REALITY = a full-time job

My Muse has been kind this summer, and attentive. I no more think of something and BOOM, like somebody has ESPN, there’s a reference on a timeline or in an article I’m reading. In reflecting again lately on letting the past be the past, and having been marinated in Midwestern guilt from birth until the West Coast Wild Man (according to the locals) strolled in and stopped that shiz right in its Ropers, I’m well-versed in the dilemma represented up there in the meme. Baby Boomer girls make nice, talk nice, say everything but what we really think, if we know what’s best for us and want nice things said about us.

But if we ever once start saying what we really think, all bets are off. Because sometimes people see what looks like an opportunity to dig a little, and feelings get hurt, peace gets wrecked, doors get closed. It never feels good but you finally have to use what’s been percolating in your Boomer self since shortly after WWII and just stop the bleeding once and for all, say No, I’m not up for this, buh-bye, whatever we were we’re not that now, and memories don’t give you carte blanche to my life. But then, Midwestern guilt would tell us, it’s our responsibility to open that door again and make peace face-to-face, all nice, and start over.

You know what, no. That’s phony and it isn’t peace. I’ve tried it repeatedly and what I got was what most peacemakers get, which is taken advantage of. I’m not whining, I’m stating a fact. If you cut people slack they use it all. They decide you really are a good person who wants them to have it their way. And then they hit you again. From a different angle out of the blue when you’re weak and vulnerable but they didn’t know that, no, they just have great instincts.

I like things real and I subscribe to the knowledge that it isn’t on me to try to build a relationship with people who don’t even like who I am. It’s shocking and absurd that the exact things I was trying to figure out in eighth grade to keep friendships in balance are the same sorts of things that are still canceling the potential for genuine friendship in my eighth decade of living. It makes me despair just a little for human nature, but only a little, because I think of so many friends with their wide, wide hearts and their beautiful minds and their nonstop belief in truth and lovingkindness in the world, and I know arrested development didn’t claim everyone across the board, so sometimes it really is safe to trust. Whew!

Welcome back to Blogging as Therapy this morning, and thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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Urgency of stillness…

I. hope. you. read. that. really. slowly.

When somebody says something better than I can, it seems wise to let them. Just the act of reading the above makes me feel deliciously Zen. Laundry? What laundry? Ohhhhh. Thoose twoo looads I’im goooing tooo runnnn laaaterrr.

We get so conditioned to doing everything in a rush, we lose conscious awareness of our behavior and our pace no longer registers with us. We automatically think every decision, every choice has to be made right now, on the spot, with no time for discussion or fully rational thought, because it’s only action that matters. The realization that I have time available, critical time, makes my heart settle in my chest and my skittering brain synapses organize themselves into productive pathways – at least that’s what I visualize happening. I could google it sometime for backup.

Having time to think about things is a luxury. Having time to space off and go someplace else in our heads for a while is tricky territory for a lot of society – better to stay busy, stay grounded, stay on message, stay outta the weeds, and don’t make trouble. Kinda how it feels – too much thinking makes waves, and before you know it somebody’s saying words out loud and we’ve got problems. Oh dear. I do it anyway, living on the edge and all, because I have time and inclination and not two fks to give when good trouble breaks out. My Twitter “profile” candidly warns that this person is chronologically seasoned, but past the statute of limitations on maturity. What’s anybody gonna do, take away my birthday? By all means, Governor, proceed.

Thinking does have its perils, but I offer the current state of the Republic as evidence that the perils of failing to think are far more grave, which would be a morbid place to end on a hot Friday when breathing the air is a challenge, so I’m now urgently returning to the Zen of stillness, the slow quiet from the inside out that lets me pay attention to reality – the life I live. I’ll meet you there. We’ll have cold seltzer with lemon & lime.

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Against all odds…

If you’re a fellow word-broker you’ve undoubtedly noticed that expressive language is not the common currency everyone deals in, and words don’t carry the same meaning across the board. PEACE, for instance, the term I’ve been flinging about for the past week or so, connotes different strokes for different folks, so in case anyone’s tiptoeing around the subject like it’s a deceptively passive quicksand bog waiting to drag you down to the Slough of Despond, feast your quaking spirit on this anonymous piece of writing that came into my hands yesterday. I’m grateful to the author, whomever he or she may be…

Knowing I can live exactly that way, free and at peace in myself, feels anything but passive or depressing, just in case there was any misunderstanding as to where I’m coming from with the PEACE thing. It comes down to making my choices for my reasons and quietly standing by them against the world. And I’m one voice in all the confusion saying you can do the same, because I know that to be true. It’s how you manage to live your one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver puts it, against all odds, and you really must! This is likely the only shot we get, kids, so get started ASAP. It’s that thing at the top of the list.

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That fragile balance…

Trading anxiety for peace is no small beans. It takes constant focused attention and intention. Attention to the little things, the small ingrained habits that carry us through our days, the attitudes that are dear to us, that come to define us despite our best intentions, and there it is, the second word. As a lover of words, sarcasm is dear to my heart and often shapes and moves my intentions far more than I’m aware, coloring my attitudes and leading me down rabbit trails that don’t look or feel all that peace-laden.

Twitter, one of my habits, is a bizarre world of its own, but it’s good for speaking unvarnished truth with an economy of words. I don’t advise hanging out there if a sense of humor isn’t your strong suit, and even then it takes a toll on us softies. Jeez, the viciousness is truly unbelievable, the worst of it emanating from equally incredible stupidity and thus fairly easily rolled off. When it issues forth from people who I know are educated and who should therefore know better, I have to bail out for a while and remind myself what the thinking, feeling, caring world looks and sounds like, wrap myself up in that, and consciously choose PEACE. Again. On purpose. Until I get it right and it becomes my new habit, and the state of my psyche rightly reflects the life I actually live instead of the insanity of a percentage of the population I don’t even recognize.

No matter how passionately we might involve ourselves in knowing what’s going on at the various levels of government and society, we ultimately understand the infinitesimal effect we personally have on any of it, and yet some of us can’t refrain from adding our words to the mix in the hope of either connecting with one other soul or ridding our own soul of a tiny portion of the burden we bear because maybe we care too much. It does help a little, especially the connection part, and so we persist, we feelers. We seek a place of workable peace while trying not to shirk our responsibility for our fellow humans and other creatures.

It’s a balance not easily won, and why would we expect it to be? This is the stuff life is made of, the big questions, the literal life and death choices. So it’s okay to spend a little time weighing the options, even when we annoy the partial life out of people around us. The ones who love us finally get it, cut us the slack we need, and try to roll with us, which is so cool. Because this (waves hands around) just goes on and on and nobody knows the endgame so here we are, and loving each other and being real are all that count. Life really is so fragile.

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Putting things right again…

Everything went super today, but this chicky is wiped out (just go with it.) I asked my RN if I’d have to do this again in ten years – she looked at my chart and said not likely, which was a relief – not sure I could pull all that off at 82. I mean, good gawd, I might actually be starting to get old by then.

We got milkshakes at Sonic on the way home, Kim’s talking smashed batatas and mac & cheese later, I had a delicious drug-laced nap in the chair, and then tried to repeat it on the bed with no luck so I’m up, kinda bored, and looking for entertainment. It’s hot as blazes, he’s out running errands, and I’m without adult supervision – what could possibly go wrong?

Maybe I’ll just tell you a story. There’s a guy in our building (he & his wife are probably younger than Kim, both retired educators), who has a dog he loves very much, a big yellow lab who’s been with him a long time. He has a Vespa with a sidecar that was built just for her and he used to take her to class with him when he taught special ed. classes. She can’t get in and out of it anymore so his golf clubs ride there now. In fact, Zoey’s so crippled up with arthritis she balks at the journey out to take care of business, so at least once a day in good weather Will, a tell it like it is, not necessarily soul of patience guy, makes it worth all the pain and effort. He takes a lawn chair and sits down under the trees, and lets Zoey lie in the cool grass for just about as long as she wants to. That’s love, and on the days when the world feels especially awful it makes me cry. Today was a cry day. Guess I needed it.

We ignored the world today and things were pretty all right. But sometimes when you’re a feeler, crying is the answer when you can’t come up with a better one. Amazing how much it helps.

So did the potatoes & mac – it’s comforting to know the old remedies still work. Like having somebody who loves you and knows from long years’ familiarity and caring what makes you feel better.

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It’s personal…

Peace. It’s a GOOD thing, as Martha Stewart (remember her?) likes to say. It isn’t easily come by, therefore of great value. Once chosen it requires a moment by moment conscious choosing until it settles into a fixed attitude. The world, of course, doesn’t magically change just because we wake up one morning and decide we’re going to wrap ourself in peace instead of constant angst…but it feels a little like it does, because the perspective shifts. A thought comes and the next one behind it is “But wait, is that my job? Is it worth my mood? Is it fair to affect Kim’s day and the life we’ve been given, this amazing second chance after all the loss we both slogged through to get here?” Reality doesn’t change a bit, but my place in it starts to take on an altered significance – and this is okay. I can get used to this. After all, nobody died recently and left me in charge again, I can probably lay down some of this heavy-duty responsibility for a while.

If you noticed, my last post wasn’t titled “Finding Peace,” but rather “Making Peace.” Most intangible things we go looking for we never really find – it works best to make them out of the raw materials we have available to us and go from there, otherwise we’re off on an endless goose chase, we get distracted, forget what the goal was, and end up frustrated and discouraged. The good things and the beautiful people have a way of finding us when we’re chill and receptive instead of tied in knots – the past week has shown me the truth of that again and I’m glad I didn’t miss it by being all wound up.

This year since March has been about tracking down some elusive health issues, and tomorrow is D-Day for a twice-postponed endoscopy/colonoscopy that for some reason has filled me with dread when it’s a rodeo I’ve been to before and know is routine. I’ve done all the self-talk and for all of Saturday and Sunday I restricted myself to liquids and soft foods in order to make the prep as benign as possible, so it’s just me being a basket case. Pretty sure it’s because last time we tried this I had that super-scary totally unrelated sulfa-drug reaction in the middle of everything that landed me in the ER, so you see what we’re up against here – it’s never easy, kids, jeez. How will I ever convince you I’m not simply crazy? Never mind.

So… I’m “starving,” but there’s no food in sight for me until late tomorrow morning after the propofol wears off, when Kim’s promised me a salted-caramel malt, but at least for now black coffee is considered a clear liquid, how cool is that? This whole process is much improved from when I did it ten years ago, so see, it doesn’t pay to worry and fret. Far better to let yourself be at peace.

You heard it here first.

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Making peace…

Yes, we made that road trip and it was wonderful! This was our first one in a few years and we were thrilled to find that we’re still true road warriors, in spite of having relied on the airlines for all of our extended travel for a while now. Full disclosure, the process of flying wears me out far more than driving, especially with the benefit of ergonomic seats in a genuinely comfortable car, with my best California freeway guy at the wheel. Having said that, it’s taken me two full weeks to recover, but this is better, trust me.

My sister and bro-in-love have retired to the lodge-pole pine forest of the Southwest, up where it’s warm but not too warm and the air is supremely breathable (except in pockets where fires are still raging). Most days the humidity hovered around 5-15% and our skin drank lanolin like water. The mornings are cool and still, perfect for sitting on the back patio with coffee, watching iridescent hummingbirds attack the feeder while elk graze in the National Forest that butts up to the cedar picket fence. Later in the day they bring their spindly-legged, still-spotted babies with them. We got to watch four and a new one was born after we left. There’s a large, multi-generational crow family that’s intriguing to observe, not least because their King has a head roughly the size of a bowling ball and he’s as arrogant and raucous as you might imagine, with a wingspan to back it up.

The days evolve on their own, with maybe a ride to a sweet little spot a few miles up the road for The Best Hamburger in the World, or another day to a place that legit has the best pizza I’ve ever tasted, with all ingredients either grown on the premises or handmade there, wood-fired outdoors in the mountain air and served with the latest house brew. Memorable. Or mid-afternoon, perfect filet-mignon on the patio, with bakers and the whole menu. My brother-in-law is a genius at the grill.

It was definitely not all about food, although we lived like kings. One day they took us to Sedona, beautiful, mystical Sedona, of the red, red rocks and the spires and formations. The entire area is stand-alone gorgeous, but in order to give the neophyte a feel for why it’s become the mecca it has, I’m quoting from a generic Google search:

“The majestic red rock scenery and evergreen vegetation are two reasons for the unique energy of Sedona and its tangible regenerative and inspirational effects. …Sedona is also internationally known for the uplifting power of its Vortex meditation sites.”

You’re most welcome, of course, to explore that on your own time, but I’ll remember Sedona for the view from a back balcony on the main drag, the chips & salsa and cold beer we all shared there, and the perfect peace-symbol necklace Kim brought me when he came back with refills in the icy mugs. It’s so timely I want it around my neck every day.

Evenings in the forest are for the hot-tub and star-gazing…and peaceful sleep while the cool soaks into the house again.

After letting the road-weariness drain out of me, and the heavy-heartedness of recent months sift down to a numbness of mind that defied words and finally dissolved into inevitable tears, I’m ready, as a friend so wisely said yesterday, to surround myself with peace instead of drama on every level, a goal that takes intention. Life insists on bringing everything back to a mundane level, to silly jr high deceits and intrigues, infighting and craziness – and my new favorite sight (again, until I get it right) is that of my feet walking away.

Love and family are real – give me more of that, please.

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What’s today?

I have a post in progress about the fact that we’re home, but it’s going nowhere, so – WE’RE HOME, KIDS, it’s official. Feeling cute, might make something of it later, but I’m tired of it hangin’ on me. I’m waiting to feel properly inspired to tell you “What I Did On My Vacation,” as it so richly deserves.

What’s on my mind right now is change. We thought a wet spring would never become a hot summer, but the change was like overnight, BAM and wow. It’s the kind of heat that gets you from the inside out when the air stops moving, and this year for the first time I’m wearing a cold cloth around my neck when we move outside for the cocktail hour(s). This delicate prairie flower is feeling the ire of summer, so hot it seems personal all at once. Yikes. (Note: We’re getting a welcome break at the moment.)

Change is afoot in #lfk, as is likely true in most small cities with rich histories and distinct personalities up against a shifting tax base and somewhat changing demographics. While we were away, a change or two took place that I assume will eventually require some sort of mediation in order to arrive at a resolution. As much as any of us may vow that we like change, it rarely arrives easily or smoothly. And most of us are in some way lying as to how we feel about it.

Change has been underway in the lives of my close family members for the past few months and it’s been a happy thing to see. And sometimes good change for the people we love opens new doors for us, too – bonus!

A lot of change is happening right now in the building we’ve called home for seven years, where the lofts are owner-occupied. People moving out, people moving in, common in rental situations, but not at all here until recently. I’m getting the message – people moving out of our lives will be how this works, more and more. Thanks, reality, you’ve been a delight all year – I could use a break for a while. Let’s talk vacation again…and how cool is that, we’ve accidentally segued into a 4th of July post. Clever, no?

Be happy and safe today, friends, and aim for good change in all the ways you can – it’s what keeps things moving forward.

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