reason to hope

“I have decided to stick to love. . . Hate is too great a burden to bear.”  ~ Rev. Martin Luther King

There’s a neighbor up the road I’ve never met. I know his pick-up truck though, as I often find myself driving behind him as we come and go on our daily rounds. The truck is lifted, painted with camo, and festooned with decals and bumper stickers supporting the flag, the military, and the NRA. There’s one that defines gun control as “hitting your target.”

When I’m behind this man, I ease my foot off the gas and slow down, giving him space to roar off up the road and out of sight. Nevertheless, I’ve had ample opportunity over the years to absorb the slogans and messages plastered all over his vehicle, including this one on the center of his tailgate: “If you don’t like it here, you can go back to the shit-hole you came from.”

My heart clenches when I see those words. The angry bigotry, rooted in fear of the “other,” scares and saddens me. I’d never heard someone refer to another country as a shit-hole until I saw my neighbor’s bumper sticker.  I wouldn’t recognize the man behind the wheel if we met in line at Rite-Aid, and so I’ve been left to wonder: Who would think, let alone say, something so hateful? Now, of course, I know the answer to that question. We all do. [continue…]

how is your heart today?

It is still dark, not yet five, too early to be awake. But here I am, eyes wide open. It’s a new habit, this four a.m. restlessness blossoming into a low-grade anxiety that makes going back to sleep impossible. But this morning, oddly, it’s a question that nudges me to consciousness:

How is your heart today?

I lie in bed for a while, taking stock. How is my heart? There’s no easy answer.  And so I try to remember, instead, where I first heard or read these provocative, tender words.  In a book? A conversation? A blog post?

More curious now than sleepy, I turn on the light, reach for my glasses and phone, and Google the words “How is your heart today?” [continue…]

oasis

IMG_7556-4The surgeon was running a little late. I was right on time. I had followed every pre-op instruction to the letter: donated a unit of my own blood to receive back during surgery, had an MRI and new X-rays, taken my liquid iron and B vitamins and blood thinner and Celebrex, met with an anesthesiologist, a physical therapist, a pharmacist. I’d given up coffee and my evening glass of wine days ago, had my teeth cleaned (from now on, that will involve a precautionary dose of antibiotics), tidied up the house and paid the bills, and scrubbed my right hip twice a day for three days with Hibiclense. I even got my hair cut.

Through it all, I worried and wondered. Was I doing the right thing? Would I be better off to accept my lot, buck up, and carry on with my own two painfully arthritic hips? Was I trying too hard to hold on to youth? Being greedy to want to hike or do triangle pose or ride a bike again? Or would I look back, as a few hip-replacement veterans predicted, and wonder why I waited so long to get new parts?

By the time I climbed into my assigned bed in a small pre-op cubicle at New England Baptist Hospital last Friday, there was nothing more for me to do. And there was certainly no point to any more mental dithering and debating. A curious, unexpected calm descended.

[continue…]

this (good) life

photo 4A mid-summer Monday morning. After a weekend away, I’ve spent a couple of hours setting the house back to rights. Emptying jars and vases of their dead flowers, vacuuming up the scattered petals, watering plants and deadheading lilies, gathering laundry into a hamper and getting the first load going in the basement.

The kitchen is quiet. Beyond the windows, which are all cranked open to their fullest on this steamy day, cardinals and blue jays vie for turns at the feeder — unaware, for the moment anyway, of the blueberries ripening on bushes just a few feet away. As always, it’s a race between me and the birds to see who will get there first to harvest the small crop. (Usually, I lose. A watchful catbird is already hopping along the top of the chaise lounge in the yard, taking stock of the bounty.)

I must confess I’m feeling a bit unsure about what to write here after a few months of not writing at all. No excuses for the silence, other than that I’ve been busy elsewhere. To offer a full “report” would be impossible for me – and tedious for you. Yet, sitting quietly on my kitchen stool, I discover there are a few thoughts that have been waiting their moment to emerge after all. I can’t say everything that’s on my mind, but I can say this: I feel softened by the season, slowed down in my thinking but perhaps a bit more raw and open in my emotions. Life has been tender and lovely and bittersweet, suffused with beauty, laughter, and tears.

There have been no big revelations, but rather countless variations on this one small truth: joy and sadness are not opposites. In fact, they co-exist, all tangled up together in the same day, the same moment, the same unguarded heart. [continue…]

spring thaw
(inside and out)

IMG_2216 - Version 2I step out of the shower and stand dripping with my towel wrapped around me, looking out the bathroom window. The new day seems luminous, worth pausing for and gazing into even as my toes curl on the freezing tile floor.

The fields below the house are still covered with snow although the tops of the stone walls are finally visible. The sky seems a bit less austere, the sun more committed to its silent shining. It really doesn’t look like spring out there yet, with everything still bare and frozen, but something seems to have yielded. Something ineffable has changed. It’s as if the air itself is richer.

morningSomething subtle has changed inside me, too. Everything external appears the same: upper-arm skin a bit saggy, belly soft, hair thinning and badly in need of a cut, the face in the mirror looking less and less like the younger person I still feel myself inside to be and more like my Grammie Stanchfield every day. (Those puckery little vertical lines above my upper lip! Where did they come from? Her.)

And yet, my heart is lighter.

A few weeks ago, I sat on the couch in my kitchen, brushing away tears, wondering how to respond to the most recent words of someone who has hurt me deeply. [continue…]