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Archive for the ‘Change’ Category


Some time has passed. I’ve had writer’s paralysis. Depression? Check. Pain? Check. Lack of motivation? Check. “Write about it,” people said. “It’s therapeutic.” The words just didn’t come.

September of 2015 brought yet an additional surgery that began another cycle of despair. Six months of living in a Connecticut hospital, waiting for the fistula that was left behind by the surgery to “fix” things, to heal – to no avail. Whatever pleasures I might have had to keep me going were taken. The caring surgeon, clearly frustrated that he couldn’t do more, struggled along with me to know what to do next. Tick tock went the clock. The weeks became months before a frank discussion moved toward finding a more experienced doctor who took on difficult cases. My doctor found a world class doctor in NY who could do it; he would fix this problem and life would finally go on.

But it didn’t. Even he professed he did all he could and suggested yet a higher level of care. Another month, another hospital, another doctor, also “world class.” “Yes, I’ll take the case,” he said. Another surgery; more pain; more time slithering away. A temporary fix; an interim step, perhaps to a more complicated end solution I am not ready to entertain. But this one, we hope, enough to get me home for a stretch, to live half a life. Half is better than none, right?

So I prepare to go home after 8 months of confinement with limited pleasures restored for a time, to take care of the unfinished business of living. It is a mixed bag. Just as the convict about to be released after a long confinement, who lived miserably but knew what to expect. So too, it is with me. The fear of the unknown. Being more than a nurse call button away from help. Being in a different state than my medical teams. And feeling like such a burden to my husband, who has never uttered a word of being burdened, rather expressing nothing but utter happiness that I will be coming home.

This journey is a long one but it is my hope there will be something at the end worth waiting for. Just normal, boring, everyday life is all I’m asking.

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I suppose you will be remembered in history books if you founded a country, but what about the founders of smaller things? Perhaps significant on a local level, or important to a cause. When that cause gets a life of its own, the founder is often dismissed as far as having any role in its being.
To be fair, some entities pay some sort of homage to the founder(s) in their history, but most do not.
This line of thought was precipitated by a wonderful conversation with one of my patients. At age 83, he has a sharp mind. We connected on some geographic and ethnic commonalities. The conversation led to Israel and he told me a story about his relative named Ra’Anan (not sure of the spelling), who had gone from NYC with a band of others early in the 20th century, to a town now known as Ra’Anana. He had become their Mayor, hence the name of the city honoring him.
I was fascinated by this as I know two families who live there. So, back at home, I tried to research the history of this town, to no avail. There was some reference to a group from NYC going there, but no one by a name similar to the town’s name appeared in any of the articles. I believed this man’s story. Thus, the founder had been forgotten.
I experienced a similar situation. When I lost a job I hated anyway, I turned to my passion – art – and decided to make a go of it. Practicing the craft was only a part of my goal. I wanted to create a community of artists of all kinds; visual and performing, to feed each other’s creativity, and bring us a sense of belonging. I rallied some people I thought would be interested in helping me. I requested the library’s community room, placed a tiny article in the paper. And they came! The need was evident!
From this group, a board was formed and we set out to deliver a community of artists in my own town. Life was good. When we were offered a chance to hire, at a very heavily subsidized rate, a consultant to help us set a course, make a plan and work out some kinks, the group began to splinter. Just a tiny bit at first, but then a huge, gaping hole opened up. Suddenly, my allies were my foes. They didn’t share my vision, which until then was working. When I started to enlarge the dream, the rebels came out.
Now power was being usurped and when I called them on it, they denied it. To shorten a long, painful story, I left the group behind. My only pleasure is that the organization continues. Sadly for me, the work I wanted so much to do is now happening – but I am not part of the community I brought to fruition.
So, that brings me back to the forgotten founder. I have moved on and do my “art thing” with other, more welcoming people. Some of the original cast of characters and I remain friends. The splintered faction is still splintered. I’m OK with it all. Except for one thing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be acknowledged as the person who brought together this community of artists? Yes, it would be.

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In November 2012, I posted about a decision my husband and I made to relocate to Pittsburgh “some time in the future.”
We did end up buying a home about 15 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and have rented it out since then. Our move was predicated on two events: my son’s graduation from college and the passing of my husband’s mother, whose health had been declining for years.
Both events happened within weeks of each other, signaling the time to begin preparations for the move. I realized the timing of events meant we could be relocating in under a year. Fear and panic set in. I asked my husband if he really was ready to go so soon, or did he want to extend our tenant’s lease. “I want to go,” he said.
I learned quickly, that fear and excitement can thrive side by side. I also realized what it would take to get this done – a lot of time and substantial about of money. After the grueling task of disposing of mom’s assets and home, I had to begin our own weeding and pruning. The task has been made more difficult by the uncertainty of my sons’ needs for household articles in the coming months. Much of what we need to reduce is serviceable, so I’d like to preserve whatever they could use before dispensing with our excess. Also, our new house is larger and can accommodate a lot of what we have, – so I don’t want to dispose of things we might need to furnish it.
At the same time, we need to make room just to begin the repairing, painting, etc., to make the house salable. That’s why some days I am overwhelmed.
When I get started, I can usually make some decisions and put things into the tag sale or a Goodwill piles. But after a few hours, I am stymied. It feels like it will never get done, even with so much time ahead to do it.
I realize that some of the obstacles are emotional. While a new adventure awaits (and I love the idea), we leave friends behind, and will have to start all over. And that makes it hard to pack up.

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I’m only 59. Yes, a dinosaur to my kids perhaps, but not technologically. Many of my peers certainly are computer savvy and carry smart phones (and know how to use them), but a surprising number are adamantly denying the need for technology. “I got along all these years with a pen and paper and a phone,” they say. I try to explain why it is important to their relationships with their children and grandchildren. They huff and puff and tell me why kids have no respect these days! I invoke Kahlil’s Gibran’s “The Prophet’s” chapter “On Children,” but they won’t listen. (It is printed below. A beautiful poem from one of the most amazing books ever written.) But I digress.

Some of the obvious reasons in the relationship domain are simply related to how things are done nowadays. Don’t have texting? You may never get that last minute notice that someone is running late. You’ll be standing out in the cold waiting and wondering if they forgot your appointment. Have a computer but you check email only once a week? You’re missing invitations to join people who do use it. Don’t have a smart phone? When you break down, you’re going to have to figure out where you so you can tell AAA. Have no cell phone at all? Good luck finding a pay phone to even call AAA!

I consider my smartphone, the most powerful computer in a tiny box, my auxiliary brain. It remembers far more than I ever could, and why should I tax my brain when I can look it up. What’s “it” you ask? Anything, everything, and more. Hell, I don’t even have to type in my question. I just ask Siri to find things for me, dial the phone, give me directions, find the nearest place to eat, gas station, or bathroom. I ask her to play a song, make an appointment, write me a reminder note, take a photo, post to Facebook, send a text or email. She looks up any address or phone number. Best of all, if I lose my phone, everything I put on there is backed up on my computer and my iPad. Making my plans, writing a letter, reading a book? I can put down my phone in the living room and resume reading/typing in the bedroom, on a different device. It knows where I left off.

If I’m in the store and see something we need and want to show it to my husband for his opinion? Bam! Take photo, text to husband, he replies and I buy it or don’t. Time lapsed – 3 minutes. Time saved returning to the store later; priceless!

And if you have grandchildren, you’d better get with it. If you ever want to see pictures of them or communicate with them when they get old enough to use mom’s iPad (at about one and a half years old) you better have some technological device on which to receive it.

I may sound like a commercial for Apple, and maybe it is, but I can’t deny that life is so much easier with an auxiliary brain in my pocket.

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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Some people manage to stay connected with friends from childhood. Whether it is continued geographic proximity or shared college experiences, they maintain the relationships throughout their lives. I have only one childhood friend still. Perhaps it was because all of us scattered in different states and keeping in touch meant writing letters (before internet, and when long distance was expensive, for all you young readers!) Because my one long time friend was great at writing to me, and writing, and writing until I finally answered, we remain friends to this day.

Before you go feeling all sorry for me, this has not hampered the rich experiences I have had with friends made along the way. Perhaps it was because we shared similar life experiences at the same time. I had early married friends (out of college), who were largely an extension of the high school friends. Then I had work friends, some of whom I still keep in touch with, or reestablished contact with since Classmates, Facebook, Linked In and HS reunions. Then there was the “single” friends period, after my divorce. Remarriage brought children and children bring many other parents into the picture. These people, as it turns out, still mean a lot to me, even though the kids are grown and (almost) out on their own. We shared the intense experience of child rearing, which is both rewarding and scary as hell.  We came to care for and about the well being of each others’ children. And our children remain friends, even after high school and college.

When I embarked on my creative chapter – becoming an artist – there were new friends again. Friends that shared and understood the “need” to create, and supported me in finding my creative voice. And now, just when I thought it was impossible to include another person in my life, I did. A connection in a business meeting led to more personal conversations. We learned we grew up so near each other in Brooklyn, which was likely some of the appeal. I am enjoying the unfolding of another new friend and she will not be my last “new” friend. (Unless I die tomorrow! Sorry, a little black humor!)

My ability to love them all never diminishes. Rather it swells to embrace all of it – all of them. And lucky me, to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Thank you all dear friends!

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My older son is a bona fide adult. He lives on the opposite coast, pays his own bills, has held a job for two years. My younger son is still dependent on us for food and shelter, college tuition, a phone and a car. Yet he legally becomes an adult in a few weeks, when he turns twenty-one. When he reminded me he was about to become a “legal adult,” I challenged him to define what it means to be an adult. He quickly agreed he was not ready.

Yet, to me, the fact that we can have these “adult” conversations does seem convincing. Both my sons think deeply about life, people, situations. They don’t act rashly, have good common sense, are respectful, helpful and responsible. These are the hallmarks of adulthood, so they are well on their way.

I was lucky enough to have quality time with them individually this past week. Piggy-backing on a business trip to CA, I spent a day and a half with my older son. I can only hope he relished our time together as much as I did. I felt particularly moved when he told me of a friend’s recent loss of his mother and said, “I can’t imagine not having a mother at this point in my life.” My sunglasses hid the tears that filled my eyes. Whether he realized it or not, that meant so much to me.

Upon arriving home from the trip, feeling so good, yet now missing him more than ever, I busied myself with work and catching up on jet lag and lack of sleep. A day later, I left with my younger son for Pittsburgh, for a fun tour of the highlights. We drove, so there was plenty of time for bonding. We spent day and night together for 4 consecutive days, with nary a cross word or bit of unhappiness. In fact, I was incredibly happy and he had a good time.

I know these days are numbered. Whether time, work, or eventual families complicate their lives, I know this may be the last or one of the last times I get to have with them alone. I will cherish the memories of this week. I also know I will make new ones in the future that will include others. That too will bring its own joys.

 

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No, I am not referring to Joan Didion’s book. I’m referring to the average person, who endeavors to start with a clean slate at the beginning of each new year. They wipe away the failings and frustrations of the past year, promising themselves they will do better.

These folks are well intentioned, but often not successful because they think magic will make these things come to be. Well, I hate to break it to you, but nothing will change if you keep doing the same thing. I can guarantee it. I have seen this phenomenon and it really puzzles me. People may REALLY want to lose weight, eat more healthfully, stop smoking, etc. but they are not willing to do what is necessary to make it happen, because basically, we hate change!

So how can we overcome the resistance to change? By making small movements toward a goal. Taking baby steps. Want to lose weight? Give up the 3:00 candy bar. That’s all; just the candy bar. Maybe even replace it with some fruit so you aren’t totally deprived. When you are comfortable and it is a new habit, change another small thing. By then, you will have seen weight coming off from the first change. The results provide encouragement to keep moving in the right direction.

Sleep a problem? Many of us are in a certain routine before bedtime. Maybe it prevents us from falling asleep; maybe it keeps us up, or wakes us in the middle of the night. Review your “sleep hygiene” and change something in the routine.

I can belabor the many things we strive to change, but the point I want to make is that in order to change something we are not happy about, we must give up magical thinking and begin to act. Slowly, gently, change your behavior and you will get different results.

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