What He Said

Here’s a different take on fasting, or giving things up for Lent. To me it’s a description of how I want to be all the time, not just in the forty days before Easter.

The quote below appeared today on the Edge of the Atlantic, one of the blogs I follow.  I’m not Catholic. I haven’t made a habit of attending church on Ash Wednesday, or “giving something up” for Lent.  So when I looked through my followed blogs on the WordPress Reader today and found this, I realized it expressed what I was going to try to express, and did it much better than I ever could:

 

via are you ready to fast this Lent? (take your pick) — Edge of Atlantic

I’ve been trying to stay in my lane, and to avoid investing my energy into worrying about things I can’t control. Instead I’m thinking about how I can control my response to both small everyday frustrations and the monumental, unrelenting shit storms that seem to have enveloped our planet. These past weeks, it just seems like it gets worse every day.

Losing Mike and living as a widow has helped me understand, “this too shall pass.” It has made me want to remain unperturbed by everyday stresses and to learn to be still and silent enough, to find sufficient serenity, to tune in to more eternal things:  love, compassion, gratitude, simplicity, patience, joy, reconciliation, hope, kindness – prayer and God.  These things don’t pass with the passing moments of each day.  I want them to reside with me in each present moment, and stay with me as that moment passes to become the next.  It’s far more difficult than it should be, and unsurprisingly, I fail at it much more often than I succeed. I succumb to petty worries and mundane stresses. I lose patience. That’s why I appreciate reminders like Bill Schulz’s post today. They help me regain my perspective.

Angelic Daughter is my guiding star. I admire her more than I can say, and I am more ashamed of succumbing to impatience with her than I am of any of my other many faults. She marks one of life’s milestones tomorrow. Today she described handling an uncomfortable situation by using a strategy we had practiced. She solved the problem of feeling anxious in one environment by asking to move to another, at a place where choices like that are available to her. She continues to assume more responsibility for the moments of her day – being on time and prepared, adapting to different types of transportation and advocating for herself if she needs accommodation, as she did today. She does all this without dimming her angelic, compassionate, loving, emotionally intelligent self one bit. The strategy she used today worked, and she’s realizing that she has more control over things that bother her sensitive, autistic self than she used to, or that she believed she could have. My pride in and boundless love for her is wrapped in hope.  May there be a future in this world for Angelic Daughter, where people choose compassion, kindness, good stewardship for the earth and all that’s in it, love and reconciliation, and where we work together to solve problems that touch us all.

I hope your present moments are infused with calming little bits of the eternal, and may those  moments bring you peace.

Yours with gratitude to God for the gift of a daughter whose spirit is far more naturally generous than mine, and who inspires me every day to try to be a better person, I remain, your one-moment-to-the-next,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

“Senior” Middle Age?

Is there a zone between middle age and “senior?” I’m different than I was when I first came up with my “middle aged woman rules.” I look at those now and I think they’re kind of juvenile and stupid. I find myself at a point in my life where I just don’t give a crap anymore about styling myself to please others.

This is actually the second time in my life I discovered (and it was a discovery, not a decision) that I was just being who I am, without worrying about whether who I am pleases others.

That last time I settled into my own skin so comfortably, Mike showed up.

Hmm.

I’ve back to level of self-acceptance that allows me to just “be,” where in years past I would have doubted, criticized or or been disappointed in almost everything I did or said. I’ve calmed down. I’ve become a better listener. Weird shit that seems to be related to aging is happening to my body, but I shrug and think, “whatever.”

It doesn’t feel quite right to refer to myself as “middle-aged” anymore, but hell if I’m going to say I’m “old.” Is there such a thing as senior middle age? Advanced middle age? Not thinking about age?

Angelic daughter and I went through a low patch last year, but we’ve pulled out of it admirably I think, and now things are rolling along nicely (knock wood, cross fingers, whatever you do to ward off a reversal when you say something like that.) The great-creator-power-that-is has bestowed upon me the gift of work I love, at a place populated with genuine, and genuinely kind, people. I honestly didn’t believe such a workplace existed, as I have never experienced it before. Every job I’ve ever had was at an organization fraught with egos, anxiety, competition, backstabbing, stress, resentment, rumor-mongering, and a constant, threatening undercurrent that something bad would happen to someone, any minute. (HA!, reminds me of a certain House in the news lately, but I digress.)

But now, at this stage of my life, I have been welcomed into a workplace where there’s none of that negative stuff, and I get paid to spend the day doing something I love. I’m stunned, and stupid happy. I look forward to going to work. I don’t mind getting up at 4:45 a.m. to get there by 6:30 so I can pick Angelic Daughter up from her new, fabulous, welcoming, caring place by 3:20.

At that place, Angelic daughter has reconnected with a friend she hasn’t seen in years, gets to choose among many activities and decide how she wants to spend her day, and hops into the car smiling and chattering about singing to her friend when I pick her up.

I remember when my favorite film actor, Russell Crowe, won the Oscar for Gladiator. He said, “for anyone who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.” (If you want to skip the intro, start at about 34 seconds in):

There were times, from the moment Mike was diagnosed, through these past three and a half years without him, when I felt hopeless, or ready to give up. I don’t think I can say that I relied on courage – I guess I relied on my version of faith. But I did make a conscious decision to make conscious decisions about how I’d spend my time. I started writing, and I don’t intend to stop, for as long as I still “have my marbles,” as my Dad used to say. I feel wired – a little manic – in the good way I used to feel when I was directing my high school talent show, or improvising with some very talented people in clubs in Chicago, giving packed houses big laughs.

I’ve been blogging since October 2017, a little more than a year after Mike died, and since then, I have cried and despaired vicariously with other bloggers going through their own tough times and tragedies – and I’ve stuck with them long enough to read their stories of getting through it, getting better, finding what they needed and finding themselves exhilarated, reinvigorated, even triumphant.

If you’re in a dark place, going through a tough time, having trouble seeing a way out, hang in there. Things can get better. It’s possible.

Yours with prayers for Australia, Puerto Rico, the people of China and everyplace else on our hurting, pissed-off, melting, diseased, once-beautiful-and-still-could-be-beautiful- again-if-we-get-our-collective-shit-together-and-do-something-about-it planet, I remain,

Your loving, grateful, hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

P.S. Have fun watching the Oscars this weekend, even if, like me, you haven’t seen any of the films (I’m working, OK?) And here’s another list, related to this post, up on my 27 Things page.

Shipwreck

Over the weekend, as I was polishing what I hope will be the final and definitive version of the query letter for my memoir, Detour in Cancerland, about caring for my husband as he faced his terminal illness, I heard a song I hadn’t heard in decades, and I heard it in a new and shattering way.

My book is about my ridiculous behavior during Mike’s illness – when some kind of temporary insanity gripped me and I developed an absurd infatuation with a carpenter 21 years my junior, who was in our house to build Mike the new and beautiful kitchen he should have had all along, the kitchen that I was desperate to give him before he died. This crush was some wild form of deflection or denial about what was happening – that Mike was dying, would definitely die, and leave our daughter and me, without him. Mike knew and understood that, and he forgave me for it, as I had forgiven him, over an over, for things that he had done that most women would have used as grounds for divorce.

As I was trying to condense the complexity of all this into a “hook” in the query letter, Spotify played me Heart Like a Wheel. I had only ever heard the Linda Ronstadt version of it, and not the recording by the writer, Kate McGarrigle, and her sister, Anna, so I was hearing that version for the first time that day.

As a lonely, self-pitying teenager – the fat, smart girl who was never asked to the prom – I played Ronstadt’s version (which omits the second verse, about death), over and over, a bazillion times. When I heard that second verse for the first time this past weekend, I suddenly understood the song from a completely different perspective – that of a person who had loved me, out there on that sinking ship, feeling alone and lost and full of regret. I felt my late husband’s love for me and our daughter tearing him apart, as cancer tore him from us, too soon, and how this love left him floundering on the sinking ship of his incurable, merciless disease:

“Some say a heart is just like a wheel
When you bend it, you can’t mend it
And my love for you is like a sinking ship
And my heart is like that ship out in mid ocean

They say that death is a tragedy
It comes once and it’s over
But my only wish is for that deep dark abyss
Cause what’s the use of living with no true lover

And it’s only love, and it’s only love
That can wreck a human being and turn him inside out
That can wreck a human being and turn him inside out

When harm is done no love can be won
I know this happens frequently
What I can’t understand
Oh please God hold my hand
Is why it should have happened to me

And it’s only love and it’s only love
And it’s only love and it’s only love
Only love, only love
Only love, only love”

Kate McGarrigle

Love can wreck a human being and turn him inside out.

No true lover.

For years, Mike and I both felt left without a true lover, for all the complicated, personal, tangled, hurtful reasons a long and difficult marriage can engender. But we stuck it out. And the toughest thing of all was that we found each other again with so little time left – each on our own sinking ship, out in the middle of an ocean of regret, reaching for each other one last time.

Our love survived the shipwreck, and carries on, a slow, steady current streaming through an ocean salted with pain and yearning.

Mike used to say he wanted to be buried at sea. I couldn’t, or didn’t know how, to do that for him. But after hearing that song in this new way after all these years, I’ll never get the image of Mike on a sinking ship, and me reaching toward him, but not able to save him, out of my head.

Staring at the sea in my mind’s eye, cherishing every piece of the wreckage, I remain,

your steadfast, loving, forgiving and forgiven,

Ridiculouswoman

Ship image by ArtTower from Pixabay

______________________________

I have updated my new page, “27 Things,” with a list about widowhood. My head’s been there these past few days, after that song, and revisiting the book and querying, and not knowing if I even want to anymore, and all of it.