Change is…

Change is stressful.

Even when it is a sought-for or hoped-for change, like welcoming a new child or moving into a new home.

An unwelcome change, such as serious illness, accident, or death of a loved one, is even more stressful.

Over the last several years, we’ve gone through the illness and death of my mother-in-law and my mother, the welcome addition of adult children and our first grandchild to our home and the pain of them flying away, and the crowding out of pursuits that used to occupy us. All of this personal change overlays the ever-shifting sands of tumult in the US.

I can attest that change is stressful.

People keep telling me to breathe.

After the stress of the first Christmas season without my mom, I decided to give myself  breathing space in the form of a mini-sabbatical, still attending to my vital tasks while allowing myself time to go to the movies or read or write or whatever else I felt like doing that day.

Of course, participating in Just Jot It January fit right into that plan!

As I’ve been reflecting on these last few weeks, I am starting to formulate what changes I need to make going forward. Knowing that there will still be a fair amount of day-to-day uncertainty with our family life, I won’t attempt a strict schedule. I do plan, though, to be more deliberate with my writing practice. No, this does not mean that I will post every day for the rest of the year as I have been for Just Jot It January, although I do hope to continue posting without some of the major breaks I’ve had to take in the past.

In the area of writing, I do need to be more deliberate about editing and publication. I find the publication submission piece particularly daunting. There are hundreds of literary journals and magazines and small presses that specialize in poetry and it is difficult for me to figure out to whom I should send my work. Because submissions typically charge a reading fee, you want to invest in those publications that are most likely to be interested in your work. I tend to be overwhelmed by the choices and the specifics of differing submission procedures. I need to summon the energy to undertake these less fun not at all fun aspects of the writing process to get my work out to the public.

Oh, and I need to start doing some open mic and/or group readings. Reading in public, even with a small group, takes a lot of energy and courage for me, but it is very important for poets to do.

I also need to make a dent in reading the huge backlog of poetry journals, chapbooks, collections, and anthologies waiting for me. I will probably never catch up.

Years ago, I had a few dozen blogs that I read on a regular basis. I was a frequent commenter, as well. Even though I know this is what every good blogger should do, I don’t think I can go back to it, choosing instead to concentrate on poetry. I am committed to continuing Top of JC’s Mind, but I will spend the bulk of my blogging time writing posts and responding to comments. I will continue to read some blogs, but it will most likely continue in my current haphazard fashion. I know that means I will gain followers only slowly, but I’m not a big stats person. I do want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to all my readers and followers! I am humbled that you choose to spend part of your time here.

I also used to spend a lot of time reading and responding to emails. I was on a lot of mailing lists – against fracking and for environmental advocacy, for progressive political principles, for increasing social justice, for some specific candidates/officeholders, for reform of the Catholic church, and so on. I have cut back on a number of them and have lately taken to deleting a lot without even opening them. I will keep a core of them, because these issues remain important to me, but I will try to be intentional about which I read and take action on.

Sadly, singing has faded into the background. I never thought this would happen, but the seeming demise of my long-time chorus has taken away my usual Monday night rehearsals and rehearsing at home during the week. I don’t have ABC here anymore for impromptu renditions of “Old McDonald” or Sesame Street songs. I should be doing vocal exercises and sight reading practice every day to keep my voice in good form, but I don’t have the heart for it. Maybe, someday, I’ll feel like singing again.

I may limit evening activities to poetry gatherings, choosing to be at home with family otherwise. I’m sure there will be the occasional evening event that will draw me away, but I want to spend most evenings at home. In part, this is to spend time with B who works long days. Even if we are just watching television or reading or doing puzzles, it is comforting to be together. Additionally, given my own introversion, it takes a lot of energy to be in groups of people. It’s difficult to summon that energy at the end of the day.

I am also trying to make some changes that impact my physical well-being. I am trying to eat more thoughtfully, exercise (a tiny bit) more, and sleep longer at night. Rather than trying to make drastic changes, I am doing little things that send me in the right direction. I think that is a more sustainable way for me to proceed.

The other area that I hope to make some changes is making time for friends. This is not totally under my control, as many friends have their own busy lives, but I think if I actually make a call or send a note, we have a better chance of getting together, whether in person or by videochat. I cherish all my friends and feel their support, even when we aren’t able to get together, but I need to turn some of our vague “let’s do lunch or breakfast” into actual times and dates.

That’s a lot of changes to make, and, therefore, a lot of stress.

At least, it will be stress that leads to positive change.

Fingers crossed.
*****
The prompt for Linda’s Just Jot It January today is “change.” Join us! You don’t need to use the prompt – I seldom do – because anything counts as a Jot. Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/24/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-24th-2020/

whirl within a whirl

The last few weeks have been hectic. My mom, known here as Nana, has been dealing with an increase in fatigue, weakness, and edema as the congestive heart failure progresses. The hospice team continues to be helpful with trying to re-balance some medications but there is always some amount of compromise among symptoms with relieving all of them an impossibility. A couple of months ago, we had to expand private aide coverage from overnight to daytime as well. There have been a number of issues with scheduling, though, plus a few unexpected events that have kept me in a bit of a whirlwind, not being able to tell how any day may develop.

This unsettled feeling is exacerbated by the constant maelstrom of the news. I have been very concerned about Russian interference in the United States and other nations, something that I posted about during the 2016 campaign and have followed since. The indictments that have been handed down so far as a result of the Mueller investigation are disturbing and more may be coming soon. It appears that the obstruction of justice report may be finished in the coming weeks. Having been brought up during the Watergate hearings, just hearing about the possibility of another president under suspicion of obstruction is chilling.

Then, there is Syria. And the rest of the Middle East. And North Korea. And a trade war with China.

Immigration issues. A Congress that is dysfunctional. Gun violence. Racism. Sex/gender discrimination, harassment, and abuse.  Bullying and incivility.

I could go on…

And on….

Everything feels impossibly complicated and tenuous and unbalanced. I don’t know if things were more stable in the broader world if I would feel a bit better equipped to cope with personal family issues, but I do know that it isn’t helping my mindset in the least.

 

One of those days…

As much as I try and/or want to, I just can’t master being in two places at the same time.
*****
This jot brought to you by Linda’s Just Jot It January. Find out more here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/29/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-29th-2018/

 

SoCS: US news

All or nothing tends to be the reaction to watching news coverage in the US these days.

Either people are glued to the breaking news and twists and turns of the current government or studiously avoiding the news.

One facebook friend was discussing this on her timeline this week. She is a “watcher.” She says it is like watching a train wreck; she can’t turn away.

Other friends, who used to watch the news on a regular basis, are taking a mental health break. They are avoiding the news because it is causing too much stress.

I am in the “watching” camp because I am trying to stay on top of developments so I can continue to write to elected officials on a variety of topics of concern. It is stressful, though, especially with the stresses of everyday life in addition.

Who knows? At some point, I may switch over to “nothing.”
*****
Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays! This week’s prompt was “all or nothing.” Details here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/05/19/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-2017/

 

SoCS: How?

“How is this going to turn out?” may be one of the most frequently asked questions in the United States these days.

Most often the answer is “I don’t know.”

There is a certain comfort in routine and predictability. but DT is proving to be about as predictable as a two-year-old.

I wake up in the morning and put on the news and am relieved if there isn’t a “Breaking News” caption splashed across the bottom of the screen.

It’s so confusing that every time DT says or does something, the Vice-President or a Cabinet Secretary or spokesperson explains that isn’t really what he meant.

It’s even worse with the tweets.

I can’t keep this level of adrenaline or cortisol flooding my body for the next four years.

We’ll manage, I guess, but I’m not sure how.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week is “how.” Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/02/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-2517/

 

 

Aaaaaahhhhhh!

For years, I had been enjoying a monthly massage from my friend Catherine, who is a fabulously trained and talented massage therapist and aromatherapist.

We used to live in the same town, but even after she moved further away a few years ago, I kept up my appointment schedule with her.

Until spring of 2016, when things got too complicated and unpredictable to plan a half-day away for myself.

Now, in 2017 with things a bit more predictable, I arranged with Catherine to have a massage this morning.

I feel so much better!

Months of stress and driving and helping to pack and move boxes and furniture had taken their toll on my back and shoulders. I can move more easily now and don’t have knots up and down my back and across my shoulders.

I made an appointment for February, too. I’m hoping to get back on a monthly schedule.

I am at least trying to take care of myself, too.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/12/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-12th17/

jjj-2017

 

the solace of music

2016 has been stressful, hectic, and, at times, overwhelming. If anything, the last few weeks have seem an acceleration of these trends.

One of the things that has kept me from total meltdown has been music.

My personal background is strongest in church music and it continues to bring solace.  One recent example is watching daughter T cantor for Mass on All Saints’ Day. Her singing truly touched my heart.

One of the things for which I am most grateful is that University Chorus, with whom I am in my 35th year as a singer, is preparing Brahms’ Requiem this semester. Of all the masterworks I have sung over the decades, this is my favorite to sing. Brahms’ selection of texts is thoughtful and the music is crafted exquisitely to its meaning.

Our director notes that Brahms chose to set texts that bring comfort to the living. I need comfort now, not only as we continue to navigate the loss of Grandma but also as we deal with family health issues and the upheaval, dissension, and trauma caused by the recent campaign and election.

I have prepared and performed the Requiem several times in years past. I have sung it before when I was mourning a loss, but this time my emotions are so raw that I wonder if I will get through the December third performance without tearing up. A few weeks ago, when I was having a particularly difficult day, we were rehearsing the central movement of the work, which, translated into English, is called “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place.” I started crying and couldn’t stop myself. I managed to keep singing; at least, I know that if it happens in the performance, I will be able to keep going.

If I am still living here when I die, I would like members of University Chorus to come sing that movement at my funeral, in German, of course. I apologize if that sounds morbid, but it is a thing that church musicians tend to do – plan their funeral music…

I do wish that each of you find solace somewhere, whether in music or nature or silence or fellowship or some other means.

We all need it.

Our Real Journey

I needed to read this – and will most likely need to read it again and again.

LIVING IN THIS MOMENT

It may be when we no longer know what we have to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.  –  Wendell Berry

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This month a year ago…

Warning:  I haven’t been sleeping well, so rambling is upcoming.

I’ve done some posts about this being the tenth anniversary of some huge losses in my life, but today I am reflecting on a year ago.

Last September, I sang with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus for a choral homecoming weekend with Alice Parker.  One of the posts I made afterward was about visiting the memorial tree for our friend Beth who died during our senior year and the chapel where I had spent so many hours.  I had always intended to write another post about friendship and Smith women, but didn’t for reasons that will probably become clear later on in the post. I’m hoping to give a taste of that topic now…

I love to spend time with Smith women, especially back in Northampton. It is always special to me to see my roommate Mary with whom I share such a deep connection that we pick up conversation as though we weren’t a couple thousand miles apart the vast majority of the time.

I was blessed to renew ties with two women, each named Cathy, whom I had known during my Smith years, although they were in different class years so I didn’t know them as well.  It may not come as a surprise that our best times for sharing revolved around food. Cathy R. invited us to a lovely farm-fresh al fresco lunch with her family who had travelled with her and we talked about farming and New England and family and medicine and art and photography and how some of us would have been at the Climate March in NYC that day if we hadn’t already committed to being at Smith for the weekend.

Cathy K. lives in the next town over from Northampton and invited us to her home after the concert for appetizers before going out to dinner.  Her family owns a couple of local stores that sell specialty foods, wine, prepared foods, and more. Everything was so plentiful and delicious that we never did go on to dinner but spent hours eating, talking, laughing, and sharing. Family, education, politics, losses, music, career changes, hopes, the future, new directions.  It is so seldom that one has an opportunity to discuss with such depth and breadth. I am profoundly grateful that being with Smith women so often leads to these heart-mind-and-soul-enriching conversations.

I was also grateful to have re-connected with Anne, who is a wonderful poet and who graciously accepted a copy of the chapbook I had assembled the prior year for a local contest, even though neither the individual poems nor my editing abilities were advanced enough to warrant doing so.  She sent me valuable feedback and advice and has since looked over other poems for me. She is one of my poetry godmothers!

Now, a year later, the Alumnae Chorus is coming up on a deadline to sign up to tour in Cuba next July.  And I can’t do it. Within this next year, both E and T plan to finish their master’s degrees and our travel time and resources need to go to supporting them. I also must admit that the thought of touring Cuba doesn’t really appeal to me, especially in the heat of late July.  I am such a delicate flower that I would probably wilt!

And yesterday was Grandma’s (my mother-in-law) birthday. She has a problem with admitting her age so I won’t reveal it here, but this year was especially difficult for her because last year at this time we were in the throes of trying to determine what was wrong with her back. It turned out that an osteoporotic compression fracture in a vertebra led to its collapse and a long year of pain and complications and medications and therapy and ups and downs. Well, a lot more downs than ups.

Her elder son and his daughter came to visit for the weekend, which was nice, but it also was a reminder of how much she can’t do anymore.  Grandma was trying to wish away the last year, which is painful to watch.

It’s also a reminder of how stressful the last year has been. Exhibit A:  my outbreak of shingles last December. Lucky for you, I’m not going on to the rest of the exhibits. I am doing better with giving myself a bit more distance, but it is still sad and concerning and draining.

Especially in September.

I’m working on getting myself back into a better place. I actually managed to sleep a five hour stretch last night.

I’ll take all the progress I can get.