demographic anymore.

2.  As I drove out of the drugstore parking lot, I looked at the Hardees next door. A big sign promoted a “Fried Bologna and Velveeta Biscuit.” I had to read it twice to be sure I saw it right.  Yes, my friends, I do live in the South.  True confession–I was tempted to try one. Bologna and cheese sandwich (not on white bread anymore) with potato chips on the side is one of my comfort foods. What? Don’t you have a secret junky comfort food?

3.  The retired man I live with felt crummy yesterday and again this morning.  Nothing serious, although any amount of illness is serious in his world.  He can’t usually just sit around and do nothing so by this morning he needed a project.  We are members of the Apple cult–laptops, phones, iPod, iPad and we use AppleTV for streaming Netflix, etc.  He decided he wanted all the music in his iTunes account to be in the AppleTV thing so he could play music through the television.  (Why?) He did it, after he finally got the right password for iTunes. The Cloud is a powerful and spooky mystery.

4.  A while back, my family discussed inner age vs chronological age. At the time we ranged in age from about 30 to late 50’s. The young ones thought of themselves as close to their chronological age. I was at the other end of the age range and thought of myself as about 35. These days, at 62, I feel more like mid-40’s inside. I liked my 40’s—some maturity (and sobriety) and wisdom but still plenty of energy. I developed spunk and comfort with being myself. I still have those characteristics inside, including a somewhat warped sense of humor, but my body has slowed down. I know what I like and need and I appreciate the good things in my life. Time with my grandchildren makes anything negative disappear. Their delight at all the world offers them feeds my soul. And when they get grumpy or poopy, I can give them back.

5.  Because of damage from years of rheumatoid arthritis,  I periodically search for comfortable, attractive (or at least not ugly) shoes.  I came across a blog recently called Barking Dog Shoes (barkingdogshoes.com). The blogger, Kirsten Borrink, has reviewed over 1000 pairs of shoes since 2007! Lately I’ve been looking for a walking shoe so I can walk outside.  I’ve tried more than a few, but nothing just right yet.  (Hint: if you order shoes online, you can wear them inside a bit and still return them for a full refund.  Try to stay on rugs or carpet.) On the desk beside me is an ad I tore out of the Arthritis Today magazine for Gravity Defier.  G-Defy, they call it.  “Science in every pair!” “Feel weightless!” Here’s how I know I’m an optimist–I’ll probably order a pair.  They just might be the ones.  Kind of like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans for a 62-year-old body. Must be out there somewhere, right?

6.  Most of the public schools in our county started today. (Some magnet schools run on other calendars.) Adaline started 4-year-old preschool today, too, at the same place she went last year.  Her mom posted a picture on Facebook. At 4, Adaline knows how to “work it” for the camera.  Cute, but a bit unnerving.  She wore a purple jumper with a big turquoise peace sign on it.  Back when I was wearing peace signs (late 60’s and into the 70’s) I didn’t imagine my grandchild wearing one the 1st day of school! Does that mean 80’s hair is in her future?

7.  I drew from both Cosmo and Arthritis Today for this post.  I think that adds up to groovy grey-haired grandma! (told you I had a warped sense of humor.)

 

Published in: on August 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm  Comments (3)  
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All Are Welcome Here

Almost 300 people gathered at Kanuga Conference Center in the woods of the NC mountains.  All were somehow touched by HIV/AIDS.  The Southeastern dioceses of the Episcopalian Church have sponsored this annual June retreat for over 20 years. Clients and patients mixed easily with staff and volunteers from agencies in NC, SC, AL, FL, GA and even Texas.  Some rode many hours on buses.  Others carpooled.  For many, this was their only trip beyond their home county all year.

I attended this year, my 4th time.  I listened to stories of loss and loneliness and hope and resilience.  Many voiced gratitude for a place of no shame where the dominant message was “You are welcome here.

A young man in his 20’s told of being born HIV positive.  His mother died shortly after his birth and he was adopted at 3 weeks old from the hospital. At 8, his mother told him he was HIV positive.  He went to a support group and found a best friend.  As he reached adulthood, his adoptive mother died and then his best friend.  He was ready to stop his medications and die, too.  He found Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.  He participated in a men’s support group and the men nurtured him and loved him and he decided to keep on living.

Another man shared that he doesn’t take communion at home because he is HIV positive and doesn’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable by drinking from the communal cup. He gratefully took communion and drank from the cup at the sunrise lakeside worship service because all were truly welcome that morning.  He cried telling his story.

At that same lakeside worship service, just as the priest was consecrating the bread and wine, a flock of geese circled the lake, flew over our heads, and landed softly on the water.  They stayed there, floating, as we went to the front for communion.  Flying geese are a Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit.*

I volunteer at Higher Ground, a house in my town where people infected and affected by HIV gather. I’m on the board of directors for its parent agency, Triad Health Project.

Once a month my church provides lunch at Higher Ground for about 30 people, sometimes more.  Over the years, we have fed over 6,000 hungry mouths. One time I fixed baked chicken breasts.  I knew how many I cooked and I knew from counting heads it wasn’t enough.  We had leftovers.  And no way to explain them.  There is always enough food.

Once or twice a month I lead a group, called Robin’s Nest on the calendar. Sometimes we write in journals–everyone gets one and they’re stored in a big wicker basket in the back room.  We’ve played with Model Magic, weird stuff that’s like new-age Play Dough. We’ve used markers and crayons.  Always I play music, usually soft jazz like Kenny G or Boney James. We’re quiet for a while and then everyone has a chance to share.  We talk about life and death, faith and fun, anger and love.  We tell our stories. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry.  We listen and we are heard.

Most of the folks who participate have lost something because of their disease.  Lovers, family, honesty about themselves, mobility, health.  They are more likely to talk about what they have gained.  For some, days free from addiction.  For most, faith in a loving God.  Often, it’s Higher Ground, where they have a community of welcoming friends who care where they are and ask how they’re doing.  They daily choose to keep on living because they have come so close to dying.

Nine years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I went to Higher Ground.  I knew they would understand my fears and would show me how to keep living each day, one at a time.  When my rheumatoid arthritis is acting up and I’m in pain, Higher Ground is one of the few places I will go.  They accept me as I am and it’s okay.  They offer compassion; there is no pity.  They know how to live life on life’s terms.

I know the Holy Spirit was at Kanuga. I saw Her geese. I feel God’s presence every time I pay attention at Higher Ground.

14 years ago, I resisted the call to Higher Ground.  I had just resigned after  6 1/2 years as a Hospice volunteer coordinator and I said, “I don’t want to be around people who are going to die.” I’m not sure when or how that changed.

People I love have dwindled and died.  But more have come close and then gotten well again.

I think I have more to learn from my friends at Higher Ground.  My heart needs to continue opening to new friends.  I’m willing to take the risk.

 

* “Wild Goose” is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm  Comments (7)  
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I Thank You, God, For The Wonder of My Being (a psalm)

My God,

All those years it didn’t show and no one had to know.

Pain, yes, but no one can see another’s pain.

Now, some days I limp or have use my cane,

Food falls off my fork. I wear my napkin like a bib.

I ask for help and grind my teeth behind the smile.

Must I say “No, I can’t” after “Yes, I can”?

“Can we reschedule? I’m in the hospital.”

“I can’t help–my back is in spasms.”

“I can’t come–it’s a bad arthritis flare.”

My God,

I’m tired.

I’m humbled.

I’m embarrassed.

I want to be whole and healthy,

I want to walk for miles on Your green and flowering earth,

Or just to move more easily.

I want a simple boo-boo to simply heal.

Instead a hole in my elbow requires surgeons and stitches,

Bandages that won’t stay on and packing with silver

And lots of poking with the wooden end of a Q-tip.

An infection requires 3 days of IV vancomycin in room 1342

And 8 days of cleocin pills 3 times a day with lots of yogurt.

All because the dog tripped me months ago

And when I fell I banged my elbow.

I feel fragile these days.

My soul is weary.

I feel ashamed

Of illness, of frailty, of looking older than I am,

Of vulnerability, of dependence, of need, of fear.

My soul cries out to You

Help me!

And so the word “Acceptance” appears on the blackboard in my brain

As I lie in the MRI machine with my face 2 inches from the rounded wall

And my ankle is stretched in a way it doesn’t go

That makes it still hurt a week later.

And so in an article in an email,

I read about Passivity:

The less I do, the less I commit, the less I expect of myself,

The less I’ll disappoint or feel incompetent.

I know why I sit.

And so I read about Resilience:

The ability of something to return to its original form

After being pulled, stretched, pressed, bent.

 Terry reads “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou as liturgy Sunday.

“Just like the moon and the suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes spring high,

Still I rise…

Leaving nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear…”

And so I walk for 15 minutes at Bicentennial Garden

And I hear the birds and see the flowers

And look into the eyes of other walkers.

I receive the smiles and greetings of those I pass.

I gather in Your beauty,

Revel in Your gentle breeze,

Feel the muscles in my legs move

And send blessings to my malformed feet.

I move out into Your Grace.

And so I say “Yes” when my daughter says “I need you.”

I say “Yes, I can do that today.”

And so I will drive to Raleigh to be with Maggie,

The embodiment of Your joy and wonder and love.

My God, I thank you.

My Spirit thanks you.

My Soul is full of Your Grace.

 

(The title is from a chant by Isabella Bates on the CD “Sound Faith.”)

Tapestry

On her mother’s  last day (though no one knew it was her last day), Terry got some help and pushed her mother’s bed out a door and into a garden.  Her mother lived through a decade of dementia and had been actively dying for 2 1/2 weeks with Terry by her side.  It was a beautiful early spring day and a comfortable breeze ruffled through the new blooms.  A robin sang  for them.  A bee buzzed around her mother’s head for a long time.  Terry thinks it was her dead brother, Jimmy.  Betty died outside in the spring garden air that afternoon.

I don’t believe in a God that manipulates us like marionettes.  I do believe God offers us situations and opportunities that can move us in one direction or another and that our choices have consequences, both immediate and long-term.

I like the idea of life as a tapestry.  These words are from “Tapestry,” a Carole King song you can easily find on youtube:

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

On the back side of a tapestry, strings of many colors go every-which-way, knots sit in unexpected places, blank places look bare, strings overlap, and some just hang loose.  On the front side, a beautiful picture emerges.

I was assigned a project, maybe in 6th or 7th grade, to learn about two professions.  I picked teaching and foreign service.  I researched foreign service requirements and options like working in an embassy or for the State Dept in DC.  The work fascinated me, but I remember no encouragement at school or at home for such an ambition.

I expected to be a teacher most of my life.  I enjoyed school and good grades had value in my family.  My parents both taught after college.  I never really knew I had other choices.  What did other girls  who became attorneys or ministers or scientists hear that I did not?

I started taking French in 7th grade and took it all through high school and even took a French literature class (in French) in college.  It came easily for me. I loved the sound of it and all I learned about French culture and way of life.

My college choices came down to UNC and Duke.  UNC=Special Education.  Duke=French.  I was the oldest of 3 kids close together in age.  Our college costs would overlap for years.  I chose UNC, a state school with much lower tuition. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and found a husband.

In the mid-1970’s, in my 20’s, I taught at the Tammy Lynn Center, a private residential and educational facility for the mentally handicapped in Raleigh, NC.  Terry’s brother, Jimmy, who she thinks came to their mother as a bee as she was dying, lived at the Center while I was there and attended the school during the day.  Terry’s parents were among the founders of Tammy Lynn Center and I remember talking with them.  We discovered this surprising connection during a get-to-know-each-other lunch a few years ago.

After our children left home, my husband and I took my dream trip–a week in Paris.  Though I hadn’t spoken French for over 20 years, much came back to me. I bought a necklace from a woman who spoke no English using my memory and my French-English dictionary.  I was fearless!  I fell in love with everything French.  I think I was French in another life.  I went back with my daughters a year later.

I am grateful for each day I have.  Since a cancer diagnosis 9 years ago followed quickly by remission, I danced at both my daughter’s weddings, am blessed with 3 grandchildren nearby and am still happily married to the husband I found at Carolina, though I call him “the-retired-man-I-live-with” now.  I even went back to Paris–alone!

I love and treasure the life I live these days.  My daughters like to spend time with us and willingly share their children with us.  I volunteer at church and with a non-profit that serves those touched by HIV/AIDS.  I’ve been sober for almost 27 years.  I have friends from all parts of this community where we have deep roots. My tapestry is knotty and messy on the back.  The front is beautiful.

But sometimes I wonder…what if I’d taken another path?  Why did no one encourage me to take a different piece of string for my tapestry?  What would it have looked like?

 

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 8:47 am  Comments (15)  
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From My Slightly ADD Brain

1.  My new antidepressant and my not-quite-as-new drug for rheumatoid arthritis are working together to get me back to “ME.”  I feel like Robin again and I’m very grateful.  A friend told me yesterday she was glad I was back.  I said, “Me, too.”  I told my therapist I thought I might be on a “pink cloud” and she asked if I meant euphoria.  I said, “Yes!” and that I was afraid it wouldn’t last.  She said she thought maybe I just felt good and I said, “Oh, you mean I’ve reached a level like normal?” She said, “Yes” and we both laughed really hard.  I look back now at how I felt in December and January and recognize I have an illness that, untreated, depresses my spirit and takes away all joy.  I choose today to do all I can not to live that way.  I choose to step fully into each unique day..

2.  My current book is “This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett.  It’s a collection of essays by a novelist.  She writes some about writing and a lot about her life.  I love to read how she puts words together.  In the essay that gave the book its title, she describes the deterioration of one of her marriages.  A friend asked her, “Does your husband make you a better person?  Are you smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Does he make you better?”

3.  As I get some older–I’m 62 today–I have less physical and emotional energy.  I treasure my energy on any given day.  I had none when my depression was at its worst.  It varies now from day to day.   I think I will use the questions below when I need to choose how to use my time and energy:

Will _____ make you a better person?  Will you be smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Will ______ make you better?

4.  A week ago we had an ice storm.  Actually, we had a sleet-snow-freezing rain storm that took away the power of 143,000 in our county alone.  The retired man I live with and I lost our electricity for 34 hours, but we have gas logs and a small generator to power tv and lights and the microwave.  Our daughter, son-in-law and their chatty 4-year-old and their constantly moving almost-two year old endured 4 days.  My daughter sounded worse each day in the very brief conversations we had because she had to turn on the car to charge the phone.  She got excited about doing laundry when it finally came back on.

5.  Afterward, we talked about those days without tv, internet, iPad and readily available phone.  Besides the quiet, she noticed her kids playing together more.  She read.  And they all cuddled a lot because the house was colder inside than it was outside some of those days.  Maybe we should have national No Electricity Weekend each spring and fall, with a guarantee of a high temperature between 63 and 78 and no rain so we can go outside.  I bet we’d all read more, play together more, and cuddle more.

6.  I googled “how to be a friend” recently because I’ve been thinking about how I would like to be a better friend to some people I really like, like Kim and Lisa.  My google choices included: how to be friends with a guy, with a girl, with a friend who is sick, with a friend who is depressed and how to be a friend with benefits.  (Google that yourself if you’re not sure what that means, Aunt Nadine.)  I looked at the friends with benefits one, of course.  It was a slide show format that wouldn’t go past #4 (of 10) for me.  I’m not sure what that meant.  The 1st 5 links for “how to be a friend” were from wikihow.com, amazon, selfstairway.com (?), tinybuddha.com, and realsimple.com.  I clicked on tinybuddha.com (here’s the link) and got a list of 25 suggestions that were actually quite good, though not really anything I didn’t already know.

7.  I noticed a behavior pattern of mine while on my “how to be a friend” internet journey.  I’m quite good at finding sources of information about how and why to do stuff (meditate, exercise, pray, write, be a friend/parent/grandparent, eat more fruits and vegetables, not eat sugar) and I enjoy learning, but there is a disconnect in my brain between learning and doing.

8.  I’m going to read about motivation and procrastination.  I’ll get back to you.

Published in: on March 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Comments (13)  
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Enough Is Enough

When I started this blog, I set an intention: to leave pieces of myself for Adaline (and then Maggie and Atticus) to find when they got older and I wasn’t around anymore and they started to wonder who “Robin” was besides a sort-of cool grandmother. In the first post, on June 9, 2010, I explained the blog title, “Amma Ponders:”

The ammas, as they were called, help us to find ways to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us in all places and through all things. And they teach us to grow in the awareness that we are each unique, remarkable parts of a vast, vital, interconnected cosmos. The word means mother. It came to refer to those women who were spiritual mothers to many. Their insistence on practicing silence, solitude and stillness provides a kind of medicine for our over-heated, frenetic culture.”

“Amma Ponders” reflects my spirituality.  Depressed, my ability “to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us in all places and through all things” disappeared.  I had no energy for that.  I practiced isolation rather than solitude. And I wrote little.

My new antidepressant helps me today.  My joints and my soul love the few sunny, 50-60 degree days we had lately.  I am waking up and looking out beyond myself.

I’ll be 62 years old in a few weeks.  And, once again, I want to know what I will be when I grow up.  Several wise ammas and abbas (men) listened to my string of “I don’t know…” sentences the other day and led me to a knowledge that it is okay not to know.  One woman quoted Julian of Norwich, “Await.”  An ex-Marine-Episcopal-priest said, “I may not know where I am, but I know I’m not lost.”  Another woman spoke of “glimmers of grace.”  And a woman older than I “still has an ambition to give.”

I pondered their words for several days.  I sat down to write this morning.  I found myself re-reading that first blog post about why I picked “Amma” for my grandmother name.

For a lot of years, I answered “stay-at-home-mom” to the question, “What do you do?”  That was my calling.  And once I got sober, I got pretty good at it. But I was never sure “mother” was enough.

Amma “means mother. Their insistence on practicing silence, solitude and stillness provides a kind of medicine for our over-heated, frenetic culture.”

I am a grownup. I am a child of God.  I am Amma.  And that is enough.

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 11:46 am  Comments (10)  
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Do Sharpies Write on Snow?

The snow they predicted for days came on schedule yesterday (“between 1:00 and 6:00 pm, 1-3 inches.”). Looks like we got 1-2 inches.  My phone says it’s 16 degrees outside.

I need a giant black Sharpie so I can climb out my window onto the porch roof and write on the white surface like a little kid with a crayon would write on a bare wall:

ROBIN WAS HERE.

(I live in the middle of North Carolina in the South of the US.  We don’t get much snow. 1-3 inches is kind of a big deal. 16 degrees is really cold.  I have a nice-looking wool coat and several scarves, but I don’t own a good pair of gloves or functional boots. Laugh if you want.)

Every morning, in my quiet time, I look out the double window in my office over the screened-in porch’s roof at the backyard of our house. This morning at 7:23, I saw clean, white snow on top of all the stuff–balls, dog poop on its mulch pile, 3 durable fake-wicker chairs, the weathered old picnic table, the Little Tikes First Slide and the blue swing hanging from a tree branch.

I saw me with the Sharpie on the porch roof. I’d go out on impulse in my pj’s that have been washed so many times they are soft like expensive baby clothes. The 16 degree cold would push me to hurry.  Would I change out of my warm, cream-colored thick cotton socks that look like they came from Finland? Or would I just jump out and do it?

How would I climb up and out? Would I even know how to move the screen of the triple-paned window out of the way?  What if I slid off?   The snow on the frozen ground wouldn’t be enough to cushion my fall. We know a guy who fell off a ladder while cleaning his gutters and got badly hurt.  What if I dropped the Sharpie? And who would even see what I wrote?

I’m good at over-thinking things and not so good at spontaneity.  Maybe not a bad way to be in the long run, but I think I’ve probably missed out on a lot of fun.

Besides, Sharpies of any size won’t write on snow. And I’m afraid of falling and my bones that are approaching osteoporosis could break into a bunch of jagged pieces.

Maybe I’ll try for a snow angel–in the yard–later, after I put on the proper clothes and a hat.  I hope the retired man I live with will help me get up.  We could be in trouble if we both lie down in the snow at the same time.

Published in: on January 29, 2014 at 10:46 am  Comments (10)  
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How I Busted Out of Writer’s Block by Wasting a Bunch of Time

I sat down at my desk and opened up my laptop 52 minutes ago.  The plan was to bust out of writer’s block and just write something, anything.  I even had a place to start.

Then I remembered I said I’d send my daughter a link to a “real food” blog post about fixing kids’ school lunches.  I found it and sent it. I also followed a link in that post to another blog.  I hardly ever cook anymore, thanks to the retired man I live with, but I like to read recipes and food blogs, especially the ones that tell a story with the recipe (see Smitten Kitchen or 100 Days of Real Food).

Thinking of food reminded me that I’d been up for a couple of hours with no breakfast and my stomach was growling. I went downstairs to get a KIND bar which I buy because a little boy behind me in line at Earth Fare one day told me it was the only kind his mom let him have.  Must be good for you, right?

I thought one of the links I crossed paths with deserved to be on Facebook.  Oops. Now I was on Facebook.  I kept scrolling and not looking at the little bitty clock at the top of the computer screen or the clock that sits on my desk next to the computer.

Oh, and did I mention that my phone vibrates when I get an email, which I can easily hear as it sits on the bare wood table that I use for my desk? Could you ignore that?

My KIND bar called out for a cup of tea.  I got up to pour some water into my mini-Mr Coffee so I could make a cup of my favorite tea.

I generously added links for you to a bunch of the things I talked about in this post.  Just click on the red, underlined words and you, too, can go off on a trek through the internet.

Please tell me in the comments which links catapulted you into a hole of lost time.

Enjoy!

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm  Comments (4)  
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Where Is the Magic?

In my family, I learned well how to shut down emotionally.  I struggle this time of year.  Childhood memories are vague and memories from when my girls were little are complicated.

I learned at home to drink away feelings.  And that it’s ok to tune out the world by reading.  I don’t drink anymore.  Thank God. I’ve read several good books over the last few weeks.

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death and my brother died in July. I’ve done no shopping for the grandchildren, which scares me.  The retired man I live with got out the Christmas decorations 2 days ago, but we have no tree yet.

Last May, I wrote in a post titled “I ‘tuck”:

I’m stuck.  Or as Adaline used to say, “I ‘tuck.”  I’ve been ‘tuck for weeks.  Not able to write.  Not able to plan much beyond today.  Wondering what I am supposed to be doing and how to get to the point of doing…anything.

I know that sounds like depression, but this time I felt more lost than depressed.  I asked God for some kind of sign or message.  Nothing.  Besides feeling stuck.

Slowly, the light started to go on inside my brain.  I spend a lot of my time waiting for the next disaster/crisis/time of need.  On hold. Stuck.  ‘Tuck.

Well, I ‘tuck again.  My therapist (yes, I do have sense enough to get some help) asked me recently “What are you afraid of?  What are you resisting?”  After a few moments I said “I don’t know.”  I still don’t know exactly.  I feel a big, dark, presence behind me.  Not evil, but patiently waiting for me to turn around.  And I know that needs to happen.

It has to do with being the last of my family of origin alive.  And it has to do with my body not working as well as I’d like.  It has to do with aging.  It has to do with living with cancer in remission for over 8 years.

I think that big dark presence is called Fear.

Years ago, an elegant older lady who grew up in New Orleans shocked many of us at the Wednesday night women’s AA meeting by stating, “Well you know what sober stands for, don’t you?  Son of a Bitch, Everything’s Real.”  She was right.

My prayer life and my relationship with God get shut down along with everything else.  I love traditional Christmas music.  I have a couple of country Christmas cd’s that I like to sing along with in the car.  They remind me what Christmas is really about–a baby being born.  I haven’t pulled those out this year.

One of my favorite songs is “Mary, Did You Know?” (here’s a link–skip the ad).  The first line takes my breath away every time.

I debated writing about all this for weeks.  Writer’s block goes hand in hand with depression and shutting down for me.  I certainly don’t want to be “Debbie Downer.”  I know I’m not the only one who has mixed feelings about the holiday season and that there’s comfort in knowing that.

I still believe God is all around me.  I choose not to connect to that higher power. When I decide to turn around and look fear in the eye, I believe I will be safe.  Doesn’t mean I want to turn around.  I’d rather it just go away.  I just want to feel less weighed down and to stop saying, “I don’t care.”

I do want to care.  That’s who I am.  It’s lonely where I am right now. I want to change that.  Please pray for me.

I wish all of you a happy holiday.  And if it’s not, tell yourself “Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe.” (Anne Lamott)

Published in: on December 13, 2013 at 10:41 am  Comments (16)  
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Table for One

Last Thursday I was co-pilot and navigator for the retired man I live with while we delivered Mobile Meals to home-bound seniors. A few are couples, most are single men who take a while to get to the door. We had to ask at each stop if they needed a meal for Thanksgiving. Over half did, just for one person.

A haunting picture lives in my brain these days: an older man in a white undershirt watching the Macy’s parade eating a reheated Thanksgiving dinner on a metal tv tray (remember those?) with a carton of milk like we had in elementary school.  The meal was delivered about 9:30 Thanksgiving morning by a nice man with a Mobile Meals sign on top of his car.  That picture is slowly breaking my heart.

Every third Thursday of the month, the retired man I live with and I stick a Mobile Meals sign on top of the white Camry and deliver a hot meal sealed in a little black plastic tray (like a Lean Cuisine), mostly to older men living alone but sometimes to a couple still living together or an older woman.  (I’m 61–they are older, not old.) The meals are prepared by Golden Corral and packed in expensive special coolers so they stay hot.  Last Thursday we delivered Salisbury steak, rice, mixed vegetables, hot apple slices, milk, juice, and a peanut butter cookie.  The meals ride in the coolers, one hot, one cold, in the back seat.  They all seem to smell the same, no matter what’s in the tray.

The retired man I live with takes the meals to the front door.  Often the recipient is waiting and opens the door as he approaches.  I wait in the car and put the next address into the GPS.  He gives me a report.  One man must be ex-military–he is always sharply groomed and the part of the apartment visible from the front stoop is clean and tidy.  Last week he didn’t get a meal.  Our sheet says he is in the hospital. Another man’s place smells awful and I can see his baggy, used-to-be-white undershirt as he reaches for the food.  A man who takes care of his wife writes a poem and gives us a copy each month.  His faith spills out on the page.

One person didn’t answer the door last Thursday and we didn’t know if she was in the hospital or visiting family.  We gave that meal to a man standing with a cardboard sign on the corner near Panera, at the Target-PetSmart-Payless Shoes shopping center.  We had no forks or knives, but he gratefully took the food.  “It’s hot!” he said about the food and he smiled and blessed us and said “It’s a good day because God let me get up this morning.” We were quiet for a bit as we drove off.  I don’t think he cared how it smelled.

Once we tried to give a leftover meal to a woman holding a cardboard sign standing on the corner beside Chik Fil-A, not far from the Whole Foods parking lot.  I rolled down my window, asked if she wanted the meal and she asked me what it was. I told her (it was meatloaf, I think) and she said “No.” Not even “No, thanks.” I was speechless. We found a skinny man (a boy?) on another corner and he was hungry and even had his own plastic fork and knife.  He smiled and said, “Thank you!”

Thanksgiving is this week.  We will drive to our daughter’s house in Raleigh and get there around noon.  Our son-in-law will be creating a feast, my daughter will be setting the table with a white tablecloth, china, flowers and candles.  I’ll contribute a casserole dish of corn pudding and homemade Blueberry Cranberry Sauce.  We’ll visit with some of our son-in-law’s relatives that we only see once or twice a year and get in line to play with our almost-2-year-old granddaughter.  My daughter wants us to go around the table and share memories of my brother who died this summer.  He was always part of our holidays.

Before we go to Raleigh, the retired man I live with and I will gather with many other volunteers in the parking lot at the Greensboro Coliseum to pick up meals to deliver to clients of Triad Health Project. I’m on the Board of Directors for this non-profit that serves people who are HIV positive.  The Mobile Meals volunteers will be there, too, in another line.

Two restaurant owners started over 20 years ago fixing Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who wanted one .  The project has grown into a massive community volunteer effort.  So many people have offered to help that they have a waiting list for volunteers! Meals will also be served on real plates at tables with real tablecloths and centerpieces a 2 churches (one is our church) and Urban Ministry’s Potter House.  Church vans with volunteer drivers will make a couple of stops downtown and carry folks to the places with food and then take them back downtown nurtured and fed.

Our own Thanksgiving feast is easier to swallow when we know so many others are eating well, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 10:45 am  Comments (8)  
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