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

Friendship

Confession … I watch four of the “Real Housewives of … “ shows. I have for years. It has been a guilty pleasure. I think it is funny how ostentatious the shows are, the jewelry, houses, vacations and sick and sour friendships these women have.

The shows have been good for many of the women’s bank accounts. The shows have become platforms for skinny brands, skin care, prepackaged dinners, toaster ovens, and a plethora of clothing lines.

Yes, I know it is edited, set up and who knows about scripting? Although I don’t think that a writer writes the dialogue, I think situations prod the women into combat.

Cutting to the chase … if any of my friends talked to me like these women talk to each other, there is no way in hot dog heaven, that I would be friends with them.

If my recollection serves me, they have called each other whores, bitches, liars,tramps, fakes, phonies, sluts, etc. Feel free to add to the list.

The biggest part of air-time is spent seeing if someone will apologize for a transgression that can be, 1) you didn’t make a casserole for me when I had a face-lift, 2) you didn’t tell me that you went out with a guy you both met at a bar while dancing without you underwear, 3) you were flirting with my son, 4) you left my sleepover and stayed at a hotel, 5) your dog plooped on my rug, 10 times.

And there are degrees of apologies. There is the unapologetic apology. “I am sorry if you felt like I played fiddle-fart with … (the man half of them have fart-fiddle around with. Or I don’t owe HER an apology, she owes ME one. Or the apology that is not SINCERE or not on camera.

And then the hug and promise to never stoppe to said behavior, again, only to repeat the transgressions repeatedly.

My lord of lingerie, who in their right minds would act like these women? And to think, many of them have daughters,who see this stuff.

Made for TV friendships, that is what they are. Cameras roll, checks written, catfights begin. It appears that in U.S. television lands, nice is boring.

Don’t these women know that friendships are precious, difficult to make and hatred to maintain over theme? They, just like a garden, need tending.

How many friends, real friends do you have? How long have you had these friends? Are you open to new friendships or content with the friendships you have? Have you ever let a friendship go? Why?

I have a few long term friends. I love my friends. We have laughed and cried through our tricky lives, marriages, divorces, deaths, children problems, and our own insanity. And when I say laugh, I mean that we crack ourselves up. We have similar sensibilities to laughter.

Though I moved away from them, I still count on talking to them and seeing them when I can.

I have some friends that have come in and out of my life, I might have met them at a workshop or event, and we “clicked”, but they aren’t a constant in my life.

There are friendships that I have where I doubt we will see each other, again. We write to each other. The words are meaningful and insightful. We care very much about how the other is doing.

I have some new friends, like new plants in my garden. They add color into my life and I enjoy spending time with them. Our roots aren’t as deep because we don’t have much time in our histories, but it is delightful to learn about them and share our new lives.

Many of my friends are my age, or near my age, but not all of them. I have some friends who could be my kids.

I would never talk to them like these “Housewives” talk to their supposed friends. Seriously.

I hear the word, “apologize” more that I ever wanted to while dealing with Samsung. I don’t want to deal with that word with my friends. We are all old enough to know what is proper and kind and what would hurt one another. Oh, yes, inadvertently, we step on feelings, but vary, vary rarely. The good and nice and kindness of our relationships absorb an occasional blip.

I have left some people behind … let them go. What I discovered is that appearances might have been friends, but it is easier to say you are friends, than be one. Friendships should make you feel better, not worse. I have been dumped by people that I thought i was friends with. Distance, timing, different roads traveled, and belief systems, sometimes just happen.

Women’s friendships seem to be different than men’s. I am not sure if they talk about the same thing as women friends talk about. I am not sure if they have penis talk or talk about whether they are getting forgetful or that they made a tasty casserole.

Oh, I have an orbit of friends that float around online. Are they friends? Not really. Not in the sense that they would show up at my door to help. But they are a community of people that make life more interesting and fun.

I think one of the hardest things in life is getting so old that most or all of your friends are gone. I have seen it happen.

But I also knew a woman who died nearing her 101st birthday and she had lots of friends. She was smart. She gathered friends 40-years her junior, and made herself loved by all ages. That was a talent and a gift.

The Real Housewives of Timbuktu might have money, fame and travel to exotic places, but are they real friends?

I don’t think so.

And that is where I come out ahead.

Susan

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

La Ploop

It is a mountain morning here in Clover. Cool, clear and chipper.

The backyard and outside are inviting. If I try, I can imagine that I am in Cades Cove, one of my special places. It would be nice to be there, but I am content with being here. Today, I don’t want to run away from myself.

The birds are skirmishing and I want to tell them to settle down, things will be all right. They might not be what you expect or desire, but they will be fine.

Yes, both feet are under me. The darkness of recent events with Nick have passed. Other situations are still in flux, but they will have to figure themselves out without me sorting them out. I have tried, trust me, but it is time to step back and return to my own life and things that I can control.

Good Grumpy Old Men, I can sound like I am picking lint out of navels.

Life involves a certain degree of naval lint plucking, doesn’t it? You feel washed by other people’s problems and forget things like boundaries and the fact that each person makes his or her own decisions.

Living other people’s lives is exhausting. Sometimes, I have to figure out the difference between support and enabling.

Winston was looking for his buddy, Tucker, when I took him out. Tucker’s mom stepped in and took care of The Boy, when Nick decided on joy-riding in an ambulance and partaking of hospital cuisine.

I have wonderful neighbors. Thought I felt alone last Friday, yes, a week ago, today, I found out that that we weren’t. Offers to help day or night, have been givenIt made me feel so much better. Several delicious dinners have been provided. And words of comfort have flowed.

The leaves on the trees have stilled and the birds are quiet. That makes my thoughts go in a different direction.

The Boy has come out to the porch with his tennis ball. Now he is staring at me.

We are just being.

I read Brad Pitt was having a heck of a time with Angelina Jolie and I read that Ben Affleck stopped at Jack in the Box on his way to rehab. Dennis Shield, Bethenny Frankel’s on again off again boyfriend died of a drug overdose a couple of weeks ago.

Messy lives. Money. No money. Fame. No fame. Money. No money. Hearts are broken at all levels. Bad decisions are made. People treat people they love or loved, like shit.

There really is no figuring life out, is there? As soon as we think aha, something happens and we, say, “What the hollandaise?”

OH, there is Mr. Woodpecker. He excites me. And there he goes. Skittish. Must have had an emergency on his branch.

It is a random thought, but I hope I don’t outlive my mind.

I am trying to decide whether to give people who brought us dinner and sent treats, my homemade sals or chili sauce. I know they will get a card with one of my paintings.

Back to my neighbors. As you can imagine, Nick and I miss a lot of parties and things because he doesn’t feel real chipper. I think people understand that. But even though we aren’t able to make a lot of things, they make us feel that our presence is missed, and I think that is lovely.

There are 3 goldfinches at the feeder. Nick just came out to sit. And he left.

You know what got me though the last few days?

The little things. My hot tea. Checking my propagation bins. Figuring out where to move which plant to get better light. Dead-heading some flowers. Talking to my neighbors and seeing their eyes full of concern. Knowing that the kids are back in their own lives. Having lunch with my daughter-in-law and laughing about stupid stuff.

Yesterday, I made myself laugh. I decided, after listening to a French song, that French people don’t poop. The ploop. I must go la ploop. And eat a baguette.

My toes have straightened themselves out. For the time being. Oh, ploop, the ugly birds arrived in a group.

But I clapped and they are gone.

A week ago, I thought that life as I knew it had ended.

I love it whenI am wrong.

Susan

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