Friday, May 30, 2014

Lean Toward The Sun

Late last fall my friend Ruby gave me a dozen tulip bulbs.  They were a gift to her.  She wasn't sure she would still be in her cottage in the spring to see them bloom, so she gave them to me.  By then it was cold and the ground was partially frozen, but I had one barrel that still had diggable dirt, so I planted the bulbs there~

It has been pleasing to watch these tulips unfold.  In the rain this week the blooms closed up~

The next day they opened full in the sunshine~

Beautiful inside and out, they lean toward the sun~

Several weeks ago my daughter and I talked about how it's easy to write before and after big life events happen.  The anticipation and planning are fun to document.  I enjoy looking back and reflecting on what transpired and what I've learned.  We agreed that it's when you are in the middle of transformation that it's hard to write to share.

As I have written before, I am working to break old habits and patterns, and that includes not sharing the same things over and over again.  The internal work is grueling.  What's different this time is that I have made room for emotions to come to the surface to be felt and worked through.  Finally.  It has helped to read journal entries and posts here from three and four years ago.  I will not go backward.  This time I have enough momentum to propel myself out of the cycle and into a new space.  I don't know where I will wind up.

Wherever it is I plan to lean toward the sun....

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Beginner's Goodbye

There was one novel among the used books I purchased in March.  It's fitting that it was written by Anne Tyler because I often find her books by accident.  I don't absolutely love everything I've read by Tyler, but her Back When We Were Grownups is an all-time favorite of mine and a book I return to again and again, which I wrote about here.

Tyler's book I found for $3 in California is titled The Beginner's Goodbye.  The book is a hard cover, published in 2012.  Did the reader not like the book enough to keep it?  Was it a gift, or did they just run out of room on the shelf?  By the time I've made the decision to buy a book, especially a hard cover, I am fairly certain that it's one I will keep for a good long while.

The Beginner's Goodbye is a keeper.  The book jacket gives away more of the story than I think necessary.  The opening line of the book is really all you need to know:  "The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead was how other people reacted."  That line tells you that the story is about a man whose wife dies and then comes back to visit.  And the strangest thing about that is other people's reactions?  I either want to read that story or I don't.  I did and I'm glad that's the way I decided to go.

Last fall I became increasingly uncomfortable with the topic of death.  Within a short time span three women I know lost their husbands.  Too close for comfort.  Too hard to think about, yet too real to be ignored.  I needed to find a way to think about the topic without dissolving into a mass of panic.

This book is fiction, and maybe that's why it helped.  Tyler created characters that are quirky and feel real to me.  If I met any one of them in real life, I'd like to get to know them.  They don't say everything the right way, and sometimes feelings are hurt.  They do things that others may not understand, and they may not be able to explain themselves.  Life is messy.  It follows that death is, too.

I like the idea of making a mistake and getting a second chance.  I'd like to think of myself as a  beginner, knowing I have time to learn how to do it better. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Issue Of Our Time

Almost twenty years after the fact I remember hearing the news about the accident.  I taught in the school district but didn't live there, so I didn't know the high school student who crashed his car and lost his life.  My co-workers couldn't understand how this happened - the student wasn't drinking; there were no cell phones in those days; there was no other vehicle involved; and he was alone in the car.  What caused him to lose control and crash into a tree? The police investigation revealed that he was distracted when he reached for a CD.  It wasn't called "distracted driving" then, but that was the first time I heard of a concrete example that being distracted while you are driving can cost you your life.

My friend in New Mexico knows more about distracted driving than she ever wanted to learn.  Her friend died last year after he was hit by a distracted driver.  In response to the tragedy she has researched the issue, written letters, contacted legislators, and worked on legislation for the state of New Mexico.  Laws are changing there and elsewhere around the country.  Education is an important aspect of the campaign to stop distracted driving, which includes texting but is a wider problem than that.

I am one of those people who needs to be totally focused on my driving.  It sounds funny but I involuntarily cringe when an actor on screen takes their eyes off the road while they're driving.  I don't know that I personally know people who drive distracted.  I know for sure that I've seen distracted drivers on the road and do my best to steer clear when they cross the center line or drift onto the shoulder.  I live in a state that hasn't outlawed cell phone use while driving, though legislation is in the works.

It matters that we raise people's awareness about this issue.  There are statistics that indicate it's time to sound the alarm, and there is a new documentary on the subject.  This is a link to the trailer: 

The brief description of the program is this:
Produced by Emmy © Award winning Christopher Productions LLC, this program highlights the most recent brain research involving cell phone use, DWI, and other causes of car crashes and helps us understand why distracted driving crashes are rising at an alarming rate, especially for young people.

I have not seen the full program or heard how the documentary will be available.  When I have more information I will share it here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Year By The Sea

In March, in the used bookstore in California, the first book I picked up was A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson.  This was not the first time I had considered buying this book.  I almost bought it new several times when it was published in 1999.  The last time I saw it for sale in our local used bookstore I left it sitting on the shelf.

I was reticent to read the story of a woman I had watched travel the talk-show circuit.  I didn't trust the sincerity of a woman who could afford to escape for a year to her cottage on Cape Cod.  I figured if she owned a home on Cape Cod she was in pretty good shape and there wouldn't be much I could relate to in what she had to say.

The used paperback was only a dollar, so I figured why not buy it.  When a book repeatedly presents itself to me I eventually give in.  Most times I am glad I did.

This time was no exception.  It was the first book I started reading during my trip.  I intended just to read the first bit and set it aside for later.  The first paragraph grabbed my interest:  "The decision to separate seemed to happen overnight.  My husband came home from work one day and announced that he was taking a job hundreds of miles away.  As he yammered on about the details, I sat blank-faced, hard-pressed for an excuse not to accompany him.  After all, our two sons were grown, the big old family house in which we had resided for seventeen years had long since outlived its usefulness, and my job was portable.  So where was my resistance coming from?  Why was I frozen, frightened, and full of anger?" (p. 2)

It dawned on me why this book did not appeal to me fifteen years ago.  At that time I shared no point of reference with this woman.  I couldn't imagine a time when the house where I started my family would no longer suit me.  Fifteen years ago my children were growing up, but I couldn't envision a time when they would be completely grown and no longer need my presence on a regular basis.  I didn't think my husband would ever take a job hundreds of miles away without talking to me first, but if that was his choice would I refuse to go if I couldn't identify a solid reason?

However, fifteen years after she wrote the words, I could identify with what Joan Anderson was feeling.  I have moved from the house where I started my family and watched my children grow, children who now live lives totally separate from mine.  My husband has not taken another job, and he still travels often for work; what has changed is that I am now quite content with my time alone.

Once I started reading, I was hooked.  The cottage Joan escaped to was a run-down summer place that wasn't prepared for the stress of year-round occupancy.  She took full responsibility for her own expenses, which meant she soon needed to find work in a fishing village.  Joan opens herself to new experiences and new people.  She strikes up a conversation with a fascinating woman who becomes a mentor and confidante.  The wisdom her new friend imparts in itself makes the book worth reading.  I will not divulge her name here because that discovery is part of the fun....

This book is about one woman's journey of self-discovery.  I finished the book in California and have since read most of it again.  I recommend it if you are someone searching for what you cannot name, or if you are interested in reading about a woman who was willing to start the journey and share what she learned along the way.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Second Sowing

The books I bought in March at a used book store have provided hours of reading and reflection.   I was going to write one post about my finds, but each book is special in its own way.  Starting today, and for the next few Tuesdays, I will post a bit about each book.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Twenty-five years ago a friend loaned me a book that her sister had loaned her.  She said I had to read it because it was about all the things we talked about as women, wives, and mothers.  That was surprising because the book was written in 1955.  I read the book in a weekend, then bought my own copy which I have read again and again because it still speaks to my life experience.  That book was Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  I never thought to ask if she'd written anything else.

Then in March I came across a book of poems that Lindbergh wrote between 1935 and 1955 titled The Unicorn and Other Poems.  I haven't read the book from beginning to end; I open the book to any page and read the poem that appears.  Page 32 was my first and remains my favorite.  I read it while I was holding my grandson ~

Second Sowing
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
For whom
The milk ungiven in the breast
When the child is gone?

For whom
The love locked up in the heart
That is left alone?

That golden yield
Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
Threshed out in pain upon September's floor,
Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.

Break down the bolted door;
Rip open, spread and pour
The grain upon the barren ground
Wherever crack in clod is found.

There is no harvest for the heart alone;
The seed of love must be

Monday, May 5, 2014

Change Takes And Gives Time

Don't rush April.  Unfamiliar words but ones I uttered more than once this year.  I thought the month was almost over only to realize we were barely halfway through.   

Part of it was the weather, slow to warm and unable to encourage all the usual suspects to bloom before May arrived.  Maybe I thought rushing the month would also rush warmer temperatures, but that didn't work.

Part of it was the way I have been paying attention to what I am doing and how I am feeling and asking why.  This is hard to describe without sounding like I've been totally self-absorbed.  I have not turned into a complete hermit, and it's not like the people around me are aware of what I'm doing.  When my chest feels tight, I think about where I am, who I am with, and what I am doing.  When I am feeling relaxed I ask the same questions.  I focus on my breathing and take stock of what the rest of my body is doing and feeling.  This process makes me hyper aware of the passage of time, and the result has been a lengthening of my days.

And part of the reason for the longer-than-usual month of April is that I am changing patterns and routines.  Before I do something physical I ask if there is a way to do it I haven't tried before.  I have rearranged furniture in the three rooms where I spend most of my time.  I have stopped trying to manage my emotions ~ the tears come and I allow them to flow; I laugh more easily; I have said what I felt instead of squashing my words, and yes, I have felt the need to apologize.

During my massage on Friday I said that the tightness in my chest now feels like more of a vibration than an ache.  The feeling has become a signal to pay attention.  My massage therapist picks up on those small changes and notices the correlating changes she feels in my body.

She and I are both movie buffs, and we like to compare notes during my massage.  She was working on my right shoulder when I started describing the premise of one of my favorite baseball movies,  Moneyball.  It is the true story of how Billy Beane used statistics to draft and trade players based on their on-base percentages in order to build a winning team on a limited budget.  I had watched the movie the afternoon before.  As general manager Beane didn't care what position the player used to play; he could teach a catcher to play first base.  All that mattered was the player's ability to get on base. I described in great detail how Beane convinced players to stop doing what they thought they did best: Steal bases?  Not anymore - get on base and stay there.  Bunt?  Nope - hit the ball and get on base.  Billy Beane convinced players to change their habits and the team had a twenty-game winning streak, the first ever in American League baseball.

My shoulder released and I had an "aha" moment: It's not easy to change habits but there may be unexpected and extraordinary rewards when I do.  It's worth the effort to keep trying.

After the massage Ruth handed me a tiny orange origami crane she'd made that morning.  She reminded me that orange is the color of the second chakra, the place of personal power with ourselves and others.  Since February I have written daily in a small orange journal my daughter gave me.  I write one sentence about my day.  That simple act has encouraged me to start journaling again.

The journey continues....

*Follow-up note about the cat that showed up at our door one Friday night.  A woman who lives a quarter mile down the road, and deeper in the woods than we do, learned on Facebook from another neighbor that we had rescued a cat.  She called me Tuesday morning and I told her the cat was at the shelter.  The next day the shelter posted a photo of the reunion on FB.  Full circle.