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.