Tag Archives: change

Not Dead Yet

Father of the bride

Father of the bride

In a play presented by Davis-based Barnyard Theater two years ago, Psyche, the Greek goddess of the soul, continually asks the troubled protagonist, “Are you not dead yet?”

I’m at a stage in life where I’m supposed to be settled. My marriage is stable, I’m successful professionally, my kids are mostly launched, and I helped both parents at the end of their lives. The time ahead of me is likely shorter than the time behind me. Time to sit back and relax, right?

If Dad’s longevity is any indication, I could have forty or more years left. And I am not willing to spend it as excess population.

Yesterday I accepted an offer into admission at Bennington’s Master’s in Fine Arts program, where I will spend the next two years working hard to become a better writer. I hope to do justice to the story I have to tell about my relationship with my father, from the tense days of my childhood and adolescence through the reflective last years of our life together.

Once upon a time, I waited to pursue and complete a Master’s Degree in Business Administration until I knew how it would help me in achieving my professional goals. Going back to school this time is different. As a degree, an MFA is probably useless for somebody like me. I don’t need it to do anything.

But I’m impatient. I’m looking for jumper cables, a cattle prod, a kick in the butt. (I’m sure the inept use of metaphor will be kicked right out of me.) I recently read a comment by a woman who said of her MFA that it was a useless degree but it taught her how to really read.

I could come out of this a better writer. I could come out of it a better reader. Maybe I’ll meet people who will make a difference in my life, or I will make a difference in theirs. Perhaps the program will serve as an incubator for ideas about how to use writing to help people who walk the caregiver’s road.

The words to describe the journey I will begin on June 19 are conditional: could, maybe, perhaps. I don’t really know what will happen. But I’m doing this anyway.

Yesterday, the day that I made a decision about which graduate program to enroll in, I came across “Learning to Walk,” by David Whyte. Here’s part of it:

So learning to walk
in morning light
like this again,
we’ll take that first step
toward mortality,
giving our selves away
today by walking
out of the garden,
through the woods,
along the river,
toward the mountain,
its simple,
that’s what we’ll do,
practicing as we go,
we’ll be glimpsed, 
traveling westward, 
no longer familiar,
a following wave,
greeted, as we were at our birth,
as probable 
and slightly dangerous strangers,
some wild risk 
about to break again
on the world.

Once upon a time, my father gave me away. Just before I removed my hand from his steady arm, he gazed at me and patted my hand. Then he let go. Now I am giving myself away, moving forward without a clear destination. Here I go.


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Emotional Spanx

Brushing my teeth this morning, Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” was playing in my head.

As I dressed, I reflected on an email I received yesterday from a friend who is undergoing what he says is a new way of living as he comes to terms with being in remission from a serious type of cancer. Reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Close to the Bone, he was struck by her argument that having a life threatening disease is a spiritual journey, and its components are  “…finding meaning, creativity, and joy in life.…”  He is especially thinking about creativity.

Then I recalled my reunion yesterday with a former colleague who I hadn’t seen in ten years. After many years in a corporate environment, she left without a specific plan. Her skill as a “connector” led her to one person after another, one opportunity after another, and now she has formed dynamic arrangement with a team of like-minded consultants. “I’ve found my people,” she told me.

Welcome to five minutes in my head.

Why these three vignettes in rapid succession? My mind is “background processing” themes of risk, creativity and trust as I prepare to embark on a Master’s in Fine Arts in creative nonfiction. I’ve written that I’m scared, and I am. But this five minutes of synapses felt like taking a step.

As a person immersed in the return-on-investment world of marketing and strategic planning, most of it plied in the corporate world, I have been accustomed to control. I’ve controlled budgets, tactics and people but perhaps most of all, I’ve controlled me. Impulse control isn’t a bad thing, of course. It’s necessary. We learn from an early age that we can’t throw tantrums to get our way. We learn how to stay out of trouble. We learn to conform to the expected.

I became something of an expert in emotional Spanx.

Deciding to write after years of rationalizing why I couldn’t or shouldn’t is frightening. But it’s also freeing. I’m letting it go.

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Everyday Moments

outside my bedroom this morning

Here’s what I didn’t do when I first awakened this morning: I didn’t wonder to myself if Dad was awake yet or whether this might be the morning that I found he had slipped away.

And last night, I didn’t begin my bedtime meditation asking for God to release Dad and take him home.

And at dinner time, as Todd and I dined outside for the first time with the arrival of balmy BBQ weather, I didn’t watch Dad’s eyes as he admired the growth of the redwood tree next door, or listen as he launched into, “Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to th’ rooky wood.”

Losing someone you love is a big change, even when it’s expected, but what I notice most are the small things – the everyday moments that have taken new shape.


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