Monday, February 28, 2011

Pisces Girl

"I always wanted to be Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up.
I can't fly, but swimming is the next best thing.
It's harmony and balance.
The water is my sky. "
Clayton Jones

I saw many pretty things on our vacation. (I'm still thinking about the small sunny yellow Fiesta ware pitcher that I couldn't rationalize spending $50. on.)

I also saw something that was not so pretty. Me. Naked. Yikes!

The bathroom in our Savannah hotel was quite spacious. The vanity was extra large with plenty of space for a coffee pot, ice bucket, shaving kit, and my uber-sized bag of toiletries. Naturally a vanity this size calls for a mirror that takes up most of the wall. This wouldn't be so bad except that it was directly across from the shower. [Note to self: if I'm ever in charge of hotel bathroom decor install smaller mirrors and lower watt light bulbs.]

After taking a long luxurious shower to rejuvenate myself after walking around Savannah, I threw back the curtain, grabbed a towel to dry my face and met myself in all my naked glory looking back at me. Now I know that I've got some extra pounds, the number of which may or may not be negotiable with my doctor when I see him next week. I also know that at this stage of my life, on the verge of becoming a crone, rolly poly or saggy baggy skin can be considered badges of honor for having lived so long. I don't have any babies to cuddle but if I did, I'd have the kind of grandmother's body a little one could curl up in and go to sleep. I know that there are gads of other things to work myself up over and my body image need not be one of them.

Still, it's been a long long time since I've actually seen myself so clearly. My bathroom mirror at home only covers from my head to my chest, and most of that hangs below the frame. [Sorry, that might be too much information. ] So you might be saying to yourself, well now that you know what are you going to do about it. Funny, that's exactly what I said. And sadly the only thing I could come up with is exercise and diet.

Exercise and diet? Crap!

Well here's the deal. The first productive thing I did after my father was buried was join the downtown YMCA. Why I ever let that membership lapse is beyond me. Even though there is a lot of exercise equipment at the Y, I joined for one reason only - the pool. Swimming for me is more of a spiritual experience than anything else. The fact that it is good for me is just an added bonus.

The thing about swimming is I have to show my bathing suit wearing self in public. And not just in the pool. I have to walk through the Y and down a flight of stairs, flip flopping my flip-flops on every stair. Yes, I wrap a towel around myself, but if you've used a gym towel lately you know they are made to do a so-so job of drying you off not to go around a big girl. I may be covered, but just barely.

When I got out of bed this morning I had one thing on my mind - getting into the water, chlorine and all. When I got into an empty lane (which I was told I was lucky to get at that time) the young man in the lane next to me said hello. I said hello back before I put on my really attractive bathing cap and swim goggles that I pull so tight that my eyeballs kind of pop out. Come to think of it I really don't have to worry about how I look in a bathing suit because I look so dorky with the cap and goggles that my extra tummy rolls are of little consequence.

The guy next to me reminded me of that Hawaiian singer IZ, a really, really large man, who died at 38 from weight related respiratory illness. So I see this IZ look-alike and I don't think, gee he's obese, or get grossed out by his body. No, all I can think of is God bless him. I don't know this guy's story, but I know he's brave. And I know he's got a long way to go. And I applaud him for every stroke he took and every lap he completed. And I swam with a little more vigor, thinking to myself, it's not how I look when I'm swimming. What's important is that I'm swimming - moving - exercising. In that moment I threw vanity, lethargy, and grieving out the window and relaxed into my watery cocoon. It felt good being good to me.

Wishing for you time to do what feels good to you,
Merry ME

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Home Again!

"When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure;
when you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home."
Thorton Wilder

Upon leaving Charleston we had a bit of a debate about heading straight home or going a little out of the way to see Beaufort, SC. The only thing I know about Beaufort is that this is where The Big Chill and the Great Santini were filmed. It was hard for me to pass up a chance to see and take a picture of this house but I left the decision up to Sweetie the driver, who was beginning to look a bit weary.

[The Big Chill House as seen through the locked "Private Property" gate.]

One of the reasons I call him Sweetie is that my love seems to read between my unspoken lines and decide what I would decide if I wasn't so indecisive! Beaufort was quite a place. It oozed southern, charm. The houses were huge and to die for. Think big! Think, two or three story with shuttered windows, great big porches, moss covered oak trees sitting for years on huge lawns. Think ladies wearing cotton eyelet dresses, large sunbonnets, sipping tangy lemonade. Think Magnolia blossoms, azalea bushes and red bud trees.

I say I don't know what my soul yearns for and that's why I feel so stuck when I think about moving into the future. Today, I think I heard my heart say, "I'm home." I think maybe I was a Southern belle in another life. In this life there is no way I could afford such living. To be sure, however, it was divine to drive around and see how the other half live.

While I was browsing post cards in the visitor's center, Sweetie was looking at entertainment brochures. He handed me one that took my breath away. It was for a place called Luther's. Seriously, what are the chances? Without further ado we pointed the car in that direction. Known for great burgers and beer we had a delicious lunch. I thought about ordering a Manhattan on the rocks in honor of the man who shared the name of the proprietor. Instead, I said a silent "I miss you, Dad" and raised my Pepsi toward heaven.
[Odd or God?]

I don't know if I believe that Dad was watching over us. That seems a little woowoo. But then what are the chances of us being so far away from home, in a little beach town and finding a lunch place with my father's name? Was it a sign? If so, of what? Maybe a slow and gentle way to break me back into the idea of heading home.

Six days and 600+ miles later here we are - home again. Sigh.

It's not that I don't want to be home. I've always believed one of the best things about a vacation is pulling up into your own driveway and feeling a sense of relief, of knowing you belong somewhere. My worry is that this house holds so many memories, memories I can't run from even if I wanted to. I don't know where to start incorporating the old with the new.

[Magnolia Tree #25.
Not sure what the number means or why the trees were marked.]

Maybe I should take my cues from the trees I saw on the trip. One was reported to be 500 years old. My goodness, in that span of time this country was founded, split apart, and reconstructed. Houses were built and destroyed by hurricanes and rebuilt. People lived and died yet their histories live on. I don't know what the future holds for Sweetie and I. I do know, though, there is a future. I need to rely on the roots that have been planted, and let the new buds blossom on branches that reach for the sky. It sounds like a plan that might just work. For now, I need to take a shower and crawl into my own bed. The cats are anxious to tell me what went on while we were gone. And I'm anxious to listen.

In one of my wildest fantasies, I've thought it would be neat to travel around the US in a motorhome, going wherever the mood suggested, taking notes and writing a travel journal. It is not an original idea and better writers than I have already done it. I'm not sure Sweetie and I are necessarily the long distance traveling kind, though it might be different if we took our home with us. I've enjoyed writing about this trip. I hope you've enjoyed traveling with us. The only think you missed was the smell of Pine Sol in gas station bathrooms (when you gotta go you gotta go) the ridiculous traffic, scarfing up the miniature bottles of shampoo and an ancient cassette tape (can you believe it?) of some Southern guy telling stories that made Sweetie guffaw with laughter and made me look at my darling as if he'd lost his mind.

Wishing for you the comfort of the place you call home,
Merry ME

Friday, February 25, 2011

Charleston - Day 4 1/2

And just like that the rain stopped, the sun came out and the skies turned blue. Sweetie and I headed back to town, still not sure of what we wanted to do - ride in a horse drawn carriage, visit the Charleston Museum, or explore the aquarium. Whatever we chose, Sweetie was clear he did not want it to include a lot of walking. Old cobblestones and old hips are not a good match.

We stopped at the Visitor's Center so I could buy some postcards. Sweetie signed us up for a deal that proved to be too good to be true. What sounded like an easy way to garner a hundred dollar visa card was really an attempt to sell us a time share. Oh well, I found the shea butter man at the market, and grabbed a few more souvenirs.

Next we headed to Queen Anne's Revenge, a restaurant on Daniel Island that Sorrow recommended. "Oh, it's easy to get there," said the time share pimp. "Just get on 526 and cross the bridge, you can't miss it." Well, that sounded easy enough, except that he neglected to say 526 east or west. And he neglected to tell us there was no signage for Daniel's Island. First time around, we missed the exit completely.

No problem, Sweetie asked the girl in the bank (who admitted to being new in town herself) who said go back to 526, take a left, then go down 2 streets and take another left. "You can't miss it," she assured my directionally challenged mate. More than a few miles down that road we stopped for something to drink. Again Sweetie asked for directions. The new girl at the bank clearly didn't know Daniel Island from any other island on the SC coast. "Turn around, take the first 526 exit, cross the big bridge, take a right. You can't miss it," said a guy in the convenience store who for no other reason than his age seemed more believable. Once headed in the right direction, getting to the restaurant was all about following the signs.

Let me just say it was worth the detours. Really good food accompanied lots of pirate memorabilia. It was a grown up place but one that children would love. Can you ever see too many sabers, treasure chests, pieces of eight and other kinds of pirate booty? I don't know much about the brigand Blackbeard but I dare say he and his swarthy crew were a nuisance to the shipping industry of the time. Not unlike the stories coming out of south Africa. I guess a pirate is a pirate is a pirate.

Now it's time to change into my jammies and crawl into bed. Maybe I'll dream of a swashbuckling, white bearded sea captain who holds me, his hot blooded wench, by the waist with one hand and steers his high seas sailing sloop with the other. Navigating by the stars and following our hearts we'll make our own way to whatever island we choose.

Wishing for you fantasies to make you smile,
Merry ME

P.S. It was only after we sat at the dining table that we remembered the GPS navigation system under the front seat of the car. It might have made for an easier trip but would have added little to the adventure!

Charleston - Day 4

Rain, rain go away...
...or not.

We may have missed our window of opportunity to see more of Charleston before a storm blew in. Sweetie slept in while I ate breakfast which is the total opposite of what we usually do. I was headed for my camera to try to capture some of the moss covered trees when the rain began to fall. Our hostess says this is a light rain so there's not a problem driving into town. Heavy rains, she adds, cause the streets to flood. Begging the question, how do people maneuver the water filled roads?

Thinking we'd brave the rain - what's a little water when you're on vacation - we headed for the car and the road that is something out of a scary movie on a good day. We stopped at the porch steps to rethink this plan.

Do I really need the $25.00 jar of lavender scented shea butter I promised the man I'd be back for today? Did Sweetie really want to test his driving skills on a curvy lane where the speed limit is 35 MPH but everyone drives at least 45, not to mention the slick pavement? The longer we pondered, the more the rain begged us to sit on the porch and stay awhile. The green blanket seemed to call from our room, beckoning us to the wicker chaise on the back screened in veranda.

Here I sit. Captivated by a particularly Charlestonian view of moss covered oak trees, Magnolias that reach to the sky, camellia bushes all abloom, and a dock that seems to go forever into the tidewater. If I listen real close I can hear a few birds calling to each other. The rain hitting the trees and the roof harmonize a kind of somnolent lullaby. Sweetie has fallen asleep before even retrieving his book from the bottom of the suitcase. At first my vacation mind set was undone by this rain-soaked delay. We're here in Charleston, after all, to see all we can see, soak up the history, dine on the low country cuisine, take pictures and buy T-shirts, dammit. Sitting around listening to the rain was not on my agenda.

Then I stopped to rethink things. defines vacation as: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity,usually used for rest.
The thesaurus lists synonyms such as: breathing space, day of rest, liberty, respite, rest.

One of the reasons for this get away was to see new sights. Another more important one was to rest. Maybe these showers are nothing more than Mother Nature's way of saying, "hey Merry ME, slow down, take a load off, relax, rest. Give yourself some breathing space."

You see, I'm pretty sure that at the same time I've been enjoying my time away I've also been about the task of building a wall around my grief, trying to block it off. Don't think about him, I said to myself as I stood in front of the statue of John Wesley in Reynolds Square. That was a long time ago, I said as I sat in the Pirate's House restaurant remembering an unspoken time. I kept my tears at bay on the month anniversary of Dad's passing, but let them flow this morning as a Willie Nelson tune wafted from the kitchen window to where I sat enjoying a 2nd blueberry muffin.

And now the rain. It's just too damn easy to be sad when it rains.

With a little time and patience, however, what started out as grim pissiness at not going into town, has turned into enjoyable relaxation. It's weird isn't it that one can be happy and sad at the same time? Or is that my split personality showing itself? I'm trying not to put any restrictions on myself. I want to feel what I feel when I feel it. I'm learning happy and sad don't have to cancel each other out; that rain and vacation can actually go hand in hand; that rest isn't synonymous with lazy (Dad's voice booming down from heaven). It's really all about taking care of myself. An odd concept, to be sure, but one I'm beginning to embrace.

Speaking of embracing. I see my Sweetie bundled up under the green blanket. I think I see enough room for me to squeeze in also. I may not be learning about how rice grows, or South Carolina's reasons for firing the first shot of the Civil War or where Blackbeard hid his treasure, but I'm learning something even better - how to be gentle with myself.

My wish for you today is that your recognize a gentle kiss from Mother Nature when she blows it your way,
Merry ME

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Charleston - Day 3

[A friend told me once he believed the Camellia to be the most beautiful flower God created. I think he may be right.]

There is much to see and do in Charleston, or so I'm told. There are also more people, more cars and less parking places than Savannah. I have no sense of quaint or historic, though Charleston may have been that in its heyday. I'm guessing, it's always been a robust place of commerce - the Custom House sits near the river looking stately and authoritative. I wonder, was that the first thing the slaves saw as they were herded off the ships and into the market.

The market today is several blocks long. What I expected to be filled with Charlestonian arts and crafts was actually arrayed with an eclectic selection of goods from all over the world. Yes there were black ladies making and selling sea grass baskets. I asked one woman how many baskets she had made and she just laughed. "I never thought to count them," she said, "but I can tell you it's a lot." Her hands moved across the reeds as if reading braille. She didn't need to look at what she was doing, her hands knew. The baskets are really quite stunning. Alas, I could not afford even a small one. Though I may have to go back tomorrow and re-think that.

[ Squircles - kind of square and kind of round. ]

Besides the basket weavers, there were Filipina ladies selling embroidered place mats and smocked baby dresses; jewelry sellers offering just about any kind of gewgaws you could imagine; woodworkers; artists; photographers; and perhaps my favorite a man from Ghana selling Shea butter. I'm not sure if I was more impressed with the medicinal properties of the creamy butter, or the man's ability to entice everyone that walked by to buy some.

After a couple of hours in the market we headed in search of a place to eat. Not that we weren't surrounded by them, but oysters seemed to be the offering du jour. By driving we got somewhat of a feel for the old architecture, though I suspect we'd have gotten a better history lesson if we took the horse drawn carriage. The Episcopal Church I was looking for turned out to be several more blocks away from where we had lunch than what I had predicted. (Map reading and navigating has never been my strong suit.)

St. Phillips was the first church built in Charleston in 1683. The doors were locked, of course, which left only the cemetery to explore. I wasn't too sure this was what I wanted to do. I was afraid it would prove depressing. In fact, it was anything but. The cemetery was literally littered with markers of all shapes and sizes, mostly old - real old - though some surprisingly new. Sweetie rested on the church steps while I wondered in and out, around and through. Many names were unreadable, not that I'd recognize them anyway. Still, it was quite amazing to think of the people who lay beneath my feet had built this city so many hundreds of years ago. Every fifteen minutes the church bells would ring. The bongs sounded like the wind chime I was given after Dad died, only a lot bigger! I found the whole experience to be quite peaceful and pleasant. Who knew?

I'm not sure what is on the agenda for tomorrow. If it's not raining it might be a good day for that carriage ride, or maybe a trip to the barrier islands.

Ta Ta for Now,
Merry ME

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Savannah - Day 2

"May you experience each day as a sacred gift
woven around the heart of wonder."
John O'Donohue

Let it not be said that we left Savannah without strolling down River Street like the true tourists we are. There were postcards and T-shirts and souvenirs yet to buy! It was a cool day and being near the river made it even chillier. Not cold. Just the right temperature for wrapping up in my new Pashima stole - at 50% off I couldn't resist.

I channeled my inner Po [36500 words]to attempt to take some bird pictures. The winged beauties in question seemed to pose and wait for me to do my thing.

[It seemed a little weird to me that this bird let me get so close to him. Now I see that his eyes were closed! Obviously he'd had his picture taken more than once and was no longer camera shy.]

[What you don't see in this picture is the entrance to the candy store. Once I put my camera away this bird headed straight for the door. The smell of chocolate covered pecans was too much even for a bird to resist.]

Heading out of Savannah we decided again to take the alternate route instead of the Interstate. We by-passed the normal traffic and boring view of I-95 which was good. However the road we chose ran along the side of miles of defoliated and de-treed woodlands. Bulldozers and shovel-trucks chewed gaping holes in the landscape. It is just my opinion but I believe the world does NOT need another 4 lane highway, the cost of which has to be in the millions of dollars and too high to count in the destroying of natural beauty. I found it kind of depressing. Do you think trees cry when they are cut down? I felt like crying looking at the carnage.

Near the exit that would take us toward the coast we stopped for a brief repast and potty break. In the South it is not unusual for such rest stops to sit next to, or around the corner from a store selling enough fireworks to light up the sky in 4th of July fashion. What is unusual is for the fireworks seller to employ gigantic cement elephants to attract customers. Well, I couldn't resist. It was a photo op not to be missed.

[It's taking me more than a few tries to get the hang of this self-portrait style of photography. I must say, however, that this one might be as good as it gets! Look at my Sweetie smile!]

We got to the outskirts of Charleston just as evening traffic began. We found the B&B where we are staying, settled in and decided to wait til tomorrow to hit the ground running.

The whole point of this vacation was to get out of Dodge, so to speak - to shed some of the sadness that has been hanging around my shoulders like my new scarf. Is it coincidence or God that everywhere I look I'm finding reminders that happiness does exist. One may have to look for it, or choose it, but, if she keeps her eyes peeled, she can't miss it. Sort of like a gigantic pink elephant on the side of the road.

Wishing for you happiness where you least expect it,

Merry ME

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Savannah - Day One

  • Drove around squircles looking for a parking place [Square + Circle = Squircle]
  • Tripped on uneven brick sidewalks
  • Sat on park benches

  • Toured the railroad museum
  • Drooled over old Fiesta ware dishes
  • Discovered a hole in the wall sandwich shop [marinated chicken sandwich - ooh lala!]

  • Drove around Christ Episcopal Church 3 times before realizing we were looking right at it
  • Took a delicious nap
  • Ate dinner at the Pirate House
  • Long day, beautiful day with my Sweetie

Monday, February 21, 2011


Sweetie decided I needed a change of scenery to brighten my mood and, hopefully, dry up my tear ducts. We discussed heading to points south, i.e. Disney World, Lake Wales, and Sanibel Island. We considered points west, like Tallahassee, Pensacola and Ft. Walton beach. We settled on points North - Savannah and Charleston to be exact.

A little to Sweetie's dismay we got a later start than he had planned. In my defense, anyone who plans on leaving for vacation at 9am is asking to be a little disgruntled. Don't vacations, by law, begin sometime after 10am?

We kind of took the long way to Savannah. We headed west, then north, on some back Georgia roads, a route Sweetie used to take when he was stationed at Ft. Stewart. Then we turned back towards the ocean and headed east on I95. I must say there is a world of difference between the interstate and two lane highways. I think I prefer the latter. If I'd been thinking, I'd have started counting BBQ places in Callahan the home of the world famous Boston Butt Hutt. I couldn't give you an exact count, but I will tell you there are many and varied places to get most any kind of barbecue you want.

The rural highway is also a mecca for Baptist churches, mobile homes, with lattice covered foundations, beauty salons and salvage shops. An interesting mix, don't you think? Turning on the cruise control, Sweetie kept the car at a gentle speed where we just mosied along. What I would call lodgepole pines because of their long tall trunks, lined the road. The sky was a pretty shade of blue with big billowing clouds that seemed to beckon us forward. Once you hit the Interstate, however, the lanes were uneven, in need of repair, littered with shredded tire treads and road kill. The trees were cut back so you could see the glaring yellow arches and other fast food signs. The traffic picked up as did the need to jockey for position with motorcycles and semis. The surrounding energy changed from slow and easy to forget-the-peaceful-scenery-let's-get-there-as-fast-as-we-can. The lady in the GPS box kept repeating herself. Alright, already, we're getting over, thank you very much!

And here we are. On the outskirts of historic Savannah, at the Country Inn & Suites. I can't explain it, exactly, but I've noticed that whenever I check into a hotel my inner child seems to take over. From the excitement of riding in an elevator to the mystery of what we may find after unlocking the door to a new room there is much to be explored like bouncing on the bed, checking out the bathroom for miniature sized toiletries, filling the ice bucket from the machine down the hall and turning on the TV. It's all very normal stuff. Why it feels so thrilling to the kid in me is probably something to be examined in therapy!

While I am giving little ME permission to check things out, Sweetie is unpacking his suitcase. Underwear and socks are placed neatly in the drawers, pants and shirts hung evenly in the closet next to the ironing board. The coverlet is pulled back just so 1/3 of the way down the bed. The A/C turned on.

In the olden days, before WiFi, we'd both probably be satisfied with a little nap taking. After all, what is a vacation without a nap? Yet, here we are with our laptops fired up and filling us in on what we missed during the 4 hours we were on the road. I'm blogging and Sweetie is searching the Internet for the best place to eat in town. Ah, food. What's a vacation without lots of good food. Can anyone say Paula Dean?

On that note, I think, I'll grab the ice bucket and check the mini-bar.

Wishing for you a different point of view,
Merry ME

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One More Day

If you've ever experienced the loss of a loved one you've also experienced the different stages of grief, even if you can't name them.

Grief is like one of those giant wrecking balls they use to knock down buildings. When it hits you feel yourself crumbling and are powerless to stop it. Something new and more beautiful may grow up in its place but right now you're surrounded by a dust cloud of hurt. Shortly after my mother died, I experienced what I call the Grocery Store Effect. I say grocery store because that is where it happened for me. It could just as easily occur in Target or Home Depot, perhaps even driving your car.

I'd forgotten about the Grocery Store Effect until recently. After my father's funeral was over, the casserole dishes were returned, friends had gone back to work and the world reminded me that in the big scheme of things my loss was nothing more than a speck of sand on the beach of life, I realized the time had come for me to get back to some kind of normalcy. It is different for everybody, but I dare say mundane chores, like doing the laundry and going to the grocery store are the beginning steps we all have to take whether we like it or not. These chores are easy and so routine a zombie could do them. And, let's face it, when a loved one dies, you're going to feel like a zombie for awhile.

Here's how it works.

Once you decide you can not face another meal of stale Saltines, or milk that is long past its don't-drink-this-or you'll-be-sorry date or the bananas from a two week old fruit basket are a questionable shade of black, going to the grocery store becomes just one more thing you have to get through as quickly as possible so you can get back home where you feel safe. Safe is the cocoon you've made for yourself littered with wadded up tissues and other detritus of mourning - Hallmark cards, old photos and a sweat drenched copy of the eulogy you gave.

Not caring how you look, you grab the first thing you see on the top of the clothes heap in the corner of your room. Regardless if it's wrinkled, soiled or inside out you put it on. You brush your teeth out of a habit that just won't quit, but don't bother with your hair. Instead you slap on a ball cap and start the search for your keys.

Getting to the store is as miraculous as finding a dress for the funeral in your size that is on sale. You have no idea how it happened but you take it as a sign that your guardian angel is watching over you. Along with the other shoppers who don't make eye contact or smile even a little, you fight with the carts that are stuck together like the Snickers-smeared playing cards you've been playing Solitaire with. On your second or third try you finally get one out and take it even though the chances are pretty good that one wheel is going to wobble. Who cares you mumble to yourself, you only need a few things.

After fifteen or twenty minutes, as if a hypnotist had just counted to three, snapped his fingers and awakened you from a deep sleep, you become aware of your surroundings. You've been going up and down the aisles looking but not really seeing, throwing things in the rickety cart by rote. But then there you are, standing in front of the Entenmann's bakery items, searching for the cheese filled crumb coffee cake your father liked so much, the one with the layer of cheese all the way through, not just on top, when this song blasts through your fog. That's when you remember for the first time since entering the store that your father (mother, husband, child) died three weeks ago. That's when the tears begin to fall. Right there in the bakery department, or the meat department in front of the county ham slices, or the ice cream freezer when you see rows of neatly stacked Rocky Road ice cream that you'll probably never buy again because your Dad was the only one that liked the marshmallow and nut combo, you stand there crying like the kid who just got smacked for dropping his juice cup for the kazillionth time. Only you aren't making a sound. Your sobs are eerily silent.

The fight or flight part of your brain tries to take over. It begins sending chemical messages for action but your legs pay no attention. Other shoppers begin to walk a wide berth around you. From some little used place in your mind you ask yourself what would Jesus do? You begin to wonder if there is someone watching you go crazy on one of those hidden cameras the store uses to catch shoplifters. How long will it be before they come to help? How will you explain that you were fine until you saw the coffee cake?

Finally, finally you look around and do the only thing you can think of. You pull the ball cap down over your tear-stained face, park your cart and head for the door. Once outside you begin to breathe with some kind of normal rythm. By the time you get to your car your hands have stopped shaking so you decide to risk the drive home. You walk in the back door, throw your purse on the counter and search for the place where you feel comfortable and lost at the same time. You sit in the chair next to your loved one's bed wishing with all you've got left in you that he was there to ask for a bowl of ice cream. And you cry some more.

There are many books written on grief which can be quite helpful. Personally I think that's a little like being on the Titanic and reading a book on water safety. Some things you just have to live through to get to the other side. And trust me, there will be days when you'd rather float away on an iceberg than face another day without your loved one. That said, it never hurts to be forewarned.

Learning to live after loss is different for each of us. You might experience the Grocery Store Effect, or the Car Wash Effect or Lillies Blooming in the Front Yard Effect. They all happen about the same way. You think you're ready to move forward and something happens to remind you of what is gone. There is no known cure for these painful reminders. Yet, ironically, one day in the future you can't even imagine they will be the basis for memories that flood your heart with joy not pain.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins with a Single Step

"Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don't they know it's the end of the world ...
It ended when you said goodbye."
Skeeter Davis - End of the World

Back before I even knew what love was all about and didn't have a clue about love gone wrong, I used to drown my rather dramatic and angst-ridden pre-teen romantic failures with songs like "... it's the end of the world." I'd turn up the transistor radio and wail along with Skeeter Davis, Johnny Mathis and Leslie Gore. What I knew then about the end of the world was anyone's guess. Still the words hit a chord with me, touched my heart on a soul level. Could I have been, even then, preparing myself for the myriad of goodbyes I would say in my lifetime?

A few days ago I mentioned to one of my friends/mentors/ go-to persons that I don't know how to get started again, that my mind says move but my body/spirit are kind of paralyzed. She replied:

"I'd start with tomorrow - and three simple things to get done tomorrow. I know in your grief all you want to do is do nothing, but Mary, you have to do something. My suggestion would be to take a walk. Take a walk with your camera. Take pictures on your walk. And then come home and post the picture to your blog - whether you have words to go with it or not.
The walk will release endorphins (nature's anti-depressant), and help move the "stuck" energy of grief. Looking for photo ops will engage the right (creative, tending and healing) side of the brain releasing the hormone oxytocin. And posting the pic to your blog will have you doing something productive.
There....three simple (and do-able) things to accomplish tomorrow! :-)

Well tomorrow turned into three days. Actually I took the walk yesterday, but didn't get to my blog til today. For what it's worth I did think about it, I just didn't do anything. Thinking, however, is not as productive as doing. What I learned before my walk, and the real impetus for taking the first step, was that my son told me the birds that have dotted our white car parked in the driveway with some kind of nasty berry poop is a really a flock of robins. ROBINS! I love robins.I have heard them, not knowing it was a robin chorus I was listening to. But I haven't seen the first one hanging out in the yard.

So I put on my walking shoes, picked up my camera and headed down the street. Sure enough as I got closer to a stand of oak trees I could hear them. Maybe in bird language it was a beautiful song they were singing. To my ear it sounded more like a call to arms and I feared being pooped on by the cloud of red-breasted birds fluttering overhead. I stopped to listen and wondered if this was what Skeeter Davis meant when she asked, "why do the birds go on singing?"

Then to force my mind to something more positive, I tried to take a photo. Alas, the best picture I could take was this one where you can see that a bird is going in for a rather clumsy landing, but you can't tell what kind of bird it is. You also can't tell that these trees were virtually alive with robins.

Finally I accepted the limits of my photographic abilities and continued to walk. Not fast or purposeful, just a normal pace walk - which really wasn't normal at all since I can't remember the last time I've donned some sneakers and walked around the block.

A few streets from home I caught sight of a young boy and what must have been his grandfather tossing a football back around in the yard. I'd guess the kid was 5 or 6. He was still wearing his school clothes. Even though I'm feeling rather socially phobic I smiled as I went by, feeling the positive energy of the ball throwers. The boy looked at me as I walked by. He dropped the ball yet seemed not to mind. He gave me a big ole smile and said, Happy Valentine's Day. Oh me! Oh my! Be still my sad and bruised heart. Happy Valentine's Day indeed.

At that moment, the Skeeter Davis song magically disappeared from my mind. Even though saying goodbye is a hard one, and the hole that is left in my life and heart since Dad died feels like it may never heal over, in the words of Oprah, what I know for sure is this .... it's not the end of the world. Birds will keep singing, the sun will keep coming up and young boys will continue to make me melt on the spot with their sweetness.

As if to add an exclamation point to the thought, as I got closer to home I saw this ...

Just a pile of branches waiting for yard trash pickup? Or a heart? It looks a little scarred, perhaps where the saw cut through it. Yet there it sits, not hiding in the gutter but looking up into the light ... almost as if it was placed there for me to see. Good thing I had my camera with me!

And there you have it. 23 days after my father died and 17 days after I last wrote anything I've completed a short piece of prose. Maybe things won't be the same as they were. Maybe the world will have a grayish tone to it for awhile. Yet maybe, just maybe, I will survive.

Wishing for you friends to lean on,
Merry ME