But Enough About Me, Or, What Have I Done For You, Lately?

Does this blog add anything positive to the world?

So, Grandma Noises. Mom’s face in the mirror.

I want to make it clear that I’m grateful for those things, and for Mom and Grandma and all they were to me and all they gave me.

I’m grateful I have made it to an age where I make Grandma noises.

I’m grateful to Grammie for being there in Maine, putting up with a snot-nosed, whiny, sad, bored, fat little punk like me, for two solid weeks, summer after summer.

I’m grateful I can see my Mother’s face in mine, and remember the good things she did for us, in her way.

Although they pretty much detested each other, my Mother came weekly to give Mike a day off when our daughter was an infant, driving 30 miles from the burbs into the city.  It was a long, long day, because I was commuting 70 minutes each way and was gone from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. most work days, and Mike took full advantage of the time, as he should have. He needed the break.

Mom cared for our daughter, making nurse notes (she was a retired R.N.) and cleaning up where she could, in an under-furnished and unamusing townhome in a transitional city neighborhood.

She produced funds when funds were needed in the dark times of under- and unemployment.

She taught me to drive a stick shift, picking up keys and announcing we were getting in the car one day, totally unexpectedly, when I was 16.

She whispered when she sewed, drawing me in, and teaching me how to hem and mend. She was frugal. I am not, but at least I know how to hem a dress or a pair of pants and I have made clothes when I had to (a dying art, apparently – I had a coworker who walked around in too-long pants, because she didn’t know how to sew. I was gobsmacked. How could any neurotypical child who can safely handle a needle and thread reach adulthood without knowing how to hem a pair of pants?)

Mom made pies, rolling the crust out with sharp, fast, angry strokes, this way, then that. Once in the pie plate, she crimped the edges with grim determination.

Both Grammie and Mom made jam and jelly and chili relish and awesome chowder.

They often persisted long past my tolerance in demanding I hand over new clothes to be altered,  get a haircut, or go outside when all I wanted to do was read.

But I wish I’d been more grateful, then, and that I had told them that I was.

I hope they hear me now, on the other side.

David Kanigan quoted the late Julie Yip-Williams, author of The Unwinding of the Miracle, on his Live and Learn blog recently. Ms. Yip-Williams wrote about her life with cancer (the same kind of cancer that took my Mike), and her book was published posthumously.  There’s a review of it in the New York Times.

“Live while you’re alive,” she wrote.

I confess I haven’t read her book yet:  but the Times review reveals that she meant “live while you’re alive” not in the bucket list, run-off-and-climb-a-mountain-or-run-a-marathon kind of way, but in the every-moment-no-matter-how-seemingly-ordinary-is-a-gift way.

To that I would only add, express gratitude to others, while they’re still here to hear you.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I do this – why do I blog?

(Seems to be kind of a theme, lately – Jungian synchronicity – I started writing this before I read Fractured Faith‘s or Writer of Words’s similar posts – but it seems several of us are currently thinking about what this blogging thing contributes).

For me, it started as a way to process grief, and just write. I love words (just ask anyone who has tried to get one in edgewise when I’m talking).  Building words into sentences that convey ideas or emotions makes me feel at home. (There are few places I feel completely comfortable – sitting at my computer writing, singing, and speaking or performing in front of an audience are about it).

But I don’t want blogging to be just for me. I want it to be for you, the reader.

What have I done for you lately?

Have I given you something to laugh about, cry about, something to feel, something to enjoy?

Have I given you writing that is good enough for you to bother reading it?

Has it meant anything beyond just me, yapping about my little life?

Has it made my little life less little?

Have I told you lately that I love you? For reading, for commenting, for being there?

Mike died. What will happen when I do?

Will I have contributed anything of value to the world?

Would anyone say anything positive about me? Would anyone even show up?

Trying to listen twice as much as I talk (ok, laugh, but I actually AM trying) and thinking about how to use what small gifts I may have to contribute something positive to the world, I remain,

Your loquacious, grateful, perplexed, anxious, wondering what’s-it-all-about-Alfie,

Ridiculouswoman

Dear Santa:

Please direct your attention to those in greater need….

Look, I know this is absurd, a grown woman writing a letter to Santa.

Absurd.

Ridiculous, even.

But ridiculous is kind of what I do.

And here’s the thing: I believe in you.

When you are in the picture at this time of year, people are more likely to be kind. Caring, giving. Generous, even. (Battle lines at big-box stores excepted, of course).

Magical things happen. They do.

It snows magic Christmas snow when the weather nerds insist none is in the forecast.

Packages and invitations turn up unexpectedly, from friends you didn’t know were thinking of you.

Customer service people actually provide service.

I confess I was going to write a tearjerker of a letter, asking you to send us a new man.

Because we could use some company.

My daughter is feeling our two-of-us-that-used-to-be-three-of-us, hard.

She misses her Dad, a lot.

So do I.

I miss the way he danced (very goofy.) I miss the way he used to peek around the door of her room when we were sitting together at bedtime.

I miss us sitting in companionable silence, each reading our own books, pausing to identify and then listen intently to, whatever selection was playing on our beloved classical music radio station.

So I was going to ask you, Santa, for a little help, finding a new man for us. A little help, here?

But I changed my mind because of a few intervening events that put things in perspective since I started writing this letter:

Sophie cat became “Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat.”

She had suddenly lost the use of her back leg.

Vet said prognosis dire. Probably blood clot.

Might have to say good-bye.

Oh, shit, at Christmas?

But Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat, being, shall we say, un-enamored of said vet (who is a really nice lady, but Sophie sees her and thinks, “shot! run!”) managed to drag herself upstairs, do a pull-up with her front claws (and this cat weighs at least 15 pounds) onto my bed, and make herself well.

IMG_20180924_131149112.jpg

Meaning she somehow managed to dissolve the clot, regain use of her left hind leg, and after climbing up and being carried back down twice (for food, and, erm, other necessities) she got down herself the third time, limping a little, but by the next meal was walking along just fine, asking for her next meal, as usual.

Then, just as we were preparing for our annual ladies’ holiday excursion downtown, I happened to go into the basement utility room (OCD, just wanted to check and make sure the previous night’s fireplace ashes hadn’t done something weird and dangerous while encased in masonry behind an iron door in the ash box – you know, the usual, rational concern) I noticed the boiler was leaking. A lot. And not from a pressure release valve – from underneath.

Call heat guy, who luckily lives pretty close by.

Sorry, ma’am, you’re going to need a new boiler.

How much?

THAT much? Oh, my God!

Try to retain calm during ladies’ annual downtown excursion, while also seeking bids from two other heat guys.

Enjoy lovely excursion, including breathtaking, moving and lovely performance of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theater. Wow. Stunning.

But while walking along The Magnificent Mile, between the Disney store and American Girl Place,  among the expensively dressed, happy holiday crowd, we passed many, many homeless people.

Every three feet, there was another person, huddled in filthy blankets, head bowed, cardboard sign propped against their knees, or wheelchair, or walker, plastic cup standing, hoping, for something. Just a little something.

I gave the only dollar I had, because I don’t really carry cash anymore, to a person who was propped up with a walker, legs trembling, speech impaired, seemingly brain-injured and desperate.

And turned to continue our walk past the next homeless person, and the next, and the next.

Overwhelming need, smack in the middle of the swankiest part of town.

I have never been so grateful to come home to an unheated house in my life.

Yesterday, I washed my hair with water heated on the stove, and was warmed by the hair dryer, before we headed off to church.

My dear brother brought over two space heaters.

We attended a last-minute, lovely, holiday party at the home of a family who have been exceptionally kind to us, especially my angelic, autistic daughter, who loves them, as they have come to love her.

I watched her make conversation with other guests without my cueing or help, or presence, really, beaming, like the lovely young adult she is, heart full of joy.

Today I’ll  make our traditional Christmas Eve clam chowder and cornbread, to be consumed after church, and then, we’ll put on our warm jammies, make a fire in the fireplace and we’ll make s’mores.

Camping! Pioneer ladies!

I have no heat and no hot water, Santa, and I won’t until Wednesday, when the first heat guys who came, whose heart-stopping bid was actually substantially lower than the next guy’s, will install a new boiler.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Because today, we have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, two space heaters and enough blankets, hats, sweaters and sweatshirts to get us through to Wednesday.

Three years ago, our first Christmas without Mike, I burned the cranberry sauce for the first time in my life. I’ve been making it since I was twelve. I think that happened because of sadness, distraction and depression.

I burned it again, just now, for only the second time in my life.

Because I was distracted by writing a blog post about gratitude.

I’d call that progress.

So Santa, don’t worry about us  Please direct your attention to those truly in need, and we’ll try to figure out something we can do in our own small way. (But maybe could you save a package of cranberries for us at the local market for when we do our shopping after lessons and carols? They were out by this day last year).

Thanks for listening.

God bless us, every one.

See you next year.

Until then, I remain,

Your grateful, silly, burned-the-cranberries-but-thankfully-not-the-house-because-I-was-distracted-by-gratitude,

Ridiculouswoman

Mrs. McWhiny’s Pity Parlor is Closing

Pity party is over – get your gratitude gear on.

So, about that last post. Aren’t we quite the little drama queen, with our little pity party?

Sorry about that.

I really was feeling that way and was writing from the heart, but I can feel my New England ancestresses (one of whom lived as a widowed schoolmarm for over 45 years) are pissed off at me from the next world. They want me to

So, OK, enough Mrs. McWhiny – it’s time to put the big girl pants back on (wait a sec, I am big girl, so I kind of wear them all the time, but whatever), pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get your big ass into gratitude gear.

You’ve probably seen this one, but it bears repeating:

So, yes, my daughter and I (that’s the first thing I should be grateful for — I am not, in fact, alone – I live with an angel; a beautiful, resilient, patient, kind, caring, forgiving angel) have been through some big stuff, but:

  • we’re alive
  • today, we have a roof over our heads
  • today, we have food
  • today, the power works and the faucets produce clean water, hot when needed
  • I have a reliable car that will be paid off by next October
  • I have two brothers, one of whom lives close enough to come and help out
  • that closer brother weatherstripped doors today, so we’re less freezing in here
  • handy closer brother also tested the back-up sump pump he installed, and it works
  • this year’s mother-daughter Christmas downtown excursion is planned and booked
  • I lost a pound by not eating dinner last night – intermittent fasting works for me
  • I had an opportunity to do a small, unnoticed but kind thing today, and I did
  • I have gotten this far through the day without accidentally hurting myself

I am grateful for these things. I am grateful for the wise, kind WordPress friends who have shared their wisdom and kindness with me – you guys rock. I love your blogs. You know who you are (and anyone who reads this should too, because there’s a list of blogs I follow over there in the sidebar – or at the bottom if you scroll down, I think).

I am grateful for small accomplishments and meeting modest daily goals.

I’m grateful for weird dreams that amuse and puzzle me.

I’m grateful that through online shopping I figured out cheap, functional, stick-on, OK looking LED vanity lights for my dressing table, so I didn’t have to hire an electrician to tear up the wall.

I’m grateful for my old, fat, warm, soft cat Sophie, even though she ignores her claw-sharpening carpet remnant and continues to destroy the good rugs, and sits on my face when I’m not ready to get out of bed yet to feed her.

I’m grateful for the really good, really beautiful sacred music my choir director selected for the Christmas concert, and the challenge of learning it and the joy of singing it with a really good choir. You may take that as a shameless plug for our concert, which is a bonus add-on to my gratitude about it, because I really am grateful.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be grateful, and, because I’m breathing, the chance to be happy, one moment at a time. I hope I can maintain the happiness long enough to send a little love out into the word.

They say what goes around comes around. You reap what you sow.

In the bleak midwinter – what can I give?

….give my heart.

Trying to send love in little bits and pieces, I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, sucking-it-up-and-snapping-out-of-it,

Ridiculouswoman

I Can’t Take Me Anywhere

I haven’t gotten into an argument with anyone today…yet

I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love…”

-Max Martin, recorded by the Backstreet Boys

(I left out the “me” in that quote deliberately.)

I have one goal for today: not to get into an argument with anyone.

Which pretty much means I should go back to bed and pull the covers over my head and hope I wake up to a better world tomorrow.

Yeah, right, Little Mary Sunshine.

Pollyanna.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t change anyone’s mind by making it clear that you think you are smarter than they are. That’s a sure way to get someone who is an idiot and is wrong to dig in.

And you can’t make anyone care about things you care about by making those things all about you and who you are.

The only way to make things better is to try to make things better for everyone, by concentrating on the things we have in common. Quit concentrating on the gaps between us and work harder on the things that bring us together. Which there are lots of, if we could just dial the noise back and address real problems with practical solutions. Most of you do that every day at work, with people who may be very different and may have very different outlooks on a lot of things, but who are perfectly capable of working together toward a shared goal.

Making life better for everyone collectively makes life better for each of us individually. Seems self-evident to me. (Yeah, that was intentional).

So I don’t care what equipment you were born with, how you dress it and how or whether you may have altered it, I don’t care who you love (I just hope you have someone to love), I don’t care what color your skin is or what language you speak or where you were born, I don’t care how or whether you worship (I just hope you can feel and have experienced the existence of a creative, loving power greater than yourself, however you may define that power, or spirit, or energy, or whatever) – I just care that you care about other people, and that you try to make decisions that may affect others conscientiously.

I haven’t gotten into an argument with anyone today (so far – heading back to bed now, covers to be pulled over head) but I’m throwing the flag on myself anyway, as I couldn’t keep myself from asking the supporters of a candidate I didn’t vote for if they were far enough away from the polling place (I was just going to work out at the fitness center, I early-voted last week) whereupon they pointed out that the representatives of the candidate I had voted for were standing even closer to the “no electioneering” sign. Oops.

I didn’t stop myself from muttering under my breath in response to something overheard in a conversation I was not party to as I walked back to my car.

The muttering and the challenging didn’t make me feel better – they made me feel worse.

You know what made me feel better? Watching my daughter enjoy being pampered at the hair salon, sitting through a shampoo and haircut calmly, and patiently reading a magazine under a dryer (curly, curly hair, no blow drying, just a gentle old-fashioned hair dryer on a wheeled stand, that goes over the head like a giant 1960’s space helmet) like any other adult lady at a salon.

This is not a small thing. From the time she was a toddler until in her mid-teens, when she finally insisted on trying to do it herself, taking care of her hair was a major battle.

Her tactile defensiveness meant she couldn’t stand anyone approaching too closely, especially from behind, anywhere near her head, like you have to in order to pick out knots in long, curly hair. Mike could do it, though – when she was four, he patiently, gently, over a year, picked out her Sideshow Bob dreadlocks so we wouldn’t have to cut her hair  – it grows so slowly.

And today here she was, accepting not only a shampoo (lying back in the shampoo chair, allowing the head massage and the comb-out) and dutifully tilting her head this way and that at the request of the stylist, conversing, with a little delay in responding, but conversing nonetheless, with her hairdresser, just as if this was an ordinary thing for her. Which it isn’t and hasn’t been, but might be now.

Her hair, though shorter, looks great, she has promised not to keep cutting it herself (just to get it out of her face, which resulted in a kind of curly mullet, hence giving over my previously scheduled appointment to her, for repairs), and she’s already asking about her next appointment.

Sometimes the small victories in life are bigger than they seem, and more satisfying.

So whatever tomorrow ends up looking like, I’ll hang on to those big small victories and keep hoping that everyone else is having some of them too, every day.

Until then, I remain,

Your nervous, off-for-a-nap and hoping for a better tomorrow, whatever tomorrow may bring,

Ridiculouswoman

Thankful Thursday Returns

Need more gratitude and laughter. Working on it…

Time for a little gratitude.

Let’s see, here.

There’s this: I’m grateful for my saggy mattress, with the me-shaped trough in the middle. I sink in, it rises up on either side of me and sort of hugs me. Not great for the back, but who doesn’t want a hug right before sleep?

I’m grateful for the inspiration of my daughter’s impulse to redecorate Mike’s room and turn it into a “computer lounge.” After a pretty comical struggle, it’s done, and it looks great, painted a saturated periwinkle-blue, with a new desk, a chair and ottoman and her bookcase. She also moved her stand-up mirror in there, clearing out her bedroom and making that seem much less cramped. Maybe we’ll paint that next.

And then my room. I’m having trouble deciding if I want to paint it – the only color I can come up with that’s different than the current pale yellow, is gray. Gray? Isn’t that kind of, I don’t know, grim? Not necessarily – I can think of it as an extension of the ocean-based palette of blues, greys, greens and sand colors that seems to have emerged in the new kitchen – a nice gentle dove grey might do nicely. And it really does need new carpet. I can feel the credit cards groaning.

I’m very grateful that my daughter and I seem to be pulling through – this time we are taking together is working, I think, to help us both in our grief, to turn it into something we carry with us but that doesn’t weigh us down; to turn from sadness to gratitude for what Mike gave us both in this life, and the sweet whispers of messages we still get from him, from the next.

I’m grateful that sometime over last weekend, this blog exceeded 500 visitors and 1500 views – so, an average of 3 views per visitor. That feels like support, like I’m not so alone in my occasional responsibility-fatigue. It’s good to know readers are out there.

I’m very grateful for the support of a few wonderful other bloggers who have offered consistent likes and comments. You guys lift me up and help me carry on. I’ve added a widget to show a graphic of the posts I’ve liked recently so people who who visit here might visit you, too, there, too. Because you’re really good and I enjoy reading your stuff.

But for all the visits and views, I still have less than 50 followers – Ha! I guess I’m a bit too much of a Debbie Downer for people to want to come back for more. This blog is supposed to be about “learning from loss to live with love and laughter.” I’ve written a lot about loss and love, but not a lot about laughter, lately. I guess I’ve been having a little trouble finding the funny. Working on it.

Speaking of working on it, I’ve signed us up for six months at the local park district fitness center. In the autumn I like to get most of my exercise walking outdoors, and we’ve started doing that this week, now that the weather has cooled a bit. But I know the only thing that really works to keep me from re-inflating to a giant human beach-ball shape is a super low-carb diet coupled with lifting heavy things. My brother the keto guy, who I think is unnaturally and probably unhealthily obsessed with his body mass index, swears by “lifting heavy things,” coupled with intermittent fasting and short bursts of intense exercise. Ergo, the gym. Because, you know, “winter is comin’ “.

So, that’s it for now. Just wanted to say thank you. Thank you, and have a nice day. (Really, I mean it. If I didn’t mean it, we’d be over there in the Snark Tank. I can feel something coming for over there, soon, but not just yet.)

Until then, I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, grateful, looking-for-laughs,

Ridiculouswoman

A Visible Woman

Patrick … saw me – he treated me like I was actually there…not …invisible

For Patrick, from Erie, Pennsylvania

A young man struck up a conversation with me as I was waiting outside by myself for a table at a very tiny, very crowded Thai restaurant in Wrigleyville.

He looked a lot like a young Jason Bateman (not that I’m a big fan of Jason Bateman – it just bugged me so much that I couldn’t think of what actor this guy reminded me of that later that night, I thought of a movie trailer I had seen that guy in, and Googled it by the little I remembered of the plot, even though it wasn’t the type of movie I’d ever go see,  and I lucked out by finding it on the first try).

We’re going to let it slide that the younger-Jason-Bateman-look-alike’s initial purpose in talking to me was to encourage me to accept a table outside on a hot, muggy night, so he could show his visiting Dad and Uncle the very quirky décor inside the crowded little place. He was afraid they wouldn’t get in, and because his visitors were from out of town and might not have another chance, he wanted them to see the inside. Fair enough.

I didn’t care, because I was just hungry, for Thai food specifically. I’d sit anyplace if I could get fed. The hostess was true to her word in seating me in about five minutes. During that five minutes, another nice couple put in for a table and waited, this young man showed up with his guests, and two huge parties of 8 or so all left simultaneously – so the other couple, the young man and his guests, and I, all got to sit inside, under the impressive collection of toy robots, street signs, Cubs paraphernalia, etc. And I ended up sitting at a two-top right next to younger-Jason-Bateman guy, diagonally from his Uncle, who sat opposite his Dad.

After checking with me to see if I was a person who liked to talk (HA! Ok, stop laughing now, followers who know me) he skillfully apportioned his conversation between me and his Dad and Uncle, and managed to engage all of us in comfortable conversation for the duration of our meals.

I introduced myself and he told me his name was Patrick, that he was from Erie, Pennsylvania and had been in Chicago for about two years. The rest of it was pretty light stuff – how he ended up here, his educational background and job, and then mostly baseball and other sports, recreational opportunities on the lakefront, the relative severity of winters in Erie (regular snowfalls of 6 feet or more) and Chicago (regular bouts of subzero temperatures) etc.

When I had finished my meal and settled up, I told Patrick as I was leaving that it had been nice to meet him and wished his Dad and Uncle a pleasant visit.

And as I did this, Patrick stood up (well, sort of half stood up, but hey, it was a tiny, crowded restaurant) and shook my hand good-bye.

Let that land for a minute.

When was the last time you met a young person (I’d say he was maybe 26?) who had been raised to observe often forgotten courtesies, like rising when a lady (or anyone older than you) was arriving or departing? I was touched, and charmed, especially because it seemed like an unconscious habit – this is something Patrick does for ladies and his elders, I suspect, without really thinking about it.

But what really made my day was that Patrick saw me – he treated me like I was actually there, not as if I was an invisible woman. He just marched right up to me and started talking (about me maybe sitting outside, but we’re letting that slide, remember? He was gracious enough to keep talking to me once everyone was seated.)

I’ve seen posts by women my age, or even quite a bit younger, who wrote that they felt a kind of freedom in their invisibility, knowing that because of their, erm, maturity, nobody would really pay much attention to them in public (unless they made a spectacle of themselves, and as we know, I’m the one who specializes in that – see the latest episode related over there in the “Snark Tank”) and they could go about their business without worrying about what anyone thought and without being accosted for attention from others. They were fine with whatever attention they got at home. From their still-living husbands.

Invisibility doesn’t work for me – while I have always enjoyed my own company and have been happy in solitude when I have chosen it, I still crave social contact with adults who are not emotionally dependent on me to help them cope with shared grief.  So a casual conversation with a good-mannered person (ok, man, but as the supply of them is inverse to the age of the woman, I’m trying to enjoy the company of women, more, too) who may only have been talking to me because he had good manners, can make my day.

So thanks for treating me as visible, Patrick. It made the difference between a day that might have included weeping and a day that didn’t.

(And thanks also for seeming genuinely surprised that I was old enough to have had my heart broken by the Cubs in both ’69 and ’84 – things your Uncle remembered in detail, but that certainly occurred before you were born).

Looking forward to my next encounter with a nice man (ok, person) with good manners and the grace to seem surprised by my age, I remain,

Your humble, devoted, lonely but hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

My Secret Azalea – or, Inside Out

It can only be seen from inside the house.

The ferns surrounded it, in lush, leafy hug.

And that made me smile.

It was a really good spring for my rhodo and my azaleas – lovely, abundant blooms. I put this one where it is last year so that there would be something evergreen to look at just outside there in the winter, even if it got buried by snow for a time.

I didn’t expect this abundance of ferns to swallow it up in the spring, but I like the effect.

It reminds me to keep something blooming within, even if others can’t see it right away.

Not until I let them in.

The garden is still a work in progress; it looks okay from the outside, but still needs a few more shrubs and perennials to fill in and squeeze out the weeds so I don’t have to spend so much time digging those out. Could use some mulch, too; I’m not much in the mood or the position to spend more money on it right now, so those things will come a little at a time.

The blooms on my secret azalea have gone by since I took the photo, but its leaves are there and will still be there there when the ferns fade. Maybe in a few years, it will even grow taller than the feathery, fluffy chaos around it.

My secret azalea reminded me that kindness implies a kind of trust – or faith, if you want to call it that – that those toward whom it is directed will benefit, be softened, encouraged, cheered, made hopeful, whatever,  but also that kindness directed from the inside out is always worth it, even if it isn’t received that way immediately, or ever, even. Being kind provides a sort of stillness, a type of calm, a sense of perspective, that is healing to me, regardless. Tends my inner garden.

My secret azalea reminded me that what’s going on inside affects what’s outside; that beauty within radiates outward, where it affects the world around it.

Let’s face it, if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve figured out that I’m a heart-on-my-sleeve type. It isn’t really possible for me to hide my feelings. I send out a vibe, even when I don’t want to. So I have to work on that, pretty much constantly, trying and failing and trying again to send out a good vibe, to be kind, to be positive, to grow into the person I want to be, every moment, because every moment is precious, a gift.

In the words of my literary hero, Jack Aubrey, “there’s not a moment to lose.”

So no pity-parties, please. Fall of the horse, get right back on, keep going. The sun rises.

And the music plays.

I work at a place where I can listen to music, often at a good strong volume, all day – and sing along to it, and no one seems to mind. Or at least they put up with it. Most of the day the place is fairly empty, requiring manual (or forklift driven) labor. I’ve even got a sort of little fan club, that comes in once a week to do what they need to do, who caught me singing once and now seem to look forward to it each week.

The variety of music available is wide – classic rock, ’80s music, stations based on Journey (HA! sing like Steve Perry! who’s with me?) or the Eagles, or REM or Emmylou or Bruce Springsteen – everything from country to opera. Although it is hard to find a mix that always satisfies, I’ve found some really good stations that have brought back songs to me that I hadn’t thought about in years – good, cathartic, cryin’ songs, songs of hope, songs that put things in perspective. And arias – but don’t worry, I only rock the Puccini when the place is empty. Although come to think of it, Puccini, (O Mio Babbino Caro, to be exact) is what got the fan club going.

Remember that movie, Network News, where Holly Hunter, playing a news producer, would set aside a few minutes each day to just take the phone off the hook (hey, it was made in 1987 and set mostly in 1981 – landlines!) and just bawl her eyes out? Then she’d pull it together and get right back to work.

I’m a big fan of the good cry. And of getting right back to work.

During Mike’s illness, I did most of my crying in the car – car crying – because I didn’t want our child to see it and get upset, and I didn’t want to make Mike feel sad, or worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle things.

Now, I cry a lot less, but when I need to let it out, it often happens when I’m in the warehouse, cleaning or closing up, inspired by one of those great songs I had forgotten about, and it helps – it helps a lot. It helps reconcile the inside with the outside; harmonizing with the songs harmonizes me, in a way. Even if a lot of these songs seems sad, that’s not the point – the point is they give me a sort of cleansing that makes me feel better, calmer, stronger. Sing, cry, dry, work.

In no particular order, songs that came up that helped me “take the phone off the hook,” feel what I feel, let it out, and then pull it together and carry on include:

  • Jackson Browne’s For a Dancer, sung by Linda Ronstadt
  • Warren Zevon’s Keep Me In Your Heart For A While
  • The Eagles’ Peaceful, Easy Feelin’
  • Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces, Cowboy Take Me Away, Not Ready to Back Down 
  • Iris DeMent’s Our Town (she was a discovery for me – hadn’t heard her before)
  • Any version of Stevie Nicks’ Landslide
  • Long, Long Time, sung by Linda Ronstadt
  • Shenandoah’s Ghost in this House,  sung by Alison Krauss (really, anything sung by Alison Krauss – Down in the River to Pray, Long Lost Friend, etc.
  • Softly and Tenderly, sung by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt

and the one that kind of sums up what I learned from losing Mike, and why I’m trying to grow in to a better, kinder, more loving person:

When We’re Gone, sung by Emmylou, Dolly and Linda –

…”And when we’re gone, long gone,
the only thing that will have mattered
is the love that we shared
and the way that we cared
when we’re gone, long gone….”

This song helps me remember there’s not a moment to lose, and not to skimp on love – it helps me nourish my inner, secret azalea, gives me hope that what blooms within will radiate out as love, as kindness, and as hope, one precious moment at a time.

May you find the music that gives you hope and peace, as this song does for me.