The blank page is intimidating. The hollow compliment is confusing. The echo of doubt is disturbing. How can we follow a path with obstacles or contempt? Jealousy, ego and loathing can block good intentions. Mindfulness is the foundation that propels us. Picture it, and it will become. Outside voices are unnecessary, both good and bad. Go forward with guts and ignorance as your tools, not really knowing it can be done. Just believe fully with the heart of an innocent, and the strength of a bull.
I want to be a writer. I ask myself, “Why do I think I can do that?” Well, I have feelings, I have words, I have paper and I have passion. All necessary ingredients of a storyteller. Once upon a time, there was a girl who had her head in the clouds wanting to bring others along, describing a magical place, a place you want to go. My intense desire for people to smell, taste and feel what’s inside of me, comes out in the dark hours at my keyboard. Solitary hours, building prose that will hopefully relate to the reader. The sweet fragrance of an observer’s approval and acceptance; even occasional praise. But I’m not in it for a compliment. Thank you.
My imagination is fleeting from one situation to another. My attention span has never been solid. However, looking at my surroundings brings music, and I must sing. I have always seen things below the surface. The winter sky or the mysteries of a frozen lake. Have you really looked at the winter sky with the shining stars you can almost touch? Allow yourself to be enticed by a world of words, a place that I want to bring alive. Please come along with me.
The energy is exuding from my mind to my fingertips. I focus on the obvious in a way that hopefully makes you really see it. Reach down inside yourself and spill your experience into your own words. “I get that…I’ve been there” you may say. And that is what brings us together. A common feeling that we may not have known how to describe. I want to do that for you, do it for us.
I am an untuned instrument trying to make a sweet sound, dreaming, creating, and describing. My words are not profound. My thoughts are not prophetic. I just want to create a place for conversation. This blog will be my outlet for now, where you can visit as often as you like. A place to share a cup of coffee and read about your own life through another’s eyes. Writer or not, I have a lot to say. So, join me on my journey because a story isn’t just a story it can be a place called home.
The rough texture of the sun-soaked ice is deep shades of gray and white with small mounds of snow scattered, showing weeks of thawing, and freezing. The lake’s surface transforms by the day as the Spring approaches. Sometimes there is open water, then two days later its ice again, dashing my hopes of warmth. Bright baby-blue skies with a few dabs of clouds and majestic pines lining the solid shore creates a collage of brilliance. Long shadows and the bright glare bouncing off the lake can trick you into thinking it’s warm, as you gaze out the window. But the wind! Oh, the wind does not lie. It howls like a hungry wolf, hunting for its next prey. The trees shake angrily, and the one chair sits on the deck holding its ground until Spring.
It’s the coming end of Winter that brings promise. However, late one night, the weather people excitedly announce a coming storm, as my eyes and the season begin to fade. Tomorrow will be like a rebirth of a frigid December day. A rerun of a Winter’s day when you hoped for snow for the holidays. This time of year the alarm is futile, as the soft falling puffs are half melted before reaching the ground. If the snow sticks to the few spots of uncovered grass and mud, it will be short lived. In two days it may be warm. For now though, I’ll just imagine myself sitting by the fireplace, that we don’t have, thinking of Summer boat rides. Maybe I’ll start to make plans with friends who have been in seasonal hiding, barricaded in their homes. Because, if you dare have intentions in the dead of Winter, you’re an optimistic fool. I’ve learned, as a New Englander, to have a respectful fear of a volatile Mother Nature. Hopefully she is starting to calm now. Her last attack will be a roaring March storm with whipping winds to warn you she does not give up easily.
The beauty of Winter is undeniable. The lake transforms, blanketing the water with solid rock of cold intentions. It begs your eyes and mind to daydream. However, the dreadfully short days and long dark nights start to deplete my sanity. But, soon all the birds will come back to sing their songs. I will sit in the warm sun on the deck, in the lone deck chair that survived, staring at the twinkling ripples on the lake. It always seems strange to me that people marvel when the nice days come, they’ve been here before. The Spring always comes. She usually appears out of nowhere, as I pray the latest storm will usher away the Winter for good.
You think when you’re 21 that you will live forever. Life seemed simple, as you did anything you wanted. If you gained a little weight, all you’d have to do is skip a meal or two and the pounds disappeared. If you messed up, a simple sorry (not sorry) would be enough. You were still considered “a kid.” You went to work, did your job, and went out for the night, every night. At that age, you knew everything, and weren’t afraid to act like it. We thought people over forty were ancient, and our parents were relics, who knew absolutely nothing. Smoking seemed harmless with merely an afterthought, no matter what anyone said about it. And then there was drinking.
Nearly every time you saw your friends, which was most nights, you would be drinking. Being drunk was often a side-effect of the two ugly sister’s; anxiety and angst. Parties were planned at the drop of a hat, if planned at all. We wiped the slate clean using alcohol to erase anything ugly. We’d stop just in time to start a new day looking fabulous after 3 hours of sleep. We never thought there was any harm in overindulgence, wishing the nights would last forever. But the nights didn’t last forever. The years passed quickly, and those nights of destruction paid a toll on all of us. For some there were mild effects, enough to make you cut down or stop. For others, there were more serious consequences; DUIs, family and career issues and at the worst, self-loathing. Then, in a blink, we were fifty and alcohol-soaked relics. And then there was the liver.
No one saw it coming, except those who really cared. They could see that he was poisoning himself, one sip at a time. Long ago were the days of not caring. He was loving, devoted and hard-working; a superhero, and everybody loved him. He was an intelligent conversationalist, fun to be around, with a hilarious irreverent wit. A glass of gin was his silent sidekick, full of confidence and ice. We all drank with contempt, like we were going to war the next day. Alcohol consumed all of our free time, like in the early days. I must have been in denial, ignoring signs. Time and consequences could seem like a myth, stealing your breath away. Until, finally his handsome complexion and brilliant eyes turned the shade of a lemon. And then there was “the List.”
After a couple of hospitalizations, things were dire. We had to face the prospect of death, although he never did. “There’s nothing we can do” said the ICU doctor after he told me the kidneys were shutting down. The liver was struggling, and the doctor explained that liver patients can’t go on dialysis. I wailed in front of the hospital elevator doors, a totally broken person. The love of my life was going to die. If my tears were prayers he would be well by now. God, luck, whatever, helped him miraculously turn a corner that night. Each day that followed was a little better than the last. There were so many doctors and nurses caring for him, like he was their only patient. So after 10 days of sleeping in a hospital chair, I started to have backaches and hope. We were going home.
We packed up the few things that we grabbed in a frenzy on the way to the hospital. I was full of anxiety, as we were starting a new kind of life. Things were going to be different. Countless doctor’s visits followed in the weeks after we left, and he was put on “the list.” I kept telling myself that the list was a promise that nothing could take him away from me. A lifeline made up of faith and belief he could one day be healed. However, there was a catch, “He can never drink again” said the doctors, “or he will die.” And then there was life.
Twelve years later, and he hasn’t had a drink. This superhero, witty, intelligent, love of my life, relic is here to stay.
It was the first visit without Dad. They always came in a pair except now she’s “flying solo”. I wonder if she can navigate without him. Entering the room, she says a quick hello and rushes to the bathroom. It was a long, snowy, lonely drive from the Cape for an 85-year-old. As she left the room, I turned to Jamie frowning and told him I miss my Dad, with only my eyes. He understood and nodded his head. Dad has been gone for three months and now it was time to learn who this woman was to me. Who we all were without Dad.
We were excited to have Mom visit but didn’t know what it would look like. Dad would always make a joke or comment to take her out of her own head. She could be bossy, nosy, critical and opinionated, not to mention stubborn. Mom could also be very loving in a restrictive, lukewarm, guarded way as only an Irish Mother can pull off. If I poured a glass of wine before 5pm on a Saturday, Mom would either make a slanted comment or give me the “hairy eyeball.” He, on the other hand, would enthusiastically ask me if the wine was good inquiring like a Sommelier at a fine restaurant. Dad accepted who I am with all my flaws. I guess you could say that Dad was a buffer between me and my mother. He always had my back.
We passed the time watching TV, shopping and eating. She helped me with wedding plans and we attended Mass on Saturday (before I had my wine). She only criticized me a few times. Overall, we had a good time. I’m starting to get to know that strong, willful person who raised me. I never really took the time to get to know her before. The way I see it, I have a choice. I can reacquaint myself with Mom and get to a new level or continue to grieve a loss without looking forward. We have a brand-new opportunity to reach out and define ourselves; become reborn in the shadow of death. Even though she can irritate me, I do recognize that who she is makes her whole and beautiful. If it wasn’t for her showing me strength and resilience, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
I have to accept that the missing puzzle piece is gone forever. The circle has been broken and has left a wide gap. Is it up to Mom to fill the void? No, she has her own place. I was afraid that I wouldn’t know who she would be as a single person. Now I’m realizing that she’s always been her own person. I can see that navigating her way through life alone is not a problem for her. She misses Dad but his absence is part of life, our life. We didn’t talk about my father much during the visit, but he was there in our hearts and in the music of the wind chimes outside.
If it wasn’t bad enough surviving an abusive marriage, now I’m forced to recount it for others outside my circle of friends. This stuff is private and hurtful and sensitive. However, there it is in a list of questions, asking “Why the marriage broke up”, “Were We Good Catholics” etc. etc. There’s not enough time or energy to express all that went wrong. Not to mention, it had nothing to do with religion. My desire to remarry in the Catholic Church has proven to be monumental and slightly insane. It’s called the Annulment process and it’s awkwardly personal and mildly disturbing.
The requests for mountains of documents and infuriating questions have brought me to a standstill. What was I thinking? Is walking down a church isle that important to me? I’m beginning to wonder. But, still, I stick to my guns. Like a good Catholic girl, I honestly answer all the questions not quite understanding why they are important. “Did I try to have my marriage blessed in the church?” No. “Are there any Character witnesses.” No. The answer is No. No. and No. God Damn it.
I understand they want to make sure we are entering this sacrament with full commitment, but do we have to bare our souls in order to please the church? God knows me. I mean, really knows me. I talk to him multiple times a day and am very happy with our relationship. But, alas, that’s not enough. The line of questioning is supposed to paint a full picture of who I am. A heathen, who married outside of the church, had no desire to have the marriage blessed, and dissolved a marriage like I was throwing out a dirty rag.
Apparently, a group of priests will hold my future in their hands, judging the answers that I give. Tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God. OK. He was mentally unstable and verbally abusive. Is that what you really want to know? Do you want to know all the times I sobbed because he called me names and put me down? Do you want to know how screwed up marriages can be? Should I have gotten that hot mess blessed in the church? I don’t think so.
Do I sound bitter? Well, believe it or not, I am not. I am going through with this because I am devout member of my church. Do I like these questions? Absolutely not! All I can do is follow through and see where it brings me. If I’m not a fit Catholic than so be it. I know my character and am proud of who I am. If my annulment is not granted, then we fly to Vegas and have Elvis marry us. It’s going to happen one way or another.
The once buried autumn leaves were scattered throughout the trail, dried out from the last snow fall.
Scattered winter branches and twigs littered the path. Tree roots peeked through the leaves which could cause an ankle injury if you weren’t paying attention. Picking up your feet was required to continue. Downhill was tricky as my boots would slip on the leaves, narrowly missing roots. Today was a gift of early spring, calling us to the trail for a mid-afternoon walk with McDermott our dog.
The creaking whine of large tree branches high above would remind you of a squealing animal when the wind moves through the woods. We hardly noticed it as we “talked treason”, as the Irish say. Quiet seclusion is the perfect place for conversation. Walking side by side keeping an eye out for the dog, our legs and breathing in sync, connecting with each other beyond routine. Nature wipes out a revving mind, a worried mind and focuses on basic steps and the simple beauty of the empty wood.
A mile and a half into the walk, we rounded a corner approaching my favorite knoll of pine trees. This is the place where the air drapes over me in calm. I walk below the pines and hope he feels the same way. This location approaches the last bridge before we complete the circle, so it’s my last exhale before we go back to our life. Looking forward as the path winds to the bridge makes me happy and sad at the same time. The parking lot is not far. I don’t want to go home yet.
McD takes this last opportunity to leap over some downed trees off the path and run into the water to muddy his paws. I don’t care if my car gets filthy. He circles around and repeats his joy, running ahead of us. McDermott’s freedom of movement brings me to a place of total comfort. Animals are meant to run free without consequence. They show you how much they enjoy the occasional untethering, and I’m excited for him.
Ask me what my favorite thing to do is? A long walk in the woods with my sweet dog and my committed partner. We solve problems, cherish memories, and have some laughs. We lovingly reconnect in a way that you can’t plan or even expect. The change of scenery reaches into a place we don’t often go. It can be all encompassing allowing us to have the simplest of thoughts reflected in our basic wooded surroundings. It is magical.
Staring into the darkness, I can make out some light coming from the sliders and the shadow of a tree. The moon is full, accenting the shadowy clouds with a glowing outline. I reposition myself to sleep, then open my eyes to stare at the wall. The dog is on the floor snoring, as I look at the clock. It says 4am. I want to sleep but it’s not coming. I fix the covers, roll over and make another attempt. Still nothing. 4:30am. Finally, I get out of bed and walk the house or start knitting. The night is lonely. This situation repeats itself for nearly a week as I crave the sweet comfort of sleep. What can it be?
I have no answers to this dilemma, except maybe it’s in that dark place that we often listen to. Don’t walk down that ally. Don’t get in a car with that person. A vessel that holds my fears, secrets, lies, sorrows, and occasional good advice. This anatomical entity is positioned to be unreachable to the naked mind. If I could easily access the residue that lives there, I could clean it out and leave the invaluable subtle intuitive relays. But, for now, it is a burial ground of churning sadness and disappointment causing exhausting consciousness. Breath, please sleep, breath. My gut is punishing me for hiding my emotions and leaving them there to die. But they don’t die.
The gut is a multi-tasker and can hold grief, doubts and anxiety as well as keep you regular. If filled with desultory sludge, it can hold enough weight to keep a person awake for weeks. My nocturnal issues are obviously the result of having “too much to think” and using a churning gut as repository for all things negative. I need to reach for help when I grieve and face my doubts and anxiety head on instead of taking big gulps to swallow them whole. I believe a spirited eviction of sympathies will bring me peace of mind and a full night sleep.
I am getting tired as I type this, bedtime quickly approaches. I’m still a little nervous that I won’t sleep. I finish my wine and stretch thinking about things I must get done tomorrow; slight anxiety. I will eradicate the anxiety tomorrow. But, for tonight, I finally understand that my gut is the culprit and I am committed to clean it out. I must create a strategy to release my buried feelings, relying mostly on the strength and tenderness of my own heart.
I’m told it’s something you never get over. I’ve relied on advice, webinars, articles, and common knowledge to cope. Friends have been supportive through hugs and coffee. Daydreams come mostly at night when I’m alone. Still, the waves of sorrow are following me around like a hungry stray dog. Just when I think that I’ve come to terms with what happened, I hear that song or see a Christmas gift he would have loved. Cue the tears.
Grief, I recently read, is love with no place to go. So, will that love magically get transferred or dissipate into thin air? Must I carry this “burden” of unanswered love forever? I will truly love him forever no doubt. The only thing I have left, as cliché as it sounds, is to hold dear the nuance of him; the memories. I’ll funnel that love and grief into his legacy. Cry loving tears that swell your eyes and stain your face. Catch your breath and remember his jokes, his wit and kindness. You might even have a good laugh as time goes on. Above all, be kind to yourself because there’s no clock that tells you when to stop grieving.
Loss is something everyone goes through. Some handle it better than others or appear to. I should get over it, right? I’ll never get over it. Grief doesn’t work like that. It’s an unending reminder that weaves its way into your daily life. How you manage that love-with-no-place-to-go is up to each individual. Unfortunately, life doesn’t teach or prepare you how to carry on. Just accept and feel the intermittent pain that pulses through your body like the very blood you need to live. It is now part of your life.
Slathering the grey cream all over my face, I give myself a facial that will turn green on contact. A goolie look I must admit. All to make my lines, sags and wrinkles disappear from this 59-year-old facade. Can I be so naive? Yes, because there was a promise in the bottle, a resound commitment of improvement. I have to give it a try because of all the years of damage and neglect etched all over my face. I look into the mirror and can make out the cheek bones I used to have, the forehead lines and the mess under my eyes that are visible under the mask. In 40 minutes, I will wash it off and be beautiful. They said so. I guess this is called a “beauty routine.” It’s an exercise that continues to disappoint. My face will always be my face.
I’m not dissatisfied with my looks. With each line and wrinkle, I’ve thanked God for letting me grow old, accepting the consequences. I’m more than a pretty face. As my weight has increase, my face has gotten bigger too. Everything is more pronounced. The lines where my nose meets my forehead are covered with my glasses thankfully. A scarf can stylishly drape over the neck lines and keeping a straight face and not scrunching may help to eliminate new lines. And maybe win poker games too. Moving into my senior years has me wanting to erase mistakes; personal, professional, and facial mistakes. Time to atone with toner.
After I rinse the mask, I look in the mirror and remember what I used to look like. I remember a pretty girl with perfect skin and bright eyes. She was carefree and thought she’d be 20 years old forever. Years of sun damage, stress and even some sadness has reinvented her. I really do love myself for who I am today. All my experience and wrinkles have an important reason, waiting up for the kids to come home, working overtime, or caring for a sick child. My face tells a story of someone who has lived a sometimes hard as well as comfortable life. My journey has been grand and exciting, interrupted by moments of chaos and confusion. It’s written all over my face. And you can’t put that in a bottle.