what if ….

Maybe it’s the aloneness, though I don’t think so. I am used to being on my own (present furry canine rescue company excepted). Maybe it’s that the entire United States of America (who’d have ever thought) has come to a grinding halt.

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Or maybe the thought that, not unlike Passover, a silent death creeps among us.

Or maybe it’s all of it. But lately I have had many things brought to mind for which I need to make amends. And I have followed those promptings. A note to a kind neighbor that I may have slighted. An overdue apology to my son for hurtful things once said. Phone calls made that were put off for far too long, these are reminders to me that this is not a dress rehearsal. This life is temporal. Getting it right is not as important as grace, kindness, patience.

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What would you do if this were your last month/ week/ day to live? Somehow for me, this question has become quite real.

This viral plague that, in order to protect ourselves and others has restricted us so harshly has made me stop and think.

I have never been in a situation before where I cheated death. I have also not yet lived regret-free.

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But I’d certainly like to, if not get a do-over, at least a restart.

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E870358E-BEFB-432C-B620-C877269B0336brainbrewblog.wordpress.com

 

 

skipping seasons

Well it’s happened again. Winter ends abruptly in summer. We never really had a winter here, this year. Four, maybe five days with early morning frost. No ice or snow when generally we see a couple of flurries. But what happened to spring?

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A couple of mornings started out with a chill only to melt it off in a few short hours. The petunias I planted were perky with bright, full blooms. By afternoon the heat wilt had melted them into a vegetative heap. The cultivated spring flowers have burst through the soil and daffodils (they are first) stand cheerfully announcing tulip’s arrival. Before they are gone the azaleas bloom. Tree leaves are just now budding, the mighty oak leaves are tender, tiny and baby soft and seem so vulnerable for such a formidable tree.

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I think I enjoy the wildflowers most. This comes up each year at a nearby park and it colonizes. This plant was on its own but next year will likely be a family. I have collected a seed pod or two but it does not grow for me.

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There is another park where pathways are well-defined in winter months, and rescue dogs Lily and Lulu love pioneering through the trails. In summer the undergrowth and smaller trees make the paths undefinable so we stick to the paved walkway. Also we miss out on surprising an occasional snake which works for me.

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Yesterday we sat on the riverbank before the day was too hot and were treated to this sailboat venturing out to sea. I often wonder where people go.

So we still enjoy watching trees wake up and giving cool shade. Anoles are thawing and can move faster than Lily and Lulu already. The carpenter bees (bumble bees when I was little) are busy in what flowers we have and finding some wood to lay their eggs. I have seen butterflies emerge from cocoons, even baby earthworms warming up, but I never saw a carpenter bee hatch.

5EE0C213-CBBC-4888-B9DE-53B8EED77293Robert Louis Stevenson, “XXIV Happy Thoughts” from A Child’s Garden of Verses

 

isolation

Years ago, inspired by a book I had read about inner awakenings I sought the solace of a nearby Abbey. This unique place offered retreats to individuals of different lengths of time and, completely unaware of what I would encounter I chose one for five days, the longest offered.

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I am not Catholic. I have attended and joined nearly every denomination that exists in my search for God. This five days helped me see where He is.

He is within us.

I was shown my quarters and invited to attend any or all of the monastic service or prayers. They begin at 3:00 a.m. which required rising at 2:30. I wanted the whole experience.

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The services followed an order of worship, psalms, an illumination on the readings. At 7:00 a.m. they were completed for the day, until vespers and compline in evening, 6 p.m.

Thus the whole day stretched out before me.

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I guess I had never before been completely, utterly alone. At this time I had no cell phone. There was no television, no radio at the Abbey. There was an order of silence on the grounds except for the services or times of community (meals or, for the residents, the workday). There were books and a wonderful library. There were gardens and a historic Civil War-era cemetery. So I began exploring. But I began to feel and know the impact of being in a place where God was the singular focus of life. And it hurt. I was appalled, shamed, humiliated, and, at moments, terrified. There, I was, by self-imposition held against the perfect One. In the light of His focus (inescapable) and His love I squirmed. I cried. I pleaded. I begged Him to not see me. And finally, spent, I stopped fighting. I released my fears, my selfness. I began to listen. In His complete love that exists for each of us I heard His gentle coaxing and came near. I think for the first time I realized I could come near.

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I have been back to the Abbey many times. Each visit is like going home because the reason I go there refocuses my mind, resets my heart. I find clarity. These stressful days where we are asked to voluntarily close ourselves away are not difficult for me. But I hear comments from others of boredom, anxiety. It is hard being alone with yourself, until you know, beyond who you are, Whose you are.

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At least, that’s how it was for me.
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worry

I know, worry helps no one and nothing.

Two or three weeks ago when this virus started making headlines I texted my son, who occasionally travels for his work, did he have any travel plans?

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He called immediately. “Yes,” he said. Plans to visit friends and his girlfriends’ family in Germany.

No, they wouldn’t postpone it.

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So they left last Wednesday. An hour after their flight took off there were many changes. No international flights from Asia or the European Union. I began to perspire a bit.

Then a little clarification. US citizens would be permitted to enter (but for how much longer I wondered?) So I texted him what information I had and tried to sleep.

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I heard little to nothing from him Thursday. He could not get the airline website for poor WiFi or overburdened site or both. Could not get a call through. I told him what I knew, limited flights from Europe.

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When the UK was added to the list apparently he began to work at returning sooner in earnest. He texted today saying they are returning to Frankfurt with tentative seats on a morning return flight home. Thanking God he made this choice. Not sure he’d have a job to come back to if he missed a window of return and had to wait out the 30-day hiatus. I will be so grateful when I hear his voice and Houston traffic in the background.

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Rescue dogs Lulu and Lily are way better at waiting than I am.

 

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context

Not long before I (temporarily) returned to my parents’ home after divorce my father was on a 5-foot ladder changing a burned out bulb in the lamp on the front walk to their house. My mother said she happened to pass by the dining room window and glanced outside in time to see him begin to lose balance, topple and fall onto the hard sidewalk. My mother said it was a terrible, helpless feeling. There was nothing she could do to stop the fall, so she watched as he fell, “just like a tree falling,” she said.

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One broken shoulder later Dad nursed his arm (in a sling, they could not actually cast a shoulder break) and happily welcomed me back into the fold because the entire production staff  of his small newspaper business had walked out a week before. It must be said that progeny in a small family business are not always treated well. Be that as it may I learned valuable lessons from my father, intentionally or not, about teamwork, managing stress, learning to maximize potential, manage time, and humility.

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However short-lived my tenure was with Dad’s company, I have been able to apply what I learned in many ways since, though for a long time I tried not to, feeling it would be disloyal to use it elsewhere. I realized these were life lessons and if not used I would be nothing more than inert.

Some of it is effective in survival, looking out for others and bolstering the environment with no reflection on myself. But this virus? Totally out of control. People have lost a sense of perspective over this thing.  Yes there are inconveniences. If one chose to travel someplace after the disclosure of this illness there are consequences due to normal precautions regardless of whether you think a cruise or trip out of your country would be harmless. There are other persons, no one knows where from so please keep your wits about you if you test positive for this virus about which no one knows much and have to be quarantined.

Then there are the efforts to stock provisions in the unlikely event you will be stuck at home

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Our local hospital announced it would be preparing for this virus. Sensible. Everyone should. This was even before the one case of the virus surfaced in north-central NC because for some unknown reason an individual traveled to the same retirement home in Washington state where a few people have died from this. But panic? Doesn’t help.

How is it we have lost our collective sense of humor? Is death that terrifying? Or illness? There are many things that were never hard to find, now even amazon is price-gouging. $14 (in some cases, more) for an 8-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

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At least we can still find dog cookies. And toys.

And toilet paper.

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Lent

About 10 years ago I started taking this season seriously. I have way too much baggage in my past to believe I get to skate in any aspect of my life. I did not grow up in a family that lavished luxuries on either my brother or myself. Whatever I had I had to earn. We always had more than enough. But I remember a Christmas when my mother asked my brother and me if we would welcome an orphan for that day. I did not want that. So neither did my brother. I wish my mother had sat down and tried to help us understand what opening our hearts would have meant. I remember the pain in her eyes.

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Over the years I came to understand this season. Not quite as well marked as Christmas with so much hype. There are no Easter “carols”, no beautiful trees or decorated houses, no candles lit as Advent. I only recently discovered boxed Easter cards. Anyway, where Advent is a time of excited anticipation, Lent is a time for examination. Mourning in a way of the things we did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say and a time to shed what we were for more of who we could be. Or something. So people give up sacrificially to get closer to the person we’ve buried or hidden from ourselves. I decided those many years ago to stop watching television. I never believed I’d make it the whole 46 (yes. 46 because ‘they’ don’t count Sundays) days, but I did. Each year it’s gotten easier, even a few years ago when I became so addicted to schmaltzy Hallmark movies.

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In fact this year it seemed so easy I felt like I was cheating so I looked at what others do. Give up coffee. At a fellow blogger’s suggestion I tried that last Advent. It isn’t as easy as you’d think! One year when my son was in high school we divided Psalm 119 into doable segments and read through it during the season. I realized many well-known verses are from this psalm alone, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” for one.

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Other suggestions were to add something. Pray through the psalms. To pray for one specific thing each day during the time. Another was to give up sarcasm. Another, be more mindful. For an impulsive person like me this would certainly be a challenge.

In everything I do I hope to shed some old me that is worn, fearful, outdated. Then, when Easter Sunday comes I am more me. He knows what I mean.

 

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aMusings

I began this blog around 6 or 7 years ago. Back then I idyllically imagined I would use this as a platform for epiphany, revelation or eloquent personal disclosure. Funny maybe, having some depth, but hoping to not become a forum for aging, malady or complaining (whining).

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Maybe leave a trail of insight or hope, or just encouraging words.

There are bumps in everybody’s road. Forks on the pathways. Brick walls. Cliffs. Mountains. Brambles. Woods. Wild animals. Hurdles. Chasms. Insurmountables and unfathomables.

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And then there’s root canals.

I have never liked dental appointments. So moving to a new place too far from a dentist I had come to trust I had to start over again. For someone with serious trust issues in general it isn’t easy. They tell me what needs work. I make an appointment and soon after I cancel it. I am an adult, this is silly.

So when the dentist said he had to send me to an endodontist my brain shut down. I made the appointment and did not cancel it. I went to the appointment. Exactly one hour later, the lower left half of my face in paralysis  they had finished. The most painful part was paying for it.

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The day after an arctic freeze arrived after torrential rains. Thankful rescue dogs Lily and Lulu woke me early to go out or I’d have missed the 5 minutes of snow flurries. The rest of the day was icy cold with brutally cutting winds making walkies a near impossibility.

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But beyond conquering dental fears, bitter cold, I think the hardest thing I faced this week was a cryptic phone call from my son. I have mentioned in posts that his girlfriend does not care for me (it’s the only conclusion I came to based on monosyllabic responses, or no response at all). This incrementally alters the relationship with my son each time I encounter them. They have been together about 10 years, living together for 7. I realize it is expected that children grow up, leave home and begin lives of their own. This exclusion though was hard to accept at first. It does not get easier, but I get better at dealing with it. I cannot say whether this arrangement he lives with is right or wrong, but I am sorry I am not a part of it. To say it’s worse than having a root canal, well, it’s an analogy I did not think I’d ever make.

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