Ponder this:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Making peace with The Shoulds

Somebody recently asked how I got out of that horrible habit of The Shoulds.

The short answer is that I went to AA and got sober. The longer answer follows.

I got grateful.
I recently read that some study advises counting your blessings before you go to sleep. It concluded that your sleep would improve, and you'd wake up happier than if you'd gone to sleep thinking about your problems.

On my way home from work today I was feeling a little glum. Cloudy afternoon, tired and sore leg, end of the month chores coming up tomorrow at work. That kind of glum. On my way into the house from the car, hobbling slowly and carefully, having left my crutches in the car so I could carry three days' worth of mail inside, I was staring at the ground and thinking, "This is what it will be like when I am decrepit, and have to pick my way carefully all the time."
The flipside is that that slow progress gave me more time to observe, once I picked up my face and looked, the particular light in the sky at that time, in this season, on this day that will never be again. There is no rush except that which I impose upon myself.

At any given moment, I've learned that I can come up with a lengthy gratitude list. Here's one off the top of my head:
  • I'm grateful that I'm sober.
  • I'm grateful that, so far as I know, everybody I love is reasonably healthy.
  • I'm grateful that I can see to write this.
  • I'm grateful that my knee is healing.
  • I'm grateful that I have friends with whom I laugh. A lot.
  • I'm grateful that I'm not twenty-five, or forty, or even fifty; I wouldn't go back for anything.
  • I'm grateful that Husband is not here right now and I have this quiet time.
  • I'm grateful that Husband will come home.
  • I'm grateful that I have the plants inside from the porch and the patio for the winter.
  • I'm grateful that I have enough food, comfortable shoes, good pillows on the bed.
Once I start this kind of thing, I kind of lose sight of all the stuff that was making me feel bad.

I've learned to identify the real problem.
I don't have to win every argument.
I learned to honor my feelings and to know that I have choices.
I'm not that important.
I learned to say "I want to" instead of "I have to."

While I wended my way to the house tonight, the dogs were barking and jumping at the door and I didn't know how I would do with the stairs to the porch. Since I hurt my knee until this evening, Husband has been right here to stand in front of me as a brace. The problem was impatience. There's a way to do almost anything I want to do, and I wanted to get into the house. Fortunately now my leg has healed enough that if I take the time to balance my considerable weight I can do a few stairs.
If I did not get onto the porch and get to the door to let the dogs out, neither the dogs nor I would die.
(On Monday evening, I was in the throes of the sudden injury, but I could crawl. And did.)

Thank God for not having to argue with people! I recently read somebody's blog post about a half hour argument she had had with a friend over chasing down bargains at various supermarkets. The friend does that; the blogger does not. Why in the world would somebody waste a half hour of her life arguing about such a thing? What difference does it make where or how somebody else shops? It amazes me now that I used to have just such arguments. And I held resentments for long long times if I hadn't pummeled my companion into conceding my point of view. I know now why I did that. It was that I needed everybody to agree with me because I feared being wrong. In so many areas, wrong is relative. Right for me might be wrong for you. Right for you might be wrong for me.

Learning to honor my own feelings brought me a little way to seeing that it's okay for other people to feel defeated and sad and thorny. It is not a terrible threatening horror to feel lonely or afraid or sad or glum or angry. I remember my sponsor leaving quickly after a meeting, telling some people who wanted her to stay and chat, "I feel mean and miserable today." I watched in awe as she walked away and the others chuckled and went back to their conversation. People feel what they feel. And feelings, while very real, aren't facts.

What still gets me rolling is hearing constant complaining. Some folks' constant seeking for reasons to feel angry and miserable still makes me tired. I try far too hard sometimes to point out the silver linings among other people's clouds. It annoys me that people seem to look so hard for reasons to be unhappy. Life's too short. So . . . I still suffer from wanting to make people see my point of view, and that's useless. Sometimes people need to feel unhappy for a while. It is the valley that makes the mountain high. (I found that quote online a couple of days ago and neglected to note the author, so if somebody can enlighten me, I would be . . . grateful.) Why do I want people to stop complaining? Fear, I guess. Oscar Wilde said, "The basis of optimism is sheer terror." If I stop counting those blessings and looking for those silver linings for too long, I will stop seeing them, just as I conveniently do not see particles of dust on my baseboards, but to worse effect.

It was a major major deal for me to realize that people had topics, other than June, to discuss. If I didn't make supper and went to bed early, my husband would not spend his evening hours thinking of divorce but might actually enjoy having the alone time that I so enjoy. I have responsibilities and I honor them, but if I am sick enough to stay home from work, (a) my coworkers will not spend every spare moment talking about what a slacker I am, and (b) the work gets done. I learned that I could choose to ignore Eleanor Roosevelt's advice that I must do the thing that I am afraid to do. For a while. Until I am ready. And if I truly need to do it I will become ready.

The continuing joyful wonder is that since I have choices and I'm not that important, I don't need to carry around a lot of anger that I am oh so put upon and cheated . . . by others, by Life, by whatever bogeyman I used to pick out to be mad at.

One Saturday morning a couple of years ago (when I was still firmly planted in my fluffy pink cloud of new sobriety), Husband was sitting with hands clenched, looking grim. I asked him what was the matter and he said, "I have so much that I have to do this weekend, and there isn't enough time to do it!"
I smiled, and said, "There's enough time."
I stood smiling until he looked up at me.
"There is, isn't there?" he said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It all works out the way it's supposed to

Two weeks ago I determined to cancel my two Aflac policies. One is for short-term disability; the other is for accidents.
I faxed the request to Aflac and got a response that the soonest the policies could be cancelled would be January 1.

I was a little disgruntled, but finally thought, "So be it." I've had money deducted from my paycheck for seven years and only put in a claim twice, so several more weeks wouldn't make much difference.

Yesterday I hyperextended my knee and went to the ER. A strain of the posterior ligaments. So long as I don't put any weight on it (crutches . . . ahhhhh...) it isn't more than a "1" or "2" on the pain scale.

See how everything works out the way it should?
From the accident policy, I'll get fifty bucks for having gone to the ER, and a few dollars for the follow up visit.
If Aflac had cancelled the policy immediately, I would be kicking myself despite the pain of the motion.

No dice on the short-term disability . . . I won't be out of work long enough to qualify . . . but hey, y'can't have everything. Where would you put it?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


For Sunday Scribblings - "Shame"

Image gratefully borrowed from Oznik.com

I don't have a lot of time to spend on Shame these days.

I spent years imprisoned by Shame. Shame over things I had done. Shame for situations beyond my control. It crippled me, created fears and resentments that worked to solidify the wall between me and my life. Other people rarely made me feel ashamed; I created my own self-hatred out of my lengthy list of Shoulds.
Others' attempts to inflict shame upon me, I believe, are born of their own need to control their own environments of which I might be a part.

It appears to me now that shame, like so many other negative, demeaning, defeating, destructive emotions, is the opposite of honesty.

No secrets, no shame.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sunday Stills: Landscapes/Fall Foliage

All of these are of Fall 2008,
this year having been pretty much a complete bust for color.

And I'm sorry they won't enlarge; I had to copy them from snapfish instead of uploading from my computer.
The originals are on my old laptop which needs professional help to convince it to offer up its contents.

Please go to Sunday Stills and click the links to see other Fall Foliage Fotos!

Doggerel for WW

Glower you upon the tower
Wherein lies all the earthly power.
Then turn your gaze upon the flower,
And sing your song inside the shower.

Being sure

How fortunate are some people to be sure.

Some people know just what they think about everything.
All the time.
Their opinions never change.
They are sure.
They know that this political viewpoint, this diet, this way to dress, this way to spend money, this way to worship, is The Correct Way.
Other dissimilar ideas are not only incorrect, but at best, benighted, and at worst, evil.

It must be a comfort to go to bed at night and never question anything you've said or done all day.
I wouldn't know: I keep taking in and evaluating that pesky New Information instead of dismissing it as lies.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Coming Full Circle

In my effort to make sense of my life I often think, "If that tragic event hadn't happened, then that happy one would not have followed," or, "If I had decided to go to bed early that night instead of . . . I would never have had the chance to..."
I am not a Seeker of Wisdom. I just live and wait for it to come upon me.
In the last few weeks I have felt events being taken up, gathered up like the mouth of a drawstring purse.

Nearly a year ago I found myself in a position where I would either lose my full time job or work part time for a woman, a thing I had sworn I never again would do. The first six (and more) months were rough on my nerves and I was lonely, with a boss in the person where a friend had previously resided.

Yesterday, the following conversation:
I: My old boss, Bella, told me a year ago, that blahblahblah...
Jane: Bella! I thought you didn't like her.
I: Well . . . with time and distance, I have seen that her insecurities and my insecurities went head to head and created a . . . volatile situation.
Jane smiled and nodded.
I: Here's a Bella Story. One night we were finally at the point of faxing a letter. Bella had revised it her usual seventy-five times, we'd looked it all over and it was finally perfect. It was late. Everybody else in the whole office wing had left. It was just the two of us sweating over this letter.
It was winter, I had missed my bus, I was going to have to wait at least another forty-five minutes for the next one.
So we faxed the letter.
We watched it go through the fax machine. I picked it up from its face-down position and we simultaneously saw that the letter was dated yesterday. Bella threw up her hands, half-turned away, and exploded, "Unngghh! I don't want them to think we're so stupid that we don't even know what day it is."
And I was thinking: What does it matter!
I redated the letter and faxed it again.
The next morning I couldn't speak to her. I could barely even look at her. I had had enough. After a while, Lou asked me if she had done something to make me mad. I said, "Bella, I am not stupid."
Horrified, Bella said, "I would never say you were stupid!"
It was all her: She had never meant any insult to me. She hadn't even realized what she was saying. And I was so nervous and jerky that I, of course, immediately had taken offense.

In the middle of my story, I realized that the Bella story was identical to stories I could tell about some events in recent months.
Jane realized it too. I could see it in her eyes.
We had been having a pretty nice morning already, but after that conversation, there was an ease in the air . . . an atmosphere of friendship and understanding and forgiveness.

I have my friend back and so does Jane.

R.D. and his wife M. were artists and sculptors, and our neighbors in that ancestral farm home to which I've referred previously. R.D. taught six-year-old June how to make a picture with Elmer's Glue, let it dry and then roll paint over paper placed on top of the hardened glue.
I remember M. smiling, holding my small hands, and exclaiming, "Look at those artist's thumbs!"
When my mother was a young woman she sat as model for R.D.'s sculpture class.
I have a long emotional history with the black-painted plaster head created by and given to my mother by one of the students. When I was very young there were long periods of time that my mother was not available to me. I remember weeping, cheek pressed to that black plaster cheek, wishing that enough longing might make enough magic to bring my mother home. The sculpture sits now where I can see it all my waking hours. It is a little chipped from having rolled around in my sister's truckbed for two weeks following my mother's funeral, where it had stood on a side table. One evening a few weeks ago I spent a half hour gazing at the head and remembering the Ds, their son, his widow, their daughter,
her husband. R. and M. died long ago, shortly after we left that place. Almost fifty years ago and more than fifty miles away.

A few days later I was on my way to attend an arty thing and saw neighbor Bob. In our conversation, Bob mentioned an artist he knew.
"Wait: What did you say his name is?"
Bob repeated the artist's name, the name of the man who'd married the Ds' daughter.
"What does he look like?"
Bob described the man.
"I know him! He was married to our neighbor's daughter!"
I do not expect to meet the man again and he would not remember me if I did. I barely existed for him even when he knew my family. Hearing his name, though, at just that time, so shortly after my contemplation of The Head and those younger days,
I felt myself caught in a wave curl of time.

When I began this blog I was in a state of feeling overtaken by a creative urge. I thought of late 2008- early 2009 as My Year Of Creativity.
I'm taking this juxtaposition of time and memory and events to be A Sign that My Year continues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I used to leave my keys in the car overnight. It saved having to dig for them in my purse. And then there came the day that the car locked itself with the keys inside. Husband and I used a pry bar and a chisel to open the corner of the door enough that he could stick a wooden dowel down to the lock button and release it. I began to keep my keys in my purse. It isn't a big purse, but whether it's the weight of the keys or my general rummaging, the keys never are where I expect them to be. I head for the door, think "keys," stop, dig around, go back to the kitchen counter to put down everything in my hands and dig like a maddened squirrel until I find the things. I'm likely to remove items (wallet, checkbook) in order to plumb the depths, and to go on my way, keys in hand, funds on the counter.

Now that the weather's cold overnight and the car's in the barn on a regular basis, I've taken to leaving the car window open and the keys in the cupholder. So handy, and if the car decides to lock itself I can reach in, punch that button, and thwart the vehicle's efforts to keep me out.

As the weather gets even colder I won't want the bitter damp winter wind permeating the upholstery. I might take to throwing the keys on the floor of the barn. I just hate having to dig around for those keys. Every single time I do it, I think maybe this time they've been swallowed up into a fourth dimension and I'll never be able to get into the car or the office again.

Then I would have to stay home all the time.


Maybe I have something there.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Stills: The letter C


Cartography in ice


See more C's: Click here: Sunday Stills

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

All we have to fear is . . . what?

Last Saturday afternoon, my friend came out from her town neighborhood home thirty minutes away. We walked the dogs around the fields and ate some beef stew with crusty bread and enjoyed the fire in the woodstove and then she packed up her dog and her walking stick and headed out. Not a minute after she'd left, she phoned me to tell me there was a man coming into my driveway as she'd turned out, "...in a white truck. Are you expecting somebody? Do you know him? He was alone..."
No, I wasn't expecting anybody.
"He's here knocking at the door now," I said. "I have to go see who it is."
"Are you okay? Will you be all right?" she asked in a quavery voice.
"Oh, sure, I'm fine," I said, and we disconnected.
The man was campaigning for local office and we had a nice front porch talk about this and that before he went on his way.

Neighbor Bob dropped in Sunday evening to see Husband. Since Husband is out of town for several days, Bob settled for chatting with me. During our conversation, he asked me how I liked living here.
"I love it," I said.
"You don't get scared . . . of the dark? It isn't too quiet?"
"Not one little bit."
He chuckled, satisfied with that answer. We're still the new kids on the block, having been up here on the hill for only twelve years, and I guess he thinks he still needs to take our temperature on things like that.
I told him about my friend's concern, and could hardly find words to express my confusion over her fright on my behalf.

When we built this house with its full glass doors, my sister muttered that she liked a good solid door between her and "the bad people."
"What bad people?" I cried.
I never liked drop-in company even when we lived in populated areas because usually I'm happy doing whatever I'm doing, but I don't recall being afraid of people who might come to the door.

One evening, a few years later, I sat in my kitchen with my sister. The refrigerator kicked on, breaking the silence, and she jumped, her eyes out on stalks. "It sounds like a jet taking off!" she gasped.

My town friend keeps her shades closed and her doors locked at all times. When we walk out here in the wide open she carries her walking stick to fend off attacks by the odd rabid raccoon. I have my doubts about the efficacy of a walking stick in such a circumstance, and to my knowledge I have never seen a rabid anything here. Her stick is a comfort to her though, and that's fine.

I have shades on the windows for keeping out heat and cold, and they're open most of the time to let in the view. If somebody's down in the dark field peeking in my lighted windows at me, I guess that's his misfortune.

Last summer I rhapsodized to that friend about the sensual beauty of a midnight walk Husband and I had taken.
"You would not have enjoyed that," I laughed.
"I would have wanted to enjoy it," she said wistfully.

I have lived where it doesn't get dark or quiet at night and where the sounds of passing cars and boomboxes and crotchrockets never stop. I have lived where hardly a night would go by without my hearing an ambulance's or a firehouse's siren. I have walked city streets from work to my car and seen city cops cross my path on the run after some miscreant. I've been awakened at three in the morning by the red/blue/white!/red/blue/white! flash of police cars parked on the street while the officers took care of traffic stops or whatever business brought them there. I did not feel safe. I felt annoyed.

I know there are people who like lights all around them at night, and the knowledge that there is always someone within screaming distance. And I know there are other people like me whose constitutions settle better when it gets dark at night, and stays quiet most of the time and always at night. When I lived surrounded by people, a couple of times I had occasion to scream at night, and nobody ever came running to save me. Apparently a good loud scream is enough to scare off most evildoers anyway, and the ones that didn't go right away . . . eventually did go.

Dark is only dark when there is a light nearby to prevent my eyes' adjustment. Every night I turn off the outside lights before the dogs and I wander around the yard during Last Time Out. With the lights on I can't see into the darkness. With the porch lights off, I have adequate illumination to see where I'm going. If I hear a rustle I might think "skunk" or "opossum." If I hear a coyote howl, I am likely to join the dogs in a howl right back.

I've been shaking my head over all this fear of the wilderness since Sunday night. I have never been afraid of the dark or of too much quiet.
There are things that scare me, but they rarely come out of a country night or down a country driveway.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Remembering Nana

Yesterday I was thinking about my father's mother.
Specifically, I was remembering a moment from an after-supper evening when I was seven years old. It is a memory I take out and handle rather frequently. Dad had driven the red International pickup down to the village and brought Nana from her house to visit for the day, and Mom, Dad, my sister, Nana and I were sitting on the front porch of the family farmhouse. Her grandfather had built the house and the many outbuildings more than fifty years before she was born.

I remember her gazing off into the distance during a lull in the lazy conversation and I remember wondering then what her thoughts were. She wore a day dress, and her usual black oxfords with heels, her opaque-stockinged legs stretched out across the front edge of the porch; her ankles were crossed, and her back relaxed against a porch post. Her arthritis-gnarled hands, the fingertips all bent to one side (watching her mix pie crust dough, I always thought her fingertips were angled perfectly for the task), were folded in her lap. I can picture her face and her contemplative expression. Her eyes were soft and slightly squinted, her lips not quite a smile.

When that memory came to my mind yesterday, I was sitting outdoors, looking off into the distance. I was admiring the late sun's sparkle on the grass, and the way the incessant gentle wind moved the grass blades and set them twinkling. I was thinking about how the hills across the valley look just the way they did four hundred years ago and how comforted I am by that knowledge. And I was thinking that I was glad the dogs had eaten their suppers without a lot of discord, and how good the sun felt and how if the breeze picked up much more I would have to go inside.

I have, somewhere, 1905 photos of nineteen-year-old Louise, long before she was Nana, dressed in a long white summer dress, standing, side to the camera, in the kitchen dooryard of her grandparents' Elm Row Farm. She is looking down at something in her hands; she is slender and graceful and pretty. Near her in those pictures are her grandfather and, seen dimly, filtered through a screendoor, her grandmother. The bound girl is in the pictures too, also dressed in a long white dress, looking as calla lily-like as Louise. There's no handwritten label other than "1905"on the back of the snapshots, and they appear to be of no particular occasion greater than, maybe, somebody's birthday gathering.

I still wonder what Nana might have been thinking that late-1950s evening.
Was she remembering how the Dutch elms had looked in their glory days before disease killed them?
Was she reliving the walk down the hill from her parents' house to visit her mother's father and mother?
Was she admiring the sparkle of the sun on the grass and sensing the country breeze, same as the breeze against her cheek fifty years before?

And I wonder why the question still rises in my mind. I wonder what about that day, that evening, that moment, opened a slot in my memory and allowed that image and that question to drop in and stay.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Stills, the next challenge: Photoshop

I have spent a couple of hours this morning playing in Photoshop, and this is my best effort:
A Poison Green Fern Frond.

I would not have been able to even begin without WOLL's instructions.
I'm thinkin' maybe a trip to the other side of the world, for personal instruction, is in order.

Click here and follow the respondents' links to see others' far better efforts at digital photo SFX.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Abe Lincoln has this June bride on his My Canon Photography blog. She's a homely little thing with her Mohawk feather-do. The photo leads my mind to the following thoughts.

One year I noticed a blue jay that I thought was dying of some terrible disease; his head was nearly bald. He looked a little creepy, a tiny blue turkey vulture. I finally asked a birder friend what he thought might be wrong with the bird, and he enlightened me that second-year birds molt and look like that until the new feathers grow in. I was reassured and stopped feeling sorry for him; he was going through his uncomfortable adolescent stage; happens to everybody.

Several times since last spring I have seen a wild hen turkey and her chicks. Usually we cross paths while we're all traveling down my little country road. Lately I have been seeing the brood at the top of the driveway field. I'm sure it's the same group. There are eight of them, all but one not quite full size, and the seven clearly follow the biggest one's lead on where they should go and the necessary degree of urgency. Last Friday after work as I entered the driveway, I was happy to see my flock. Like all animals that travel in groups, they appear as one mass when they're moving. I slowed the car and finally stopped so I could count their heads as they strutted and bobbed a hundred feet away, parallel to me, next to the treeline. They were not noticeably afraid, but cautiously aware of me, and as I watched, each bird just melted into the low growth at the edge of the field. One by one, they were there . . then beginning to blend with the greenery, losing their turkey shapes . . .and finally, poof! out of sight. Impossible to identify the moments at which each one became invisible.

From a distance wild turkeys look simply brown. Up close their feathers are iridescent: bronze; green; russet. I know that only because a friend stopped by a few years ago, flush with his excitement at having shot one. He had the corpse in the bed of his truck and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the subtle coloration and the silky softness of the feathers.

When Husband was a little boy, his father found a crow baby and raised it. The crow bonded with my father-in-law, would wait at the top of a telephone pole near the house in the evenings, calling, until the truck arrived, then swoop down to sit on Bill's shoulder. He would groom his human's head, hair by hair, and pick cigarettes out of the pack in Bill's pocket. Husband says that as the crow grew more mature, he would fly away for short periods of time and come back a little roughed up. He wasn't part of a flock, and as an outsider he apparently suffered some discourteous treatment. The day came, of course, that the crow didn't return.

I am once again beginning to see trios of crows. Groups of three crows are apparently a commonly observed phenomenon. I have read a couple of explanations for it. One story is that a daughter from the last brood hangs around through the next breeding season to help mom and pop. Another one that I like better is that crow families trade offspring to other parents, so the young ones will learn how to act. Sort of a boarding school for adolescent crows.

Good plan.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Stills: Happiness

What makes me happy? Sunsets.
Each one different, each one's breathtaking beauty growing, by the minute, by the second, beyond expectation. Each evening is like Christmas morning in reverse, the day wrapping up in ever-brightening packaging.

...then peacefully fading away slowly, slowly, to mauve and gray and indigo.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Full moon thoughts

Tomorrow morning at 2:10 the Harvest Moon will occur. It's an Aries moon, I read, which encourages living in the moment, not worrying over outcomes. Perfect. The moon is my ruling sign, astrologically speaking. I'm going to take all of that to mean it will be a good weekend for me.

I borrowed this picture from beliefnet

It is beautiful day. The sun has broken through and dissipated the thick fog of early morning, and it is a moist mild Fall day. Having the windows open again is a joy after only a few days of woodstove heating. I feel mini-Spring like.

It has been a great week.
A coworker told me, "Jane does depend on you." Up to that point, I had thought I had done nothing right for Jane since January. I feel comfortable with being depended upon; I slipped into that role (once I knew it was mine) as into an old shoe. If I am dependable, that must mean I know how to do this stuff: and I did, calmly and comfortably, all week. I know that means I'm still looking to others to tell me what to think about myself, but given enough time, I seem always to gain that reputation. Maybe in another twenty years, or when I'm dead, whichever comes first, I'll begin to see myself that way without external encouragement.

It is a beautiful world and Life is good.

Yesterday I happily told somebody, "I am ready to die."
He looked at me with some alarm. After I explained myself, it became clear (to both of us, my not having hitherto closely examined that feeling) that I am completely at peace with Life and my place in it. So far as I know, I shall go on for years to come, and that's fine with me too, but if God were going to ZOT me, He could do it now, and I would go with no regrets.

Such are the thoughts that come to me at full moon time.

Weekend Wordsmith suggested "Moon" as this week's prompt. Thanks, WW. I felt like writing something but had no idea what, and this worked for me.