Taming the beast…

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Felt cute so I deleted no fewer than 3,000 pieces of mail from my folders before 9am, won’t regret it later. They sneak in by the hour, disregarding every vow I’ve made to limit them severely, but incentive finally arrived this morning in the form of “need to know,” and I proceeded to wreak havoc in all directions while searching for that one elusive document. Found it!! And the only survivors are billing notices and book recommendations, mostly the latter because the picture is gradually coming into focus… the years ahead might include more reading than the rest of my life put together. Part of the “plan” I mentioned the other day.

One thing that has become clear is that the future, which is the present, has to be looked straight in the eye and dealt with. It’s here, it’s now, it isn’t going anywhere, it’s up to us to live it well. Since I can’t imagine a present/future without books, it’s a grace to know there’s an unlimited selection… so far.

My love affair with books started with my mother reading to me… one of my earliest memories. And then my five-year-old legs stepped into the Carnegie Library Children’s Room and I was forever captive to reading. Beyond Kim… and music… nothing shuts down my ever-present anxiety like walking into a book and closing the door behind me. What an incredible thing! Markings on surfaces that possess the power to deliver us to unknown worlds. And what a relief to know that someone else’s thoughts can keep me away from my own for long stretches of time.

For reasons, a lot of which I’m just now understanding, the story of my life has been undergirded by an unshakeable sense of anxiety, go me. I’m surprised, from this perspective, to find that I’ve merely been wounded by the unexpected instead of entirely disabled, and it’s empowering to come at it from this end of the telescope because all my perspectives have changed. If you know, you know. It’s crippling if we fall slave to it. Pretty sure you’ll identify…

In truth, I’ve mostly stuck with it no matter how awkward things got.

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It takes nothing to kick high OR low anxiety into gear, it’s always there waiting for a chance to screw everything up, so it helps to keep this handy:

I’m ninja-level.

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My brain is an unbeliever.

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You feel this in your bones, right?

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Workin’ on it every day and would love to reach a point where I could say the following in complete honesty:

*

It would be lovely if you’d share with me your best escape routes when anxiety attacks, the quickest ways to disarm it, the quietest remedies. It’s a constant presence but a terrible friend, so spending less time together would be super. Come talk me down…

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I hope you dance…

October Sunrise – Kim Smith 10/23/2022

There are few things in this life so soothing to me as a dark quiet house just before dawn, steaming mug of coffee in hand, a blank page before me. A day begun in peace and solitude generally turns out pretty okay, because it’s all about attitude and it starts on the inside.

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Fall makes me think about school, and school makes me newly appreciate children with their optimism and natural joy. For them, life is real every second.

*

*

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We can remain childlike if we never forget the important things…

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We can ask childlike questions…

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We can stay childlike about history…

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We can stay childlike in our hopes and dreams…

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A timely reminder for the adults in the room…

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If we so choose, we can keep a childlike spirit until the end of our days. We simply have to remember how to dance…

I hope you dance.

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Things… they happen

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Couldn’t find it on my bucket list when I went to cross it off, but I finally earned a decent shiner in my lifetime, and it was so easy to do! Almost made it home from my walk Monday afternoon when I stubbed my toe in the driveway to our building and went down. I don’t remember the fall, just the solid impact and the aftermath. Once my senses returned I was trying to see where all my stuff was… little shoulder bag with essentials, my glasses, my walking pole, the tiny hearing aid that flew across the pavement… when a svelte young businesswoman drove slowly out the drive, looking at me turtled up while deciding to do nothing. It felt precisely like somebody was looking but not seeing. I was a bug on the sidewalk. Fortunately, a woman likely in her 60s hopped out of her car and tried to help me get my feet under me. Due to my suddenly messed up right side we were having no success, when a man in his 50s strode over and carefully lifted me under my arms so I could stand up, gathered my detritus for me, and saw me to the door. Those two people have obviously lived long enough to know everybody’s gonna need a hand sometime, and they made all the difference. I actually feel kinda bad for that lovely young woman… Karma never forgets and this mama’s heart wonders what the cost might be. Oh well.

So yeah, that’s how that was. My cheek swelled about 3″ beyond its limits, with the outline of my ruined glasses showing like a roadmap, and now we get to marvel over the beautifully changing fall colors on this canvas of a face, starting with livid purple. It’s been necessary to show myself in medical offices, making sure everything still checks out, and I have a disclaimer: Be advised that if you indicate Kim and say “I’ll bet HE did that, right?” I will look you in the eye and ask why you’d say that. “Do you hit YOUR wife?” It strikes me as an old-white-man thing to say and I’ll call you out. An old white man with Dr. in front of his name asked me that question on Tuesday, but the right words hadn’t yet formed in my frontal cortex where expressive language resides. Come at me again, you old fart, with your not-humor, I’ve got your answer right here.

Here’s the truth: if you’re a woman and you ask me that same question you’ll do it tentatively, softly, with eyes downcast, and you either know me really well or not at all. If you know me enough to trust me, you’re asking for yourself, things have happened, and you need someone to tell. And you know Kim would never hit me, but you need an in. If you don’t actually know me, you don’t know my husband either or you’d have the answer already. If you’re a man and ask me, something in you is damn proud of him for supposedly asserting his rightful authority over a clearly insubordinate wife. I’m not having it, Mr. Cellophane, sit down. And don’t speak to me again without authorization.

Okay… all better now.

Anyway, if you’re either brave or a masochist, here’s what it looked like Tuesday morning:

By evening, gravity was carrying it all south down to my real wrinkles and I have a kind of wondrous scary pirate vibe going now. No more pics, and I know you’re thanking me. My medical-everything friend Regina told us to go to a Mexican grocery and get arnica gel for the bruises. She broke her orbital socket last summer so she knows… and she’s right. It works. Not fast enough that I won’t shock my hairdresser out of her boots today… but I can see a difference already.

I have a love/hate attitude toward the new boots I was wearing when I fell, but I’ll put something on and get back on the horse today, walking to my haircut and home again, before an excess of caution puts me back in my comfy chair to stay. Cannot, will not, have that.

You know why I write about getting older?

  1. Barring circumstances, everyone goes there.
  2. There’s no cure for it.
  3. It gets realer and realer.
  4. If I can scout ahead and warn you of some of the pitfalls, well… one is glad to be of service.
  5. This is a part of life to be enjoyed, if possible, rather than discounted as “just getting old.”

Don’t fear life, it goes on. Never let the bastards wear you down, compadres. Your horse is waiting…

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Theatre of the mind…

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She’s up at 6am, sitting in the quiet dark again, mind running… not an unpleasant experience since she’s never been very afraid of herself. Her DH** has already headed across town for a healthy morning of sportsing, while the sky darkens even more just before the sun starts to show its power. This is what she does… she thinks. The thoughts need no jumpstart, they come unbidden as soon as the dreaded wokeness arrives, and often they’re an extension of dreams rudely interrupted before resolution.

She’s hungry, but too rooted in place to go pour a bowl of cereal. She loves the dark but despises the cold… wants/doesn’t want to go walking. Knows she’ll suffer guilt if she doesn’t. She hates the news, but reads it most days because part of the cost of living is to stay aware of what’s coming at us. She has online friends around the world she can share thoughts with, any hour of the day or night… but she mostly leaves them their solitude, the thing she values most. She needs peace and quiet like breathable air; therefore, she can’t complain about the loneliness inherent in that environment… and doesn’t. She’s well aware that we can’t have it all.

A sobering realization sets in right about now on the personal timeline: The older people who told us things when we were younger people? They were right, 100%. At some point you run out of fulfilling things to do. People who once needed you, don’t. Even if you walk for two hours every day (the girl we’re talking about doesn’t), that leaves lots of hours before bedtime. If you keep every scrap of laundry washed and put away, there’s no dust in your house, the bathrooms sparkle, your computer files are organized… all of which is purely theoretical in my case… whaddaya gonna do with the rest of your sweet life, bubbie?

The answer can’t be the copout “I don’t know,” so if you’re in the neighborhood of my Boomer years I suggest you make a plan, because life doesn’t live itself. Now that I’m physically mobile again my body and brain have to have something to do. I love the lack of responsibility and accountability brought on by retirement, but did I DIE?? Not yet, so the same old thing every day (doing a lot of nothing) isn’t gonna cut it. Our grandparents knew real stuff: life is a lonely proposition, we’re pretty much on our own from womb to tomb, and a late-life plan is a definite priority… I’m just telling you these things so you don’t have to hear it from a stranger. If we’re lucky we get old and we’re still the same people with the same need to know things, do meaningful things, make a dent of some kind just by being here… and that takes planning, because the general world doesn’t know we exist by the time we’re this age.

I’m 75 now, the age some of my family members were when I became their advocate, legal and otherwise. Since I’m not old like, you know, they were, I’ve made a plan and I like it, but don’t tell Life… it has a way of messing with the intentions of mice and men. Wherever you are now, I hope you have some kind of schematic for the medicare years that goes beyond keeping body and soul together. Think about what sparks excitement in you, thereby keeping you out of depression, and do that thing. ALL the things. DO ALL THE THINGS!!!

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LIFE, like my bowl of cereal this morning, is too delicious to waste.

**Dear Husband/Darling Husband/Designated Hitter/Dead Heat

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Keeping things manageable…

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Up at 5am on a Saturday because it was time to crawl out, I guess. My brain leads a life that diverges from what shows, and it loves to think in quiet darkness while morning caffeine gradually permeates my person. Kim’s out trekking Mass Street from end to end, so it’s totally silent all up in here and conducive to slipping down rabbit trails.

Fall is memory season, with everything drawn in vivid color so as to really stick good, and events of a lifetime come at us in a rush. We’re simultaneously children, hormonal teens, the exhausted sandwich generation, and plain freaking old, so it all hits different and too fast for a healthy sifting. I end up feeling blindsided every year by the onslaught of memory and emotion, stretching back to my birth into a family clan. If I get to live as long as my grandmothers there’s a book I have to write… after everyone I’ve ever known is… you know, gone… but as the 3rd-oldest grandchild in the dynasty, I thought all of it was forever, and that the love, trust, and sense of belonging would always be there. That’s the child talking… the adult part of me knows nothing is forever. But oh, how we wanted it to be.

Relative to this morning’s musings, I think all death, human and otherwise, should take place in the fall. Winter’s too miserable, summer’s too hot, spring breaks your heart forever… so fall it is, everything finished and neatly tied up before the snow flies.

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I’d never really put this thought into words before, but when I read it, I knew that I knew, and that it was okay.

Therefore…

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We all do this, thereby hurting each other in lasting ways.

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There’s no way on this green earth to meet anyone’s standards but your own, so be kind, be goodhearted, and live your life.

Pollyanna says…

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We haven’t seen chaos like this in our lifetimes, making it hard to accept that it’s our turn in the barrel for a while. But history shows that this doesn’t last forever, so we can’t forget how to really live. Happy fall, happy sifting…

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Life from both sides…

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It’s another glorious fall morning in the heartland… cool temps, sunshine, the sounds of commerce humming along. Our first frost is apparently due next week, but benevolent nights would be a grace as far into the season as possible, as we currently have what I can only call a “situation.”

A few of us have been aware for a while of a night-sleeper in our parking lot, only gradually gathering details and pertinent facts. What’s been gleaned: Her pronouns are she/her and she’s possibly elderly. I’ve not encountered her up close and personal yet, but from my 4th-floor windows she resembles a mummy. She may be suffering from narcolepsy, causing her to drop in her tracks and sleep it off regardless of surroundings or conditions. Alcohol or drugs will do the same thing, of course, but who’s to say. Sometimes, sleeping on the raw pavement, she’s wrapped in a blanket, sometimes more exposed to the elements, but her situation always appears haphazard and dire. Our building guy has found her lying in the middle of driveways… stretched out across parking spaces… sprawled in the bank drive-through… and he always tries to urge her out of harm’s way, with little success. It feels like only a matter of time before someone fails to see her in the predawn gloom, or mistakes her for a discarded remnant, or the weather takes over… but you can’t force anyone to accept unwanted help. Lawrence has a homeless population of somewhere around 400, a certain percentage of whom won’t set foot inside a building of any kind lest they feel trapped, possibly tricked into losing their independence for something they didn’t want. I think the shelters have been running full… there are also tent communities here and there… and some people sleep rough every night, weather be damned, in any sheltered spot they can find.

This solitary stick of a woman must feel a safe vibe on our block and I’d like that to be true as she’s either a phantom or a visiting angel. Twice I’ve spotted her shrouded unmoving outline from my window, put my shoes on, grabbed a few resources for her… and when I checked again she was gone. The stock photo above? Imagine no shoes, no cardboard, and everything too road-worn and dirty for words. Neither you nor I can see ourselves in this situation… but I’m guessing neither could our lone camper nor her mama.

Blessed be…

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Making way for the advents…

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It’s a magical world outside my windows this morning… leftover raindrops, kaleidoscope leaves, dogs happily taking their people for walks, dark blue skies carrying rain on down the line…

Fall seems like the ultimate dichotomy, with everything bursting out in glory just before the death and darkness of winter. But we can’t be fooled or depressed, the seeds of spring lie in silence and their time to shine always comes ’round again.

The autumn season is full of melancholy, even without the memories we attach to it, and then hot on its heels come The Holidays, DUN-da-da-DUN. For an oft-depressed introvert, Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day looms like a darkened maze to be navigated, but here I still stand, living and breathing, so it’s been survived before and will be again.

All of life, now, requires a certain level of preparedness, a considered mindset going in. The guardrails have mostly been obliterated from human interaction, leaving all of us to feel our way through the minefields and try to come out whole on the other side. The old traditional celebrations bring every feeling to the surface, all of it requiring patience and wisdom to deal with as it comes at us… and we aren’t always successful in that. And let’s face it, we weren’t that great at it in what we thought were the best of times, so a bit of self-kindness is called for since all the dynamics have changed.

The above is for my fellow introspective “feelers,” a miserable condition we share because we can’t help it. The Holidays will no doubt be as sweet and beautiful this year as always, and if any of it brings us angst we simply won’t tell anyone, no worries, The End.

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Of rivalries and angst…

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HELD OVER FROM SATURDAY…

As my current fav president likes to say, Lawrence is kind of a BFD this weekend. KU suddenly, incredibly, has a football team again, ranked 19th of the top 25, and College Football GameDay is coming to town for the first time ever. We drove around campus yesterday and the stadium was crawling with techs and set-up crew, semi-trailers parked in all available spaces. When Kim took his predawn walk this morning, six buses were parked at the Marriott to transport game-goers to the Hill, and people were already afoot everywhere. Game time, 11am. Stay tuned…

In light of the following, we are made entirely of contradictions and internal conflict…

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Same thesis: If the highest paid person in your entire STATE is the basketball or football coach…

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So yeah, I’ll let you know who wins today, boys and girls! Perfect fall day, 55º at kickoff, front-row seats right here close to the refrigerator, should be a good Saturday!

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It was. A good Saturday, that is. And now, a very good Sunday to all. The sun’s shining, the leaves are turning, it’s a Chamber of Commerce day here in Lawrence America.

So… the outcome. The Jayhawks did not, alas, extend their undefeated streak to 6, losing by a touchdown and point-after, but it was a glorious All-American day nonetheless, and we’ll remember it. And we’ll get ’em next time.

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Fall, football, follies, and forays…

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Stopping in to say hi after a quintessential fall weekend which included pep rallies and parties, Jayhawk Football Homecoming, a snazzy flyover from the Air Force base, a big car show downtown, a PickleBall tournament on new courts, and perfect weather. The KU community is reveling in the fun of having an amazing football team for the first time in about fifteen years… brings new life to the town and gives the basketball team a little breathing space.

For me it was a reflective couple of days, enjoying the beautiful weather from the balcony, absorbing the vibes from a quiet remove, glad to know it’s all going on out there without my help. And yes, I’m still lazy no matter how good I feel. Sometimes when it’s all noise and action out there but quiet and peaceful in here, reflection leads to realization… and one such awakening has been that no matter how much we talk, generally only a small portion gets translated into comprehension. So… maybe… fewer words in every direction for maximum impact? Talking is a chore anyway, the older I get, I can do with less of it!

Bring it, I’ll deal.

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Ourselves. We have the power to change US. That implies great freedom… what if I were responsible for ONLY ME in terms of choice and control? It’s called reality and I’m loving it more and more. This isn’t my world, I just live in it, giving it my best shot on my way through, end of story.

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Because you’re faithful and patient, I save things to share with you. Enjoy…

Focal seizures make me have to sit or lie down wherever I am, so I relate… and animals are simply the best.

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I live in my own head so much it makes me questionable friend material… but I keep trying. Friends, family, other connections…

I fully relate to this.

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And on a related note, if you live anywhere near my world…

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