Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 30: A word...or four

It is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I'll be using the final prompt of the month for today's post:

"Have you chosen a word of the year for yourself for 2017? What is it? If not, what words would you consider?"

A couple of years ago I set an intention for the year.  I don't recall what it was.  I might have done it at the beginning of 2016, but unless I wrote it in my journal (which I'm too lazy to get up and retrieve from its shelf), I don't recall that either.  Maybe a word, one simple word, will be easier than a full on intention.

What words would I consider for 2017?

Hope comes to mind first.  I think we are going to need it.  I think we will need to remind ourselves that somewhere ahead of us in this dark tunnel is a light.  I think we will need to remember that there is an generation coming up whose values are more progressive and open than any before.   We will make progress.

Work.  Work because there is going to be so much of it that must be done.  I expect difficult times; that we will need to take a stand over and over and over again.  I expect moments of exhaustion, but the work will be done because there really isn't any other option.

Community.  Do I need to explain this one?  I can say this for the election results, it has brought people together.  I have seen and experienced friends reaching out to each other in concrete ways (you know, beyond the usual social media likes and virtual hugs).  I sent of a few dozen holiday cards this week, something I've not done in years, because I wanted to connect in a more real way.  We will need to continue to come together, to support one another, and to love one another.

Finally, I'd pick joy, because even in the toughest of times we need to celebrate the high moments. We need to share cake on birthdays, spontaneous picnics and potluck dinners (yes, my joy often involves food).  Even gloomy old me has to smile once in a while.

Hope. Work. Community. Joy.

There are my words for 2017.  Somehow I think this coming year's words will be more difficult to forget.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day 29: One to go...

Tomorrow will mark the end of this year's NaBloPoMo.  Assuming that I write a post tomorrow, it will be the first time I've successfully completed it in the month of November when the rest of the blogosphere is participating. I have usually done it in the month of December when I was on break from school.

I enjoy blogging.  Writing has always been one of my primary tools for processing emotions, change, and significant life events and this month was full of such events.  On the upside this made for a lot of available blog fodder and I rarely found myself drawing a blank as to what to write about. In fact I was more likely to have a need to write about something I didn't want to yet share, than I was to have a desire to share and found I had no topic to write about.

This month my blog contained far more personal emotional expression than it usually does.  This was, I think, a good exercise for me because I often tend to keep painful things close - usually out of shame, embarrassment or simply not wanting to seem a bother.  But the events of the past several weeks were overwhelming and I actually found myself unable to contain them.  I was grateful to have this forum as well as my friends and family as support.

I discovered too that my writing did not benefit just me.  Several people shared their feelings on what I wrote.  Through comments, emails and a few face to face conversations, people shared what resonated with them and expressed that my experience helped them in some way.  They felt a little more connected, a little less alone.

I can't really ask for a better compliment than that.  Connection and understanding are things we all need and if this blog provides some of that in even a small way it is worth the time and effort I put into it.

I've one more post to go.  Thank you for taking the time to read these posts, for sharing them and commenting on them.  Thank you for connecting.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Day 28: Unfinished

This image is of a doily that I started to make during the last couple of weeks of my grandmother's life.  I would find someone to give me a ride to the nursing home she was in and I'd sit beside her bed and crochet. Sometimes it was a couple of hours, other times it was a whole afternoon or evening.

She was on a fairly large amount of medication and so while she was communicative she often talked to people who were not there or addressed me by another name.  Sometimes she would go through the motions of doing things with her hands and when I asked what she was doing she'd tell me she was knitting or washing the dinner dishes.

The last few nights I visited she was unconscious.  I continued to work on the doily.  It was a complicated one with sheaves of wheat in the pattern.  It was meant to line a bread basket.  The pattern book had been her mother's or maybe her aunt's.  She'd given it to me years before along with crochet hooks and a tatting kit that had been her mum's.

I was still working on it the day she died though I didn't crochet during my visit.  I just sat next to the bed holding her hand.  She woke for a bit and the nurse asked if I wanted to speak to her.  I did and so I went to the other side of the bed where she was looking.  Her eyes were unfocused due to the medication but the nurse asked if she could see me and if she knew who I was.  She said my name.  I smiled and told her I loved her.

Her eyes closed and she went back to sleep.  Soon after I received a text that my ride was waiting downstairs.  I kissed her hand and told her I'd return the next day.

I can't say if I knew that visit would be the last one because she was in a place where any visit might be the last, but I was not surprised when the call came the next day telling me she'd died.

The doily still sits unfinished in bag tucked at the bottom of my project basket.  There will be a day that I sit down, find my place in the pattern and finish the project.  I'll probably have a dinner party just so I can make and serve biscuits in a doily lined bowl.

And I'll probably tell the story of how the doily came to be, and how much I loved my grandmother.

There are days, like today, that I miss her so very much.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Day 27: Letting Go

Today's post will be short.

This morning I came across this article on the Psychology Today website. It is about how we, as children, develop patterns and habits of behavior that will shape who we are and how we relate to the world for decades to come.

It also discusses why, even when those patterns and habits are self destructive, we have such a difficult time letting go of them.  It explains that one of the most terrifying things you can do is to choose to change, even when it means starting over from scratch.

Even if it means not even being all that sure who you are when you strip all of those patterns and habits away.

It is frightening.  But it is, I think, worth it if it means truly knowing one's self.

I am in that process, the one of letting go of those patterns and habits that, until now, defined who I was.  It is frightening and sometimes leaves me paralyzed with indecisiveness as I have to navigate new ways of decision making.  But as I let go of each little bit of who I thought I was, I find another tiny piece of who I am.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Day 26: Holiday Cards

Holiday Stamps - USPS
I have never been regular about sending out holiday cards.  Some years I spent hours on end crafting homemade cards to send off to family and friends.  And others, well, I had a list of excuses as to why I didn't want to handle that particular chore...

...I didn't have time to do handmade cards and if it was just going to be a card off the shelf why bother?
...Even if I bought cards off the shelf I just don't have to time to track down all of those addresses, write the cards, stamp them and then mail them.
...No one does this any more.  I mean why not just let the tradition die out?
...Oh look now it's just two weeks before the holidays, maybe I could send New Year's cards instead.
...oh...Happy New Year, guess I'll try again next year.

This year on the day before Thanksgiving I found myself standing in front of a very small display of holiday cards at the drug store.  I had gone in to look for a light bulb when I saw the holiday decorations on display and wondered if they might have boxes of cards.  It had been how many years since I sent them out regularly?  Three?  Four?  Maybe five...these days most folks send ecards, if they send anything at all, and I'm just as guilty.

I thought of how nice it was to open the mailbox and see something other than a bill there.  An envelope with a handwritten address; a concrete, solid representation of my being in someone's thoughts.  I wanted the people I cared about to have that moment where they would know someone paused in their day to let them know they were thought of kindly.

I didn't buy the most expensive box, or even the prettiest cards, but I bought a box that I thought would have enough cards to send to everyone who might be on my list.  I'd not made the list yet so 24 cards seemed appropriate but when I began to write out my list this morning I quickly realized 24 would not even be close.  I went to Reny's to buy another box and on my way also stopped to purchase stamps.

I spent much of this evening writing them out.   I admit, at first as I sat looking at my list of names, I questioned the wisdom of doing it. The list was not short and that was so much writing.  But I dug out my good pen, poured a glass of wine and set upon my task.  As I began to write, crossing each name off the list as the address was penned on the envelope, it felt less and less like a chore.

I found the process to be a bit meditative as I looked at the next name on the list, brought the image of the person to mind, often recalling some memory of them, and wrote a short personal message in their card.  It was enjoyable to think of the people I love and cherish.

I managed to get about halfway through my list and hope to finish the rest tomorrow so that I can walk them all to the mailbox on Monday morning.

I don't expect many cards back, if any at all.  It is a tradition that seems to be fading, and it has been years since I sent them out myself.  But that doesn't matter, what mattered to me was doing some small thing to create connection with people who are important to me.

And this year connection seems extra important.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Day 25: Wounded

"It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded." - W. Somerset Maugham

Lessons. Those times when an event in life causes us pain; when we suffer loss or rejection.  When we first learn that the only way to get out of it is to move through it.

The first time it might not even cross our minds that there is and end to it.  That sadness, grief, pain all of it, will eventually fade.  That may be the first lesson we learn - that we can survive.  It may take a time or two more to recognize it fully.

And we survive in whatever way we can.  Not all of us develop great coping mechanisms.  Some of us numb our pain, distract ourselves from it using drugs, alcohol, sex or even isolation.  Keeping busy, busy all the time so that we never have quiet moments where our thoughts might wander.

And some allow the process to happen, move through the pain and have faith that we will come out the other side.

I want to believe that I am in that healthier place.  This year I made a commitment to facing my own shadows, allowing my personal demons to speak their piece in the hope that I would come to a deeper understanding of myself.  And while I definitely underestimated how difficult and time consuming it would be, I think I have made progress.  I have faced events that at one time would have brought me to my knees.

Instead I am still standing, bruised and wounded, struggling, grieving, but able to keep moving forward.