finding hope in impossible times

I had hoped that my next post would be about ABC’s baptism and the family visits around that, but I haven’t been able to get organized to write it.

There has been a lot going on and a lot swirling in my head, so maybe this post will help…

My parents raised me to always do my best. I was fortunate that my best generally also stood me in good stead in school and in life experiences, as I juggled my various roles and tried to do good in the world.

When my children were young, there was a book about being a “good enough” parent. I remember bristling at the concept, because I was geared to be a “best I could be” parent – and daughter, spouse, sister, friend, citizen, Catholic, volunteer, committee member, musician, person.

The current roster of roles now includes grandparent, blogger, and poet.

And it doesn’t feel as though my best, even when I am able to muster it, is good enough.

Not even close.

With my mom in hospice care and granddaughter ABC in residence, there has been massive re-prioritizing, which is necessary and good and understandable. Some things in which I was accustomed to being very active, such as public policy and social justice advocacy, have been sharply curtailed, unfortunately at a time when my country is coming apart at the seams. I am keeping some of my poetry and blogging activities going, but in a scattershot way as I have time/brainpower available.

(It is not especially helpful to have Facebook reminding me how many days it has been since I posted to the Top of JC’s Mind Facebook page.)

I think, though, that the root of the problem is that nothing I do, whether it is my best or not, can change the fact of the mounting losses. Illness and decline and death and people moving away and rejection and running out of time and all manner of losses, anticipated or unforeseen, will keep happening, no matter what I or any of us do, think, or philosophize over.

And, yes, I know circle of life and faith and recommendations to take care of myself notwithstanding, some days are just difficult to get through without tears.

Sometimes, those days with tears string together.

I am blessed, though, with people who bring me as much support and comfort as they can when I am struggling. B to talk with and give me hugs. The warmth of ABC snuggling in my arms. E and L to step in and make dinner when I can’t wrap my head around the concept of eating, much less shopping and cooking. My sisters with calls, notes, and visits. Friends who are sending thoughts and prayers and who understand my sporadic contact.

Earlier this week, I was looking for a bell for Nana to use to call her nighttime aide. Unsure where to look, I went to a dollar store near the pharmacy where I was picking up one of Nana’s prescriptions. I don’t often go to dollar stores, so it was a bit difficult to figure out where to look. I had started to check out some possible aisles when I heard the unmistakable sound of a bell. I followed it to find a girl carrying a little bell toward the checkout where her grandmother was waiting for her.  I waited until they had finished their transactions and asked where they had found it. (The grandmother told me that the bell said “Ring for Beer” on it and that they were getting it for a beer-loving dad.) The girl cheerfully led me through the store to the shelf in the gifts aisle that held the bells. I thanked her. I chose a bell that said “Ring for Service” on it, paid $1.08, and brought it up to my mom’s, who was surprised that I had been able to find a bell so quickly.

(Feel free to insert your favorite It’s a Wonderful Life, serendipity, answer to prayer, etc. thoughts here.)

For me in that moment, it was a reminder that hope and help can appear unexpectedly in the midst of sadness and confusion and uncertainty.

I just have to listen and allow myself to be led.

 

 

thanks

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Despite the difficult year, I have much for which to be thankful.

One of them is you! I am thankful for my readers, whether you visit once or on a regular basis.

As regular visitors know, 2016 has been a difficult, complicated year for me and I have not been able to read and comment on other blogs on a regular basis, as good bloggers do.

Despite that, I have now surpassed 800 followers. Thanks! I so appreciate your support.

The follower number is not the whole story. I am also surprised at the number of in-person or Facebook friends who tell me that they read my blog, even though they never comment, follow, or like, which tend to be things that other bloggers are inclined to do. I so appreciate your support, especially during this busy time when personal correspondence is among the many things being set aside in deference to tasks that must be done in person. (A reminder to Facebook users, you can find my FB page here.)

I wish everyone a wonderful day, whether it is a holiday for you or not.

All days are better with gratitude and thanksgiving.

What I’ve been writing this week

Well, not much for blog posts or poems. I did have to do some commentary on articles about fracking because the one-year anniversary of the announcement of the fracking ban in New York State has produced another round of pieces on fracking, including a lot of hand-wringing from people who still believe the lies of the landmen from the early days of the ordeal.

But most of my writing this week has been Christmas/holiday cards, which are finally all in the mail.

While there have been many items on the Christmas to-do list that I have winnowed down over the years, sending holiday cards has remained one of my top priorities.

My ideal is to choose a card from my stash for each person/family on my list, hand signed with a short greeting, sealed with a Christmas Seal, and affixed with a holiday stamp appropriate for the recipient – Madonna and child for church friends, more secular designs for those who are more secular Christmas celebrants or who aren’t Christian. (While I tend to call it my Christmas card list, I include Jewish friends, agnostic friends, etc. on my list. Wishes for peace are always in season, as are wishes for happiness in the new year.)

Some cards get longer handwritten notes and some get a printed letter enclosed, which, while it has a common core, is personalized for each friend and signed by hand.

Some years include a family photo.

There are still vestiges of old-style etiquette stuck in my head…

In some years recently, reality has intervened and I haven’t lived up to my ideal. For instance, last year when I had shingles, I resorted to just sending a mass letter to most of my usual list. No card. No personalization. I delegated or axed almost everything else on the to-do list that year, but I refused to give up on sending greetings.

The real motivation for me is that many of these greetings go to people who I know longer get to see every year, people from various stages of my life – friends from school, neighbors who have moved away, relatives who live far away. It is my way of keeping in touch, of reminding people that they are still important to me.

Some of these people I haven’t heard back from in years, but that doesn’t matter. Some are too busy or too old or not oriented toward written communication. I don’t send greetings so that I get cards in return.

I know that the love I send out is received. That is the reason I will keep writing, addressing, stamping, and mailing every year as long as I am able.

When the Circle of Life Feels More Like a Box

A beautiful reflection on grief and friendship from a high school friend who has recently begun blogging.

jazzyjeweljude

IMG_439808736277A dear friend of mine lost his mother this week. The moments of death & grief unfold unexpectedly yet predictably. That is, not knowing when or how they will arrive, they will come. And as a close friend who, as any of us do, wants to help ease the pain, I realize such skill doesn’t always easily come. And maybe it’s not suppose to. I can think of no more solitary journey than that of grief. Being surrounded by love, family and friends cannot, nor should it, alleviate that sacred walk along immortality and mortality, finite and infinite. Life and death. We all breathe it everyday, witness it ad nauseum through news media which desensitizes us with over sensationalism giving little to no regard for the sanctity of life and death. And the most difficult observation while grieving is the harsh realization that life around us marches on. How is…

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