New Year’s Hope

 

 

UnknownI’m done with New Year’s “Resolutions.”   I think the reason they seldom worked was because  they  targeted the wrong behavior.  For example, my resolution to “be on time”  never worked because the root cause is my stubborn obsession on the (any) task at hand and therefore no sense of time.  Is there a 12 step program for that?  Probably.  But I’m not resolving  to join it.

As for losing 10 pounds, well.  If  I had kept THAT New Year’s resolution, I would have disappeared completely by 1985.   Again, the problem wasn’t that I couldn’t stick to a diet,  but that I loved delicious food more than I loved to be thin.  And at my age, I’m not even going to TRY to fix that!images-2

Instead, I’m going for New Years’ Hopes this year.  And only three. Another reason my New Years resolutions typically went awry – there were often so many that I needed a clip board to remember them.

First of all, I hope to spend more time with people, especially with the ones I love and that love me. I love solitude.  I love the time alone to write, quilt, play piano, or read. But these are not team sports and if the years have taught me anything,  it is is that all our lives are very very fragile.  I need to cherish the moments I have with the people in my life.

Secondly, I hope to live in the moment.  It’s really all I have.  In addition to being fragile, life is astonishingly unpredictable.  How many babies’ smiles, bees on blossoms, lightning bugs, puppies tumbling, lavender sunsets and full moons have I missed in my frantic rush to be…. somewhere.

Third, I hope I will be more attentive to the needs of other people.  Helping others greatly enriches my life and most of the time,  requires very little from me.  Sometimes all that’s needed is a smile for the harried cashier or a conversation with a lonely person.  I have time for that.  I always have had.  And while I’m at it, I hope to do a better job of accepting and loving others as they are.

So I’m not resolving to do anything this year.  But these are my hopes.   And who knows, those pounds might finally get lost in the process.

 

Someday

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“That ship sailed.” I say that a lot these days. So many things now,  that I won’t or can’t do again.   I will not,  for example,  be partying all night,  taking the “red-eye” cross country, wearing sequined jeans,  getting a tattoo, signing up to run a 10K or any other kind of “K”,  or tottering around in shoes with spiky 4″ heels.   And I’m OK with all of that.

If we’re lucky, we all grow old.   And I’m OK with that too.    But I never noticed it happening to me as I navigated life’s passages;  graduation, career,   marriage,  parenting,  the AARP card, grandchildren, downsizing and finally  retirement.

But I didn’t feel old!   OK, maybe I was starting to get arthritis,  maybe it did take longer to “bounce back” from winter colds,  perhaps I did need those “readers” more now.   So I did give up running for walking,  and power aerobics for yoga.   And could it be true that our children were  receiving their  AARP cards?  Unsettling,  but…  I still had  time, plenty of time –  to take that trip,  to be  with family and friends, brush up my piano technique and  attend concerts,  to visit that lonely person,  to read books,  to write books.  Those were my dreams.  And I’d get around to them.  Someday.

I don’t know the exact moment when I knew  life  actually had changed.  Was it a day when someone opened a door I didn’t need opened – or ran to pick up the sunglasses I dropped,  was it my sharp intake of breath at my reflection under the harsh lights of the beauty shop,  or (please, God, no), when someone called me  “cute?”  No matter.   It’s true.   Things have changed,  they have really changed.    And while I haven’t experienced substantial losses, yet, praise God,  a thousand “little sailings” unnoticeable at the time,  have  manifested in sea changes in my life over the years.   Life was never, after all,  endless journeys to far horizons,  but a voyage through tributaries, narrowing  to one.  I am at that tributary.

And that was not OK with me.  Not at all.

I have always worked toward goals that catapulted me toward  new ones.  That made sense in my 40s,  but it was foolish  now.  My fear of aging would not let me see that I was no longer sailing toward a destination,  but had arrived.  So  I continued to postpone my dreams

as I always had  – to Someday.  When I was older. Not now.  Not yet.

But as I watched friends battling terrifying chronic diseases,  becoming incapacitated,  losing spouses with fat bank accounts still intact, I had to admit that in fact, Someday was here.   Time to  face my fear of growing old.  I didn’t enjoy that at first.   But this foolish denial was costing me my dreams.   Time to get busy.  Things to do.  Time to welcome Someday.

So I’ll be scheduling that  trip, spending time with the grandkids, going to those concerts, writing, reading,  hanging out with my friends and family.    It’s Someday.  And my ship has drifted safely in to port.

 

 

Big lessons from a small dog

Looking towards the light

In a wheelchair beside the Nurses’ Station, a tiny old woman sits, eyes closed, lips parted, hands folded in her lap. Her head droops to one side.  Ragged wisps of hair fall across her forehead.  Her nightgown is rumpled, one slipper missing.

She is alone. Silent, but not asleep.  Visitors pass, a staff member rushing by jostles her wheelchair but offers no apology.  She doesn’t speak. Hours pass. No one notices. Until…

IMG_1147A small dog being led by a visitor stops, pulls at his lead and sits quietly at the woman’s feet. After a few seconds, the woman opens her eyes and raises her head. A smile steals slowly across her weathered face at the sight of the little dog. Her watery eyes twinkle.  A surprisingly cheery voice breaks the silence. “Well, hello there! Aren’t you a pretty little thing?” A bony finger reaches down, strokes the little dog’s ear. He stands, reciprocates with a swift lick of his tongue, then sits again, looks up at her expectantly. They regard each other quietly. She reaches down and gently strokes his back.

She turns to the visitor, “Do you take good care of him?”

“Yes, I do, ” the visitor says.

“Well,  make sure you do, now, ” she admonishes.  Her soft voice carries a certain honeyed lilt,  typical of that taught  in finishing schools for genteel southern ladies.

“Don’t worry,” the visitor assures her, “I’ll take good care of him, I promise.”  A few minutes pass as the woman talks quietly to the little dog.

Finally, she looks up at the visitor, “Thank you.” she says softly.  “Can he come back sometime?”

“You’re welcome, “ says the visitor.  “Of course!  I’ll bring him to see you again.”

The woman smiles as the visitor and the little dog walk away down the hall.

——————–

I was the visitor, and the little dog was my Boston Terrier, Jake.  I was humbled by his simple and spontaneous act of caring.   My heart was heavy as I walked away, suddenly and acutely aware of the lonely, forgotten people around me; people who seldom if ever received visitors, whose lives had so little joy.   I had been one of the guests rushing past.  But what could I do? I didn’t know anything about her.  What if I upset her?  Besides I was busy with all the cumbersome paperwork and scheduling  for my husband’s  short-term physical therapy.

But, in fact….The entire episode lasted less than 5 minutes.  No introductions were made, none needed.  No approval forms were required,  no money changed hands.   A little dog simply administered the strongest medicine of all: love freely given with no thought of return.  Can I do as much?

Why write?

Snoopy at typewriterAs of 8:00 P.M. tonight, 48,173,673 books are available from Amazon.  Of those, over 3 million titles were in literature and fiction, over 1 million in spirituality and religion, over 500,000 in biography and memoir, and almost 2 million in money and business.  Of these, 2,535,376 were e-books,  103,023 were released in the past 30 days and 46,226 were self-published.  And that’s just Amazon.

What are all those books about?  Who wrote them?  Who READS them?  More to the point, who buys them, and which ones?  Food for thought if one aspires to writing as a career.  Even if writing is an avocation, it gives one pause.

So why write? Why indeed.  Aside from the discouraging statistics  above, there are many practical reasons  NOT to write.  Here are a few that come to mind:

1.  The world does not want and certainly does not need a book about “My Heroic Life,”  no matter how interesting I think it has been.  Everyone thinks their life is the most interesting.

2.  Writing is hard work and extremely time-consuming.  It’s hard to find  time to get dressed and eat balanced meals, let alone sustain human relationships (although dogs are more forgiving).

3.  Writers must endure increasing levels of rejection.  First come the humiliating rejection letters from publishers.  Then once published, threats of lawsuits from outraged relatives alleging exposure of their disgusting secrets, and, if one is finally successful, hate mail from crazies.  Writers, overly sensitive by nature, are ill-prepared for such abuse and cannot afford the psychological care needed to overcome it.

4.  Writing is expensive.  First there is the laptop – a must-have.  One needs a well-stocked library of classics and writers in one’s genre as well as a respectable stash of writers’ self-help books, membership in writers guilds, attendance at workshops, and (highly recommended) a cabin in the wilderness without distractions of neighbors, family, and social media.

5.  Writing is not good for your health.  Working for long hours at a computer is linked to a myriad of health problems including back pain, headache, poor diet, and depression, to name a few.

I could name others; there are many  excellent reasons not to write.  To tell the truth,  I can’t really think of a good reason to write.  Can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I write because – It’s just what I do.

 

Looking for truth in all the wrong places

For me writing is no more nor less than paying attention and telling the truth. Unfortunately we live in a culture that rewards “busyness” and “self-improvement.” Sadly, if that’s where our attention lies and that’s our truth, we miss the best parts of ourselves trying to improve  our worst parts.

 

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