Poem : The Movement

The Movement 

I’ve never been able to cartwheel.
Even as a kid.
But since everything in my life is changing,
Upside down and backwards to how
I thought I would feel,
I figure,
I should do things differently.
Make changes.
Try, for once, to feel triumphant,
exuberant,
because
YES!
I did it!
I’ll stretch my body out.
Reach my hands to the firm ground.
Let my feet feel the wind,
the free-flowing sky.
Let my stomach muscles loosen
and my belly-button see daylight.
Because I am capable of movement.
I am capable of being moved.

Morning: A New Routine.

I am not a morning person. When the alarm goes off at 6:15 my body feels like a dead weight. My ears don’t really hear it until 6:30. And the purpose behind that annoying jingle doesn’t really register in my brain until 6:45. And then the dread sets in : the effort of getting out of my warm bed, making myself presentable, going out in the cold, dealing with morning traffic, answering emails at work, doesn’t make sense from the comfort of my fetal position beneath a pile of blankets. To my shame, I have been known to sleep until 8 a.m.
The bright spot, the one motivating event of my every morning, was my phone chat with mom on the commute to work. I would climb into my car, put on my headset, dial her, pull out of my parking space, and before I reached the end of the lot and started on the road she would greet me with a cheerful,
“Good morning, my Bethy.”
As the months of 2011 waned on and cancer took its toll on her body, this routine changed. The cheer in her voice lost its color and vibrancy. Conversations grew shorter. And there were many mornings when instead of that phone call, I received another one from my dad or my grandmother saying that they were taking her to the hospital again. I let the depression settle into me, keep me in bed a little longer each morning, away from the world, away from work, away from writing and everything “wrong” with my life.
You can imagine how different my mornings feel now, to know that our routine is forever changed. No phone calls, no cheery chats. It would be all too easy to justify staying in bed permanently.
Yesterday I pondered words for 2011. Today I ponder words for the first weeks of 2012.

 

The one word that seems to fit for this time : 

C H A N G E .

 

2012 is my year to accept that change. To live with it, work with it, respond to it. I figure that since my mornings are fundamentally different now, why not roll with it? I know what my mother would do to me if she knew I was sleeping in and arriving late to work every day. I can’t dishonor her like that.
So I’m getting up early, when my alarm actually goes off… Okay, here’s a secret : I employed the help of my best friend, who has to be AT work at 7 a.m., to text me repeatedly until I answer her that I am out of bed. And I can’t lie to her, so I might as well actually get up when I say I am going to.
And from my bed I walk to the kitchen, where our shiny new french press awaits, and my bright yellow tea kettle sings hello, good morning, and I pour a mug for myself, mom’s mug.
From there the day begins. I’ve even allotted time to pack my lunch. And instead of dwelling in the silence of a morning commute without my mother, I call my grandmother; it doesn’t do to dwell in the loneliness.
So let the change I feel be the change I need in order to rise early and greet the day in a new way, with gratitude, with discipline, with determination.

Five Words for 2011

1. S A V O R :
The bittersweetness of this year taught me to savor every moment. Through it I learned to be intentional about making memories. Life is so rich with blessings, even when times are hard. I see the whole of 2011 in the memorable moments : trips to the beachlong drives to and from Chicagovisits from my brothersgood conversations and good music and city excursions and goodbyes and birthdays. Every moment is a gift; let yourself enjoy the present.
2. C R E A T E :
2011 taught me so much about creativity. For the first time in years, I allowed myself to explore poetry and the visual arts. And those things, which seemed so secondary to who I am, became lifelines for me. They steadied me in a way that I did not anticipate, and also gave me a freedom that I could not attain in my work life or family life. Once I began, the instinct and drive were a force that kept me moving forward. Creative drive is transformative when we allow it to be. In 2012 I fully intend on pursuing these things further.
3. C O N N E C T :
I’ve crossed paths with so many amazing people this year, almost all of them as a result of this blog. I always thought of writing as a solitary experience, but words are universal; they have a way of tying us to another in a spirit of truth and creativity. I branched out in a big way by meeting with some of them in person, and I’m excited to meet more of you in 2012. I met Ally and Darrell in September when they came to Chicago for the Story Conference and I guest posted for both of their blogs. And I met AbbyMelissa, and Jess at the Business in the City event in December.
And as for the friends I “virtually” connected with,
- Missy and I exchanged her book for one of my paintings and have been connecting online ever since
Sam and I discovered in one another twin bookish tastes (among many other similarities)
An old college friend and I bonded over shared experience with loss.
- And Brynna, Mandy, Helena, Elizabeth, Rachel, and Blane all shared their writing with me, too.
4. R E F L E C T :
I wrote a lot this year through journaling, poetry and blogging. I am so thankful I did, because now in my desperation to hold on to the blessings that seemed few and far between in 2011, I have written record of them. Scanning through my blog archives and the pages of my journal, I see now that the year was full of good things. My reflections in my writing then created an opportunity to reflect on them in the future, too. I can reflect on those for years to come and keep those moments alive in my memory.
5. F O C U S :
2011 was full of distractions. I didn’t pursue freelancing in the last six months because I needed time to be at home with my family. I didn’t pursue grad school for the same reason. I didn’t make any changes to my blog over Christmas break because I was at home spending time with my mom, too. If you want me to be really honest, it also affected my finances, my marriage, my friendship, and my office job.
And though for a long time it seemed that I was being plagued by all these inconveniences and injustices, I realized as time went on that it was, in fact, one really important thing helping me weed out all the other inconsequential things which distract me from what’s truly important.
2011 taught me to say “no” in order to say “yes.” It taught me to work, blog, write, relate, and create with intention. It taught me to see life in death. It focused my priorities.
I wonder what my words will be for 2012. I think enough has happened so far that I can come up with at least one word before the week is through. Stick around. And tell me, what are your words for 2011?

Back on the Blog.

I’ve been afraid to start this, unsure that the words would come, unsure that if the words came that they would adequately touch the depth of this experience. But as with all forms and subjects for writing, the important part is to begin.
My mother died on a snowy Monday morning two weeks ago. We missed her by minutes. I slept fitfully in a recliner in her hospice room all night prior, counting seconds between breaths, trying to remember to keep breathing myself. My father slept on an air mattress next to her bed, doing the same. The nurse came in at seven to check on her and administer more medication and left to get a stethoscope. Our eyes drooped closed, and when the nurse came back, she had gone. The air slowly exhaled in one long quiet breath from her lungs, and she crossed over into the next world. It was as simple and as peaceful as that, just as we had prayed for.
I cursed myself for missing it, for not being awake to hold her hand and say goodbye. But now I understand that I was doing exactly that for the months, weeks, days, and hours beforehand. Things had become so apparent; as much as we wished it were different, we knew what we were facing. Therefore, important words did not go unspoken. Time was not wasted. There was no limit to love in those days; how grateful I am for that. And in the moment she left, it was appropriate that she make that transition independently; she didn’t need anyone to cling to her and beg her to stay as she made her way into a new life that she rightfully deserved.
I can’t say much without saying it all, and a single blog post won’t hold the whole of it. If you’re at all like me and you haven’t experienced death first hand, you probably have all sorts of questions running through your mind :
Is it scary? Can you sense death’s presence mentally, spiritually, emotionally? How do you know when they are getting close to the end (days, hours, minutes)? How do you carry on conversations with each other when things become that serious? Is it better to talk about it, or avoid it? How do you spend time with your loved one in the days before their death if they are conscious? How do you comfort and encourage them as they reach death? Losing a loved one is hard – where and how do you find solace and strength to keep living? When your loved one suffers from a terminal illness, can you really find relief in knowing that they are no longer suffering, or is that just something ignorant people tell you when they don’t know what to say?
There is a lot that people don’t talk about when it comes to death. Why bring it up now, when things are fine? But death is a part of life. Whether it is from a terminal illness, natural causes, or a sudden accident, it happens to each of us; it’s only a matter of time, and we never know for sure how much of it we have left. And there are so many ways that it changes us as we witness it, and as we draw closer to it ourselves. A sense of our own mortality is part of what makes us human.
So in the weeks and months ahead, as I process this loss, I will write about it here. If you have specific questions, or if you have your own story to share, please email me. I’d love to dialogue about it.