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Gonna be a geezer in two days, and life is good. Good marriage - a healthy, happy son - great job. Right now one of the best parts is that I have a "potential" grandchild. A sweet, smart, charming two-year-old who stays with me while Mom is working. Mom dates my healthy, happy son. Sweet, smart two-year-old has given me a new lease on life. Is exhausting, so makes me want to get fit. She's coming again tomorrow, so I've got the pop-up books, the crayons, and the little cuties oranges that she loves. I can't wait!
Just back from a (almost) 3-mile walk. Sure feels good. Getting fit on this day before my birthday. Had a fleeting, mystical sense of oneness as I walked: how small each of us is, but what a wonder to be even a small part of this ball of dirt that is our planet. Each of us belongs to the oceans, the air, the vegetation. The oxygen I breathe today was in the leaves yesterday. The rain that we're expecting by Friday was in the Pacific Monday. I want to grow more mindful of that and honor all of creation.
So today's my birthday. Hard to believe how old I am. (Think an old Beatles' song.) So many things seem like only yesterday. But not relationships. I've left scores of people as I moved through my life: high school chums, college roommates, work colleagues. New friends took the place of old friends when I changed cities, changed husbands, changed... At this late stage of living, I'm making a commitment today: not to discard friends and acquaintances. I'd like to be the kind of person who respects people and honors their presence in my life. "Will you still need me when...?"
Louise was my best friend in high school, but I lost touch with her soon after going off to college. "Life" began to happen to me, and it quickly became all about me. So I lost Louise. We were so close the jocks thought we were lesbians, which was laughable, since most of what Louise and I talked about was boys. She was very good in math and even majored in it. I hope her life has turned out well. She would have been a good teacher, a good mom, a good leader. I know she was a good friend.
College friends are an odd patchwork in my mind. I went to so many colleges, I don't have a nice compact 4-year experience to draw on. Every new site of higher learning brought lower self-esteem, and I was ashamed to reach back toward even the best of them, knowing in my own mind that I was not worthy of their friendship. So I dropped them and moved on. Linda died of breast cancer, my roommate Pat still sends me Christmas cards, and the farm gal from Iowa wrote to me ten years ago, but I trashed it, unread.
Had a wonderful evening in the backyard with the kids. Our son grilled meat, corn, and peppers. We had cold beer and wine, and the charming two-year-old played with the hose and red plastic sand pails. Good conversation. Made me feel like we actually have a functional family, at least for a while. As my husband and I are growing older, it seems like the kids are taking more leadership in the family, and making it work better. Perhaps I was too reluctant to have fun when they were growing up. But good times can still await us.
"Consequential Strangers" That's the name of a book I just started reading, and it occurs to me that is how I format friendships. Arm's length, comfortably distant. That's why I could simply walk away from them when I moved or changed or reimagined my life. Consequential strangers are important adjuncts to our security - like the barista who knows how we like our coffee, or the guy who works at the hardware store and can advise you on almost any fix-it job. Pleasant, but not intimate. Not even last names, just whatever's on the nametag. I like it that way.
I'm taking a little break at my desk to write this. My secret sin on company time. I wonder how much workforce time has been lost since the birth of the internet. I know I spend a few minutes every day just deleting all the politically rabid and/or cutie-pie emails that unnamed relatives send me, convinced the messages are right up my alley. WHERE DO THEY GET THAT IDEA?! I swear, I think I was switched at birth. Should I just tell them? I like Obama. I don't like dirty jokes. And I won't forward to ten friends.
Thank God it's Friday! I need to sleep. I need to walk. I need to work outside. I need to retire. But I haven't yet reached my "magic number" of how much money I'm told I need in order to retire. I figure two more years. Does it feel like Life keeps moving the goal post farther and farther out? By the time you get to first and goal, one or more organs are dysfunctional or MIA, and at least one system is failing. At least I don't smoke. Respiratory failure is the worst way we can choose to die.
Aahhh. Saturday morning. Just went out for breakfast with my husband of decades and have no obligations, only errands. The weather is cool and sunny, and our city is the best. It's so wonderful what a decent night's sleep will do for one's outlook. It's a new slate, a new day. It's a little like rearing a child from birth. You get to start out with a fresh, innocent mind and guide it along in its learning: to make good decisions, to be creative, to be ethical. So important to protect it from "downloading" stuff that does not intend Good.
Our local public radio station is in another fundraiser. One of the giving levels is the dollar-a-day, a benefit of which is the opportunity to write your own 25-word ad spot, which they will read throughout the day, on any day of the year you choose. Most people take that opportunity to say happy birthday or happy anniversary to someone, but I've always wanted just to send in my 25 favorite words: caramel, glisten, grace, erotic, asymptote, rustle, juicy, genius, volition, bedrock, champagne, paradox, meadow, taffeta, comfort, mystical, buttery, cave, Lillian, exhilarating, tide, candle, glade, innocence, wit.
Gotta speak at a luncheon tomorrow and trying to figure out how to engage the audience so I don't do all the talking. I absolutely HATE to break up into little groups, but I'll probably have them journal privately and then share as they are willing around their tables. Little groups push me in the direction from large-group anonymity to small group intimacy and sharing. Ugh. I don't like to share that way. Oddly enough, my topic is the book I'm reading, "Consequential Strangers," which is, in part, about that very thing. Dear God, please let me remain INconsequential.
Oh, man! I got waylaid on this project. Are most of us developing attention deficit disorder? Too many screens, methinks. Too much "screen time." I need more "eye-to-eye time" more "notice-the-scent-of-your-skin time." Human touch; human voice; the plopping down together in comfortable chairs with a glass or a cup of hot or cold upper or downer...and TALK. Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town" comes back to me and the notion of how fast life goes by - and is over. With five senses and a brain you'd think we could stop and be awestruck.
It's been a rainy afternoon, and since I have a big awning, I've opened the window in my office to let in cool air as the downpour comes to an end. The combination of outside sounds is a wonder: birds emerging, full-throated, back out of their nests, cars slishing by, people squealing as they exit the building at the prospect of getting soakers in parking lot puddles. And downstairs the secretaries washing the coffee pots and laughing about the oddball who just called the office. God bless the birds. God bless the secretaries, and God bless all the oddballs.
I guess it's okay to play catch-up in 100 Words, because nothing has popped-up yet to say, "Sorry, you've fallen too far behind for us to even consider your continuing." My thanks to the 100 Words god. Well, it's April 15, and my taxes were sent in a week ago. YEA! I haven't managed that in about four years while working on a masters. I fell into the habit of filing an extension. I even stuck plastic flowers in my front yard, knowing I'd never have time to water and weed. Nobody guessed. And I got my masters!
It's raining heavy soaking water. The kind that has a mind to soak right through the walls. Everything inside and out is cool and damp. I wish Iceland could get such a rain to wash the volcano ash out of the atmosphere. I heard on the morning radio that the president and first lady of Poland will be buried Sunday with very few world leaders attending their funeral because air travel is impossible in the skies over Europe through the ashy plume. Is there a way to be present without actually being present? The perfect opportunity to send up prayers.
Another blessed Saturday. In one more week I'll be on vacation. I'll surely have to play catch-up on my 100 Words when I return at April's end. Today will be an intentional sabbath. I'm feeling quite unwell, and I'm sure it's largely physical manifestations of stress. So, rest. Today is for rest. We're going to lie in bed and watch "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey, Jr. So cute! Fresh fruit, fresh bread, a little meat and cheese, and sparkling water. But can I truly "let go?" There's the rub, as Will would say. If I do, what might happen?
Well, it's been raining all weekend. The yard looks green and optimistic. Is April really the cruelest month? In some parts, I suppose. Here in Texas it's merely unpredictable. Growing up in Ohio April could have meant daffodils or snow drifts. It's the earth finding her balance having passed the vernal equinox a few weeks earlier, rocking in smaller and smaller strokes as she crosses center. Equilibrium is a liminal thing. We need it to survive, quite literally, but it is elusive and easily disturbed. From blood's pH to the balance between solitude and community, finding equilibrium takes mindful care.
Just learned that the Icelandic volcano eruption has grounded our workshop speaker in London. We were expecting him in Austin tomorrow for a day-long event. The wings of a butterfly or the ash of a volcano can connect us all. I spent the morning phoning and/or emailing sixty registrants to say it was cancelled and that we would be refunding their money. This was to have been our last big chunk of revenue before the end of the fiscal year. A few have said we could convert their fees into a gift to our organization. What a day!
I'm trying to put together a 45-minute session that's meant to pull together a hospital department that has not been getting along for fifteen years. Can you say "unrealistic expectations?" I'm going to use an approach I've recently learned about called "Appreciative Inquiry." I'll ask the participants a series of questions that hopefully will lead them to see what they do well together, and what taking that to the next level would look like. The last question is based on their imagining the team one year from now, positively improved: "What advice would you give yourself from the future?"
It feels so darn good when you know you've done something well. Today I led an inservice for a hospital department that doesn't get nearly enough recognition for the work they do. There is surely some inverse correlation between self esteem and the need for outside recognition. If you don't esteem yourself, you need others to do it for you as a reassurance that you have worth and that your work has value. If that theory is true, consider how much recognition is needed by the poorest, the homeless, the wrongfully imprisoned. Is there enough attention available to uplift them?
One more day of work before vacation. Our plan is to have no plan; to get in the car and head off in the direction of our choosing each day. We will stop when we feel like it, book no rooms ahead of time, and eat a Dairy Queen or two. It'll be sorta like Life. Discerning a path day by day. A little risky, but with no one's expectations to meet - not even our own. We've got books, music, and MasterCard. 2010's version of "a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou beside me in the wilderness."
I'm so intrigued with the notion of our inter connectedness - through human need, through spirit, but also through the elements of life. The oxygen carried in my red blood cells today may have been gasped for on a battlefield centuries ago. The air that lifts a child's kite in Ohio today may have filled a London tunnel last month. The carbon dioxide I exhale today will make the grass green tomorrow, and the oxygen the grass exhales will ride on your friends' laughter at a weekend picnic. We are woven; we are one. Life is cyclical, and we are infinite.
What a glorious April day in Austin! And my first day of vacation. I cannot remember when I've had a whole week with no obligations. Kids are raised. Degrees are conferred. No take-home work. No work-around-the-house work. Not even any travel plans with their flight times, arrival times, and check-in times. Just MY time. If I travel it will be on the earth. Shoe leather or tire rubber will do nicely. Sleep when I feel sleepy; eat when I feel hungry. Such a luxury to be reduced to the elements: air, water, earth, and fire.
We've been on the Gulf of Mexico for a few days. No phones and no computers was a blissful freedom. I may throw my phone away. I hate to talk on the phone anyway, and if I'm going to be accessible by text, it might as well be via email. One toy seems plenty. And, OMG! txtg screws with language...like, totally. I had to find a website that translates all the acronyms and abbreviations so I could talk to my younger friends. They may be up-to-date, but I'm savvy. It takes years, even decades, to get there.
Why is it that every time I have a week off, one of my major appliances croaks? Do Maytag and Amana build in chips to listen in on kitchen conversations of vacations plans, then send a signal to tell the thing to cease and desist all cooling, cooking, and washing? And you can't get one repaired these days for under $300, because it always involves replacing the goddamn "control panel." That's probably where they put the "bug" that sucks up travel funds. (I just typed and then deleted a vulgarity that was exquisitely appropriate here.) I just shouldn't NEED electronics.
In this, my first ever batch, I've discovered the risk of trying to play catch-up. You get things out of chronological order. For instance, I ranted about refrigerator repairs on a date that I was actually sitting at the water's edge on the Texas coast. If I'm going to shirk a few days, I have to be a better liar. Sooo, on this date I was still sipping Jameson in Rockport, staring at the water, watching pelicans, and feeding seagulls saltines and cheese. But I'm actually writing this on the 30th, waiting for the refrigerator repairman. It's a flashback.
We drove back home today. How often I've traveled that same route when visiting my dying parents years earlier. I went to visit their graves this trip. The wind on the coast is so strong and the sun is so relentless that the only flowers you can take that will last til morning are plastic. So I chose the prettiest colors and swept the dry grass and leaves off the headstone. Then I thought a prayer and prayed a memory of the feeling of being their daughter. I'm so grateful for what they taught me through discipline and living example.
Vacation time is for pleasure. The pleasure of no obligations. The pleasure of rest. But other pleasures join in: food and drink, sex, reading without interruption, new sights and sounds. And water - such a basic, primal pleasure - a necessity even. But so many luxuries depend on it: jacuzzis, waterfalls, fountains, pools, showers, ice cubes, ice sculptures, ski slopes, hot tubs. All water. What other basics should we get back to? Earth, wind, and fire? We're all smart enough to think of pleasure lists for each of those. Think gardening, sailing, and candles. What is your favorite pleasure in each category?
Well, I did it! A whole batch, though not all day by day. I'm so grateful to my son who put me on to 100 Words. It's a wonderful discipline and one that has stimulated my wish to get back to writing seriously. Small, strictly limited bites seems to have been the key. It works for writing; it works for meditation; it works for meal portions. Everything in moderation, but done as a daily practice. I think I'll choose my favorite hour of the day to do my favorite thing. That ought to factor up the enjoyment of it. Done!
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