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Musings

Memoirs: Who Knows? Who Cares?

Unless he can find a collaborator, it seems likely that Dad's days of writing math are done. "Why not write your memoirs?" I asked. "No one would be interested in that," he replied. But then he launched in to telling me a story from his youth. I took notes.

I'm reading a delightful book called The Memoir Project. It talks about how the interesting stories in memoirs are inspired by simple things. Things like ice cream. Personal quirks like reading obits. First memories are good. What did you wear can be interesting.

I shared some of this with my friend Sherry. She didn't need a book or an expert to tell her how to get that thread going. When her father was still alive, she sat at the table with him and turned on a recorder. She got him talking by asking simple questions like: "What did you have for breakfast when you were a child?" She made it into a book for family.

I don't know if my 95 year-old father's memoirs will find their way into a book. If they do, it is very unlikely to be a New York Times Best Seller. Who knows? I wouldn't rule it out. But who cares? The process of collecting the memories is priceless. 

(All this said, I just got a call from a mathematician who has an idea for collaborating with my father. Funny how life works!) 

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What "Still Alice" is Really About

***"STILL ALICE" SPOILER ALERT***

Lydia gives a dramatic reading from the play Angels in America. "Do you like it?" she asks her mother. "Do you understand it? What's it about?" Alice, now so advanced in her early onset Alzheimer's that she can barely speak, nods and says, "Love."

"That's right," Lydia affirms. "It's about love." The movie goes to credits.
Bob and I don't move. We're not reading the credits. We are absorbing the experience of the film.


What is the movie Still Alice about? Alzheimer's disease? Not really. Or not to me. It's about love. 

Earlier in her decline at a talk to an Alzheimer's meeting, Alice asked, "Who will take us seriously?" She finds out who will. The people who recognize love. 

 

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Unconventional College Classes, Metaphorically Speaking

I am emerging from my personal winter. My efforts to heal my digestion and everything I experience emotionally, spiritually and practically as a result of years of liver congestion are paying off. My husband and others affirm that I am healthier than ever.

Spring. We have had some luscious days of spring calling us outside and into our senses. I have played well with family, friends and with the spirit of spring.

Now that I have energy, is it time for an unbridled reentry into my work? Should I accept the speaking engagement I was offered Friday?

My dream suggests something else. In this dream:

I am in college. My first class is dance. My second is exercise. My third is exercise. I am fascinated that it's almost noon and I haven't had any academic classes. I am fine with it - I trust the unfolding curriculum. After a train ride to London and back, I attend my first afternoon class. The classroom has small chairs and my classmates are children. I sit in a tiny chair and look forward to the class, wondering what I might learn. 

(If you've ever had one of those dreams where you were being tested on things and hadn't attended the classes - this is not one of those. I was completely present for each class and on top of it.)

This dream portrays images of my college, my path, my curriculum. For now anyway. Dance, strengthening, practice, basics. Because the dream message feels right and makes sense, I embrace the images and let them guide me. 

We are having winter thaw, and yet it snowed again last night. Just a little. I am feeling enlivened and yet I had stomach gas last night. Just a little. Winter isn't completely over.

I trust the process and embrace the curriculum that matches my season. I referred the speaking opportunity to a colleague who is currently enrolled in a different (metaphorical) college. It feels like a match to her. 

 

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I Fought the Cowlick and the Cowlick Won

Meryl SteinunnI got my hair cut too short.  It was harder than ever to get it to do anything that looks like anything. It grows in odd directions. And the right side - it just likes to stick out. I tried to tame it. I tried to leverage it so it looks like I want it to do what it does. No luck. It just does what it wants out of step with the rest of my hair. It's a stubborn cowlick that won't cooperate. 

Nothing new in that. When I look at old pictures of myself, I see the exact same quirk. That's me on the right - the only "Icelander" who isn't blonde. 

If you can't change something and you can't adapt to something, your option is to accept it. I've been shifting and fixing and repatterning and remodeling myself and my life and I am enjoying many benefits. But my cowlick keeps me humble. I suppose that's a good thing. Part of learning to love myself is learning to love my quirks.

What quirks do you have that you've learned to accept? What "cowlicks" keep you humble?

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Dad and the Two Daves

Breakfast 200I wanted to go to breakfast in the assisted living dining room with Dad the morning after Mom passed so I could answer the question, "How's Harriet." I didn't want Dad to have to tell people. I had broken the news at dinner the night before, and it was clear they hadn't been updated about Mom's decline. "When she went to skilled nursing, we all thought she'd get better and come back to us," one of the residents said.

There would be people at breakfast who hadn't been at dinner, and I thought it would be easier for Dad if I was there. It didn't work out that way. I slept in, and woke when Dad came back from breakfast. 

"How was it?" I asked. "It was great," he said, with a pleased look on his face. "The two Daves were there." 

Dad and Mom had eaten breakfast with two fellows named Dave for a while. Clearly, Dad was happy to eat with his buddies.

I joined Dad and The Two Daves for breakfast for the rest of my stay. One Dave speaks in a low fast voice that is tough for Dad to understand. He has trouble understanding Dad's Icelandic accent. The other speaks clearly, but has some cognitive impairment. Conversation is limited. And yet they enjoy their mornings, breaking bread together in quiet communion.

Over the remainder of my stay, I got the two Daves talking more. I rephrased what they said so Dad could understand. It was sweet and fun to get to know them, and Dad was pleased to learn things about them that he didn't know. 

It was nice while it lasted. I expect that when I left, the breakfast table got quieter. That's okay, There might be less conversation than there was while I was there, but there is every bit as much communion. 

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The Last Gift

David ChristmasI went to see my chiropractor yesterday. His Grandfather passed the day after my Step Mom did. He said, "His last gift to us was getting the whole family together for Christmas." Very well put (if not taken too literally.)

When people asked Dad how he was doing, he replied, "Remarkably well." It was true. Everyone at assisted living was astonished since his marriage was considered a soul mate bonding. I like the way Dad put it. People expected him to be broken, and the words acknowledge that expectation. They also acknowledge the reality. We felt more touched by the divine than by darkness.

The experience was precious. That's one of the reasons I didn't post much. I haven't posted at all on FaceBook (but will soon.) I was relatively silent with my inner circle. I left after dance without viviting yesterday. I am landing at home now, and reemerging very gradually. 

We're doing remarkably well, but it seems too soon to remark on it much. This is my beautiful son with me celebrating Christmas with the extended family. This is us enjoying Mom's "last gift." 

 

PS: I forgot that the blog feed doesn't send out videos. The link to the one I posted yesterday is here,

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Innocence Lost in Cat-land

I've posted about our cat Cindi before, and about our morning ritual. It was such a sweet start to our day to sit on the floor brushing and adoring her while she danced and pranced around for us to admire her. We delighted in being with a critter we love and are excited to see. There was an innocence to the whole experience... until recently. Here's what happened. 

We discovered our cat loves liver. We started feeding our cat liver at the end of our morning ritual. It only took a few days for us to notice that the addition of liver changed the whole morning dynamic. Suddenly, Cindi seemed uninterested in being adored. She didn't seem so glad to see us anymore. Her parading about appeared mechanical. The morning ritual became all about... liver. 

Oh, she still goes through the motions. She'll rub against something, take her bows, lick her lips and look up to the counter where we keep her liver. Perhaps we're projecting, but it sure seems to us that she's saying, "Was that enough? Have I earned my liver? Is it time yet?"

Innocence has been lost in Cat-ville. Love was tainted by a goal.

Where have you experienced that before?

Have you ever had a job you loved that became a means to an end until the life got squeezed out of your labors?

Have you ever found that the big adrenaline quest has rendered you unable to enjoy simple sweetness? 

Has something that once was beautiful in its own right ever been turned into a means to an end, and you started going through the motions?

The liver is really good for Cindi. She is vibrant and healthy. We'll keep it as part of our morning routine. But we can't help but feel a bit of a loss for the way we used to begin our days. 

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"Older Ladies" Video Sparks Thought

Are you an "older lady?" Will you ever be one? Do you know one? This video is hilarious and well-done - and it breaks the cultural trance around aging. Enjoy it and read on. (Click here if you're reading it on a feed and the video isn't showing up - or visit speakstrong.com/blog.) 

Ages and stages
I shared the video on Facebook, and my friend Sherry commented that is sounds like a song I could have written. I replied:

"Thanks! There was a day I would have written and produced that. Now I'm content to let others go to the trouble and to enjoy their creative results."

Once upon a time, I felt a need to follow all my creative impulses. Now, I'm still cleaning up the messes from years of overreach. In the process, I'm enjoying the ability to envision greatness and enjoy creative impulses without having to act on each one. 

I love this video. I love the way it declares the perfection of a stage in life that we often disparage. I also love how creatively it is produced. Still, Sherry's comment got me thinking - what's different now? What's different is that I am increasingly choosing to live who I am and what I know more than publicly declaring it through creativity. (I might post about it, however.)

The inner and outer dance
There's nothing wrong and much right with doing what these ladies do here. It's wonderful! Someday I might do something like it again myself. Today I will enjoy my simple life. I received my new Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid Storage Container Set and am inwardly singing and dancing over how they will solve my storage container quagmire and simplify my organizational efforts. Outwardly, I'm snapping all the lids together and clearing out my Tupperware from 30 years ago. That's a dance my hubby relates to. He shares my excitement. Fun!

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The Cat Came Back

Bob Cindi 300How was your summer solstice? Ours was dramatic. I sum ours up with the chorus to Better Days. "So take these words and sing out loud. Cause everyone's forgiven now. Cause tonight's the night the world begins again."

Saturday morning - why wasn't Cindi, the cat, howling to get let up and adored as she always does? I went down to invite her up for our morning ritual. Instead of bounding up the stairs, she laid down on the floor and meowed in a voice I have never heard from her. As the morning progressed, she continued to fade. 

Bob elected himself to take her to the vet. I would have gone, too, but a dear friend was in town, and she was meeting me at dance with her grand kids. I left, wondering if I would ever see Cindi Cat again. 

It was fabulous to see my friend. Dancing with the little ones brought out the full force of my play nature. It was so fun. My heart was filled with love and gratitude for the frolic. It was like the pure experience of life. Instead of concern or sorrow for Cindi, I felt gratitude for the eighteen years of having such a wonderful cat. Of course, I hoped for more, but was prepared for this to be the end of that story.

Saturday afternoon - By the time Bob saw the vet, Cindi's blood sugar was 39. She was hanging on to life. He left her there. She was responsive, and we were able to bring her home Saturday afternoon. 

Sunday morning - The sound of Cindi's howl never sounded so sweet. The cat came back. She actually ran up the stairs and pranced around for her morning adoration longer than usual. We called it Bonus Day #1.

Cindi settled on my bed as I cleaned and danced to music on my MP3 player. The song Better Days came on with the chorus. "Tonight's the night the world begins again." My heart swelled with gratitude.  

I went in the kitchen and turned on Pandora Radio. Better Days came on there, too. "Tonight's the night the world begins again." It felt auspicious. I bounded in to tell Bob about it. Joyful tears spilled over. I had considered waiting until my emotional flood had subsided, but opted to share it with him. He joined me in celebration. Okay, he didn't leap in the air like I did, but he was moved, too. 

Monday morning - the cat bounded up the stairs again. Bonus Day #2. Kudos for the animal clinic for calling to check on Cindi.

The cat came back. We weren't sure she would. We were prepared for her not to. But she did. 

That was our summer solstice. How was yours?

 

Enjoy the video. See if it awakens your sense of renewal, too. And, yes, I watched it through to the end. Unlike a previous video, there are no dark surprises in this one.

Here's the link if the embed doesn't work for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOp4NAq6EHI

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What Are Your Graduating From and To This Spring?

mona lisa graduate 300Graduations are everywhere. Friends, neighbors and service providers have kids who are graduating or are graduating themselves.

I notice that those with graduating teens are experiencing a graduation themselves. It's a new stage of life for parents and children both. 

It feels like a new stage of life for me, too.

My illness has been my teacher. My dreams put my malaise on the same par as The Maharishi. Yesterday, I wondered if on some level I needed and chose to be unwell in order to remake my life on the deepest level. 

My first question is, what does my illness want me to learn? What have the teachings and gifts from it been?

That list is long. I came up with most of the items on my list by using the phrase:

  • Because I'm sick, I get to...

So just to name a few, I get to get new clothes that fit me physically and personally. I get to drop my superwoman personna that had me doing more and carrying loads that wore me out. I get to be human. I get to spend time cooking, learning about herbs, and developing my kitchen alchemy. I get to speak a deeper level of truth with Bob, even when it's hard for him to hear. I get to stop supporting Bob in ways that deplete me. The list goes on.

My second question is, can I live these teachings and receive these gifts without needing to be sick? 

One phrase for that question is:

  • I don't need to be sick to...

If I consciously choose to live the teachings of my illness, I think it would unravel anything I might be doing unconsciously that prolongs the illness.

Have I graduated? I don't know, but it sure feels like I have. But like all graduations, it's really just the beginning.

Happy graduation season to you and yours. May your transitions be liberating. 

 

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Not the Effect I was Going For

"Wow. Thanks for the video. lol" That was feedback on a recent post from one of my subscribers. 

Oops 300I did preview the beginning of the YouTube video Alive by Goldfrapp, but didn't watch it through. It would have been a good idea to have previewed the whole thing. I commented on the dark nature of her make-up, but didn't realize how ghoulish the video becomes. It doesn't match the experience I had dancing to the audio at all.

So the moral of the story is, preview things all the way through before you pass them on.

I AM feeling alive again, and it does't look anything like the video. ;-)  Thanks for the heads up, Al.

 

I also received some wonderful and insightful responses to this post. One reader mentioned that I posted it on Good Friday - a day filled with death, but with the promise of eternal life. That reader also mentioned that her moving in with her boyfriend was death to independent living, but new life for the relationship. I love her observations. Life is like that. Decisions literally mean killing off options for the options we select.

That point matches the intended spirit of the post... much better than the visuals in the Goldfrapp video. I'll just say the level of darkness doesn't elicit the effect I was going for. Perhaps I need to create my own video - with an emphasis on life.

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He Spoke the Words We Dared Not Speak

Computer wiresBob and I were thinking it, but Noel is the one who said it.

  • I think we're done.

When you fix things at the root and you create integrated systems, it can seem like an endless process. Would we ever arrive? We were thinking we had, but only Noel dared speak the words.

Noel is our new computer tech. Noel is amazing. We're actually glad that our previous computer guy changed the network in a way that created all kinds of problems, and then went on vacation. That forced us to find Noel.

Noel got everything working as it should and connected the pieces. Two of my USB ports weren't working. I have numerous ports, but Noel insisted on fixing the broken ones anyway. That required him to know what kind of mother board I have, and since it's at the bottom of the computer, that required him to take the computer apart. In the process, he removed some wires that went nowhere and discovered some loose screws that had been left on the bottom of the unit. 

He even tamed the jungle of wires in the back of my computer. His comment was,

  • It's called pride in your work.

It took a long time. We joke, "What time is Noel coming today?" because he has become part of our lives. He will be back for this and that, but as for the major overhaul, (do I dare say it?),

  • I think we're done.

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Article Use

Please copy, quote, distribute, share and publish these articles with the following credits.

©2015 Meryl Runion Rose. Meryl is a Certified Speaking Professional and the Creator of the SpeakStrong Method of Dynamically Effective Communication. Find her at www.SpeakStrong.com

Let me know how you use them. Thanks!  

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