“I’ve got to push these well done ones away so the others can get down there and get well done now”, she said.
The simple act of stirring of brussel sprouts brings up some life lessons.
Let’s make room for those who need help and get those who are already there – or have what they need – out of the way. Gently, of course. They may be soft, not cooked yet…..not fully developed….in need of some TLC and it is up to us to make sure they get what they need.
I walked away from the stirring thinking about people, not veggies. If we can be intentional with our cooking, can’t we do the same for our fellow man?
I have always been the type of person who says things like, “this time last year we were…on vacation”, or “this time last month….the sun was setting much earlier.” I look back a lot. Maybe too much. These days I am in good company, though. It seems the thing to do – to look back on the year that was. The year where just about everything we talk about – going to concerts, eating out, flying on a plane, attending graduations, parties, etc seems like it was such a long….time….ago.
Looking back at my Google calendar for the first weeks of March, 2020 it was jam packed. Staying at a hotel in a nearby suburb to have dinner with a friend flying in from Denver, meetings at work to plan for math intervention in the coming school year, attending our conference band contest (being soooo thankful that it wasn’t cancelled as we all were hearing more about this thing called the “coronavirus”), meeting with grade level teams to create science units and attending an author event (Erik Larson) at a local book store were just a few things I grabbed off my 2020 calendar.
Looking at that same calendar starting mid-March 2020 I see a sea of “cancelled” stamped across the many events waiting in the queue. Lunch with retired friends, dinner with former students, the much-needed- massage and hair cut, concerts at City Winery…..all replaced with Zooms and phone calls. Lost opportunities. The fun AND the work that just never materialized.
Fast forward to March, 2021. In person meetings are beginning to take place. More students are arriving at our door step….a dinner reservation even crept up on my calendar for next month. As I put the finishing touches on this slice I hear the voice of someone in our office who used to visit regularly but hasn’t been around in a year. What a welcome sound to hear wafting through our little workplace. He and I chatted about the “little things” and how much we used to take for granted. Not anymore, we declared.
We have been patient. We have followed the rules. We have persevered.
Everything that was a long time ago is finally here again. No more looking back.
“All of these lines across my face, tell you the story of who I am” You see the smile that’s on my mouth, it’s hiding the words that don’t come out” – Brandi Carlisle
Brandi Carlisle is the consummate storyteller. Add to that the ache of her voice when she sings and I get lost in every one of her songs. I study her lyrics today just as I did with Elton John’s songs when I was 10.
This one, The Story, has me thinking about what my own story looks like. If there was a song about my story would it be the one I would want told? Am I in charge of my story, or am I guilty of letting others write it for me? If I look back on my childhood, of that little 10 year old girl sitting with her best friend Karen listening and replaying Honkey Chateau, Madman Across the Water and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy over and over and over until there were skips in the vinyl from the needle being picked up and dropped down in order to get the last lyric scribed in my notebook, I think I would be happy with the way my story has played out.
At 10 years old I already saw myself as a writer. No, I didn’t formally talk about myself in this way, but my behavior certainly pointed in that direction. In addition to writing out lyrics that others sang I also wrote lists. Lists of what I would do that day. Lists of who my friends were and why I liked them. Grocery lists, school supply lists, book lists, lists about characters, family member lists, and on and on. I also loved writing notes and letters. I would leave notes for my mom in the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen…all over the house and I wrote letters to my grandmother and dad regularly.
I also saw myself as a person who investigated things and wrote up reports about my findings, ala Nancy Drew style. I fancied myself growing up to be a detective, following in Nancy’s footsteps. I crept around my block, notebook in hand, looking to solve “mysteries” and even peeked in my neighbors’ windows once or twice when they were away on vacation (always when they were on vacation!). I pretended that they had a stolen item in their home and it was up to me to return it to its rightful owner. The story I was creating for myself, unbeknownst to me, was that of an independent girl who took care of people, worked hard and got sh*t done! Oh, and in my story I was also a famous writer.
Throughout my childhood I never let my life situation define my story. I had a choice: Be defined by my low income status and intermittent bouts of utility shut downs, boiling water for washing up and dark, cold nights, OR be defined by a close-knit family of women who supported one another, stayed up until all hours talking and laughing and being encouraged to go to college and live a better life than so many of my relatives. I chose the latter. The ground I grew up on was sturdy and sure. If it hadn’t been I worry that I could have seen myself as unworthy or less than others. As the great Brene Brown says, “When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.”
I am proud of the lines across my face, they tell you the story of who I am.
I had a fun conversation with my friend’s niece (whom I shall from this point on call MY niece) tonight at dinner. She is a graduate student for physical therapy but I think that secretly her real passion is painting. She understands left brain creativity.
I was talking about the Slice of Life challenge starting this month and she, Jenny, said, “that sounds horrible!” as I described the commitment our community makes to write every day in March. I continued on, despite the shock on her face at this concept. Well, I said, I might not write every day because it’s already getting late. Plus, I live for comments and the later it gets the less likely it is that people will read my slice. Jenny’s face showed a different kind of shock. “What?? How can you miss the first day???”
Some people like to treat themselves on Friday with a special drink or something to eat. Maybe because Friday is the last day of the work-week and they feel they earned it, or deserve a reward for making it through.
Fridays have never been a problem for me. It’s Monday’s that I struggle with.
That’s why Monday is my treat day. As soon as I get in my car and ready myself for that treacherous drive on the autobahn (although, I looked that word up for proper spelling **lucky thing because I left the “h” out at first** and found that the top speed on said road is 80 mph. That changes my perception of the autobahn. 80 is what I do on a rainy day. 80 is what I do when there’s traffic and I have to be careful weaving in and out of lanes…) called the Dan Ryan, my mind immediately races through (no pun intended) the day beginning with the tasty drink I will be stopping for in about 25 minutes.
I cruise into the drive-through lane. Sometimes I’m first, sometimes I’m 10th, it doesn’t matter. I will wait.
“Grande Very Berry Hibiscus, please.”
The voice pipes back with the sweet sound of recognition, “Light water and light ice, right?!”
The lady inside the box knows me.
Now I know what they mean on the survey when they ask, “did the person in the store try to get to know you?”
“What is the name of this song again?” I asked while driving this morning to the suburbs.
“Into the Mystic”, she replied. “I always loved this song.”
I heard a catch in her voice so I looked over.
I knew it would be there, that catch. There was a funeral she attended for a teacher many years ago and someone got up and sang this particular Van Morrison song. It was quite memorable. Even for me, just hearing about it.
Her lower lip was quivering a bit.
“This is the song they played at that teacher’s funeral, wasn’t it? ” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Van Morrison continued to croon on as we drove in silence, soaking up the beauty of life on this early spring day.
The soft hum of the machine slowly lulls me to sleep on the couch.
My breathing is in sync with a contraption that’s plugged in to Kathy’s arm, slowly, methodically, quietly pumping so that her lymphedema can stay under control.
We both have very different reactions to this “straight jacket from outer space”, as Kathy refers to it. She dreads the hour each day that she is tied to the thing, frustrated that every minute drags on into infinity.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I tried the sleeve out myself once….for about 4 minutes until I was so antsy that I had to get out of there. I don’t question for one second that the struggle is real. Those 4 minutes were a real drag for me. I certainly didn’t feel the urge to fall asleep!
I ask her to visualize during that hour, to see in her mind’s eye the slow release of the swelling in her right arm. To see the blood and other fluids flowing freely through the veins and arteries, cleaning, removing, transporting, doing all the important things that the lymphatic system does.
I understand, really I do.
But, when I’m laying on the couch and I hear the intermittent purr of that compression sleeve, it’s just calling me to dream land. The end.
“Peggy! This is a golf outing, why are you putting on makeup?”
“I don’t know…maybe because I’m not playing golf?”
“We’ve been coming here for 18 years”, Peggy replied. She went on to say, “Carrie, I know a lot has changed in all those years, but here’s what hasn’t changed for me and Lynn on this day in our golf cart….
Riding either far behind or way ahead of you and Kathy,
Catching up on the latest news in each other’s lives,
Combing our hair, covering our hair, and being generally overly concerned about our hair,
Making a detour to the clubhouse to warm up or cool down because let’s face it, we’re never dressed properly for the outdoors,
Ditching our cart altogether to go back to the A-frame for playing cards or anything else that seems more important than golf,
Getting shushed for laughing too loudly,
And, hitting the snooze button, sleeping in and getting to the banquet room just in time for lunch, the raffle and lots of reminiscing with Kim’s family and loved ones about how generous, kind, funny, and smart she was.
The workday is done. I am home now and it’s time to make my way down the hallway of my condo building.
I use my key to unlock the door with #1705 in black numbers just below the peep hole.
Don’t look in the kitchen or dining room. Go straight to the couch, no detours, says my inner voice.
I take my place on the couch to her right and slide my hand in hers.
I wonder, is she happy or sad today? How is her back feeling? Were the good shows on T.V.? I am already armed with the knowledge of how she slept last night, thanks to my Nest camera.
I am constantly gauging, can I sit quietly or should I talk about my day? Hearing of the outside world can widen her world just enough to forget for awhile that the terrible shows were on T.V. today.
The days are getting longer and the nights are more restful. I listen to the tone of her voice and I watch her facial expressions. How did this day go? This life of wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, shower and watch T.V. Monday through Friday vs Saturday and Sunday.
Soon to be 89 years old, her life is so much more than the last 2 years.
Each evening requires a rapid assessment of the situation.
Some days I get it right while on other days I need a do-over. I lose my cool. I get frustrated. We don’t connect.
Thank goodness that every day is anew, so if I didn’t get it right yesterday, I’ll have another chance tomorrow. Until I don’t.