About Me

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In this blog I have created a haven, a place I allow my deepest emotions to go and sit. I can write easily about what I’ve accomplished. This biography I can recite in my sleep. But I’ve always written poetry and in diaries since I was a teenager. I continued to write poetry in my journals, and not until 2006 did I show them to anyone. I generally write every day, at the present in memoir form. I haven’t written poetry since my mother died in January, 2007. I didn’t write at all between her death and the death of my father three years later in January, 2010. On my father’s birthday in March, 2010, I began this blog, to honor my father and to help me grieve. But I also desperately needed to write, and this stream of conscious style emerged. I needed to find my organic voice.

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Definitions of Productivity

My husband received his annual review this week. He has always been a model employee:  well-liked, thorough, dependable, accurate, rarely sick. This has made him a popular guy outside his department, but a source of some petty jealousy within.  This past year, apparently, there has been a "drop" in his "productivity." He is not pulling his weight. It is clear some of his colleagues, all of whom are allowed to make written comments, are Soul-less, Mean-Spirited Shrews who have clearly and conveniently forgotten what his life outside the ten-mile radius of this little town has been like over the past year. (Many people who live in this area have lived here all their lives, along with generations of their families. They literally don't get out much.)  

These comments, and the review by his supervisor left him shaken, angry, and resentful. He was hurt by the insinuation that he was not working enough, or fast enough.  We mentally reviewed the past year together, he and I; the trips out east, events, worries, scares, changes, and the tolls it took on us. Certainly from Christmas until my father's death on January 13th was the toughest, but every day leading up to that eventuality---as everyone knows who has a terminally ill family member ---is full of worry, sadness, longing, anxiety, and anticipatory grieving.  This anticipatory period is draining, too, and I'd say most people, except those who have been through it or sensitive to it, wouldn't "count" that as a weight on top of every day activities.   And of course, the period after the person you love dies is really hard. Duh.

For my husband, a man who has only recently come into his own emotional availability, grieving for his father-in-law has been very hard on him. To deflect the attention from himself, he will tell you that it's because he's been so worried about me, concerned for me, my weight loss, my stress, my sadness. While I know that is true, he has also begun worrying about his own parents, both still alive, and what their deaths will feel like to him.

To: Soul-less Office Hags
From: Normal Human Being, only slightly biased
Re: K's not pulling his weight

cc: Ball-less Supervisor who delivered annual review

Does it not make sense that perhaps someone who's been through the ringer over the past year might be having a tough time at work? Should he have worn a sign to remind you? Might the weight of real life slow down the daily, weekly, or annual productivity of the department's most recognized employee?   Does it mean that he is just goofing off, or has a profound change temporarily altered his ability to function at the same level?

Just wondering, because, thankfully none of you has ever had the misfortune of watching and worrying as a loved one is dying slowly from a terminal disease, or have had to watch that person struggle to breathe, suffer indignities in front of your eyes, watch that person leave this life.  Thank goodness you have never had to arrange a funeral, clean out the house, watch a part of your own life change forever. And just keep on pumping out your 9-5 while your spouse is 1500 miles away for four months. As if nothing has happened.

Thank you, and have a nice day.


Right? So, he's telling me about his review, and when he's done, I gently remind him that it's possible his "productivity" may have indeed dropped. This may be a just fact rather than a judgment. What would be wrong with that, considering the past year? Whose work wouldn't be affected by the year we've had?  And I also said, gently, that he's experiencing grief for the first time in his life.  This is Something pretty Important. I am proud that he's recognizing and allowing himself this experience.  I told him, that, too. I'm glad our life together takes more of his spirit than his job. He is not only the Happy-Go-Lucky Guy everybody loves. He now has a vulnerability that is hard on him, hard won, but gives him so much more depth as a human being and as a partner. 

These little lightbulbs, appearing like fireflies, keep coming. Productivity has more than one definition. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Memento mori

Blue's a good color for today. The color of the gorgeous fall sky here as well as the color of my mood. It's been a Week, do you know what I mean? It was the eighth month anniversary of my father's passing (still using euphemisms, so what does that say?), I was in a fender bender-- got only mildly injured, thank god, but ended up having to cancel two rehearsals. Two much needed rehearsals with gigs upcoming.  Some good news on the horizon, too, but it's too early to say.

I realized, on the road today, that even with the discomfort, I should not have taken the muscle relaxant the doctor gave me. I was driving unsafely, and pulled over. Called and cancelled the rehearsal (2 hours away),  and my network of friends helped get me back home safely. God, did I feel stupid. First, that I didn't realize that I'd be compromised taking something that would help me, and second, that I have been overlooking my own wellness for the past several weeks. 

Any time I get worn down, I go to my old companion, Grief. She is easily accessible, is always around. I feel no shame with her anymore--we are so intimately acquainted.  Inevitably, there's a pity party involved, too. 

After getting home, and falling into the arms of this companion, I started looking at my memento mori, and the day dimmed. I see the sun out there, the blue sky, the colors of leaves.  To say a pall is cast would be too dramatic, but it feels like the life's been sucked out of me.  I looked at the shells I collected on Sanibel Island, during the week I'd "planned to grieve;" I read through the book I crafted for my father to keep his spirits up; through the photobook I made of photos we displayed at the funeral; the book his colleagues made in his honor. That was far enough for today.  The big box is still sitting in my sunroom, the one with the dresses, the pictures, the love letters. I don't know when the right time will be, but I am glad I have it to open when I am ready.

I bought a new computer, and with it came a printer/scanner. I've been waiting to get a scanner; so many pictures to scan into the computer, The Motherload waits as well. I realized, through the message of a friend, that there are no pictures of my mother on my FB account. With the scanner, some will pop up; but only pictures that flatter her. The last years of her life took an incredible toll on her spirit as well as her physical appearance. So while I have pictures of her from the last few years before she died, I won't post any. My mother loved--no-- idolized Jackie O, as so many young women did at the time, and was always a fashion-conscious and well groomed lady. She loved the idea of High Tea, Ladies' Lunches, and she herself was a beautiful hostess, even when she felt insecure--which was most of the time.  

I find myself mentioning my father more in classes--my world music class hears stories of my father's travels to India, Sri Lanka--my vocal pedagogy class is learning about his take on body language, and the importance our physical impressions make on others.   It helps me to mention him, in the past tense, to remind me of the reality of his passing. But I must control the circumstances in which he is mentioned and will cut people off if they go too far--which is not far, at all, really. It is still so hard manage the weight of this knowledge. I am sure that's why I have taken on so much work. It does make me happy, though, so it feels a healthy thing to do. Purpose, productivity help with the harder, deeper work that needs time to simmer.  

While I understand that my father is gone, he has died, I am still in some form of denial: I can't wrap my head around it. I struggle with the flashes of memories that hit me at unexpected times. I have to stop myself from calling my father--whose phone number I'll never forget--with news, or to see how he's doing.  There are some things that only he would appreciate or understand. That unique relationship is over, out in the ether. Do I look for someone to replace that? Do I need that kind of relationship in my life now?   There are lots of things to figure out now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Kind Word Sparks Reflection

Cancer, by the author
Some one asked me how I was doing TODAY. She was asking about my grieving process.  My respose: I am in recovery. And exploring my new normal. Realizing some things about myself that are really beautiful. Parts of me feel more free. Parts of me feel very hurt. But I am growing toward wholeness, that I feel. I am not whole, may never be whole-- I may never fully recover from the loss of my parents, my father in particular--but the fact that I am hopeful of its possibility keeps me looking towards the light instead of  being mired in darkness.

I am back at university, teaching voice, vocal pedagogy, and music in world cultures. One of the larger archs is music and healing (rituals) from around the world. It's a big course load, but it is good for me to feel validated by my work. I am continuing my healing through my work.  I am also grateful I am good at what I do. 

Back now from a 15 month sabbatical, it feels like I work all the time, now. All day, with students, prepping, teaching; then come home, work on lectures, trying to get ahead so that I can memorize this recital program I have coming up in a few weeks.  This gig isn't nearly as memorized as it needs to be. But I am in a place of acceptance, honestly. 

Back in the classroom
I have programmed yoga classes into my day, twice a week, with time even for lunch with my husband. (I continue my other classes on weekends.) I conclude my teaching day by 4 most days, and leave the building. I speak more softly. I feel more gentle, as if I'm holding my heart in my hands like a baby bird.    

I'm talking with strangers as myself, not as someone they may expect me to be. 

My dad and my husband, on our "once in a lifetime" family cruise.
Why did it take the loss of my father to help me move in this direction?  DID it take his death to do this, or is it just coincidence? I die inside thinking my spirit might have been held back by my dad, my parents. I don't want to believe this, or even contemplate it. That is too great a price to ask of anyone on either end of the equation. 

Last night, I finally took a few things out of my bedroom, things of my father's: his monogrammed notepaper. Simple and dignified. We'll use it in our kitchen for notes.   I took a particular picture, snapped many years ago, and put it in a frame I bought (waiting for the right time). It has a quote underneath:

"They that love beyond the world
cannot be separated by it.
In his beloved Mustang!
Death is but crossing the world, 
as friends do the seas;
they live on in one another still."
~William Penn

I still cannot look at his picture without tearing up. That he is gone still mystifies me.  The WHY of it never to be answered. The things I've wanted to share with him, the questions about classroom management I know he could answer. The validation that being structured and demanding toward raising student's standards is a worthy goal.

Christmas, 2007 with the family

The mail in his name has slowed down; our financial planner is now talking to me about what to do with MY money. 

And I have a lecture to prepare for a student convocation on Friday: "How to Maximize Your Time for Effective Learning"~how I'd love to run this by my dad in advance. Legacy? Yes. It is unfolding as I am unfolding from the fetal position I've been in for months.

So, thank you, my friend, for the caring and loving question of how I'm doing TODAY. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Brief, simple, brain dead

Today K and  I made our annual pilgrimage to the MN State Fair, the second largest state fair in the country. A long history have we with this "great minnesota get-together," it has specific associations with particular friends.  Last year, we didn't go, as our friend K was still recouperating from open heart surgery, and he is one of the components of our compagnie.  

Today, two years later, I find myself at the DNR fish pond, a beautiful place to watch the native fish of our state swim lazily around their pond. And I thought comes to me peacefully, which I know now to recognize as Truth: you are a profoundly different person than you were last time you went to the State Fair. Very true. Lots has changed; the fit of things, and people are shifting. I am trying to let these changes be as organic as possible, although I am fighting them more than I would like. THere are unspoken words out in the ether--mine are out there, the responses are not making their ways back to me. I feel like if it were important, they'd come back so I could get a read on things. I am left only to suspect and assume, which feels icky. ANd then there are the awkward silences. Also really uncomfortable after may years of friendship.  There only good changes are those between Karl and and we want to hang out together more. These are refreshing alterations for each of us.

Today at the fair was so different from past fairs. I felt myself trying to hang on to people, to keep our experience within our old pod. Evolution is a way of life, but my comfort zone is very thin right now, and narrow, I am grasping at gossamer threads that kept slipping from my hands. I struggled with wanting to be on the same page.   If the same page was waiting around for other people more than actually seeing the fair,  I begrudgingly report we were on the same page. I need, more than ever, free form wandering, and yet hold on to the old ways of what used to work, when I was different.  They are the same, and I am different.   This may be our last Fair year en masse. It wasn't that much fun. In fact it felt stressful and chaotic and also mind-numbingly slow.

Thank god we have tomorrow off, just the two of us and balance will be restored. I am ready to move on, in so many ways, but more research needs to be done, choices to be made...and we hold hands and jump off the cliff into a new, deep pool of water.