Resilience

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #64: Resilience

There is a catch to this week’s challenge: I don’t want you to use the word itself, but to illustrate what resilience means to you.

~~~

It is not true that life is one damn thing after another — it’s one damn thing over and over.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

Please be careful!  I hold my breath.

I don’t speak  because he can’t hear me…outside two stories beneath my dining room window.

I can see him walking his lively little black dog. Across the grassy area between my building and the road. Painstakingly. Slowly. Steadily. In the snow. In the rain. Blistering heat.  The dog needs her walks.

In one hand he grips a long retractable leash. The other a sturdy cane and plastic poop bags. His body, bent over, lurches to the side as he walks, his left leg immobile in a metal brace. With each slow step of his right foot, he drags the other leg along. At what looks like an impossibly treacherous angle.

Step. Drag. Step. Drag.

Periodically he stops, balances on the cane and reaches down with the green plastic bag. His pup patiently waits, tail wagging…clearly used to the routine.

My neighbor has not always been like this. I met him when we moved into this over-55 community 3 years ago…and he is several decades over 55. All I know is he suffered a brain aneurysm maybe 10 years ago. Lost the use of his left leg. If he falls – and he does – he can rarely get up by himself. Add leukemia to the mix.

However…

He drives. Goes to the grocery store. Once back home, he transfers full shopping bags to a cart. Pushes it to the elevator in the garage. Slowly. Steadily.

He attends condo meetings. Cookouts. Pizza parties. He and his wife traveled to Europe last winter. Back in the day they skied on a regular basis.

He just does what he has to do. Offers of help waved off. Always a smile.

It looks so damn hard to be him.

But he keeps on keepin’ on in ways I can’t even imagine.

 

side yard copy

Ripening

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #63: Ripening

Consider what is ripening in you, or the world around you. Maybe this requires a glance backwards to another time, or a peek into the life of another.

~~~

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I stumbled upon an interesting definition of ripening…

To develop to a suitable condition for something to happen

I am quite familiar with ripening as it applies to fruits and vegetables. I do play the how many bananas should I buy at a time game so I have one every morning at just the right stage of ripeness.

And when’s the last possible date I can eat those tomatoes left ripening on the counter before they go over the ripening edge into moldy mush? Splitting open and spewing blackish seeds at random. I play that ripening game too.

I don’t like to throw away food. I’m also not a big fan of banana bread…the last edible resort for overripe bananas.

It all has to do with chemical changes. Age. How long before starches turn to sugars. Acidity levels increase. Everything softens. The plant loses shape. Dries up. Eventually caves in on itself rendered inedible.

And…speaking of ripe…

Let’s not forget the antiquated expression about living to a ripe old age….

Hey!

Wait a minute…

I don’t know if I like what seems to be falling into a familiar place here…

1) Chemical changes: Umm, yup. (need I list those? I think not)
2) Everything softens: Uh, yeah…
3) Loses shape: It’s-called-gravity-people!
4) Dries up: See #1.

Let’s not discuss the caving in on oneself part now.

My point in going down this Ripening Road of Realization is to focus on that first definition. I much prefer to consider my aging self as getting ready for something to happen. Something positive. Before I get to the caving in part.

I need a plan…of action.
As well as a healthy energy for that action.
I may be ripe for something, but for the life of me
I have yet to figure out what that is.

slime pond

Outdoors Childhood

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #62: Child/Childhood

…ponder what it means to be a child.

~~~

1964kite

To be a child…Part One.

Eyes first opened onto a world to explore.

To wonder. To question. To know.

Narrowed eyes gazed back…

I took my cue…

Slammed that screen door
And ran out.

Bright sun. Low clouds. Green grass. Climbing trees.
Raindrops soaking. Snow falling. Wind blowing.
Kite in flight.
Bicycle racing. Balls bouncing. Swings swinging.
Hopscotch. Tag.
Duck Duck Goose.
Hide and Seek. Ready-or-not-here-I-come.
Roller skates. Jungle Gym. Kiddie pool.
Slide. Sandbox. Snow forts.
Leaf piles…crunch crunch…jump…
Shout!

Nourishment absent inside four walls.

Outside
My respite. My peace. My place.
Fueling many Part One days…
An endless horizon of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recovery

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #61: Recovery 

What does it mean to recover? What would full recovery look like, and is there such a thing? Recover from what?

~~~

Everything else you grow out of, but you never recover from childhood.

Beryl Bainbridge

 

Time to come in for dinner! 

Whoops.

It became kind of a family joke when I was a kid – that I often ended up needing stitches on Thanksgiving…or Easter. Usually a holiday with visiting grandparents. More than once.

I’m not sure how many times it actually happened, but as I recall I’d be sent outside to play while the turkey was roasting. In my dressy clothes and patent leather shoes, I’d start running around like usual…climbing the monkey bars…swinging on the swings…riding my bike. Jump roping. Inevitably, without my “play shoes” on, I’d slip and fall. Many times on the cement patio or out in the street. Back then, we played in the street. Kickball. Baseball.

Before long there was blood everywhere…a huge gash on my chin, forehead or knee. At the same time the turkey was just about ready to carve.

I’d ruin the rest of the day as someone would have to take me to the Emergency Room – or the pediatrician’s office…who would be called in on a holiday (this was the 1950’s & ’60s…and they did that then) to stitch me up.

I obviously healed and recovered from the consequences of my holiday mishaps. The stitches were eventually removed. The scars faded, but remain….

I was branded for the duration of my childhood. My fearlessness and budding athleticism were not what a girl should be. My mother enrolled me in the “Junior Miss Club” when I was about 10…where I was supposed to learn how to be more ladylike. It met weekly after school and included practice walking with a book on my head. The goal was to keep it there. Boring as sin and to this day I am mystified at why that was a desirable skill. Ballet was almost as frustrating. Too slow and regimented. Baton twirling lessons were a disaster.

Girls who liked to play outside and get dirty and collect bees in jars and play baseball in the street were not “normal” girls. We were called tomboys. And grew up to prefer jeans to dresses. My poor mother desperately wanted me to be a normal daughter. She never got what she wanted, despite her heroic efforts. Which continued through my high school years.

Nobody has a perfect childhood. Nobody.

However, I have to believe some sort of recovery is possible…

Depending on the scars…

And how fast they heal.

dress on bike 1959

 

 

 

 

Believe Me

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #60: Belief

This week, let’s think about the beliefs – personally, socially, culturally – that define our realities.

~~~

bxw rock

 

The most profound disappointment in life is when your truth is not believed.

When reality becomes distorted. By people who matter. And even by people who don’t matter.

But those close to you…that’s when the knife cuts the deepest. Because the hope hangs on. And on. And on. Maybe if this, maybe if that….then they’ll believe me.

Wait, I know that’s what happened. I was there. I heard it. I saw it.

But what if we are programmed from an early age to tell the world – or, more specifically, our world – family, friends – no everything is just fine.

My father would stare into the sad face of one of his children and chant over and over: Don’t Smile! Don’t Smile! Don’t Smile! Laughing…as he repeated his mantra. He’d crouch down and get right in front of a small unhappy face, his mouth stretched tight in a wide grin. His brown eyes, behind thick glasses, betrayed the frivolity. They were mocking. Perhaps fearful.
As if we presented the impossible possibility that one so small and helpless could struggle with an emotion so complicated, so fraught with need.
Need for compassion, understanding, some measure of support. Validation. That we mattered.

I understand now why. He had no idea how to respond. Maybe he was overwhelmed. As it reflected his own dark emotional beliefs. The message: Don’t Be Sad. Deny the Sad. It’s not okay.

Of course, it didn’t take long for our smiles to take shape. If for nothing else, to make the laughing father stop. Smiles did not match up with the eyes or heart. And especially they did not reflect our truth.

My mother, on the other hand, would ask us what we did wrong to cause this emotion that made her so uncomfortable.

I didn’t know what to believe.

Now I do.

 

deering A

Quote of the Day…Worth Mentioning

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #59: Worth Mentioning

What has inspired you lately? A song, an image, a quotation? This week’s challenge is to share something “worth mentioning.”

~~~

 

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.

May Sarton

 

This quote leapt out at me recently…from a page in a weekly magazine.

Food for thought…and discussion…worth mentioning.

 

pond reflection

 

 

 

Five Words

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge: Just when I thought…

Life seldom unfolds in straight lines. It’s not necessary to repeat the prompt phrase, but this week let’s think about the times when life has turned an abrupt corner, or caught us off guard.

~~~

This topic jettisons me back almost 30 years to one of those moments. Which caught me off guard…and remains clear in my memory even now.

You hear so much advice as a new parent. Or a young parent. It comes at you from every direction. Other parents. Friends. Family members. Books. Magazine articles. I’m talking pre-internet…when I was raising children.

In the midst of all this advice, there were times I neglected the inner barometer. My parenting radar and instincts still not fully developed.

My 3 year old son’s 8 month experience at a local daycare center was one of those times. When I should have picked up on the signs. That it wasn’t the best place for him; even at only 2 days a week.

Irritability. Anger. Clingyness. But not all the time. I increasingly felt something was off, but rationalized my uneasiness…as over-reacting to normal toddler adjustments.

Until an exchange one evening while changing his diaper. When paying attention became front and center. And a turning point for me…

I am a bad boy.

The words jarring and new…from a child who talked little. Dark green eyes glanced up at me, and then away.

I froze; his two ankles balanced between the fingers of my left hand as I tried to still their movement. He was anxious to be off the changing table. Arms and legs swinging up. Down. Sideways. Body twisting. Trying to roll over. Two damp middle fingers plunged deep in his mouth. No more words came as the sucking became rhythmic.

With my free hand, I smoothed blonde hair back from his forehead.

His eyes met mine. SweetieYou are a Good Boy. A wonderful boy. And I love you!

I pulled the diaper up between his legs and gently held it on his belly. I let go of his legs. They scissored the air like bike pedals. Wrinkled fingers slid out of his mouth.

Bad Boy he repeated.

I leaned closer…You are the best boy in the whole world.

He strained to be upright. I pinned the diaper, pulled up the pants and stood him on the table. We were almost eye-to-eye.

I felt my outrage growing, the tears close behind….

You Are A Good Boy.

I kissed his cheek. Wrapped my arms around him. Lifted him up. He hooked his little boy legs around my waist and rested his head on my shoulder. His body finally still.

I knew there was only one place he could have heard those words…and gotten that message.

I withdrew him from the daycare center.
I quit my consulting job.

And learned a hard lesson…

t beach

Follow your instincts.
Pay attention.

Children let you know what they need.