Thursday
Feb222018

Thankful Thursday: I Don't Know

Already, the sky has turned. Blue gray canvas. Even the trees appear darker, thicker, a bit menacing. This is February, the uncertain season.

I was born into uncertainty, carrying a certain sadness. Everyone has something —  freckles, large ears, a slump —  that thing they can’t shake.

______


No more choking on tears, no more choking back, folding in half. No more sorrys, no more loss. I don't want to count the weeks that turn to months. No more landmarks of what is now history, the past. No more anniversaries.

We will hold it in and read and sleep and eat too much and drink just enough to soften and blur, and wake too tired to carry on. We will keep calm. We will wear clothes that button and shoes that pinch, feel wounded by those who don't ask how we are and tender toward those who do. 

We will stop counting, and stop looking for photos because we have searched and found just two, and only one in focus, and we will cry because we didn't love you enough to take more.

______


And now I’m doing just what everyone says: remember the good times. The mind races, as you undoubtedly know, trying to make sense, make good, make better.

______


I'm partial to sun, blue sky, summer. But yesterday I shoveled snow and felt a sort of vigor, a thankfulness that I was able to lift and twist, that I could breathe in and full. I felt the heft of weather as something other than burden.

______


Don't fall in love with your sadness, holding brokenness like a baby cradled. 

And yet, how to live authentic, real, full. How to feel without making a scene?

______ 


There is, of course, a beauty in sadness. A clarity through tears. Uncertainty turned inside out. 

______


At the nursing home, a small voice is asking questions I can’t answer: How long will I be here? What happens next? 

Her eyes plead, lost and scared. I soothe with small talk, small words, soft voice. I make hot chocolate and hold her hand.  I don’t know, I am saying without saying. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don't know.

 


It's
Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places, things and more. When we see, we see more. When we express, we feel. When we feel, we see more. When we see, we are thankful.

What are you thankful for today? 

 

 

Monday
Feb122018

This will happen to you, too

The world is full of sickness and death. Or, maybe just my world — though I suspect if you live long and love deeply this will happen in your world too. 

In times of sadness and uncertainty, I turn to books. And so, for the last few years as sickness set in and death hovered, I considered what makes a good life, and a good death, and how do we get there? So you don't have to wade through the muck (death/dying/grief is a saturated market!), let me share the books that have helped me through: 

Being Mortal:
Medicine and What Matters in the End

Knocking on Heaven’s Door:
The Path to a Better Way of Death

 

God’s Hotel:
A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine
 

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Bettyville: A Memoir 
 

All the Dancing Birds


These books provided insight, perspective, and sometimes solace. But really, after all the research and study, the best information came from two unexpected sources: a movie and a friend. 

The Meyerowitz Stories is not a great movie but sometimes the right sentiment hits you in the right place at the right time. In this movie (available on Netflix) three adult children are dealing with their difficult, declining father. They are told the five things to say to him before he dies:

I love you.

Forgive me.

I forgive you.

Thank you. 

Goodbye.

These short sentences are powerful. And, it turns out they are adapted from a book — of course! —  The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living, by Dr. Ira Byock, a leader in palliative care.

Years ago, before I started walking my own family and friends to the end, a friend in the throes of her own loss tendered these wise words:

Death is not a crisis

Death has the power to make us reel, ache and fold in half. And it may feel like an emergency, all adrenaline and fog. But death, like birth, is nature, not crisis. 

 

 

 

Saturday
Feb032018

Age, erased 


AGE  


I've kept all the old photos.

We look known and owned.

 

You change.

The same ingredients

 

make velvet pearls.

You see confidence.

 

You see beautiful,

a simple cashmere

self. 

 

— drew myron

 

See more erasure / blackout poems here:

Hymn

Love heeds not

Horoscopes

Signs

Something of myself

 

 

Thursday
Jan252018

Creative clairvoyance (sorta)

My love of horoscopes is no secret (because I keep telling you). 

As a recap, I read three horoscopes each day: this and this and this absolutely poetic forecast.

This daily ritual is part research, part poetry, with a smattering of loose direction, chancy guidance, and good fun. 

And when my mind is jumbled and hands restless, I grab pen and predictions and search for "hidden messages". It can be a challenge, this practice of elimination, but it's mostly fun. The pressure is low; I'm not trying to write good, I'm just exercising some mental muscle — and the results can be surprising. 

A few from this week: 

CAPRICORN 

You may 

ignore

a sharp 

rotting 

no. 

 

AQUARIUS

Revive a

victory. 

 

GEMINI

You think

about pressure

too much.

 

LEO

You resolve 

to discuss 

pain 

often. 

 

As you can see, these "horoscopes" turned a bit dark. And direct. But that's okay. It's practice, an exercise to help launch the next story, poem, essay, grocery list . . . 

 

 

Thursday
Jan112018

Thankful Thursday: Warble

A friend sends music from our past, and for days I am swimming, tossed, turned, undone. And now, I keep singinguncertain emotions force an uncertain smile.

They say smell, with its ability to jolt your past to the present, is the most powerful sense. But music ranks right up there too — its power to set a mood, strike a set, dismantle and mantle me. All week I'm seeing myself in reverse. 

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends,” wrote Joan Didion, in the essay On Keeping a Notebook in Slouching Towards Bethlehem

________


We’re preparing for another funeral. We’re always preparing, we are never prepared. 

________


At the last funeral, the pastor read from Ecclesiastes:  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . ."

This is the same verse that was read at our wedding. And turned into a great song. And even the Academy of American Poets recognizes it as a poem (yes!). We’re always celebrating and mourning. Life, of course, is a series of small daily deaths. But you can't stitch that on a pillow, or put it in a pill. And so we make poems.

________


When we are together doing something ordinary, eating dinner, riding bikes, my tears are sudden and unexpected. The mind is busy cataloguing the album of life, filing all the firsts and lasts. 

I know grief. I've sat with death. I work among the old and ill. But this feels as if I’ve known nothing at all, so individual and unknown, and these tears so fresh and strong.

________ 


At work, Betty doesn’t speak.*

She warbles, bringing her hands to her mouth and letting out what I imagine are musical scales. I’ve tried to talk with her, and to play piano together but she doesn’t respond, just looks to me from deep-set eyes. I pretend she can see me, can see through me to some unsaid truth or intention. And so I do the talking.

Today she places her wheelchair in the center of the hall, and when I kneel to visit she offers a slight smile as if maybe she recalls me just a bit, and lets me place my hand upon hers.

How are you today? I ask. Her response is silence.

Will you sing for me?  Silence.

And so we just look at each other.

I smile because just looking is difficult. Try it. Talk to someone you don’t know and you have no history and you’re not sure they can hear you or see you or understand you. All you know is this busy hallway, this quiet moment.

So we just look at each other and she murmurs a note or two. And then, she leans in and slowly moves a strand of hair from my face. The gentlest of gestures, both tender and kind. And this is the happiest I’ve been all week.  

 ________ 

 

It's Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places, things and more. Life contracts and expands in relation to our gratitude.  What are you thankful for today?

 

* as always, names have been changed