Instead of NaNoWriMo I wrote this post…

I’ve been missing my professional life a lot and now I’m considering whether to resume life as a therapist. I thought that 31 years was enough listening and talking  for a lifetime but now I realize how much meaning that gave my life. I’m a fairly modest person so when I say I think I was a good therapist it’s no small thing. It took many years of practice before I felt that; for the first decade I was certain I had absolutely nothing of help or interest to offer. That’s probably part of why I compensated by doing things like holding crying babies while mothers wept in my office, offering tea and coffee and cookies, making home visits when someone didn’t have transportation and reducing my fees, sometimes to nothing.  Over the years, what might have been considered overly familiar practices that encouraged way too much transference- well, it paid off. It taught me that we’re all pretty much in the same boat when it comes to life’s sorrows and trials and I always had great compassion and respect for the people who came to see me. Except for the five sociopaths and the eight year old who spit on every card for good luck when we played war.

Right now I’m feeling relatively useless, as though I’m just taking up space when it comes to contributing my fair share in the big game of Chutes and Ladders. Rich called from work yesterday and made the mistake of asking me what I was doing. Since I had just spent 24 minutes online trying to figure out how much some old non-denominated stamps were worth (that should be against the law- printing stamps without the value on them and then upping the postage rates) so he got an earful about how I was wasting my life over some f-ing postage stamps.

Then I decided I better get busy and do something so I made chili and cornbread for all the neighbors. That’s another thing: I’m used to having kids drop by for food and I’m having trouble cooking for just two. So as pathetic as it is, I’m making friends and influencing people by throwing food their way. They seem quite appreciative since most of them are still gainfully employed and don’t have much time to cook. I’ve been making pot roasts and potato soup and crabcakes and pumpkin breads right and left. It’s ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong- I have plenty to do. I have knitting and reading and lots of house stuff both here and in Florida. I have docent training at the zoo. I have company coming for SOFA, Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping and a house full for Christmas. I’m going to the opera (and then Roxanne can get both the outside AND the inside pictures). I have a book club and we’re reading a great novel this month, unlike last month when we read Return of the Native, which was hopelessly dreary. My indoor Gouldian finches are ineptly trying to hatch eggs and require some supervision on that front. A new lens I want to master for my camera. Lots and lots to do. Still, I’m not helping other people much. I need to figure this out.

And yet. It’s funny how sometimes you impact others and don’t even know it. (I wish the dozen or so people who honk at me and give me the finger every time I try to drive in this city knew how much they hurt my feelings. Surely they would stop. Right? It’s not my fault that every single intersection in Chicago has 5 or 7 unmarked streets coming into it.) The last post I wrote here elicited a strange response. I didn’t start out thinking about how much I missed my mother but by the end, I did. I was all teary and wistful. The comments indicated that my simple question raised other people’s feelings, too. The oddest thing was I got 27 additional e-mails, not posted comments, from people talking about who, among those who have died, they wish they could visit with. Of those, 18 were people previously unknown to me, via blog or life. That has never happened to me before around a post I’ve written. I must have touched a few nerves, hopefully in a mostly good way.

That got me thinking about how much I am affected by the words and actions of others (No, not people honking at me, I was just kidding there.) Many of you have a profound effect on me and you wouldn’t know it by my comments or lack thereof. Miz S ALWAYS has an effect on me. Invariably she makes me smile or laugh out loud. I’m not sure why- she feels sort of like a kindred spirit, someone I would really enjoy spending a day with. I know that’s true for lots of people who read her but it’s very true for me. Bonnie calms my soul and reminds me to spend more time thinking about important spiritual issues. A woman who, at first glance I thought- yikes! What do I have in common with a homeschooling mother of 11? Lots. She is, I believe, that truly good person we each would be lucky to know and she’s witty and bright and fun to boot. Robin Andrea ties me to the earth, the birds, the plants I love. She is a constant reminder of the importance of being a good steward to creation. Plus, she shares my mother’s politics and so I always appreciate that energy. FC and Wayne and Pablo and Deb and Laura and Laura- they are in that group that I read because they, too, foster my interest and growth in the natural world. Gene helps me think about the prat and pit falls of growing older in a way that is at once humorous and sobering, but not so frightening. Mamacita Jane puts me on edge about my grammar and run-on sentences over here but I either laugh out loud or fume at her place- either way, she pulls me out of any  apathy I might be feeling. Roxanne helps me see the world in new and intricate ways- and her cat is hot for my cat. AF, aka EM, is a real writer- how inspiring is that? All my favorite moms- Raehan, M’Kay and Mrs. S. and Margaret and Beverly and the rest of that bunch- remind me that parenting is a lifelong commitment to be taken both seriously and with a smile. Keri and Jen and Kathy I read only occasionally but they have become friends in real life. The list goes on.

What we write and read here in the neighborhood is lots of times trite and redundant but sometimes it has far reaching meaning and impact. I was just thinking about that.
Speaking of writing, good luck to all who are doing NaNoWriMo. I admire you and hope that someone comes up with a great American novel. Last year I got as far as 11,000 words, up to the part when Buckminster Fuller Came To Dinner and then I quit. I should have quit sooner, just done the short Christmas piece on Fuller, which, personally, I think was good writing. This year I’m quitting while I’m ahead, i.e., before I start. And those of you who are doing Fussy’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month)?  I’m sorry but that just sounds like an anacronym for a southern porn site.
William Styron died yesterday. This made me sad because he was not only an incredible writer- he was also an incredible depressive personality. The fact that he could write so exquisitely about his depression was, well, very meaningful. Read DARKNESS VISIBLE: A MEMOIR OF MADNESS and you’ll see what I mean. I think by the end of his life he was not so plagued by his demons. I hope not and I trust now he is in the presence of writing angels.
There’s a blogger in the neighborhood I read but don’t feel THAT connected to- mainly because I have trouble relating to how well she does everything about the house and with such darn enthusiasm. It can be intimidating and I would chalk it up to the energy of youth except she’s not all that young. We comment on each other’s blogs once in a while. I still go there because I’ve sort of convinced myself that she probably really is like the rest of us, with the usual insecurities and doubts- she just doesn’t write about them all that much. I bet she fights with her husband some, too and gets seriously cranked with her beautiful children. That’s what I tell myself. Also, she has good recipes and great ideas. I’m closing with this bit about her because it’s a good example of what I was talking about above-people having an impact on you in ways they might not know or you might not fully acknowledge.

When my mother died last March this woman sent me a floral arrangement. It was simple and elegant, not too big, with some fresh flowers tucked into a small green ordinary houseplant. There was a small note card that made me cry, mostly because someone I barely knew was thinking about me. When we moved I had to do the houseplant cut and many of my plants found new homes with old friends. I was really sorry to say goodbye to them because I like lots of green in the house, especially during the winter.

I had repotted the small four inch Peace Lily from this arrangement a couple months later, long after the fresh flowers had been pulled out. Over the summer I fed and watered and repotted this plant twice more. I moved it to Chicago because it was attached in my mind to my mother. Once here, I repotted it again.

Today this beautiful plant is graduating to the big leagues. It is going to get a floor-to-ceiling view of Lake Michigan in a big office building down in the Loop. Rich is decorating his new office and he was thrilled that this plant has outgrown our space here and I said he could have it there- with strict instructions on care and frequent visitation rights.

If you’re reading, I just thought you might want to know that you made my life richer, you sent a much valued gift of sympathy and you continue to have an impact in my little neck of the woods.

M’Kay- I finished the wine months ago.Plant1

22 responses to “Instead of NaNoWriMo I wrote this post…

  1. Rich and his office are SO lucky. And so are you. Isn’t it just wonderful to have all these b**g friends that you’ll never meet but who are really breathing life into your life?

    You got a good start on a NaNoMo etc. there, Cleo. 49,000 more words and you’re home free.

    P.S. We all love you.

  2. Vicki, You touch me every time I ready you.

  3. And you have absolutely no idea how much you touch me every single day. *sigh* none. whatsoever. You amaze and inspire with every single word. Thank you. Smooches. And when I say that I’m excited to see you? Totally. You don’t have to go back to work. You can just analyze my brain. We’ll iChat. 😉 Off to get da kid.

  4. Because NOBODY can help me procrastinate NaNo like she can.

  5. I visit here daily but I don’t often comment because I have no idea what to say most days. You inspire me more than you will ever know. It is you that reminds me daily to listen to other people. I don’t have to comment on what I hear either as long as I listen to the other person. Alot of people say things I do not care to hear nor want to hear but I am learning to listen to them because of you. I am glad you love the plant because I love you just as much. Oh, and I do argue with my husband. I also screw up and burn things or forget very important things. I just don’t write about them because … because … well my grandma would call it poor mouthing. If I could write my thoughts as clearly as you do perhaps I would write them more often. Generally when I say what I think I make a lot of people very angry with me.

    P.S. Insecure is my middle name.

    P.P.S. If that last part isn’t about me, umm well, just forget I wrote this comment. LOL

  6. I got through!
    I really enjoyed that post and am honored to get a mention. Sounds like you may need to go back to work. 🙂

  7. And now everyone, including me, wants to be your neighbor in Chicago…. nothing like free food.

    Our wandering tenor is in the states and will be winging his way from NY to our humble abode, tomorrow. I’m not sure if Nyssa is going to come down from school or not. Yes, we are in the midst of a real life mother-daughter conflict…. and no, I don’t know how long it will last. Perhaps it has finally gotten through that most of my ability to teach her the ways of life is over, I’ve done what I could do. Now she has to make the decisions, face the consequences and I get to let go. In the process of really and truly “letting go”, for sure and completely this time. So, does every mother hit this wall?

    See, you still listen to people who need you. You still offer sage advice. And I don’t even want to hear how you envy someone who seems to have the ability to do “everything domestic”; let’s see… knitting, gardening, animal husbandry, human husbandry (you have Rich), cooking, baking, canning, naturalist, world traveller, mother of brilliant children, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Throw in your organizational skills and professional skills …… and Rich would agree … you are close to perfect. You probably have nice clear sinus passages and never suffer from sinus headaches either. Just keep saying to yourself…. “It’s good to be me.”

    We love you Vicki! If you have a potion for a lovesick cat let me know. Rhett has been having an overly severe case of the “I have to touch you now” problem. He does get heavy on an arm, foot, leg or lap after awhile. I could send him by UPS if you’d like.

  8. Albert Schweitzer:
    I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

    I had this quote on my frig when my kids were growing up to inspire them to help others in whatever jobs they would end up choosing.
    Also I have the same feeling of being useless sometimes if I am not able to help others. I miss being able to help my kids more. It is wonderful that you are thinking along these lines and examining what you want to do now.

  9. PS What a gorgeous plant and what gorgeous friends you have…

  10. Oh Vicki, what a lovely post. I am honored to be counted among your friends. And I was so happy to see many of my special blogging friends mentioned here as well. You have been such a driving force in creating this “neighborhood” that has amused me and sustained me over the past year and a half.

  11. Vicki, you have touched and continue to touch (and teach) everyone who happens by here. On the days I click here and don’t see a new post, I am momentarily sad. You have no idea of the impact your wisdom and humor have on us daily.

    Perhaps you could set up shop online and be a therapist to the WWW?! I need help. Someone of whom I am very fond, who has been my friend since 1970, has just done something unthinkable. I am completely perplexed. I need help sorting it out and I truly wish I lived nearby and could hire you to help me.

  12. What a very lovely post, and I think you are already therapist to all of Blog World. I know what you mean though; I want to retire from teaching some day, but will miss my connection to those kids–some of whom drive me utterly nuts. Yet, I feel important, and valued because of how I can help them to grow. The plant and story behind it are beautiful. And I am hoping that if we ever get to meet, you will not find me too frivolous. I am pretty off the wall.

  13. I forget how I found my way here Vicki, but I’m so glad to be in the neighborhood. You have a way of writing and thinking that feels very familiar somehow. I do so enjoy your posts and perspective. This tribute to friends in the blog world was especially nice and thought-provoking.

    That Peace Lily is gorgeous, btw – wish I had your green thumb.

  14. Methinks we achieved oneness and twoness even before our lunch of crabcakes. Thanks for the kind words, dear friend.

    You see and bring out the best in everyone, Vicki. I would love to be president of your fan club, but I know I would have to wrestle several other people down first.

  15. Hello,
    This is my first visit from Stargazer, Margaret. I was intrigued by your supportive comment on her blog. If you are in Chicago, we are almost neighbors. Can I stop by for chili and cornbread? No? Well, it does sound delicious.

    I like you description of NaBloPoMo although I wish the participants well. My daughter-in-law is doing her part at

  16. I only just recently began reading this blog, but it is becoming one of my favorites. I enjoy your thoughtfulness and insights. And, I am honored to be mentioned in this post, along with some very good company!

  17. There are things about blogging that drive me crazy, but what I have consistently loved about it is the connection we make with people we would have never otherwise met in our lifetime. I am enriched whenever I come over here to read. I especially love your good humor and view of the world. You write the way my brain reads. An inner dialogue expressed. I am grateful to be mentioned here. Thank you.

  18. Vicki, dear, to be included in your list of friends. . . . wow, I am honored and touched and near tears.

    Um, when I say that I am ‘touched,’ I don’t mean the kind where somebody ain’t right in the head.

    Then again, if you ask my kids, they’ll tell you differently.

    We’re having bloggers for dinner tonight. Well, actually, we’re having BBQ pork tenderloin for dinner tonight and inviting bloggers to share it. I wish you were one of them. When can you come down? I only need enough notice to get all the cat hair off the guest room carpet, and for YOU, I’ll even dust.

    Thank you, my lovely friend. You have a genuine talent for making people feel as if they truly mattered.

  19. I wrote a long comment here last night, and either my computer or my connection would never go through to publish it. I had lurked about your site long before I ever commented. I feel like so many of the others. I just feel like I’ve made some wonderful friends through blogging, and you have certainly become one of them.

  20. Sometimes it’s the sinplest gestures that mean the most. And even though you mentioned in the past you were a therapist, it didn’t fully register until now. I’m at a crossroads with school and thinking of resurrecting my Psych undergrad degree, dusting it off, and moving forward. I’d love to pick your brain about the field at some time in the future.

    I read you a lot (got you on Bloglines), but I don’t comment often. I’ll try to remedy that.

  21. It’s hard to know at a crossroads, when you’re totally done with one path, where you want to go. Keeping busy is good. Biting the bullet to set course for new direction at the same time is tricky, speaking as someone who’s career transitioning as well.

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