The sun also rises…

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It happens every morning, in my experience, and life continues upon the planet. It all comes to us unbidden, with no effort on our part, each wake/sleep cycle delivering its allotment of STUFF TO BE DEALT WITH. And we do, amazingly sometimes, we do. Imperfectly we stumble in the dark of our own ignorance, giving it what we’ve got, and we deal. Humans astound me in every direction, but most of all in our capacity for resilience and new energy in the face of NO. “No” is no kind of answer, so we press on. This staying-alive stuff isn’t for sissies.

But here we are on a beautiful winter morning, with fog hanging in the trees and people showing up to make the day happen. The girls who own the salon in the next block have pulled up in their SUVs and claimed their spots below my window. All three are young moms who do whatever it takes to juggle careers, commutes, kiddos, schools, daycares, home, family, laundry, food for everybody, every day, and my 4th-floor remove isn’t the only space between us. They’re paying a price I never had to pay, that of running my own business while raising a family, and although I could tell you hair-raising tales of woe from past sacrifices, I sit here knowing I’ve been a spoiled girl all my life and at this point I’m merely trying to absorb the lessons coming my way before I run out of time. This I know:

“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy;

a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”

-Maya Angelou

The first month of the new year has already shown us that it’s going to be more of the same, so what do we do, boys and girls? Right. We deal. We deal with what comes to us until we get it right. Wish I had an easier answer, but I can’t start lying to you NOW.

Dancing my heart out here, boss, keep the music playing.

*

I’ve seen other versions of the following, but this was a good laugh yesterday:

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Rain, rain, do please stay…

*

Such a lovely HumpDay, watching the rain come down, hearing it hit my windows. It never puts me in a wrong mood, in fact it’s totally healing to this farm child’s heart. Water… what a concept. Falling from the sky, flowing beneath the surface of the earth, carving great canyons upon the face of the planet, maintaining a link back to the womb. Life-giving. Indispensable. It will always feel like a friend.

Rain as a metaphor for life.

*

Enlightenment and acceptance go hand in hand…

And then we can put actual truth in place.

*

Rain reminds me of other soft things, other comforts, among them the inimitable Velveteen Rabbit. Less than three weeks into a fresh year, we’re all too aware how same-same human existence really is, and we feel the toll it extracts. All the stoicism we can muster, our entire store of patience and forbearance, our determination to smile and “keep sweet,” none of that keeps stark reality from our door. So we have to be willing to let life wear the rough edges off of us, keep receiving the love bestowed upon us, and agree to be REAL, come what may. And it will.

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The view from here, Week One…

Maria Alfie – Marbles III, 1983, oil on canvas

We survived it. If you’re reading this, you got through the intro to the 2023 dance, along with plenty of other brave souls. And if you’re like me, always going the extra mile, you may even have been recognized for your efforts.

The fresh new year is already bringing its daily load of challenges, and that will likely continue unabated, so remember…

*

Life comes at us without letup most of the time, and we each deal in our own way…

*

*

I found this yesterday and it’s so perfectly said that I sat here in silence for a full five minutes letting the truth of it permeate. It’s exquisite:

*

I did an uncharacteristic thing yesterday and clicked on a Facebook link to a “psychic reading.” Turns out they know me there.

Worth sticking around to find out.

*

So here we all are, putting one foot in front of the other because we weren’t offered another option, doing our best, hoping for the right outcome, human-ing like our lives depended on it. We know we don’t have it all figured out, we’re simply trying to get there in time to catch the last train.

*

A message to 2023:

The past decade has extracted a toll while providing growth and insight.

*

“In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.” -Mary Oliver

*

*

Each new odyssey around the sun comes with its own unique set of events and circumstances, none of which humans are privy to before it happens, so if we want to continue our existence we DEAL, end of story.

BEGINNING of story… here we go. You’ve been warned, bright new year.

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A gift from last Christmas…

*

Finneas is a brother to Billie Eilish and has worked with her from the start of her career.

How do you know
If you’ve done everything right?
Is it the love you have at hand
Or the cash you kiss at night?

How do you know
If it was worth it in the end?
Did every second really count
Or were there some you shouldn’t spend
On anything but anyone you love?
Was this the life that you were dreaming of?
A movie night, a yellow light
You’re slowing down and days are adding up

So don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s only a while
It’s not worth the anger you felt as a child
Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

I’m unimpressed
By the people preaching pain
For the sake of some small gain
In the sake of someone’s name

I’m unprepared
For my loved ones to be gone
Call ’em far too often now
Worry way too much about mom

Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s only a while
It’s not worth the anger you felt as a child
Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

It’s family and friends, and that’s the truth
The fountain doesn’t give you back your youth
It’s staying up too late at night and laughing under kitchen lights
So hard you start to cry

Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

–Finneas O’Connell

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Box it up…

*

I had a wonderful conversation the other day with someone whose opinion matters to me far more than most people’s, and it ended up being helpful beyond words. I’m pretty sure I’d benefit greatly from talking to a qualified therapist in order to tie up a few loose ends before heading into what I like to think of as the home stretch, may it last forever. There are memories and emotions that have become dead weight over the years and need to be put someplace manageable. After Sunday’s healing convo, I had a better understanding of how this works, and it’s key: Nothing goes away, so it has to be put into its own box and treated with respect, but by its very nature it can’t share daily life with me because it isn’t life-bringing.

*

*

*

You’re allowed to love everything that makes you who you are. Please do.

*

We all know…

***

If pain of any kind keeps you from owning your daily share of happiness, deal with it in the present using what you know at the time, put it in the Hurt Box, and walk away… don’t give it life outside the container. The stuff in the box tends to get quieter by the day if we don’t open the lid, and that’s a mercy.

Peace to you in all things on this crisp fall morning…

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Sea change…

*

Look at the time, it’s the next-to-last day of summer already! We have a nice cool morning ahead of our 100º high… the sun’s shining, the mowers are mowing, the fresh-cut grass smells like a benediction… and I enjoyed my morning walk before 7:30. We’re supposed to be in the mid-80s tomorrow, and then autumn greets us on Thursday with a high of 61º and rain, wouldn’t that be perfection. Seemed like kind of a short summer, but they all do now, and we’re ready for the loveliness fall brings.

It’s been a week since I sat here and wrote anything, but not for lack of opportunity and effort. I learned early on that my muse does not reward effort… she values only my trust. First and foremost: coffee, preferably Kim’s, which is steeped in love and not tainted by Starry-eyed capitalism. 😊 Next, quiet and focus, which might not be exactly what you envision. I can stare at a leaf outside my window while I write a whole paragraph without glancing at the keyboard. Is that a marketable talent? SPOILER: No. No, it is not. But it’s a good exercise when it works.

And then, when the quiet settles down around me, we talk, my elusive muse and I. She brooks no untruth, no dissembling, no dancing around the real stuff, and sometimes she simply goes away until I’m ready for it. She knows the world is a hard place to be right now if you possess awareness… that double-edged sword of knowledge. She knows other species don’t have to deal with this aspect of life on earth, so she tries extra hard to be kind while tormenting me with things I could maybe think about.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness… what it is and what sort of power we hold over it… and as with all of life, it comes down to balance. Kim gets twitchy-butt if he stays indoors for too long, whereas it’s pretty okay with me in here most of the time. It does get really quiet, though, especially without the talking heads on TV news who used to babysit me. What I’ve realized is that often all I crave is the murmur, the presence of other people, and I don’t even need to be part of the conversation. Times when I’m happy to sit in the corner of a coffee shop with my iPad, on the periphery, listening to the ebb and flow of communal existence while bearing no responsibility for decisions being made around me, simply benefitting from the nearness of others who resemble me. And then I toddle back home, thankful for the grace of peace and silence.

***

I think about what it means to be an introvert, an empath, a peacemaker, and a relentless advocate for truth and justice, all wrapped up in one neat little neurotic bundle… and mostly it means that at any given time somebody’s really pissed at me and would love to tell me so, and that my spirit is basically conflicted nonstop… but whaddaya gonna do. Refer to description in this paragraph… by the stars, I never had a chance.

***

Life is an endless puzzle, but a bit of awareness and longevity go a long way, and eventually, over years of paying attention, a pattern emerges. Humans are selfish and lazy; therefore, life has only a partial shot at running smoothly at any point in time, and given free reign we will screw things up past all fixing. Are we there yet? Feels like we’re there. I saw this yesterday. It’s real. Feel free to google it.

Dealing with the day-to-day is a contact sport not suited for the faint of heart nor the easily discouraged, and that’s without assholery like the above. Ya’ll can have Orange Jesus 100% to yourselves, thx.

***

I plan to do the same. Hope it works out that way for you, too.

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Breathe…

She sat at the back and they said she was shy,

She led from the front and they hated her pride,

They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,

They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence,

When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,

So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad,

They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears,

And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears,

And she listened to all of it thinking she should,

Be the girl they told her to be best as she could,

But one day she asked what was best for herself,

Instead of trying to please everyone else,

So she walked to the forest and stood with the trees,

She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves,

She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,

And she told them what she’d been told time after time,

She told them she felt she was never enough,

She was either too little or far far too much,

Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,

Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek,

Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs,

And she stopped…and she heard what the trees said to her,

And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,

For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe.

Author: @Becky Helmsley

***

This breathtaking poem was shared on Facebook without accreditation, which google fixed for me, quickly finding Becky for the documentation she must have. The poem’s title is BREATHE. Reverse Image Search failed me utterly, however, so for now Tree Woman will remain anonymous.

***

The sweet discovery I made, three lines in, is that BREATHE is written in the same meter as Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman to Me.” So yes… you can sing it! And if ever a poem needed to be sung… LOUD… it’s this one.

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Still hanging around, what a surprise!

At 7:00 on a September morn, fog hanging in the trees, a cheese Danish and hot coffee in front of me courtesy of Kim… I’m settling into the fact that today I’m 75 years old. It’s frankly weird to find myself at an age that once sounded unbearably old, life over, stick with your comfy chair, lap blanket, and tepid tea, Granny-Face. But I watched both of my grandmothers live past 95, keeping their minds reasonably intact, and this morning I know you don’t shut things down three-quarters of the way through, so on we press.

When Kim and I got married, I was the reverse of today’s number… 57. A full range of life events has taken place in the intervening 18 years, letting me know for sure that life doesn’t hinge on ages, numbers, or our careful plans. I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and be 75 plus a day, and the days will continue to spool out until I reach the final one, whenever it comes.

The gray flannel morning has crept up against my windows, socking me into my quiet corner with only my thoughts for company… just the way I like it. These gentle surroundings are causing me to be highly conscious of a few key factors in making it to this milestone in a positive frame of mind…

  1. After two years of treatment protocols, Kim’s oncology numbers are below zero… success!
  2. With the advent of vaccines, boosters, and a lower transmission rate, John’s work at the hospital is becoming a little safer and more conducive to longterm breathing.
  3. Since Christmas and a spinal fusion via robot, I’ve been without my old companion of fifty years… nerve pain… and I’m walking my tush off on the surrounding sidewalks.
  4. Last week I got new hearing assists with the latest technology… and joy of joys, I can actually HEAR! I’ve been missing so many sounds for who knows how long, I’m having to retrain my ears and brain to tolerate the sheer input of it all and it’s wonderful.
  5. Despite every awful thing at loose on the planet, genuine loving humans give me insane hope for a future that is not dystopian. I texted with two of them this morning… day made! People haven’t called me Pollyanna all my life for nothing.

***

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***

***

Very happy to be a Virgo. Otherwise, I’d have to be someone else entirely.

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Hello, starshine…

It might sound odd, but I miss you when I stay away for too long and fail to write down every thought in my head as OCD, ADHD, and anxiety demand. Beyond an incredibly faithful core of readers, I have no idea who sees my words… but there are days when I can feel benevolent forces just behind the wall… this wall I’m scribbling on now, defacing it with my own brand of graffiti… and I’m glad you’re there. Makes me wish for words of wisdom to impart, something that would make your day a little shinier, your heart a bit lighter. Alas, it turns out I’m here mostly to bitch and moan and call for backup, so may the gods bless your heart for sticking around.

This morning was undoubtedly one of the most perfect of my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot. The temp and humidity were just right and the sky was pure sunshine, a Chamber of Commerce kind of day. I walked to Einstein’s to get a bagel and coffee, then to a picnic table in South Park where I enjoyed a quiet breakfast while I read my book via phone and watched Larryville wake up. Not a leaf was stirring in the massive trees that must have already been standing when Quantrill and the Boys came through during the Civil War, trying to burn everything to a cinder.

There’s no way I could reach across this, let alone around its circumference. There be giants.

A couple of people wrapped in blankets on the hard floor of the gazebo were gradually letting the sun’s rays wake them up, and I hope someone provided coffee after they came to life.

***

As we inch our way toward the season of the long shadows, I’m storing sunshine and benevolent days… we’ll need every bit of it.

Kim Smith self-portrait, August 2022

***

I’ll leave you with this… and if you know the translation, please share it!

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You become…

*

QUESTION: How do we know when a new practice has become a full-fledged habit? I say it’s when our access to said habit is rudely cut off and we find ourselves in a near-depressive state over it. Circumstances of various sorts, most of them entirely beyond my control, conspired to keep me off the streets this week for a 4-day stretch that by Day Three had me in a minor meltdown. Since December 22nd of last year my two best friends, after #1 Kimmers, have been #2 walking, and #3 icing. Just let me get out there and walk it off, keep the ice packs in rotation, and all’s well. I didn’t mean to give my aging body an 8-year hiatus, but I’m kind of proud of how it’s been willing to pick up the pace again, now that it can, and this is no time to back off. I’m finding that my once overactive conscience operates on a standby basis these days because I don’t give it much to do. Once that morning stroll around town is in the bag the day is mine to live out, which feels sweetly Zen. And the best part is that the time spent outside in this green green city feels like the most powerful health elixir I could find. It’s good… in the face of all the things… to be able to say “It’s all good.”

***

***

***

Remember that you are all you really have, which is entirely more than sufficient, so treat yourself with respect and don’t miss the good stuff along the way.

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Yes, Diary, me again…

Don’t know what’s up with Ms Muse these days but she will not stop with the subtle impulse to “write it down.” And as I verbalize that, I know it’s because I’m on the downhill slide to a finish line of sorts, set on fully owning myself before 75. Almost there, and mulling every year of it, just to be all milestone-y, although it would be fun to match my grandmothers’ records and stick around past 95 with my head still on straight. Seventy-five is no kind ‘a stopping place!

Kim and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last month, and on nearly every Sunday morning of those years he’s made me a ranch bean omelet to die for. I’m still here though, having just consumed yet another exquisite offering that made my taste buds cry for happiness. On Saturdays it’s fried eggs and Kim Smith hashbrowns, on Sundays it’s the omelets… hundreds of each by now and never a chance of getting tired and jaded because it’s new all the time. He’s a trained institutional cook with a gift for making a meal for two taste like heaven, and I’ve really only bragged on breakfast. Everything he makes gets constantly upgraded as he goes along, so yeah, I’m a lucky girl and I have to stop talking about him now or he won’t want this going public. Let me just remind you, though, that he came to me precisely the way I ordered him: “I’m not getting married again, but if I did, he’d have to be younger than me and love to cook.” Be careful, little mouth, what you say, your heart just might know what you want.

When the world starts taking pieces of you from little on up, it becomes the seemingly small things that keep life worth doing. Beautiful walks, music that says what we can’t, people who love us enough to care for us, the grace to wake up and be us again for another day, year, decade, or more…

As an inveterate Pollyanna, I’m glad there are people who keep promises, who do everything in their power not to disappoint or hurt us, who are fully present. I think that’s what my invisible friend had in mind this morning… paying homage to the people who make life good. They don’t have to, it’s just who they are.

***

**No one, including me, sees your name when you click a star rating, but it does make my day, so thx.

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Are we there yet?

How’s the whole space-time continuum thing working for ya’ lately? Feeling a little stretched? Compressed maybe? Are we any closer to understanding the warp and weft of the fabric of our existence? Are we tuned in or out? “Einstein concluded that space and time, rather than separate and unrelated phenomena, are actually interwoven into a single continuum (called space-time) that spans multiple dimensions. So how many dimensions are there in the space-time continuum?”

https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-the-space-time-continuum

This, boys and girls, is what happens when rain and gray skies become the order of the day for days on end… the coping mechanisms run right off the charts into unexplored territory, including black holes.

My brain has run amuck, so in lieu of actual wisdom this morning I offer you memes, glorious memes, which die an ignominious death if not shared forever.

From the current news cycle:

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Sunrise… sunset…

There’s everything to be said for second chances. We don’t all get one in every situation. In fact, the greater the need for a second shot, the less likely we’ll be afforded one. They’re handed out like candy when we’re little, so someone should warn us early on that life doesn’t continue in that vein and that we should think, first of all, and then wait to act on an idea until we’re pretty sure it’s a good one.

When I came to a semi-conscious conclusion a few years ago that life as I’d known it was ending, in terms of physical capabilities, I failed to consider the major ramifications of shutting down. Not that I had a real choice… when pain rules, you do what it says, and it took me to some dark places before Dr. Carlson put a stop to it for me. But going to ground and closing the door in your third trimester of life is a serious undertaking which requires equally serious effort to reverse.

Change is underway. This morning, like an actual person, I drove across town again on a valid license to check on a friend, stopped at Einstein’s for a bagel, paid for it with my updated credit card whose pin number I know, parked Kim’s truck back in its spot without destroying anything anywhere, and I feel slightly reborn. It’s like someone raised a curtain and there was the world, big as life and twice as natural. It’s ridiculous… at almost 75 it feels in lots of ways like I’m just getting started.

I hope the central message floats to the top of all the I/me/we, and lights up in neon: DON’T QUIT!! Whatever’s stopping you from living your life… physically, mentally, spiritually… don’t give in to it unless that’s the only choice available, which was coming true for me until six months ago. If there’s any chance to maintain a vital life of your own… do it. It takes great energy to come back, and the time consumed is staggering. But step by step… slowly we turn… and life goes on.

There are Memorial Day observances around town today, and something big going on in South Park for kids, but things were pretty quiet this morning after Busker weekend. One block of 8th street is still closed, with booths in place, so it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Feels like a Sunday…

No typos detected.

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The celebrations of life…

This weekend is Busker Fest in Lawrence America, a 4-day street-performer extravaganza that includes various sound-stages close to downtown, music everywhere, art parades, food booths, merch booths, contests, feats of derring-do, delights for the kiddos, Farmers Market, and untold other good stuff. It started the year before we moved here, and that’s probably the only one we’ve missed. What we love most is knowing it’s happening and that families are having a great time… we watch the steady stream of walkers heading from East Lawrence to Mass Street, and grin big… the underlying vibe here is a healing one. When I’m out driving or walking there isn’t a heavy sense that half the people around me hate what I love, or that I’m a minnow who somehow slipped into the piranha tank. Other than the occasional pygmy shark, there’s been no real threat detected most days.

Turns out early morning on a Saturday is a great time to drive across town, who knew? I had an errand at 7:30 and since everything around downtown is blocked off for the festival, I took different routes there and back, soaking up the cool morning air. There were people out everywhere but very little traffic, and I was truly in Free State Kansas. Tiny piece of unsolicited advice from The Big Sister… never shut down and give up on living, it’s hard to ramp it all up again and put things back where they belong. Pain started shutting things down shortly after we moved here… I stopped talking on the phone due to hearing loss… I lost energy for being social due to both of the above… and a senior neurosurgeon told me there was no way to stop the nerve pain in my body. Things… they happen. My driver’s license was expired for six months, which didn’t matter that much since I was never behind the wheel anyway, but another six and I’d have had to retake all the tests and jump through a few other hoops. There are small mercies…

Life returns, to bodies and to societies, although it’s sadly true that both usually have to hit rock bottom before coming back.

Key-change is key.
I’m grateful to the special people who’ve gotten me this far… and with a legal driver’s license even!

******

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Streaming Kansas…

It started raining sometime after midnight and has paused only momentarily since. Down in the parking lot there’s a small truck with a large green canoe lashed over top of it, which is reassuring as we may have need of it by Thursday. All this spring rain is wonderful and will benefit everything… as it simultaneously adds to the general lethargy. I haven’t yet tested the outer limits of my capacity for the Magnolia Network, even on mute, but it’s only a matter of time… perhaps this is the day I quietly go mad and Kim comes home to a mere whisper of the person formerly known as his wife. Anything could transpire as the chill rain pelts against windows that were just this morning professionally washed via power-lift, despite the obvious liquidity of the surroundings at the time. Don’t ask, I am mos def not in charge here. I’m very glad for that fact, and you should be, too.

Being happy in the rain really isn’t that heavy an assignment for a reclusive Pollyanna, and I thank my friend-cousin for this reminder…

…and sometimes a little wine.

We don’t understand until we get there, but all the “wise” things older people have said to us about life? Those people were being brutally honest, and the process only becomes more honest and more brutal as it plays out. It’s all real, and mostly based on our own choices.

This too is our choice… to trust enough not to give up on humanity nor ourselves, and to refuse to lose the things that matter.

The “love unconditionally” part is the kicker and we all know it. Gud luck to us.

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