Sunday, November 29, 2009

Homecoming

Here, a gathering of familiar strangers pass
through the mirrors of their own thwarted
expectations of family.

It seems you know them, their faces you could trace
with your fingers in the air, their laughter
like chords of a remembered song,

their tears never quite revealing the discordant
notes they hear, only that it is not the song
their hearts require.

We read into each other’s hieroglyphs
stories of our own deficiencies,
bridges not quite meeting a faraway shore

where the bitter and the benevolent live together
in nominal peace, the truth and its absence
seeming equally credible.

Here is where the book falls open to the place
we always return as a reminder of what binds us
and what draws us apart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finding Joy

Several times in the past few weeks I have been confronted with the word ‘joy’, used in different contexts, but it began the wheels spinning in my head. As I write these words, I am playing the Bach B minor Mass on my Ipod and wondering how music could be any more joyful. (Also thinking that I’ll bet there isn’t another person on the planet who is, at this moment, playing the B minor on their Ipod!) My musical tastes run to the classics and even to the Requiem Mass as inspiration for much of life, including writing. Can’t explain…it’s just me. But I digress.

Most of you know that the past three years have presented Tom and me with some major challenges, mainly his Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis. At that moment, it occurred to me that joy might become a thing of our past, not of our future. I was wrong. For me, the experience of living with joy has been greatly elevated by finding it amidst the difficult times and our love has continued to be precious and rewarding through it all.

Discovering that the A.D. was not going to swallow us whole within a few months or even years has been joy beyond belief. We don’t know the course it will take, but for now it has changed our quality of life only a little, and he is still enjoying relative contentment. The heart issues of this past summer seem to be handled, and though we don’t know what lies ahead, things are a bit more tranquil here at the moment. Joy!

Someone recently commented to me that they spend a good bit of time pursuing joy, and find it difficult to sustain. My heart aches for her and for others who seek and do not find. Depression sucks out every joyous instinct in people who suffer from it and good professional help is often necessary. But for most of us, it can become a learned behavior and finally, a habit.

For me, my family and friends, music and poetry have been my great joys, in spite of having walked through my share of valleys. Oh, and my little dogs…personifications of joy! At my most joyous, I doubt that I have ever experienced it on the level that they exhibit when we return from the post office! They truly live in the moment in a way that I continue to strive for, not always achieving. But it is in the shimmering moment that we are most likely to find joy.

I believe that we can find and claim joy in a million small ways every day if we are open to seeing it around us. It often comes along with the experience of gratitude…and let’s face it, we have a lot for which to be grateful. We have what we need, if not all we want.

Joy to the world! The mass is ended. Pax!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Habits

I've been thinking about habits. Habits can be very useful. Sometimes having a customary or routine way of getting through the day can free your mind for multi-tasking, while your hands or body go through the motions of doing what they have been taught to do. I wonder, though, how much of what happens to us is the result of unthinking habits...doing what we have always done because we have always done it -- a kind of circuitous logic that brings us full circle without an awareness of why!

We can probably all subscribe to the goal of conscious living, as in connecting our actions to our thoughts and intentions...being aware of our motivations. It sounds a lot easier than it is, of course, as do most things that are logically good for us. Even when we know that something is not in our best interest, it is easy to shove aside that knowledge and let the habit take over. Some members of my family and I are engaged in one of those very addictive computer games that is a monumental time waster, but so much fun. Being a competitive bunch, it is alarming how hard we play to get ahead of each other, and how an hour can be gone and we have not even noticed the passage of time. It's not a terrible thing to waste an hour in pursuit of some silly fun, but sometimes I sit down with the actual intent to do something completely different(and productive!) and find myself playing that game as though I had no control.

Writing poetry has been helpful to me in forming habits that lead me to a positive outcome -- most of the time. I know that if I don't write, just a few lines, for several days, it is hard to get back in the habit, and then I feel like I've lost ground. Writing for me has become the most productive habit I have ever formed. It gives me an outlet for emotion and creativity and an outlook on life that is more positive. It is my best habit. Don't think I'll ever feel that way about ironing.

All the more reason...

to cling to the barest scrap of love
however unlikely or undeserved
to disturb
our most sacred beliefs,
unravel
our cherished convictions,
examine
our established truth,
be done
with useless arguments.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Friend's Visit

Tonight my friend, Darleen, arrives from the Denver area to visit a few days. Nice, right? Nothing that unusual. Well, here's the story. We've been friends for 40 years and have not seen each other since 1986...that's 23 years! We've stayed in close touch by phone, and of course, email, but still -- how can this happen? Well, you know that life gets in the way sometimes and you mean to make something happen, but somehow years slip away. We were both still in our 20's when we met, with small children and busy lives, but that didn't stop us from having our dreams. In our fantasies, she was Rosalind Russell, playing Auntie Mame on Broadway, and I was Beverly Sills! Forty years later, grown children and husbands with health challenges, we will spend the next few days reminiscing and having some much-needed laughs together. It better not be so long next time!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Just Wondering..

Once I remarked to someone that I really loved quail. He responded, “Me too. They are so delicious.” He got the desired response from me – a playful slug on the arm and a laugh. I explained that I loved to watch quail, the multiple coveys of them that live around our house. When they visit each afternoon, I have to stop what I am doing just to observe them. Their Disney-cartoonish way of running, their funny topknots jiggling, is comical and entertaining. But what I really love is the familial, almost tender, way they behave with each other. There is always a lookout, eyes alert to threats darting this way and that. Then a couple of adults pop out, maybe a few more (I assign roles to them like the aunt and uncle, a couple of cousins, and maybe a brother-in-law) and before long there is a great flurry of young’uns…but always, always surrounded by a group of grownups. I know, I know – they’re just birds. But I wonder how they manage to parent so carefully, so watchfully with so many children! It clearly takes a quail village!

Sometimes I wonder if anyone grew up loved and cared for in the right way – or at least in the way they wanted. When the deficit begins early in life, and no one notices, one can carry that gaping wound around for a lifetime. It often takes us down roads we would never travel by choice, searching for the missing piece of ourselves that was never validated or acknowledged. And so we wander, bewildered, well into adulthood, desperate to be understood and loved for who we really are…as if we knew. Get any group of adults together talking about their childhood and one gets the feeling that ‘dysfunctional family’ is redundant. Any TV newscast presents pretty clear evidence of the multitude of disheartened, disengaged children who are growing up convinced that they are unlovable. Why, in a society where miracles happen every day in technology, medicine and science, can’t we care for our children more wisely?

Is that such a bird-brained idea?