In The Balance

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #35: Balance

I could never watch circus performers walk the tightrope. Always covering my eyes and waiting for the clapping before peeking out. Never mind those daredevils who travel between 2 buildings balanced on a wire.

Olympic ice skating competitions? I’ll watch after it’s over…but only if I find out ahead of time that the skater stays upright.

Gymnastics and the balance beam: I hold my breath until the routine is over.

There is something about balance…and losing it…that terrifies me. More than it used to. Perhaps it is risk of injury or death. Or perhaps it’s just faith and confidence and control…or lack thereof. Maybe it’s all those hours the skaters, gymnasts and tightrope walkers put into a 10 minute routine…all for nothing if they fall.

As a child I was a risk taker, riding my bike down steep hills – feet off the pedals and hands up in the air. As a 26 year old new home owner, I’d walk on the asphalt roof to check for loose shingles. No problem. But then again, I was young and healthy.

Times have changed.

Balance in life choices? Not so clear cut. Closing my eyes and looking away…not an option.

As a young feminist coming of age during the dawning of Ms. magazine, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, I was bombarded with what felt like wrenching decisions about balancing life choices. Decisions laced with judgment…from the media, my parents, my friends.
Career or Motherhood?
Career and Motherhood?
How much career and how much motherhood.
Then there was marriage – or just living together – in the mix as well. And who or what deserved most of my time? And energy.

Life as a balance sheet started to emerge…

A seesaw perfectly aligned: 50/50 career and kids?
A seesaw off kilter…40/60 when kids are young…or is it 70/30?
Or heaven forbid, choose one over the other.
And what about a partner?
Or just you.
Where do you cut?
Without guilt…
The balancing act – even the thought of it – knots up the stomach.

So you “balance” the marriage, the career, the kids. The time for you with what’s left.
The best you can.
Trying to ignore the buzz of disapproval in dark corners.

Then the kids grow up. Start their own balancing acts.
Probably aiming to do it better. As they should.
And off they go. As they should.
The seesaw lowers a bit. Stability uncertain.

Career winds down
Screeches to a halt.
As you shift in the seat…
…the seesaw slams to the ground.
Ouch.
Glance up…look around…

Ah…the marriage is still there. Good thing.
But…
Your back is killing you. Your feet hurt.
So insanely tired.
Your immune system starts complaining…
An unwelcome surprise
Upsetting the balance.
Once again.

Balance may be an illusion
Shifting day to day.
Hour to hour. Minute to minute.

Now going forward
Covering my eyes
Hoping
That someone will be there to catch me
When I fall…

Perhaps the best balancing act of all.

 

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Quote of the day…hope of the day

light in forest

 

I have a certain way of being in the world, and I shall not, I shall not be moved from doing what I think is right by jealousy, ignorance, or hate.

Maya Angelou

 

When recently asked about “the haters” by an 8 year old boy, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady responded with a smile.

…the haters? We love ’em! We love ’em back!
Because we don’t hate back.

Just about knocked me off my feet getting dressed one morning last week. While watching Good Morning America’s “kid correspondent” interview football players at the pre-Super Bowl media events.

No matter what you think of TB12 or the Patriots or even football, that answer shines a bright light. What a concept: Love them back.

Perhaps easy for someone like Brady, who is privileged and insulated from those aforementioned haters. Who troll on his Instagram feed and who knows what else.

However…
What a concept for a child to hear from a public persona. A role model even.
And…dare I say…for adults to hear as well.
ADULTS.
Who, it seems, in the last couple of years have grouped themselves into political camps of haters…on one side or the other. Who is in charge in the USA. And who isn’t.

Notice I don’t say haters and non-haters. There is too little visible love on either side. There is just hate, distrust and fear for the “other.” Whether it be the other political party, the other politician, the Other who looks nothing like you or sounds nothing like you. Or doesn’t think like you.

In many cases, this fear slips out…crossing that invisible line…morphing into hurtful anger directed at those you profess to love. Your partner. Your parent. Your sister. Your brother. Your best friend. Your child. Because they disagree with what you hate. Or don’t hate.

How could he believe that?
How could she vote for him?
How could he vote for her?
I just can’t visit them anymore.

Is it fear…or ignorance…
Or perhaps inescapable helplessness.
Doors slamming
As reality tilts and shifts.

Right becoming righteous
When grounded in hate…
Blindly insisting on one way.
Shades of gray disappearing…
Crowding out space for understanding why…
And where do we go from here.

In the end
Reaching for what
is right
begins with
tolerance
respect…
for our shared humanity.

With empathy…
somehow…
someday…
hopefully
we will
inch
closer
to
loving the haters.

At least it’s a start.

 

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This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #34: Reaching
and An Upside Down World

 

Upside-Down

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #33: Upside-Down

 

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upside down: in or into total
disorder or confusion

 

right side up…
everything
in its place.
comforting clarity…

safety wrapped around
believing.
blind trust.
knowing what’s to come

until sucker punched…
tilting.
lights dimming
without a map…

spinning…
belonging
nowhere.
losing balance…

tumbling alone.
crashing
into
a
blank slate…
the new reality.

upside-down
learning to focus
all over again.

footprints

 

Stillness – Chapter One

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #32: Stillness

 

Sit still, will ya?
Hold still!
Keep still!

The directives we receive along the way.
Quite often as children.
So the exasperated adults can do their thing.

Sit still…and eat.
Stand still…so I can help you get your coat on.
Lie still…and go to sleep.

In school even more so.
Sit still at your desk.
Stand still while you line up.
Keep still while I’m talking.

Vital lessons, obviously…

However…
Being physically still can border on impossible for some children.
My little brother constantly used the dinner table as a drum. While tipping his chair back…way back.
My young son was affectionately compared to a Great Dane by his first grade teacher as his natural inclinations leaned toward constant movement.
“Refrain from excessive talking” was a black mark on my report cards during grammar school…an ongoing challenge to keep my mouth closed.

I wonder…if children were shown ways to be still
As a source of pleasure. Reward rather than punishment.
On some basic level…
Tempting their budding imaginations. As ready sponges.
Before screens and apps and television crowd in…
Shifting mind and body into overdrive.

Take a slow breath.
Close your eyes.
Take your time.
Imagine….
Pretend you are…
Think about…

From earliest memory.
The welcome calm.
Taking time. Undefined.
Discovering that stillness feels good.
A refuge for the mind…
…more crucial as the years fly by.

Maybe sitting still…
and waiting for recess to discuss the important events of the day…
would get just a bit easier.

 

2003

Quote of the Day…

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Zora Neale Hurston

 

So what will this year bring?
Questions…
or answers.

It seems to me that I still have questions left in the queue…
from decades of living.
Still scratching away looking for answers.
To the why.

Questions that have diverted…
And led me down new paths…
Or retraced old ones.
Piling hopes upon hopes
Continuing, still, to persevere…

I was often admonished in the classroom for asking too many questions.
Ever curious, my hand shot into the air asking for clarification.
All the time. Quietly. Waiting my turn.
Which sometimes didn’t matter…
My 9th grade Spanish teacher, Señora M., did not appreciate my curiosity…about how to translate verbs, why the feminine or masculine was used. Why anything.
Stop asking so many questions! she finally instructed. In front of everyone.
After a while I kept my hand down.

My high school English teacher encouraged questions. For the 3 years I was a student in his class. Blessings to you Mr. Marston.
Lucky for me he answered every one. Including the correct usage of it’s and its. “A lot is a piece of land” he’d repeat over and over; cringing at the use of alot of this and alot of that in our weekly theme assignments.
(auto correct doesn’t like it either. He would have been pleased).

I apologize across the universe to him that I still resort to alot…but not alot very often. I remain grateful for his patience. And assuring me…yes I would be safe at college after Kent State. And yes, I was smart enough to succeed. He nudged me down that road. In the direction I needed to go…all those years ago. Answering my questions.

Maybe I am finally winding down with all the questions.
Perhaps 2019 will be the year of answers…
And new destinations…
if I pay attention.

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This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #31: Destination

Windows

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #30: Windows

It is interesting to note what it is you miss after it’s gone.
Not appreciating its significance while you had it.
As cliché as that may sound, it can still ring true.
Which brings me to the subject of windows.

Two years ago we moved from a house into a condo. I don’t miss much about the house…but one thing I do miss is the kitchen window. Over the sink…facing the backyard. Watching the sun as it hit the trees, the grass, the deck.

My hands deep in soapy water…cleaning dishes, washing pots. Rinsing vegetables for cooking. I was a loyal spectator to the changing seasons…which appeared with comforting regularity. From my window in the kitchen.

A robin would perch on the clothesline, pausing between flights. Squirrels and chipmunks raced across the deck railing…their own private balance beam.  Over the years the errant cat from next door would creep close, sit right below and stare at me, as if to say…what are you going to do about it lady? So what if I use your backyard as my litter box? I’d glare back, the window between us. This game continuing for years.

Winter brought icicles hanging down – eventually blocking and distorting the sight of blinding piles of snow beneath. Storms poured gallons of rain over the eaves past the sill. Hurricanes hurled wet leaves and twigs onto the glass and screen. Mother Nature everywhere. Putting on a show.

Warmer months showcased children throwing balls, making sand pies, swinging on the swings, climbing on the jungle gym. Eventually cutting grass and raking leaves. Opening the window swept in sounds of neighborhood life. The whine of distant lawnmowers. Splashing in a pool. Voices…young high pitched and older booming ones. Dogs barking. Car radio volume cranked, music a dull roar as it passed by. The faint hum of traffic down the hill. Smells of steaks on a grill. Next door neighbor burning brush. Every day a little different. Every hour just a bit changed from the one before.

That’s the thing about windows.
They give you a peek at your world. If you take a moment to notice. Not just quickly glance as you hurry by. But really look. Noticing the world outside. As young children do, with faces pressed against the glass taking note of…everything.

Sometimes the sight will stop you. And you put down the sponge. The pot. Turn off the water. Slip outside…maybe even sit on the back step and look around.
Listen.
Be grateful for this patch of earth.

One of the final things I did on that last October day – almost as an afterthought – was take a photo of my view out the kitchen window.
Through the screen, crooked shade and all.

It may be the only photo I ever took from that spot at the sink…following an intuitive hunch that it would be important to me.
Like I said, I took it for granted.

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Although we have plenty of windows in our over-55 condo, there is no window over the sink.
I miss it.
And sometimes the world I left behind there as well.

Quote of the Day…

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you are aboard there is nothing you can do.

Golda Meir

 

Isn’t that the truth.
Even when I want to say…get me the hell off.

I am not ready for this yet.
For the irrelevance thrust on me.
Rendered invisible. Packed in behind the younger.
Respect once earned upended in the turbulence of senior discounts…
now that you’re 50…60…over 60….doors start to shut. Deaf ears abound.

Forgetting one too many things
Which 20 years ago went unnoticed.
Or commented on.
Not now.

Mask floating down. Got it.
Pulling the life vest cords. Got it.

I tell the younger kin I am not this old inside my head.
They nod. Eyes looking beyond. Already past me.
Uncomprehending…until it’s their aged faces staring back at them.
That’s what she meant.

There will be no mad dash for the exits.
Even in an emergency.
I’m on this ride for the duration. Wind. Rain. Thunder.
Wrinkles. Gray hair. Early dinners. Early to bed.
System slowdowns. Bumpy rides. Love and loss.

Dried up everything, but oozing with wisdom.
Experience.
And ideas. Just ask.
But they won’t.
Whatever.

The longer I’m on this stormy plane ride, the wiser I get.
Not my first rodeo.
So there.

2019…more transitions…
…the next leg on my Golden Years journey.
Seatbelt fastened and secure.
Building up those frequent flyer miles.
Wheels up.

plane window
This post inspired by: V.J.’s Weekly Challenge – Transition