Stories Are My Life

Stories. My stories. Your stories. The stories we have lived, and the stories we have denied.
 
I am not sure how you see your life, whether it is one big ball of silly putty, or a string of events that don’t seem to have much rhyme or reason.
 
I can’t handle my life as one big ball of silly putty. I am more like a book. I have moments that are words, some are sentences. Some sentences stand alone and others morph into paragraphs. I have also lived in vignettes, almost stages settings that I have envisioned prior to them happening.
 
There are parts of my life that have revealed themselves in chapters. Short chapters, long chapters … that will, eventually, become the book of my life.
 
Writing and thinking in such a manner help give me some structure and order to my life so it doesn’t totally go out of orbit.
 
Yes, there are times when my thoughts and emotions get sling-shot to outer crazy land. But in putting what has happened into context, into a story, pulls me back into a place where I can live.
 
If you think about it, how do you see you life? Is it a story-board? Is it random things that seem as hough you have no control? Do you drag the past with you or carry it in you purse like a tube of lipstick? Or, do you see it in some other way?
 
I was so enthralled with the podcast I listened to, yesterday, that this morning, after cleaning up the remainder of the stuff in the kitchen, from our baked ziti dinners that we cooked for hurricane relief, I needed something to pull me back to center.
 
I scrolled down the list of podcasts on Invisibilia, and found won that sounded interesting. It was about a woman whose husband had died, leaving her bereft, who could not function well. She decided to jump out of an airplane. You will have to listen to the podcast to get the story, which is part of the reason that I am writing about life as story, today.
 
The other part of the episode was about a couple from Montana who raised bees. Someone stole all of their bees at the worst possible time, (not that there is a good time to steal bees).
 
Again, a story of loss.
 
We all lose things, don’t we? keys, purses, glasses, receipts, friendship, friends, spouses, children, parents?
 
We mourn and go over and over the past and the emotions and the stories of the past. Sometimes, we change the stories to make us feel more comfortable.
 
There are times in our lives, dare I say, that we don’t even know how we will move on, or if we want to try.
 
Think about the people who lost everything, including loved ones, in the recent hurricane. Many will have to start their lives over.
 
How?
 
As this podcast told so well, those who are able to move on, do so, in part, because they learn to create new stories for their life. They mourn the past, but instead of sticking in “I, I, I,” mode, they begin using pronouns such as “him, her, we, them.”
 
I know that is how i push myself forward. When it is too much, “I,I,I,” I know that there has to be a shift. My thinking needs to change. My attitude needs a vacuuming and there is a need for letting go.
 
Maybe, that is why I do some things that others think, “Why does she do that?”
 
I can tell you why, as it has become clear to me.
 
Because I want a new story to live, to experience, to share. There is something in me that drives me, and entices me to try this or that, so that it becomes a paragraph or chapter in my life, and that helps me engage with others.
 
There are times when I wonder if I could or would I want to go on if Nick dies before I do. When the woman in the podcast, the one who was grieving for her husband and her lost life, said that she didn’t get joy out of doing the things they used to do, together, I put myself there. I can bring myself to tears thinking about that, especially if I am driving in the car, alone, and hear a song that moves me.
 
Who knows if that will happen?
 
But in my mind, I pray that if that does happen, I will do as this woman does … jump out of a plane, metaphorically, and begin a new, different chapter. And if I look at it like that, I think I might be able to handle it.
 
Susan
 
https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia

The Power of Voice

It has been an emotionally busy morning. I have gone from my usual, subtle morning chipper, to laughing about a text, to being brought to tears by a podcast I listened to, and then. laughed.
 
That is a full day of emotions.
 
I have a neighbor named Mai. She is a kick. She has the energy of a hopped up driver at a demolition derby. Her flowers are gorgeous and she has an enthusiasm for life.
 
She brought us dinner when Nick was sick and when I had my bit of breast cancer, (that is weird to say), she gave me a hand crocheted shawl. Her daughter recently gave me a dating bracelet she made.
 
She likes my treats.
 
I saved her a big piece of carrot cake, that had received great reviews on our neighborhood page. I texted her to ask if she would like it.
 
Sure. That was a no brainer.
 
Then she mentioned that she was glad I didn’t burn the house down the other day. Yep, word gets around, especially when you write about the stupid stuff you do.
 
Man mentioned that she was going to get in contact with me because she had something to give me.
 
Guess what it is.
 
A fire extinguisher.
 
I laughed as I wrote back. She said she would drop it off tonight. I said, good, we can make a trade. Carrot cake for a fire extinguisher. Pretty great, isn’t it?
 
That got my day off to a lovely start.
 
There was laundry to fold. It had been sitting on a chair by the counter for a couple of days. It was time to fold it an put it away because today, I am making baked ziti dinners to raise money for hurricane relief in the Carolinas.
 
My friend, Yamini, is coming over at 10, to help make brownies. She is first in line to volunteer to help me. She and her family also love desserts.
 
I dropped a piece of carrot cake at her house and Rasheed, my best customer and critic, came down the stairs. I said that I had carrot cake and that was enough to send him scurrying up the stairs, saying, “I’m not going to eat carrot cake.” That cracked me up.
 
But here is where the bit of an emotional bath came over me, this morning.
 
I decided to start listening to podcasts. I went online and typed in ‘best podcasts for women’.
 
I found one called ‘Invinsibilia’ on NPR. Its blurb sounded interesting.
 
Today’s podcast was “Leave a Message.”
 
A man spoke. He mentioned how the millennial were causing the death of many institutions.
 
I listened, not knowing where this was going.
 
And then he mentioned the death of voice mail. And that took the turn into voices … how we don’t hear peoples voices like we used to because people text and don’t call.
 
That got my mind intwined with the message.
 
The podcaster told the story of his own mother, how she used to leave long voice mail messages to him. She was trying to connect. He thought her long paused, messages were banal and a waste of time.
 
He didn’t listen to the whole message, hitting delete soon after the message began.
 
One thing that I have told many people is that a great day for me is when I hear each of my kid’s voices.
 
It doesn’t happen often. Yes, I hear from them, but it is often by text. But there are days when the sunflowers all look the same way, when I get to talk to all of them.
 
Recently, we had dinner with a man who said he called his mother once a month. I told him I would die if that was all I would hear from my kids.
 
He mentioned that he loved her, but she was a bit strange, to which I replied, “Aren’t we all?”
 
There is something about their voices that trumps text. The call might last a minute or fifteen, but those voices go straight to my heart. Frankly, they are pretty much what I live for.
 
The podcaster mentioned that his mother got breast cancer, had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. She was good for a short period of time. Then the cancer returned and she was admitted to Hospice.
 
He sat by his mother’s side and read to her. While talking too one of his friends, the podcaster said his friend told him to make a tape of her voice. But it was too late.
 
All he wants to do now is hear her voice.
 
My mother’s voice is etched in memory, but I had the foresight, with my dad, to interview him. I have a couple of ads of me interviewing him. When I want to hear my dad’s voice, I can play the cd.
 
I don’t do it often, but I know it is there. My dad is in the drawer.
 
I tired up throughout the podcast but at the end, they played some voicemails that people had saved of loved ones.
 
They made me smile.
 
And on with my day.
 
Susan
 
Invinciblia at NPR
 
https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia

Bonus Time

Yesterday, a week ago, Nick thought he was dying.

I did, too.

But thank God and good doctors and support of his kids and caring neighbors, Nick lives to be quiet and then drop a zinger that makes people laugh.

He lived for another trip to Blowing Rock.

It has been a hot and cranky summer. Little rain, big water bills, and a rain dance or too, that involved a pool. I will not say if it were Nick or I, who did the pole dance. But I bet you could guess.

It was mountain type of day. Nick had rested all week and he was ready to see something different. Mountains. They have always been an elixir in our life. Some people love the beach. We love the mountains.

There was a buoyancy in the car that hadn’t been there for a long time. We played music. Nick didn’t even mind my opera. Pavarotti. Three Tenors. Me, screeching.

We didn’t stay long at Blowing Rock. I think we wanted to see if it was still there.

Oh gosh, there is my woodpecker. I love birds with long peckers.

I think I scared him with that remark. He flew back into the woods.

We walked just a bit in Blowing Rock and had to decide if we wanted to eat lunch in a restaurant or pick up a pizza from Mellow Mushroom and take it to the mountain lake that is covered in places, with water lilies, has a wide walking path, and makes you feel free and healthy.

We got the pizza and drove to the park. We ate by the car and thenNikc got his walking stick out that I bought him a few weeks ago at McDowellNature Preserve. I got out my walking sticks that I haven’t used since last summer.

And we hit the trail.

Nick has not been able to do this for a long time. His walking is mostly in shuffling steps. But since his episode last week, and treatment with strong antibiotics, he walks better. He still isn’t strong and he has to watch his balance, but he can move.

Hallelujah!

We walked toward what had been a fish hatcheries, but now, only has water and some crawdads.

Nick sat on benches or rock walls, to rest. I bopped along with my camera and found things to shoot.

We talked about a neat-o tree and the lilies and I pointed out things that others, without a camera, not see. That is the thing about taking photos … you look for what others might miss.

I played with settings and chatted-up a couple of passers-by.

We didn’t go far in distance, but we went an eternity away from where we were last weekend.

The drive home was delightful. Nick shut his eyes and rested and I drove along in silence. No opera. No lalalalala screeching from my throat.

It was great fun being a wife yesterday. Nick had a delightful time. Bonus time.

And now, I shall go make some scones, tend my diminishing garden, fold clothes and do whatever I have to do to live in gratitude.

Because we just never know.

Susan

The Ides of August

A bit of death is in the air.

August does it to me. Most every year, the month of August brings a sullen, confused time into my life … into my state of mind.

This year, I lasted about a week into August before it really hit me. I am done with summer. Worn out from digging, bending, schlepping, lifting and tending the garden. Even the heat is different.

Yesterday, afternoon, I walked outside to try to get enthusiastic about something. I was hoping to feel the magic of the garden.

I looked around my yard. I walked to the wildflower garden, all spent from heat and exhaustion. Their bright colors had transpired to gray. Their heads, once bonnets of beauty, looked like me when I need to have my hair colored. Their posture was like mine, too. Bent.

The hydrangeas, which had been transplanted this year, and had been warding off the fungus, showed signs of weakness.

After. Few minutes, I walked into the house, noting that their was no air to breathe outside.

The garden had taken a toll on my body. I know, I know, I did it to myself. No one told me to haul bags of pea gravel, lift it and put it around. I didn’t have a gun at my head switch someone saying, dig deep into this clay to land this spires.

No, I was my own garden warden. The vision was strong. The body did most of what was asked. And now, it was revolting, telling me that it was time to rest.

There are times when I dance as fast as I can. I get a project, a vision in my mind and I go for it. I do what it takes for as long as I can.

Even if it involves trips to an orthopedic doctor and MRIs and. Probably, physical therapy.

Last week was also the week before my 6-month mammogram and visit with the surgeon. My first check-up since I was declared cancer free. And I had been cancer-free. Once the surgeon had said those words, after surgery and before radiation, I lived my life free of cancer. I simply went on.

The funny thing about many kinds of cancer is that you feel fine and dandy, even though a group of cells are gathering to form a convention of attackers, often you don’t know it. It is like walking in your yard, as you always do, but this time, you look at the grass and see a copperhead. Yikes. But you get rid of the copperhead and move on, perhaps with a slower speed because you realize that you need to slow down and feel life, or you speed up things because you hear tick-tock, tick-tock.

For me, it wasn’t so much the episode with cancer … it is age. No matter how much I want to believe that age is just a number … for me, it isn’t. It is trying to balance attitude, looks and body. I rarely have them all in sync.

And August is my month when I feel everything shift. It is my of uncertainty, a bit of a foggy head and a sense of loss … ad transition.

I see photos of my grandchildren heading back to school. A couple of days ago, I got a phi tire of my two oldest granddaughters standing by each other. One is a senior and one is a freshman. The senior was going to drive the freshman to high school. I couldn’t help but get misty.

It is so difficult for me to put my arms around the fact that one of my sons will have a daughter in college next year.

I guess that August is a melancholy month for me. The air even shifts. What was simply hot and humid, become stifling. The sounds of outside are different. The nights are loud with a cacophony of insects and their hallelujah chorus. And even now, as I sit on the screens porch, the sounds of insects drone, not allowing silence of any kind.

I tend to craw my way through August, waiting for it to end. If I acknowledge and embrace this weird sense that I feel, I can almost laugh at it. But mostly, I don’t think it is very funny.

The good news is that when September arrives, I have figured out my next chapter. I have let my mind and body regroup. At this moment, I am uncertain about what my next act on life’s stage will be. Will I continue to write and allow people to see some of the workings of my mind and heart, or will I hang that up? What will I do to move my life and thoughts forward? Or do I have to look at life that way?

There is something good that comes out of putting one’s shovel down for a while. Breathing deeply and taking stock. Maybe that is what August is about? Perhaps the discomfort and uncertainty of and uncomfortable feeling of this month is part of the growing process. It is a realization of the seasons. Seasons change. So must I.

But for now, I think I will rest.

Susan

PS. Winston feels this way, too.


Life Lessons From The Garden

I can be harsh. I can look at a diseased or dying plant and have it affect me much more deeply than it should.

I can hone in on the problems of the garden and life.

Instead of seeing the whole picture, the beautiful flowers and plants and the birds that arrive with bravado, I look at what needs to be done, size up what needs work.

That is what hit me in the face, yesterday, as I looked at a zinnia whose leaves had gotten some sort of black spot. Yep, I took it personally.

Abut after watching “A Gardener’s World” a lovely show about gardens in England, I walked to my garden and thought, wow, I have done a  lot of work and smiled … right before I dug in, and made a new path and began sweating like Shrek in the weather with a 77% dew point.IMG_1824-1-1

The mind shift and excitement came back to me as I saw possibility, and put away my stink-eye.

Sixty-six years old, and still have to work on my attitude.

In my life, I have met people who couldn’t figure out how to live. Life was always a problem. Nothing added up. Why can’t I have this, do that, look like …

Accepting things as they were or are, and not going down the path of self-doubt, or feeling angst and defeat is a big part of how one lives a peasant life in a day.

I am slow, but I am learning. I am seeing so much of life, and myself, in my garden.

Dirt that is rampant with fungus. It is there. The world will not end.

The plant that had glorious flowers yesterday, is dragging, today. There is no need to fret.

Weeds are coming up, again, where I thought I had gotten rid of them. Relax.

The hostas don’t like where they are. Move them and get on with your life.

You get the point. It is the same as in so many other areas of my life.

The dough I made didn’t rise properly. That need not be the benchmark for your day.

The 5 gallon pail with all of the birdseed fell over and spilled all over the patio. Shit happens. Smile anyway and laugh. The birds will still come, tomorrow.

Monte, the gardener from England, whose show I watch, made me realize I was being a tad anal about all of this, and that the garden (and life) will have its day, or most likely, a moment, when the flower is perfect, the plant is robust, the dough rose beautifully, and my hair looks pretty decent.IMG_2043

These are but moments in time. You take your mental snapshot and know that it is all going to change  because that is how life is.

But to only see the diseased plant or the flower with the gimpy pedals or to think you are a failure because your dough didn’t rise? That is like living in a no-outlet.

And that isn’t how I want to live. I shall, each day, marvel at the flowers and plants and events that make me feel that sense of marvel, wonder, and fulfillment.

This moment is temporary.

And so is life.

Susan