Arguing with the sun…

***

It’s morning and the sun’s already climbing the sky, a situation that happens with alarming regularity, so it’s time to coffee up and deal. Some, not knowing better, might consider me the ultimate morning snob, as I strive to speak with no one before their time. Feels best to open my eyes in the semi-dark, consider seriously whether or not to stick a foot out yet, and spend the next couple of hours communing with Kim’s coffee and my own random brain waves, blithely referred to as The Muses. He goes away mid-morning to work out his existence within the parameters of PickleBall and comes home to either visible progress here while he was out, or invisible brain activity yielding no concrete evidence of any sort. No worries… he plays, I play, and we keep the News of the World out of our ears, damped to a slow burn. Some days there are spa soaks, and eventually lunch shows up, Kim having either made or brought it, which is what cooks do… it’s so cool. Afternoons often see a flurry of housework and errands, and evenings are couched in tequila shots, so it’s just all good, and the Life Police haven’t knocked on our door to let us know we’re doing it wrong.

Not really unsociable, not a recluse yet, I simply like having time to savor the best life offers me…

**

A thing the years have taught me is that every time I stick my neck out, somebody loops a lariat around it and leads me to a watering hole somewhere I hadn’t planned to go. Never look thirsty, is a rule I like. Otherwise you end up doing THIS:

**

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Trying the road less traveled these days…

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Because some things are indisputable.

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Look at us, getting all healthy and stuff. Wow.

**

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Oh, the humanity…

***

If you stop by and read me on any regular basis, you’re aware that my thoughts and words often focus on mortality. I would not, however, want there to be any misunderstanding about my trend in that direction, to wit: mortality and endings are the bailiwick of the Golden Age, and this girl simply prefers to know what she’s headed into, which ironically is yet another survival mechanism in operation. I hope to be fortunate enough to have inherited my grandmothers’ longevity, all of them seeing 95 or better, but it is not for me to know, nor do I really want to. Do you want to know the year of your demise? For my part, no thanks, it would color everything in different shades and ruin it all. I’m sorry, but if you read the ending of books before the beginning, we can’t be friends, get what I’m sayin’?

The alternative to morbid musings is to live ’til I die, in which case I intend to keep improving on my methods. Last year was full of heaviness and challenges, which has made it difficult to crawl out from under the pall, but dang, I am so ready to stop feeling whatever this is… and as I typed those words my brain said “It’s endings and beginnings, and you better deal, girlfriend, life is short.” The first step, for me… well, first step is always tears, whatever the situation. Second step is to decode the problem so I can break it down and handle it. Third step, cry some more. You know, the cycle of life. And because I need not only a vent-space but accountability, you get to eavesdrop on the process, and I hope it will prove helpful to you at some future date.

I’m ready for better, aren’t you?

**

Welp, here’s a welcome bit of news then…

And I’m expecting a huge back-rush of energy any moment now, so we’re good.

**

It’s called the Human Condition. Good luck getting out of it.

**

From my friend Phil…

I felt very seen by this, so I stole it. My sense of humor was inherited from crazy Germans and rough-edged Black Irish, and it is decidedly not for everyone. Do the looks I get do anything to stop me? Rarely. Because I had great role models.

**

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**

Best coffee in town all up in here, made by Kim, so nobody has to suffer. He says the out-and-about coffee drinker looks like Jeff Lynne.

EDITED to say “Who IS this man I live with? He’d never seen any of the mashups, nor had I, but here ya’ go…

**

Sharing because it might be the most astounding thing I’ll read all day:

**

And finally, sharing because life and breath and love R us.

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Truth vs whatever’s in second place…

***

THE DOORS

They stand erect in never-ending rows, each one offering a choice to make.

Some are dark, some bathed in light, all hold secret truths hard to unravel.

Here’s one labeled SILENCE. On which side, one wonders, there or here?

If I stand mute before it, will its stillness reveal wisdom and knowledge to my parched imagination?

**

So many doors, so many choices, so little time for everything.

The endless labels insinuate themselves upon our consciousness and leave us breathless…

How, how, how to ever investigate the options before time runs out and the buzzer signals an end to the game?

In the face of forever, time constraints are unspeakably cruel in their finality.

**

On they march, the doors, each firmly closed and locked to those without a set of keys.

Or is it just one key we need… the Master?

Is the secret in the simplicity?

Do we muddy the waters with our psychic flailing, drowning the answers directly under our feet?

**

Those doors, with their often obscure labels, stand like accusers we didn’t know we had

And the shock and awe outweigh the confusion until we get our bearings.

What do they really want from us, these sentinels of judgment?

Couldn’t we all have a nice chat and figure it out?

**

Conversation doesn’t seem to be the plan… and think about it

Everything has been said, end of story.

Now run, read the labels, make those choices!

Be fierce and turn a knob or two.

**

Guess you didn’t notice, that one said OFF THE CLIFF.

Oh well. Climb back up and keep reading

Because somewhere, in some wall, there’s a door that says SANCTUARY

And it does not lie.

**

JLSmith 02/19/2023

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Of weather, moods, and change…

Photo by Kim Smith 02/14/2023

***

Our forecast was for overnight snow, but what we have is frozen fog on the streets and sidewalks, curtailing most outdoor activity until the sun arrives, which may not be anytime soon. Kim canceled his morning walk after skating to the trash building and back, and people are navigating our intersection at Granny speed. No walkers below my windows, which is slightly eery… but the mood all up in here is sanguine and patient, waiting for what will be. Kim’s making oatmeal to get us started, and as long as I fold and store a stack of laundry, and make it to a haircut after lunch, I will have justified my existence for another day. I half hope my hairdresser is staying tucked in today, as there’s hardly a safe surface for man nor beast. A friend posted this about the current situation at our hospital complex:

He added that there are slide-offs and vehicle pileups all over town. Our balcony is now strewn with what look like pellets of dry ice, the streets are slick with black ice, and today’s high temp will remain below freezing, so yeah, good day to hide by the fire if you have one.

**

If everything shuts down for the day, that leaves lots of time for thinking, likely the riskiest thing I engage in now. How many of us thought we’d either be a completed work by 75, or dead, and here I am still trying to know myself before the ride stops. Things happen for which I realize too late I’m woefully unprepared… but how can this be? I’ve been there done that, but the capacity to ignore reality persists. Observing my grandmothers, who all seemed sort of “old” by the time I was fully aware of them, led me to believe that after a certain age serenity sets in and nothing can ruffle all that accumulated knowledge and experience. Not so much, sorry to say. Here’s the piece that matters: We stay approximately the same age inside for our entire lives, merely adjusting to the times as we go along… or not.

Something I’m newly grateful for… after living here for almost ten years, I finally have my own personal care team in place and it’s making all the difference. Keri owns my hair, Jourdan keeps my piggies looking presentable, and Erica provides TLC for my achy body. Wonderful women who express themselves through giving. It matters.

And now last night’s snow has arrived and is falling thick and heavy. Kim delivered me to my haircut and back, across two city blocks and several feet of treacherous sidewalk, and we lived to tell about it. The fireplace will see us through. You stay safe, and enjoy what winter has to offer!

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Promises kept…

***

In the predawn hours of December 22, 2021, as I checked into KU Med Center for spinal surgery, I promised myself a reward: “Get through this in style and you win a nice therapeutic massage after your one-year assessment.” Yesterday, six weeks late but right on time, was finally that day – an entire uninterrupted hour of TLC for the stuff that made recovery happen – and I’m still thanking me for it as we speak. It’s gratifying when people listen to their inner voice and do what they’re born to do. Erica was born to give the gift of therapeutic massage… her voice and demeanor are calm, she exudes peace, and her hands find all the pockets of pain in the muscles and tissue, encouraging discomfort to leave the body. She asked why I waited a year to come to her and I didn’t really have an answer except that I somehow thought I should let the official healing period expire before I struck out on my own. Pollyannas are like that, sigh. She gently let me know that if I ever have invasive surgery again, as soon as the incision(s) are healed come see her in order for the ACTUAL healing to start. She’s clearly right – I had volumes of stress and pain stored in my cells that needed to be disturbed enough to go away. We’ll wake some more up next time.

Trained or not, there’s no substitute for the human touch, so this massage is a place-marker and an admonition to treat myself well in all the ways available to me. Life is entirely too brief to voluntarily miss out on things like music, sunshine, kittens, and the skilled hands of a healer, and they do walk among us.

So here we are on a crisp winter morning, with that faithful orange glow starting to illuminate the horizon. It’s 16ΒΊ and Kim’s walking Mass Street, letting his hands get Just.Cold.Enough. to be entertaining. It’s Saturday, so it’ll be all the usual plus Jayhawk B-ball at noon. And then we’re hearing rumors of shenanigans in the works for tomorrow, so… wotta weekend, boys and girls! Hope it’s SUPER!

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Where Do You Go

***

When your sense of wonder slips away, where do you search?

Do you head outside? Breathe new air?

Do you go to the river and let its rot and decay

speak to you of letting go?

**

Do you clutch the shards of pain that confirm you’re alive, you did not die?

Or try to efficiently sweep them away before they’re seen?

Have you learned to let go of what breaks you

and embrace what will heal you?

**

Do you walk in the rain, letting it slide down your face and mix with your tears?

Do you hang out in spots where people talk, over coffee, but not to you?

Do you hope strangers miss your anguish

while those who love you feel it in their bones?

**

Where do you go, what do you do?

Have you lived yourself into honest answers yet?

Have you loved yourself into truth

or are you okay with whatever’s in second place?

**

JLSmith 02/09/2023

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The junk drawer…

***

How does someone long retired still end up with The Mondays every week? Apparently there are things so ingrained in our psyches that we can never break loose, but this is silly… Monday doesn’t bring bad news, heinous commitments, or unbearable stress, it’s just Day One and maybe therein lies the dread: What fanciful ways will I find in which to screw up in the week ahead of me? Oh well.

Life of late sort of chugs along on its own with not too many momentous events, and stays just weird enough not to devolve into apathy. My brain, not in demand for anything much, carries on an existence it doesn’t share with me unless I ask, and the days do tend to stay JUST. WEIRD. ENOUGH.

Yesterday it came to me that part of the loneliness attached to this decade stems from no longer being an intrinsic part of a big supportive family. That network started crumbling some years back and I miss it, while also recognizing that not everything is forever. We all grow into who we are, and the pieces don’t match up anymore. Just the facts.

So, time to start the week with a smile. I stole an idea this morning from someone whose blog I like, and I hope she won’t mind terribly. She has no idea I exist, but the junk drawer concept is hers.

Anyway, Mondays strike me as the proper time for a junk drawer purge, especially as the weekends can take a toll on storage, so here’s a string of smiles I stole from a Facebook friend. (I have criminal tendencies, you’re finally catching on to that.) Enjoy, and do something satisfying with your day. In my world, this is the first day of exploration/cleaning/sorting in our big closet, which will light me up like a sparkler… I love getting rid of stuff! Tune in later for the accountability,

Meanwhile, here’s your sign:

***

***

***

***

***

***

Unless you have a raging masochistic jones.

***

***

Billboard available, only smaller.

***

***

Don’t even think about it, sparky.

***

Last but not least, here’s a List of The Weird that will take me all week to check off:

***

Schmaltzy, but true and worth keeping in mind:

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Owning what’s inside…

***

Sitting here in a zone of my own after another Saturday breakfast that outdid last week’s, wondering what my muse(s) might have to say on a sunny winter morning. After days of single-digit pre-dawns, the temp was above freezing this morning so Kim was out early making his Mass Street foray, and upon arrival back home gave me the benefit of his well-chilled hands, a cheap thrill for both of us.

Our Jayhawks have a B-ball game at 11am, so Kim’s brewing a second pot of coffee and our brains are on sportsing high-alert. It’s shaping up to be a Saturday worth hanging around for, with things lying in wait that we don’t even know about yet. Meanwhile, my brain is already off on tangents while it has some free time. I’m remembering that someone who knows me pretty well told me recently that I terrify them. Really? Me? Have you seen me in this decade? I don’t have it in me to harm the creatures of the earth, so they must have been referring to whatever comprises my core, a place I’m just now really exploring at this late date. I must make them feel a little like this:

Jeez, lady, wha’d I do??

***

Let me just say that Mary Shelley got it.

***

It’s simply that when someone of the female persuasion finally gets to what Stephanie’s talking about, it comes out fierce and a little terrifying. Good.

***

πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™

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Choices… keep or toss?

***

Good morning. It’s cold here, because winter in NE Kansas can be like that. Below zero at night, daytime highs in the 20s. But heading toward the weekend we’re looking at 50s and sunshine, isn’t that silly? And February’s entire forecast says 40s and 50s, so what’s going on? I don’t trust it… pretty sure it’ll all come screaming back before March ends.

***

No worries, I’ll put on my “Who cares?” face and carry on. Nobody will know the difference as long as you don’t tell on me.

***

This captures the real me, however…

And your little dog, too.

***

The general purge here continues apace. In one spectacular afternoon I sorted through every vanity drawer in the bathroom, and let me just say they look spiffy. All detritus and unnecessary stuffage, gone. Glorious freedom. Yay. My big closet is next, lurking there all unsuspecting, considering itself in charge of my life. Hooboy, is it in for a surprise, just judging by the havoc I’ve wreaked thus far in my take-no-prisoners march to the sea. This project will put my bravado to the test, though… it’s where ALL THE THINGS are! Can’t wait. Stay tuned if you can stand the excitement.

All this cleaning and sorting and tossing is clearly symbolic (to me) of the inner changes that have happened over the past couple of years, and of the vital need to sweep as we go, lest toxins build up and choke the life out of us. In retrospect, it’s always a choice.

And then we make a choice, we make changes, and we go on. It’s what a new year calls for.

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Accountability…

***

It’s been a good week all up in here, with visible progress to show for it. On Monday I organized email folders, dumping over 5,000 messages in the process, taking the time to unsubscribe as I went along. This situation exists because I don’t really USE email anymore, therefore it slides off my cracker on a regular basis and clogs all the pipes and drains in the communication system. These entities are doing their darnedest to impart urgent information to me, the least I can do is give them a decent burial in the far reaches of space. So that was Day One. On Tuesday I made actual phone calls (GASP!!) to schedule overdue medical appointments, three of them, and lived to tell about it. The problem with procrastination is that it’s entirely self-sustaining — once set in motion it’s good to go forever.

So it’s like this…

***

Since Wednesday I’ve been sitting at the piano for about an hour every morning, which is just now possible again thanks to the spinal surgery. My sweet little concert grand needs a careful tuning, and the neighbors might be suffering since all the steel, concrete, and glass in our building conduct sound fairly efficiently, but it’s heaven to be playing again. Yesterday I combed through a book of show tunes, including some stuff from the 40s that my dad used to play, and it was a party of one, with people I remember well listening in.

Whatever hurts you, feel it and let it go. Music helps with that process. Especially if you’re lucky enough to love music.

***

My recently-adopted motto for 2023:

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Having survived it for a while, I tend to yammer on about life, but here’s how it really is and you can take this to whatever bank you trust:

“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.” ~Joseph Campbell

***

For me, it continues to be about perspective in all things. And this makes me giggle:

***

This week, barring the unforeseen, I shall dispense with a short stack of unsorted mail and empty a couple of in/out baskets, so there’s no lack of inspiration or fodder on the horizon yet and nothing in this house is safe from the urge to purge.

Happy January. It’s almost over.

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Tell me what you like…

*

The other day, in the middle of a related conversation, Kim asked “In all of life, what’s your favorite thing to do” and the answer, no matter how long I thought about it, was “to read.” His top choices came down to “play guitar, cook, or some kind of sports” and sports won. Growing up in Southern California he had access to nearly unlimited opportunities by at least age eleven. Shop class, boxing, early employment, cars, engines, snow skiing, body surfing, live concerts, dirt bikes, dune buggies, racquetball, plus more, along with a multitude of things he didn’t even know existed.

I, on the other hand, was a Kansas farm kid, living miles from a town center, who was introduced by my mom when I was six years old to the Carnegie Library. Books had been my friend from birth when she added washable versions to my crib and read to me every day, and when I discovered the magic of the library… I was home. Opportunities for information-gleaning and access to the company of your peers are scarce in a farm environment. There was 4-H Club, a gathering of other farm kids with whom you were all-too-well acquainted, for the purpose of sharing awkwardness and inexperience, along with being judged by imperious adults who thought you were a little snot and didn’t deserve a blue ribbon on the project your mom helped you finish. But you know, fun and educational. Also there were piano lessons from age six through my college years, so I should be able to play in several languages but the one I know is sight-reading. BONUS: Since my spinal fusion I can sit at the piano for an hour at a time and morning by morning I’m getting my chops back. Apologies to the neighbors.

Kim’s question was posed with great seriousness so I’ve given it due consideration, because it seems important to me as well. Childhood was childhood. I lived on a farm, went to church with the family once a week, and knew little else of import. Grade school brought disciplined hours, and home meant food we liked, roaming around outside, and reading books. Junior high introduced actual homework, with books tucked in wherever we could manage, meaning my two sisters and me, all avid readers. Luckily, our mom was addicted to books and learning, so we utilized her spaced-off time selfishly to our advantage. All good. High school provided daily revelations, cheerleading, ridiculous homework, more responsibilities at home… and reading was still the escape of choice. Our mom knew it was our one avenue to the greater world, and she cut us lots of slack about it.

If we possess a lick of what my grandma called gumption, we avail ourselves of whatever appealing opportunities come our way, and for me it’s been books. They’ve taken me to locations and inside people’s psyches I would never have accessed by any other means. The scope is unlimited. So cool.

Definitive answer, my favorite activity, sanity-saver, window on the world is BOOKS. They’re what’s been consistently available throughout my lifetime and for an introvert they’re the perfect companion. So maybe I grew up disadvantaged in the opportunity department, maybe I didn’t… I’ve visited a lot of places within the pages of a book, and were I to land in one of them I might be able to manage the experience without culture shock. Books are good for letting us know people are people, end of story. I’m forever thankful for a mom who lived that truth and made sure it’s what filtered through to her kids. Another advantage is that I haven’t felt compelled to make every mistake available to me because I can remind myself of Claire in “______ __ ______, ” who did that thing and lived to regret it.

This seems apropos…

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The sun also rises…

***

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 bars 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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Eat the bear, lest he eat YOU…

*

A thing about life is that it stays unfailingly real, provided we aren’t in the business of lying to ourselves. It comes to us hour by hour, laden with the dull and the unexpected, and every day’s “BEST” on our part will look different from the day before. I see myself these days as far less Pollyanna and more Pragmatic Optimist. Life will do that to us… so each day has to be a stand against cynicism and discouragement.

I know I’m not alone in feeling a little beat up by recent and current events, so here are a few tips for dealing with the effects, the aftermath, and the immediate future.

In pain? Keep going. Fall down? Get up, keep going. Get sick? Get well, keep going.

When the world feels unfriendly and all indicators point to a negative outcome, our self-talk can turn ugly and destructive. A good thing to do in 2023 is NOT THAT.

*

Word on the street is that, like all of life, it does get better.

*

Don’t we get so tired of crying sometimes, though? Don’t we just finally think “ENOUGH!” ??

End of story.

*

Girls, women, friends, it’s my responsibility to let you in on an important secret to the working out of any and all angst in life, no matter what you’re going through… when you’re desperately in need of an ear, a shoulder, positive therapy…

HAPPY 2023 to us all.

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Doing a Vitals Assessment…

*

Here we are, boys and girls, middle of Week Two, HumpDay, also known as “just make it up, nobody will notice.” How’s your YEAR looking? Yesterday, mine hosted a milestone when I saw my spine surgeon for my one-month-overdue one-year checkup and received my walking papers, signed, sealed, delivered, they’re mine. “Go your way and be well, my child, if pain intrudes again, call us.” I’ll miss seeing him, this kind, young, very tall, very skinny man who almost-casually handed my life back to me. In giving him shit yesterday about his weight, I learned that it’s the same number on the scale as when he left high school. Big deal, I can still wear all the earrings I had back then.

Last year, for all the reasons, will live in infamy in my head until memory fades. 2022 began in a complete fog of pain and opioids, followed by months of hard work. Somewhere along the way I had a second MOHS surgery for basal cell carcinoma, precisely in the middle of my forehead, thank you Ruth Buzzi for the shining example. Fortunately I had a beautiful Middle Eastern surgeon who uses her skills to safeguard women and our spirits, and I’m no scarier-looking than before. In October I fell, destroying my glasses and nearly breaking my orbital socket. The right side of my face and neck were rainbow-hued for too long, and three front teeth are still numb from that little oops. On December 23rd I tested positive for COVID for a second time (first was before all the vaccines), so 2022 ended in much the same way it started… in a fog of pain but minus the opioids, which I really could have used.

So MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone, hope it was swell. Having totally missed it two years in a row now, I know it all happens whether we’re here for it or not. It’s the days ahead of us that count now, and I’m happy and relieved to have a fresh year to work with. Clearly, time is of the essence as I have a ten-year window to reach this goal:

Goal #2. I’ve already impressed the hell outta 5-year-old me.

That little farm girl is proud of me for growing a backbone over these years of existence, with their never-ending onslaught of real stuff hitting the fan. She’s impressed that I finally found my voice and that I no longer silence it under pressure. She’s living vicariously in the freedom I give myself to be me, and she’s a far happier child than I remember being the first time through.

If you don’t give in, life will try to kick you to the curb, teach you a lesson “once and for all,” and wash its hands of you, so all you can do is hang in and work toward better days, because sometimes life doesn’t know beans. 2022 taught me crucial lessons that will be helpful to have on board going forward, one being that, sometimes, briefly being selfish is the answer. It’s an effective shield if wielded judiciously.

Guard the pieces that comprise the real YOU. Don’t give those away indiscriminately.

I’m taking at least two solid truths forward into 2023. First of all, this… I hope to never lose sight of it:

And its corollary:

I hope 2023 finds me doing the things that make the process of staying alive a better proposition for everyone around me. Happy New Year to you, I missed the last two celebrations but I’m here for it all now. Let’s hold hands and do this thing…

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