Getting right with myself

Ice cream is one of the things I really love. And soft rain. And movies. But what I really really love is Likes. WordPress Likes, to be specific. If I publish a post that doesn’t get many likes, I’m down in the dumps. If I publish a post that gets lots of likes, I’m on top of the world. I live for them. Hmmm…that sounds like an addiction. I guess it is. Yikes, I’m addicted to Likes.

Obviously I have some inner work to do on this issue. I’m depending on others to create my happiness. I’m basing my self-esteem on conditions outside of myself. I see that now, and I’m starting to realize that the person who really has to like my posts is ME. If I’m happy with them, if I know they’re quality posts and they’re my very best work, that should satisfy me.

I’m getting there. I repeat to myself throughout the day, “I am whole within myself. I don’t need outside approval.”

I just have to be right with myself. When I get to that point I’ll be on top of the world. Blogging has brought many issues to my awareness and dealing with them has prodded me into personal, even spiritual, growth.

Thanks for sharing my blogging journey with me.

P.S. I’m hoping you will Like this post. Come on, all you have to do is click on a little itty bitty button. Please? Pretty please?

 

Story of a foundling cat

There was no hope. Hope was lost—our cat Hope. Our loving and lovable foundling cat leaped over the back fence one morning like she always did when I let her out. But she didn’t come home.

We were heartbroken. My daughter had found Hope outside of a friend’s house. Leaving a party, Michele heard faint, tiny peeps and followed them to a bush. Underneath was a little pile of fur no larger around than a hamburger bun, peeping like a baby bird. Michele took it in the house, they fixed up a shoebox for it, and she brought it home.

We named her Hope because she was near death when Michele found her. White gunk oozed from her eyes so I took her to the vet, who said it was from a bad respiratory infection. We went home with antibiotics and kitten formula. Michele and I fed her with a bottle for a few weeks, until she bit the nipple off one morning.

She got cuter and cuter.

We all fell deeply in love with her, her tenderness and sweetness and her love for us. She loved to snuggle under my husband’s chin and suck on his beard. It must have reminded her of her mother. We cheered and clapped when she appropriately used the tiny containers of kitty litter we put out for her.

When she was old and big enough, I let her out in the backyard every morning. She usually stayed close by and always came back by early evening. Until the evening that she didn’t. I called and called that night. I went out and called some more early next morning, when all of a sudden it began to pour, a very, very cold rain. I began to sob uncontrollably, thinking of sweet, tender Hope out there in the bitter cold.

She didn’t come home the next day or the next. We walked the neighborhood, called her, put up posters, passed them out door to door.   

Hope was nowhere.

Then, after a week, a woman around the corner called. She had our poster. “I think your cat is under our house,” she said. Frank and I rushed over. She led us to a room where the removable floor board to her crawl space was laid aside, and saw two vivid yellow eyes staring up at us from the darkness. Hope! The woman had noticed her dog acting strangely outside, in front of an unscreened vent, and she peered in and saw Hope and called us. Something must have startled Hope, maybe the same dog, to make her leap through the open vent to under the house. But she couldn’t get back out.

It was a joyous homecoming. Hope walked around everywhere, with her tail as tight and straight as a flagpole and vibrating so fast you could almost hear it. She ravenously gobbled her wet food, she rubbed up against us.  

I know now that not everything that seems negative is negative. That cold rain that made me burst out crying very possibly helped Hope survive. She was under that house for a solid week, yet when we found her she was plump and healthy. I believe the rain that flowed through the vent to Hope’s dark cave kept her hydrated. It might have saved her health, if not her life.

Remember, even when things look relentlessly bleak…there’s always Hope.

Memories of Premarital Tennis

I have fond memories of playing tennis with my husband before we were married. I have not-so-fond memories of playing tennis after we got married. Marriage changes everything, even tennis.

I’ve talked with girlfriends who play tennis, or used to play tennis, and they’ve had similar experiences after getting married. Who knows why things change like this? Let’s not even go there.  They just do.

Frank and I met in a tennis club for singles. Frank was very chivalrous when we were dating, and that extended to tennis. He was much better than me, rated Men’s-A tournament level in our club. I was a Women’s-C. We only played together informally, with friends. Back then Frank was unconcerned about whether we won or lost. We just had fun.

Then we got married, and things changed. After we lost a match he would say things like “You need to work on your serve” or “You need to practice your volley” or “You’ve got a weak slam.” We’d go out during the week and he’d feed me volleys to return as slams, or coach me on my serve, or feed me fast and corner balls to return. We drilled and drilled. He wanted to win his doubles matches.

With the pressure on, tennis became just one more stress on top of my busy life as a working mother. Eventually I quit playing. Frank practiced some weekday evenings and played every Sunday. I alternated between hiking and going to movies on Sunday. On movie days I went to a little theatre that was next to a coffee shop, and after the movie I’d treat myself to a guilty pleasure—espresso and a luscious gelato. In solitary splendor, I enjoyed myself immensely.  

Then Frank broke his metatarsal bone running down a tennis ball, when he was 65. It was quite painful and he wore a big knee-high boot for two months and did physical therapy for a long time after that. He never went back to tennis. He felt the foot was a weak link and susceptible to re-injury at his age. He gave his huge bag of beat-up practice balls to a friend who has a lovable Yorkshire terrier named Maggie.

Now Frank and I go to the movies nearly every Sunday. We both enjoy them. No one competes, no one loses, no one screws up. We laugh and we cry. We have animated, enjoyable discussions of the film afterwards over a nice dinner. We both win. So far the score is Love-Love. Actually, Love-Love-Love. Maggie adores her tennis balls.

The Power of Laughter

aI was a very tiny toddler, with a great big belly laugh that surprised people. But early on I learned how to push it down, keep it under wraps. It was muted for decades.

When I was three my family—together in those days—went for a day at the beach. Mom stayed up by the boardwalk while my father and older brother and I went down to the water, a long walk away. It was a cold windy day and the waves were huge. For years afterwards Mom would recount how she could barely see us but she could hear my laugh booming over the roaring breakers.

My brother was the one making me laugh. Mike had found a piece of kelp about five feet long and was cracking it like a whip at the waves, yelling “Get back! Get back!” when they started to recede. It was hilarious to me to watch the waves as they seemed to obey my brother’s commands. I laugh even now, thinking of it.

Life hummed along for a few years. I was a happy child, a fierce tomboy, indomitable. Even though I was the shortest girl in my school, I ran like the wind and outraced boys, climbed trees, hit homers in street softball, caught every fly ball in the field, always won at tetherball. 

The magic wore off. Mike got into drugs in his early teens and shot himself up with heroin for decades. One day he was high on  smack and working with heavy machinery, and he lost his right arm. My father was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and heavily depressed for 20 years. I formed a belief—I realize this now—that laughter was insensitive and uncaring, with poor Daddy so sick and hopeless. I imagined how it made him feel worse and felt guilty, even though he didn’t live with us anymore. So I suppressed it. But he committed suicide anyway, when he was fifty.  

I started drinking in my mid-twenties. I stopped when my daughter was three and I was forty-one. I damaged relationships and not all of them were restored. Life got a lot better when I sobered up. I kept jobs, I was a safe and responsible parent to my daughter, I was just an overall better person. But I sustained painful losses. At seventy, I’m still working to heal the damaged relationship with my daughter.

I’ve had years of therapy and commitment to a spiritual program. Feelings of running like the wind, whipping the tetherball around the pole, scrambling up trees like a monkey are starting to come back to me: feelings of being exquisitely alive. I’m bouncing back, and so is my belly laugh. It’s a little rusty but still there.

Mike became clean and sober at forty. For ten years he had a good life, helping other addicts, then died of lung cancer. I don’t have him anymore to tame waves with his kelp whip and make me laugh out loud. But I have Melissa McCarthy impersonating Sean Spicer. That’s close enough.  

Equal Opportunity Tooth Fairy

Why can’t the Tooth Fairy come for seniors? Why does she just come for kids? Older people lose teeth too.

The other day I got to wondering, is it really true she won’t come for us golden-agers? Maybe she would, if we put our fallen teeth under our pillows like we used to. But I know she wouldn’t come. And I know why. It’s because I AM the Tooth Fairy. Or I was, when my daughter was small.

Thirty years ago, when Michele was five and I was forty, she lost a tooth and when I tucked her in bed that night she told me she didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore. She said it was just another grownup lie.

But I snuck extra change under her pillow that night, three times the usual amount. In the morning she came tearing like wild horses into my bedroom screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! Look what the Tooth Fairy brought!!” I’d sure like to have faith like that again. The faith of a child. I’ve become cynical, not just about the Tooth Fairy but about everything from chances for world peace to the odds that the 49ers will ever win the Super Bowl again.

Millions of us seniors were reliable, generous Tooth Fairies when our kids were small and I wish our children would give back and be our Tooth Fairies. But I don’t think my daughter would go for that. She doesn’t have kids so she’s not on Tooth Fairy duty already, but she has a very busy life.

My husband, Frank, could do it. I’ve had three teeth pulled since I turned 60 and I’ve kept them all. I’m going to put them under my pillow one at a time and drop him very obvious hints about it. 

I take cash, credit and Amazon gift cards. 

 

With Starbucks all things are possible.

I should have taken the sign that said “This lane must exit” more seriously. I was driving to a friend’s house and there was a horrific accident that caused a huge traffic jam. Not a car was moving as far as the eye could see and I decided to turn around and go home. I squeezed into the far right lane of the next exit then changed my mind. My friend needed help with a problem and I decided to do the right thing, which is where I went wrong. Checking my side mirror carefully, ignoring the sign, I slowly pulled back onto the freeway and immediately heard the dreaded, eerie meep

Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

It was the meep of a Highway Patrol motorcycle horn. Though it was my first ticket in 15 years, the old familiar awful feeling came right back like it was yesterday. My stomach churned, my hands trembled, my breathing was shallow.

The cop, of course, took the must-exit sign seriously. He wrote my ticket and drove away, and I continued my slow crawl on the freeway, worrying about how much my little adventure was going to cost me. My jaw started aching. Lately my jaw had been really sore and popped when I opened it. TMJ, I figured. Stress related.

I started to call my friend  and tell her I’d be there late, and realized I left my phone at home. iPhone-less! OMG. I felt vulnerable, incomplete, disconnected from the world. It was the last straw. I was on the brink of losing it. I was just about to let out a naked, blood-curdling primal scream when I saw that I was at my friend’s exit. Right off of which was a blessed Starbucks. A miracle. Where isn’t there a Starbucks? Can you think of a place where there isn’t a Starbucks? So I decided on a caramel mocha latte instead of screaming.

A second miracle awaited me inside. The bathroom was vacant! That’s a rarity at Starbucks (of all places, with all that coffee) with their one-unisex-room accommodations. PTL! It was just what I needed. 

If the vacant restroom wasn’t miracle enough, when I ordered my drink I discovered another miracle. I had earned the holy number of Stars. Lo, all things come together for good. My drink was free! I was healed, instantly. It was like all those bad things in my morning never happened. It’s such a blessing to know that Starbucks is always there for us, everywhere, with its 22,000 points of light around the earth.

It makes me feel a lot better about the thousand dollars a year, at least, that I spend there on my daily fix.

Everybody at the party was high.

I mean their voices were, from inhaling helium like Helen Mirren and Jimmy Fallon are doing in the YouTube video below. Be prepared to hurt yourself laughing.

I didn’t want to go to the party. I was newly sober. Facing life without the anesthesia I’d been used to for twenty years, alcohol, was putting me into system overload. At the time I didn’t think it was possible to even be at a party without drinking, since I hadn’t done it in twenty years. Most of all I didn’t see how it could possibly be fun. Then they brought the helium tank out and people went up and inhaled and talked, something I had never seen or heard. It brought the house down, me with it. I never laughed so hard.

The night of that party, thirty-two years ago, was the night I learned that life can still be fun without alcohol. In fact it’s infinitely more fun. I’m glad my friend Joanne, the hostess, forced me to go. She said I’d be surprised how much fun it would be, and she was right. When I saw her go up in her elegant cashmere and Levis ensemble and talk to us like Daffy Duck, tears rolled down my face and my ribs hurt from laughing.

At the end of the evening we all wrote notes on small slips of paper and stuffed them into balloons, then inflated them and released them into the night sky. There we were huddled together in the dark, sending our wishes and hopes and dreams and blessings out to the universe—like we do in life, I guess. I scribbled my fondest hopes of being a wonderful mother and competent provider, and more, in sobriety and stuffed them in and sent them up. When all the balloons had been released it grew quiet, and we stood together and looked up, watching the spheres of color get smaller and smaller until they disappeared, bringing our fragile longings and our passions far away with them, into the mystery of the night. We felt close to each other.

I’ve been to a lot of parties since Joanne’s, but never another like that. No more helium, no balloons bearing messages to the universe, no soliloquys in cartoon voice. That was my unforgettable party of parties, hands down. A great launch into my decades of sobriety.

Th-th-th-th-That’s All Folks.

WARNINGS (in light of what we’ve learned in the last thirty years). Do not release balloons into the atmosphere: they are hazardous to animals, which can choke on them and become entangled. Do not inhale helium, as it can seriously deprive people of oxygen and cause anoxia and other serious conditions.