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


Blow Me a Kiss

Sylvia woke this morning to a teeming rain with little hope of seeing the sun today; and for a while, she couldn’t get the “Annie” tune out of her head. She hummed silently and repeatedly, “The sun will come out tomorrow…”

She busied herself. Saturday morning chores ))nally raised her head from her routine a few hours later and realized that Annie was no longer belting out “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow,” she noticed the sun accepting the open door the clouds had left ajar. “No need to ever wait for tomorrow,” she thought. “There is joy right here in this second. I better blow it a kiss while I can,” she told herself.

And as the sun grew stronger and its beams broke through the dark sky closing the door on the clouds behind it, she knew that the sun never really leaves us. Joy, even fleeting moments – especially fleeting moments – are right here and there waiting to be kissed.
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Kiss the Joy

He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sun rise.~
William Blake

All materials copyright. 2021.

Jelly Donut Love: It’s About the Filling

Sylvia: I’m thinking about life right now in terms of jelly donuts.

Erma: Of course you are. Everyone should think of life that way. Sweet and full.
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One year ago today, while I held my father’s hand as he left this earth with the same strength, dignity, and humility that I imagine he entered with, I thought, “Why? Why now?” And after reflection with my son and conversations with God and those in my circle, I realize that the point is not how he died or even that he died. The key is how he lived. With integrity. With conviction. With zest and appreciation. With gratitude and intention. With love. With LOVE. Jelly donuts, folks.

And now I know. My father’s purpose and legacy is one that is so simple, so timely, and so easily missed if you haven’t been paying attention. Jelly donuts.

My father was raised by a man who emigrated from Russia in 1916. A slight, sweet man who raised a family and worked hard to provide. A man, a zayde, who trekked to Cousin’s bakery (New Britain, CT) to pick up jelly donuts and bulkies for his grandchildren. My father, Sam, learned from his father, Jack, the importance of jelly donuts. Jelly donuts every Sunday morning, rain or shine. Jelly donuts equalled love.

So, Dad, like his father, brought his four children jelly donuts every Sunday along with hard rolls and Breakstone butter. (Truth be told, a dozen mixed including jellies for him, two plain for Mom, and glazed, chocolate frosted, and sprinkles for the kids.) Every Sunday. When his children began to have children, Sam became Pop-Pop and would make the rounds to his grandchildren. Jelly donuts. Love.

When my father was declining, I never thought about my actions. I just did. I went into auto pilot. Comfort and consistency. Dad loved his jelly donuts. From Cousins bakery in New Britain to Village Bake House in Niantic to O’Henry’s in Morgan Hill to Dunkin on Cape, we devoured, savored, and indulged in jelly donuts. And I vowed when my father left my home that he would never go without a jelly donut! I’d like to think he never did.

Jelly donuts. Love. Giving and receiving of both. THAT is my father’s lesson and legacy.

Dad, the first man who had my heart❤ Missing you terribly, but I’d like to think that you and Mom are enjoying your favorites today and fighting over the crossword.
****************
“To love and have been loved. That is the essence of a life well-lived.” ~ (K. Morgan)

Sweet filling. Oh, to be savored!

First Things First

As Sylvia prepares for another first, Erma reminds her that all of us are experiencing firsts again. New day. New perspective. Fresh cup of coffee. Even the things that are done ritualistically have a freshness to them.

It’s a perfect day to re-read a favorite and find a little something new in it to feed your spirit and/or cleanse your soul. Soak it in or let it go. It’ll be the last first of its kind.

https://overfiftyandfine.com/2018/08/05/the-best-and-worst-of-firsts/

Saturday Simplicity

Fine. Really. No worries. K?

Fine. Just fine.

Sylvia: Why do we say that? We all do. “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” “How’s the family?” “Fine.” “Work?” “Fine.” Seriously, what is fine?

Erma: God, you are cranky sometimes, Sylvia. Fine is,well, fine. It’s okay. Fine means the status quo is being maintained. If everything is fine, there’s nothing to worry about, I guess. Why do you ask?

Sylvia: It bothers me. Fine is such an empty response, and I rather believe that nothing is fine. We all hide behind fine because we don’t want others to know how not fine we really are.

Erma: Well, I don’t think we hide behind it. I think we use it because it’s quick, easy, and serves the purpose of providing a response to a question that most people ask merely out of politeness. Think about it. Does the clerk at the checkout at Safeway truly care how my day is going? Does the plumber, who rings my doorbell at 8 a.m. knowing that I have called his answering service in the middle of the night with just the right amount of histrionics to warrant being moved up to his first call of the day, does he truly want to listen to how unfine I really am? No, of course not. Cases-in-point of simple niceties, Sylvia.

Sylvia: That’s just it, Erma. I’m kind of over simple niceties. I don’t want to hear one more. Wait. Let me amend that to say that I despise hearing that reply from someone who is close to me. I will no longer placate those who claim to care for me with a simple fine. And to boot, if I ask you- someone whom I trust, care about, and see fit to spend inordinate amounts of time with on a regular basis, know that my expectation exceeds niceties. Give me all you’ve got- for better or worse. I can take it. Actually, I expect nothing other than the truth, raw and honest, even brutal, given that we are friends, family, on the cusp of, or in the midst of a meaningful relationship.

Erma: Oh my God, okay, enough, I get it. You don’t like fine. You don’t want fine. Nix “fine” and bring on…bring on what?

Sylvia: Bring it on. Whoever you are, whatever you feel, give it to me straight. Our friendship can handle it. The world can handle it.

Erma: And what if the world can’t. What if I can’t?

Sylvia: Then, fuck it. REMEMBER? I told you a while back that most of life can be summed up in a word or two.

Strong Women

Sylvia: Erma, I’m always so damn emotional.

Erma: You are emotional because you feel deeply. All strong women do!

“A strong woman is one who feels deeply and loves fiercely. Her tears flow as abundantly as her laughter…”
(Native American saying)

#strong #empowered #bffs

Sylvia’s Measurements

I know. I know. Most of you are probably thinking that because we are a month into summer, Sylvia and Erma are preparing to rant about swimwear, body image expectations, and disappointments in both. Nope. Not at all. While Erma has accepted that the hourglass form she once coveted has erupted into collagenless dunes, so much so that she avoids the mirror for anything other than lipstick application, Sylvia is only mildly disappointed in her glow this year. Though a little less than satisfied with the topography that this past year has mapped onto her flesh given the angst and havoc being wreaked globally (let alone her corner of the world), Sylvia is not sizing herself up like that. At all. She’s measuring life in memories and moments– not inches or centimeters. Sylvia finds herself missing little things, simple tidbits that she thought would be a part of her life but that she hasn’t experienced at all yet. She also laments huge unfathomable and immeasurable losses this year. A tape measure, a scale, a barometer? No, none of those will suffice, even superficially.

Erma: How can you miss something you’ve never known, Sylvia? Why do you torture yourself with wanting the unknown? Remember, the grass isn’t always greener.

Sylvia: Don’t you know by now that I can’t give up. I won’t give up. It’s not a matter of the grass being greener. It’s not even that I want morsels of life that are out-of-reach. What I’m missing are pieces of life that I eagerly anticipated, those which I thought I’d have to look back on by now. I don’t miss memories of times or places I have visited. I miss those memories that I thought I would have made by now- that I should have made by now.

Erma: See, that’s the problem. You set a schedule, a timeline for your happiness-years ago- never factoring in life changes.

Sylvia: That’s just plain silly. Of course, I anticipated changes. I knew I’d graduate. I knew I’d work. I knew I’d become a mother and a wife and a million other things. I factored change into the life equation as a variable.

Erma: Ah, there it is. That was the mistake. Well, maybe not a mistake but surely a misguided assumption. Change isn’t a variable at all. Change is a constant. Everything else is a variable!

Sylvia: Working. Motherhood. Marriage. Relationships. They have consistently made up my days. They most certainly have felt like constants- cores of my being.

Erma: I fear you’ve really missed out on how to assess your decades or even if those years need to be examined, quantified, and qualified, my friend. I never thought you quite so naïve.

Sylvia: I don’t think it is naivete at all. I simply never factored in death – the demise of relationships and final goodbyes of those I loved deepest. I say “simply” but it’s anything and everything but simple.


Those moments and memories that Sylvia feels she’s missed out on? They are not inconsequential, but what she has learned and continues to navigate is they aren’t everything. She has made choices, set priorities, and picked her figs from the tree as they have been dangled or dropped before her. Perhaps what Sylvia feels she has missed in life is not lacking at all. She has time, not to regret or reshape memories but to make more. She is finally realizing that life is not one tree with many branches; life comprises many trees from many different orchards.

Erma: Stop trying to measure. Inches. Centimeters. Pounds. Barrels. Bushels. Baskets. So many ways to quantify everything. And I’d rather believe that life is not made to be measured at all, not by what we have or what we don’t have. Life is meant to be savored- in totality- after all or most of the fruit has fallen or been picked from the tree. You’ve eaten the plump and juicy, tasted the bruised and rotten parts, and made a whole lot of juice.

Stop measuring. Squeeze out the juice. Press on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Lost & Found

Erma: It’s been a decade, right? Since your mom passed?

Sylvia: Yes, ten years in the blink of an eye. She must have been counting the days.

Erma: Yes, she undoubtedly wanted him home with her. They had been apart for too long. They were ready to be reunited and to live the eternity they had promised each other.

Sylvia: I wasn’t ready though. I’m still not. I don’t know how to navigate the rest of the journey. I’ve gone from devastated to lost.

Erma: Time. The only answer. It won’t heal but it will carry you. It will give you the life jacket you need from time to time to endure the waves that will pummel you at the most inconvenient and unexpected moments. 

Sylvia: I don’t need a life jacket. I’m not drowning. I told you I feel lost. I’m numb, shivering, in a blinding snowstorm, and I have no idea of what is ahead.

Erma: None of us knows, Syl. That’s where the notion of faith enters. And you are so far from lost– lost suggests that there is something to be found. There is nothing to be found and everything to be felt.

Sylvia: Oh, okay, then I’m right on track.

It’s been a month of Sundays since he passed, figuratively of course. Much longer in reality, and certainly it feels even more like an eternity. I’m not paralyzed or empty or broken. I’m numb. 

Every morning I awake hoping that I’ll complete the journey- the journey for which none of us is ever fully prepared- the journey off and away from the path of grief and sadness. Most people describe grief and its effect as wave-like; it ebbs and flows. It washes over you. It brings you under and makes it hard to catch your breath; and as soon as you stand and catch your breath, another wave knocks you down. It’s not a wave, not a ripple or a tsunami. It is more like the breathlessness you experience on a sub-zero day in the middle of January up north. This grief, this numbness, is totally different than any other I’ve ever felt. I can’t fully compare it to anything, not yet, because I know I haven’t lived through it completely. I doubt I ever will. Although if I had to liken this trek and its encumbrances to a relatable situation, I would imagine how one feels at a “Lost & Found” bin or depot. Hopeful yet aware of impending disappointment. Each morning I wake up headed to the lost and found. 

The phone rang last night. A message was left. “Your belongings have turned up. We are holding them for you at the ‘Lost & Found‘ window. Come at your earliest convenience.”

So, I awake with a controlled eagerness to pick up what has been left. After all, it is mine. It has been left for me to retrieve. I shower, get dressed, and off I go. On my way to the “Lost & Found” today. Every day for a month of Sundays. 

The journey has not taken me away or off the path. I have yet to retrieve what I believed belonged to me. I have yet to find wholeness. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps it is never to be found. But for now, I’ll keep listening to the message each night on the machine. I will keep getting up to see if the depot actually has what belongs to me. What needs to be reclaimed. I will live with the numbness- not in wave-like motion but in a traipse, much like the plodding of wearing full winter armor in heavy, wet snow on a frigid winter’s day.  And eventually – I hope anyway- faith will melt the snow away from the path.

I hope I will recognize what it is I lost. If not, I hope I find the strength to delete the message and move forward.  

Perspective

Don’t mistake her absence for darkness. In fact, it may be just what she needed to make her light shine brighter. A reminder to many but mostly to herself of her presence.
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“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Feeling Whole

Erma has been overwhelmed and more than anything else desires time to herself- time to inhale, exhale, and repeat. Sylvia craves space of her own- both mental and physical room. Time and space provide each of them the framework within which they can refuel and remain whole.

Take an hour. Take a day. Take a week. Walk outside. Sit in a café. Treat yourself to a spa day- even if it’s makeshift in the privacy of your own home. Whatever you need to make yourself feel whole, discover what that is and do it. Now!

You cannot be whole without the time and space to feel all that you are feeling!

“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy, it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.” ~Henri Nouwen