Looking back and thinking forward

Month: July, 2013

Bag of guilt


Somedays, I wish I could just lay down my old, worn out bag of guilt on some side-street sidewalk in Paris, just like Macon Leary in Accidental Tourist. I mean, at times it is so heavy I find myself physically limping down the street, or up the stairs to my study. The guilt is profound, pervasive, paralyzing, and unforgiving.

Yeah, yeah, I know it served a purpose once, maybe fifty, or even sixty years ago or so, but now the bag is just old baggage – a bunch of useless, irrelevant, unrealistic, and unhelpful stuff

This morning I say, "Just lay it down, Tamarika." 

Set it aside.

And walk on by with a lightened load.

Reflections and ramblings II

As I click on "compose-a-post" at the blogging website, I become excited. Of course there is a mixture of excitement and slight trepidation for I am never quite sure what will become the final posting. I have an idea as I start out – sometimes even an outline. I have something to say. For example, this morning as I looked out in the pale, light of dawn, I saw the garden below my third floor study. I peered down at the flower beds and over the tops of the shorter trees. Mimi sat up straight, almost to attention, as I approached the window, where she had been laying soaking up the fresh morning air. We both stared out and down. The ground looked soaked and on the rooftop the gutters were filled with water, rippling now and again with the last few drops from the late night storm the night before. I think I saw that the plants and blossoms were drooping their heads and bodies from the weight of all that rain, but I imagined when it first started falling they must have been reaching out their leaves and flowers to soak up the desperately needed rain after many days of exhausting heat.

Mimi pokes her head over the armrest of my chair as I type this post. She plays with my arm and meows gently. She needs breakfast, but I cannot seem to stop the flow of writing. I reach down, look in her eyes and smile. "I know. I'm coming," I say out loud, and she wanders towards the window on my right, jumping up on the soft yellow blanket awaiting her strong, young, furry body. There, she stares out at the trees watching and listening to the birds: cardinals, cat-birds, and robins – chirping, whistling, singing through the rain drenched leaves and branches. I stop and find myself hoping that their nests were not destroyed during the night of bright, snappy lightning and deep growling thunder, as it rained and rained and rained.

Well, I suppose I could have just written a brief "status update," on Facebook, or a short "tweet" on Twitter – perhaps, "My how it rained," or "Plants and flowers ecstatic this morning after the storm." You know … headlines. Instead, I felt energy in my fingertips and brain, and needed to write more about it, going a little deeper. There's more, I am sure. Because as I write I feel a stirring from my dreams when I slept and woke in and out during the storm late last night and into the early morning. Something from my dreams is pushing me to write. I know something else is wishing its way out of my brain and onto this cyber page … I can feel it in my stomach, sense it through the tingling in my fingertips, and slight burning sensation behind my eyes. 

I look up and see Mimi sitting as still as a sphinx, her eyes half closed, with a patience that I yearn to experience. A solid acceptance of the here and now. Just waiting. Holding still. Until I rise to give her breakfast.

Reflections and ramblings

Becoming a writer means learning how to observe. Not just seeing a butterfly settling on a leaf, but realizing it is a large, yellow Monarch expanding itself as it settles for long enough without flying away so that I can take a photograph with my iPhone, while on my morning walk today. Not just feeling hot and humid, but noticing how rivers of sweat are running down my back and into my shorts, trickling like rivulets along the outline of my face, down the sides of my neck and into the narrow sleeves of my white tank top – the one I used to wear fourteen years ago when I was 52. I feel proud that the shirt still fits me even now that I am sixty four. I walk out into the bright, muggy morning feeling light footed and confident. I even want to shout out to passers-by, "Hey! My tank top from 14 years ago still fits me, when I am 64!" Instead, I quicken my step and walk briskly along the hedgerows, past the Unitarian Church, and up the hill towards Carpenter Woods. I realize I am smiling. I remember holding up my arm tightening my hand in a fist and calling out, "Amandla!" when Madiba was released. "Power," is what it meant. I want to hold up my arm again and call out, "Amandla!" Instead, I smile to myself and walk on – three more miles to go, and the day is heating up. I notice a hardy hibiscus in a yard as I walk by. Lush, green leaves puffing out the bush full of bright red blossoms of a Lady Baltimore type. The flowers are as large as the palms of both my hands cupped out and upwards together as if to receive a gift from the heavens. I stare at the huge plant, and wish my own was as prolific as the one I am ogling at. As soon as I feel envy rising up within, a voice in my head whispers until I find myself actually mouthing the words, "… Just look at it for what it is, and not for what I don't have." Indeed, I surprise myself with that thought, that seemed to have come out of nowhere. I stop walking and note the thought in my status update on Facebook. I just need to share it out there in the Universe. It feels profound and touches something deep inside. 

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Chapters

On being needed …

[NOTE: This post was originally written in 2005 in my Tamarika blog – it has been slightly tweaked]

I think I am going to have a very difficult time dying. It will probably have to hit me out of the blue. I just cannot imagine people living without me. They will never be able to think of things to do or do them as I well as I. And how will they manage when I am not around? For example, the cats need me early in the morning. Ada wakes me by pulling on the telephone chord and sometimes sits close to my face, gently patting my lips with her paw. She and Molly want to play. More urgently they like to watch me clean their litter box because they know that those seafood tasty treats are on their way. 

I think about them as I plan my new fall position at a college three hours drive from my home. This will mean that I will have to rent a small studio where I will stay for half the week. On the one hand I am thrilled at the opportunity for this new position. On the other, what will Molly and Ada do without their morning treats, tuna once a week and the twice a day litter cleaning ritual?

I remember when my son and his girlfriend went up into the Snowy Range. He was sixteen. He took a pack and headed out from Buffalo New York to Wyoming on a Greyhound bus. After a week, his girlfriend returned. It had been so high in those mountains that she had felt quite unwell. He stayed behind to wander the range alone. I did not sleep for days. There were no cell phones then. How did I allow him to go off like that? Lying awake each night in my comfortable home in Clarence, I imagined all manner of terrible things happening to him. When I would get to the part about him lying alone in a pool of blood, I would sit up sharply in my bed and head quickly, urgently for the kitchen to make a cup of tea. In my family, all crises are dealt with by a cup of tea. As I write this, I can hear my sister calling out, "Put on the kettle, I'll make the tea!"

My son returned two weeks later looking well. His hair was knotted and tangled into natural dreadlocks but he looked tall and strong. Soon after his girlfriend had left him on top of the Snowy Range he had stumbled onto the "Sand Lake Lodge." There he stayed for a week or more, helping out with chopping firewood and other such chores. Where had he learned that? He handed me a letter from the owners:

Dear Tamar, We had the pleasure of meeting and knowing your son, G. He stopped by for a drink of water and through mutual agreement he stayed and helped us at our lodge. I just want to let you know what a good person your son is. He has pitched in and helped doing anything he was asked to do, and cheerfully (I might add). Please stop and see us if you are ever in this part of the country, and the door is certainly open for G at any time. Take care and hope to meet you some day.

My son could more than survive without me. But was that a good thing? At age fifteen, he started making his own sandwiches for school and I was mortified. I wandered around feeling depressed and listless for days until I realized that I was not feeling needed. After all, making food for the family is one of the ways we give love. Imagine my joy when one year he wrote to me in a mother's day card, "I love you and I need you but I allow you to rest once in awhile. I take that back. I love you and I need you UNCONDITIONALLY. Love G."

Is my self-worth dependent on being needed?

In March I will be presenting to directors of campus based child care centers about delegating. As a director of a large campus based child care center for eleven years, I learned to let go of being the only person who knows what to do, or the only person who does it properly. Before I left the center to move to Philadelphia I would sit in my office and weep silently to myself. Who would know that when you feed Nacho, the cockatiel, you have to chirp and sing so that he/she would reply in kind? Who would talk to the plants, as I did in my mind, as they watered them? Who would …? It was agony. I was sure that no one, parents, staff, children, would be able to live without me. And then we hired one of the teachers who had been at the Center longer than me to be the new Director and, presto! Everyone is growing and thriving. When last I visited Nacho and the plants looked happy, strong and joyful!

Whenever I go off to conferences, Hawaii or to Israel to visit my family, Life Partner does just fine! Even though he does not always give Molly and Ada those special seafood tasting treats at the right time early in the morning, they all seem to be thriving and joyful when I return.

So perhaps I can allow myself to feel worthwhile in ways other than being needed.

I wonder how.