Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rubbing Off The Edges

She looks like a little bird except I've never seen a tiny bird with such a grim look on its face. Yesterday I saw her on the far side of the big church, shoulders hunched under her familiar blue trench coat, blue paisley scarf wrapped around her hair so that only her pointy nose was visible from where I sat. Her familiar presence comforted me. Funny how that is. We might complain bitterly about the scowly neighbour three pews ahead of us and yet community is not truly community without all of us, not just the ones we take a shine to. How else would we get our rough edges rubbed off without people who rub us the wrong way?

The first time I noticed her, several years ago, I watched how she walked primly up to the altar after the Mass and firmly blew out the candles. I remember thinking to myself that she was a no nonsense kind of woman, the kind who might whack someone with her cane if necessary. Earlier, I had watched how she looked at the man beside her, looked the other away, took a second look, heaved a sigh that said, "oh, alright" and then gingerly held his hand during the Lord's prayer.

I wonder if she is as crotchety as she appears to be. I wonder if she is like my scary looking third grade teacher who had the highest of standards and had a heart of compassion. I wonder what her story is. What tragedies and consolations she has experienced in her life. We don't get to be who we are without there being a story, do we?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Really, Really

I haven't posted this poem in a long time but I've been gathering quotes for a talk I'm giving at an upcoming retreat and came across it. When I was brand new in Al-Anon another member gave it to me and all those definitions of letting go surprised the heck out of me. "Really?" I wanted to question her. I can only imagine she would have replied, "Really, really."
Letting Go

To "let go" does not mean to stop caring
it means I can't do it for someone else.

To "let go" is not to cut myself off
it's the realization, I can't control another.

To "let go" is not to enable
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To "let go" is not to try to change or blame another
it's to make the most of myself.

To "let go" is not to 'care for'
but to 'care about.'

To 'let go" is not to fix
but to be supportive.

To "let go" is not to judge
but to allow another to be a human being.

To "let go" is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes
but to allow others to affect their destinies.

To "let go" is not to be protective
it's to permit another to face reality.

To 'let go" is not to deny
but to accept.

To "let go" is not to nag, scold or argue
but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To "let go" is not to adjust everything to my desires
but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.

To "let go" is not to criticize and regulate anybody
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To "let go" is not to regret the past
but to grow and live for the future.

To "let go" is to fear less
and love more.

Friday, January 29, 2010


"You've swallowed a lot of didn't like in your life."

Well, wasn't that was an 'oh shit' start to my day! When truth squeezes past my inner censor and announces itself like a camera flash going off in my eyes, it`s hard not to flinch. It's like being a child in a doctor`s office, who`s been told it`s not going to hurt. And just as you let your guard down, because they are doing such a good job of distracting you, by asking the name of your pet cat or some such nonesense, when they pierce you with the needle and you scream bloody murder that that. wasn`t. fair. I`ve never liked surprises.

Those little dots in that quote above are where I came close to squelching that thought this morning. I'd been sitting at the table eating my breakfast, minding my own business, while looking at my protein shake with boredom. The electric blender was dirty from yesterday morning`s breakfast and I was too lazy to wash it. That meant instead of frozen strawberries added to the mix it was just protein powder and rice milk mixed up in a shaker bottle. Not nearly so tasty. I'd been crunching my way through cooked cereal that I'd doctored up with sliced almonds, shredded coconut and coconut oil when I took a sip of my shake and was staring into the glass, deciding whether to chug-a-lug it (like I used to do with booze) or sip it (which I still find a foreign concept with anything except hot tea).

As I started to chug my shake that thought about swallowing a lot of things surfaced uninvited. I took a deep breath before I decided not to be scared of how the sentence might end. I could analyze that sentence to death but for today it`s enough to acknowledge it speaks truth to me on many, many levels. Glory be.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I'm too tired to do much more than say hi.

Dearest one fell on the icy steps two nights ago and landed on his car key which dug into his hand an inch. I would never make a nurse as I just about puked when he showed me the hole it left. He, being in the health care field, took care of it himself because he could. He calmly told me step by step what they would do in ER and did it himself. It must be a guy thing that he thought to himself, while he was yet outside, that he should leave the key in his hand so I could see what it looked like. (It looked cool, don't you know) Then he thought about how he was still in shock and it wouldn't hurt to take the key out unless he left it long enough to get back to the house to show me. I am glad he pulled it out before he came back inside. He was in some kind of pain I tell you. Not fun.

Then, yesterday morning on the way to work, dearest one started showing classic symptoms of having a heart attack. He spent 10 hours being monitored in ER. Good news is it wasn't a heart attack. They have booked him for some tests to see if they can figure out what made his heart go so wonky. At one point during the day I told God it sure would be nice if I saw someone I knew.

A few hours later I went to the gift shop and someone from the fellowship was just leaving it. We stopped and talked, then she gave me a hug and said she would pray. It was a very comforting moment. I told her I knew the only thing I was in control of was my attitude about my reality. I would not know that without hearing it reinforced in a hundred different ways and stories in meetings and then getting chances again and again to experience the truth of it in simple every day situations (like my reaction the idiot driver in front of me) and in situations much more serious (like the possibility that my spouse is having a heart attack). I am grateful that yesterday I was graced with the ability to be calm. I wouldn't have judged myself either had I fallen apart. We are humans, after all, not saints.

We were the fortunate ones yesterday.
Dearest one walked out of the ER on his own steam.
We were right across from the nurse's station for the whole 10 hours and we heard and saw a lot of life happening before us. Prisoners in leg chains, elderly people being checked out after a fall. People in tears, worried about a loved one. People under incredible stress.

From time to time I clean out the billfold part of my wallet. You know those debit slips and receipts that pile up from time to time (another gift in itself because it means I had the means to buy what I needed.) There is only one piece of paper that I always put back in and that is my AA meeting card which is scribbled full of numbers. I knew yesterday that had I felt I needed in person support, if things had gone south in a hurry, I could have called someone and had them come sit with me. That was a great comfort, too.

Hug your loved ones extra tonight. I snuggled up to dearest one's back last night, slipped my arm between his arm and his chest and pulled him close to me. I kissed him between the shoulder blades like I always do, grateful to have him by my side.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lost in a Flash

"It's got to be here somewhere."

Here is in the black garbage bag sitting on the kitchen floor. I've lost a white flash drive that has records for an organization I voluntarily update records for on a regular basis. Last night I updated them again and now I can't find the flash drive. I've convinced myself that I must have accidentally thrown it away in a handful of used Kleenex last night. So I dump the whole garbage bag on the floor and start searching. The puglies come sniffing around to help me search. Too bad they weren't trained to locate lost flash drives. Their noses go much more for chicken bones. I shoo them away and poke through the whole mess even though I am grossed right out. I do find a pair of salad tongs that dearest one accidentally threw out with the soggy Caesar salad. No flash drive in sight.

I return to the office and look at the mess that is the desk. I resign myself to having to clean the desk off. I move the piles of papers off the desk and no flashdrive. I lift the last pile of papers and still no flash drive. I start thinking of the dogs and how they love chewing on plastic things when I spot the flash drive wedged in between the pages of a magazine. I give a big sigh and lift every pile of papers back into it's place and get back to work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

17 Minutes

If you've ever watched Intervention and appreciate Jeff VanVonderen then watch this:

Understanding Addiction

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not Forgotten

I encourage you to go read the account from this family in Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Toe Wisdom

"I"ve learned to be careful whose toes I step on because they might lead to the butt I have to kiss tomorrow."

This quote made me laugh when I heard it yesterday.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I found this Haitian blog
through Beth
and have been reading
and praying.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Called?

"Will you pray about working in the kitchen?"

It's my friend Ann calling and she is leading the next women's retreat. I haven't worked in the kitchen on this retreat in years because baby, it is exhausting. The last time I worked in the kitchen as cook's helper I was on my feet for 20 hours straight. I just can't do it anymore. Dearest one and I talked about it and agreed that nope, it wasn't an option for me. I felt disappointed because I'd wanted to work this retreat with my friend. Working in the kitchen is an incredible time of bonding both with women I've known for years and with new friends, too. The time is marked mostly by hard work, laughter and prayer.

However it looked like I wasn't going to be at this retreat. Darn. I was sure I'd be working it with my friend. Oh well, I thought, I'm not God and I know this friend prays deeply and listens to what she believes God is telling her. I guess it was not to be. I'd call her the next night after work and tell her my answer.

Some of the women work in the kitchen and some of them share their story with a new group of women. There are different topics for these stories and I've shared mine within those topics on several occasions. It is both life giving and humbling. It was so humbling the last time around that I told God I had no desire to ever share the particulars of that story ever again. After I'd shared it a woman came up to me and told me that my past story was her now story and how much strength she was drawing from my experience. Despite giving her hope it had been so painful to share that I just didn't want to do it again.

That said, I knew I'd be asked to share it within a different frame of reference at some point. I had even thought it would be this particular retreat. Despite how painful sharing this part of my story is, I truly believe that the beauty of redemption shines through our lives when we open our mouths and share those moments that have forever changed us. Keeping them to ourselves isn't an option. I just like to whine to God about it now and then. Usually when the pain is still fresh.

The next night I picked up my phone and leaned it towards me so I could see the call display pad. I clicked past the telemarketer of the day call to see my friend Ann's number on the screen. I scrunched up my face in puzzlement as I punched in my password to retrieve her message. In her pleasant British accent she tells me there has been a change in plans. Could I please consider doing such and such a talk instead of working in the kitchen?

In my 10 years of working these retreats I've never had the leader call and change her mind about where I should be working. I was so stunned by her message that when dearest one saw the look on my face he immediately thought we'd received some very bad news. I reassured him that it wasn't bad but I was so shocked that I went into our bedroom and cried.

Later that evening I called Ann, "Okay, you need to tell me the story behind why you changed your mind." Because I know there has to be one.

Turns out she'd gone to bed the night before and had been unable to sleep. She was exhausted and told God it really would be nice if she could go to sleep. After tossing and turning and praying and laying there awake, into her head popped the idea that Hope wasn't supposed to be working in the kitchen, she was supposed to be doing this talk. My friend got out of bed, wrote herself a note about it, went back to bed and promptly fell asleep.

And that is how it came to be that
I am now doing the talk that I told God
I never wanted to do again.

PS. I grew up with a phone just like in the picture.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I'll Show Them

"Dear Hope,
Next time do this instead of that
and here's the person you should call
to get that set up."


I'd followed protocol. Their protocol. You know, the one they changed the last time I followed the protocol they'd changed before that. Yah, that one. This last time around I had even congratulated myself in a note to them basically saying hey, I'd finally figured it out, don't you want to pat me on the back?

Apparently not.

I read their note and immediately turned to my keyboard. I'd let them know that I wasn't stupid, wasn't born yesterday and was already a step ahead of them because I'd fixed the problem before they even let me know there was one, thankyouverymuch. I'll...I'll...I'll show them.

I've spent most of my life scratching my head at easy going, like water off a duck's back kind of people. Didn't they know they could be all het up about it? If they gave a shit they'd get their panties in a knot just like me.

One of the gifts of active recovery is to not get my panties in a knot over most anything anymore. I've been surprised to learn that when I ask myself How important is it? about any given I'm-ramping-up-to-make-a-big-drama-out-of-it situation that it's rarely worth the energy to get all riled up. Most of the time that's a relief. Sometimes, like today, I have a hard time letting go of it.

So I started pounding out an email to them. Fast and furiously I thanked them for solving the problem, that btw I'd done this, this and this. I concluded by thanking them for their patience with me. In the midst of typing I wondered why it mattered to me to let them know I'd fixed the problem. Fixing it meant we'd never have these kind of exchanges again. What did it matter?

I told myself that all I had to do was be aware of my feelings and not send that email until I'd done some self examination. But, God, I wanted some drama. I wanted to whine. I wanted justice. But that little check within me meant that I let the email sit there. Instead I got up from my desk and went to whine to my boss. Fortunately someone else went to see my boss at the same time and after standing there for a few minutes I was given the grace to turn around and head back to my desk, whine unspoken. Well, except in my head.

I left that email on my desktop for a very long time. I wanted to know what it was within me that was happening. Why did I need to let them know I'd solved the problem when solving the problem didn't pertain to them?

Eventually I figured out that I didn't want to look bad in their eyes. I had been sure they were talking about me way over there in city far away about how stupid I was because I kept screwing up this bit. Or as a friend humourously commented last night, "Ya, they gather around the water cooler and talk about you for 10 minutes straight."

Lord have mercy.

I cared what they thought about me.

I sat there and repeated to myself that what other people think of me is none of my business.

Then I sent the email.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This Day Only

Yesterday morning we drove to work after freezing rain overnight. Our end of the community had salted roads and so we thought we were good to go. Not. We made it okay but it was tense. I am grateful to work with a great bunch of of them came into work early in case I wasn't going to make it in to answer phones, etc. Her job has nothing to do with answering phones but she was willing to fill my shoes just in case.

I'm sitting in front of my SAD light as I type. Today is my last day of work for the week. I may even get the Christmas tree taken down on this round of day's off. Anyway, I just have these 24 hours to live in. Several weeks ago I changed my screen saver to the quote below and I go into my day with that on my mind. I came into 12 step programs through Al-Anon and Just for Today opened up a whole new way of thinking for me.

Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Just for today I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my "luck" as it comes, and fit myself to it.

Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I don't want to do - just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.

Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit. I won't find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anybody but myself.

Just for today I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself and relax. During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Get To....

I wondered what kind of pictures would pop up when I typed perspective into a search engine. This one showed on the first page and I quite liked it.

Today I am grateful for some perspective.
We spent last night at the ER because dearest one
had a migraine that worsened as the day went on.
I sat and took in those smells that
can only be found in a hospital.
I was so grateful that we were there for a a short time.
Grateful that medication would make a world of difference
in how dearest one felt.
Grateful that we would be walking out of there together.

Today was a day of remembering the phrase "I get to..." as opposed to the thinking that "I have to...."

It was good to be reminded.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Couch Potato

This was my day.
I'm not back to normal but I will be.
I'm grateful tomorrow's a new day.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Conserving Spoons

"I`ve never forgotten her. She gave me hope that it might be different for me one day."

I said this to the geneticist this past summer. I`d last seen him three years ago and during that visit he told me about another patient with the same connective tissue disorder as me. She had her rough spots but one day she came into his office and was a different woman. She had a vibrancy and life about her that he had never seen. I had left his office that day thinking that if it was possible for her it was possible for me. And this past summer I walked into his office embodying that same hope. I mentioned that I remembered her. I didn't even have to give him any details and he knew which woman I was talking about even though he sees hundreds of patients with our disorder. He told me she had since had a surgery but had come through okay. He didn't quite say the word remission but he talked in those terms. This is a disorder of peaks and valleys and no one can predict when they will rise and fall. I hate that about it.

This morning I got up and my muscles were weak. My heart was racing. I was fatigued like I haven't been in longer than I can remember. I've been in quite a bit of physical pain this past while. I made my way to town anyway. Went to my home group meeting. Did a few errands, but cut my town list short. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. I was hyper aware of my body. Every day used to be like today was or worse. For five years. Many times today I was grateful that today was an anomaly.

I don`t want to go back to counting my steps, to choosing whether to use up all my spoons washing my hair or save them for other things. I could wake up tomorrow and be fine. I could wake up tomorrow to more of the same. (For newer readers I can`t get my link button to work right now so if you type spoon theory in a search engine you will know what I am talking of when I talk about spoons and energy.)

This is where I`m supposed to tell you that I will be fine even if I wake up so fatigued I don`t have the energy to lift my arms above my head to wash my hair. That God will see me through and I will be able to be at peace regardless. That sick or well, I can choose my attitude. And while that is all totally true, there is a whole lot of shit to wade through to get to the place of acceptance. All those human emotions that I need to acknowledge before I can say, okay, it is what it is.

Days like today scare me.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Of Lights And Black Clouds

I got up early just to sit in the dark with only the lights of the Christmas tree for company. I love doing that. I haven't had enough of it yet so the tree may stay up all weekend.

Don't you just have to chuckle (afterwards that is) when you are all calm and serene and then in two seconds flat you are bitchy and irritable? I went from laying on the couch soaking in the beauty of the lights to walking around with a black cloud above my head in what seemed a blink of an eye. I had certain expectations and life threw something else my way. I'm grateful to know that black clouds are entirely of my own making. When I accepted my reality the black cloud disappeared. And then I could chuckle.

We've had -30C and colder all week. Today is balmy in comparison. There are two little creatures who will literally howl with delight when I ask them if they want to go outside. They will race each other to the door and then turn to look at me as if to ask, What`s taking you so long. Yesterday Energizer Bunny got so carried away howling with excitement when dearest one came home from work that she fell off the bay window.

I have never seen a Pug with a black cloud over it`s head.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Oh, Bite Me!

"Today is my first day alone since sometime in mid December."

When I wrote those words this morning it made today, a day of solitude, even sweeter.

How am I going to celebrate? I am going to thoroughly enjoy cleaning house today, especially the bathroom. I noticed Pug hair on the bathroom counter the other day. When I commented on it to dearest one, he told me he lets Yoga Pup sit up there while he shaves. He lifted Yoga Pup up on the counter to show me and that darn dog promptly went for my toothbrush! Dearest one quickly moved the container to the other side of the sink saying, "If I don't do that he licks the toothbrushes." I shudder to think how many times I've unkowingly put a Pug licked toothbrush in my mouth.

Dearest one reminded me that the inside of a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. He went on to say that a human bite will give you a nasty infection far sooner than a dog bite. And while that is true it doesn't make me feel one bit better about sticking that toothbrush in my mouth. Which, now that I think of it, I'm still doing.

Oh, well. While looking for an appropriate photo for this post I came across many pug photos that made me laugh out loud, including this one:

Have a great day! Don't forget to brush your teeth. Three times.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Paper Bag Nerves

"I need a paper bag to scream in to."

I said that to one of my coworkers near quitting time.
Lordy, what a day that was yesterday.
I was feeling down right rattled.

A rare feeling.
Thank God.
I used to go looking for situations
that would get me rattled.
Oh, the drama.
"More, please" was my cry.

Thank God I no longer
have a hankering for drama.
I truly did feel like screaming just to vent my frustration though.
I totally lost my perspective for a bit.
Had I a paper bag and some privacy I would have done just that.
A good scream can do wonders for getting the nerves settled.
Works for me, anyway.

Thankfully the beeping was not serenading me every 5 seconds.
I cannot imagine what that would have added to the mix.
The furnace didn't work though.
It was -30C outside and 14C in the office.
The fix-it man showed up promptly and soon
I could take my coat and gloves off.
I'm all for short lived inconveniences.

A friend of mine used to tell me that
the best she could do some days
was be grateful there was a night between two days.
I am grateful for many things on any given day,
AA has taught me that,
but I must say a good night's sleep
between yesterday and today is high on the list.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


"Dubai unveils world's tallest building."

That's the headline I read on the web announcing the opening of the world's tallest building. I thought, "Don't they have to cover something up in order to unveil it? That would take one big bed sheet."

It was funny to me. I needed a sense of humour yesterday. Work was very busy and for noise accompaniment there was an alarm system beeping every 5 seconds. It was interspersed with another alarm going off every time someone opened the main doors outside my office. Which happened about 150 times. I was serenaded for 8 hours straight. About 5 minutes before day's end the fix it man figured out how to silence the whole lot. By then my beepity beeps were giving the buildings' beeps a run for their money. I bet a bed sheet could have come in handy for muffling the noise. A big one.

Monday, January 04, 2010

It Isn't?

"I must be singing too loud."

Several pews ahead of me is a young girl who turned and looked right at me as I sang. She frowned, too. I admit I cannot carry a tune but I do love to sing. At her glance I lower my voice and sing much quieter. We're in a church in a city. There are nearly 1000 people at Mass, and sure, she is several pews ahead of me. But still. She looked right at me. It's only later in the Mass that I notice her turning and looking at other people that way too. And they weren't even singing. Imagine that.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Strewn Along The Path

"I obeyed him, but I don't always. My newly married daughter said I wasn't being a good example to her when I disobeyed him. I think most women have trouble with obedience."

Stunned into silence I look away from her and into the room of couples. We are sitting in a corner visiting quietly. She is eighty years old and battling leukemia. A bout of chest pain had plagued her the day before so her husband had told her to do nothing today. Still, she struggled to obey him because it was Saturday; the day in her religious culture where floors demanded washing and bathrooms scrubbed. After I told her I'd done nothing that day she told me, as if we were keeping a secret from all the other women in the room, how my day of nothing made her feel better. Had I a litany of tasks completed she would've most likely hidden a sheepish smile behind her hand before confessing to doing absolutely nothing. She saw it as a victory of having obeyed her husband. As I gaze at the other women in the room I notice how angry and sad I feel that she most likely will die before ever owning her own life.

I didn't grow up in her culture but still, I see my own story in hers. During one period of my life, a time which I tell my adult children should have given them spiritual whiplash, I defined being a good wife by not having any thoughts about anything. I became opinionless because I held deferring to dearest one as the ideal. He didn't ask that from me. His observation of women trying to be submissive was that they often were skilled manipulators. I'd decided, after reading many books on being a good wife, that deferring to him was what a Godly woman did. Which is humourous in itself now that I think about it, considering I decided how best to be submissive without consulting him one bit. Oh, the irony.

It became one of the most manipulative, passive aggressive times of my life. One day a friend asked me about something and I told her I'd have to ask dearest one. Exasperated, she questioned, "But what do you think?" Her question startled me. I hadn't even considered what I thought.

But deep down of course I knew what I thought. I'd never lost my opinionated ways. I just stuffed them deep down inside while striving to be sweet and quiet on the outside. That was interspersed by episodes of going absolutely ballistic verbally. Oh, the joy.

One morning I looked in the mirror, weary of the facade, and decided I could either continue to put on my mask or I could shed the outward appearance of submission and begin owning my choices. I was both relieved and scared to step into my life.

I didn't tell this woman last night that I no longer relate to her view of marriage. She assumes because we are both women of faith that I too, wait for permission to have a life. I couldn't tell you exactly how I see it. All I know is that I don't see it how I once did. In the decade since I stepped into my life I continue to shed who I think I should be. There's no straight line between then and now. Just a crooked path with layers of onion skin strewn along the way.

Being in active recovery has shown me that I not only need to own my choices today but also my choice long ago to pretend to have no choices, too.

That doesn't stop me though, from feeling sad about an 80 year old woman feeling the need for permission to skip doing her Saturday work.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Silent Wisdom

"I'm sorry. Your day hasn't even come yet."

I say this as I pick the Wise Men off the bay window and tuck them back into their storage boxes. I'm torn between taking down the Christmas tree or putting the Nativity Set back to bed for another year. The Puglies have been knocking bits of the Nativity set off the bay window ever since I set it up, so the Nativity set it is. Besides, I haven't had enough of sitting in the dark with only the magical lights of the Christmas tree for company.

I had been planning on waiting until Epiphany before I put the Wise Men away. I've spent most of my life of faith ignorant of January 6th and its significance, let alone that the twelve days of Christmas start on Christmas day, not end on Christmas Day! It's only in the past five years that I've had a shift there. Dearest one grew up without any of the Christmas hoopla and I heard him commenting earlier today that the tree was still up (in a what's up with that? kind of way.)

I'm only looking for something to do because the house is quiet for the first time in nearly 2 weeks. Dearest one is over at his brother's. Only daughter and her lover boy left for home early this morning. The other kids have been gone since Boxing Day. For someone who loves solitude it surprises me that I'm not much interested in it today.

For the past twenty some years we've taken the tree down and put away the decorations before youngest son's birthday but I don't feel obligated to do that anymore since youngest son no longer lives here. Oooh, I could sense a bit of "it's my house and I'll do what I want" attitude in that sentence. Funny how we sometimes can't tell what we really think until we say it out loud (or see it in print). I have friends who often let my words hang in the air just so I can really hear them. At just the right moments they know that silence can make more of a point than words could ever do.

Guess not all the wise men - and women - are packed away, are they?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Shaking Our Heads, With Gratitude

"We'll have time in 1992."

That's what dearest one and I used to say to each other when the kids were young. Sometimes we still say it to one another for old times' sake. We shake our heads at how long ago that was now.

I am grateful to have today.

I love a new year because of the privilege to be alive to see it. Yesterday was my youngest son's birthday. I nearly died shortly after I gave birth to him over two decades ago. That evening was spent being brought round after going into shock from blood loss and being rushed to surgery. I remember them lifting me onto the surgery table and feeling like I was going to faint again. I tried to tell them that if I fainted it didn't mean I was under anaesthetic yet so don't start anything! But I didn't have the energy to speak, not even a whisper.

In the middle of the night I woke in my hospital bed to a nurse shining her flashlight on the all the various tubes running in and out of my body. As she checked my vital signs she brought her face, illuminated by the glow of the flashlight, right close to mine and whispered "Happy New Year" with much tenderness and care. She showed me her watch that said 2 AM. I'd given birth at 4 PM. I asked her to bring my son to me just so I could hold him. I didn't tell her that I couldn't remember what he looked like, the time with him had been so short, before blood had started flowing like milk from a carton, and they ran my stretcher to the operating room.

She handed him to me and let me hold him for a few moments. I brought his head to my face and breathed in his newborn scent. As I looked at him I saw an identifying mark that helped me relax and trust that I would be able to pick him out of a row of baby isolettes once I was able to be up and walking. The night seemed sacred in its stillness and in the nurse's compassion. I had had a near death experience earlier in the evening and was very much aware how fortunate I was to be alive. It was that experience that got my attention. Three months and a domino effect of circumstances later, I had my last drink.

I know I've written about this all before. 1992 came a handful of years after that New Year's Eve wake up call. I hope I never stop being grateful for being alive to remember.