Where is the Middle?

Upon the occasion of my most recent birthday (the one where I turned 55), I did a little bit of computation.

Unless modern medicine and science steps up it’s game, I’m not middle-aged anymore. Technically, I wasn’t middle-aged last year either, but I don’t remember thinking much about it.  I suppose that I might have thought about it and forgotten.  That’s entirely possible, seeing as how I’m closer to old age than middle age at this point.

Anyhow, living to be 110 year of age seems highly unlikely given my genetic inheritance.  I know that it’s not all about nature – nurture and environment play a role also.  Let’s evaluate that for a bit, shall we…

I’m a child of the sixties.  You know, the generation that ate margerine instead of butter because it was so good for you. And, what do you mean that potatoes aren’t a vegetable?  Okay, we’ll have salad – iceburg lettuce with Miracle Whip.  Don’t forget those brand-new convenience foods that are making Mom’s life so much easier…Tang, potted meat, boxed mac-n-cheese, jello and canned ravioli.  I’m eating better now as an adult (most of the time) so that probably won’t kill me outright.

The one activity that I am a bit concerned about though is that classic evening activity we all enjoyed in the South…running behind the mosquito fog truck …DDT shower anyone?  Plus I did spend a number of years in the Rio Grande Valley watching the crop-dusters present their show as they sprayed the crops several times a year…

Oh well, all of that is in the past and out of my control.  Other than learning from the past and remembering the good stuff, the past needs to be history.

And worrying about whether I’m going to make it to 110. or 56 for that matter, is pointless.

I have no guarantees.

None of us do.

I have right now.

And I have hope for the future.

What I do with the time is mine to decide…well, not mine totally.  Other folks factor in somewhat…my family and my friends have some say on what happens with my time.  But, the  choice of who I let share my time is mine to make.

Okay, strictly speaking sometimes we lose control over who and what comes into our life for a time.  Bad stuff happens.  Rude people happen.  A moment or more is lost to circumstance.

But the choice is still ours – the choice of how to look at it and how to live in the time we have.

Here’s a story.

I was out with my sister the other day and we were driving along.  I saw an assisted living center with the name “Autumn Leaves”.  I innocently commented that I thought “Autumn Leaves” was a pretty cool name for an assisted living center.

My sister who is 70 years of age and was near death more than once this past month, had another perspective.  About the autumn leaf reference she replied, “Yeah, drying up, falling off of the tree, being raked into a pile, and burned…”

Okay.  Maybe I didn’t think my comment through.  That happens more often than I’d like to admit.

At 55, I was more focusing on the whole life cycle thing.  And that I like autumn leaves.  They’re pretty when they change colors and float about in the wind.  Maybe I was thinking about composting them and enriching the soil for next year’s planting.

At 55, I like to think that I’m still green and on the tree.  I’m busy reaching towards the light providing the tree with nourishment and cleaning the air.

At 55,  I’m not ready to turn brown and fall off the tree yet.

I’ve met very few people in my life who are ready for that…at any age.

So, I’m going to try and quit thinking about my life as having a beginning, a middle, and an end.

There may well be a Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.  That I can’t change…but I can keep having beginnings when I choose and as often as I need to.

I can end things that aren’t positive and beneficial for me when need be.

I can choose to do it all with joy.

And when it’s my time to fall off the tree, I can become the best damn mulch for the future to grow in as a result of the joyful choices that I’ve made.

 

Normal

Today was a day.  It was Thursday, to be exact…a thoroughly uneventful day.

This is the third blog post that I’ve tried to write in order to share my day.  All the posts have  been so boring that I’ve about given up.

But, since writing is often how I make sense of things, I’m persisting and am tapping away at the keyboard once again.

Please keep in mind that I have no idea what I am going to write about, and there are no promises that anything remotely interesting will result.

For foreshadowing, let me share that all the schoolwork is caught up and my sister is back home at her house.  She’s not back to where she was before all of this started, but making progress.

So…

I got up this morning.

I went outside to let the chickens free from their coop.

I went back to bed.

My brief trek through the house on the way to the front door left me overwhelmed.

I lay in bed and started making a mental list of all that needed to be done now that life was returning to normal.

I thought about just staying in bed.  I felt the anxiety start…

And then I said aloud, “Enough”.

I was tired of being tired.  Done with feeling like I couldn’t catch up.  Worn out from facing deadline after deadline.  Sick of feeling like I was failing at everything.

So today there was no list.  I didn’t try to accomplish anything.  I didn’t have a goal.  I didn’t plan to finish cleaning the house or even a single room.  No expectation of catching up the laundry or the dishes or the dusting.

I just did some stuff.

I watered the plants and pulled off some dead leaves.

I washed, dried, folded and put up a load of laundry.

I emptied a couple of trash cans.

I sorted through my paper stash and thought about what I might create next.

I wandered through the house wiping away a cobweb or two and a bit of dust.

You can’t really tell that I did much of anything at all.  The house doesn’t look all that different…or better.

But I feel different and better.

My actions may have seemed random, but they were intentional.  I spent time in my home saying “hello” to my life…the life I had before it all started spinning out of control the first of August.  I was reacquainting myself with the routines that I missed when other things took priority.

And now, I feel calm (or as calm as someone with anxiety can ever feel).  I am looking forward to getting back to my “normal” life.  Hopefully, I’ll remember some of the things I learned this month about what’s important and what’s not…about what needs to be done and what can wait.

All I know, is that a little routine and even a bit of boring sounds pretty good right now.

As I sit with my art journal watching a stupid movie on Netflix tonight, I’ll be thinking of those that are living away from their “normal” right now.  And for those that are adapting to a new “normal” because their life has changed in a big way…

…for the friend who beat cancer but continues to battle the after effects of the treatment.

…for the friend whose cancer has returned and who is facing uncertainty and change.

…for the friend who adjusted to the new “normal” of Stage IV cancer and is now entering experimental treatment with an unknown outcome.

When life takes a crazy turn and we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, it can be crazy hard.  We find ourselves looking back at what was and we just want to go back to the familiar…the normal.

Going back isn’t an option.  We are where we are.

Staying put isn’t an option.  We have to go somewhere.

It’s not about courage or bravery.  It’s not like we have a lot of choices.

The life we have is the one we live.

If we have a choice in the direction we can take, we make that choice…left, right, or straight ahead.  And pray that it’s a good choice.

We cry, we yell, sometimes we pull the blanket over our head.  We worry, we cope, we fail at some things and succeed at others.

We make a difference because we try, not because we did it all right.

And through it all we find comfort in the little things…

…in watering a plant and nurturing life.

…in wiping away a bit of dust or a few tears.

…in sorting through and thinking of what we might create with what we have.

And perhaps, most importantly, for finding something to be grateful for amidst it all.

 

Wandering

Warning.

This post may wander a bit.  That’s a good thing. Today, I am wandering for the first time in many days.

I have no specific goals for today.  Nothing that has to be done urgently.  Nothing urgent at all really.  (Happy sigh).

My sister saw her doctor on Thursday for the follow-up to her last hospitalization.  His first words, “You really dodged a bullet.”  There are a few minor(ish) things to clear up, but basically he told her to, “Go live your life.”  She’s to increase her activity as she is able and not to worry about the blood clots.  They should resolve in the next 3 to 6 months.  It’s been a scary, hard month.  We don’t know if she’ll get back to where she was health-wise, but time will tell.  Life is good.

Barret the dog has had a relapse of his meningitis and is back on medication.  We caught it very early so his prognosis is good(ish).  I suppose that the recommendation for him is the same as for my sister…go live your life and take each day as a gift.  He’s getting lots of treats.  He’s still weird and dorky.  That is good.

Today is my youngest daughters 13th birthday.  My last teenager. Her school lessons are still challenging, but I think we are starting to get the hang of it all.  I’m hopeless at the math, but I have an answer book!  I start with the answer and work back to figure it all out. I’m not crying as much over the homework.  She’s not crying at all.  Good stuff.

I’ve started a new art card…

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And I’m going back to work on this…

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…the door makes more sense now. https://faithacrestudio.com/2016/08/27/doors/

And someday I probably need to work on this, my studio worktable…

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Honestly, a lot (okay, all) of my house looks like this.  Except for the parts  that are really messy.

Today, I don’t really care.  Everybody and everything that is supposed to be breathing, is. Family and friends are gathering for a birthday celebration.

The food is waiting to be prepared.

We’ll shove the mess to one side and eat off of paper plates.  Nobody will complain.  There won’t be many disagreements (it is close friends and siblings after all).  Will have fun and celebrate.

It’s all good.

 

 

 

 

Journey

The secret that we share I cannot tell in full. But this much I will tell. What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”
― Frederick Buechner, Godric

In looking back over the past month’s postings, it seems that I have wandered far afield from my normal life and, indeed, from the original intent of this blog.

But that’s okay, I believe.

In life’s journey we start at point “A” with a specific destination in mind, but often encounter delays, detours and/or complete changes in our itinerary.

Sometimes we forget where we were going altogether and never find our way back.

Sometimes we get lost and find that we like the new place we found so much that we stay there.

Sometimes we get bored and start the journey again.

Sometimes the weather gets so bad that we can’t see where we are going.

Some of us won’t use a map (or in my case, can’t read a map) and get lost a whole lot.

I’ve known some people that refuse to go anywhere at all.  Most out of fear of what they will encounter along the way.

I also know some people that seem fearless.  The road holds a fascination for them. They’ll go anywhere, anytime…embracing the unknown.

A lot of folks seem to be stuck trudging along trying to get through each day as best they can.  Dealing with the bumps in the road that life can so often produce.  The journey can seem so hard that it’s almost impossible to look ahead and make decisions about what turn to take at the next fork in the road.  They find it hard to experience or interact with the scenery, events and possibilities that line the path they are on.  It’s all they can do to put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving.

Mostly, life is made up of all these variables.

Sometimes we move forward with confidence and accomplish much and sometimes we stop and wait and hope.

Joy and sorrow.

Work and Sabbath.

Building up and Tearing Down…Rebuilding.

Growing and Harvesting.

Starting and Ending.

So…

this blog is not where it started.  It has begun and paused.  Started again and wandered.  Been optimistic and doubtful.  Interesting and…not so much.

It is where it needs to be and moving on.

Just as I am.

 

 

Walking

If I had to name the top 10 most influential people in my adult life, there is one person who would certainly be at the top of the list.  She was a spiritual mentor, a life coach, an encourager (this word flags as misspelled, but I like it so it stays), and a partner in my creative endeavors.

She was a pastor at a church that I used to attend. As our relationship developed, she learned that I was an artist – although at that time I was just somebody who made stuff.  She started sharing her sermon plans with me and I started to create art that illustrated the sermon.  Some of it was pretty bad, but she hung it on the wall anyway.  Eventually, it got better and she hung that too.

Sometimes she would come to me with a sermon and verse and we would find that I had already started the canvas that went with it.

I would sit and draw her sermons on Sundays.  It’s how I learned that art is my form of worship…a lesson that I still value today.  I did a complete book of sermon drawings for her.  When I visited her a month or so ago, I saw that it sits on her hearth along with some other things that she treasures.

We rarely see each other any more as we live on opposite side of Austin.  Though our lives no longer intersect as they once did something interesting is starting to happen.

I faithfully read her postings on Caring Bridge as she chronicles her experiences with metastatic Stage IV colon cancer.  Lately, her posts are becoming more and more applicable and relative to my life – just as her sermons often seemed to be written just for me.

A couple of days ago she wrote something that inspired my post, “Doors”, which turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever written here.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get a “big head”.  By popular, I mean that more than 10 people read it.  It’s all relative, right.  I favor quality over quantity any day.

Today, she wrote about going through the interview process to try and get selected for a clinical trial of a new treatment.  Although our situations are totally different and I would never try to compare my struggles with hers – when I read the words she had written about being overwhelmed, I could identify with her completely.

First, it put the circumstances of my life right now in perspective.  I’ve reminded myself that the problems that I am facing are manageable and most likely solvable.  The challenges to come are not insurmountable.

Second, her words helped me gain my footing again.  She wrote that “sometimes people who are overwhelmed don’t do anything because they can’t do everything.”

She added that we should “acknowledge it (the situation) , pray, and just do one thing at a time.”

I can do that.  I can acknowledge that while my situation could be worse, it’s still hard and I’m both tired and overwhelmed.  And while I can’t do everything, I can do something.

So here’s what I accomplished today:

  • I went to work
  • I visited my sister in I.C.U and initiated a discussion about what her discharge plan might need to look like
  • I spent time with my husband although I did forget to make his lunch
  • We started planning what needs to be done to fix our second bathroom so that it is easily accessible for my sister as her recovery continues – I did not figure out how to pay for said renovations – that would be too much for today and would lead to feeling overwhelmed again.
  • I am committing to filling one bag with trash as I begin to catch-up on housework. Some (most) of it will just have to wait.
  • I took a short walk in an effort to get back to walking two miles a day so that I can lose the weight I have gained.  A long walk just couldn’t happen.  That’s okay.
  • My daughter and I are going to do one math lesson as we work on getting caught up.  It won’t solve the problem, but it’s something.
  • I am going to sit and prepare the bag of worn out T-shirts into strips for my rug as I watch a stupid T.V. show and allow myself to rest. Oh, and by the way…here’s my efforts so far. Barret, the dork dog seems to like it just fine.

Perhaps most importantly, she reminded me that I’m not alone.  I have friends that are thinking of and praying for me.  I have people that I can call on if I need to (even if I’m too stubborn to admit that I need help).

Just because people are no longer physically present in our lives doesn’t mean that the lessons we learned from them, or the experiences we shared with them aren’t still valuable resources that we can draw from when we need to.  Special people who have once been in our lives never really leave us.  They become a part of us…often the best part.

Do-Over?

Can I have a do-over for today, please?  Just press a rewind button and try it again.  I promise I’ll do a better job.

I’ll be more patient and understanding with those that I love.  I won’t say (or yell) ugly words that I can’t unsay and that linger in the air between us.

I’ll start working on homework with my sweet girl earlier  and we’ll just be frustrated together over our slow progress in getting caught up.  Maybe that way she won’t think she’s stupid as she struggles with math (even though she is working through some really hard problems that are grade levels above what she could do just a month ago).  We’ll take more breaks and not push so hard and just do the best we can and that will be good enough.

I won’t get angry at everyone else because I’m feeling guilty that I wasn’t a better caretaker for my sister and because I feel so alone and tired even though people are being supportive.

I’ll just generally be a kinder person and even try to be nicer to myself although I don’t feel like I deserve it.

And I won’t write this blog post because it sounds like I’m whining and feeling sorry for myself.

Because I’m not feeling sorry for myself.  I’m feeling sorry that all I have to offer the people I love is an apology.

And “I’m sorry” just doesn’t seem like enough.

There aren’t really any words that can fix today.

And I can’t wind back the clock and start over.

All I can do is try again tomorrow.

I’ll wake up and start a new day.  I’ll send my daughter off to school with a hug and love. I’ll go to work.  I’ll visit my sister in the I.C.U. at the hospital. I’ll try to remember to pack my husband a lunch to send with him to work.  I’ll pick up my daughter from school. We’ll try to catch up some more school.

I’ll do all the things that need to be done or more likely some of the things that need to be done.

And I’ll have another chance to do a better job of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depends on how you look at it…

I was determined that today was going to be a sunshine kind of day.  I’m not giving up on that.  I trying out the “depends on how you look at it” mindset.  So far, so good…ish.

My sister hasn’t been looking too great since Friday.  Of course, Friday is the day you always start feeling crappy since it’s right before the weekend and you can’t get in to see the doctor.  She’s also a bit stubborn so I pretty much have to let her decide on her own what she’s gonna do.  Over the course of the weekend, I was getting pretty worried, but kept my mouth shut.

This morning she decided that she’d like to go to Wal-Mart and pick up a few things.  And maybe call the doctor.  Instead, I drove her to the doctor’s office.  Just by chance her doctor’s physician’s assistant was available to see her.  By the time we got into the office, my sister was extremely short of breath.  Her oxygen sats were in the mid 70’s to low 80’s.

An ambulance was called and off we went to the hospital again.  This time tests revealed that she had a sizable pulmonary embolism.  The biggest one her doctor had ever seen in someone still moving.

Whew!  I’m choosing not to dwell on the what-ifs.  What if we hadn’t gone into the doctor’s office.  What if they hadn’t transported her to the hospital.   What if….

I going to look at it a different way.  Thankful that it all worked out like it did.  That she is in the hospital where any emergencies can be addressed right away.  That treatment has been started.  Hopefully, we can get everything resolved and she can truly be on the mend. Her surgeries were on the 1st and 3rd.  She’s tired of being tired and sick of being sick.

I’m starting to think that my hope of getting to September and things calming down may not be realistic.  It seems that I still have more lessons to learn about living a simpler, more intentional life.  This month has been the “graduate” school level crash course.

So today, I am learning to seek the positive side of the situation.

To not dwell on the what-ifs.  To be grateful for any little thing that goes right.  To let go of the things that go wrong.

To not spend too much time trying to prepare for the what-ifs and just enjoy the right now.

To look for the sunshine peeking through the clouds and be grateful for the blessing of the rain.  Both are an essential part of life.

 

 

Some Days…

Some days the world is a sunny place – regardless of the weather or the circumstances or the realities of existence.

Some days it rains – whether water actually falls from the sky or not.

On the sunny days, anything seems possible.  I can handle it all.  Bring it on world….taking care of a household, teaching an art class, figuring out Latin homework, relearning division, waving good-bye as my kids go out into the scary, bad world alone, training a spastic, brain-damaged dog to be sociable, working two other part-time jobs, being there for my sister as she recovers from surgery, laughing off the 20 pounds I’ve put back on over the summer and being a patient and supportive listener.

And then there’s the morning I wake up, and from the very start of the day, it’s all too much.  The smallest thing triggers tears and the urge to crawl back into bed with the covers pulled over my head.  Everything seems to be moving too fast and I’m moving too slow.  I’d give anything for a “pause” button so that I could gain my footing.

When anyone speaks to me, I hear disappointment in their voice.  Their awareness that I’m just not up to the task.  That I’m falling short.

It’s not really their voice I’m hearing though, is it?  It’s my inner voice.  I’m disappointed in myself.  Yesterday, I could handle this.  Today, not so much.

What’s the difference in yesterday and today? Good question.  My anxiety disorder? Depression?  A good night’s sleep?  I’ve got nothing in the way of an answer.

I’ve been told that I’m my own harshest critic.  That’s probably true.  Being kind to a stranger is pretty easy for me.  Cutting myself some slack is much more challenging.

Maybe that needs to go on the list of things to do.  Learn to be nicer to myself.  Be kinder and more understanding that some days are harder than others.  Tell myself that I’m doing the best I can and to take a deep breath.  But not today.  I’m not adding anything more to today’s to-do list.  I’m done with today.

I’m going to go wrap up in a blanket and listen to the rain fall.

P.S.  Just one more thing.  Tomorrow, when you hear that little voice whispering that you messed up, that you haven’t done enough,  that there’s too much to-do…when you feel overwhelmed…hear these words…

I think you’re doing okay.  That you are doing the best that you can.  And it’s enough.  The world is a better place with you in it.  And the sun will come back out.

 

 

 

 

 

Doors

I took a shower today.  I woke up this morning and realized that I couldn’t actually remember the last one I took.  To be honest, days around here are a bit confused anyway. Too much T.V. and morphine (my sister, not me).  I’m thinking about getting one of those little whiteboards like they use in the hospital…Today is Saturday, August 27, 2016.

Anyway, I took a shower.  Please don’t judge.  Some days we have to grab the small wins and run with them…

Now, I’m thinking about doors.  This was prompted by a Caring Bridge post by a friend with stage IV colon cancer.  She just found out that she wasn’t accepted into a drug trial that she was hoping for.  “No further information.  Just a closed door”, she wrote.

I’m thinking about the slammed, closed and locked doors that I’ve faced in my past. About the disbelief, grief and pain those door have caused.  The teen-age crush that didn’t work out.  The job that I didn’t get.  The phone call that never came.  The dream that wasn’t realized.

I’m wondering how many times I accepted that unopened door as a permanent “no”.  The times I didn’t go looking for a different door.  A different way to access that dream.

And, I’m pondering the times I did look for an alternative route and a different portal.  Or sometimes the opportunities that I didn’t actively seek, but that presented themselves with time and patience.  The man I married, a different job…

Looking back, some of those closed doors were a blessing in disguise.  I wouldn’t have believed it at the time, but now it’s evident.  The teen-age crush that was based more on looks than compatibility.  The job that would have involved moving to another location and would have prevented me from being available for my sister now.

But doors that don’t open hurt when you run into them.  Sometimes, in hindsight, it may turn out to be for the best.  And sometimes, it may turn out that they were just stupid, closed doors that you  couldn’t get through.  You may never know the difference.

Still, there is hope in believing that there are many doors in life,  and most of them can be opened – with time, patience and discernment.

Today I will be in continued thought and prayer for those dealing with doorways…

Those standing at locked doors and looking for the next one.

Those hurt from the slamming of the door.

Those facing a door that is slowing closing and limiting their access both literally and figuratively.

Those locked behind a door wanting out but afraid and unsure of the next step.

Those who don’t have any doors available to them at all.

Those who can’t see the door because they don’t know where to look or are choosing not to.

And those standing in front of the door, but who are afraid to knock.