Monday, June 14, 2021

The Crocodiles Will Arrive Later

 

Today the mind is taking a wee rest and can't recall when I begin to read Kathy McCoy's blog: sometime in 2011 or 12 or maybe even 2013. She had probably left an intriguing comment on someone else’s blog. Perhaps that comment led me to her blog: Dr. Kathy McCoy: Living Fully in Midlife and Beyond. 

 

I was on the far side of “midlife” and into “beyond,” so the title intrigued me. Her postings did that also. Each was filled with workable suggestions for how to handle tricky situations. She seasoned these suggestions with a gentle humor and an understanding of the human condition. It was clear that she had extensive experience in counseling and knew whereof she spoke! 

 

I quickly felt a rapport with Kathy. The blurb about her on Amazon noted that she was a psychotherapist who’d won awards for more than one of the many books she’d written. She’d also been published in Family Circle, Mademoiselle, The Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, and several other leading magazines. 

 

Moreover—and those of you who know me will appreciate this—she and her  husband live in Arizona with four cats: Gus, Maggie, SweetPea and Hamish. Ah, my kind of gal!


When her book Purr Therapy: What Timmy & Marina Taught Me About Life, Love and Loss was published, I immediately read it and left a review on Amazon. In it, I said that while the cats with whom I’d lived had often purred me into a welcomed perspective, none of them had ever done what Timmy & Marina—Kathy’s two therapy cats—had done for her patients. They were truly amazing. 

After reading that book, I so hoped she’d write a memoir.

 

And she has: The Crocodiles Will Arrive Later.


 

Reading this memoir could have depressed me for the “crocodiles” of the title are the violent mood swings her father experienced as had his mother before him. The crocodiles devoured his treasure trove of good will, intellect, and humor. His three children quaked in terror, fearful that he might kill them, as he threatened to do almost daily.  

 

Given that title and its implications, you can see why the book could depress. And yet. (It’s these “and yets” in our life stories that so fascinate and captivate me.) And yet. And yet, Kathy grew up to be a woman of great good sense—a sense of the deep-down desire we all have for wholeness.

 

She fashioned a career, married, made friends. Laughed. Fell and got back up again. Mourned and embraced the next day with renewed expectation. Importantly, as the memoir recounts so vividly and tenderly, she came as an adult to the gift of realization.

 

What was that realization? 

 

That beyond the mood swings, the threats, the slow disintegration of her father’s personality she daily witnessed as a child, teenager, and young adult, there was love. A love threaded with her father’s fear that she, too, would know crocodiles. A love that tried to find ways to protect her.

 

Kathy’s memoir is filled with light, love, and laughter. As the songwriter Leonard Cohen sang, “There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.” Because of her great honesty, the cracks—the crocodiles—in Kathy McCoy’s life reward the reader with the realization that out of painful experiences can come an understanding that leads to forgiveness. Her father’s crocodiles ultimately gave Kathy the tools she needed to not only survive, but to thrive.

 

Peace. 

Postscript: I've previewed this several times and keep having problems with white lines. Not sure why and can't fix it. So please ignore all formatting problems! Thanks. Peace. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Joy Amidst the Journey


Not sure whether my internal action motor is in good repair or not. What I mean by that is this: Again, and yet again, I’ve vowed to myself that I would begin to post something on this blog every other week. I keep making that commitment to myself—and sometimes to you—yet, somehow the motor sputters, then conks out. No posting for weeks, sometimes months, once two years. 

So today, I begin again with no guarantee of when the next post will be, just an update of what’s been happening in the life of Elisa, the 38-year-old woman whom I met through blogging and who has become the daughter/granddaughter I never had. 

Since November, when the specialists at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake diagnosed her rare stage 4 melanoma cancer, she’s had a great deal of radiation. Two weeks ago, she drove to Utah from her home in Idaho to have another brain scan. Then, great news! Her two brain tumors were gone. They’d vamoosed! Cause for deep and lasting rejoicing. 



However, this past Thursday, when she returned to Huntsman for her every-three-week-immunotherapy-infusion, the pre-infusion tests brought less joyous news. That is, the medication, which is supposed to attack and kill the cancer cells in her neck, spine, and hip, had attacked her liver. She now has stage 3 liver failure. 

In November, the doctors told Elisa she might live 2 years. Then when immunotherapy began, they said that if she responded well to the particular infusion med they were using, she might live 10 years and, possibly, experience remission.

 Obviously, that med doesn’t work for her. There will be no further infusions for at least two months. She drove herself home yesterday afternoon, after staying two nights in the hospital. Drove, not knowing if the infusions will begin again and, if they do, what med will be used and how effective it might be. 

That is, she drove not knowing, but trusting, as she has trusted throughout, that all shall be well. In an earlier posting, I shared with you my belief that the essence of Elisa is joy. At the deep center of herself where she is truly One in Oneness, she is always—no matter what happens—joyous. 

Her “million-dollar smile” reflects that joy. It’s the reason, I think, many of the people she meets do not recognize that she is ill. She doesn’t look ill, nor act ill. She keeps laughing with her children, her husband, her parents and in-laws, her friends. She keeps making memories with them.

 I’ve said before, and I say again, she inspires me as I deal with my piddling ills. On days when  self-pity begins to tip-toe into my psyche and I, although aware of its sneaky ways, let it enter the corridors of my mind and heart, I think of Elisa and try to embrace the joy she’s shared with me. 

That doesn’t always work, I admit. Sometimes, I do my Irish keening because of vision concerns and also the Meniere’s symptoms that have been so persistent with the weather pattern of the past weeks here in Missouri.

Throughout my youth, Mom used to say whenever I grumbled about my life:  “Dolores, you find what you look for. If you look for good you will find it, and if you look for bad, you will surely find that also.” 

That seems to be Elisa’s philosophy of life. Somehow, she has the inspiring ability to embrace all the possibilities of her life. She is, I tell you, one of the great gifts of my existence. 

Peace. 

PS: Elisa posts on Facebook. She also posts on her blog: https://ecwrites.blogspot.com

 


Monday, March 15, 2021

Becoming Instruments of Peace


My brain has always been like a pinball machine—ideas bouncing from one pole of interest to another with irradiating lights announcing delight, joy, curiosity, knowledge, fact, possibility, gift, rosiness, success . . .  OR . . . worry, fear, concern, trepidation, desperation, disaster, mistake, failure, flaw—the 180° differences embedded in my psyche, personality, and philosophy! 

That pinball machine of a brain has led me to embrace many changes in life and to find peace and serenity as I’ve surrendered my need to always be in control or to be right or to be the ultimate judge and arbiter not only of my own choices and life, but also of the choices of others.

Pinballing has led, I believe, to my accepting differences while looking for ways to act in a way that will bring to others and to myself a quality of mercy that surpasses all understanding. Mine included. 

Of course, none of us can journey through life without the occasional failure to embrace a recognized universal good. We make mistakes; we fail in our commitments. We talk the talk, but don’t always walk the walk. 

That is to say, we are humans with human flaws and failings. But we can always recommit ourselves to serving human kind in the least obtrusive and destructive way. We can hold on to an empathy grounded in the truth that undergirds every major spiritual tradition: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

That is, in accepting ourselves with all our foibles and flaws, our darkness and our light, we pledge, we vow, we commit to accepting others. We may not accept their actions. In fact, we may find their actions reprehensible. Just as our actions may be reprehensible at times. But we accept that at the deep center of themselves, they are driven by some emotion that makes what they do seem right to them. 

We may not understand that emotion—what it is: fear, greed, pride, lust for power, antipathy, jealousy, envy, whatever. But we can try to begin to understand our own feelings . . . and those of others. We can try to search out and understand the experiences that prompt the actions of others.

Then we can try to create through our thoughts and actions a world that responds to the experiences that led to seemingly destructive actions—whether in ourselves or others.

Is there some perfect world of emotion? Some perfect world where are can live without fear? Some perfect world where power is seen as a source of doing good for all humans? 

I don’t know. I’m at the end of this posting, and I admit to not being smart enough to know how we can fill up the cup of others with life-giving waters as they . . . and possibly, we . . . wander through the desert of our own needs. 

If I were more philosophical or more well read or a deeper thinker or a more abstract thinker . . . if I were wiser . . . if, if, if. Then, perhaps, I could find the words that would be like a rain shower, washing all of us clean of our own arrogance, presumptiveness, pride, self-righteousness, or whatever it is that holds us back from being wholly human. From being holy humans, whose lives bless those of others.




So, I ask you, what is it that we can do to help all of us become, as Francis of Assisi said, “an instrument of peace.” That is, what actions will help us become the life-giving humans we are called to be. Called perhaps by the God in whom many believe. Or, called by our own inners selves that have known the thirst for wholeness. 

What is your response to the needs of our world today and to the great divide between so many of us? To the chasm that exists today in our culture? 

 

·      Francis of Assisi wrote a well-known prayer on how we can be instruments of peace. Click here if you’d like to read his words.

·      The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization I wholeheartedly support with monetary contributions when I can, succinctly says: “Fight hate; teach tolerance; seek justice.”

 

I wish you peace, pressed down and overflowing today and all days. 

 

PS: For those of you who would like to learn more about what’s happening with Elisa as she lives with cancer, here’s her blog URL. On it you will find her postings since 2011. The cancer postings go back to November 1, 2020.

 

Illustrations from Wikipedia.

 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Winter Saga

On October 20, 2016, I officially became a recluse. The cause? Having to give up driving because of my narrowed field-of-vision due to Glaucoma. The serenity of my reclusion changed recently with a fifteen-day saga that ended on February 20.  During those fifteen days, I met a plethora of helpful and concerned strangers, all of whom made my problems theirs. Here’s the story:

Upon rising at 8:30 A.M. on Friday, February 5, I turned the thermostat up from 58° to 70°. Ten hours later, the temperature had risen only to 68°. I noted this, but thought little of it. \It happened again on Saturday. Then Sunday. Clearly something was wrong. 

On Monday I called a recommended furnace repair service. Marvin came the same day, checked the furnace (“Fine!”), then examined the filter onto which was attached a quantity of insulation.

“Must be a hole in one of the attic flex ducts,” he said. Deftly, he climbed the ladder and disappeared into the attic. (I have no basement.) 

When Marvin came back down, he said, “Ms. Ready, you must have some animals in the attic because I found eleven places where the flex ducts were ripped open.” 

Many nights in the past four years, I’d heard the sounds of racing, especially above my bedroom. I’d pictured a nightly Indianapolis 500. However, friends and family members thought the sound was just squirrels scampering on the roof. Stilling my inner voice that thought differently, I’d ignored the sounds. Result? All along the pounded-down insulation were eleven way-stations providing heat to the merry marauders. 

Before the duct work could be repaired, the animal(s) had to be caught. Another call and explanation. On Wednesday, February 10, Ben came, walked around my one-story home, found an entrance/exit hole right above my bedroom, and set a trap beneath the soffit. 



Ben returned the next day and found a trapped raccoon. He reset the trap and returned for the next four days. Concluding on the 16th that the raccoons had vamoosed, he nailed some sort of metal sheet to cover the hole. Marvin then returned on the 17th to repair the ducts. Yesterday, insulation was blown into the attic that would, Greg assured me, save me considerably on my heating bills. 

During those fifteen days, the house grew increasingly chilly. Starting on the 8th and ending on the 17th (the days of the Arctic Vortex rampage from Texas to the East Coast), the furnace valiantly tried to heat the rooms, the attic, and the air outside that raccoon entry. The task was impossible. For eight days, the room temperature hovered between 58° and 61°. For two days it got up to 63°. I bundled up and looked like the Michelin Man. 


One last thing: On Monday morning, the 15th, at 1:14 A.M. a neighbor’s security camera recorded that someone drove her/his car down the street, onto my driveway, and into my garage door. I heard a loud bang. Thinking it was a raccoon overhead, I simply turned over and went back to sleep. The next morning, when I opened the kitchen door to the garage, I discovered light pouring in from the bottom two panels of the four-panel overhead garage door. 

More calling and explaining to seven different people. Ultimately, a police officer came; someone from an overhead garage door company; and someone from the insurance company.

Brian, the garage door representative, proved to be a “prince of a man.” He used his clenched right fist, his right hip, his booted feet, a hammer, and an electric screw driver to gerrymander the damaged panels backs into a position that he could lock. “You’re safe,” he said, “until the door comes.” 

I was safe. Cold but safe. And I tell you that feeling safe was more important to me than feeling warm. 

Thus, did the month of February shatter my seclusion/reclusion. How fortunate I was to meet and talk with such helpful, courteous, friendly, concerned service representations who saw me as a fellow human being and not as a statistic or a bloodless number. 

My Meniere’s mantra has always been the following prayer of Julian of Norwich, who lived during the Black Death pandemic of the mid-fourteenth century: “And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceedingly well.”

So it has been and is and will be for me. Gratitude wells up from the deep center of my being where Oneness dwells.

Peace. 

PS: For those of you who left comments for my previous posting, I finally was able to respond. So if you're interested, please scroll down and read the thoughts that came to me after reading your welcomed comments.


Photographs from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Inspired to Walk the Walk





Way back in October 2019, I published the historical novel The Reluctant Spy. A month later, I had a left knee replacement. The recuperation from that was both difficult and disappointing. It’s been fifteen months since then; problems persist. In addition, two of the three cats with whom I live have had health concerns that involved visits to the vet and my vigilant attention for six months.


Those health concerns coupled with two others—vision and Meniere’s—contributed to my not publishing in 2020. However, something more basic explains my not writing: I slipped—perhaps plunged—into a malaise accompanied by a hefty dose of self-pity. Throughout the past year, I stepped backward into the start-and-stop writing pattern of the years 1989-2016, when I wrote the memoir Prayer Wasn’t Enough.


 

To illustrate that pattern, I’ll share with you the on-again-off-again writing of those twenty-seven years. Right now, on this computer, I have the following:

·      a rough draft of a historical novel, which takes place in Bronze-Age Greece; 

·      a rough draft of a contemporary novel about four ex-nuns and the mystery tying them together;

·      partials of two cat books—one about the Stillwater cats and one about the cat saints who followed the teachings of Bastet-Net, the great god of cats, whom some of you may have met in The Gift of Nine Lives.



·      a series of prose poems in which angels comfort those of us living with the problems of simply being human;

·      two children’s stories—both about enterprising cats; 

·      partials of two memoirs: my childhood and the ten years after I left the convent. 

 

If I were a follow-through person who wasn’t easily bored when in the midst of a project, all the above, except for the memoirs, would be finished and published by now. But, once again, the truth is that I start things and don’t finish them. I move on to a new challenge. So, all those first drafts and partials await the work of completion: the final polish, the edit, copyedit, and publication.

 

I simply haven’t been equal to that in the past year or so. An old Chinese adage is that “the journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step,” but I simply haven’t been able to take that step forward. That’s the malaise speaking. And, perhaps, also the self-pity.

 

In the final week of 2020, however, I figuratively took myself by the scruff of my neck and asked, “Is this the way you want to live? You say you want to write—that it’s your passion. Yet you do nothing. You talk the talk; you neglect to walk the walk. Get with the program, Dee!”

 

The prompt for that admonishment? The ongoing journey with stage 4 cancer that my “adopted” grand-daughter Elisa is going through. She’s living her new life with courage and joy. She continues to work—at home—to earn a living. She continues to write her own books. She continues to play board games with her children, listen to them recount their school day, celebrate their lives.

 

Despite the prognosis given her by the cancer specialists, she hasn’t put her own life on hold. 

 

Her uplifting attitude prompted my letting go of the grip of that octopus we call “malaise/depression/down in the dumps/the blues.” She inspired me that last week of December; she inspires me still.

 

Since January 1, I have been writing at least a half hour each day. I’m working on a childhood memoir in which I explore the painful events that led to my emotional immaturity in the convent and beyond. Wish me luck!

 

Peace.