Making The Best Of Difficult Times

I’ve been so taken up with our unsettled world and what is happening in our own country that I’ve gone over the edge once again … waking with the dreads, a general malaise, and a burning need to break away from all that unsettles me. It’s also been raining here … a lot. I’ve sometimes wondered if the sun is still up there. When I lived in Vermont I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder from November until April. The way I’m feeling right now is very similar, but I think it has more to do with what is happening around me than the light. As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I easily pick up on the vibes out in the world and need to take action to get myself out of the dumps. It’s exhausting to allow myself to get so involved in things I cannot control.

So what do I do about it?

I meditate. I let myself cry if I need to. I turn off the radio and the tv and turn on Pandora to listen to classical guitar while I do my Egoscue exercises, or jazz it up with Dave Brubeck, David Sanborn and others when I need to add some energy to my day. I’m also a fan of Yo-Yo Ma, Frank Sinatra, and the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. For me music is a cure-all and a necessary part of my days.

I’m watching for signs of spring.  Since I have the smallest garden I’ve ever had, I’m thinking small and am beginning to plan a container garden mostly for herbs. I do have space for the helebores, irises, and peonies I dug up from my last home before we moved. My friend and garden helper, Maria, has been overwintering them for me and she will be coming soon to get them in the ground. I can’t wait!

Keeping my creative energy flowing is also important so last week I pulled out a beading project I had started a couple of years ago and then forgot about. It’s been sitting in a plastic storage bin since then and I’ve been anxious to get back to it, especially since it will take a good while to finish it in time for the fall. It’s a styrofome pumpkin that I am covering with tiny seed beads using Peyote Stitch. I started a collection of fruit and vegetables using this technique a while back. I find it quite relaxing. And the shifting and mixing of slightly different colored beads makes for imaginitive brain work.

I’ve also started setting aside one day a week and labeling it “MY DAY,” on my calendar. I do not plan anything ahead of time. It’s simply a day when I can do whatever I want to do rather than what I have to do. When I began writing my memoir, I did the same thing, but at that time the chosen day was reserved for writing and activities geared toward getting it published. It quickly turned into several days a week and then a rigorous work/writing schedule. This time around I’m using it just to get my creative juices flowing and I’m looking at getting a canvas set up and slapping paint on it sometime soon.

So while I’m still paying some attention to what’s happening out in the world, I’m happier, more relaxed and feeling more positive than I was just a few weeks ago. And I continue to remind myself that in order for change to happen, sometimes things have to get very ugly and depressing before we notice the light at the end of the tunnel. It is happening whether we realize it or not. It’s what life and being human is all about and I’m trying to make the best of it.  While I’m still paying attention to what is happening out there in the world, I’m spending more time in the present and worry less about changing what I can’t.

Watch! They Can Do It!

As a mother and grandmother, I’m completely bereft as the result of the continuing murders of our nation’s children. I’ve seen a lot of battles throughout my life, but I have never experienced what these kids and their families are going through at this moment in time. As our young ones go out the door to school every morning we wonder if they are safe from the brutality that has begun to smother our nation. This is not a political crisis. It is a moral crisis.

My own kids and grandkids are the most important people in my life. They are the future. I want to protect them. But so far my vote hasn’t helped the situation. Every school shooting only brings more stubborness on the part of our government and the folks at the NRA who line the pockets of those who are supposedly in power. During the Viet Nam Era, it was the youth that kept our eyes open. They did sit-ins. They marched. They got shot at and some were killed. They kept telling us that things were not right with our world and that we were losing ourselves and our nation to a war that we could not win. I don’t want to see a generation of young people massacred for the sake of an immoral nation that supposes itself Holy and Christian.

After last weeks tragic school shootings in Florida, it is the children who are picking up the pieces and are attempting to open the eyes of all of those who refuse to see the horrible mess we adults have allowed to happen. The children of this country are under seige by those whose only interest is is to keep their pockets lined so that they can continue to live the pointless life-styles they so treasure. In this country we are at war with ourselves and the victims of this battle are the children. Despite their fear, these future leaders of America are stepping up and taking over for the blind adults who refuse to bring change to our world.

This past week I have heard well meaning adults say that what these children are doing is useless. They will be dissapointed. They will fail to change anything. But we have handed them the responsibility for their lives by not protecting them from trigger happy, insane individuals who can easily buy assault weapons that are meant only for killing people. They cannot wait for those in power to wake up. They don’t have time to sit back and pray that this unconscionable war against themselves will stop on its own.

If the current leaders of our country cannot protect our children, give these young ones a chance. They will prevail. They have been left to protect themselves. I am behind them and support their efforts to bring change to this shameless, hypocritical world.

Watch!
They Can Do It!

Adjusting To What’s Next

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

Bill is 78 and I’m 75 year old. We both have arthritis and these days we talk about aging a lot. As many of you know Bill has already had one knee replaced along with a shoulder. The other “good” knee is now giving him trouble. It isn’t bone on bone yet and he’s taking his time using a brace and gently working on it until he feels he wants to have it replaced. He’s also been having a bit of trouble with memory loss. We haven’t yet heard of brain replacements, and even if that were possible, how do you download 78 years of memories into an artificial brain and still be human?

Although joint replacements never work like the real deal, artificial knees help make those suffering from pain continue to move about comfortably. Our Orthopedist says that those who tell us that we’ll be as good as new after a replacement are full of you know what. And when it does happen it’s extremely rare, especially if you’re of a certain age. But we go for being comfortable and spending our senior years continuing to go on adventures. Bill’s recent week on board a ship with 700 joyful Irish musicians was a wonderfully fun time him and he got around happily using a cane or a wheel chair when he had to.

I myself have just been diagnosed with bone on bone arthritis in my right knee. Although I move around most days comfortably there are days when it’s too painful, especially during this stormy winter when I can predict a tempest coming well before it arrives. I, too, will be trying a brace for a while, and use a heating pad or ice to lessen the pain. Our good doctor does not want to jump in with his knives. He’s conservative and doesn’t like to be overly invasive. So we’ll spend a while seeing how it goes before we enter an OR.

The other complaint you often hear at our house is how long it can take to get things done. We’re moving much more slowly than we used to and completing tasks that used to take an hour can now take up to one or two hours more, depending on how complicated it is.

I’ve just discovered how addicted I have become to schedules and time. It seems to be how the world operates these days. Everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. We wait in line overnight just before a new electronic device comes on the market so that we can be one of the first to own it. And big box stores open their doors on Thanksgiving day giving all the “must haves” a chance to get whatever it is they want before the store runs out. They forget that spending time doing something relaxing with their kids and other family members is essential while the world spews more and more stress our way.

I may not know what to do about my knee right now, but I do know what to do about this newly discovered schedule addiction of mine. Firstly, I quit wearing a watch a few weeks ago. Silly me used to check it constantly to see if I had plenty of time.  Secondly, I’ve discovered that by taking more time to do things, I notice all of things I used to miss when I was in such a hurry. What I sometimes considered distractions, like watching the birds at the feeder or a flower slowly opening its petals in the garden, help me to be at peace with myself and the world around me.

Aging may be something that many people don’t look forward to, but I’m discovering that it is delightful to allow myself to go with a much more slow and gentle flow than the tornadic activity that too often accompanied my younger days.  It’s all about adjusting to what’s next!

Cozy Sunday

Bill is away on an Irish music adventure somewhere out in the Caribbean even though he’s somewhat lame and has a wheel chair to help him get around the ship he’s on. I admire and encourage his hutzpah at age 78. He just keeps going like the Ever Ready bunny despite his aching knee. I do miss him and worry about him a bit, but we, like most couples, need some time to ourselves once in a while. And he’s having a wonderful time learning new tunes on his tin whistle.

I, on the otherhand, am here at home, enjoying some solitude. This is my first stay in our new home by myself with companions, Max, and Lilliput. I know Bill wants a turn at being here by himself so I’m going to have to hunt up an adventure for myself for sometime in the near future. But my first goal is to simply slow down and take life a bit easier than I have been.

Sunday was an especially cozy day for me. It started to snow at around 8 AM, then turned to sleet and freezing rain, then to plain old rain. What snow coated the ground melted away quickly and it seemed the daylong precipitation may have put a dent into our moderate drought situation.

Inside all day, except for a quick walk to the mailbox to get yesterday’s mail, it was warm and dry. I managed to relax for the first time in weeks … no place to go, nothing to do, even though I had a healthy to-do list. I wanted to simply be. I did manage to make a pot of bone broth in my Insta Pot, emptied the trash, did my physical therapy exercises, and a bit of yoga. I spent the rest of the time sipping hot tea, reading, journaling, watching the ice building up on the trees, and the goldfinches at the birdfeeder being chased away every now and then by one of the big fat squirrels that think they own the place. I guess they do. They were here before I came. I don’t mind an occassional visit and I do like to share what I have with whoever needs to fill their stomaches as I sit, warm and dry, on the other side of the glass.

Though we haven’t had a snowday so far this winter, maybe one will come along before spring makes its appearance. But with a bouquet of daffodils in the kitchen, it’s easy to imagine a freshening of green as warmer temperatures arrive. I don’t care what that old groundhog has to say, I’ve noticed the dried out grass is showing a hint of green this week.

Books, Books, And More Books

This past September and October I had to come face to face with my addiction to books. There would be little space for book shelves in our new home. What to do?

I was getting good at clearing out the kitchen of uneccessary gadgets. Did I need four or five table cloths, Bill’s mother’s fancy china and gorgeous chrystal glasses that we never used because they were so fragile? I cut my wardrobe back radically. All the gardening tools except for a trowel and pruning shears had to find homes along with all the flower pots, bags of potting soil, and fertilizer. I had no problem selling, donating, and gifting those things away. The purging was going well and everytime I decided to discard something, I felt lighter.

But I still had the books to do. I started with the large collection of poetry books that took up at least 7 of a 10 shelf bookcase which I would also have to find a new home for. There sat Robert Frost, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Gregory Orr and a host of other well known and not so well known poets.

Nonfiction books, covering a vast range of subjects from nature, memoir, self-help, Buddhism, along with favorites like Terry Tempest Williams and Annie Dillard, took up more space than anything else in additional bookcases. Since I did’t read much fiction, there weren’t many novels.

Being an artist I had a healthy collection of art books that had served as inspiration for most of my life. Included were instruction books on beading, especially French Beaded Flowers, and books filled with gorgeous photos of real flowers that I thought I would one day figure out how to mimic with beads.

Were there cookbooks, you ask? How could I live without the seventy-five or so texts that had fed us since we got married back in 1965. Get rid of Julia Child? And what about all the new Paleo cookbooks that I’ve been using for the last couple of years?

Somehow I did find a way to part with many of them. I gave them to family, friends, and donated the rest to the local library for their annual spring book sale. I learned a lot about my reading habits and found loads of books I had bought and never read. There were books that I hadn’t liked but kept anyway. I started by getting rid of those and continued to purge until the last minute. Those that were left are in the built-in book cases in the living room, bookcases in my studio and bedrooms.

Keeping a library on my kindle doesn’t help. I’ve never liked reading books on a “device.” I love to hold real books in my hands, turn real paper pages, and feel the weight of the writings I hold in my hand.

I’ve made a few rules for myself to help me through my recovery: I give myself time most day to rest and read after lunch for an hour or so. I’ll not push through a book that isn’t my cup of tea. If it’s boring or too painful to read, I won’t bother. When I buy a new book, I ask myself if it’s one I’ll need to keep. It’s okay if I need to own a book so I can mark it up, make notes in the margins, or underline passages that speak to me. I won’t buy new books unless I get rid of one for each one I bring home. Once I finish reading the books I haven’t read yet, I’ll hopefully start going to the library. Will I ever  completely recover from this addiction of mine?  I don’t know.  But I figure this one is better than addictions to booze and drugs.

I’ve read the following books in the last month or so.  They are all good reads and are now on their way to the library book sale:  Finding Magic, A Spiritual Memoir, by Sally Quinn, The Winter People, a ghost story, by Jennifer McMahon, Pachinko, a novel by National Book Award Finalist, Min Jin Lee, and The Keeper of Lost Things, a whimsical novel by Ruth Hogan.

I’m currently working my way through Sister Joan Chittister’s, The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. I can’t get enough of this marvelous book that is guiding me each day through the hard work of aging. This one will stay on the shelf next to my bed forever.

Are you addicted to books?