Living the Change

As I raise my glass at sunset and close out another day, I gaze out at the white layer of late winter snow and admire my Sanctuary view that has the wind wrestling through the bare branches. Spring arrived this week with cool temperatures and a string of welcome sunny days and blue skies. I went for a short walk in the gushy grass earlier this week with the intent to remove the debris that inevitably settles into the woods during the winter. As I headed toward a discarded fast food wrapper, I heard a sound nearby. A mallard duck couple was swimming in a giant puddle. She seemed to be distressed by my presence; he wasn’t. I stood still and observed them. He swam around her a few times, getting closer each turn until he parked himself directly next to her, settling into protective stance. She became visibly calmer. Deciding that the garbage could wait, I smiled and slowly walked away.

Now, as the sun lowers to illuminate another part of the world, I’m suddenly aware of an urgent message (nudge from my spirit guide) that, like the mallards, we all need to take care of one another. Stop the badmouthing and spreading of the negative news reports and stories of how we are victimized and get on with loving and laughter and forgiving one another. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi said. I am ready.

A fistfight erupted between two people in the hallway outside my office last week. As security managed the confrontation, curious spectators gathered. The sounds of angry screaming pierced the air and my ears, causing sadness in my heart. I did not hold it there. I wished them peace and moved on and did my best not to involve myself in the conversations that revolved around the incident for the remainder of the day. From there it was home to the radio’s gloom and doom news and commercials. More anger, victims, blame, protect my rights, lawsuits, greed…Turn it off, Mary, and Focus.

My heart and mind deliberately return to the previous weekend and St. Patrick’s Day spent with close friends celebrating their daughter’s second birthday. A house stuffed with generations of people and overflowing with celebration. Balloons, favors, candy, glitter, frosted popcorn, party dresses, all decorated with smiles. Gift opening had the guest of honor in the middle of the floor in a chaotic pile of ribbons, tissue paper and joy clutching her new Mr. Potato Head and responding to the onslaught of paparazzi with, “Cheese!” as they called her name for pictures. You could barely hear, there was so much glee. The evening ended with the announcement that it was time for a “memory” photo. This was the family’s tradition of capturing everyone together in a picture. We all did our best to squish into the shot; pets and all. The end result was fantastic…we looked like a random pile of humans that had cascaded out of a cornucopia filled with love. Four and a half hours of sheer delight creating a lifetime memory.   My digital version is being converted now to print for display in the Sanctuary gallery.

To notice and write about such wonderful things and share them with readers is the change I can be in the world. The ability to shift gears and attune myself to the beauty and love that exists on this Earth is a brainwashing skill I have consciously acquired to move beyond the negative into perpetual happiness using kind and joyful words, human and nature connections. To share this with others by building a Sanctuary is another. While I’m thinking about this, a squirrel scales the picket fence as I watch, and acrobatically leaps over and upward onto a nearby pine branch. I hope you saw that through my mind’s eye.

As I bid Goodnight to you all and another perfect day, I whisper to myself, “Be the change, Mary, live and share the change. Take care of everyone you encounter.” Both I, and my spirit guide are pleased.

 

 

Put on the Banana Suit and Play

Thirty-five years of helping young adults with their vocations, and the best quote ever for maintaining that important “follow your heart” theme comes the other day from a twentysomething, “Even if you’re wearing a damn banana suit every day; do what you love!” Thanks from Megan, my son’s girlfriend, for those wise words.

Speaking of wise words, one of my readers reintroduced me to my own this past week while reading my book, Giddy as Charged. The premise is how to reconnect with our sense of humor and use that to enhance our lives. I grabbed my copy off of the shelf and indulged in the refresher. I hadn’t read it since the editing process four years ago, yet the message was as fresh as ever. I decided that is time to tend more to that playful spirit, so I invite you to take a trip back to the sandbox with me.

When I was growing up, we had one in the back yard. Before the green plastic turtle ones, ours was framed in wood with built-in benches for us to sit on while playing. If they were occupied, we would just plop our butts inside if there weren’t enough seats to accommodate us all. There was a stiff blue and white striped canvas cover on it that slid up on two wooden planks to double as a sun shield. Magic happened there; no matter how many kids were gathered, arguments didn’t. There were no rules or roles (beyond master sculptors) or relationships, we intuitively just all got along for the express reason of having fun. We were busy using our minds and thoughts to create and share. We didn’t care about germs. If we found a clump left by an animal visitor, it was casually tossed aside by the sifter without mention. The most simple kitchen and garden tools were used; water to complete and nature offerings to decorate. The process was orchestrated by a soundtrack of perfect chattering banter; conversations of wonder, delight, inspiration, encouragement. And alternative plans if it started to rain. The sessions ended at dusk with smiles, the lowering of the lid and a promise to return the next day.

I subsequently return to the playground. I schedule a play date with girls to the Earth Spirit holistic fair and spend an afternoon with energy-filled hugging folks on a sunny day. I raise a glass this week to friends who opened an integrated medicine center and laugh out loud over why the potato masher always gets stuck in the kitchen drawer. I do battle with this until it settles back in and I declare out loud in victory to this utensil, “Hah, I win!” I enjoy signs seen from the shuttle on the way to work. On a truck next to us, “Chemistry improves the quality of life,” and below that a bright yellow warning triangle symbol followed by, “Danger, Inhalation Hazard!” Much more inviting, on the side of the animal hospital, “St. Patrick didn’t care for snakes, but we sure do. Erin Go Bragh!” And in the amused by technology department, I read about a phone app that you can download that will alert you when you are spending too much time scrolling on Facebook. Glad I deleted my account when I was still smart enough to figure this out on my own.

I proudly don the banana suit as I finish up the mission statement this week for Capture Life Writing before I send off the business card to the printer:
Sharing emotional and mental wellness through the power of words, love, human connection and nature. Eradicating the current consensus concept of mental illness.”

Spring is almost here; a nature walk in the March snow under sunlit skies through The Sanctuary confirms. The red-winged blackbirds and robins are back. They are ready and so am I to focus on launching this part of me. In the upcoming months I will be unveiling the ways I am able to help others, presenting my story about and experience with emotional and mental illness in unique theatrical fun fashion and connecting people to those who will support them. I like to think that if Americans trust a man with messy hair who communicates by tweeting, they will trust a “crazy” woman in a pretend banana costume steering them away from anxiety, trauma and mental illness to peace and back to laughter once again by listening to and encouraging them.

Jump in that sandbox today, put on your own banana suit, smile at your friends and play in whatever form inspires you for joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising a Glass

It’s that time of the year for us stir crazy Western New Yorkers who don’t partake in winter outings because the cold temperatures don’t appeal to us. By the time February comes along, we’re fireside chatting, cleaning out closets, rearranging furniture or otherwise seeking out creative ways to keep occupied. And have fun. On a recent car ride through slushy streets with my daughter and her boyfriend, he started noticing a late winter staple; shopping carts in various states of abandon, especially in dirty snow piles. “Someone should photograph and caption those and share them on social media. Each one has a story,” he remarked. I found this idea highly amusing. The following week my daughter and I were together driving and saw more carts. Stopped at a red light we laughed and I said, “If you are on the lookout, there is always something around to laugh about.” I looked up and noticed the sign on the building next to me, “Acme Nipple Manufacturing Company.” I shared that and we laughed some more between Ouches. I received a text from her later with the photo that I’m sharing on this week’s blog captioned, “Anguish surrounds us.” Still laughing!

In other news, what started as a frequent routine in my lanai last summer as a way to unwind and celebrate the day’s people, places and events that bring fresh air and enjoyment to my life is my raising a glass of wine in gratitude to the Universe at sunset. If I’m not with someone, I will text whomever I’m thinking of at the time to bring them into the moment. This has now become a daily ritual for me in the Sanctuary, so I decided to share some of the “glass raising” occasions from this week here with the thought of inspiring simple reasons for celebration.

Raising a glass for examples of our genius 20-something generation (some label them millenials):
The lengthy “put the phones down face-to-face” conversation with my grown son comparing electricity (it scares me a bit) and Reiki (I’m a practitioner and he calls it Voodoo) and their forms in terms of energy. This began in scientific vs. intuitive disagreement, and ended with us satisfied that we were both right. When we came to that conclusion, although we couldn’t figure out how that could be possible, we couldn’t stop laughing because of it. Bonus, this 21-year old college dropout blew my mind with his curiosity-driven knowledge of Tesla, Archimedes, scientific terms, inventions and history. “I’m interested, so I watch documentaries,” he explained. Kudos to him, also, for recognizing the instability of the auto industry and interviewing according to his passions for a grounds keeping job that brought him an offer for a train mechanic position; doubling his salary. Here’s to trusting, leaving your comfort zone, following your heart and taking risks!

I’m too toasting my daughter’s first blog. She has always loved nature, animals, food, photography and writing. A vegan and artisan whose mission it is to save the planet, she writes about such things. If you’re interested, check her out at Earthboundsoul.com. Additionally, a new client (I’ll call her “L”) at work came in to sign up for our High School Equivalency Program. Her enthusiastic demeanor immediately brightened my day. We exchanged pleasantries as she told me she had started as a housekeeper for Motel 6 and quickly graduated to front desk reception. The reason was obvious. I told her about my admiration for their spokesperson, Tom Bodett, and my preference for their simple over ritzy accommodations because they will leave the light on for me. She agreed. When I asked her about her path, she doesn’t know where it will lead, merely content starting with that High School Diploma. This inspired me to Google Tom Bodett and I found his following relevant quote, “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” Rock on, “L”, you are already Summa Cum Laud in life. High School should be a piece of cake. Also celebrating new friend Adam who is passionately inspiring young folks through his already successful organization, Warriors of Success. I was privileged to be guest on his podcast. If you care to listen to our first exchange, you can hear it at https://anchor.fm/warriors-of-success/episodes/172a974.

Lastly, to any psychiatrists who may be reading this, I am aware the latest trend is diagnosing what’s known as co-occuring mental illness which pairs mental health with addiction labels. In this case I would be “bipolar” and “alcoholic”. Guilty in the mental health system, yet I prefer to consider myself happy and appreciative; a joyful celebrator of life, resurrecting a superb tradition. No analysis necessary, just a way to navigate life via fun.

Cheers, Everyone! Go forth and play.

 

Special shout out to Addy’s Wine and Spirits of Williamsville, NY who support my glass raising with discounts and great customer service. Thank You!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Colored Implants

I honestly do view the world through rose colored glasses. Let’s just say I wear the corneal implants. They complement my blue eyes, making them sparkle. After all, everything I view with them makes me smile. My vision is much more clear now that I have them. Before, I wasted much time and energy on the negative; it was exhausting. I’m ready to focus only on the good about life. Because I can.

The highlight of my week came in the form of a phone call yesterday at work, quite by accident.  The incoming calls were busy so I picked up a stray to help out my coworker.  I answered with the Good Morning greeting I’d used hundreds of times before and this smiling voice said, “Oh, you have the friendliest voice, I knew I was meant to call now.”  The woman on the other end had one simple question about our services, which I answered, yet our instantaneous divine connection inspired a conversation that continued on for ten minutes.  She told me her name.  When I told her mine she immediately made mention that she knew it was no coincidence that it was also Jesus’ Mother’s.  That association made me a bit uncomfortable; I did not feel worthy, yet she insisted. Back and forth we went, exchanging kind sentiments and compliments and words about blessings.  She shared with me that her mother had been murdered a year ago. I admired her free comfort in telling me that; I can only imagine such pain.  Yet she spoke poetry when she declared that my words were like an “order of tea and biscuits delivered straight from London; a refreshing cold glass of lemonade sipped on a porch on a hot summer’s day.” She explained that people came into her life every day that kept her away from the darkness of her experience.  I’d never received such a phone call before. Our exchange of laughter, loving words and hope was spontaneous and blissful. After we hung up, I felt her and her mother’s spirit surge through me and paused to take a breath to revel in it and feel the smile and tears of joy that rested behind my eyes. That feeling returns as I type this. I don’t have the words to describe such experiences; they just defy vocabulary, so I’ll say, “Heartfelt Thank you and Love, My Friend.”

My fun this week included witnessing two important skills I would like to acquire that aren’t appropriate for a resume, but a must have for life: walking through falling snow in a parking lot reading a paperback without missing a stride (I can transfer this one to the beach) and turning polite conversation about recipes into having someone cook something and deliver it to you the next day. I believe both are worth practicing. I also became aware of something new that causes me to giggle: hearing an approaching vehicle that sounds like it has a testosterone engine and expecting an attractive sports car, and when it comes into view it looks like an SUV your grandmother might drive. I had glee time with a special toddler playing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes and hearing her version of “I love you,” where she adorably left out the word love, yet her face said it all. And a quote shared by my co-worker brought back comforting and laughable memories:

“If you wanna know who your tribe is, speak your truth. Then see who sticks around. Those are the people who get a spot in your blanket fort.”  True Story!
Who’s under the dining room table with me?

Keep speaking and having fun!

Misha Heads Home

“I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside…the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”   – Brooks.

That quote is from one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption. I slowed myself down this week by watching that and another of Stephen King’s stories, “It.” I hadn’t seen a movie in months because I don’t own a television. When my daughter texted me to tell me my Grand Dog, Misha was not well and wondered whether I wanted to visit with her, I went over to spend the day with her watching movies, enjoying the company of daughter Rachel and her boyfriend and playing sous chef to complement the creation of her new vegetarian chili recipe.

In that scene where Brooks is released after decades from Shawshank Prison, his quote comes narrated in the form of a letter he writes to his still incarcerated prisoner friends. His profound words hold much truth for me. With social media, text, emails and comment lines everywhere, we use fewer words to express less, quicker. The human connection gets diluted. With so many typing and so few listening, meaning is lost. My preference is small group or one-on-one conversation, so I intentionally carve out time in my schedule for those opportunities as often as I can. It gives me the chance to listen, and I love that. This week it was dinner and dialog with my hair stylist/friend turned holistic Bach Flower practitioner; no phones required. It was a fascinating evening of hearing about her professional and personal lives filled with laughter and smiles that ended in a warm hug.   When I got in my car to go home, the clock on the dashboard revealed that we’d been talking for four hours, and not in short phrases or abbreviated words. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Joy was also delivered via the snail mailbox this week. I received a book from another one of my favorite Authors, Dave Barry. It’s called Best. State. Ever. And it’s about my Happy Place of Florida. Dave’s words and viewpoints have never failed to make me laugh out loud when I read them, and this book is no exception. He’s also a great guy in general, having responded to the letters I’ve written to him through the years with a personal note. Based on our shared ability to see the wonderful, hysterical absurdity of human behavior (and the results), I’m convinced that we’re twins separated at birth. The only difference is that he was published first for his observations, and I was institutionalized. Smiles! Somehow he managed to skirt the system. Anyway, I’ve been laughing all week at the book. Snail mail also brought a note handwritten in green ink from a friend author, another Dave. He lined up some beautiful sentences of gratitude in a way that touched my heart as tender words always do.   Words do not always travel from the soul to the hand to the paper. How awesome when they do. It’s what I strive to pass onto others.

Recently I wrote about my promise to leave a note of appreciation for the workers who collect my garbage/recyclables in the frigid temperatures. I penned it with a Sharpee on a large piece of paper and secured it with mailing tape to the lid of the garbage can before I rolled it to the end of the driveway.   The fun I felt while doing that was rewarding and doubled since I was freezing in the garage as I taped it. When I came home from work the next day, the note was gone. I told the story to my daughter who made me laugh by saying, “They probably threw it out.” No matter. The joy is in the giving of the words.

Capture Life Writing will soon be graduating from just a Blog to a more organized entity in the form of promoting mental wellness through human connection and the power of words.  This will involve encouraging writers, guiding others toward their authentic selves and paths, sharing nature essays to those who can no longer immerse themselves in it and helping others tell and publish their stories.   Using my passion for words and slowing down my own world brought me back to joy, and it is my desire to spend the rest of my life helping others do the same.

Misha crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last night. We adopted her eight years ago as a three-legged foster and she created for us a lifetime of happy memories.   It is hard to let go of family, even the furry kind. I’m grateful for that day spent talking with her and stroking her fur, comforting her during her last moments with us.  Passing that time savoring quiet time with loved ones.

Thanks for the reminder, Brooks.

 

 

 

Of Dreams and Angels

 

Celebrating today! He had a dream, a noble one, and Martin Luther King, Jr. shared it with the world in the form of living example and a famous speech on August 28, 1963.   In a lesser known address he made to the American Psychological Association in 1967, he stated the following, “People who are labeled ‘crazy’ or ‘mentally ill’ are often in fact ‘creatively maladjusted’ to a sick society.”   Fifty years later those words hold their relevance. I have a dream, too, Dr. King, that those labels disappear from language and that those who wear them come instead to appreciate their true selves and that there is nothing disordered about them despite what our culture and a well established medical model have come to dictate. “Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!”   It’s a work in progress, yet I believe much better because of your words and efforts. Happy Birthday, and Thank You for all of the healing your messages of hope bring to our hearts.

Lots of happy words this week. From the window of the shuttle bus I noticed the Love and Love barber shop and Lovejoy Pizza.   At work a spontaneous bout of playing name that tune prompted an intense lyric discussion invoking lots of laughter. And having the privilege to share a storybook with a co-worker’s daughter who is advancing in her reading skills made me smile.

The kindest words though, were spoken. “Excuse me.” The gentle voice from behind startled me. After all, I was in a parking lot scraping off my car in the middle of a snowstorm. At first I thought it was my spirit guide, but quite frankly, his tone is usually more nudging and playful than polite. Smiles! I turned around and saw a small man standing there holding a large plastic bag. Recognition came when he said, “Do you have any bottles or cans in your car that you can spare?” My mind flashed back to several weeks ago when the same man approached me in the same situation outside of my work building, seven miles away by bus.   If he recalled my face or our encounter, he didn’t say so.

As the sleet and snow pelted us, he continued. “I’m homeless, so I live at the City Mission and collect bottles and cans to get by. I came here by the subway train, but I have lost my way to the station in the storm.” I knew he was being truthful about this because my workplace is next door to the City Mission. He asked so politely for so little, yet I could not honor his meager request. My car was meticulously clean, no empty cans or bottles. In today’s debit card world, I couldn’t even offer any cash or small change; only a smile and pointed finger in the direction of the subway station. It didn’t matter to him. His face lit up under his snug fitting tan hat and he smiled back. “Thank you. And may God Bless You.” He looked me in the eye and accepted my response of, “May God Bless You Too.” Then he turned toward the subway station.

As I completed my de-icing job, I thought to myself. His God/my Universe does bless me every second of every day of my life. I continued to think about that as I was guided home through reduced visibility on treacherous roads to the safety of my warm sanctuary and cooked my nutritious meal, took my warm shower and crawled into my freshly made luxurious bed. Amazing. And as I wrote in my journal, I embraced those kind words from a man who owns no more than a sack full of bottles and cans; theoretically nothing. “Thank You. May God Bless You.” By expressing those words he demonstrated that he has everything that many of us don’t. And he chose to share them with me.   The gift of appreciation, gratitude, warmth and love delivered in the middle of a snowstorm by a homeless stranger or an angel in disguise? I’ll let you decide; I already have my answer.

Smiles to all and a wish for love, freedom and blessings.

The Year in Review

 

Welcome to the Capture Life Writing Year in Review. I promise not to end with a list of celebrities who have left us this past year. 2017 marked my first year of intentionally living perpetual happiness. It was remarkable in terms of milestones. Smiles! I reconnected to my holistic interest of aromatherapy and delved into herbal remedies.   With a fond farewell to all of my Facebook friends I deleted my account; preferring to scroll through my thoughts via Myfi and revisiting my old passion of reading hand held books of the paper kind. Love it! I also helped celebrate three good friends into retirement, so now they walk around with what I call that retirement glow; may it never fade. Singing the “Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold” song, I was privileged to meet some new people who like to converse face to face and share food, one of my favorite activities.

Speaking of favorites, in September I put the finishing touches on my memoir based on my life centered around love. Although this is an ongoing story, writing Volume 1 was a gift in terms of evaluating my life; confirming my true self in the process. I’m grateful for those words having spilled out on paper. As the book unfolded, the chapter on my vocational life evolved in amazing ways with the acceptance of my dream job offer. It is a dying breed in opportunity, one that involves much live personal and phone interaction with customers. Our office is a small unit of eight dedicated staff led by a nurturing director. I was welcomed with open arms to this family-like setting.   During what will be my transitional time from UB to piloting Capture Life Writing, the work is perfect.

With a parting call to my psychiatric provider, I made the separation from the traditional mental health system that I was a part of for 19 years. I entered as a novice “bipolar” in 1998 and graduated symptom free after extensive research, personal reflection and experience and some really good people showed me the alternatives.  I was able to peel off my label for good. It is a favor I will spend the remainder of my life returning.

Which brings me to 2018. Last week I took some liberties and declared this the year of kind words and fun. One week in I’m up to my eyeballs in joy already. The biggest example came during a snowstorm stranding this past week. You may have seen this in the form of a 75-car pile up which made national news.   After two hours of waiting for the shuttle bus, I knew the drivers wouldn’t be there so I prepared to hunker down in my office for the night. An extraordinary act of kindness said otherwise. A coworker who was on duty grabbed his jacket and said, “Come on, you’ve waited long enough. I’m taking you to your car.” It was seven miles away, and It took us an hour and twenty minutes to crawl through the displaced traffic. He was practically a stranger, and he risked his reputation and job to take me. All he could offer was, “I want to. If more people did things like this, the world would be a better place.” Speaking my language.

The other things that brought smiles this week are simple. The irony of an empty Hershey Kiss wrapper discarded on the floor of the fitness center, fruit delivered to my desk with humor from a coworker with a smile and the statement, “Don’t be mean, eat a tangerine.” And, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, the Bills are in the playoffs…Woot! Western New Yorkers have been lauding the Cincinnati Bengals. “Thank you!” I pray that has a trickle down effect and we learn to thank each other. A lot. Out loud. For everything.

I will end with these kind words. The Sanctuary is currently under several inches of snow. Although the sunsets are still spectacular, I’m a fair weather nature fan content with taking them in from my kitchen window. So Hat’s Off (definitely a humorous salute given the situation) to the man dressed in a fluorescent green snow suit that I just watched dump my garbage into the back of the truck on this rare subzero temperature day. I so appreciate your efforts and if I could find a way to reach a human being via your company’s website, I would tell them so right now. Next week I promise there will be a Thank You note taped to the garbage can lid.

Spread the kind words and have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 The Year of Kind Words

 

 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” My Mom repeated that thousands of times to us as we were growing up. It is the only bit of her motherly advice that I disagree with.

Perhaps it is because I am such a passionate writer that I am sensitive about language, spoken and written.   During the past year I received correspondence from someone close to me that proved Mom wrong; someone who once matched my level of joy, love and compassion; the ideal partner in play. We had rekindled a lifelong friendship that resulted in a blending of our families, spending our time basking in the joy of bringing our children through their teen years teaching them our values and all about the importance of relationships. Leading by example through laughter, love and life.

And then things changed unexpectedly starting with lies, a betrayal, which resulted in a meeting with someone whose language I had never been exposed to and didn’t speak or understand that included cruel words and stories of neglect and threats to me and about my partner.   This spiraled into broken promises. The last correspondence I received from him was a text in response to a kind gesture I had extended. It was clearly written by someone with disdain in his heart for me. And even in the deepest parts of my soul where I sometimes helplessly grope to find peace with how he made the transition to caring about me to hating me, I can’t know the answers to why, because they are his. Although I quickly deleted the message, reading those words nearly destroyed me. Carved in my mind as if by a dagger, they still cause pain when I think of them. I want to leave them behind here with a lesson. From my experience, words can and do hurt others.

Every once in awhile as I am cherishing life, walking the beach or in the woods or in the moonlight, I remember the loving essence of my playmate and wish for a special person to enjoy those moments with me as we once did.   Yet because of the memory of his parting words, I choose not to take the risk, placing my trust only in my inner self, nature and the Universe. They know nothing of unkind words or gestures, so they are a reliable resource for me to give my heart.   The sun, moon and stars are always there to laugh with and to guide me and assure me that all is well. I could not find permanence with that in the human world.

What I can do is live it by being true to my word and a trustworthy human beacon to others, so I shall. I have been gifted with a talent for writing, and I vow to use that to express kindness, good words and messages of hope to others.   In my time with my playmate, I discovered the gift of eternal unconditional love which I will pass on through my words and teach others to do the same through Capture Life Writing.   I believe that by my doing that, the thoughts of those daggered words will disappear. Mom did have another saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”   That’s more like what I aspire to share.

In the wee first hours of this brand new year, I woke up to the full moon’s reflected sunlight splashed across my bedspread promising good things for the coming year.  And when I woke up this morning it was to a crisp beautiful blue sky.   I hereby declare 2018 the year of spreading kind words and fun. I can’t wait to write about it.

Happy New Year Everyone!  With Love.

 

For Kate

Kate arrived an hour and forty-five minutes into our two-hour long Writing and Well Being workshop. She neither removed her long black coat as she took her seat across from me, nor took out her notebook; simply rested the side of her weary face in her hand until we were through. At that time, she leaned over the table and whispered, “Mary, could I ask a favor? If it’s not too far for you, could you possibly give me a ride home?”

On the way to the parking lot, she paused with knowing sad eyes and made a decision I could see she had been wrestling with for at least the morning, probably longer. Then I noticed the overnight bag in her hand as she requested, “On second thought, I think my family can pick me up if you drop me at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center instead.” Of course I could.

The morning’s rain had changed to blinding snow, so it was some time before I was able to clear the car off.   Although I offered the front seat, she insisted she was more comfortable in the back, nervous with other drivers and accustomed to riding in taxis. Although the Center was just a few miles away, the roads were treacherous. I could see the fear in Kate’s face in my rearview mirror. Not sure whether this was caused by the drive or her condition, I was especially cautious and mindful to keep her calm.  As I drove, I thought about her. I knew very little about this delicate woman, not even her last name. I did know that treating amnesia brought her to our group and when she shared her work through our spontaneous writing exercises it was poetic and insightful genius. Her voice was soft and gentle as if speaking would harm her.   I didn’t even know if the family she spoke of earlier was real or part of her fading memory.

She knew the route to the hospital well. When we arrived I helped her out of the back seat, held her tiny frame in a great big hug as we wished each other a Merry Christmas. It broke my heart to leave her there. She thanked me profusely for helping. I know it didn’t occur to her that she was the one doing me the favor.

With the weather conditions, it took me over an hour on side roads to complete the journey home, which ordinarily would take thirty minutes. That gave me time to contemplate what I had just experienced.   As “Oh Holy Night” played on my car stereo, tears rolled down my cheeks. It was difficult to erase the image of Kate, her long white hair contrasting with her coat as she disappeared into the hospital through the fluffy flakes, grasping her bag. Only two weeks ago I had severed my ties with the mental health system that had sometimes helped, often frustrated me for nineteen years. Kate was evidence that it served its purpose, yet I so longed for her not to be there at Christmas or at all.  My tears shifted from empathy to gratitude-driven as I thought of my own evolving holiday situation. I had earned the title “empty nester” recently when my son smiled and hugged me after stuffing his last trunk load saying, “You knew this day would come.”   Indeed, but so soon?

It will be the first Christmas morning of my life waking up in a quiet house.   Yet I am anything but alone. Christmas Eve will be spent with a large extended loving family, friends and feast.   On Christmas day when I have heavenly peace, it will be in a warm house surrounded by nature. I’ll build a fire in the fireplace and curl up in a blanket with my notebook and a cup of tea.   I’ll fondly reminisce about Christmas’ past and manifest the promises of 2018, which will bring a return to the beach in a big way and vocational transformation back to my true holistic self through new services at Capture Life Writing. Then at sunset I will lift a glass of wine in a toast to Kate thanking her for the unexpected Christmas message she delivered to my heart and send back that magic to her in the form of peace and love.

This season allows me to celebrate the light, as many traditions do. It’s represented in all religions and even Mother Nature shows us with the solstice. As I write this, she is showing it to me in the form of the sunlight glistening off of the ice on the branches of the mighty willows across the street. Stunning. I take this as a reminder of the light we have inside all of us and it brings me joy.

Wishing you all light, laughter and love this season.

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