Languishing in a Creative Desert

Your perspective will either become your prison or your passport.

Steven Furtick

Covid has taken its toll on my life in many ways. Thank goodness my family and I remain healthy, but I don’t feel “well” in other ways.  I have lost my creative drive.  I cannot focus on a book for pleasure and my “free time” is often spent watching TV – Hallmark Movies, reruns of Shark Tank, and Guy’s Grocery Games.  I realize that these programs need very little real attention since they are a set format, which is good because my attention span is minuscule.  I am not faring much better in my writing life either as my last blog post was almost three months ago.  

A few days ago, one of my former students posted a video message on Facebook, and the student became the teacher.  Michelle Trifiletti. regularly shares experiences from her journey through life with her followers.  One of her followers made the statement that she wished she had her life “figured out” the way Michelle does.  Michelle took to Facebook to assure us she doesn’t have it all “figured out;” she just has a different perspective. Michelle went on to explain that “things don’t happen to you; they happen for you. They are all in God’s plan to make us into the person we are meant to be  – to learn the lessons we are supposed to learn  to be able to help the people we are supposed to help.” 

Michelle made me realize that it all comes down to trust – trust in the journey –  trust in the process.  As adults we want to be in control; we want to plan and execute the plan; we want to get a certain result.  You would think that by the ripe old age of 62, I would know that control is overrated and plans are meant to be changed, but sometimes we need a reminder. 

So today I am changing my perspective. Maybe I wasn’t languishing in a “creative desert” but rather in a short “hibernation” resting up for a restart and a new adventure. Perhaps all the reasons that I couldn’t focus on reading or writing were happening for me so I could focus on other things that needed my attention. Regardless, I am going to stop trying to figure it out and remember to trust the process.

Thanks, Michelle!

Staying Grounded:Letting Go

Today’s notebooking

How do we stay grounded in the midst of confusion? Somedays I wake up with that thought. How am I going to stay grounded today?

Early on in my daughter’s career as a mental health therapist, she would often listen to her father or me ranting or raving about something going on in our lives. It could have been about any number of topics that in the grand scheme of things were not truly important, yet seemed important ot us at the time. She would listen attentively and when we seemed to deflate to a semi-calm state, she would reach out her hand and say, “Here is your balloon; let it go.” She wasn’t being sarcastic; she was providing us with a visual metaphor for releasing the things that were weighing us down and letting them go.

Today there is a storm moving in (literally), and I can hear the wind whistling and whipping around the house. The lights have flickered once, and the forecast is for stronger winds tonight. Will it be as bad as predicted, or will it pass us by? I have flashlights with fresh batteries, so I am ready for whatever it brings.

I feel like the weather is a metaphor for how life right now is so unpredictable. The forecasts are all slightly different; we are not sure what to expect, and we need fresh batteries every morning to get us through the day.

Have you ever seen someone with a bouquet of balloons struggling against the wind to get them in their car? That’s how we are if we hang on to all the things that are weighing us down. We are struggling to keep everything inside when what we should be doing is letting go of those burdens and hanging on to the things that keep us grounded.

My notebooking page above illustrates the things I am desperately trying to let go of and the things which keep me grounded. If I let my balloons go today, these winds will surely send them far and wide. (Yes, I know they are not good for the environment; it’s a metaphor!)

What balloons are you holding on to? Isn’t it time to release them? Look at your two feet firmly planted on the ground and think about the things that keep you grounded. Then you might be better prepared to weather the storms that may come your way.

Stay well.

Quarantine Playlist

Music is the soundtrack of your life.

Dick Clark

Last night I tuned in to watch One World: Together at Home, a two-hour program of music and uplifting messages from musicians, comedians, and other stars each coming from their own homes.  This morning I planned to write about what lessons I had learned this past week of quarantine, but now there is a new twist. After making a list of some of my favorite performances, I realized that my lessons match up perfectly with some of the songs on my new playlist. I am very thankful for the lessons I have learned this week. 

“Smile” sung by Lady Gaga https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCNM706Iv8M

The current situation is difficult, but it does not mean that I have to spend my time wallowing in gloom and doom. Smiles are contagious and laughing rejuvenates the soul.  Several times this week I was lucky enough to have experiences that had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. These were brought to me courtesy of my daughter, my granddaughter, and my husband.  Thank you.

“Lean on Me” sung by Stevie Wonder (originally by Bill Withers) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vgfBJhlEEo

Most of us pride ourselves on being independent but in this time of uncertainty, I am finding that I need to lean on other people for a variety of things.  I am leaning on my family and friends when I am feeling frustrated or fearful and on my colleagues when I need help navigating distance learning. Everyone is so generous and patient.  Thank you.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” sung by The Rolling Stones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7pZgQepXfA

I have been very fortunate in my life, not rich, not without financial worries, but fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and a soft pillow on which to lay my head at night.  When my husband and I make a list for grocery shopping these days, we are not sure if we will be able to get everything on our list, and sometimes we don’t, yet we have not gone hungry. My priorities are starting to be rearranged, and I am re-learning the difference between needs and wants. “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.” Thank you.

“The Prayer” performed by Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, John Legend, Lady Gaga, and Lang Lang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYJCYr1I-Sk

“Lady Modanna” by Sir Paul McCartney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUL7K7RQ8HM

Prayer has always been a part of my life, but in these days of quarantine, it has increased and taken on a new dimension.  I am praying more often and for more people. Praying the rosary to Our Lady, Mary the Blessed Mother, is a powerful Catholic devotion.  My mother prayed it faithfully, and I hope to be a fraction of the example she set for me. Thank you.

“What a Wonderful World” sung by Camila Cabello & Shawn Mendes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32uSO-1zBL4

Despite the tragedy and devastation of COVID-19, the frustration of stay-at-home orders, and the derision caused by dueling political powers, this is a wonderful world.  The news is filled with the good works of healthcare professionals, grocery store employees, and other essential workers. People are rising to the occasion and having drive-by birthday and teacher parades. Neighbors are shopping for the elderly, children are chalking uplifting messages in driveways and on sidewalks, and people are finding new ways to stay connected while still social distancing. If we look for the good and the wonderful, we will find it.  Thank you.

“A Change is Gonna Come” sung by Lizzo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVr-Iqr0GTs

These are just a few of the lessons I am learning during these challenging days, and I am sure I have many more to learn in the days ahead, but I want to leave you with my hope. You may have seen lists circulating on social media about hoping that we don’t go back to “normal” when this is all over.  It is my hope that there is a change in the world beginning with myself. My list has just two words on it – gratitude and respect. It is my hope that we no longer take things for granted, that we are thankful for every minute of every day because nothing is guaranteed nor deserved. I also hope that there will be a new respect for “essential workers” who so often go unnoticed such as healthcare workers, therapists, police and fire personnel, and EMTs, and for the essential workers who get little respect: trash collectors, bus drivers, grocery store workers, mail carriers, delivery persons, and truck drivers. I hope we learn from this that every person in this wonderful world has a special purpose and that each is deserving of our gratitude and respect.

The Great Pause

Over the last couple of weeks I have been seeing the words “The Great Pause” in news articles and blog posts. It has been used in reference to the pause that the coronavirus is causing in our lives, the economy, the world.

The pandemic has caused chaos and closures, confusion and grief. Having stay-at-home orders and school closings is beyond our imaginations. This incidious virus is wreaking havoc and endangering the lives of not only of those who contract the illness but all of those healthcare professionals and essential workers who are still working. This is definitely awful, yet there is a silver lining.

This “Great Pause” is forcing people to stay at home with their immediate families, to spend more time with their children, and to rethink everything they thought they knew. This pandemic is much more than an inconvenience; it is really an eye-opener for those who are ready to see.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day I would normally have spent with my kids and grandkids at the home of my brother and sister-in-law with their family. Instead, we all ate separately in our own homes. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it because I knew I would be missing the egg hunt and the kidding and laughing that family gatherings bring, but it actually turned out better than expected. Why? I think it was because we knew we weren’t going to be together, but we made an extra effort to connect.

Last night my sister set up a Zoom meeting with my siblings and spouses. We spent over an hour talking and laughing. It felt good.

Today, we watched church services live streaming from our parish, and had our traditional Polish breakfast of kielbasa and eggs. Then, there were early morning video chats with my grandkids who were so excited about what the bunny brought them, and that made me so happy. It felt good.

This afternoon our niece set up Zoom meeting with some of my husband’s siblings living in three different states. There was the typical sibling bantering and laughing. It felt good.

We played Houseparty with our kids and grandkids, and there were many calls and video chats back and forth with them over the course of the day. It did feel very odd for my husband and me to be the only ones seated at the dining room table, but dinner was delicious because it was made with such love. It all felt good.

I know that there are so many people suffering right now, some more than others, yet I keep thinking that there is a lesson to be learned here. I am a beliver that everything happens for a reason even when I don’t know the reason. I am searching for the lessons I need to learn. The one I learned this weekend is to just be happy in what is and stop worrying about what isn’t.

Stay well.

Control


Today is Holy Thursday, probably my favorite day of the year to be in church. For many years I played string bass as part of the music ministry at my church; lately I have been in a pew. This year I will not be sitting in a pew but in front of my TV watching the mass streamed from an empty church.

It is out of my control.

Today I learned that my school will be closed for the rest of the academic year. For over 30 years I have shared in the bittersweet end-of-year activities that signal the moving up and moving on of my students. This year my classroom is empty way too early, and I am not getting the chance to say goodbye in person.

It is out of my control.

This Sunday is Easter when we would normally have dinner with my brother and his family followed by an Easter egg hunt for my four grandchildren. This year they will be hunting for eggs in their own homes.

It is out of my control.

These are difficult days for everyone, and each of us is coping the best we can. Just how are we coping? Some people are drinking more, eating more, crying more, or watching more TV. No judgment here, just observations.

This is within my control.

I joke that I need to put a padlock on my fridge and pantry, but it’s no joke. I am a stress eater, and watching too much TV news and not being on my regular schedule is causing me to forage like a bear just waking up from winter hibernation.

This is within my control.

Life has thrown us a curveball, and all we can do is try to stay in the batter’s box. I have learned during these past four weeks of isolating at home that I am not in charge; I have control over very little in the big picture, but I do have control over whether I spend my time worrying and being afraid, or making the most of this situation and keep moving forward.

This is within my control.

I am very aware that I will have good days and bad days, and that’s OK. What is most important is that the bad days don’t string together. I can control what I do with my day, how I take care of myself, and how I keep in touch with my family and friends. It’s time for me lean into my faith and get on a better schedule now that I know life will be like this for awhile.

What is in your control?

What are you going to do to reliquish control over the things beyond your reach? How are you going to take care of yourself? How are you going to stay connected?

Control what you can; let go of what you cannot.

Stay well.

The Wind

April is National Poetry Month, so I am trying to focus on my poetry writing. I am an eternal optimist, but these days you need to be a realist. This poem didn’t start out being about our current situation; it was about the weather this week, but the poem had other ideas.

The Wind

The whipping wind,
with its invisible
yet massive arms, pushed full force
against the side of the house
pelting the siding with pebbles
lifted from the empty flower bed.

But the house stood firm on its foundation.

The wind circled round
to the back of the house
wanting to rearrange
the deck’s chairs.

But the deck stood firm on its frame.

The wind raced around
to the front of the house,
knocking and knocking
on the front door.

But the door hung firm on its hinges.

Homes were being attacked
by an invisible nemesis
carried by the wind
person to person.

But the people remained firm in isolation.

Laughter

Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.

Walt Disney

Last night was the best night I have had since the start of the stay-at-home order. I have been trying to think of ways to connect to my grandkids, especially the two older who are six. We have been video chatting, but there hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about with all of us being at home. So, I thought that maybe we could play a game of Pictionary via video.

The first one to try this out was my grandson, Parker, and his parents (my daughter and son-in-law). We set a time to Facetime after dinner, and the fun began almost immediately. Parker was armed with his paper and pencil; I was working with a small whiteboard and dry-erase marker.

It was so cute to see the top of Parker’s head as he diligently worked on his drawing and quietly whispered details to his mom; he wanted to get it “just right.” I, on the other hand was having difficulty manuevering my marker (that’s the excuse I am using) and getting my drawings to look like what I intended them to be.

The first outburst of laughter was at my expense, and it was well deserved. I tried to draw a minion, but the guesses from Parker and his mom, Angela, were a popsicle, a tongue depresser, and a thumb. I am glad that I was using an erasable marker, so there was no evidence of my drawing deficits.

Since Parker and I were having so much fun, Angela and Ryan had to get in on the action. First there was a giraffe and a flying squirrel, the Titanic, and a Death Star (I had no idea what that was). Then the game took a turn towards religion. Ang and Ryan were trying to out do each other. There was the Last Supper, The Resurrection, and a Pope’s fancy mitre (Ang has been reading Parker a book about the Vatican). The funniest of all was when Parker correctly identified his dad’s drawing of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I couldn’t believe he knew what it was.

Evidence of the game
Parker’s picture of Jesus.

We were on our call for just over an hour. The last drawing was a recreation of my husband asleep in his recliner. I was laughing so hard; I could hardly breathe.

Last night I learned that Walt Disney’s quote is true. Laughter is timeless; we can laugh through the stress of the times. Imagaination is ageless; Angela, Ryan, and I were having as much fun, if not more, than Parker. Dreams are forever. I am dreaming of the time when we can play games in person again, but until then the memory of last night will have me laughing for weeks. Maybe next time it will be charades.

Stay well.

Dear String Bass

The bass, no matter what kind of music you are playing, it just enhances the sound and makes everything sound more beautiful and full. When the bass stops, the bottom kind of drops out of everything.

Charlie Haden

Dear String Bass,

You weren’t my first love;
that was the piano,
but you quickly became
my forever love.

I met you in the 9th grade
as a blind date because I was expecting the cello –
the instrument I had requested.
I was destined for another;
I was destined for you.

As a shy teenager, you made me stand out.
It was scary at first, but as I supported you on my leg,
you supported me In ways beyond my imagination.

You helped me grow as a musician,
as a person, as myself.

We spent so many hours together
practicing in the basement of the music wing.
I would play my scales and pieces
over and over until there were calluses on my fingers,
and my arm tired of pulling the bow across the strings.

I wanted to be good, but you called me to be better.
I became section leader, and
you gave me the courage to audtion for All-City Orchestra,
You came with me to The Academy of Music, and
as the curtain went up and
I played those first notes with the string ensemble
you calmed my nerves with the familiar feel
of your strong strings and your melodious deep voice.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.

You came with me to college as I started my studies
to become a music teacher.
Then we ventured into the world of parish music ministry.
We played for Sunday Mass, wedding, funerals,
and other special occasions.

We had a good run.

You gave me over 30 years
of your steadfast presence and so many musical memories.
Then it became harder for me to make you sing.
Arthritis and other ailments made it difficult –
difficult to stand and support you –
difficult to hold down your thick strings –
difficult to carry you from place to place.

But that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know that I will always be grateful
for the world you opened up to me –
for teaching me to love Bach, & Hayden
Handel & Mozart.

Maybe it’s time for me to really let you go –
to free you from your place next to the piano –
to pass you to the next musician
who can give life to your voice once more.

Love you always,
Rita

This poem was inspired by “Dear Basketball” by Kobe Bryant. I was reminded of his poem while participating in the 5-Day Poetry Challenge on ethicalela.com

Lost & Found

Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.

HPLYRIKZ.com
#SOL20

What I Have Lost
I have lost that “normal” feeling.
The feeling of having just a few
aches and pains.

I have lost my ability
to walk long distances,
to stand in one place,
energy, and
a clear thinking brain.

I have lost the ability
to plan trips that require
walking….because
my legs and hips
may not hold up.

I have lost these
to fibromyalgia
and spinal stenosis –
ailments no one can see.

Yet,
I am hopeful
that I will find them
again one day.

That,
little by little,
baby steps,
exercising my body & mind
selfcare & prayer
will bring me back
my joy.

This post was inspired by of the 5-Day Poetry Challenge on ethicalela.com

A Conversation

Be Somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.

HPLYRIKZ.com

I will never forget you
Sister Roseathea.
You opened my ears
to the world of music.
Those lunch time
glee club rehearsals
prevented me from
feeling alone in
the schoolyard.

I watched you
as you created a
school show
in our little auditorium
with cut-out decorations
and cute little props.
You allowed us to
wear pantsuits in 8th grade
a BIG deal in 1972.

You taught us to sing
“Joy to the World”
and not the Christmas carol version either.
I couldn’t believe
a nun could be so cool.
You knew how how to
draw us in
to honor our young
teenage selves.

You gave us an
opportunity to shine.
You inspired me
to become a music teacher.
I felt like you were
passing the torch,
and in turn
I created shows for my students
giving them a chance to shine.