Friday, July 5, 2013

Life

I started to write a post about Summertime, with a list of books for the summer.  I've had it almost finished for several weeks, but life got in the way, as it tends to do.

 
There were some things that happened in that time that I had anticipated, and some that I hadn't.  For example, I knew that two of my employees were having babies, with delivery dates two weeks away from each other, making it impossible for me to leave the office for any reason over the next  two months.  I knew that some good friends were getting to be parents of the groom for the first time.  I knew that two friends are heroically fighting the cancer fight.  

What I didn't know was that a high school friend, whose posts I loved to watch on Facebook (and v.v. -- she and her husband came to Paris to celebrate their anniversary, while I religiously read her gardening page), would not recover from what she thought was just an illness last month that she couldn't shake, which turned out to be Stage 4 Breast Cancer.  I also didn't know that one of my cousins would pass away unexpectedly, just a week after my other friend did.   Tonight I found out that a friend who already has TOO much cancer in her life lost her sweet dog -- you guessed it, from cancer. 


Dad and cousin Laura last week

This picture of my Dad and my cousin shortly after her brother's funeral says it all.  Smiles on their faces, but I can see the pain in their eyes.  And here is a picture of my 99 year old grandad and one of my nephews, just yesterday, celebrating the 4th of July with the tractor tradition.




It is really odd,  seeing two sweet babies born, two friends (including a family member) pass away, a very beautiful wedding, my grandad living life to the fullest, and a sweet little dog pass away.   Odd but serendipitous.  

That is the way of life, it keeps going on.

Hard as I might try, I realized I had to face the facts last week that I could not make that 14 hour round trip home for my cousin's funeral.  Frankly, I found it quite excruciating to not be there, although I am by no means complaining about my job, my clients or my staff or those sweet babies who came along.  That is just life.  It is what it is.  But I have been having to do a great deal of processing in my head.

Life is just strange. There is no counting the days, the blessings, the sorrows. They come at you whether you will them to or not. 

Of course, I turned to a couple of books to help me deal with it and I mention them here because I loved them; they were a great help.  They aren't new books, but they are definitely books that have staying power.  
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

First was Ann Lamott -- Bird by Bird.   It is a book about writing, which I picked up because I really NEEDED to write, it is how I process, but I had been suffering from writer's block since the big PCT Off-Plaza production (see April 2013 posts).   I hoped it would help me write, what I didn't realize is that it would help me heal.  There is so much good in it, that I recommend you read it whether you write or not.   Definitely read it if you are an artist or creative in any way.
I share this quote for you because I think it says something significant about life itself.

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said. 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"


What great advise.  We do have to take life bird by bird.  Moment by moment.  Joy by joy.  Sorrow by Sorrow. 

Surprised by Worship: Discovering the Presence of God Where You Least Expect ItSurprised by Worship is the next little gem that I listened to.  It had been on my list for a long time, because I absolutely adore the author (Travis Cottrell), who is a worship leader for Beth Moore events. This little book nurtured my soul by addressing faith, forgiveness, and worship in an untraditional sense -- not the guitar or organ dillema, but the authentic "YOU" sense.  Has something gotten in the way of your worship, lately?  (Ok, the answer is yes if you are still on this earth, let's be honest).  Well, then Travis has some real thought provoking statements for you.  If you liked Heaven is for Real, listen to this book, I promise it will inspire you.  No, you don't have to be a singer, you just have to be human.  

And finally, something for the musician in me.  I grew up listening to Mom play Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 in A flat major.    There is a you tube of the song at the bottom of this post, in case you don't know what that is.  (Go to it, hit play and listen while reading the rest of this.) 

Now, there are two things that are odd about growing up with this being played in your home, things that you don't realize until much, much later.   

First, Chopin is HARD.  You have to have real discipline to learn to play him.  Mom was prolific in her musical talent.   (I was a hardship for her.  Imperfect pitch, slow left hand, more interested in singing; I am the least talented musician in our family).  

The Life and Works of ChopinOh, and I hated to practice.  You can't play Chopin if you don't practice.  You can't play anything if you don't practice.   But, you can sure love to listen.  I can't ever hear this song without hearing her playing it, in the sweet home of my childhood. 

Second, Chopin is (mostly) for MEN pianists.  Notice that Mr. Horowitz in the youtube video is a man.  Not as many women can play Chopin, because you have to have a very wide hand span.  I mean you can play him and drop some notes, but really who would want to do that? I stare at the piano music that he wrote in befuddlement, because I literally cannot get my hand to reach all of the notes.  

But Mom could.   And because she did, she gave me a love for Chopin that will never go away.  So, feeling very nostalgic -- and let's face it, Chopin feeds my sometimes melancholic heart, I listened to this audio book about Chopin.   It was WONDERFUL.  It is short, and it has his music interspersed between  the events of his life.   

So about life.  Ann Lamott says:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 


RIP Mom, Misti, Alynn, and big little Orphan Annie.  I'd rather have you here, but I'm glad I have the limp.



 


 






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