Saturday, August 31, 2013

Once in a Blue August Moon: Day 11 -- Celebrate!

The prompt:
Meredith & Kat write:

Thank you for journeying with us through this magical time! We've been so grateful for all of you, especially those of you who have shared your musings over at August Moon 13 HQ.

Today, we'd like you to find a small way to celebrate all you have summoned and all you have leaned into and all that you manifested over the past ten days. It could be a quiet walk in nature, a tiny talisman purchased to represent your dreams going forward, a confidence in a trusted friend. Whatever it is, please take the time to honour your courage and creativity as you planted the seeds for a flourishing future.
As with the various versions of Scintilla and Reverb, this series of prompts have encouraged introspection and analysis of what I'm feeling/thinking and how past events have influenced where I am today -- and indeed, simply figuring out where I am!  So much of the time we are doing doing doing, and not thinking about the state of our BE-ing.  These writing prompts are such a gift to me, a time to look inward without feeling like I should be doing something more 'practical.'
Although we live four hours from the Pacific coast, we go visit Mama Ocean as we can. One such trip is coming up, and we plan to spend a lot of time walking the vast, windy beaches and listening to the waves, soaking up those eternal echoes for times when we are too far away to hear them. On one day, I will release my 'letting go' list to her care. And I will celebrate who I am and what I know for sure.
And if I find the perfect talisman either on her beaches or in one of the local shops I love to browse, you can be sure I will recognize it and wear it, as I do my other regular jewelry, all representing some significant event or reason, to remind me of who and where I am.
Thank you, Kat and Meredith, for taking the time out of your busy lives to organize and create and share  this opportunity to listen to our innermost wishes. You enrich our lives. May our collective writings also enrich yours.

Once in a Blue August Moon: Day 10 -- The Wish

The prompt: If you had one wish – guaranteed to be fulfilled by the end of 2013 – what would it be?

This is not an easy prompt. Most of the August Moon posts I browsed through also had difficulty with it.

I wish for....

Nope. That one is for somebody else. So's that one. And that one -- well, it isn't really one that could be fulfilled by the end of the year. That one is too vague. World peace? Huh uh, Miss America. Try again.

I have so many blessings already in my life that it is hard to think what to add, at least anything very specific. And I'm grateful that I am grateful!

I want things for my children ... not things, really, but financial and emotional and mental and relationship security and stability, and most of all for them to experience the kind of love Tony and I have -- that is the rock solid foundation for me, really.

But those kinds of wishes are not mine to make, not for them nor for anyone else. What do I want that is not already in my life?

I want a clean bill of health. Mostly I think I have it -- routine tests have all come back showing normal. The only one hanging over my head is heart health, and that stems primarily from the false diagnosis in 2002 of a heart attack (turned out to be gangrenous gall bladder, yuk). Even though I was checked out by a good cardiologist afterwards, the prospect of a heart attack has frightened me. It is time to check it out again and either get treated or reassured that I'm okay.

For the rest of everything, I have always wanted enough.  Just that.

May you also always have enough.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Once in a Blue August Moon: Day 9 -- The next four months

The prompt: How do you plan to proceed with the last four months of 2013?

There's a quote from Woody Allen: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him[her] about your plans."

Another from Arthur C. Clarke:  “All human plans [are] subject to ruthless revision by Nature, or Fate, or whatever one preferred to call the powers behind the Universe.” 

And one more: “You can devise all the plans in the world, but if you don’t welcome spontaneity; you will just disappoint yourself.”   ― Abigail Biddinger 

Yeah, there are a bunch of quotes about how plans are not so important but planning is essential. Whatever.

I understand there must be planning involved in life -- for career, for retirement, for healthcare, for just general day-to-day living, whatever we may want to call it.

But I think that the August Moon prompts have largely been analytical: what have we done? What worked? What did we like? What wasn't so great? What have we learned? What do we want to let go?

That's a plan, Stan.

My 'Letting Go' list is probably as close to a plan about how I intend to live the next four months as I am going to get. There are plans implied within those things: going to the gym (getting up, getting dressed, getting going), eating well (shopping wisely, cooking creatively, paying attention to what goes into my body), lessening the strangleholds of grief and anger and resentment and judgment and criticism (one day at a time, beauties, one day at a time).

  Everything changes eventually. If I can remain fluid, spontaneous, open, I will find unexpected joys, and many more gratitudes. That  plan works for me, for now.

Once in a Blue August Moon -- Day 8: Letting Go

The prompt: What are three things you would like to let go of before the year is out? See if you can list three physical things and three emotional ones. For bonus points: conduct a burning ceremony or release your secrets into nature by writing them onto leaves/stones and dropping them into the nearest river/ocean.


Frustration, anger, resentment, grief. Tied  together in a Gordian Knot-like bundle, these emotions center on my relationship with a loved child who has a mélange of problems, some self-induced, some based (likely) on her heredity, some that began long ago and were inflicted upon her. Whether she is either incapable of or does not choose to address root causes is difficult to determine. There are resources available to help; I see little motivation. There has been a choice to engage in self-destructive behaviors, however, and so much of the story is clouded either by lies or omission that it is difficult to trust what I hear or see. I finally have been able to draw boundaries that work pretty well, but there is still grief for a relationship I'd always expected to be different than it is, and frustration that it is unlikely to change much. This one has taken years to get this far; I don't expect it to be resolved by the end of the year, or perhaps ever, but I am making a reluctant peace with what it is.

Instant judgment. Think Walmart Internet pictures here -- the people in the skimpy, inappropriate, weird, dirty clothing, or wild, sometimes offensive tattoos emblazoned on highly visible body parts, or painstakingly manicured false fingernails on someone who is holding a sign asking for money. Children screaming and running amok in stores and restaurants without any sign that a responsible adult is watching them.  I judge. Not positively either. And not every case is quite as extreme as these, but I tend to rush to judgment. I want to practice looking at everyone with kind eyes instead of judgmental ones. I do not know their stories. I do not know how they love, what they do, who loves them. They cannot know mine either, this Amazonian, slightly overweight, grey-haired woman who stands behind them in line. May my eyes and heart soften this year.

Self-criticism. That damned judge who sits in my brain and officiates over his kangaroo court needs to be permanently ousted. No more shoulda-coulda-wouldas in the middle of the night. And he can take his ice weasel deputies with him. I'm pretty good just the way I am, and if I screw up once in a while, I don't have to serve time in the dungeon of despair for it.


About 20 pounds. Okay, ten pounds. Keep working at controlling portions, at snacking, especially on absolutely not good for me stuff (back, you delinquent Snickers bar, BACK to the shelf, I say!) I will get there.

Fear because of my atrial fibrillation. My regular doctor has referred me to a cardiologist, a mutual decision.  His office hasn't called yet. I haven't either. A few tests and a good consultation will either confirm or allay my fears. As it is, when I'm in afib, I am anxious that there is more wrong than a mere sinus node malfunction even though I have no other apparent symptoms of heart disease. Gah.

Not going to the gym/yoga. I feel better when I go. I am stronger, have better balance, and I feel slightly self-righteous about doing good things for my body. I love the meditative movement of yoga (and plan on trying Tai Chi as well). But I am so good at making up excuses not to go 'today' -- too hot (and I DID turn into a mole when our weather was so hot for so long), things to do, going somewhere -- and that needs to stop. I am better when I do this: I need to act on it.

We're spending many days in September beside the ocean. One at a time, each of these will go to Mama Ocean's heart, and I will release the negative energy into her constant vigil, and take in the positive energy to my own soul.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Once in a Blue August Moon 13: Day 7 -- Opportunities

The prompt: What once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity(ies) came your way so far?

This year has been a quieter-than-normal year because of my surgery last December and subsequent months of recovery and therapy. We've stuck close to home mostly, gotten into routines that are comfortable and comforting, and all's going well.

But things are changing a bit. And one of those was the once-in-a-blue-moon purchase of what we think is the perfect little new-to-us travel trailer at the end of June.

We'd looked at trailers for more than a year, getting quite the education in the different makes and models and manufacturers from a few very helpful and forthcoming sales staff, along with some really blatant sales pitches at other dealers. 

What we wanted: a mid-size travel trailer, around 2006 or newer, between 22-27 feet long. After looking at a LOT of trailers, we decided we liked the rear kitchens best because they have more counter space and more storage space. We also liked the rear lounge models, but they usually came with a humongous slideout. We were open to a slide, but a small slide, and definitely not one containing any appliances (I mean, why would you put a stove or refrigerator in a SLIDE? Even the sales folk agreed with us on that one.)

Walkaround queen bed, no bunk beds, and preferably a self-contained bathroom, although we saw many with the vanity in the bedroom, the big glassed-in shower sort of offset, and the toilet in a little room by itself. That wasn't a deal breaker, but it wasn't exactly what we wanted either.

We saw some gorgeous woodwork in the cabinetry and generous storage spaces, but we also saw some kitchens with one drawer and two cupboards and about 6 inches of counter space.

We looked at new ones: Timber Ridge and Creekside were really nice but were upwards of $26-$33K -- and I really choked at that price. We looked at used ones: they were okay but nothing really sang to us.

The newer ones have vinyl flooring in nice patterns -- stone or hardwood; the older ones have mostly carpet. Wallpaper and colors varied with the model year.

I wanted something that didn't feel so huge that I would be afraid to drive it, but some of the new ones have higher ceilings, seeming more spacious. They felt BIG.

Once I was back on my feet, we got interested in looking again, and on what was one of the hottest days of the year, went to a sale by Camping World where we saw a couple of really nice Denalis, new ones, and the sales guy said we could probably get it for about $10K off the asking price because they need room on the lot for the new model year ones that are coming in now.  We said we'd think about it.

Back home, we looked at the website and found a couple of used trailers we hadn't seen and made an appointment to see them early the next morning. They too were marked way down.

And there it was: our perfect trailer. A 2011 MVP Summit with vinyl floors, not too tall, rear kitchen, small sofa slide, self-contained bathroom, very clean and showing almost no use, two doors. The trailer was right. We offered less than the sales guy wanted us to offer, and got it for just a bit more than our offer. Done.  It was waiting for us to find it.

We've taken it (and the indoor kitties, one of our main reasons for wanting it) on a shakedown trip which went really well, and are soon to embark on a three-week journey northwards. Change is upon us, new opportunities, new vistas. Bring it on.

Let me add one more: I signed up for the August Moon 13 experience because I like writing to prompts, especially insightful ones as these are. I knew there would be a drawing for a free e-writing course from Writing Our Way Home, but since I never win these kinds of giveaways, I didn't pay much attention to that.

Guess what. My name was drawn.

And I am intrigued by the course titles and very pleased to have another once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity. Not sure yet which I'll be doing, but I'm sure you'll see some of the results on this site.

Thank you, Kat and Meredith, for your wonderful prompts, for organizing the whole experience, for arranging for such a great giveaway.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Once in a Blue August Moon: Day 6 -- Zeniths and Nadirs

The prompt: The zeniths and the nadirs. Where have the highlights and low points been for you so far in 2013? Where are you now? How would you like your year to end?

Actually, you'd think I was on antidepressants (I'm not): I haven't had moments of great joy nor of great sorrow this year, and I'm oh so good with that continuing.

I have had moments of tremendous gratitude, like when I came out of the anesthetic after surgery, gasping and sleepy, but so glad I was awake and alive and all right.

Quiet and all-encompassing feelings of gratitude and enormous contentment at very ordinary things, like sitting with my honey and kitties, watching a favorite television show, in a darkened great room with woodstove firelight flickering; tiny white lights high above the stove in a built-in alcove silhouetting the angels I have sitting there, some from my mother including one painted by one of her close friends (both of them now dead), another from a wonderful former client, and all watchful and comforting.

Pleasure at attending a live theater performance -- we don't miss many, if any -- from the Cascade Theatre or Riverfront Playhouse or Shasta College in Redding. The variety of plays and talent is broad: some are fun because the cast members try so hard; others are memorable because the acting is so professional; others reflect such amazing talent in the script. Occasionally, as in "The Women of Lockerbie" which we saw yesterday at Riverfront, and "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Cascade a few months ago, both outstanding script and exceptionally talented cast combine for an unforgettable and stunning performance. I love watching live theater. I love being on stage in an amazing play even more, but those roles don't come often.

I've found little delights in mundane things: wearing a fun pair of comfortable shoes that make me smile every time I look at them. Savoring a piece of really delicious pie with good friends. Feeling sleek and stylish every time I get my hair cut in the precise, angled style I am wearing, greys and whites gleaming in the salon light, and swinging neatly as I walk. Stretching and moving in the dim yoga studio, imagining the muscles and ligaments easing into the familiar positions, and the spiritual grace of 'namaste' we offer at the close of the session. Loving the gleam of clean floors and fixtures after my friend has worked her magic on my house.

Clean, soft sheets every week and the cool green bedroom where we sleep every night, holding hands as we drift off. Reaching to touch my honey in the night, just grateful he is there and breathing.

Anticipation at traveling in our new-to-us travel trailer with our beloved kitties coming along rather than being left at home or in a kennel where they are frightened and surly because they are not with us -- and the comfort we all feel at being together in bed every night. The prospect of spending more than a week beside our mighty-mighty ocean in several campgrounds, reveling in the crash of waves, the salt air, the age-old power that emanates from its depths and stills our souls and minds.

There are low points as well, but far fewer.

Moments of frustration and apprehension: learning that I would have to have a general anesthetic rather than a twilight one just before I went into the OR. 

Times of worry and fear for a loved one who seems to repeat the same patterns without ever learning the lessons that I see so clearly. Ongoing grief for the loss of what might have been, and reluctant distrust in what I am being told and not told.

Anxiety and fear during episodes of afib that seem to occur approximately monthly, although they nearly always revert spontaneously within a few hours to a steady sinus rhythm. (And such gratitude that they do.)

Where am I now? I work daily on gratitude and calm and energy, focusing the energy where I need it most at that moment. I know that nothing is permanent; everything changes, and that the good (which I try to savor as it happens) will pass away as well as the not-good. I am grateful to be who and where I am, and overwhelmingly grateful that I am loved so dearly and deeply by a man who I love just as dearly and deeply. That is THE BEST of my life.

By the end of the year? More joy. More things that make me smile and feel happy. Any health apprehensions addressed and resolved, or at least treated. More awareness of how great a gift life is EVERY SINGLE DAY. More writing. More decluttering of stuff. More spirit.


Once in a Blue August Moon 13: Day 5 -- Yearnings

The prompt: Have you developed new yearnings so far this year? Let go of old ones?

Although spirit has always been part of my life, I am feeling the desire to increase that connection. I'm not certain exactly how to do this, however, and it's vague about how it wants to manifest.

Traditional church is not really an option for me anymore, although I've certainly put in a lot of volunteer hours, choir time, and pew sitting. I have friends who have found like minds at the Center for Spiritual Living in Redding -- but a drive time of 45 minutes minimum to attend services or classes is not really what I want to be doing regularly. I am not aware of any similar congregation where I live.

As I was learning how to use energy, I developed an interest in learning Reiki, although I am not interested in establishing any sort of business around it. But I have been so helped to heal by others that I would like to better learn how to give back. Anyone want a willing student?

I suppose I am a theist, but cannot really call myself 'Christian' although my roots are there, and I do find comfort in hymns and ritual.  I have long felt drawn to angels, and feel strongly that they are around me and protect and help me and my loved ones.

There is power and peace in yoga practice, in meditation, and in prayer for me. But I want more. And I am ready, I think, to move ahead. I do believe that 'when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,' (attributed to Buddha)  so I am keeping my mind and heart open.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Once in a Blue August Moon 13: Day 4 -- The Word

The prompt: What word did you choose as your travelling companion in 2013? How is it working for you? Where have the surprises been? If you didn’t choose a guiding word, what word sums up your year so far? And why?

I didn't so much choose the word as it chose me. Really, given the surgery I had at the end of December and the painful walking that I experienced most of last year, clearly the word for 2013 had to be 'Recovery.'

I expected it to be primarily about my physical recovery. I'd had a triple arthrodesis -- a fusing of the three primary joints in my ankle -- and from all the research I'd done, I knew recovery could take up to a year. My energy teacher, Jessie, told me it would take four to six months. My focus was to follow doctor's orders, healing energy work, and doing all I could do.

By Feb. 20, slightly less than eight weeks post surgery, I was in a walking boot. Less than two weeks later, the doc told me I could transition into a shoe whenever I was ready, and I began physical therapy a week later, clinging to my walker. Physical therapy was wonderful: the therapists helped me rebuild strength, I continued to focus healing energy into that leg and throughout my body, and in no time I had graduated to walking with a cane and in my wonderful Alegria shoes. By the last PT appointment at about 18 weeks post surgery, I used the cane only on unsteady ground or to help keep some distance between me and others in crowded places. Today I go pretty much anywhere, although if I'm walking on a trail or land, I want a walking stick. While there is still some numbness in my toes and along the outer edge of my foot, I walk better than I have in a long time. My energy is good. My attitude is positive.

What surprised me is that the level of recovery went so very much deeper. Enforced rest and non-weight-bearing gave me time to think and reflect on what I'd been doing, what made me happy, what made me feel anxious and tense. I didn't do things I'd previously taken on through my admittedly overdeveloped sense of commitment because I couldn't do them physically, and for those things I could not back out of, I found other ways to handle them, unexpectedly freeing me from a lot of that false responsibility for someone else's actions/choices that I'd assumed. Nope, I can't pick you up from the hospital. Nope, I can't bring you a check today. No, I am no longer able to serve in that position. Nope, nope, NO.

Somewhere in all that time, I decided that I am not going to do things that I don't feel passionate about. I am not going to spend my time with people I don't enjoy being with, or who make me feel less than. I am going to take care of me first, not second or last. I will do more of what makes me happy. If I feel tense or angry or taken advantage of, I'm out. My focus is on saving the only life, living the only life that I can -- mine.

What a gift, this recovery! Those choices have not closed me off, they have opened me up to possibilities, to fully enjoying and participating and caring, and to new ways of being, more fulfilling, to a more generous life.  I no longer feel anxious and angry and tense (well, hardly ever), and I know how to work with those feelings when they do surface.

I'm not recovered. I am recovering, just like an alcoholic who stops drinking but knows s/he is only one drink away from relapse. It is a process that requires daily attention and intention, this living joyfully stuff. If I don't work with my body and my foot, I will relapse into laziness and pain. If I don't work with my mind, I will relapse into old, long-practiced behaviors.

I like where I am too much to stop working on this recovery thing.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Once in a Blue August Moon 13, Day 3. Gratitude. Oh MY!

The prompt: Sometimes we get too caught up with life's circumstances. Count the blessings you've had to be grateful for this year.

So. Much. Gratitude.

For my husband especially. For loyal and loving friends who nurture and support and love and call me even when I am being all hermit-y. For my surgeon and his amazing skill in reconstructing my foot. For Jessie, who taught me how to use my energy and all the abundant energy that is in this beautiful earth to help heal my attitude, calm my fears, empower my intentions, manifest my ongoing recovery -- and not just for the foot, either, but in relationships and attitude and belief. Thank you so much. For my therapists who encouraged and pushed a bit, but always with positivity. Did I mention my husband? (love love love)

For having 'enough' of everything we need. For the memories of when times were tougher. For our four-legged furry 'children' who love us and who are always there to comfort, to amuse, to delight in, to appreciate. For time to play and books to read and cute shoes that are comfortable to walk in. For  waking up each morning and being able to get out of bed, without pain or difficulty. For the ability to taste and enjoy the bounty from gardens and orchards, and to create and cook meals in a kitchen I designed. For medical tests that come back 'normal.' For my eyes and ears, to be able to read and see and listen. For the deer who visit our yard regularly and bring their still-spotted babies with them, knowing they are safe here. For the finches and hummingbirds and nuthatches and jays and doves and a myriad of LBBs who frequent our bird feeders and splash dusty feathers in shallow water-filled saucers, and give us so much pleasure to see and hear every single day. Oh, and for my husband, the generous, loving, attentive, slightly stubborn love of my life that he is. Did I say that already?

For things that work when you need or want them -- cars, computers, appliances, televisions -- and for people who fix them when they don't. For the values and principles and loving relationships that I grew up with, for parents who read to me and encouraged me to read and to create and to play, and who taught me that the most awful truth is better than the smallest lie. For my brother, my playmate, my friend, the one person still living who remembers the long-ago things I do, and for his wonderful soulmate spouse who adores the quicksand he walks on and still manages to be talented, funny, creative, and very wise herself.

For my children, even with the very difficult lessons you have taught me, primary of which is that there is only one life I can save, and it isn't yours (god knows I tried, though). Thank you for the opportunity to be your mom, your advisor and teacher, and sometimes your friend. Thank you for some amazing insights and memorable events, for great joy and even for almost paralyzing fear. I will always love you dearly, no matter what your journey may be, and I am grateful for the lesson to let go and let God (one I often practice, mind you).

For kindness, especially unexpected kindness, both experienced and witnessed. As I grow older, my daily intention is becoming more and more to be kind -- with words, with actions, with myself, with expectations, with outcomes. In the midst of so much busy-ness and preoccupation with doing and going and getting that I see from most people in stores and restaurants, it is a huge relief to consciously relax my body and put a smile on my face and not be in a hurry to be first or get the most. It surprises clerks and wait staff and receptionists and nurses and aides, and I can see them relax too. Kindness is a huge gift to everyone, but especially to oneself.

Every day I am grateful. Anne Lamott wrote about the three great prayers in her book Help, Thanks, Wow, a book I re-read often. I am convinced that gratitude is the key to living a happy, good life, no matter what your circumstances, for without it, you appreciate nothing.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Once in a Blue Moon -- Day 2 -- Summer!

The prompt: We are about to enter into a gentler season i.e. Autumn/Fall if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. For me, these seasons often feel like a relief after the intensity of Summer and Winter. How do you intend to transition into the new season?

Oh, I am so NOT a summer person, especially as an adult. Even as a kid, I hated being hot and sweaty and sticky and dirty, and greatly preferred finding a cool, shady space where I could read for hours undisturbed. Not for me the summer sports or the cool blue of the public pool that was an easy bike ride from my house.

There was a fragrant tree that bloomed on the side of our house and aided by huge lilac bushes, the side yard facing our neighbor's blank-walled garage was my little private haven. I put blankets down to create a soft bed, took two or three books of the bike-basket-full I'd borrow from the bookmobile that stopped every other week in a park near out house, and read for hours, the dappled shade flickering on the pages, and what breeze there might have been in the hot, humid Missouri summers fluffing my hair.

When I was a little older and able to ride the city bus by myself, I'd venture to the main library, a huge old Carnegie building, and spend the day browsing in the cool company of quiet librarians and slightly musty odor of old books. I read my way through the entire collection of fairy and folk tales one summer -- every volume of "Under the **** Umbrella" books, Grimm and Anderson, and a myriad of folk tales and mythology.

My brother spent all day every day outside, playing with his friends by the creek (forbidden but done anyway), playing team sports, riding bikes, getting dirty and stinky and happy as a pig in mud.

I don't like sweating. I hate humidity. I am not an athlete. I'm not fond of bugs and things that bite. I like the occasional picnic, but civilized, with chilled lemonade, chocolate cake, lovely chicken sandwiches, cherries, and perhaps some pickles. On a tablecloth and a clean picnic bench, please.

Where I live now gets very hot in the summer; the one plus being that the humidity is often in the single digits. I get very tired of endless sun, crispy grass (because California's green season is in the winter and spring), tired dark blue-green oak leaves that literally shrivel on the tree towards the end of summer and fall off.. As summer comes to a close, the nights cool down more, usually enough to open the windows and turn on the window fan to freshen and cool the stale house air, but in the height of summer, it can still be 90 degrees at midnight. ''

This year I intend to transition by leaving town and going to cooler climates! I am hoping that by the time we get back home towards the end of September, the days will be comfortably warm and the nights even slightly chilly. Typically it will still be weeks before jeans and sweaters and rain gear come out well into October, but at least the end is in sight.

I have a winter heart. I have always known this, born as I was in November in cold, wintry Minnesota, always preferring the snuggly wools and fleeces and flannels, the wood stove fires, the thick, warming soups and stews, mugs of strong hot coffee in the morning and fragrant steaming tea in the afternoon and evening. My passions run deep and fiery but are not always visible at the surface, and I can freeze ice with a look if so motivated. I have a winter heart.

I welcome the annual transition from naked, put-it-all-out-there summer to the crisp and bounteous days of autumn, and relish the inward reflection and renewal of our California winters.  Bring it on.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Once in a Blue Moon -- Day 1

For the next 11 days, I'm going to try to participate in August Moon 13, a writing prompt exercise from a couple of bloggers I read regularly. I tend to respond well to prompts, and even though the next week or so looks very busy as we prepare for a trip to see family, it is good for me to exercise this part of my creative self.

You can participate too. Just click here to sign up.

Today's prompt: How have you treated yourself this year? Have you kept your intentions?

My intention for this year was very simple: to recover as completely as physically possible from the foot/ankle reconstruction surgery I had in late December.

I am doing that. For the first two-plus months of the year, I was totally non-weight-bearing, although somewhat mobile, thanks to my knee scooter and a wheelchair. My wonderful husband prepared meals, did shopping, fed cats, retrieved mail and papers, and helped me as needed while I pretty much sat in his recliner with my foot elevated and read, watched movies, and worked on healing energy flowing through my body and into my leg and foot.

Three months of physical therapy re-started everything: I was becoming mobile, regaining strength, reclaiming my self and letting go of parts I no longer wanted in my life. While my foot is still healing, with some numbness still in the toes and ball of the foot, it is stronger and more sure than it has been for more than a year, and I can walk without pain, although as with anything, when I over-do, I can feel it the next day. It's been a long time since I used the cane too, although I'm not sure I want to try a lot of uneven or sloping walks without a walking stick for balance.

And that's fine: if we need a little support to help balance ourselves, we should use it -- no matter whether physical or emotional or mental or spiritual.

I've been blessed with support this year from friends as well as from my husband, and I am deeply grateful for the visits, the meals, the prayers, the conversations, and the love. Knowing the difference it has made in my recovery, I am determined to help others along the way as they need help.

I am still too hard on myself. I still feel like I should 'accomplish' something every  day in a very practical way -- cleaning, exercising, cooking, sorting through the closets and drawers and boxes that contain things that no longer serve our needs and finding new homes for them or discarding them. But I am remembering those early months of this year when it was enough just to 'be,' not to 'do.'  There is accomplishment in reading, in resting, in petting kitties, and in contemplation as well.

I continue to understand that mine is the only life I can save, although some days I need to read Mary Oliver's miraculous poem "The Journey" several times to remember that.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian of Norwich

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Yes, I'm still around...

Okay, so it's been four months. I've been busy recovering from foot surgery, getting back on my feet, going places, doing things. Living my life. I am not making excuses, although I find it somewhat interesting that I have not really been inspired enough to write anything for this long -- me, who always has found catharsis in the written word.

Not for lack of subjects and opinion, mind you, this prolonged blog silence. I've read a lot. I've thought a lot. I've fretted and worried and given thanks and had moments of joy. I have thought "I need to write about that" but haven't done so. It has not been a priority.

At least part of my lack of writing here has been privacy-driven. Some of the things that have most cluttered my thoughts are difficult topics to deal with, and to write what I want to write could/would infringe on the privacy of others, and  I am not yet able to dismiss that and do it anyway. And yet these are the topics that are often uppermost in my mind and in my heart. Tough stuff to learn, tough to process. And to admit it all, especially here. Not happening just yet.

Today, though, I strolled through a website that lists 25 posts from women who either have grey hair, are thinking about growing out their hair, or are currently doing so. And I'm here to add my two cents.

I've been grey for 10 years now and have never loved my hair and style more than I do today. Like so many of the women in those posts, I colored my hair for a number of years most specifically to deal with the grey that was coming in, and to maintain more of an age-neutral appearance when I was working in an industry with many far younger people who knew I was older, but not how much older. Yeah, I dyed it when I was in college and in my late teens and 20s just for fun (unlike many women who began to go grey in their 20s or 30s), but I spent a lot of time and money getting highlights over the years, and had gone back to dyeing it when I was in my late 40s mostly to cover the grey, and like so many women of that certain age, had gone auburn/reddish. (Why is that, do you suppose? Does every woman secretly want to be a redhead?)

When I finally broke down and went to a stylist in the San Francisco area, she gave me highlights and lowlights and styled it in several fun ways over the next six years. I had curls. I had waves. I had straight and shorter and shaggy cuts. I had burgundy and blonde and brown and platinum and gold and even bright red highlights and lowlights through her creative foils.

But when we moved here, out of the corporate arena, in 2003 and I no longer wanted to do that kind of upkeep on my locks, I decided to let it all grow out. It wasn't bad, either, although I kept it fairly short during that process. But there were no skunk lines on my hair part for me since my base color was all mine, and it was simply growing out highlights/lowlights, which had blended so well with my hair color anyway.

It's been periodically longer and shorter ever since, but the style is the basic bob -- one that works exceedingly well for my fine, very straight hair. And the color is amazing now-- greys and silvers mixed with the bits of brown, a streak or two of white, and overall shiny and healthy and something no colorist could replicate very easily.

My current stylist told me recently -- and not joking -- that she would have to refuse if I decided to color it again, not that I am thinking about it. I know that my hair color was a major factor in at least one person's decision to let her hair go back to its natural color, and hers is now a long, silky, silvery grey mix that beautifully frames her face and accents her eyes! And I know that I am lucky that my hair has become such a wonderful color, accented so perfected with the simple style. 

I realize that hair color is a deeply personal decision, and that truly some people need some chemical help as they age to look and feel their best. And I also understand that some are reluctant to let go of the self-image they've carried for decades, believing that if their hair is still the same color, they will look younger.  Not everyone is comfortable with allowing the grey to show; not everyone looks good with it, or feels good about it. It's all okay, whatever choice is made. (But make a choice, please, and follow through....)

Recently I was walking behind someone who had at least an inch and a half of white hair showing at the roots through the light reddish color of the rest of her hair. It was not flattering. I know women who are definitely past 60 who still color their hair the dark brunette of their youth -- but it doesn't match their skin tone or eyebrows anymore and usually makes them look older, not younger, and emphasizes the wrinkles and changes in skin texture and color. My mother had a friend who dyed her hair jet  black until the day she died -- and it was such a harsh clash with her softer skin that it made her look sick and mean and angry even though she wasn't any of those.

We change as we grow older. Our skin develops those age and laugh lines, and tones soften. Our outlook is different; our priorities refocus. I believe this is reflected in the ways our bodies and appearances change too. Our greying hair softens our appearance, usually brightening and emphasizing our eye color, and goes with the changes in our skin and coloring. Grey hair doesn't mean you've given up on looking and feeling good!

I like this time of my life. I am more at ease in my aging skin than I have ever been, and with the wisdom and insight I have acquired (often painfully) over the decades. Do I love all the changes in my body and appearance? No. But I do what I can to look and feel good with them. And that is the most important change of all: being where you are, understanding the things you can change anda accepting the ones you can't. I'm grateful every day for it all.