22 December 2012

Falling Down Gently and Conveniently

If you're going to fall down and get stuck in a weird spot, it's best to do it while there are firemen around. I know this from personal experience now. Yesterday I went with my buddy to Lakeland, where I lived in the late 70s to mid-80s. We went to Moe's to eat and parked near the entrance, which is good since my back has been challenging me in the walking department lately. I decided to go up the step to the side door instead of walking all the way around on the ramped sidewalk. I knew that fewer steps would be better since there weren't any handrails, and my balance is sometimes slightly affected by the back injury and sometimes greatly affected by it. I tried to hold on gingerly to the hedge by the side door in order to get up the rather tall curb. Apparently that wasn't a good idea. In stepping up, I started to lose my balance, and the shrub was not stable enough to be helpful, so I did a slow and rather graceful pirouette and landed ass backwards at the bottom of the hedge.  My back clearly wasn't going to allow me simply to leap back up and pretend it didn't happen. Oh, no. But fortunately there were several firemen on the premises (for what reason, I have NO IDEA!) and two sturdy fellahs leaped to my rescue. I gladly accepted their offer to help me up and made them stand there a moment so I could re-align and steady myself. I assured them that I was okay and that it was a balance thing and not all that unusual. Well, all except that my t-shirt hiked up under my corduroy over-shirt, so I had flashed them a bit of lingerie. Yes, I caught the subtle smiles they tried to quash once they realized I truly was okay. I was glad I had put on the black bra so I could give them a small thrill at least. Thank goodness I was wearing one at all, since I don't always. Even though I pack what some writers might describe as an "ample bosom," I really don't care for wearing brassieres, so I make sure they're comfortable at least when I go out and have to relent to strapping one on.

Since it was nearly (but not quite) embarrassing, I wasn't at all sure that I wanted to mention this little wardrobe failure and ambulatory mishap, but given that I couldn't stop myself from chortling occasionally while I was consuming my organic tofu bowl, I knew that I needed to stay in character with my favorite quote, "If you're not laughing at yourself, then you're just not paying attention." These words were penned by my favorite nom de plume, Bryh Syn, my alter ego who seems to be getting less and less "alter" and more identical twin-ish every day.  I'm not sure if there's a certain age women reach when wardrobe failures and a general lack of decorum simply kicks in unavoidably (synchronistically paired with perimenopause), or if every wardrobe failure I've ever managed to avoid throughout my entire life, due to an innate sense of cool-ness that seems to run in my family, has finally caught up with me. I'm still puzzling over this mystery. I'll get back to you if I figure it out. I suppose that part of it could be reaching a certain age when you simply don't care about the same things any more. But let's face it, do we ever reach an age when we simply don't care what asenine thing we do in public? Or do we simply handle it better later in life if it does happen? In a younger year, would I have blocked it totally from my memory and denied, even to myself, that such a thing ever happened?  Naaah! I've never been one for denial, and I guess I have had my share of embarrassing moments in life. Well, not so much embarrassing as dramatic. Given half a chance, my sister will regale you with stories about my falling down and "dying" on a regular basis when I was a child. I never thought they were all that dramatic--must be the coolness factor--but she always seemed to think that I was near death. I was a tomboy, and I suspect that falling down and being a tomboy go hand in hand. I mean look at basketball players. They're trained to fall down regularly, and I played a lot of basketball growing up. When I was a kid, I played hard. When I grew up, I worked hard, and apparently with little regard to the toll it was taking on my body. I suppose I simply thought I was invincible, because quite frankly, I was very athletic and could do pretty much anything I wanted to do with my body. I was in constant motion. Now as I'm getting older, I'm finding that my body is not always perfectly synced with my brain, and I'm going to work on re-syncing those two entities. I'm pretty sure that as I get back to doing yoga and tai chi, I will regain the co-ordination and balance I lost from the back injury and later vertigo episodes that have so knocked me for a loop in recent years. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to you soon with a good report on that front, so stay tuned.

Beth Mitchum is the author of six novels, two collections of poetry, one collection of biographical essays, and one music CD. She is also the editor and contributing poet in the Sappho's Corner Poetry Series, which now includes: Tulips Touching and Wet Violets. All of her works are available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, BethMitchum.com, BookshopWithoutBorders.com, and many other online bookstores. They are also available by special order through nearly any independent book store. Go to http://bethmitchum.com for more information or to her author page at Amazon.com. First chapters of her novels and memoirs are available at bethmitchum.com.

13 April 2012

Beachcombing Through Life's Stormy Treasures

Just sitting here, breathing in the remembered smell of the ocean, clearing "the cobwebs from my mind." My mother used to take us to the beach (New Smyrna or Daytona usually) a lot when we were kids. She needed to "clear the cobwebs" from her mind. That imagery has stayed with me all my life. I even tweaked the words and used that message in one of the songs on my Driftwood: The Music CD. The line I wrote was, "Will you be the ocean wave that washes my mind?" It's found in the song, "Special Touch." I'm listening to ocean waves on my iPod nano and sorting through the detritus left behind on the beach of my mind after yesterday's storm of emotions. You just never know what you'll find washed ashore after a storm. Mostly it's just seaweed, but occasionally you find life's small treasures: a special shell, an artful piece of driftwood, tumbled sea glass, and on some beaches I've been to, you can find agates washed ashore after a storm.

I guess the emotional storm yesterday was in preparation for leaving Florida and returning to my chosen home, the place in the world where I feel the most at home, the Pacific Northwest. It is time to wash away the past so I can head into my future without attachments, without all that seaweed pulling me down into the depths, threatening my survival. I had to disentangle myself from that so I can move forward unhindered, moving from a place of peace into all of my tomorrows. Hanging onto yesterday's seaweed thoughts will only weigh me down. You can drown in shallow water, if you have enough stuff weighing you down.

Whether I'll find any treasure washed ashore this morning remains to be seen, but I have to admit that I don't look at the world the same way as others. Treasure for me are those bits of natural art I find as I comb the beach. You won't find a lot of knick-knacks on my shelves that didn't come from the beach. I've shed most of those that I had in my many moves. I've let go of the things you have to dust regularly and pack carefully. Although I do wrap the shells I have kept in bubble wrap. Many of my treasures I recycle back to the earth and let them go, emptying my hands and my heart so I am able to hold any treasures I find today until the time comes to release those too. Eventually I'll have to release all my found treasures in order to cross over to the other side. Thankfully most of my treasures are recyclable back to the earth. I try to allow very few things in my life that accumulate dust, though as I begin to pack again, I have found some dusty pockets. Pockets of my life and my space that have been neglected as the days passed by me here.

Time to turn out those pockets, clear the cobwebs, vacuum away the dust bunnies, and shed more stuff. Time to clear away the past, disentangle the seaweed that has wrapped around my feet and tried to hold me back, tried to keep me from living my life fully. I'm going home, and I want to return there unfettered, keeping only joyful memories that propel me into tomorrow, sloughing off the painful thoughts that seek to keep me mired in quicksand. Life is beautiful, but life can also be perilous. Turning my face to the light, I focus on beauty, peace, love, and joy. Turning my face to the light, I find that my step gets lighter too. Once freed, my feet begin to walk more quickly, to skip along, until at last, I'm dancing into the future with a heart full of joy.

Beth Mitchum is the author of six novels, one collection of poetry, one collection of biographical essays, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks

21 March 2012

Not All Who Wander are Lost

As if the beginning of Spring being ushered in by a new moon wasn't enough of a sign to remind me that it is time to begin anew, releasing that which is finished and opening myself to that which lies ahead, I also got the number 999 today. It's not a number I get often. In fact, I have probably gotten it fewer than a half dozen times since I started paying attention to the meanings of repetitive or significant numbers in my life many years ago. According to Doreen Virtue's Angel Numbers 101 book, published by Hay House, this is the meaning of the number 999:

"This is a message signifying completion of an important chapter in your life, and now it's time to get to work--without procrastination--on your next life chapter. This number sequence is like an alarm clock, ringing loudly in order to jolt you into working on your life purpose!"

I'm getting ready to move back to the Pacific Northwest, and that is a very good thing. Yet somehow as important as this move is to me, since I consider this place in the world to be my true home, I'm not entirely positive that it is a permanent, or even a long-term move. Part of me is puzzled by this new information that is coming in, but another part of me has an inkling about what might magic might be afoot. All I can do now is take the next step that is right in front of me. The step after that will open to me once I get to that point. First is packing everything up and returning to the Puget Sound region of Washington State. Then once I do that, I will see how things feel to me. There are a number of people I need to reconnect with there, and a number of people I need to connect with for the first time in the coming months. After that, it's anyone's guess. I just know that it is time for me to pick up and go again.

I'm beginning to feel like a traveling vagabond, but to be honest, I know that I am more like Gandalf in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. His movements were a source of great puzzlement to many, but he always ended up being in the right place at the right time. He always knew when and where he was needed. I don't think it's a coincidence that I wrote a research paper on this archetypal literary figure when I was in graduate school. I identified a lot with the "wandering wizard," and as my life unfolds, I understand this identification so much more. I have referred to myself in writings from the past, as the "Wandering Taoist," and now it appears to be time to begin my wandering again. On to the next step then, the next chapter of this story that is my life. As I begin this new chapter in my journey, I bear in mind some of Gandalf's more significant words, "Not all who wander are lost."

Beth Mitchum is the author of six novels, one collection of poetry, one collection of biographical essays, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks

09 March 2012

Checking Things Off My Invisible List

It has been a while since my last post. Since that time I've checked off a few more items that I needed to complete (unbeknownst to me) before I could go back home. One big thing is that I needed to be here apparently when my niece's maternal grandmother died. I was the only one in the family at the time who was available to drive her up to North Carolina to the funeral. When my mother told me about the woman's passing, I knew right away that this was one of those reasons I was in this place at this time. So I dropped everything, drove to Orlando to pick up my niece, and we took off on our first road trip together. Everything was timed perfectly for me to leave the day after I had to tutor, so I would have nearly a whole week for this task until I needed to be back to tutor again. We didn't need that long though, since my niece wasn't interested in being away from home for that long. I managed to get to my mother's house the next day around noon, and we were on the road in a pickup truck I'd borrowed by early afternoon. I drove all the way from south of Orlando to Florence, South Carolina that day. We ended up stopping there for the night at a hotel near I-95, right at the juncture of where we needed to get off the freeway and start our trek on back roads until we reached the small town in North Carolina where my niece's family lived.

After a decent night of sleep in a comfy hotel, and a continental breakfast, we launched ourselves into the second day of the journey. We had plenty of time to get to the funeral, so we stopped for lunch at a family-style diner and had lunch, which for me was a second breakfast in truth. We knew we were now very close, but for some reason, we had a ridiculous time trying to find the little town from where we we had gotten off the freeway. We finally found the place after a phone call or two. At the point we didn't have a lot of time to spare, so it was a good thing we had left that morning with plenty of time available to us. It ended up taking us nearly an hour to find our way to a town that was only five miles from where we'd stopped for lunch. When we got there, everyone was delighted to see us. They were even delighted to see me, and I was shocked to figure out that I had met most of the family at my brother's wedding more than two decades earlier. I didn't remember most of them at all and the rest of them only a little bit, but they recognized me from the wedding and welcomed me as though I were a close family member as well.

We spent a couple hours with the family, but my niece was not interested in staying for a long time. She loves her family dearly, but in some ways she's just not really sure what to do with them. I'm more experienced at social interactions such as the one we experienced at the family's church, so I tried to help smooth things out. I have to admit that as exhausting as the quick trip was, I'm really glad I made it with my niece. We got a lot closer on the drive, and I got a good reminder of what a good community can do during times of loss and sorrow. I reconnected with part of the family I'm not close to at all, and I got to see my late sister-in-law's grave site, which I had never seen before. I had been living in North Carolina, on the other side of the state, when she passed on, but I was either in graduate school at the time, or I was working. Whatever the case, I wasn't free to pick up and leave, so I didn't. I got really choke up when I saw her photograph attached to the tombstone, but it was good to get some closure on that all these years later. I felt as though I was finally able to say goodbye to her. She was a good woman, and my niece reminds me of her sometimes with her mannerisms. She had been so young when her mother left this world that it shocks me to see my niece do something with her hands that is exactly the way her mother used to do it.

Since I've been back in Florida, I've gotten to reconnect and get even closer to my youngest nephew. I've had opportunities in the past to catch up with my older nephew, but not so much with my younger one. So it's been great to deepen and strengthen the ties with both my nephew and my niece. I've also gotten much closer to my sister during this time. We have come to a very new place in our relationship. Even without a lot of overt communication in the past, we always slip right into a smooth groove when we do get together again. I feel closer than ever before to her now though. Part of this has been us bonding over going through peri-menopause at the same time. Even though she a few years older than me, we are neck in neck in the pace at which we are transitioning through this time in our lives. It has been a godsend that we have, because our experiences have been so similar that we have been able to comfort each other and even laugh at ourselves and our similarities. I'm thankful to have gone through the most difficult stage of this time with her in such close proximity. That may seem like a small blessing, but in reality it has felt huge to both of us to be there for each other. We have also been doing a lot of spiritual work together. Spiritual work that makes sense to the two of us who are so psychically connected, but perhaps not so sensible to someone on the outside. We both know that our relationship is stronger for it, and I know that in the future, even if I'm thousands of miles away, we will remain close and in more frequent contact than previously.

Not a whole lot has happened with my brother, but the fact that I was here to take his daughter to her grandmother's funeral meant a lot to him, and that strengthened our bond too. I've been close to my mother all these years, even while I was living in Seattle, so that may not have grown a lot, but we have been able to spend a lot of time together. That is always a good thing. Our family is a family of deep psychic connections, and it's also a family of mirth. We laugh so much when we are together that I'm sure other people in restaurants think we've been imbibing liquid spirits, when in reality, it is simply Spirit that draws us together and makes our hearts light and joyous.

I've definitely gotten even closer to my best friend. We've never spent so much time together as we have these past months, which will be nearly two years by the time I leave here to return to Puget Sound. I'm glad I could be here for the health challenges she has faced these past couple of years, and I'm equally glad I could be in a safe place where I could deal with the physical and emotional challenges I've been dealt the past couple of years as well. Very different issues, but we've been able to take care of each other, strengthening our lifelong bond as well. The value of this time together has been truly priceless. We've done a lot of laughing, and we've done a lot of serious soul-searching and talking. Again, I could only describe these times as priceless, and I am endlessly grateful for them.

I have, however, come to the place when I know it is time to pack up and move my kitties and myself back to the place in the world that feels most like home. I know that I will never feel as much as home anywhere on this side of the veil as I do on the other side, but it is not time for that just yet. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my oldest boy kitty had to be put to sleep two days after I arrived here. While that broke my heart, watching him suffer broke it more. I am so grateful that he returned to me as a new kitten six months later. It was much longer than I would've liked, but given the state of my health during the interim, it was definitely for the best. I was doing so poorly health-wise that I wouldn't have been able to care for him properly. He returned to me as soon as I was well enough to take care of him. We are enjoying our reunion every day of our lives, and he surprised us all by adopting a kitten that my best friend had brought home from the vet one day. The kitten was supposedly for her, but Li'l Grey adopted her immediately, so now she will be coming with us when we leave. While I wasn't planning to adopt any more kittens or cats, since I already had my three soul mates with me, I can't deny that she is completely bonded with my three cats, since they are the ones who stay inside all the time with her. They are her siblings now, and tearing them asunder would be something neither of us can do. We agreed that she would be mine now, so I have an adorable little silver tabby girl to add to the herd of kitties in my care.

One last thing that has happened since I've been here is that once I started recovering my health enough to work, I started tutoring children in the school district here. I've been tutoring for over a year now, and I honestly can't fathom why I didn't do it sooner. Of course, it hadn't been the time for it, but now even when I go back, I plan to start taking in students to help them particularly with reading and writing. That is my passion, so what better way to give back than to share that passion with kids. A lot of the children I tutor just seem so grateful to have an understanding soul to sit down with them and give them undivided attention. I don't have other kids of tasks pulling at my attention, so I'm able to focus on them and their needs. Growing self confidence and self esteem seem to be the gift they receive more than any other, although their grades improve too. It's truly a joy, and it's a very healthy activity for me since I know I have a tendency to become much too hermit-like in my existence. I've already started making in-roads towards gathering students to teach once I get back to Kitsap County, Washington, my home away from home, where friends and former co-workers have become like family to me. I'm pretty lucky really to have my hometown,where my family of origin lives, and my adopted family in Washington. I find that I have been blessed indeed by this sojourn back to Florida, which I really did not want to undertake two years ago. I'm glad I did, but I'm also glad to going back to Puget Sound to live for a time. I don't know how long I'll stay this time, but I'll take it for granted even less than I did before and cherish it more than ever.

Beth Mitchum is the author of six novels, one collection of poetry, one collection of biographical essays, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks