What? Me Retired?

Last week when a friend asked me if I was making visual art or writing, I caught myself saying, “No, I’m retired.” Even though I haven’t been painting or writing much these days, I haven’t considered myself retired. I’m still busy as a bee and can’t seem to tell you where the days go. Since then I’ve found myself using that word more often, especially when it’s time to get up in the morning and I tell myself, “Oh, there’s plenty of time. After all, you are retired.”

Interestingly, I’ve recently talked to two artist friends my age or a bit older, and they tell me they aren’t making art either. They, like me are simply letting the days unfold before them and are enjoying things they haven’t done in a long while, like sleep in, travel, and not worry about tomorrow.

So I’m beginning to think that maybe I really am retired. I’m taking it easy, working on getting the kinks worked out of my stiff body, and enjoying extra sleep time. It’s time for lots of reading, writing in my journal, and eating foods grown on the lush farms all around me. Virginia Peaches are just coming in and their sweet juiciness is what summer is all about. Our farmer’s market is the place to go early on Saturday mornings if you want to fill your frig with the best veggies. It’s also where I often catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

As a way of testing whether or not I’m retired, I’m taking some time off here and blogging only when I have something important or inspiring to say. Though we’re mostly at home this summer, we’re eyeing a lovely cruise up the New England and Canadian coast, then down the St. Lawrence Seaway in the fall. And who knows what else will present itself? I’m opening up my life and my days by leaning into the breeze and seeing where it takes me. I’m not giving up the visual art and writing ghosts at all. I’m simply allowing my muse the extra time and space she needs to fly.

See you next time! And have a wonderful summer!

Why In The World??

 

DSC02421Over the past few weeks I’ve heard and participated in various conversations about the dilemma of asking for help. If we’re sick and need to take time off from work and are our only means of financial support what do we do? If we’re living from paycheck to paycheck and have been working for someone for years and still aren’t getting paid vacations, why can’t we broach the subject with our employer? If we live alone and can no longer climb a ladder to change a lightbulb, do we live in the dark?

Being needy is a very embarrassing place to be. It brings out our shame. We should be able to take care of ourselves, right?

When I was a child I learned not to ask for help. My father trusted no one and wouldn’t even loan a hammer out to a neighbor. I was supposed to figure out how to solve my own difficulties. If I couldn’t find my own way, I felt like a loser in my parent’s eyes. One of the biggest elephants in my room is asking for help as well as accepting it when it arrives.

I know I’m not alone. I watch friends struggle with the same problem, hoping they’ll show me a magical way to get help without feeling like a failure. But they are no better at it than I am. We all sit together and ask, why can’t we do this one simple thing?  Especially when the help is there to be given with such generosity.

I’ve often blamed it on being a woman because most of us have been caregivers to our kids, husbands, needy relatives, or aging parents. I thought men never struggled with that kind of thing. In the old traditional way of thinking, before feminism came along, men were the superheroes who could do everything. They went to work to put food on the table, pay for the kid’s new shoes and the root canal his spouse needed.

But have you ever wondered why men don’t ask for directions if they are lost? Why don’t most of them cry openly? Women do not own shame. It belongs to everyone. Men, Women, the  young,the old and even the dog who just peed on that fine oriental carpet in the living room.

But why? Why aren’t we enough? Why do some of us jump in to rescue others who need a hand, but refuse to admit that we could use a helping hand ourselves? Are we all in competition of some sort that says we have to be the very best at everything? Do we expect too much from ourselves? There are various explanations for this phenomena.  I’m interested in hearing:

What you’re thoughts are about asking for help and the shame that often ensues?

I will be sending out another newsletter next Tuesday, the first of March.  If you haven’t already signed up to have it delivered to your inbox, go to the top of this page, on the right hand side to sign up.  It’s free and I never share your personal information.

Wishes For A Mindful New Year!

IMG_0009Once more the year has rolled into its final week. Like everyone else, I anticipate what’s to come as the New Year begins? Who will be our next President? Will the wars in the Middle East spread further and further? And what will our country’s role be in trying to find peace? Will cold weather finally arrive and bring with it snow or freezing rain destroying these tiny gems I photographed on the day after Christmas?

There are also very personal wonderings. How will Bill’s knee replacement surgery go? Will my daughter’s fight with lyme disease finally be over and will she return to perfect health? Will I sell tons of books when my retitled memoir, SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, is published on September 20th? Yes, you heard that right, a new title which I think works oh so much better. And yes, it will be available on September 20, 2016.

Every December I choose a word to carry me through the next year, as a reminder of what is most important as I travel down the path I’ve chosen. As this past year has slipped by, I’ve found myself falling back into an old pattern that makes me extremely uncomfortable when I allow it to take over my thoughts.

Its name is Worry. I’m afraid that my predisposition for getting worked up over things has taken over my thought process and kicked mindfulness out the door. As a result, I spend too much time imagining what might happen to me, my family, or the world. I’ve also found myself kicking myself in the butt for mistakes I’ve made in the past and my sometimes pissy behavior.

Worry and Regret are not things I want to  carry around with me. So I’m going back to a word that has never been on my list of New Year Words, but is most important in that it has helped me in the past and will help ease my way through the coming months with a bit of sanity.

If I can bring back being MINDFUL during the next 365 days, I will be very pleased with myself.

I think it will take some work to be present in each and every moment, so it won’t be particularly easy or happen over night. And perhaps it shouldn’t be a New Years Word at all. Maybe it’s a Rest Of My Life Word. But I think all New Year Words do that eventually anyway. Or so I hope.

In the last week, I’ve started rereading, When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron. It’s one of her greatest, though all of her books are. It certainly is apt as I observe the state of our world right now. This particular book has helped me through some of the worst years of my life. Her encouraging words reach into my heart, helping to release my unease.

I want to be more appreciative of all of the good things, like those beautiful, little daffodils in the photo at the top of this page that don’t usually bloom here in December. Or these funny Halloween pumpkins that turned intoIMG_0006 something otherworldly by the end of November. They seem fossilized. Very out of season, they make me smile when I pass by them on my walks.

Today, I’m trying to be present NOW. It’s all I’ve really got. Those mistakes and bad behaviors I mentioned earlier happened in the past. Why run them through the wringer one more time?

As for the future, it hasn’t happened yet. For right now, I’ll concentrate on typing these words while I listen to robins singing happily outside in leafless trees. Later, on my way to lunch, I’ll notice the fine mist that is falling and how it gently settles on my hair.

What are your reflections on the coming year and what is it you want most to happen?

 

I’ll be taking a break from posting here for the next few weeks
so that I can be present for Bill as he begins recovering from his surgery 
scheduled on January 4th. 
Please send along prayers and healing thoughts.
They are greatly appreciated.

My monthly Newsletter will be published as usual on January 1st,
and is the story of how I became a writer.  Subscribe to it at the top
right hand side of this page to have it delivered to your email address.

I’ll be back here on my blog on January 19th.

Happy New Year to All!

The Silence Of Snow

DSC01864I just returned from a writing retreat with four wonderful women. It was a week of hard writing, sharing, nurturing, and laughter. I’ll write more about it next week. But for now, with a good portion of our country sleeping beneath a heavy blanket of snow, I leave you with the following poem.

The Silence of Snow

I shift beneath blankets
warm from nightly wandering
the only sound my thoughts
percolating through misty dreams
unspoken words muffled by snow
pillowed on pines  plump sculptures
thick as feather beds conceal
the garden that yesterday lay
barren and scarred

No birds call  leaden geese in silhouette
glide the river thickening with winter chill
I slip back into dreams  a mummy wrapped
in sheets of white  the slow dance
of cranes in a sea of frozen fog
drift in and out numbing my bones
awake once more I wonder if death
is as still and pure as
the silent snow

JZR
12/2005

What questions do snow and silence raise for you?

Satire, Black Comedy, and Terrorism

Yellowstone National Park, February, 2007.

Yellowstone National Park, February, 2007.

The past week’s abhorrent shootings in Paris are said to be the beginning of a new age of terrorism that some say cannot be stopped. Cities like London, New York, and Los Angeles are prime targets for insane fundamentalist activity, and there are new terror alerts posted everywhere. We’re told to be vigilant and be aware of everything that is going on around us.  On my last trip on Amtrak, there were signs all over place saying, “If You See Something, Say Something,” encouraging travelers like myself to speak up about any unsettling activity they notice as we move from place to place.

I do not support or defend those who killed the French cartoonists and the hostages and I strongly believe in freedom of speech. But I’m forced to wonder that if we stopped lambasting other people’s religions, spirituality, and those who are different from us, things might change just a little bit.

I believe that much of today’s humor, like the “jokes” I heard at the Golden Globe’s on Sunday night, is shamefully distasteful. Was it really necessary to roast Bill Cosby, for his detestable behavior toward women on a program that is supposed to be celebrating creativity and brilliance? Cosby is already being punished for his acts of uninvited sexual advances, even though it hasn’t yet been proven in a court of law.

I personally do not find humor based on anger to be funny. It is hurtful.

In satire or black humor, people aren’t maimed or gunned down in hate crimes like those in Paris, but they can be hurt none-the-less. Consider the number of gay men and women, young and old, who have committed suicide because others have had “fun” calling them monsters of one sort or another.

Our country, “The Land of The Free and home of the brave,” has always had terrorists among us. There are hate crimes committed every day here, and those who commit them are not usually Muslims.

Remember the Civil Rights Movement, and the number of innocent African Americans who suffered at the hands of “upstanding, Christian” white people?

I recently spent a few days with a person who is not an American citizen. His satirical rants about “you Americans,” set my generally positive attitude towards everyone on edge. By the end of his visit I was more than a bit offended.

There are “Ugly Americans” among us, as William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, coined them in their book by that same title in 1958. We are just as hateful as anybody else and often behave miserably when we visit other countries. But we’re also responsible for doing great things around the world for people who are different from us.

Other countries also do great things for the world. Sometimes their people make the headlines like, Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate ever, who works on behalf of girls and women and their right to be educated. Others humbly struggle to make things right, without recognition. But those who get the most recognition, are the haters and fundamentalists who shoot and blow innocent people up.

The gathering of people and officials from all over the world, who rallied in Paris on Sunday, heartened me. What a wonderful way of bringing people of all ethnicities together in support of free speech and peace. I am ashamed, however, that our administration chose not to send a higher official to participate with the other world leaders who felt it was their duty to be there. It has been reported that Attorney General, Eric Holder, was in Paris at the time, but did not to attend.

Some of us complain about needing to be politically correct all of the time. But I believe that doing so is an act of kindness, and that we’d go a long way in diminishing some the hatred we’re witnessing in our world today, if we just a bit more careful.

If we can be kind and helpful to those around us, rather than put them down because they believe in a different God than we do, maybe we can make a difference in what happens in our world. It probably won’t stop terrorists from blowing up innocent people, but it’s a step in the right direction. By doing so, we can mend the hearts of many and take the first step in bringing peace and unity to all of the people we share our beautiful planet with.