The Gift

The-Gift-WEB

Clunk. 

Laying the book down on her lap, she turned her head so that her good ear was aimed toward the sound.

Again, another clunk.  

Not knowing what else she could do, she waited with the still patience of a deer in the woods; her heart pounding as if it were the instrument of a mad drummer.

Then, her husband called out, “I’m home.  Where are you?”

“Upstairs,” she replied putting her hand to her chest.  “In the pink bedroom.  You’re home early.”

“Yeah, the meeting ended earlier and traffic was light.  I’ll be up in a minute.”

A smile played its own rhythm across her face as she swept her hand through her gray hair.  I’m glad he’s home early.

As the minutes passed, the sharp clank of dishes revealed the location of his delay.  As she was wondering what could he possibly be doing in the kitchen, he suddenly appeared in the doorway.  There he stood looking like a high school suitor with a vase of flowers held out; the wrinkles around his eyes made him all the more charming.

“A gift of lovely flowers for a lovely lady,” he crooned as he placed the vase on her nightstand.

“As I was driving, I found myself getting excited as the miles brought me closer to home.  I know you have been having a hard time lately thinking about all the extra work that falls on me because of your disease.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought about you.  Because of you, I am a better person.  Because of you, I wake up every morning with a smile on my face.  Because of you, I love being married.  I love you, and given the choice, I would marry you again – wheelchair and all.  You. . .you are a gift to me.”

 

 

 

Life Doesn’t Always Have to Be Good

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How many of us are done?  Done with the demonstrations, the riots, the “Build the Wall” chants, the Islamaphobia, the cry to dismantle elements of our constitution, and done with hatred in general.  I am.  Somehow, everything has been turned upside down.  It seems as if everyone is getting into the fray.  Rather than working towards peace and tolerance, we are witnessing aggression and bigotry.  What happened America?

Somehow, everything has been turned upside down.  It seems as if everyone is getting into the fray.  Rather than working towards peace and tolerance, we are witnessing aggression and bigotry.  What happened America?

What happened to: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Somewhere along the way, a seething, acrid rage began to smolder in our country’s belly.  Hidden behind the smiles and proclamations of acceptance, we ate the poisoned fruit of jealousy and hatred.  Until, finally, with glad relief, we spewed the foul bile from our hearts.  And, what happened then?  Did we look upon our vomit and hastened to sweep it into the trash?  No, instead we declared it good.

“Look!” we cried.  “Finally, my passions of greed, jealousy, lust, pride are unbridled, and I am ecstatic.”

Honestly, how many of us can follow our roots to the indigenous people of this land?  We are an immigrant-founded country.  Yet, we want to close our borders to the “alien,” the “illegal,” and the “refugees.”

We blame others for our failures.  Our appetites are insatiable.  Just like children, we dream of the good life – which has yet to be achieved because it is unachievable.  Our bellies grow as we lust after more.

It is time to grow up, America.  Look in the mirror, and ask yourself In what ways am I responsible for my life?  Am I willing to change?  What can I do be positive?  In what ways do I take offense?  How often does bigotry play a part in my actions and thoughts?

There seems to be a prevailing consensus that life should be good.  Period.  No ups and downs.  No struggles and successes.  No failures.  We want things the way they were – as if our memories are accurate storytellers.

Life doesn’t always have to be good.  In fact, life is pretty darn hard most of the time.  Many of us face financial troubles, relationship dilemmas, or health issues.  Yet, we find ways to cope.  When I look around me, I see potential.  Everyone I encounter has the ability to do good.  No matter what you are experiencing, you have the option to think well of people or to complain and find fault.

Life doesn’t always have to be good for you to be good, to do good, and to think good.

 

Wha’d Ya Say?

 

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Pastel Drawing by Rose Wolfe

 

Not everything is worth saying, much less repeating.  In fact, we should probably spend a lot more time thinking before we let words tumble from our tongue.

A few days ago, I read another FaceBook rant.  Yes, I confess, I try to read everyone’s post.  It is a character flaw of mine.  Somewhere along the way, I developed the belief that if it is worth putting down on paper, then it must have some value, some weight.  After all, it takes initiative to articulate concepts.  Big mistake on my part.

At one point, there was an effort to writing.  Grammar, sentence structure, word choice, spelling – all the old rules of written communication.  While I will acknowledge that there are new ways of communicating and that rules do morph to reflect current trends, I still am stuck on the idea that giving life to words should mean something – something of value.

Instead, we have devolved into a multicultural, international mess of inarticulate, hotheaded, screaming mass.  In this tumultuous time of insanity, an eruption of control grabbing is spewing acidic hate around the globe.  Chants of peace and love have been married to war and hate.  Oh, and yes, we (whomever that might be), we are right.

What does all of this have to do with me, a handicapped woman trying to thrive in her Midwestern town?  Everything.  There are people struggling each day to “cope” with pain, disease, and despair.  All the while, physically healthy people are wasting their time – and mine – finding ways to bash or belittle another person.

So, before, you write another rant about some topic that happened to fall into your mind, take a moment to think.

Wha’d ya say that was worth my time?


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Phil. 4:8

The Day My Daughter Made Me Cry

 

trinity-snow
Art Work by Rose Wolfe

 

My daughter called me the other day.  It was one of those “just to say, ‘Hi,'” phone calls.  Nothing important, no purpose – a lunchtime catch-up.  Although it was a sweet moment, this isn’t what made me cry.

We talked about her job and a recent promotion.  I am very proud of her work ethic and her accomplishments.  I am delighted when others see in her the beauty of her mind and her soul.  My love for her flows to those around her.  She has worked hard to gain the respect she deserves, but this isn’t what made me cry.

Recently, in a moment of high energy, I took a moment to do a little, silly “dance.” It all started as I was leaving the sanctuary and I noticed a friend enjoying the closing song.  Most of the congregation had left, but a few of us remained.   Rising out of my wheelchair, I grabbed my friend’s hand.  Together, as we sang and swayed to the music, adancing-at-churchnother friend joined us.  (My husband caught the moment on his phone and had sent the video to my daughter.)  My daughter and I laughed about the joy of the moment.  As I related the story behind the video, we talked about spontaneous physicality and about how few of these opportunities were available to me.  The energy required to stand and sway is not often possible.  Usually, my heart wants my body to participate, but my disease refuses to comply.  However, this isn’t what made me cry.

She turned the conversation around to me.  “How are you doing?” she asked.  I told her that I was taking a painting class at the local art museum, again.  This time around, the art instructor had demonstrated a technique that had broken a creative barrier for me.  I was elated with the new style and eager to generate some new pieces.  (Maybe even a Christmas gift or two.)   This isn’t what made me cry.

My refusal to give in to my disease keeps me busy (with lots of naps).  Once a month, I attend a writing group.  They are a great group of people, and I told her about the inspiration and constructive insights I have gained from their critiques.  We meet in the late evenings, and I need to take a long nap before I head over to our meetings.  The energy cost is high and the next day is spent in bed.  Nevertheless, this isn’t what made me cry.

Finally, the conversation turned to the progress of my disease.  I told her that I have had more incidents of the falling/slipping out of bed.  My husband springs out of bed and rushes to me as I quietly call out in the middle of the night, “Dennis, help me.  I am falling.”  In addition, I am starting to have trouble sitting up in bed in the morning.  My brain tells my body it is time to wake up; my body refuses to comply.  I cannot sit up or roll over.  I just lie there: observing the war between mind and body.  Again, I need to ask my husband for help.  “Dennis, I can’t sit up.  Will you please come help me?”  As always, my husband responds quickly.  Telling her about this isn’t what made me cry.

When I finished telling my daughter about the physical problems I am having, I said, “I don’t know what I do would if something happened to Dennis.”

Immediately She said, “Mom, you would come to live with us.  Not in our current home.  We would get a different place that would accommodate your needs.”  You guessed it.  This is what made me cry.

 

Looking Through a Glass Darkly

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You just might be wrong.

Because you believe something doesn’t make it true.  Your perception is a reality, not the reality.

Take my uncle for example.  Diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy in his 40s, he was scuttled off to live with his 82-year-old mother.  As soon as he heard the news, he was done.  It was his free ticket to sit all day, watching television, while his mother did all the work. He did nothing – not one thing.

For four years she waited on him.  By the time my grandmother was 86, she needed help herself. So, we made room, and they came to live with my family and me.  Four adults and two children in a three-bedroom ranch. The roles were modified. Now, my grandmother and uncle both sat and watched television from morning to night. They did notPerception
participate in any family events. They did not want to do anything. They did nothing – not one thing. I did all the work. It was okay with me. I did it because it needed to be done. No expectations and no rewards.

So, what was my motivation?  My grandmother and uncle needed help. Neither one had ever been kind to me. It was a fact. I didn’t care. The relationships were determined the moment I was born. (Probably before I was born.)

What does this have to do with truth and perception?  My uncle was a skeptic.  He would tell me I had an ulterior motive. “What motive could I have?” I would ask. “You have nothing. Grandma has nothing.  I am taking care of you because you need a caregiver.”  He never answered the question. He refused to believe that I took them in because they needed help.  He would not (could not?) understand that their lack of grace towards me did not determine my actions towards them.  He could only see life as a reflection of himself.

Grandma’s point of view?  I don’t know.  She would tell me stories of her life. In all of them, she was the sad victim.  I would wipe her tears.  Unhappy and dissatisfied, she looked at life through a glass streaked and stained with misery.

Today, I live wiPerception_edited-2th myotonic dystrophy.  I do not sit all day watching television.  I write, read, and paint.  In addition, I visit people and invite people into my home.  I attend church, a writer’s group, and a painting class.  What do I see?  Hope and love.  Why?  Because my belief is based on a faith in God.

 

Is Inspiration A Bad Thing?

Sunset

“If you don’t know me, then don’t tell me I inspire you,” she wrote.

When I read the above statement, I had to read it a second time.  Wow, I thought, someone has had enough.  I wonder what happened.  Was it a specific “I am fed up” moment?  Or, was her aggravation a compilation of  unwanted “back slappings?” 

Whatever had triggered her reaction, it had denotated an explosion of words.  Her anger told a story of the internal angst that grew to the point of pushing people away.  Obviously, she didn’t feel as if they knew her and her struggles.  Maybe this is what she meant when she wrote, “If you don’t know me, then don’t tell me I inspire you.”

Over the last several years, people tell me I inspire them.  It’s an odd experience because I don’t feel inspiring.  In fact, I am not given to such ideals.  Energy is leaking out of my muscles as if I were running on a bad battery.  With no way to recharge my ions, I am consumed by living – today – in this moment.  I have no alacrity to spend on being inspiring.   My drivers are simple emotions:  don’t give up, do as much as I can, make every moment count, and love and encourage others.

I can’t speak for the author of the above quote.  However, I can tell you about me and what the word “inspire” triggers.  For the first few years, an emotional weight was placed my back the moment someone told me I inspired them.  I felt confused.  What did they mean?  My thoughts were as jumbled as my bewilderment.  Oh, no, they think I am Herculean.  At some point, I will disappoint them.  What do they expect from me?  I am not sure what it is, but I am already carrying a heavy load.  Most certainly, I don’t feel capable of anticipating their needs.  What if I fail at it?  How can I be inspiring when it takes my all to just get through the day?  I wonder what I inspire in them?  Do I motivate them?  Are they galvanized?  If so, to do what?

I guess that was the crux of the problem for me: I interpreted their words to mean that I was fulfilling an unspecified need of theirs.  My perception of the transaction carried a meaning not intended by the other person.  All on my own, I took a kind word and turned it into a duty to perform.

Recently, someone took that burden off my shoulders with a simple qualifying statement.  They said, “You inspire me to keep trying.”  Bells ringing, lights flashing, and clouds whisked away.  Ah, ha, they are inspired.  Whatever they are facing, whatever trouble is looming in their life, they are motivated to keep going.  Good.  I am glad.  They are encouraged.

All along, people have been giving me a gift.  A kind word and a gentle love.  No burden or pressure to perform.  It was never about me doing for them.  They are trying to encourage me, to give me something in return.  They are attempting to make a deposit in my “bank of good feelings.”  It was my goals being lived out in others.

They are galvanized to not give up, do as much as they can, make every moment count, and love and encourage others.  They are inspired.  It is a good thing.

Even if you don’t know me, I hope you are inspired.