Why It Matters…..

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed.  If people all over the world would do this…it would change the earth.”    William Faulkner

IMG_5811The emotionally exhaustive pandemic has taken a step back as we ricochet to the streets of America.

Breathless, I watched in horror as active-duty police, in heavily protective garb, without warning, discharged rubber bullets containing traces of tear gas….shoved to the ground, manhandled, and whacked with bats peacefully protesting American citizens with hands raised, walking backward.

I shouted obscenities at the thugs on my television screen.

Enraged and distraught to the point of tears, I helplessly observed the brutal behavior abhorred in the streets of vicious dictatorships happening in real-time across from the House of the people, staged to provide a passageway for a blasphemous photo op.

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Thousands of peaceful protesters marched by our home two nights ago. The photos in this blog were from that evening.  The writing in chalk from the sidewalk outside our condo building.

We stood on our street corner as the protestors passed.  Determined, energized, carrying signs, shouting slogans….were religious leaders wearing vestments in accordance with their beliefs, a multitude of young men and women, black and white, a few gray-haired seniors…the majority wearing masks, dressed in black as a display of unity.

We spoke with several marchers who were engaging, extremely friendly.  One offered us hand sanitizing lotion.

I noted a tall, handsome black man carrying his young son on broad shoulders.  Three college-age white women directed traffic along with a few young black women, in that moment sharing a sisterhood of support.  One came near us to put her empty cup in the trash and said ‘hello’ through her mask with smiling eyes.

In my heart, I marched in solidarity with them.

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There was a time when I was not attuned to my white privilege.

I was young.  It was easy to shelter in a bubble of ignorance and disinterest.  If it wasn’t personal, didn’t impact me, it wasn’t important.

My awareness evolved over time with exposure to and then embracing difference.

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My first job of any import was as assistant to the Director of the Center for Human Relations at Holy Cross College.  My boss….a kind and gentle African American man from Indianapolis, well-liked and respected by the population we served… welcomed twenty new scholastic additions, brilliant young men of color, to the all-male, nearly all-white Catholic college in the fall of 1968.

Following the murder of Martin Luther King, a professor of theology at Holy Cross, Reverend John Brooks, recruited these exceptional students, based on their potential to succeed if given the opportunity, graduates of high schools up and down the east coast, some from the most underprivileged sectors of our country.

As noted in the book, “Fraternity”, by Diane Brady, a book I highly recommend you read, she notes, “Father Brooks had been aware of racism all of his life, and yet, he realized, for too long he hadn’t done enough to address it.  He felt talk was meaningless if nothing changed, and once a person was aware of a problem, it was his or her moral and spiritual responsibility to solve it.”

I agree.

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I became closely connected to many of these young men, most near to my age at that time, several later attending my wedding, some of whom went on to become well-known leaders and iconic individuals: a Pulitzer Prize winner for literature,  a star receiver for the undefeated Miami Dolphins, one of the nation’s most successful defense attorneys, a Supreme Court Justice, and as Brady points out in her book, “others that went on to become stars in their fields as well,”….doctors, lawyers, dentists, corporate executives, business owners, etc.  The vision of Father Brooks made possible what would have been impossible for these exceptional young men.  An opportunity still not afforded many young, black students who reside in poor districts lacking funds for education.

It was 1970. During this period of time, the College experienced unrest. The Black Student Union was formed to express a range of demands for improving conditions on campus. My first experience with protest happened as the BSU occupied several buildings on campus, including the Administration building housing the top officials, remaining until they felt heard and promised appropriate changes on campus.

At one point in the conflict, I was the “voice” and conduit between the students of color and the local and national media who were following this protest.  A role I felt honored to fulfill as these were my friends, I believed their requests were just, and I supported them wholeheartedly.  In the thick of this peaceful demand for change, I learned the importance and effectiveness of protest and gained a better understanding of what it means to be Black in this country.

After leaving Holy Cross, I worked with a Black woman at Worcester State College. Louise and I became close friends as well as colleagues.  When I moved to Maine, we retained that relationship through letters, and while cleaning out a closet recently and reading them again,  I was reminded of the conversations we had about race, inequality, the hope for change.

That was almost 50 years ago.

And here we are again.

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Prior to my work at Holy Cross and Worcester State, I had little to no exposure to difference.

I grew up in a small, blue-collar town, a population of about 2,000 in west-central Massachusetts. There were only two young persons in town who were persons of color….Ron, a biracial boy who was in my class, and his younger sister.  Their father, a Black man, was the local photographer who took portraits of my then-infant son, John. Their Mom was white.

I wonder now what life was like for Ron and his sister…no one in the entire town looked like them.  Being young myself, I never thought to ask.  It must not have been easy.

My eight-year-old, biracial great-niece, Jaedyn, who I adore to the depths of my soul….bright, beautiful, with a delicate heart recently penetrated with sorrow by a television ad soliciting money to save the polar bears….lives and goes to school in my hometown.  I know, she too is in the minority like Ron and his sister were.  I ache, worry, deeply concerned, wondering if she will be included by her peers, will she be subject to racial slurs…or worse.  I cannot bear the thought.

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My best friend is married to a man of color…they have a biracial son, Nick, and granddaughter, Kyra.  Our families are totally entwined.  Leslie and I have mothered each other’s sons. I know Greg has given him the “talk”.  I want to protect Nick and his new family and have them never live in fear.  I will do all I can to make it so.

It is personal for me, this movement for change.  I marched for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and were there not a pandemic, I would again be in the streets…for Nick, for Jaedyn, and every single child of color in our great country.

I implore you to join me.

Write to your city or town manager or mayor, your Congressmen and women, your local police chief, your President. Join the political campaign of someone who shares your values and beliefs. If you are white, educate yourself on privilege. Speak out whenever you can in support of change and diversity. Make donations to organizations like Black Lives Matter. March in the streets. VOTE!

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Every cell in my body is screaming for change….is crying out for equality and justice…is begging to live in peace and harmony.

Will you join me?  Please.

 

Woke….

“The comeback is always stronger than the setback…..”  Dr. Jill Murray

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Time hangs.  Suspended.  Useless.

Weeks pass by….become months.

There is nowhere to go.  No one to meet.  No place to be.

The ‘new normal’ they say, seems quite ‘abnormal’ to me.

I am, tho, in my better moments, aware of an awakening, acutely attuned to an exaggeration of loss or longing, with intermittent fear, and boredom, mixed with breathtaking beauty followed by jolting grief.   Moving through a sense of enormous appreciation to annoying irritability, with a rapid switch back to embracing wonder and profound gratitude…..has now become the norm.  Blissfully calm, at peace one moment, on edge the next….up, then down.  Thankful to string two days of centeredness together.

Can you relate?

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My better self recognizes this time as an endowment to utilize in any fashion I choose.  This imposed pause, an opportunity.

Life, I am learning, is rich in its simplicity. Like opting to spend a bright, but chilly April afternoon peeling and chopping vegetables for a thick, creamy butternut squash soup.  The fragrance of sauteed garlic, onion, mixed with the poetic sound of tender piano tunes, filling my home.  For a pre-dinner, two-person cocktail hour, I create a red pepper dip and organize ingredients to prepare a freshly concocted whipped delight: heavy cream, several heaping teaspoons of sugar, a dash each of almond and vanilla extract, to top our dessert.

Beater in hand, I am instantly drawn to a memory of my Mom in our small home, in her even smaller kitchen, standing at a narrow counter.  Eleanora made her luscious whipped cream with these same ingredients.  Always from scratch.  No aerosol cans for my mother.  As my mind slipped deeper into the image,  I literally felt her standing aside me, hand gripping mine.  In slow, circular motion, together we whipped until the liquid formed stiff peaks.

I wept.

I missed her, deeply, at that moment.  Remembered her in vivid detail.

When was the last time I allowed my Mom inside, spent moments together?  Always too busy.  Always something more to do.  Something more important.  What a gift to be present enough to allow her in.

On a recent grocery trip to a local farm, we followed what has become the standard protocol of placing the order by phone, providing a credit card number.   Driving close to the farm entrance, we text that we have arrived, greeted by a masked and gloved someone who smiles with her eyes as she places the order inside the opened hatchback, as quick mask-muffled hellos and thank yous are exchanged.  On the ride home, unusually quiet, Dennis sensed a shift in me and asked how I was doing.

I paused and took inventory. “It depends on the moment,” I responded.

What had been a “depending on the day” experience during the first few weeks of the quarantine had evolved, mostly from the fatigue of atrocious pandemic updates, to an onslaught of multiple emotions brimming at once, shifting in nanoseconds, clogging my heart and soul.

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Dennis and I are indeed fortunate to share our lives together during this pandemic, have the ability to Zoom with family and friends on a regular basis, yet I feel isolated in my soul.  I am inundated, swimming in loss.  From the mundane missing of moving without concern through Whole Foods or the local pharmacy….to the soul injury that accompanies the inability to hug my children or embrace a dear friend.

I ache, deeply, for persons dying alone and for those who love them mourning alone.  Imagining myself in either situation is beyond comprehension.

From the depth of that darkness of feeling rises an enormous appreciation for every single being who touches my life and the lives of those who matter to me.  The grocery store clerk who every day runs the risk of developing the virus, as well as the truck driver who has delivered goods to my local supermarket; the family and friends who are healthcare workers and care providers, teachers;  my dentist who performed an emergency procedure, just he and I in his otherwise empty office space; friends who offered masks; my son who brought from Boston paper towels, toilet paper and kleenex that we would have otherwise been without.

We have uncovered artistry and found unimaginable charm and beauty on our almost daily walks.  My boredom is lessened with a visit to the enchanting Scarborough Marshes, the Baxter Woods in the center of Portland, the historic and peaceful Evergreen Cemetery, the magnificent Eastern Promenade overlooking Portland Harbor, the nooks and crannies of the Harbor piers, the profoundly beautiful Willard Beach with views of Portland Headlight in South Portland.  Each location, free of motorized vehicles and human beings, plus the afforded luxury of time, extend the allure of enchantment as we escape our four walls and breathe the outside air.

Living in a condo, in a city, we have been challenged to navigate our shared space, forced to develop new skills when we hit a bump.  We have never laughed so hard together or dug deeper into the tangled web of creating intimacy.  We avoid the hard talk of “what if one of us gets sick?”  We’ve been a comfort to the other when needed and have moments when, especially as introverts, miss our time alone.

I hear from many of you that your life pretty much reflects ours.  You are on this turbulent ride with us.  You are cautious, at times frightened, but like us, becoming keenly aware of your incredible resiliency.

What makes this fractured, unprecedented moment in time tolerable, is knowing we are sharing this experience together, that I can touch you, albeit virtually, and trust the magnanimity of our collective human spirit will lift us to the other side.

Stay safe ’til then.

 

Love Lessons Learned….

“We are all in this together”…..

Beginning to sound cliche…but it rings true.  Life, as we are accustomed to, dramatically changed overnight.

In a mere moment, we were catapulted to a new normal.

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Sitting here at my keyboard in Portland, Maine, it is raining outside.  There is nowhere to be, nowhere to go.  A nudge to my spirit, it is time to go deeper.

Soulful piano music softly fills the room.  My attempt to center, ground and soothe.

The city outside my window is unfamiliar with its empty streets, shuttered hotels, and restaurants.  Ordinarily bustling Exchange Street, the home of Holy Donut, designer clothing shops, coffee hangouts…would be teeming with visitors from out of state and all over the world,  scurrying from shop to shop…now weirdly, almost unnervingly quiet.

We are passing the time, as much of you…creatively finding ways to connect with others through Facetime and Zoom, keeping the incessantly horrific news at bay by meditating, reading, or tackling the ‘when I have time’ projects.  Cooking, sanitizing, walking outside when we can…but with caution.

Some of us are still working…our new heroines and heroes…medical staff, grocery store clerks, police, firefighters, garbage collectors, food distributors, pharmacy staff and many more… literally on the battlefield of this pandemic in service to the rest of us.

Our champions!  Warriors!  Superheroes!

These times are unfamiliar.  Knit together, inching our way toward understanding and resolution, we follow the guidelines and maintain physical distance from one another…we remain isolated in our separate abodes. IMG_5700

Yet in this collective confinement, we are demonstrating love.

Love for one another, for humankind.

The expression of that love is clearly apparent as it comes at us in many forms, all directions:  from the front-line workers, to the executives of large corporations.;  from friends, neighbors, even strangers;   the poor among us to millionaires donating to the cause;  from each one of us….street to street, city to city, country to country.

We have unearthed the gentleness and generosity that was within us all along.

We have released our concerns about ‘difference’,  genuinely embracing one another with appreciation and respect regardless of race, creed, religion, color, sexual orientation, age, gender.

Our huge planet now small, now one.

On our strolls around the city, the stillness allows bird songs to permeate the air,  penetrate the angst.

Five or six mockingbirds sing from brambled bushes that line the path along Portland Harbor…demonstrating a kindred association with fellow birds by mimicking their calls.

They do not discriminate.

They choose to embrace the distinct sounds of all, projecting the glorious melodies of each one.

Perhaps a gift evolving from our shared dilemma is recognizing we are gloriously different, yet the same…each with a ‘song’ to share that brings beauty to our world.

I have written a poem dedicated to my feathered friend….

 

“The Mockingbird”

 

A whirling planet paused.

Sputtered, 

halted,

to a dead

stop.

 

The people.

Every one.  Everywhere.

slowed their

pace.

 

Gathered as one

to love

from a distance,

 

Honored a space

created 

to heal.

 

Awareness

awakened,

each acknowledged the bounty received

when collectively they 

hushed

in unison

 

Giving thankful prayer,

in gratitude for,

the countless,

wonderous,

melodious songs 

of the 

mockingbird.

 

Be Safe. Stay Healthy.  Peace.

 

 

Pandemic Protocol…. Distancing When What We Seek is Connection

                  “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”  Christopher Reeves

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I’m afraid.

This last week has put me on edge.  At times, almost over the edge.

I’m consuming hours of television broadcasts that make my fears and anxiety rise exponentially with each ‘breaking news’ story.

Can anyone stop this virus?  

Will we have answers soon?

Will our food run out?  

Is it safe to go to a grocery store…especially those of us over 60?

Who do we trust…with our very lives?  

Do we have the right leaders in place to guide us through this crisis?  

Is this a short-term concern….or weeks…or months?

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Guessing I am not alone in asking these questions.

These crucial, critical, frightening questions.

We are, in unison, seeking accurate information as we simultaneously desire to detach from the horror gripping our planet.

We attempt to normalize things.

We dare to venture outdoors….take a walk, feel the sun on our face, breathe the outside air….but when passing others on the street, we hold our breath, we are cautious, maintaining distance.  At least 6 feet, we are told.

We wear colorful surgical gloves rushing through a store pushing our carts.

I spy someone wearing a mask…nose and mouth covered in thin fabric… wondering if he or she is sick….or are they attempting to protect themselves….from me.

We sit, isolated, in the confines of our apartments, houses, condos, villages, towns, cities, States….physically separate from one another….when what we deeply desire right now is companionship, community, contact.
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We need connection in this imposed time of isolation.

Fortunately, we live in a time when relating can occur via electronic devices.

We Facetimed with our friends Leslie and Greg, and with our son Jeremy and his fiance, Danielle last night in West Palm Beach.  We shared our virus concerns, but also caught up on the positive news of each other’s lives, even laughed a little.  We did the same with our son John yesterday, returning home to Boston from a virus-shortened vacation in Key West….again, sharing in the moments he experienced while traveling with his friend, Jason….a sunset sail, a wine tasting….those special moments that for now are on hold.

Today,  John sent photos of a deserted, empty market….stunning pictures of sparsity in the land of milk and honey.  But tucked into and peeking from his purchases….a bouquet of flowers.

Hope.

I share John’s idealism and optimism.

There are gifts to be gained, lessons to be learned.

I know it…I have seen and felt them.Unknown

We just returned from Florida.  The first stop on our way to St. John’s for a three-week vacation…that was not to be.  We returned home on a packed flight Sunday night to an empty refrigerator since our plan was for five consecutive weeks away….to a large box filled with paper towels, toilet paper, and Lysol spray greeting us as we walked through the door of our condo…courtesy of loving, sweet neighbors.

Friends are reaching out….more than usual….in texts, emails.  My friend, Paula and I, had a lovely, intimate conversation, face to face, on a site called doxy.me.

Facebook posts are sharing uplifting poems, or quotes that unite us or renew our warrior spirit.

The world may heal from this pandemic.

I understand from what I have read that the slow down in production has resulted in clean air over China; Venice supposedly has fish swimming again in its canals; the massive, polluting cruise ships are docked, saving our oceans for the time being.

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Borders between states, countries, are flimsy at best.  Regardless of the language you speak, your gender, your ethnicity, your beliefs, your politics, the color of your skin….we are ONE facing this crisis.

And….my own personal gifts and lessons are evolving.

Forced to pause and slow down to a snail’s pace…I am awake, aware.  My senses are keen.  My emotions heightened.  My internal experiences sharpened.

I realize, even in this unusual situation, I do have some control.

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I can turn off the television….I can listen to music.

Music is transforming for me….happily consumed by the sounds, words….I become one with the melody and the moment.  As I type this, Janis is singing “Bobby McGee” on my Sonos system.  “Dust in the Wind” came on next…apropos for our shared situation. I played air guitar to “The Sultans of Swing” about an hour ago….and looked at my husband, Dennis, with a deep sense of love and devotion as I sang along with John Legend,  to “All of Me”.  We danced together in our living room to Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”.

Last night, we became absorbed in a movie….for over two hours….forgetting the strange enemy that lurks outside.

I have oodles of time to do what I love to do….write, read.  Dennis wants to teach me how to play chess.  I can finally address the 18,000 photos on my computer.  I am meditating again, without fighting the urge to step into a busy life.

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I have moments when I ponder the possibility of a higher power orchestrating all this….compelling mankind to wake up!

Are we, perhaps, in a cosmic, spiritual learning curve….engaging our collective human spirit and soul as we reject the enormous importance we have placed on material things?  Will we lessen our quest for greed and tune into the seriousness of saving our planet?  Is it possible that we will maintain this slower, healthier pace once the chaos dissipates?

Is this that once in a lifetime opportunity to appreciate and embrace our differences and realize we are all in this thing called ‘life’…. together?

We are learning.

I am optimistic.

I have hope.

 

 

 

 

 

Stumbling and Shuffling (literally)…. into the Next Decade

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Let’s begin with what is most important first:

I changed the subtitle of my blog, “Musing with Margaret: Approaching seventy with hair…and soul…on fire.”

I am no longer “approaching” seventy.

I  am seventy!  Wow!

Now approaching eighty!  Quite amazing to me.

As difficult as that number was to absorb, own and embrace….what trumped that realization is how I arrived at the milestone….not exactly with “hair and soul on fire”….it was more a limping, hopping, humbling experience.

I celebrated my birthday from a wheelchair, unable to walk on my own due to surgery on an ankle, fractured in two places, the result of a fainting experience connected to a preliminary diagnosis that is longer than my first/middle/last/and maiden name combined: Chronic Autoimmune Urticaria and Angioedema Syndrome.

The good news is the dozens of specialist appointments, tests, procedures, etc.,  researching the cause, resulted in a clean bill of health for the vital parts: my brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, etc., all in excellent condition.  The cardiologist exclaimed my two-week stint on a monitor revealed my heart was “boringly healthy”.

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The not so pleasant result is this is a rare condition, connected to overproduction of mast cells (don’t feel bad, I didn’t know what a mast cell was either before this happened), incurable, but generally treatable with large doses of antihistamines and a low-histamine “food-deprived diet” (no chocolate, cheese, most fruits, tomatoes, avocadoes, alcohol…yes, goodbye cosmos…shellfish, and other various delicious things that I love).

Add to the mix…a radiology callback (I know all my women friends can relate to the concern that comes with ‘that’ phone call) because something was “seen” on a routine mammogram….plus an infected cyst on my back that required three-rounds of antibiotic….and surgery.images-3

If nothing else, my 70th birthday will be one of the more memorable.

On the positive side of this life-changing, frighteningly horrible diagnosis (the episodes associated with this disorder affect all bodily functions, come on suddenly, drop my blood pressure to the floor, are painful and overwhelming and have a component of anaphylaxis shock….I now have an EpiPen snuggling up to my lipstick in my bag)…have been the gifts:  the insights, the acknowledgments, the awareness, the gratefulness, the quite humbling life-learnings.

So…what have I learned?

….That navigating life with a disability is not for the faint-hearted.  Luckily we live in a condo that does not require stairs for access.  We utilize an elevator to our fourth-floor space, with a one-floor design.  But….whenever I traveled outside my safe space, our home, there was a constant concern when needing to enter a new building in a wheelchair:  Will it be ‘handicapped-accessible’?  Will there be an accessible restroom?

There was a consistent worry when approaching a sidewalk or a building lacking a ramp about how I would maneuver over that short, four or five-inch barrier, unable to put any weight on my right foot for eight weeks!

And, from that chair, when in public, I was often ignored or became the focus of curiosity with an odd look from strangers.  I experienced in social situations an alienation…relegated to where there was room for a chair, often at a distance or at a lower height than everyone else.  It was often a lonely, isolating experience.

Through my own experience and learning process, I have developed the utmost empathy and appreciation for those who lack the option to recover from a temporary disability… those who must experience life continually from a wheelchair or crutches.

I have learned:

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….That family and friends who offer their help and assistance are truly angels on earth.  This is no exaggeration.  Whether coming to visit individually, in pairs, at times in groups with as many as five or six….cooking, cleaning, running errands, fluffing my pillow, bringing medical equipment and supplies/dinners/flowers/books/gifts, visiting for hours/days/weeks, some taking flights to be by my side, driving me to medical appointments, carting my wheelchair or crutches or walker, massaging my ankle, changing bandages, assisting me in the shower; calling, texting or sending cards.

Angels. All friggin’ angels.Unknown

I learned:

…..That I take my health for granted; that I take my ability to easily navigate the world also for granted;  that life requires a constant adaptation to change, transition, loss;  that you don’t have to manage and carry your anxiety and fears alone;  that letting go of control brings calm and relief;  that holding gratitude for what you have, counting your blessings and remaining positive will increase your chances for the best outcome;  that having a life partner and sons and daughter-in-law that love and cherish you will get you through anything;  that life, even when facing a challenge, is amazingly PRECIOUS…

….and the persons you share life with…those that show up, demonstrate support, provide care for you and express their love for you….are the most cherished gifts you will ever receive.

Truth.

Slow Down….You Move Too Fast…..

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Yes….I do.

I move way too fast.  Constantly.

I hear an exasperated sigh…and realize it is mine.  I clench my teeth, or tighten my belly…hold my shoulders tense and rigid, mumble four-letter words under my breath.  I rush.  I drop.  I spill.  I forget why I walked into a room.  And ultimately, become annoyed with myself.

I am in a perpetual state of movement….self-imposed.  There is always someone to see, something to organize, something to clean, an event to attend, a call to make, an errand to run…..always something.

Can you relate?

I rarely slow down. But, occasionally, I purposefully focus on changing my busy-ness.  I have success for a while, perhaps a month or two, but am lulled unknowingly into moving again at a rapid pace.

But this week….I got back on track.

I slowed down.  On a lake.  With family.  And with friends.

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I woke every morning but one, around 5:00 am to witness the sun rise.  The daily, magical gift of first-light did not disappoint.

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Before the sun made its debut, the lake water was at rest, serene, smooth as a pane of glass, still as a potted plant, seemingly frozen, undisturbed.  The calming, soundless moments were pleasurably interrupted most mornings by loons….the woeful cry to one another from opposite ends of Great Pond, their trill and human-like yodel, added an interesting, albeit eerie, aspect to the daybreak.

The minutes prior to sunrise were magical and surreal.

I entered an other-worldly dimension, noting a light fog coating the perimeter of the lake, snaking its way through pines and oaks, dividing the base from the tops of trees in a ghostly, smoke-like swath of moisture.  Mystical color, lightly pastel in shades of bronze, orange and yellow, or violet, pink and blue hues…became vivid…intensifying as dawn approached and the portal opened.

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Suddenly….the tip of a brilliant orange orb appeared like a liquid mass, peeked above the trees lining the shore, hastily inching its way upward, becoming a perfect sphere.  A ray of light, radiating from a flaming globe, stretched slowly across the surface of the water,  as tho waking from a deep sleep.  The lake began to yawn, trees whispered with the slightest hint of breeze, and nature began to stir.  Schools of small baitfish frantically leaped out of the water like tiny frogs;  several clusters of gray-brown ducks swam by our dock, their webbed feet paddling quickly, just barely visible beneath the water’s surface, dipping their beaks gently into the lake, sipping the morning’s coolness.  An osprey, peeping enthusiastically, flapped its wings urgently, then swiftly dove into the gently moving waters, emerging with a breakfast of fresh fish.  An eagle soared overhead.  The loons continued to communicate in soft, short calls. Dragonflies, some electric-blue in color or with translucent, veined wings, landed softly on my forearm and shoulder.  As the sun rose higher into the sky, the lake rippled with a pleasing, rhythmic sound, and in gentle splashes, greeted the rocks lining the shore.

 

 

Such a treat….a symphony of delectable “good mornings.”  

So many delights to harvest when I slow down to savor the moment.

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I slowed my pace even further.  Every day at dawn, I meditated, for twenty minutes….eyes closed, sun warming my face, puffs of morning air glancing my cheeks, the sounds of wakefulness surrounding me.

 

 

I walked in the woods, reminded gleefully of the country surroundings of my childhood.

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I finished reading a book and started another.  I journaled.

And…I stayed in the moment.

I practiced balance…time alone…time with others.  Always present.

My son, Jeremy and his fiance’, Danielle, flew to join us from their new home in West Palm Beach.  John, our oldest, drove up from Boston.  We started the week in Camden excitedly checking out the venues and planning next year’s wedding.

The five of us were joined at the lake house during the week by friends of decades, some of just a few years, as young as 30, some in their 40’s…and others our age.  We went out to local restaurants for dinner, swam in the lake, sat by the campfire, made s’mores…and had a pot-luck supper, celebrating two birthdays with two cakes!

 

 

Conversations were filled with laughter or occasional low-toned seriousness as we caught up on each other’s lives.

The atmosphere a constant one of playfulness and connection.

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Throughout the week, I remained relaxed, engaged, aware and able to consciously breathe in the gratefulness.

Back home, although situated in the epicenter of the city of Portland…my plan is to remain centered….to meditate as often as I can, continue to make reading a priority, note when I am clenching, tightening and over-doing…. and of course….plan a return to my lakefront sanctuary.

Anyone want to join me?

 

Mothering….

“We are born of love;  love is our Mother”   …..Rumi

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We are diverse.

We are young, old, married, single.  We are widowed….and we are divorced.

We are lesbian….bi-sexual….transgender….and straight.

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We are stay-at-home, work-outside-the-home, work-in-the-home…Moms.

Ageless and timeless, energized and buoyant.

And….anxious, depressed, overwhelmed and angry.  Overworked…and at times under appreciated.

We are defiant.  We are fierce.  We are protective.

We are tough.

Also…. fragile, broken, damaged, confused….misunderstood, aggressive, outspoken….and silent.

We are faithful….and unfaithful.

We are concerned, afraid, worried and sad.

We’ve been lost.  We’ve been found.

We are warriors!

We are mothers…..and at any time in our lives we have been many or all of these ….multiple times….and will be again.

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We have given birth, we have adopted, we have step-parented.

We have mothered the children of our friends….of our sisters…..the children of our children….and each other.

We have loved mothering; we have struggled with mothering.  We had mothers who mothered well, and mothers who did not.

We planned to become mothers;  we became mothers before we were ready.

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We gave birth to children of a different race than our own….a different sexual orientation…. differently abled. images-1We marched for their freedom, we fought for their rights.

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We are feminine.

We are the nurturers…..the feelers…..the empaths.

We bring sensitivity, caring, compassion and tolerance to the world.

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We are adaptable, powerful, yet imperfect.

We…..are….courageous….and sometimes cowards.

We have roles.  Important roles.  Many roles.

We are teachers, mentors, nurses, cheerleaders, listeners, comforters, healers…often the breadwinners.

We are mothers.

The soul of the family system.  The center.  The heart.

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This is Mother’s Day weekend.

Some of us will celebrate with our own Moms.  Some, like me, will remember, with sentimental sadness, the Moms who have passed on.

Some will spend the day with their children, and some have children too far away.  Some, like me, will experience both.

Mother’s Day is a time when I think of all the women in my life who are mothers.

They fit all of the descriptions above….single Moms, divorced Moms, married Moms, widowed Moms,  Moms of biracial children, disabled children, gay kids, Stepmoms, Moms of children they have adopted, Moms who are lesbians, Moms who have tragically lost their children to death, Moms who are estranged from their children, Moms who are raising their grandchildren and Moms who have become grandmothers.

We are all different, yet very much the same.

As I write this,  I have images of many of you and the children you have raised and are raising.  I am in awe of you, appreciating, as I do for myself, the indescribable joy of mothering and the omnipresent worry that comes with the territory.

It is the role I cherish most and the greatest blessing of my life.

 

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John and Jeremy are my world.20080612_0231

 

 

 

To all of you who have mentored me as a Mom, have led by example, have shared with me every delicious…..and difficult….facet of mothering your kiddos….and have been a ‘mother’ to me when I have needed one….I thank you.

And I honor you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Pause…..

Pause:  to stop, cease, interrupt action, take a breath, respite, hiatus, interlude,  create breathing space, wait, hesitate…..rest…

 

I am not good at this.  I want to be.  But I am not.

Sometimes I am robotic.  Stuck in routine.

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Most days I wake up, work out, shower, have breakfast, perhaps some coffee….and then I am off and running….seeing clients, doing errands, cleaning, cooking, keeping appointments for hair, nails, skin or with an eye doctor, perhaps a PCP or dentist visit.  On a good day, I might meet a friend for lunch or a late day glass of wine or dinner.

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But to pause….to actually, consciously make space for those things I tell myself I want to do, promise myself I will do?  Those things I often neglect ….those things I push to the side….like meditating, reading, writing, journaling, even napping.  I tend to minimize their importance…. or allow the old tapes to play in my head…”work before play”, “there is way too much to be done”.

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I grew up in a pristine environment.  As the saying goes, you could eat off my Mom’s floors.  She was the cook and housekeeper and later in life also worked outside our home.  My memory is of her gardening, canning the vegetables she grew, baking bread and pastries from scratch, cleaning our home until it gleamed, ironing my Dad’s work shirts to perfection and cooking nearly every meal.  She rarely sat down….and neither do I.

As I start to seriously slow my work life, the option to ‘pause’ becomes more viable.  I look around and note that some of my women friends are actually devouring books and painting beautiful images on canvases or practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis.  They have incorporated ‘pause’ into their lives.  And through their example, and my desire to change, more recently, so have I.

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I vacationed the month of March on the island of St. John. Many warm days and precious moments were spent interacting with family and friends on boats, beaches and over sumptuous meals in funky island restaurants….but I also took the time to journal, to meditate, read and walk.

I watched fascinating cloud formations swim by overhead while lying on a chaise by the pool.  I talked with iguanas that hung from palm branches or sunned themselves on our entry stairs.  Several times, I engaged tiny tree frogs that sat motionless on the sun-baked tile outside our living room door and many mornings spoke to tiny yellow birds that graced the outdoor railing searching for crumbs from our dinner the night before on the deck.

I literally took time to “smell the roses” in the form of luscious red bougainvillea or delicate white and pink hibiscus blooms.

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I paused with nature to peer at deer in the brush, watched pelicans dive voraciously for their morning meal and observed dozens of hermit crabs traipsing around among the luscious greenery with someone else’s former home on their backs.  I paused to connect with gracious, gentle people traumatized by the hurricanes that devastated their island, listened to their stories and held one who cried in my arms.

More recently, we visited New York City for a few days, a place that challenges any sort of pausing.  Yet, instead of being consumed by the frenetic, indifferent, over-stimulating vibe of the city, I slowed myself down enough to admire the calming art deco and fiercely vibrant contemporary architecture and sat quietly among the exquisite flowering trees of Central Park.  I slowed enough to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the open doorway of a small French restaurant in the Village, as soft breezes touched my face.

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I also noted several times when the world paused in the last few weeks.

One afternoon I stopped, as many did, to watch Tiger Woods make comeback history in the game of golf and in personal redemption.  On the same day, I saw a young, brilliant, energetic and kind mayor from a small city speak.  I paused, hanging on each word like I once did listening to the oration of Robert and John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.  I watched with admiration this first “out” gay man announce his candidacy for President of the United States.

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As I practice this new concept of ceasing, delaying, taking a breath…I am aware of an internal evolution.  My instinct has been to minimize the importance of slowing down, of pausing, when in fact the opposite proves true.  When I make relaxation and conscious awareness a priority, I notice how my body, mind and spirit regenerate.  I feel refreshed and renewed.  I take time to reassess life, to balance, to experience gratitude.  I notice.  I breathe.  I am in the moment….present.

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The challenge, like staying on a diet or sticking to an exercise routine, will be to remain focused and consistent.  To notice when I am sighing or holding my breath.  To look up, not down.  To schedule time for what is fulfilling, enjoyable or relaxing into my calendar.  To make doing nothing as important and mandatory as checking off items on my to-do list or focusing on my career, returning emails or completing tasks.

I am committed to making a change.

My greatest challenge going forward?

To REMEMBER…. to just….pause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the Hell is the Brake?….


It is January.

The first month of the year….2019.

This year I will be 70 years old.

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I am in great company….so many of my friends and family will celebrate this milestone year with me.  Darel and Diane….and even my famous cousin, Steve Perry,  turned 70 today.  Jan was 70 just a few days ago.  Katrine, DeDe, Marsha, Penny, Pam, Sheila, Patty, JoAnn and so many other of us baby boomers will mark this seventh decade of life over the next twelve months.

I admit, I am relieved to not be alone.

I was texting my friend, Adriana, five years younger, that this one feels like a fairly profound birthday…..

“I’ll be curious to see if you have the same reaction when you ‘catch up’ to me.”

I went on to say….

“My 60’s have been fabulous!  That is….aside from the basic, but for some odd reason unanticipated side effects of aging….the deepening lines on my face, newly acquired aches that interrupt my sleep, skin growths and lumps and bumps I can’t quite accurately describe that appear out of nowhere, knees that no longer want to bend, and eyes that squint at the computer screen

….and then there is the unexpected and deliriously welcomed evolution of self-assuredness, the discovery of comfort in my own skin, the blissful clarity about what’s important and what can be let go of….and the immense gratitude and gratefulness for life itself…. the humble thankfulness that I have been given, so far, almost seventy years to exist on this planet.

At this age and stage of life, I am conscious of remaining present….being in the moment.  I catch myself when I stray…..either reminiscing on a regret or forging ahead with a worry.”

I am going to be seventy this year, there is no time for bullshit!

So with adoring eyes, I note the beauty and wonder of nature, finding awe in a moon that rises from the ocean near our home like a colossal, muted-white disc of Swiss cheese….or a sun that sets with orange/yellow brilliance painting its retreating path in purples, corals, striking pinks and subtle grays.

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The mating call of a cardinal, the delicate color of the dragon fly that lights on my forearm,  the distant haunting cry of a loon….all delight me….in ways they never have before.

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Friendships with women, always cherished, have now become essential and imperative.  I hold tremendous gratitude for their amazing authenticity and ability to be “raggedy” released with age from the need or desire for perfection or status.  We laugh in unison at the changes we continually discover in our bodies….the new found wrinkle in our neck, at our struggle to remember even the simplest fact…. and the hearty laughter that now has the effect of wetting our panties!

The decades develop in us a sage wisdom that expands and deepens as we mark each birthday.  We make friends with the truth and are unafraid to speak our mind.  Noticing an undeveloped aspect of ourselves, we may be moved to make improvement or perhaps just not give a shit….we tend to be more open and less judgmental, to truly not sweat the small stuff and embrace relationships that feed us….. and perhaps even make the difficult decision to let those go that do not.

And even in light of the gifts, so many glorious gifts, seventy, at least from this vantage point, feels, when I allow the thought, a little ominous.

I am struck with the brevity of life and the potential shorter road ahead with a steady increase in physical decline, the ultimate loss of persons I love, and the awareness of my own mortality.  As my friend Leslie and I have said….we don’t want to go out first (and miss the rest of the party)…. or last (and miss all of our friends)…. so we are hoping to bow out somewhere in the middle.

I am, however, open to being pleasantly surprised….hoping that I will embrace this next decade much as I have all those in the past.

I hear from almost every one of my friends born in 1949….we have been blessed!  We are the generation that asserted itself for equal rights….that spoke up and spoke out on issues of importance….that basked in the best of rock’n’roll….that experienced freedoms for women that our Moms could only dream of.  But as that date in November looms ahead on the horizon, I do find myself more contemplative about the mystery of life itself….and the ending none of us can escape.

When I prevail with ‘staying present’, these thoughts are fleeting and move through me quickly.

I focus instead on life.

Dennis and I will stop working this year and spend even more time with friends and family…traveling, relaxing, exploring sides of ourselves that have waited for the freedom to be found…Jeremy and Danielle have a wedding planned….we love where we live and we love how we live.

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So….I may not have much say about when….but dying, at least for now, will have to wait.

I have a birthday to celebrate!