All I can think of is how hard it was for my father to be left alone when my mother passed away. It was the thing she had been most worried about. What she couldn’t have known was that a pandemic would arrive which severely curtailed our ability to visit.
So, here goes one of those dangerous Stream of Consciousness Saturday endeavors…
When I read Linda’s prompt yesterday, which is to use sink/sank/sunk in some way, I did not really have a thought in my head about it and assumed I would not participate this week.
This morning, I was reading this article in Highly Sensitive Refuge on imposter syndrome among the highly sensitive population and it really resonated. Not that every point feels true to my experience, but most do.
I have a tendency to sink into imposter syndrome from time to time. Maybe frequently? Maybe less now than in my younger years? It’s really hard to say.
The point is, with my book Hearts soon to be available from Kelsay Books, I have been consciously trying to fight off the feeling that I’m “just” a community poet who doesn’t really deserve to be considered just, well, a poet in her own right.
Part of the issue is that I was brought up with a deep respect for academic achievement. I truly respect all the years of study that go into degree programs in English or writing. Most of the poets I know and the vast majority of poets I read have these credentials and are much more able to bring that knowledge base into their work than I could ever hope to be. I am grateful for all that I’ve learned from the Binghamton Poetry Project and all the other workshops that I’ve been blessed to be a part of, but, for example, our leaders in Binghamton Poetry Project are all graduate students from Binghamton University, so you get the point…
It’s also not that I don’t get loads of support from other poets, both those with academic credentials and those, like me, without them. The vast majority of poets I interact with are encouraging and wonderful in their support of my work and of me personally. I truly appreciate that and use their voices when I’m in an imposter state of doubt, but one of the things about being an HSP is that you notice and take seriously all reactions around you. When I get into my imposter mode, those negative voices are amplified in my head and feed into my own doubts. Even though the voices that are supportive are more numerous, it takes a huge effort of will to beat back the negative.
I am having some success in breaking away from the imposter thoughts as I do my final preparations for my book launch. Instead of sinking into doubts, I’m reminding myself of what I am actually accomplishing. It’s been a bit easier to do after the very successful reading that Merrill and I did earlier this month. It’s easier when I hold the proof copy of Hearts in my hands. It’s easier when I’m dealing with the wonderful team at Kelsay by email as they finish the final steps in the publication process. I’ve learned so much going through all of this and I’m trying to bring that sense to the next new thing I’ll be doing, which is trying to market and sell my book.
Yikes! That is scary!
You need to be able to center yourself and put yourself out there as being a worthy recipient of someone’s money.
When I read Linda’s prompt yesterday, I immediately thought of the song “I Like It Here.” I did search for the lyrics and to find the writer; I did find some similar versions to what I remember but it seems that no one knows who wrote it. I’m going to use the version from my childhood as I remember it in this post.
My sisters and I used to put on little performances in our basement for a very small audience, my parents and perhaps my grandparents or Harriet and Pres, family friends who were like an honorary aunt and uncle. We would sing and act out songs we learned in school.
One I especially remember is “I Like It Here,” a patriotic number that we used to close the show, at least once that I recall.
“I like the United States of America. I like the way we all live without fear.”
In my childhood, living without fear was pretty much a thing I could do, in my tiny, rural New England town. Today, though, there are many fears that are with us all the time – environmental destruction and climate change, gun violence, the troubling rise of authoritarianism, public displays of hate against any number of different groups of people.
“I like to vote for my choice, speak my mind, raise my voice. Yes, I like it here.”
Unfortunately, there are lots of laws in some states that are trying to suppress votes and to silence free speech. It’s discouraging. I appreciate the lawyers and organizations that are challenging these laws.
“I am so lucky to be in America and I am thankful each day of the year, for I can do as I please ’cause I’m free as the breeze. Yes, I like it here.”
While I am happy to be here in the place that is home, the threats to our freedoms are real. We are fighting to keep them but the recent trials of insurrectionists are a stark reminder of how much danger we were in and how much of that animus still remains, even within some in government service.
“I’d like to climb to the top of a mountain so high, raise my head to the sky, and say how grateful am I, for the way that I’m living and working and giving and helping the land I hold dear. Yes, I like it, I like it, I like it here!”
I have felt that, in my small way, I’ve added to life in the United States. For most of my life, I never thought that I would leave it to live in another, but the presidency of DT made me wonder if things would be so changed that I could no longer live here.
I feel horrible for even thinking of abandoning my country and the Biden presidency gives me hope but the bizarre spectacle the once-proud Republican party has become and the staggering level of corruption that has been uncovered are a constant source of worry.
I’m trying to do my part as a citizen to get us back toward the freedom and equality to which we are called by our Constitution and laws. Millions of others are as well, including many who have more power and ability to be effective than I do.
Since I had my cataract surgeries earlier this month, I’ve been asked many times if it is weird/strange not to be wearing glasses every waking moment – and it is.
I’ve worn glasses since I was six because I was near-sighted. As I got older, I also developed presbyopia, which meant I was also having trouble seeing close up. For the last couple of decades, my glasses have had progressive lenses, which means they have a zone for far, mid-range, and close vision. I also have astigmatism in one eye which was built into my prescription. As I developed cataracts in both eyes, I was also having a lot of difficulty with glare.
And, I also sometimes had trouble with dry eyes, so a lot going on.
I decided to have cataract surgery last year. It took several months to get an appointment with the doctor who had done spouse B’s cataract surgeries, and my parents and mother-in-law’s. He uses advanced laser techniques and gives options to use advanced lens that deal with multiple issues.
B had had good luck with his multifocal lens and only uses glasses for very fine print and low-lighting conditions. In the five years since his surgery, they have added astigmatism correction to multifocal lenses, so I chose those.
The timing of the surgeries was awkward, as they happened while the UK branch of our family was visiting for Easter, but I’m happy with the still-developing results. My distance visit was clear within a day of each surgery. (They were a week apart.) My mid- and near-vision are improving day by day. I’ve used supermarket/drugstore cheaters for a few tasks, although now even the weakest ones are too strong for my “new eyes.” I also have been adjusting the size of my text on screens, although I’m typing this at my prior screen settings, so improvement is definitely happening. It will probably continue for a few more weeks as my eyes heal and my brain adjusts to the new, clearer input.
As I am adjusting to life without glasses, people I know are adjusting, too. I’ve had people comment on it. A few have said I look younger without my glasses. I had thought I might look older – or, at least, more tired – because you can now see all the wrinkles around my eyes and I don’t use make-up so, if I have dark circles under my eyes, they are now easier to see. Of course, I don’t think anyone would tell me I look older without my glasses, even if that is what they thought.
At some point, I suppose I will have to replace the much-beloved headshot I use for Top of JC’s Mind, which B originally took to go with this poem for Silver Birch Press.
Given that we live in the US and our granddaughters live in the UK, we prize any time that we have together.
Our five-year-old granddaughter ABC lived with us and her mom until she was a bit over two years old. Then, E’s spousal visa came through and they joined their spouse-and-dad in London. We made our first trip “across the pond” a couple of months later, hoping to return again in the spring, but that was 2020 and the pandemic struck, so, no.
We missed the birth and whole first year of granddaughter JG’s life. We met her first on a bittersweet trip here so that E could have a last visit with her grandfather Paco. We will always be grateful that Paco was able to meet JG and that ABC, who remembered him from living here when she was a baby/toddler, was able to see him and dance and sing for him. E was Paco’s first grandchild and it was so important that she got to see him one last time. I’m crying now just thinking about it. It was just after that visit that Paco began his last, steep decline and he died a few weeks later.
That visit had been very confusing for JG. As a pandemic baby, she hadn’t been out of her house very much, much less flown across an ocean and plunked down in a new country with new people. She was also at a developmental time of stranger anxiety, so we had to be careful not to intrude on her comfort zone.
Without having to care for Paco, we were able to make a couple of trips to the UK (although they happened to be during omicron surges); still, JG was not too sure about these people who occasionally appeared on her mom’s computer screen suddenly showing up.
Enter 2023. JG is now almost 2 and a half and having a surge in language development and is able to make connections that she had been too young to make previously. She starts calling us by name when we video chat and wanting to say hi and showing us things. When we went to visit earlier this month, she gave us hugs and played with us and let us pick her up and called us by name and stayed with us at our Airbnb while her mom and dad did errands and snuggled and fell asleep cuddled on the couch.
For the first time, she knew we were her grandparents, her mom’s mom and dad. Correction: her mum‘s parents, as mom is the more common American expression and she is, of course, adopting the more British mum.
What a prize! I had been afraid that JG wouldn’t really remember us because we are so far away and that occasional visits wouldn’t be enough to establish a real relationship with her as we have enjoyed with her sister ABC.
Transatlantic grandparenting will still be challenging. I don’t have personal experience with such a long distance between grandparents and grandchild, but I think we’ll figure it out.
We are hopeful that E and her family will be here in April for Easter, JG’s first trip back since she came to meet Paco just after she turned one. I don’t think she will remember having been here, although ABC will probably still remember every nook and cranny of our house and yard, as she did when they came back to see Paco a year and a half ago.
It was a week ago that we said our good-byes to fly back to the States. Anticipating a visit from them in just a few weeks made it easier to leave them. Although JG won’t remember the house, she will remember us.
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “perfection.”
Not my favorite concept.
When I was young, I was taught to do the best I could…
Which is a lovely thought and a worthy goal but it made it easy to think that the best I could do should be perfect, so I became a bit of a perfectionist.
As I matured, I began to expect that perfection was a chimera, that there was really no such thing.
When my first child was born, I was convinced of that.
Well, not immediately.
I had dutifully followed all the advice from my medical team and from What to Expect When You Are Expecting, which was a hot title at the time. Still, somehow, my membranes ruptured at 36 weeks, so my precious daughter arrived early, officially classified as premature, although only by a few days, and, after being home for a couple of days had to be re-admitted to the hospital for light therapy for jaundice.
It was not perfect and I was scared and blamed myself, figuring that I must have done something wrong.
It took a while – well, maybe even a long while – to realize that, sometimes, things just happen without a discernible cause.
I then realized that there was not ever going to be a perfect way to do something as complex as raising a child – and then realized that there wasn’t really a perfect way to do much of anything.
I did still try to do the best I could, though, which often means things turn out pretty well.
I’ve spent decades now advocating for change on a whole raft of social justice and environmental issues.
There has been some progress in some areas, but I admit that there are times when I get tired, times when I realize that a change we’ve been working on for decades still hasn’t happened or where there’s been backsliding on a right that we thought had been secured.
Some days, I want to just throw in the towel.
But then I think about it and realize that a lot has been accomplished by so many people working together. The progress is often slow and incremental. When a change seems sudden, it’s usually the result of years of groundwork laying the foundation.
When I get discouraged, it’s often a comment from a friend that helps me realize the importance of the work, even when it seems we aren’t getting anywhere and even when the hoped-for change is unlikely in my lifetime. (This especially applies to my work on gender equality in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church tends to think in centuries.)
So, at least so far, though I do change the issues I concentrate on from time to time, I keep at it.
Linda posts the prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday on Friday so that people have a chance to mull the prompt before writing the post, which is stream of consciousness so no editing allowed.
Confession: Sometimes, I write the post on Friday and just schedule it to come out on Saturday.
Second Confession: Sometimes, I plan the post in my head more than I probably should to be true stream of consciousness.
I usually do, though, manage to have some thoughts about the prompt or I just don’t participate that week.
Because it’s Just Jot It January and because I already didn’t do Stream of Consciousness one week because I had a post of my own I wanted to get out, I really wanted to do SoCS this week.
The prompt is to use “count on it” in the post.
When I read it Friday morning, I thought that it would be pretty straightforward. Something would pop into my head as the focus for the post.
But that didn’t happen.
A lot of things that I can no longer count on came into my head, but it seemed too unsettling to write about that.
I think the combination of personal losses, the pandemic, the divisiveness of the United States, and the feeling that I’m always waiting for the next shoe to drop – and it does – have left me unsure that there is anything I can count on.
Once upon a time, I lived in a town of about 200 people in western Massachusetts. Well, 200 if you counted the people in the prison camp up on the hill, who lived in what had been built as lodgings for CCC workers back in ’30s. When I was in Girl Scouts, we used to go to the camp for lessons in ceramics and jewelry making and such. My daughter has a tooled leather belt that my sister made there. The crafts kept the prisoners occupied and they sold some beautiful pieces in their gift shop.
We had a grammar school in town. Four grades in one room downstairs and the four older grades in a classroom upstairs. The school was also built in the ’30s by the WPA. Jobs that helped workers during the Depression and that helped the town for decades after. My father lived in town then and was in school when they moved to the new building.
The largest employer in town was a paper mill along the river which made specialty papers, like the glassine that used to cover envelope windows before there were plastics. They used to make the wrappers for Necco wafers; I remember seeing them made on a school field trip to the mill.
Life was good. Everyone knew everyone. We were probably a bit behind the times but no one much cared about that.
Greater forces did impact us over time, though.
Jobs were moving South. The owners of the mill closed it. Some jobs and the people that filled them moved to Georgia. Some other folks found jobs locally, although other towns were also losing their mills, so jobs weren’t easy to come by. Even the prison camp closed.
The town got smaller. When there were only seven kids left in town who were in K-8, the school closed and the students were bussed to a neighboring town. Eventually, even the post office closed.
The town is still there, though. The people are resilient. Everyone knows everyone. They recently celebrated the town’s bicentennial.