Day 24 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I’m always happy to share another cup of coffee with the community. There’s something so warm and soothing sharing coffee and conversation with someone who’s truly with you in the moment. It’s like being wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years before retiring. I’ve had more than a few cups of coffee, too many for my health. My mug was never empty. It was good while it was good. Now the coffee I do drink is decaf and I always love a cuppa. If you were here with me, what could we talk about today?
I could probably wear your ear off with my chatter. I can get excited about the most mundane things, those very, very ordinary moments of daily life. I am captivated by thoughts and dust mote in sunlight. And if we were sitting at my dining room table, I would tell you about tablecloth that was years in the making. It started out as block building out of my extensive stash of material collecting. I had no destination, no end product in mind. Everything just evolved. I found the material was excellent to paint and embroider on. The blocks were perfect for story telling. Some are sewn together for a rich tapestry. Others are stand alones, each with their own story.
Life is like that, one block building onto another. And then you have history and stories to tell. Coffee and conversation are wonderful, isn’t that so?
It’s a cool damp day with gentle snow that melts on the way down. No sun at all. The greenhouse has been able to keep the temperature above 0. It reached the high of 11.5℃ but is now on the decline. Everything there is happy still, each wearing their overnight covers. I made good use of old pots, row covers and old tablecloths from the Dollar Store. The low tonight is -9℃. We’ve survived -18℃, so no worries. Everything is going to be all right, just like Bob Marley sang.
I’ve been languid and listless all day. I did not fight it. I’m still processing the death of my 3rd uncle. He passed on Friday. My cousin’s email in loving memory of her father stirred up many memories and emotions. He was my mother’s older brother. All of her siblies are in NYC. There were 7 of them. Now there’s four. My mother is the only one here in Canada. We have a large extended family. I have a whole slew of cousins from my mother’s side in the U.S. I envied my cousins being in such close proximity to each other.
Though we’ve made only a few trips there over the years, I still feel the strong bond of family and kinship. My mother kept it alive with her many stories. My being the oldest, I heard the most stories and learned the most of our family history. They are good stories to warm the heart and soul on a cool wet and dreary day. Rest in peace, Third Uncle. You would’ve approve and enjoy our greenhouse.
The jukebox is playing in my head again. It’s been playing Burton Cumming’s Stand Tall all day. I wonder if it’s a message for me. Hmmm.
I‘m trying. I have been standing tall all my life and alone. Well, since I could stand on my own. So when would that be – a year old? It’s a long time anyways. There’s this story that all the old aunties used to tell me when I was growing up in China. The story was that my father had thrown me out onto the steps in a fit of temper when I was 2 years. That was shortly before he left for Canada. It was 6 years before my mother and I were reunited with him in Hong Kong.
Sometimes I wonder if I felt any sense of abandonment hearing this story. Did it have a big impact my life or the development of my character? The old aunties and my own paternal grandmother had remarked on my ‘bad’ temperament over the years. They said no man would have me because of that and the scar on my arm. I certainly have felt and suffered my guilt for lack of ‘good qualities’ most of my life. I attributed that to being female. Now I wonder about those stories.
I am tired of all those feelings wherever they came from. I’m grown up now. I provide for myself. I’ve held down a responsible job for many years. I pay taxes and my own bills. I demand nothing from anyone. I’ve taken full responsibility for my life. That’s all I’m responsible for. There’s no need for me to keep those feelings. I can stand tall and let them all fall.
One day post Canada Day is a good time to declare my own independence, my autonomy from those stories told by old aunties and my self inflicted suffering. It’s time to tell myself new stories.
My morning self is a more positive side even in this sea of grief that we are presently in. At some point last night, I had to stop watching the vigil honouring the Humboldt Broncos. Otherwise, it would be difficult to extricate myself from overwhelming sadness. As it is the thoughts of the accident and deaths are always there, just beneath the surface.
April can be such a hard month. The sky is grey. It is snowing. Spring is not ready to show itself. On this morning memories of other tragic accidents surface. Young lives were lost in those motor vehicle mishaps from high school days. We were given the information at the time. Someone died. But there was no counselling and talk sessions after. Perhaps it is better now to have all this media coverage. We need to hear all the stories as much as the people need to tell them. So good that there’s emotional and psychological support available to people so quickly. We have come a long ways in dealing with trauma.
I shall meander through this time as best as I can. It is not my sadness but we all share the same space, breathe the same air. We are all bonded in our humanity. Let me not shy away from what is here. It is not my sadness. It is not my story but I can sit and listen. I will shed some tears but I will be okay.
I was never one of the nurses who counted down the years, months, weeks, days, hours, the minutes till retirement. I think I must have loved my job. If it was so intolerable that I have to do the counting, I am sure I would have quit and found another job. I hit such a critical point early in my career. After suffering enough doctor and head nurse abuse, I quit right then without another backup job. I was never afraid of not finding work.
Nursing must be was what I was supposed to do for I found myself back in it not long after. I was aghast. I thought it was not where I want to be again. I never thought of myself being the ministering angel. I was definitely not the lady with the lamp type. I entered the profession solely to help me develop confidence with people. I was a shy timid wallflower. What better job than being a nurse in a hospital?
I think I fulfilled my goal of gaining confidence. My second job in nursing was in a large university teaching hospital with many departments and people. I got some backbone and learned to deepen my voice. I tried to cut out my squeaky ‘excuse me(s) after being told by a kindly resident. “For heaven’s sake, Lily, speak up and don’t say excuse me,” he chided. “Be more assertive!” With time I became that. I was not quite as tough as nails but neither was I soft as marshmallows.
Over the years, I must have turned Florence like. Once upon a time, I had hoped to regale stories from my years upon retirement. But to my dismay when the time came, I held no memories nor the desire to recall them. They were all bad.I was in full anxiety. Now some time has passed and so too, my PTSD. Yup, it’s my own diagnosis of my post retirement predicament. Well, I am/was a nurse. I know or should know the symptons.
A few pleasant memories are seeping back. I don’t need to feel tough as nails anymore. I’m hoping to feel soft as a marshmallow. I remember some of the reasons why I stayed in the profession. It is the soft whispers of the patients in the night. “Thank you.” ” You have such a gentle touch.” I go from bed to bed and room to room with my torch. I bend over a bed. I straighten a blanket. I fluff a pillow. In the dark, a voice asked me, “Did your mother ever tell you how pretty you are?”
How could I not love that? I melt like a marshmallow.
Saturdays have always been my favourite day of the week as far back as I can remember. One of my chores was to dust on Saturday. The sun lit up the dust on top of the chest of drawers that my father somehow had made. I can’t remember what other chores I had to do that day. I remember helping with the dishes and bringing in coal for the pot belly stove. When my mother was in the hospital having my brother, my grandmother came for a few days. My mother gave me a list of chores which included doing the laundry. We didn’t have a machine so it was by hand.
I think I always associate Saturdays with that sunlit dust. I can still see that beam of sunshine coming through the bedroom window in that little house behind the cafe. Of course not all Saturdays are sunny but they are in my mind’s eye. That little house with the coal shed is also there. Funny how some images stay with you after so many years.
Today was not sunny either but my Saturday sunshine is in me. It’s been a mellow yellow day. So happy that I could get myself to the pool though it was dark as night at 8 am. The University Bridge was lit up in bright Christmas lights of green and red. I wished I could have taken a photo but I was in moving traffic. I was alone and driving. I had not only a lane but the whole pool to myself. Just me, a brand new life guard and no loud music. It was heavenly. I could relax and pretend I was a mermaid. No worry of sharks on my tail. I splashed at my own speed to my heart’s content. I had planned to do a short swim but given that much freedom, I stayed the whole hour. Wouldn’t you?
I stopped in and visited with my mother on my walk with Sheba in the afternoon. Sheba was content to be outside. She preferred the snow rather the blanket I brought for her. I let her be. Kids and dogs. They have minds of their own. My mother was not as chirper as could be. She had her heating pad draped across her shoulders for her aches and pain. Some days are like that. That’s how it is.
She’s excited all three of her orchids are going to bloom. She told me how she saved her goldfish. It was constipated and in distress. What could she do? What do we do for our constipation? Vegetables! Fish eat plants. She chopped up a bit of lettuce for it and cut back the pellet food. It made all the difference. I showed her a picture of my new sewing machine. She was impressed by its size and that it’s computerized. I was surprised to learn that hers had embroidery and other accessories. It is older than my old Kenmore and it is OLD. So many memories when we visit. My mother is a very good conversationist and story teller.
The day has turned into evening. Supper and dishes are done. Saturdays have always been kind to me. Feeling mellow and content.
Mornings are still dark at 7 am. I’m slow at rising. I’m slow at putting on my morning face and coming to the keyboard. I diddle and daddle. Finally I put on makeup, earrings. I put on a pink sweater I haven’t worn in a coon’s age and some reasonable pants. Why do I wear the same ratty old clothes day in and day out when my closet is brimming with stuff? Why don’t I wear a smile more often? The answers could be as simple as habit and laziness. It takes more energy to make choices than to go on auto pilot. My habit has been to grab and don.
Habits and feelings have a habit of seeping back. This morning I am quite aware of it. I’m squirming with the discomfort of it all. I pace, picking up a Kleenex and a napkin left here and there. I gather some laundry to take downstairs to do. Remembering I haven’t checked the clutter in the basement for a few day, I cleared and discarded a few items. When I can’t do big, I do little has become my mantra.
I’m finally here though, tapping on my keyboard. The click, click beneath my fingertips are rhythmic and soothing. Thoughts come and feelings come. I’m pushing through the gloom and the mundane of this morning. I see my glass/day full instead of empty. I’m romancing myself with each tap, tap of the keyboard. I’m creating new thoughts, new habits and new views. I’m telling a different story. What stories are you telling?
Sometimes I feel I’ve been in denial and fear most of my life. This is my brave moment – the awaking and seeing clearly and acknowledging. It is a great moment. At last, maybe I can let go of the frivolous, little petty things and be free to live the authentic life. That’s what I’m thinking, sitting before the fire, listening to the flames crackle, telling their stories to me.
What stories are you telling on this beautiful evening. I know. My stories are getting shorter. Maybe tomorrow I will have more to say.
Here I am, a little later and slower than yesterday. Some days are harder/easier, slower/faster than others. It’s taken me this while to show up for myself. Saving the best for the last as the saying goes. But that’s just a saying, not necessarily the truth. Every bit of life’s journey is the best. I realize the truths when I’m here, tapping out my stories. It’s like the times I have coffee with my mother and Tuesdays with Morrie. Stories have the magic of revealing the things we couldn’t see before. It’s in the telling that the lightbulb gets lit.
There are so many stories. Some are easy and some are hard to tell. I could fill a whole book about my neighbours who have come and gone over the years. I’m sure we all could. The thing with neighbours is that when they come and go, it’s often with sad stories. That is how it has been on the street where I live. Somewhere out there, there’s a song about this, I am sure.
This morning I found a copy of a letter I had taken great pains with to a neighbour. I had forgotten the ugly details of our relationship. Reading the letter reminded me it was bad enough that I thought of selling my house and moving. It was that toxic. Most people didn’t really believe my stories. They thought it was me. Some have told me that they were glad that they didn’t live next to me. I took all those things hard and personally and felt very bad about myself.
What I am learning about myself in telling this story is that I had no confidence in my own judgements. I believed what others tell me who/what I am. I see now that I listened and believed too much of their stories. I listened and took in too much of my neighbours’ woes, sadness, blame. Our fences did not put up any boundaries. Their troubles and sadness were not mine but they became mine.
We can gain wisdom in telling our stories. Sometimes it is only in retrospect that we see how silly we are. I was pretty silly, let me tell you! I am but a small Asian woman. I am not all that powerful. I am not God. Yet I have felt responsible for so many people, things, circumstances. It is only now I recognize I must stop doing this. It is funny how a letter can be such a lightbulb moment.
Thank you Ruth for inspiring me to write the letter. I see by it that I was/am a thoughtful and considerate person. I was not responsible for you.
It is exactly Frinday and time for Friday Fictioneers. We gather each week to tell our stories of approximately 100 words inspired by a photo prompt. We are hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields of Addicted to Purple. Here’s my 100 words this week. My story is inspired also by being lost most of my life. I have no sense of direction. Sometimes it makes for good stories. Thank goodness for Google map.
The rain came in torrents, drumming down on the roof. She could hardly think. She covered her ears with her hands, lowering her head on the steering wheel. Thank God she was alone! There was no witness to her inepitude.
She sat. There’s no need to rush. There’s no place to go. She was lost! Worse, she couldn’t figured out which button/lever to turn on the wipers. There was no manual. She checked. She couldn’t find the radio either.
She should have checked it all out before she left the rental place. Should have, could have. The beat goes on.