sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Archive for the ‘Michele’ Category

A Purse Full of Poems

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Julia Cameron — author of The Artist’s Way, and other books about finding your way in this world — was right.  Among her brilliant yet often simple ideas, she stated that sometimes “mending” clothes can mend the mind.

The context was about letting go of whatever is driving you nuts, and engage in activity that can free your synapses to help resolve the issue. A variation on great ideas that occur in the shower.

 

 

(Did you know that someone’s invented a water- and steam-proof board and pen so you can capture your priceless mind mutterings without trailing water all over the house? . . . and as soon as I can remember to look for one when I’m not in the shower, I intend to buy one.)

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mirror knows my face / shadows who’s inside / beckons me to live

The Poetic Muselings made a pact early last summer to NOT write, take on any new projects, work on our backload, etc.

In other words, we decided to do what we’d been doing (not much), but do it without guilt or nagging. Just let life be what it was for the duration.

By letting go of the struggle, we hoped to enjoy the time and see what it felt like to dump the pressure. It worked: we were eager to “do something!” shortly after.

 

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time smothers and numbs / we forget our fragile truth / pain, horror, and tears

 

I’m a belt-and-suspenders person, frantically trying to be prepared for almost any catastrophe. Usually I worry about the wrong thing.

One of my “medical advisors” told me that unless I stopped lugging my heavy purse, we’d continue to patch my shoulder pain, but not resolve it. At a bunch of dollars (not covered by Medicare), it worried me, but made sense to try something different.

I went to exercise classes several times a week, ate somewhat better, tried to get more sleep, and read light mysteries. I did some small decluttering bits, and knew I needed to deal with my lug-everything purse NOW.

I spent an entire day
trying to figure out
exactly what I need with me,
what can stay in the car, and
what needs to simply be tossed or left behind.
The whole day!

img_2687I tried out several purses I have, including an impulse buy in July, and came back to one I’ve had for at least a dozen years.

It’s small, has a lot of organizing sections that can be moved around (a Freedom Bag, which is temporarily closed for business while they relocate).

I keep going away from this purse because it’s black inside and out, and hard to see and find things.

 

Once I knew what to carry, on a whim I took out some metallic markers, and started writing haiku on the organizers and anything else black. After my very low output number of months, I wrote eight poems, right in a row.

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haiku seeps thru me / longs to flow onto paper / and flow further still

Yes, sometimes “mending” other bits of life can mend the mind.

Michele

 

 

 

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On Friendship, Loss, and Love

Harlee - Marit 3

_______________________________________

 To Friendship

An unraveling thread
suspends my heart
in the Universe.

One push can crush it,
one word
destroy it.

One or two at a time
hands appear
and hold me,

each touch leaves
its fingerprints
of compassion.

Surrounding my life
comes the vibration
of voices,

within each note
a rhythm
of healing whispers.

A patchwork quilt
of love
covers my soul.

Each square
a hand or voice
that shares its spirit.

They protect
and cradle
my aching memories

of joy and gratitude
and do not
let me fall.

mg, April 2016

_______________________________________

Less than two months ago, I had to make one of those heart-wrenching decisions, one that truly has only a single option that is fair, humane, respects quality of life, and is a gift when a kindred soul is suffering.

Almost eight years ago, we adopted Harlee, an amazing almost-three-year-old Standard Poodle. We were her third permanent home. While we knew almost nothing about her history, she told us her story over the years. We saw how she reacted to sounds and movements, people, and — especially — other dogs.

With our love and support, she learned to trust us, and realize that she was finally safe. At times when she didn’t get the attention she needed, she was able to communicate her fear that she was going to be abandoned again.

Those times became fewer and further apart because she learned to not be afraid to let us know she was worried. At first, she tried to hide her aging issues, and it took a while to realize why she was reluctant to run down the stairs to go for a walk.

A leap of trust and faith was when she let us in on her problem. She couldn’t get into the car, and allowed us help her with a boost, and later, by finally agreeing to use “stairs” we got for her to walk up into it.

An easy jump onto our bed morphed to a running start to make it, then a boost of her back end, and, near the end, letting us pick her up and get her situated.

When she could no longer support herself to maintain her dignity when outside, she let me know she was ready to let go. We were very fortunate to have a wonderful veterinary clinic that had treated her throughout her time with us. They loved her, and she adored them, regardless of what she had done.

At the end, they were there for and with us, truly surrounded us with love and compassion, tears and shared sorrow. We received a sympathy card after, with notes from each of the staff. We will never forget the care and kindness of Dr. Sheila Johnson and her staff at Animal Health Associates.

Another major part of Harlee’s life was spend in grooming, which, like all dogs that have hair instead of fur, needs attention. At least monthly, she was excited to spend time with her friends there. I called it her Poodle Parlor spa day.

The picture of Harlee above was taken by Marit Vike, owner of Send Rover Over, last fall. I played with the background, wanting to feel her float in the clouds, but Marit captured her inquisitive look beautifully.

Perhaps people who don’t have pets, or never had the chance or courage to form the bond, don’t understand what I’m writing about. I knew walking into the relationship that I’d have to say goodbye to Harlee long before I was ready to do it.

I knew my heart would break. Part of the life cycle — the part I rage against and never want to accept. I’d been through this before, with Madame Wa, our other Standard Poodle we’d raised from a pup, nursed through all kinds of maladies, traveled thousands of miles with after we retired. She was almost fifteen when we had to let her go in peace.

I learned so much from these two friends, companions, kindred spirits; they looked out for me as much as I did for them. I experienced what unconditional love means and feels like. My life is empty from loss, but full with memories, and support.

This poem is my thank you to my human friends who have been there for me, including my family. I love and cherish you. it’s also a reminder to myself to work hard to be in the present, where life is happening with each breath.

Never Forget Your Dreams, Revisited

The Poetic Muselings are traveling with famous company!

Tripping around the internet universe recently, I was startled and giddy to discover MY post about Scanner Daybooks (Journals) (and some shots from Anne Westlund’s, in her follow-on post, and some of Mary’s) had made it into Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose collection!

My original post was in 2012, but I’ve written and shouted about Barbara, her books, forum, and classes for many years.  I met Barbara in the early ’80’s and took a WishCraft Class from her through the Learning Annex in San Francisco. A most marvelous adventure.

Read my slightly updated post to see what I’m talking about — I think you’ll have fun. Then, follow the links at the end to see other examples of capturing the elusive creativity of never forgetting your dreams.

 

Several years ago, I found Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher, author of WishCraft and other amazing books. This one was directed at “scanners”- those of us who have so many projects and so many ideas that we can’t figure out what to do first and often end up paralyzed into inaction. I come back to this book repeatedly for inspiration and validation that I’m not really crazy.

A major tool in this book is a “Scanner Journal“, a place to track all of the wild things that go on in my head and that I really really want to do, or at least explore a bit. I’m sharing excerpts of my journal in this post. This photo, from my favorite T-Shirt, sums it up, and is on the cover of mine.

I’ve been fascinated for years by the Chief Crazy Horse Memorial project, near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The carving of the mountain has been going on for over 50 years, with no federal or public funds involved. We’ve been there twice and I carry around a piece of mountain* to remind myself to never forget my dreams. (The project and my connection are a story for another time and place.)

I wrote my earlier post while recuperating from hand surgery and limited to typing with one finger on my left hand, and struggled to communicate with my Dragon voice recognition program.  Way out of my comfort zone.  I usually handwrite my poetry and notes for articles, novel ideas and whatever else is kicking around in my head. I wasn’t used to writing aloud, but hoped it would  create interesting new synaptic brain links. (Not a huge success for poetry, for me.)

Mary’s post about the Bliss Box (and here) really started me thinking about all those ideas I’d shelved during the prior year and half since my car accident and assorted other distractions. Several items in the opening shot of this post live conceptually in my Bliss Box, which once held tea; I bought it because I wanted the box, and gave away most of the contents.

Scanners are not only permitted but actually encouraged to follow their wild tangents, capturing them in a semi-organized fashion in their Scanner Journal. Here’s a sample page, plus perhaps the wisest statements I ever came up with and which is posted all over my house:

I looked through my Scanner Journal to see how my dreams were faring –  what I’d forgotten or at least misplaced, who were still nagging me (yes, they are real life critters to me), and the ones that danced with joy because they were getting attention.

I was surprised:

Our poetry anthology was out there in the universe. We adopted a wonderful dog. My office and workspace are even better than I imagined when I created them in my head. I began practicing tai chi on a fairly regular basis and participated on stage with my class in a martial arts program.

NaNo novel I pitched was well received at a writers conference before my car accident, etc., pulled me away. Perhaps this was the most fragile of my projects: a cross between Catch 22 and Terms of Endearment, which an important person wanted to see. I hadn’t — and still haven’t — done anything with it.

But it was all the poetry that clamored to be put on paper with purple fountain pen ink that shouted the loudest. My answer to dealing with all of those critters who must  be fed is what I called my Red Bag of Courage:  a large zipped binder with sections for portions of several projects. Sometimes you’ve just gotta hand-write a note instead of typing onto the iPad. After I could carry it . . it was going to include new poetry I’d written, blog ideas, etc. I was inspired again.

If you look back at the opening photo here’s where you’ll find:

~Ganesch, to keep me on track. When I’m following my right path, Ganesch removes obstacles in my way. When I’m not heading where I should, he throws boulders and icky things on the road to get my attention.

~A monkey I need to watch diligently to keep off my back.

~A slinky to remind me there are many ways of getting from Point A to Point B, and to have fun while I’m doing it.

~My rock from of the Chief Crazy Horse Memorial. Korczak gave this answer to the question of how one goes about carving an image out of a mountain: “Study and observe, then remove what is not the horse.” (* from above: people can buy chunks of not-horse, with the money going to continued work on the monument.)

~A zebra, because I think zebras are cool, and I like to color them brightly when I have the chance.

~The open book and everything on it are all reverse images created in Picasa when I was playing around today. That’s why the paper is black, and the monkey is white.

Sometimes I just have to create my own reality. Enjoy creating yours.

NOW FOR SOME COOL LINKS:

Barbara Sher’s official site:  Barbara Sher’s Official Site ( http://www.barbarasher.com)

Refuse to Choose! and other Barbara-Sher books: (http://www.amazon.com/Barbara-Sher/e/B000APWZC6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1457739259&sr=1-1)

Barbara’s “Refuse to Choose: the Forum for Scanners: (http://boards.barbarasher.com/viewforum.php?f=30)

A google search for examples gave me this, including our contributions. Note that some have “road writer.net” as location; these were temporarily housed at my other site when we had major blog gremlins. I don’t know how to correct the link within the Daybook Tangents site.:

daybook tangents barbara sher —

 800 × 555 – poetic-muselings.net 

 800 × 477 – poetic-muselings.net 

 1024 × 768 – poetic-muselings.net 

 2448 × 3264 – poetic-muselings.net 

 800 × 745 – roadwriter.net 

 800 × 600 – roadwriter.net 

 825 × 891 – roadwriter.net 

 655 × 800 – roadwriter.net 

 401 × 449 – poetic-muselings.net 

 714 × 800 – roadwriter.net 

 300 × 226 – poetic-muselings.net 

 

 

 

What I’m Grateful For

Early November through December is the time of year I used to spent locked in my own padded cell of emotionsMichele1-1
. Soured holiday cheer, reminder of what wasn’t right in my life and the world.

. . . Survivor guilt at not dying when I was twenty; if I had, my father would have been sent home from Viet Nam early. A month in the hospital saved me and destroyed the family, when he died under strange circumstances three days before he was to return home. . . . Less than a year later, more guilt at finding the love of my life, my exact opposite, who’s lived with me and my insecurities for more than 45 years. . . .

Steve Jobs noted our inability to connect dots of experience prospectively. We cannot determine until well after events how they link, what their impact is, and how profoundly our lives change as a result.

“But for . . . ” my illness, and my father’s death, I never would have met my husband.

“But for . . . ” NOT getting a job I wanted, I was able to retire much earlier than would have happened if I’d been selected.

“But for . . .” putting myself in the right place at the right time, I’d never have met Carolyn Howard Johnson, which began my poetry-writing in earnest, and the discovery of the Muse OnLine Writers Conference in 2006.

“But for . . . ” that conference, I would not be writing this post today.

I sit here today, grateful for the people in my life, my personal safety and security, my needs met. As much as I complain  about — and fear — the growing list of health issues I’m battling, I’m grateful to live in a time that provides me with care unheard of even a dozen years ago.

I’m grateful for my confidence that ebbs and flows, how I am learning incrementally to trust myself, test myself. I’m grateful for the clutter that drives me nuts at times — what I can share, what it teaches me.

I’m grateful to live here, in this country, despite all our problems and issues. I feel truly blessed to be able to write what I choose, vote as I choose, and speak — or remain silent if that is my choice.

I live the American Dream:

~daughter of a first-generation girl-child born here of stetl dwellers who left the “Old Country” with nothing, before WWI;

~ able to trace my father’s family’s journey on the Trail of Tears in 1839.

~”But for . . .” the holocaust and horror of WWII, these two souls would never have met at a USO dance in Chicago in 1943. Lost and found each other again. Lost each other for good 25 years later, in the next ripping war in 1968.

~ First of my family to attend college, and later graduate.

~ Connected in recent years to extended family I never really knew earlier.

My first post on our Poetic Muselings blog was just over three years ago. It was my introduction to you, our readers and friends. I’m reissuing it here, today, because it struck me as true, still, and what I’m trying to share.

We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. May you find that spark, that “something” to give you peace of mind, courage when you need it, and lots of joy.

Michele

Turning Over Rocks

“Why be difficult
when you can always
be impossible?”

My family’s motto,
when I was growing up.

We lived in clouds,
ephemeral universe,
all or nothing mind-set
badgered us into paralyzing inaction,
circular conundrums,
promises meant to stop questions,
not solve problem

“Don’t answer the phone!” admonitions
when I was home alone, sick,
escaping whatever had me
in its grip that day or week

Blame and shame
games and names
hiding in books read
by shadowed night-light
to tame the monsters
lurking under my bed,
in the closet,
beyond the toys
strewn across the floor
beyond the closed door
to my personal space and mind

Child of parents
whose fractured worlds
never resolved enough to give them
strength to shelter their offspring
the way this one needed

But I was loved
and encouraged to dream big,
reach beyond what was,
by my father
live his words
not the life we had

I gained my own,
tiny shard by shard
years later, loved,
protected, cherished,
with someone who believes in me,
loves me
without needing to understand
more than he does

learn to trust,
push past fears, worries
I’ll never be enough, do enough,
justify my own existence

Learn I have to prove
nothing to the world.
I have the right just to be,
eclectic, whimsical,
inconsistent entity
in love
with my life
as I inch
toward myself

Ⓒ Michele M. Graf
11-7-11

 

 

Because It’s Tuesday . . .

office-desktop

Because It’s Tuesday . . .*

and almost time to read what I’ve supposed
to have been writing,
poet that I am . . .

 and

Because It’s Tuesday . . .
and no great insight bled from pen to parchment,
demanding ink
— nothing new to share —

 and

 Because It’s Tuesday . . .
and my doctor just said I must learn
to be selfish and fill the well
— or I’ll be the late Care-Giver of everyone else —

 and

 Because It’s Tuesday . . .
and the emptiness isn’t paying
the dividends it did for so many years
— that account is now bankrupt —

 and

Because It’s Tuesday . . .
and I must nourish my body as well
as my soul’s soul, I went radical
—  cleaned house and started a shopping list —

 … instead of writing the poem I need to share —

Because It’s Tuesday . . .

* Yes, I know it is (late) Wednesday on the West Coast, not Tuesday, but . . . that’s how it really happened . . . before . . . and I just got back from a cross-country trip . . . and . . . and . . . and . . .

Going Deep

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Today I wrestled and won a round with the mind-messing monkey that clings to me, snickering about all the things I should do, know I should do, intend to do, but never quite get around to doing.

You know the one — we all have them. Usually nags with “someone’s voice of reason”, at a time we’re feeling vulnerable. I hate this voice because it sings off-key, with nasty words that are too true.

In just over a week, I’m going semi-bionic, as I literally leap for that moment when my new left knee replaces the constant pain I’ve been in for a long time. Rehab will hurt like hell, I know, but, at the other side . . .

. . . assuming I make it to the other side. What if I don’t? What if something goes wacky? Expert worriers like me have long lists in our heads, and perhaps on paper. I trust my doctor, rehab team, hubby, hospital, and my own desire to experience some of the good life I’ve eliminated as pain and meds have limited me.

Enough of this! Today, I finally attacked and updated our wills. Nothing fancy, but they now reflect our intentions when it’s “time”. I raged at my mother for several years prior to her last illness and subsequent death, fifteen months later.

“Please!” I begged her. “I don’t care who you leave anything to, but DO SOMETHING. Don’t leave me with a mess to handle when you’re gone.”

“I’m taking care of it,” she kept reassuring me. “I’ll get it done when I’m ready. Dammit, Michele, stop bugging me!”

So she died at 2:00 a.m., on a Sunday morning, in a nursing facility, nothing updated, never told me her wishes, or anything of consequence. The result, as I probated an almost-twenty year old will, fractured the family almost beyond repair.

Fast forward a dozen or so years. Our lives are radically different than even three years ago, when I last updated our wills. Major changes to make so we don’t repeat our dysfunctional history. By the end of Monday, the new wills “should be” witnessed and complete. Then I can breathe, sleep, stop stuffing my face with ice cream (my drug of choice when stressed), and prepare for surgery with a clear and healthy mind.

In honor of my big step, I’m sharing one of my poems from LIFFELINES. May all of this help you make a good choice to finish something very important for your peace of mind.

Restless Peace

I remember…

…How excited you were
to start college at fifty-three,
wanted me to be part of it,
but how nervous I made you.

…Your camel ride,
and how you danced the Hora
without your cane
the last night in Israel.

…Your glitter days of decorating,
the treasures you collected
— herd of elephants,
music boxes, clowns,
gypsy violins,
Lladro figurines.
And flowers—
velvet red roses, especially.

Raw, returning reminder
of sorrow’s bloom.

…You were loyal to your friends,
ecstatic with their triumphs,
anguished in their agony,
fiercely protective of those in need.

…You felt whole when you gave
beyond your limits
of time and energy and hope
then crashed. Again.

And I remember…

…All the times we dealt
in guilt and blame,
held onto hurts and slights,
refused to let them heal.

…Your choices tore us apart,
those left behind.
Impossible to make peace
with your unfinished business.

…You told me, even at the end,
we were supposed to keep arguing.
When you stopped fighting,
I’d know you’d given up.

…We swapped mother-daughter roles
several lifetimes earlier.
I couldn’t parent you any better
than you tried to do with me.

…You had the last word
when you died.
Why do I
keep arguing with you still?

Michele M. Graf

Creativity and the Decluttered Knee

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Soon, I shall experience full knee replacement surgery, leap from hobbled old Crone, muttering to myself and others through a pain-med haze, foggy-focused at best most days.

I’ll push through worse anguish for a bit, then — magically — break through to the exquisite tedium of a lifetime of daily attention to reach a level of mobility and sanity I’ve missed. My world has become smaller in scope, narrower in experience, limited by decisions I’ve made to balance constant pain vs. clear-headedness.

Thinking (and writing) have receded to the background. Every six hours, I joust the bits of my brain that control pain receptors. I succeed at times, but the price is an ongoing trip to la-la land. One small knee twist reminds me to be grateful for the advances in medical technology, and keen to get this over.

A couple of weeks ago, tripping in my la-la land, I discovered a site called 365 Less Things, a journey of decluttering life as well as belongings. Yes, the blog owner is aware of the grammatical situation. People who cannot see beyond the title are missing out on a huge benefit.

As I read the archives, from the first post, comments, links that still work, etc., I’m fascinated. I’m up toApril 2012 posts, getting closer to current in snatches online.  I’ve followed the joy, sharing, and breakthroughs of this international community. Watched them mature, fine-tune their concepts as well as their tactics. I recently sent in a couple of ideas for future posts.

I’m always looking to get my life under control, to make it easier to sit down and work instead of clear my space (and head) in order to attack my writing time productively. The 365 Less Things blog is shifting my life.

I declutter my house by noticing what’s in front of me. I’m looking at my office supplies and books (THE most difficult things for me to let go of) with new eyes. Took extraneous “stuff” off my dining room table. Checked out how to recycle an older iPad and iPhone for a Mini Mac; if we could figure out what to do with the dreadful Windows 8 computer we got hubby late last year, we’d do it in a minute.

But back to my knee –the shredded ligaments, cartilage-less kneecap, shifting lower leg bone, and lots and lots of pain. (I don’t know what they do with old knees; maybe bone donations? They have my okay already.) For my new knee to work, I must exchange my old lifestyle — give up non-productive habits, like I have eliminated gluten from my life — in order to truly live.

This cannot be a sprint — ever. Every day, I must re-earn the right and ability to walk and get around. Every day, I must push beyond my ingrained procrastination genes, well-developed excuses, and creative idiosyncrasies. Embrace boring, mundane, and important actions.

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During recovery, as I come off drugs that have kept me from screaming and behaving even crazier than I normally do, I’ll have time to rethink and rework other parts of my life.

I WILL put rehab first in my life. Choose small changes in my mental and physical environment, Clear space, be ready to write during my “writing time”. Play during playtime. Prepare and follow-through with what’s appropriate to heal body and spirit with nutrition, sleep, and attention to the present.

In a strange way, I’ve been heading to this crossroad for the past year. Prior to the 2012 Muse Online Writers Conference (this year Oct. 7 – 13, 2013), I promised my husband I’d turn over my major role in 2013 to others, so we could celebrate his 70th birthday in style. Since his big day comes right after the conference, he’s had a frazzled wife for the past five years.

My present was to be present for him this year. We planned a nice trip, and I worked on a surprise party for him. A couple of weeks ago, we knew this is not the time for this trip. I can barely get around, and can’t imbibe bubbly spirits.

So, no trip, no party, but no other obligations through the end of this year. Nothing else to sneak ahead of what I will do to bring congruence into my life. I’m approaching TaCaMeFi from a very different direction.

I hope you have an opportunity to reassess what’s important soon, but not because you are forced, like I am. May you keep your personal North Star in sight to guide you in all seasons, and enjoy your journey.

Michele

 

 

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