We shall haiku on…

inspiration gone

could return if life sorts out

may be a long road

JSmith 12/08/2017

*****

falling asleep on

a pillow soaked with tears makes

for a soggy rest

JSmith 11/12/2017

*****

the rollercoaster

is eating my lunch today

walking away now

JSmith 11/9/2017

*****

doubt butts into life

and tricks us into sorry

paralyzation

JSmith 09/28/2017

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But wait, there’s more…

dark house, rain falling

lightning flashing thunder crash(ing)

bed invites me back

JSmith 06/29/2017

*****

gray flannel morning

melancholy permeates

in here and out there

JSmith 09/16/2017

*****

rain makes me happy

when the sky cries i feel joy

am i damaged goods?

JSmith 09/18/2017

*****


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Are you smiling?

While this lush green NE corner of Kansas decides which season to settle into, winter or spring, here are a few previously posted haiku verses from June of 2016 when my muse was very much with me. I hope they’ll coax the sun from behind the clouds for ALL of us!

***

oh the odd day when

karma runs over dogma

redress is too sweet

JSmith 6/27/2016

***

I’ll bring the Zen and

spend my day not thinking ’bout

sewage in a suit

JSmith 6/25/2016

***

the DH of me

saves my life by riveting

the little heart holes

JSmith 6/24/2016

***

pooled our ignorance

and got it done

old not daft

JSmith 6/22/2016

***

summer solstice hits

crank up the whine-o-matic

sweat is water too

JSmith 6/20/2016

***

no earthly sense in

fear of flying

light me up

JSmith 6/13/2016

***

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Homesick?

Depends on what you mean by home. The place where I grew up was true home for me – native sod broken out by my grandpa, walking behind a one-or-two-bottom plow and a horse or team. The harnesses and all the tack for that and various conveyances still hung on heavy nails up the stairway to the barn loft when I was a kid, harboring that good dusty leather aroma. Grandpa set all the corner posts in cement on what was then just a quarter of land, and poured a low cement border around the entirety of his and Grandma’s multi-acre yard and garden, half flowers, half produce, backed by rows of fruit trees and evergreens. The man meant to stay, he made that clear, and stay he did, until a sudden stroke in his late 70s stopped him in his tracks – I saw it happen – and the farm life he’d built went on because of my dad and my brother, and none of us had to leave home until we were ready to go.

I was fuzzy on the details, but I always knew I’d go somewhere, somehow, sooner rather than later, and I blame my mom, with gratitude. She read to us from the beginning, took us to the Carnegie Library Children’s Department at a reasonable age and turned us loose, gave us free rein in her personal library if we thought we were big enough to handle the subject matter, so there was always a world out there to know about, and we were indirectly invited to explore it without limits on our attitudes or ability to accept people where we found them.

There’s no going home now, and that’s okay. The farm of my childhood belongs to other people and is being lovingly cared for. The same is true of the farm where I spent my first marriage and raised my son. My life takes place far from both in every way and I don’t yearn for either as a destination – I haven’t so much as driven past either one in many years. But as age prepares to have its way more and more with my body and my mind, I heavily miss some of the people who shared life with me in those places, who left their mark on me, whose memories live inside my soul.

This is a different animal from nostalgia. It feels more like a need. In an upside-down time when truth has been losing some important battles, I need to sit down in my grandparents’ big farmhouse and hear old-fashioned wisdom from my grandma’s store of experience, hard work, perspective gained; her next-generation memories of family stories from The Old Country, The Ocean Crossing, Homesteading, I need to hear it all again and let it be at home on the inside of me.

I need to hear my mom’s quietly positive take on life again – just being with her always made me feel better, which says so much because her own heart was unsettled a lot of the time. She was serene on the surface, paddling like hell underneath, and able to be most things to most people, which took far more strength than anybody knew. I need to hold her and tell her that she was a more than excellent mother and person. And then I need to ask her all the things I didn’t know to ask when she was here…

Home is the people and places that have made me who I am, and short of a fateful blow to the head I couldn’t shed all of it if I tried. That knowledge gives me extreme comfort and a genuine sense of security. Kim, too, is home now, in both spiritual and tangible ways, as are John and Anthony, my sisters, other people in my life. So as it turns out, it isn’t so very tricky after all to get back home. I was “this many old” when I learned that.

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The road to hell is paved …

I was definitely going to Tai Chi class this morning, and still could if I threw some clothes on right this minute and didn’t care that my bed-face was hanging out. Truth is, I got up at 6:15 and have been drinking coffee steadily ever since from my sweet new mug that reminds me to “breathe,” but more than two hours later I still don’t feel awake. It’s because of the fog, which when we got up was clinging to the windows, making visibility nil – a luscious grey-flannel morning.

Just like that, I was out of the mood for anything but coffee, a hot shower, and getting-rid-of-all-the-things!! And once the urge to purge overtakes me it’s best to stay with that thought for as long as it lasts, as there is much here in need of a good home elsewhere. Knowing there’s stuff tucked away that nobody’s using, but could be, adds to the general malaise, and I need that to go away. So a little at a time, every day, I’m making room for energy and it’s a GOOD thing, as Martha Stewart tells us.

The weight of winter, as with so much else, isn’t lifting without a struggle, but this would be a ridiculous time to quit. My tiny private battles with the superfluous make me smile and encourage me for the far bigger wars at play on the world stage. We keep our heads up and do what we can until the fog lifts and the sun shines again. The alternative – giving up, doing nothing – is unthinkable, so we do something even if it’s wrong, and we feel better for it, and one day we’ll wake up and things really WILL have changed and the world will feel real again. Won’t that be amazing? Meanwhile, I’m ready for another big trash bag…

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” ~ Augusten Burroughs

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At last!

Yes I DO feel this exuberant about the First Day of Spring this year. Winter was long, cold, gray, and wet, and will likely not turn loose simply at the command of the calendar, but I can’t remember ever being more ready for exactly that…

Balcony days, with doors and windows open, pots and baskets overflowing with greenery and blossoms. Sunshine, pool time, cooking outside. Farmers’ Market, summer sounds, bicycles, books, accidental naps. Feeling infinitely more alive, but in slow motion, all the better for savoring the finite moments.

The sunshine pouring through my windows this morning is a reminder that spring does come again, that it does get better, the mood doesn’t stay gray unless you’re a curmudgeon who refuses to lighten up, the grass does get green again and flowers bloom.

The world keeps turning in spite of our doubts – or our certainties that it’s all for nothing, life can’t possibly shine again and bring joy to our hearts. And here I sit, happy as if I had good sense, signing on for a stretch of whatever’s next, because what else?

Happy Spring, friends, we’ve survived another hibernation, we should celebrate. Do you have traditions to share?

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Wake-up calls…

Pitch dark and someone’s pounding on our heavy outer door. “Wake up! Fire Department! Everybody out! Wake up!” That’s what Kim heard. I heard “Sweetie, you have to get up, the fire department’s here, you have to get dressed, we have to get out,” all with a calm urgency in voice and hands. Mass confusion in my brain, which way is up, what’s happening, will we have to go outside in the cold, what clothes do I grab, I can smell an electrical fire, just put something on, what time is it? Kim says it’s 4:20. Seriously? Is this my life?

Within seconds I’ve managed to cover myself with pieces of clothing from head to toe and we’re out in the acrid stench of the hallway and headed to the atrium three floors down, past firemen with axes and hoses and other equipment always eerily reminiscent of 9/11, somberly focused on the challenge at hand, which isn’t yet fully known.

The outside air is good for breathing and also for waking up, and my next thought, of course, is how good my first sip of coffee is going to be this morning… followed immediately by how glad I am that I’m on day six of the flu instead of day two. There’s always at least one upside, right? And that whatever day of the week this is will likely only get better from here.

Maybe not more exciting, but better. It was indeed an electrical fire in the loft/condo two doors south of us on our floor, whose owners are rarely here, which blackened a wall and revealed a failure in the system. For a couple of predawn hours, there were firetrucks, lights blazing, on every side of our five-story building, and firemen in full gear crawling all over it, so we felt nothing if not safe. (In my case, of course, Kim is my first line of security as my “ears.”)

And now I’m sitting here putting it all together in my head and feeling thankful it wasn’t a big to-do to get a fire abatement company here at the soul-crushing hour of 3:30am, which is what time it all began. Due to a small compromise within the condo, the main ear-splitting fire alarm in our mixed-use steel, concrete, glass and brick building didn’t go off, but the individual unit itself notified our city fire department and in turn our building manager. No one had to call the condo owners in another state to okay payment to a private company, because the commercial entities on the first two floors and all the owner/occupants on the top three have a social contract along with all the other residents of the city, with the city fire department. It’s simple unadorned socialism – we pool our taxes and help each other out with these things, which strikes me as a fabulous arrangement at 3:30 or 4:20 in the frigid dark when nearly all my material goods, which aren’t that many, but especially my nice warm bed, are four floors above my head and I’m not asking for a lot else. If it ain’t broke, what’s to fix?

But guess who’s probably taking a nap this afternoon?

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Yikes, busted…

This moment of self-awareness smacked me in the face as if from the fog outside my windows just now. It’s such a deliciously sneaky little phrase… “Joy of missing out.” It represents a guilty pleasure… because, you know, I could have gone, I could have seen it all firsthand, I could have lived to tell about it, brought the stories back… Instead, known only to me was the joy of comfort: my environment, my simple pleasures, my chosen company, not in rejection of anything, rather in full-hearted embrace of the best of the best for this time. The deep lovely joy of missing out.

For legit reasons, I do opt for comfort a lot, but because I’m still so damnably fascinated by everything there’s no disconnect between me and the world, may that ever be true. Bless my mom and her hungry intellect, and her determination that her kids not be deprived of knowledge simply for the fact of living in the middle of legendary NoWhere. And bless technology for the way it helps to level the playing field in every direction – economically, regionally, generationally, on and on. No one has to bow out of the conversation unless they choose to for their own reasons – the decision to miss out for the unique joy of it, for the sake of the alternative that’s offered.

Kim calls it knowing how to be satisfied, a mantra that has kept us arm-in-arm for fifteen years and counting. But who’s counting? 💙

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Of seasons, surprises & sass..

What a season of life this is. While I own up front to having been keenly honed in on the political landscape since at least Obama, a lot of heavy-duty things have gone right on happening on a personal level that have required all the strength, stamina, patience, and fire-proof humor I could throw at them.

This past year alone has been full of opportunities for natural growth. Kim shattered his wrist and went through months of healing and therapy, the PT part of which is ongoing via his guitar playing, which the accident could have ended but didn’t. It’s sweet when I can neatly tie up all the loose ends like that – it so rarely happens in real life.

I found out about a friend’s suicide – heard it from a stranger at Christmas time, and that’s exactly what I mean about loose ends. I’m still dealing with it, but I am dealing because I know from experience that when you don’t it gets all kinds of worse. Natural growth.

People we love dissolved their relationship, something we were not only the last to see coming, we never saw it at all. We’re either a) true believers, b) gullible, c) out of touch with the world, or d) all of the above. I’m guessing it’s d) and I don’t care, for all the right reasons – mine.

Other people we love retired and moved several states away. We’re deliriously happy for them, but tears have been and will be shed. Lots of great stories already, though, so on we roll.

A few people exasperated me this year with their strange need for me to think like they do or justify why not, so I changed my whole approach to social media and it’s been like a benediction – such sweet peace. Now I can in some ways, for some few moments at a time, order my immediate world the way I like it. And in seasons of life such as we find ourselves currently experiencing, that matters.

Namasté, friends. 🙏

If you could see inside my head, it might look something like this…

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It always comes back to love.

I didn’t say anything about LOVE on the 14th because it’s been done to death, and there are people who rightly dread hearing about it (those people can thank me later, preferably with salted caramel something). Kim and I made a pact to forego the hearts & flowers hoo-ha altogether and it was perfect – love, peace, and happiness rolled down like waters, and all was well. No big deal. Another good day, all in what you make of it.

We can talk about all kinds of love, not just the romantic kind that we always think we want and then sometimes don’t know quite what to do with after we get it, amirite? Now that I’ve gotten used to some of the realities, I do love getting older, for the reasons Ms. Erickson mentions. Accepting the facts doesn’t necessarily mean loving them, though – my favorite memory from childhood is that my back didn’t hurt.

A deepening understanding has been the sweetest gift of the passing years and the events they’ve held. I’ve been in the middle of more than one critical incident, positive or negative, and had a swash of clarity engulf me and leave me changed. I live for those times.

In order to weave stories, it’s VITAL to see how things connect, to understand something of how life really works, and that requires time and perspective. Integrating the lessons…applying them…the weaver designs the tapestry…and each person reads according to his or her heart, because beauty does indeed “reveal itself in thousands of forms.”

I write ’em, I don’t explain ’em, and I stopped apologizing a few years ago. You probably should, too.

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Into the confessional…

This must be some kind of record, even for me. Six weeks into the new year and I’ve cemented my status as (oxymoron alert) a genuine phony. Did I burst onto the scene January One, fresh as a daisy, determined to slay the dragon of procrastination once and for all? Obviously not. In fact, things aren’t going well at all in that regard so you’re looking at part of a conscious decision to “do better.” Can ya’ stand it.

It’s wonky and off that this is my first post of 2019, and it’s important that you know I haven’t neglected you, my Faithful Reader, out of any malice aforethought, far from it. I say honestly, with no hint of whine in my voice, that it’s been an existentially tough winter, and the times I’ve wandered or marched into this space with intent to say what’s in my heart the words haven’t happened. Nothing personal, I promise, and everyone’s probably lucky the werding stayed dammed up until I could filter and tame it a little.

As of last week, I’m introducing my being to the wonders of Tai Chi and can already see its residual benefits starting to make themselves known. There has to be a starting place – I’ve tried several disciplines, always with hope – keep a good thought for me with this one, as it seems to hold promise.

One more thing for now: My piano – I’ve played it only once since New Year’s Day. Please help me hold myself accountable to turn it into a habit (again). I promise not to throw anything at you for nagging me. Bonus, my aim is truly awful.

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Catharsis is good…

Here we are in the doldrums, the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s. Nobody ever knows what to do with it – do we have our employees work? (Mom & Pop shops) How many hours CAN we crank out of our employees? (NOT Mom & Pop shops). It’s clearly a dilemma for all concerned, and for me personally it just feels weird. The world outside my windows looks gray and listless, like everything’s shut down, but maybe that’s only because it’s 13º out there, all things considered, and I’m a drama queen. I’m sure I can find bright shiny things to get me through until December 31st, I’ve managed every year until now, and as soon as the KIMN8R gets home from the gym it’s all good anyway – he brings the party with him, yes it is that way, that’s why we got married, to spend all of our best minutes together.

Just for grins, I could get an early start on the resolutions I will knowingly break in 2019. I’ll fail to measure up in various categories throughout the year, but with these I’ll squirm when it happens, having named them publicly. Sooo, off the top, and in no particular order…

  • Stop letting email pile up in folders. You are NOT going to retroactively deal with a fraction of it.
  • Stop procrastinating. Do it now. It’s not like you have carte blanche on the future, so face reality NOW.
  • Stop NOT playing your piano. PLAY it. Like every DAY play it.

I see three stop signs I put up there that are really GO signs, so for starters, today will be about (the process of) dumping several thousand emails (again, yes) and also taking the cover off my beautiful little concert grand. It’s a story inside a story inside yet another story, but for now I just need to sit down and play it because since I first learned how to make a melody happen, that’s been my truest form of catharsis.

Whatever makes you feel better and frees your heart to hold more happiness, start doing more of that and less of whatever doesn’t make you feel that way. So simple, and it has nothing to do with failing or succeeding. Whatever’s ahead for all of us is on its way, and it’s good.

We’re going with that until further notice, tribe.

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Peace …

Best wishes for peace and joy to you and all you love throughout the holiday season and the new year…

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A disclaimer?

Something you discover when you start scooping sand into boxes as raw material for sand castles, aka readable pieces of writing, is that if you’re writing for yourself the content can get rough for others to wade through at times. Therapy is rarely pretty or pleasant, but instead of locking the door and writing alone in the dark I leave the choice to my readers who’ve signed on – stay or go, read or skip, understand or drop by the wayside – because it helps me to think I’m bouncing those thoughts and feelings off someone who might be persuaded to care.

I know it’s been increasingly dicey here on Playing for Time over the past couple of years as I’ve clawed my way through a mountain of shock and disbelief at the changes in the country I’ve always called home and tried to reconcile what I know with what I see happening out there. I’ve undoubtedly stepped on toes and caused offense, as haven’t we all, in trying to feel our way through a labyrinth we don’t recognize as familiar territory anymore. In a gene pool rife with bipolarism I’ve experienced for the first (or maybe worst) time the heavy hand of actual depression, not to the point of requiring extra meds, but a far streak past The Blues. 

That glow out there on the horizon this week – I want to think that’s end-of-the-tunnel-quality light, but I’ve finally earned my Cynic’s stripes so I’m not holding my breath. I do think democracy is going to win this one and that we’re eventually going to heal. I believe important things will have been won – and a few crucial ones will have been lost – by the time the smoke clears. We have risked much in being so willing to square off and choose sides – things we may miss as a semblance of normalcy returns – but we’ll survive this, I believe that now; whereas, there’ve been moments when I was none too sure.

If you’ve been here since early on, that’s cool and I thank you. If you’re a newbie, that’s cool too. If you take a quick romp back through the archives you’ll see that I’ve written about the most eclectic of subjects, so I could hit yours eventually. 

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Brother Bear…

How will I ever write this…how many tries will it take to get it right?

The holiday season always seems to bring the unexpected into our lives in some way. We went to an Open House in a friend’s newly-redecorated loft next to ours one evening last week, and I found myself in a free-range conversation with a woman who was helping to host. We eventually landed on the subject of pain and I was telling her about my gifted shaman friend, Ken, who had helped me so much through his knowledge of massage and the human lymph system. She asked me his last name and when I told her she said “Oh. He died. A couple of months ago, I think. He killed himself. Oh, I’m so sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”

We said our goodnights soon after and I’ve been trying to process the reality of her bombshell since. Cold shock gradually gave way to “Damn you, Ken, that’s so unfair. We were friends, you owed me one more conversation.” During my last session with him, which was less than three weeks before he died as it turns out, he told me he was getting ready to make some big changes in his life and pursue things that would be about his own peace and happiness for once. He sounded hopeful and resolved, and I affirmed him in his plans, telling him what a beautiful human being he was and that he deserved to be loved and appreciated and happy. He sat next to me on the massage table, his bare toes on the floor – he was 6’5″ – and went over *breathing lessons* with me again, the thing that ultimately keeps me healthy. He said “What if I’m not around sometime? You have to remember how to do this. You can never forget.” Did he know then? Was that the resolve? Or did he not yet have an escape hatch in mind in case things didn’t pan out… ?

How could he take himself away? His supremely gentle spirit. His soothing voice. His gifted touch. His knowledge, beautifully spooky in its intuitiveness. This isn’t my first rodeo with suicide and once again it’s like being yanked out of my skinsuit with no warning and left standing here raw and wondering what to do. I would have helped him in a heartbeat, and I can hardly bear the knowledge that I can’t bring him back to tell him that and a million other things. We hugged when I left that day, and I said I’d book another session soon. That was August…now it’s December…and what with various minor crises of our own I never did. 

Ken knew I was working on a novel and he asked if there was a bit part in it for a shaman called Bear. If I finally nurse it over its hurdles and finish it at some point…or if I don’t…he’s in there. And I have to believe that Brother Bear is still out there somewhere on his journey, encountering new hurdles to overcome. He was an inexpressibly exquisite creature in this life.

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