Tilling and Toiling : A Perfectionist’s Weekly Diary

A perfectionist? I don’t think so. No, not at all. Well, you’ll need to tell me how you see me as it relates to that term, then I’ll comment.”

“When you say comment, you actually mean disagree. That’s okay, too. That is indicative of your perfectionism. You need to find the exact word, even if it’s not your thought or sentence to edit.”

“Wow. Ouch. It is a good thing we are best friends and I can take a hit.”

“Sylvia, oh, you can clearly take a hit – the mark of a true perfectionist – you hit yourself, beat up on yourself, condemn yourself, and submit to your own judgments and self-imposed punishments endlessly.”

“Again, wow. I know I have major work to do, but you must admit, I haven’t given up, so that is something. Don’t you agree?

“Something? It is everything. It’s simply perfect in fact.”

Let’s all agree that perfect does not exist. We are not here to be perfect. We are here to till and toil, plant and cultivate, and do a whole lot of weeding. And just when we think we are done, it is time to dig a bit deeper – if we are lucky.

How does your garden grow?

Can you tell?
She’s digging deep.

Uncovering what she was and discovering who she left behind. Creating herself one day at a time.

Sundays, she tills. With soul. With faith. The tears born from overwhelming grief water the ground beneath her as she turns and digs.

Mondays, she plows. Preparing to cultivate a field of fear and trepidation. With each upending and fold of the ground beneath her, she strews hope.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays, she sows. Not always pretty and patterned. Frequently not, in fact. Necessarily scattered.

Ah, Thursdays. Her day perhaps. To rearrange. To tidy. To make sense of the beginning. To anticipate fertile ground.

Fridays. Thank God they are? She thinks so. Tilled, plowed, germinated. She waits. Fearfully yet faithfully. 

Saturdays. Stop.

Another hole to dig. This one deeper than the last.Another field ahead. This one vaster than the last. The tears are more abundant than the week before.

Another stop. Grief and joy intermingled.

Sunday once more. Fertile ground. More fecund. More prolific.

She’s digging deeper.
Can you tell?

Germinating not Ruminating

Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. overfiftyandfine

Cheers to Hemingway and Not Being Hadley

Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris on a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge, and drink gin with abandon.
(Mrs. Hemingway, a novel by Naomi Wood)

Summer, 2021. Taking mid-afternoon refuge on the deck once again. An ocean breeze, a book, and a little Pinot Gris to satisfy the weekend.

To your health, happiness, and good fortune, friends.

Sipping Summer

The Free-Fall Zone

“Sometimes we fall, Sylvia. That’s just the way it is,” Erma informs her friend in a calm yet authoritative voice.

“Oh, I’m falling. That I know. I have bumps, bruises, and cuts. I’m worn, weathered, and yet I am becoming more and more curious about this abyss of time in front of me, hanging over me, and likely beyond me and my imagination. Sometimes I actually welcome the path of the abyss – full of meanderings, gulleys, and hidden impediments. At least I know I’m not tripping over my own two feet. There is a quiet comfort in that.”

Erma, never surprised but always somewhat unsteadied by Sylvia’s musings, sighs. She pauses. She is digesting her friend’s perspective.

“Ah, Sylvia, you describe the free-fall perfectly. You never see rock bottom, perhaps because deep down you know that there is no end to the abyss.”

“Could be, Erma. Or maybe I’m just looking up the entire time I’m falling.”

For now, don’t look down.

We fall into an abyss and automatically we assume an absence of light. An interminable darkness. After all, that is the definition of abyss, right? A Saturday stroll has Sylvia thinking about how others might view her in this abyss of time. Right here, right now, it is not so bad. She has found a place of light.
****************
“A photograph offers us a glimpse into the abyss of time.”
~John Updike
****************

Roots of Vulnerability

“You were away for quite awhile, Syl. Are you well-rested?”

“Not at all. I’m exhausted. Two weeks of caregiving and then some self-care of the best kind.”

“I’m happy that you recognize the need to care for yourself. However, wherever, whenever, and with whom you choose to refuel are secondary to the need. Good for you.”

Sylvia took care of an aging family friend and realized the fragility of life. She learned that tough love is still love.

She decompressed on the beach, walked the shore, bid farewell to the days as she watched the sunsets, and slept soundly. She even managed a delicious dream or two.

Meeting with both old and new friends who shared their stories, she became acutely aware of her insecurity but also extremely cognizant of that which set her apart from others. Early morning walks and play with canine companions, adventurous rides on a jet ski enjoying the vastness of Lake Michigan, and sipping wine and swapping stories, Sylvia then shared with Erma the greatest lesson of all – the epiphany she had amidst the sunflowers. “I am deeply rooted in vulnerabilities – we all are – and in them, I’ve found my gifts. I’ll let you decide for yourself what they are, Erma. I know what’s inside.”
****************

Standing tall and Finding the sun

There’s something in this world that makes you happy– find it; do it; breathe it in; let it wash over you; simply hold it; stare at it; bask in it; enjoy it; keep it to yourself. Or, share it. It’s the beginning of something – at least another glorious summer’s day. I’m starting to recognize my happy, and I wish the same for you.

Read What You Cannot See

Erma reads it, looks at the video clip, and laughs. “I’m fairly certain Emily was talking about how poetry set her free.”

Sylvia, at first nodding in placid agreement, then quips, “Well, you got the gist, Erma. Others might, too, if they read and don’t just look at the pictures.”

Ever the realist, Erma tells Sylvia that she might be hoping for too much. “People want quick, easy, not too much thinking.”

“I know, Syl, but just for today – this last Monday in June – I’m putting aside my cynicism and counting on all of the women who are ready to set aside convention and set themselves free.”

Erma, once again tickled by Sylvia’s newfound optimism, has one final thought to leave with her friend before she heads back home. “From dirty to flirty, lickety-split? I guess that’s not too prosaic, although I’d hardly call it poetic.”
🐦🦚💐🐦🦚💐🐦🦚
They shut me up in Prose –

As when a little Girl

They put me in the Closet –

Because they liked me “still” –

Still! Could themself have peeped –

And seen my Brain – go round –

They might as wise have lodged a Bird

For Treason – in the Pound –

Himself has but to will

And easy as a Star

Look down upon Captivity –

And laugh – No more have I –
~Emily Dickinson

Ever Faithful

The last two decades, Sylvia has risen each day knowing there is work to do – in life, for others, and for and on herself. Lots of work! On extraordinarily tough days, Erma commends her. “See, you didn’t give up. You put one foot in front of the other, and you made it through.”

“Did I really though?” Sylvia wonders. “Am I optimistic about the future? Do I remain hopeful? Am I keeping that hope ‘perched in the soul’ as Emily contends?”

“Optimism and hope are different, my friend. Each day they look different because no two days are ever the same,” Erma tells her matter-of-factly.

And after another swallow of the coffee that has been growing cold in front of her, Sylvia considers her trusted confidante’s statement. “Yes, I do believe you are right, Erma. I guess what really keeps me going is faith; that’s the difference,” Sylvia determines.


Erma, feeling proud once again that she has successfully imparted some of her hard-earned wisdom, sums it all up as she finishes her last cup of morning brew. “Yes, indeed, Syl. Faith makes all the difference. Faith in yourself, faith in the world – you need that in order to feel either optimistic or hopeful. You need faith, in fact, to feel both.”

***********************

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favourable or hopeful view.” Hope is the “expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation.”
(source:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-behind-behavior/201702/whats-the-difference-between-optimism-and-hope)

So Much More

The start to summer has Sylvia and Erma discussing the joys and ravages of basking in the sun, literally and figuratively.

Sylvia: Sun on my face. Sand between my toes. Fresh ocean air.

Erma: Sweat dripping from my brow. Sand in my car. The lingering taste of salt in my mouth.

Sylvia: Long walks enjoying plush, verdant paths. Sun-kissed cheeks. Evening cocktails on the patio.

Erma: Bees and bug bites. Crow’s feet and weathered skin. Sugary spills and the ensuing march of ants.

“Well, aren’t you the definition of a curmudgeon? A true crank,” remarks Sylvia.

Erma, tongue-in-cheek and with her signature sarcastic tone, lobs back, “Yep, that’s me. Ageless and timeless, my dear.”

“What? Ageless? Timeless? Those choice words are used to describe a woman’s looks,” Sylvia counters.

Erma, ever the teacher and always poised to debunk her younger friend’s perceptions, staves off any further commentary in one thought-provoking and accurate analysis. “Who says that ageless and timeless have anything to do with looks? Both are so much more!”


Less is More

“She tells her story in her face. When her life comes to an end, she can only hope that others see what she aspired to – a life well-lived and well-loved with some very juicy parts that kept her going.” ~ K. Morgan


Intoxicated

To begin the day with choices, her choices alone, and the fresh ocean air proved the most intoxicating elixir for her mind, body, and spirit.

Today – and who knows, tomorrow too, perhaps – she stands with her soul ajar.

Oh, Emily, I think you have known me in so many ways all along.
****************
“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”
~Emily Dickinson
****************

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Don’t Stand in the Doorway

Up early, coffee-inspired, dressed, and ready to cross the threshold into a new day, Sylvia smiles at the prospect of the here and now.

In our 20s, we live with anticipation and energy; the goals (for most of us) are to make tomorrow come faster, have fun today, and remove ourselves from what we looked like yesterday.

The 30s hit and we live with hope that tomorrow will be easier; today we will get ahead a bit or at least stay afloat and that our mistakes from yesterday will not be repeated.

The 40s for many of us are wrought with anxiety and fear that tomorrow we will find that we do not have enough of anything – time, money, love or patience. Today we went through the motions and have little recall of what actually transpired. We long for the lack of accountability and responsibility we had in our youth – yesterday was not so bad.

Ah, our 50s and 60s? Well, we live with intention and purpose. Tomorrow is getting close and it promises nothing, so we focus on what absolutely must be accomplished today. Today we will carve out a little bit of time for ourselves, even if it’s only a second to reflect, breathe, write, or have a bit of conscious “me” time, for yesterday, though we intended to do just that, time slipped away and we cannot get it back.

And here’s where Sylvia & Erma stop and welcome the many wise and witty friends of a certain maturity to add their two cents which has infinitely greater value than anything either of the gals could pretend to know or even imagine.

This Sylvia knows: tomorrow is not guaranteed and yesterday is done. Here and now is all we have!

💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐

With Erma’s steadfast friendship and support, Sylvia has come to believe that she has the strength and power to sprout wings on the way down. Today, both admonish the danger of standing in the doorway. The gals recommend crossing the threshold into here and now. No hesitation.
*********************

Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt. You can’t fear the in-between.
~Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Normal is Overrated

Erma: How often now do we hear people say this or that is the “new normal”?

Sylvia: Lots. It is the term du jour. Admittedly, I find myself using it without much thought, especially this past year. The pandemic created it.

Erma: Normal? What is normal? People mean ordinary, commonplace, and accepted. I guess that translates into living with rudeness and bad behavior for some.

Sylvia: Erma, that is exactly why we need and crave a “new normal”. A kinder and more humane way of life.

Erma: Oh, you are describing how we should have been all along!

Sylvia: Yes. Let’s dream it, practice it, and shape it into a way of life. I’m all for the “new normal” which apparently is a return to good, old-fashioned kindnesses and decency.


Now is our chance to do better, be better, and embrace our new normal, don’t you think?


“It is futile to judge a kind deed by its motives. Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.”
~Eric Hoffer