37 years of marriage

Wedding_ringsToday, January 15, I have been married 37 years to the same man. Is it long? Is it short? All is relative. Long because that is 61% of the time I have lived – short because human life is short. However, how did it happen?

How is it that while you’re not looking, life happens? From falling madly in love as young teenagers, to being parents to three children, to moving west across the Atlantic ocean, to working the middle-class life, to changing homes a dozen times, to letting go of children, and to welcoming grandchildren? I call it a life flowing along, while caring for each other and kin.

What fills it up are the priorities, the choices, and the experiences along the way. The element of action, taken or not taken. Sometimes in unity, sometimes not. The element of acceptance, with or without explanation. Prompting anger and misunderstanding. The element of expectancy, hoped and wished for. Colliding with unexpected reality.

Doing your best. Every day. And life happens and passes. With and without love. But always in partnership.

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Fairy Tale Inspiration

Growing up in Denmark I heard, read, performed Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and in college I studied them. Since, I have painted some as shown here. His stories are often dark, sad, and scary. As often ancient folk tales told are.

The Little Mermaid becomes sea foam and rises as a spirit to the sky at the end. In the Snow Queen, young Gerda seeks young Kai who was taken by the Snow Queen and has to conquer bad spirits with good spirits to bring him back.  The girl with the red shoes dances herself to death and rises as a spirit at the end. The Little Match Girl freezes to death but joins her beloved grandmother in heaven. Redemption found in spirit.

How much will this fairy tale spirit inspire and influence my storytelling? Who knows? All I know is that I’m drawn to it; that I seek out movies with fairy tale themes; that I’m attracted to the magical realism genre; and that I like the simplicity of written fairy tales.

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Facing my demons

IMG_0381With a new year just around the corner, I fall in the trap of wanting to start on a clean slate with promises of reachable goals. My very first goal is to not drink alcohol in the month of January. I have never made it through the whole month; my best record is two and a half weeks. My second goal is to run three times a week for 30 minutes in the morning (this is besides the Nia Dance I do 1-2 times a week). That never lasts, either. Third goal is to lay off the carbs and eat less bread, which I love; I can leave pasta and pizza alone.  The hard part is I crave carbs in the winter.

So, I have decided to change my goals. This year I will face my demons. I will face the fact that I like a martini and that I like red wine. I will face the fact that I don’t like to run. I will face the fact that I like good bread, especially with butter and cheese. And then I will drink less; I will vacuum the house more often and appreciate that I ride my bike everywhere; and I will enjoy my love of bread.

Next, I will set other goals. To write 8,000 – 10,000 words per month on my novel. To accept that this is my job. To appreciate that page after page is being created. To relish on the fact that I can write. To respect my own storytelling abilities.

At some point I will have a finished draft that will need revision and editing and that excites me. A finished product! Unlike the elusive idea of not drinking alcohol or eating bread while running instead? Where is the product in that? A leaner body, yet a happy one? I will never know, because I’m pursuing an unreachable goal. It is time to reach a reachable goal.

Let the demons play and show their faces and I will catch them and put them in my writing:)

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My mom’s brain

IMG_0437My mother calls me and is unhappy. It is her habit to call me when she is depressed. Then something is missing, mostly her happy feeling is missing. She feels alone. She feels stuck. No matter her situation, she has plenty to complain about: if just…then…

It’s not that she is helpless, it’s because no one is around to complain to, so she calls me. In fact, I wonder whether she complains to anyone else? Like my brother or my sister-in-law? I hear that she doesn’t like to ask for favors and she needs favors, because she cannot drive anymore. She lives with my brother outside of town and cannot get around on her own.

If just I lived near the ocean I could walk along it every day, she says. If just I lived downtown I could shop on my own, she says. Your brother is busy and so is his wife, she says. Often I don’t know when I will see them and I don’t know whether there is food in the fridge, she says. I’m so alone, she complains.

She was living in a senior assisted living complex but she missed the ocean and she missed her old area, where she knows people and where she knows the shops. She used to drive around. Now she lives with my brother a few miles from the ocean and the shops and cannot get there.

I know her brain is not working properly. She lives in the immediate present and gauges her feelings right now. She can’t get around and feels stuck and is unhappy and calls me. At the senior place she was stuck, too, but with many other people, so she was never alone. Not in a physical sense but emotionally, she felt alone there, too.

My theory is she feels abandoned because she never had to survive on her own two feet. She was a young virgin bride, innocent and naïve, following my father for fifty years until he died. Imagine the shock to be on your own at the age of 69. It’s been eleven years and her five children and children-in-law have helped her out, to become independent, to rely on herself, but still, she does not know how. From having her needs automatically met to asking for help is a jump she never has made. The way she deals with this is to complain.

I am left with a feeling of guilt. That I’m not where she is; that I cannot fix her problems; and that I’ve spent so many years trying to make her happy. I tell her I have a cold and that I’m gallery sitting. She doesn’t hear. She keeps talking about her complaints. If only…blah, blah, blah, then she would be fine, absolutely fine. There is nothing wrong with her. She can take care of herself, if only…

I know she pictures herself being very capable and that she thinks she is a victim of circumstances. Somehow, what she remembers of the time she lived alone after my father died, is a life of independence. But it’s not true. My sister-in-law showed her how to write checks and to keep a checking account. My brother checked up on her constantly. I visited her often. She was surrounded by support. She didn’t know. She is still surrounded by support but she doesn’t know and she doesn’t know to ask for help. She says herself: ‘I don’t want to ask because I don’t want to be a bother to anyone!’

Basically, she is stuck in her mind but projects that onto her situation. It is sad and impossible to change. They call it dementia and/or Alzheimer’s but I call it shutting down.

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The Real Dream

IMG_0262What is your real dream? The dream that you will realize? And I’m not talking about the dreamy reality that you may find yourself surrounded by; immersed in; or sustained by. No, the real dream for you is?

This is the challenge: to differentiate between a real dream and dreamy reality. An example: I see myself as an accomplished author, signing books by the thousands and going on national talk shows to promote my bestseller book – that is my dreamy reality because that is what I see as the optimal dream-come-true for a writer.

However, it is not my real dream. My real dream is to enter my writing space and write words by the thousands and have fun with it, every day. My real dream is to be able to do that and to be focused on that. I don’t even think about where that might lead me, because I’m too engaged in the actual process of writing.

I exercise by walking, biking, and dancing, and I meditate by doing yoga and every time, I focus on exactly that and I’m in the moment. Exactly what I demand from my writing. That is my real dream.

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A Life between Choice and Chance

choosing a carrot I subscribe to the New Yorker magazine, to the SUN magazine, and to Poets & Writers magazine. Plenty to read and to learn from. I do not read all at all but skim through, choose an article with content that interests me; happen upon a short story by chance; and then put it away. In fact, I throw out old magazines.

Am I reading the right material? Am I choosing wisely? Who knows? One weekend I read a magazine from beginning to end and indulge the material. It may show up in my own writing some way or other and I’m cool with that. I chose to read that exact material by chance, because I had time and so be it.

Other times, I’m weeks behind with my reading of magazines, because I’m reading novels and watching movies and they enter my consciousness and hide, until one day, they lift their head and make their way into my writing. I’m cool with that, too.

Do I ever find I choose deliberately what to read? Yes. For instance, the bloggers I have chosen to follow will feed me with useful material. Thank you! Do I ever find I happen upon just the right material? Yes. For instance, when I go to the bookstore, I may happen upon just the right book to read right now!

The life of a writer (and perhaps of anybody) is a life between choice and chance. And as with push and pull, give and take, back and forth, the concept of choice and chance shows us that opposites are intimately connected in order to keep a sense of balance. Instead of feeling split, let them both rule, in turn, without order, and stay calm.

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Older, yes, but fuller life

IMG_1025I belong to the baby boomers and that makes me ‘older’. Like common among boomers, I do not like to grow old. Peter Pan syndrome. But then, what is it to grow old?  The body changes – as it does throughout life (especially for women who go through child births and menopause) – gravity sets in and our biggest organ, the skin, loses elasticity. Weight gain. Liver spots.

Outwardly, I look older and inwardly, I know I am older. However, my life is fuller, richer and more productive than ever. Action. Decisions. Creativity. All part of my life now. Weird. With children at home, the same was the case. Action. Decisions. Creativity. But centered around the kids, not centered around me. The perspective has shifted and it feels different.

Almost like moving from a one-dimensional perspective to a multi-dimensional one. Not bad. Just different. From being focused on only the kids and their needs to being focused on what I choose to fancy. And I spread myself thin. So many possibilities, like at the market, when choosing a cereal. But my writing ropes me in and forces me to focus.

Instead of kids it’s about the writing. And all the years I have lived and can write about. And I don’t feel old but alive with ideas, scenarios, characters, plots, and I mix it all together into stories. My mind is full, my heart is rich, and my body is productive.

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