Monday, December 21, 2009

Foggy, foggy morning

Thick, pea-soupy fog blankets everything this morning and Tony just called to caution me to leave extra time on my way to an appointment this morning. He said it's just as foggy in town as out.

I'm grateful it's not inches of white stuff as they've had on the East Coast. I can deal with fog better.

The Daily Om has an interesting perspective on fog: stopping to listen carefully, moving forward with caution, paying attention to what is around you even if you cannot see it clearly. Eventually it lifts, revealing what it has hidden and making plain the shadows and obstacles.

One thing I know for sure: nothing lasts. Everything, even fog, will change and lift and become more clear. Everything changes.

We photographed the funeral of a young man this weekend who had served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then in the Honor Guard on the East Coast. (His mother had asked for photographers to come, to document the ceremony.) He had begun a career after his honorable military discharge doing something he absolutely adored doing, and then, out of nowhere, came problems, big hairy ones, that dragged on and on, and eventually cost him his beloved jobs. Although the issues were finally resolved, there was a cloud that trailed him, and he killed himself.

So area veterans sent him to God with full military honors, a gun salute, and an extremely moving flag ceremony performed by two young men who had traveled to a tiny Tehama County cemetery to do this one last ritual for a fellow soldier who had done it for so many others.

There is no doubt that he was loved and cherished by his family and friends. But he didn't have the maturity, I think, to understand that everything changes, that nothing stays the same, that if he had made just another phone call, perhaps someone would have helped him to understand that, to see that even though his life was not the same, it could be good again in a direction a little differently than what he had planned.

I know it isn't that simple, of course. And I wasn't in his shoes, nor even an acquaintance. I know he left life too young. I know he left a mother who will forever have a hole in her heart, people who loved him dearly. I know he will never have a second chance.

Life throws us all curve balls now and then. But as long as we are breathing, we have a second chance. The path we thought we were on may swerve and go a different direction. It may be hard to see the way through the fog and the curves and the detritus that often accompany such change. But it WILL clear. It always, always does.

People around me, near and dear to me, are struggling with health issues and financial woes this year -- not because of mismanagement of money or neglect of health, but just because it was their turn, I guess. It's hard to feel so helpless, and also hard to feel very 'Christmas-y" in the midst of such life-changing moments. I guess part of that is how I've always felt about Christmas: a magical holiday where, for one brief period of time in a year, people get along, are happy, enjoy family and friends, and feel good about themselves and where they are, and grateful. I do feel grateful. I am immensely, hugely, tremendously, always grateful to be where I am and with Tony. That overrides everything else.

I wish the young man had been able to find just one thing to be grateful for in his life, just one reason not to do what he did. I wish he could have been able to find the inner assurance that his fog would indeed lift and that his path -- a new path -- would be revealed, one step at a time.

We live our lives day by day, not year by year. We do all we can today -- with all the tools we have right now -- to do what it is we think we must. But in so doing, we proceed knowing that as we journey we will see another part of the path, and that while it may go a direction we hadn't planned for, nor even want, we are only as alone as we choose to be. If we ask for help, someone may show us a part of the path we hadn't seen, or help us to walk out of the fog. Sometimes all we have to do is to extend a hand, reaching for someone, something, and we will connect.

I can't fix the health problems or money woes that my loved ones are having, but I am here to hold a hand, to cry with them, to just BE here so they are not alone in the fog. They do the same for me. And in the larger scheme of things, that is what matters most.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In a mood

Not in THE mood, in A mood.

No real reason, either -- nothing catastrophic has happened, far as I know people are safe and okay, reasonably, and I just got back from our Bunco Christmas party which was a fun night of way too many carbs, interesting gifts, and good women who are compassionate and caring.

But right now I feel like I could just sit here and cry until I'm stuffy-nosed, drained, and exhausted.

Maybe it's just the time of year when memories overtake common sense and flood in. I miss my parents. I got cards from two aunts today, and puddled up thinking about the Dahl sisters and how much fun they had over the years. Three of the four sisters are still here; my mother and her two brothers have all died since 2005. My dad has been gone 10 years.

Maybe it's remembering Christmases when I did a lot of singing and loved it -- I still remember some of the choral arrangements of favorite carols, plus other, more difficult Christmas music that was so fun to sing. Or when R was little and we always had a houseful over Christmas, did soup and sandwich suppers on Christmas Eve with my best friend and her family before we sang at the late church service where candles lighted the sanctuary and illuminated everybody's face into beauty.

Maybe it's sadness over how difficult life is on some days for R, especially, dealing with voices and visions that are unsettling, if not downright scary, and not knowing either cause or cure, or even if there will ever be a life again without them for her. The last two days especially have been hard for her, and I even went with her to the grocery store today because it was just too much for her to handle by herself. Sadness that another daughter simply chooses not to communicate with us for reasons we probably will never know. And while we have a relationship with our youngest child and our only grandchild, it is cautious on both fronts and likely will never be the flat-out love affair that I see some of my friends having with their grandchildren -- for lots of reasons, many of which have been outlined in this blog over the past several years.

Life is not quite a Norman Rockwell painting for us as a family, nor, I suspect, is it for most families. We all have our skeletons hidden in closets, attics, basements, and it seems the holidays are a time when those ghosts loom large. It's shoulda-coulda-wouldas piled on top of a pot full of present-day reality for most people, I think.

And yet we are most fortunate too: we have a wonderful home in a good community, we have many friends and acquaintances, we are as busy as we want to be, we have enough resources to take care of ourselves (at least, god willing, at this point). We have each other and find support and love and acceptance in that every single day -- a HUGE blessing and gift, especially if you've known a past relationship that hasn't been all that great. Far as we know, we are free from life-altering disease or conditions. We are limited more by our own motivation or lack thereof than by exterior issues.

Acknowledging that holidays and events and mood swings sometimes throw us for a loop is a good thing, I think. Dwelling on things I cannot change or over which I have little or no control is not a good thing. Accepting that it is okay to feel sad sometimes, to feel a little cheated in some respects is okay. Remembering and accepting that I am neither perfect nor do I have to appear to be perfect to anyone is especially a good thing.

Susan Elliott, whom I have quoted before in these posts, writes in "Getting Past Your Past,"
"Don’t distort the holidays. It’s approximately 35 days between Thanksgiving and New Years. And there is always a January 2nd. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Yes, you need to grieve what was and what will never be, but it’s not quite the giant bundle of greatness that many people are thinking it is. Don’t distort what was.

You can read the whole post here.

It's a good thing to read now. And re-read again. And remember that this, too, shall pass.

Life is short. It is too short to put up with people or things that bring you down. It is too short not to be grateful for it every moment, every day, to be glad for some wee part of your life that is good -- and everyone, EVERYONE, has something.

Monday, December 07, 2009

How did December get here so fast?

Here we are, a week into December and Christmas, and I'm not quite sure what happened to the fall. Oh. Wait. It was summer until practically November.

So the windmill nativity is up, the stockings are out, the little white ceramic lighted Christmas tree that I bought so many years ago in Fayette is sitting in its alcove on the buffet. No tree yet, but that'll come this next weekend.

And I've started shopping some -- both brick-and-mortar and online, and will do a bunch more tomorrow when a friend and I go to Chico for the afternoon.

We attended A Cascade Christmas in Redding the day after T-day, and it was a marvelous way to kickoff the season -- such talent and music and fast pacing and just FUN. We watched the Red Bluff Christmas parade with its lights and music and scads of kids on floats or marching in groups. I've listened to a bit of music.

Mostly I'm just grateful to see this one come. Last year was so hard, living in the midst of addiction and denial and drama, and I'm glad we've come through this last 18 months with no more scars than we've had. There is still drama, but not as much and not as intense.

I'm grateful for another Christmas, for another memory-filled holiday, and for friends and family to share it with. I'm grateful to be where I am.