The Fiscal Cliff has taken center stage these days. And Sandy, for the most part, has been relegated to back-page news. After all, it's been a while now. Except for those still suffering. For them, time is irrelevant. In some ways, it's been forever; in other ways, it's like it was only yesterday when "normal" was ripped from them, when life had a rhythm and they could, more or less, count on being warm and housed and surrounded by a lifetime of collectibles. As we move forward in our own lives, it's easy to leave Sandy behind. That's why I so appreciate Brian Williams (Nightly News) and his continued coverage of this life-shattering event.
The other day he reported the heart-warming story of New Orleans First Responders working side-by-side New Yorkers still staggering under the weight of Sandy's destruction. They consider themselves "sister cities" and New Orleans never forgot how New York's First Responders came to their aid after Katrina. Now it's their turn.
The wreckage is almost impossible to comprehend until we put a human face on it, show the plight of one person, of one family, of one community pulling together. Such loss: photographs swept away, homes reduced to mildew and rotting wood and shards of memories. And yet, for those who lost everything but remained safe in the arms of loved ones, they are stoic in their assessment that it could be worse. They could have lost one another. They're right. We lost a daughter to cancer last year and that goes in the category of worse; far more devastating than the loss of things. Still, storms like Sandy give us pause: they ask us to stop, dig deep and see, in each of our lives, what's nice to have and what's essential, to determine what maters most.
After Katrina, I wrote a piece that seems as relevant today as it did then. That published essay is titled What Matters Most. Click on the title and download it for free.
How would you answer the question I asked my husband in that piece? Post your response in the comments section.
It's been a while since I've posted. Life has taken me down, turned my voice into tears and I've not been able to do much but wake up (sometimes not easily) and then spend the day putting one foot in front of the other. Our daughter, Patty (same name as me, now there's something to ponder) was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer on December 13 and she died in our arms, here at home, on Feb. 5. Seven weeks. How can that be? I brought her to the ER on November 21 and it took 12 biopsies and surgery to diagnose her. That's how tricky and elusive the pancreas is.
Patty was actually my stepdaughter. But having loved and raised her from the age of 14, she was also my daughter. As one Hospice worker expressed, "She has her mother, and you're her mom." That's the truth of it. We both loved her. We both took care of her in the ways we could. She came home to our home, her home, to die. And I would wish that on nobody. Hospice can prepare you. But only so much. The rest is uncharted territory. The memories are haunting. It's one thing to bring a loved one home and nurse her to wellness; quite another to nurse her until her death. I will write about this more in the months to come. I kept a journal during that time. It was the only writing I could do. The only voice I had was one of despair, of trying to make sense of our new reality.
But I'm finding other voices now. Rediscovering myself even as my husband and I move forward in grief. Even as I watch other family members try and find their way. As Tom Hanks (as Sam Baldwin) said in Sleepless in Seattle over the death of his wife: "Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning... breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out... and, then after a while, I won't have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while."
And that's life isn't it? Perfect for a while. But only a while. Then the sands shift and we're seeking new balance. When you have that perfect moment in your life, embrace it with all you have. Soak it up. Express gratitude. Live in the light.
Lately, I'm beginning to believe we speak primarily to hear ourselves talk. We find humor in our comments. Or excuse our boldness in the pursuit of truth. "I'm just telling it like it is." OR, "Well that dress IS ugly." OR "He did gain weight. I just pointed it out." Right. And your intention was . . .?
Why do we believe it's okay to blurt out whatever's on our mind, offering our unvarnished — generally unsolicited — truth to friends, family and strangers alike? I'm not suggesting we lie. But there is such a thing as politeness. And keeping our mouths shut. Case in point: my sister, Karen, seven years younger, with the thick golden hair we all wanted. Staying slender seems to come natural. Her smile lights up a room. From the outside, life seemed easy and she seemed graced. But the outside doesn't tell the whole story. Karen went through a real rough patch a few years ago: a divorce, lack of meaningful employment, three kids adjusting to a new lifestyle. Throw in some emotional and physical challenges and she crashed for a bit. Actually for a long bit. Her hair lost its shine, her skin its glow. Under doctor's care, she was given prescriptions to help her over the hump. And that brings me to the point of this story: Karen was picking up one of those prescriptions at CVS where she'd gone for years, the first time she'd personally picked one up in a long time. She gave her name, waited for the small package of pills and the pharmacy assistant looked at her and said, "What happened to you? You used to be so pretty."
What happened to you? A bit personal, don't you think? You used to be so pretty? Kinda' harsh, don't you think? And totally uncalled for.
Want to make somebody crumble? Want to make someone turn inward just at the point they were taking a step outward? Want to tell that cancer patient, or heart attack victim, or emotionally fragile person, "you used to look so good," and expect what? To feel justified for expressing a truth? Stop and breathe twice for every sentence you're about to blurt out. Ask: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Would she want me to saunter up one day and acknowledge how she's become heavier over the years, her backside wider than it once was?
When we offer our truths, let's think first about our intention. Is it to hurt? I suspect not. Is it to exert power, to have the upper hand? Possibly. Or is it because we simply engage our mouth without thinking? We don't even imagine the consequences of our flip remarks.
Time to think about our intentions. Wouldn't it be a far better world if we all intended to affirm others, to help them feel better, not worse. In the end, I guarantee we'd feel better about ourselves. I know I would. — ps
There are times when everything in our life seems to fall into place: we're healthy, everybody we love is healthy; work and money are flowing and there's enough of the good stuff to make us feel content, if not downright happy. Enjoy those moments. They're small windows of opportunity, those seconds of perfection. When I'm in that place and someone happens to ask how I am my answer is something like, "Right now, everything is wonderful. And I'm loving it, not taking one second for granted." I say right now because it all shifts. Like that moving river, nothing stays the same, nothing stays in place. And that's okay. We just need to learn to shift with it.
Over the past couple of months I've been dealing with a series of seemingly random health problems that feel related to me, but nobody is able to connect the dots. And then, if that wasn't enough, a window shade (I was raising to let in light) bolted out of its bracket and slammed into my eye, resulting in some deep corneal abrasions that need to be "babied" for a year in order to prevent re-injury. One sister is still looking for the right job; the other sister is buying a beautiful vacation home. Yin and Yang. Balance and Imbalance. And then a small gift from the universe.
I came across this wonderful, totally unexpected, and noticed increased sales. A small thing, maybe, but it felt like the my world was moving into the center again. I'm working on the health issues, minor by comparison to others, but still mine. There's a line in a novel (and can't remember the name. Can anyone out there help me??) -- it was about the Second World War and a family's adjustments to tragedy -- the line goes something like this, "the cut on your finger doesn't hurt any less because someone else lost his leg." I had to think about that for a while, but it's true: our hurts are still our hurts even if someone else's loss is greater.
So that's it for today. Time to batten down the hatches and wait for the storm about to hit Connecticut in a couple of days. Be safe. Be well. Enjoy your windows of opportunity.
My challenge, lately, has been some health issues. And, more specifically, blurry vision which is scary in general and frightening for a writer whose identity is woven into the tapestry of seeing and seeing well. But there are adjustments that can be made. And there are attitudes that can be adjusted. I went underground for a bit, dealing with my issues and needing some emotional and psychic rest. But I'm back, writing and publishing and getting my books out in e-book formats as well as paperback. It's all in our point of view, isn't it? Focusing on what we can't do. Or focusing and appreciating what we can do.
So, for me, right now and to you, right now whatever your challenge, let's collectively smile, shrug our shoulders a bit and say, "What is, IS. Can't always change it, but can embrace it, make friends with it, and move forward." Today is a good day! - ps
Welcome to Pat's Place
This is the kind of place I'm lucky enough to enjoy every day, a place to think and write and talk with friends. I hope you'll join me here often, posting on my posts, letting me know what you think, what you believe, what makes you laugh or smile or cry. What makes you angry. Let's share thoughts, rant at the world's randomness, explore issues like karma, destiny and past lives, and literary ones, like what we're reading and how in the world writers create conflict in fiction. It's all up for grabs. So, what's on your mind? Post comments.
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