Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tears and Wishes

I sat in the audience last night with tears streaming down my face.  The young man causing the tears spoke into the microphone, reading a piece of work he’d written as part of a writing workshop.  He wrote that he wished people could see the other side of him, that he wished he could be an Olympic sprinter, that he wished people knew how smart he is.  His words were sincere and well thought out and they made me cry.  His piece was titled Understanding Not Standing and he read the piece from his wheelchair, his body contorted, but his mind, obviously, quite capable.

This reading was part of an event put on by Write Around Portland, a local writer’s group that, as part of their mission, provides writing opportunities for those who might not otherwise have a voice.  The writers who read their pieces last night were often amazing and always sincere.  I laughed, I cried, my heart swelled.  Write Around Portland is the group that puts on the monthly writing workshop I’ve been participating in since January.  I didn’t realize when I started writing with them I would have the opportunity to experience something like the event I attended last night.  I was reminded, again, new experiences, though sometimes scary, can be an ignition switch to renewed enthusiasm and purpose.  Listening to Kyle Burkett read last night, I was moved to a new understanding.  I saw beyond his wheelchair and, with tears in my eyes, I wished all his wishes could come true.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Conversations with Gina

When I was eight or nine years old my parents took me to see The Ice Capades. I remember watching the skaters and having the realization that each of the skaters had their own thought processes and each experienced this event in their own brain, in their own way. It was, perhaps, the first time I was aware we are each whole unto ourselves and everyone else is separate and having their own unique experiences.  This idea, known as Theory of Mind, can stimulate a daunting discussion about our social species, cognitive understanding, philosophy, etc., but that’s not my purpose today. Put simply, I think it’s just cool to understand that others are having their own experiences, perceived in their own way.

This came to mind this week as I was driving through Portland having a conversation about what I had planned for the day. There wasn’t anyone else in the car with me and I wasn’t speaking out loud, but I was most surely having a conversation. I was having a conversation with myself. Well, at least the conversation was in my head, but I like to think that I’m not just talking to myself; that might be cause for those folks in white coats to come calling. No, I prefer to think I’m having these conversations, which run through my mind constantly, with my friend Gina. Gina Parkinson is my oldest friend. I can’t remember when she came into my life, but I remember her being with me from my youngest memories. Gina Parkinson was, and still is, my imaginary friend. Raised as an only child, I longed for siblings. My mom provided childcare in our home, so there were kids around during the day and some even stayed for extended periods, but then they left and I was back to feeling like an only child (I have one brother, but he is 15 years older than me). At some point, possibly even as a toddler, Gina came into my life. So now, as a grown-up woman, when I have conversations in my head, I like to think it’s Gina I’m talking with. Usually I’m telling her about what is happening, what has happened, or rehearsing what I want to happen. I hear my words, but I don’t hear her responses, though I know what they are and I respond to them.

As you’re reading this, you’re either nodding your head in recognition of the voices that occupy your own brain or you’re unsettled to think some of the normal-appearing people walking around you are actually having conversations with themselves. Either way, it’s okay as long we remember we are each having our own experiences, in our own way. For me, I may be alone at times, but I’m never lonely because I always have Gina to talk to.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Being Home

My husband, Brian and I have been gone from home for nineteen days – Rome, Tuscany, Venice and London. It was a stunning romp through lovely European cities and towns. We did not bring along the five children (ages 14 to 23) who still reside in our house (not to mention the four dogs, four cats, bird and goldfish), but the kids worked together to handle daily life in a more-than-adequate manner. We arrived home last night to a clean house and all children and animals safely accounted for, though the youngest dog did eat a box of something off the neighbor’s front porch yesterday, so there may be intestinal repercussions there – we’ll see. Children and dogs alike were happy to see us. We were greeted with hugs, smiles, wagging tails and licks (the latter two from the dogs, not the kids).

As much as it’s wonderful to travel, it is also wonderful to come home. I couldn’t wait to slide into my own bed last night. The sheets felt cool and crisp. The mattress was just right and my pillow felt heavenly. I got back up after a few minutes to let the big dogs into our room and, when I slid back into bed, I felt the comfort all over again. I thought about getting up again just for the pleasure of crawling back into my very own bed. Then, this morning, as I’ve wandered around the house in the predawn hours, starting laundry and sorting mail, I’ve noticed a few things that tell me I’ve been gone: the dead flowers on the counter that haven’t been removed; the plant that sits in the kitchen window that has been watered, but not pruned; the towels in the powder room bath that haven’t been changed out; and the candle stick that was almost ready to fall off the little shelf it sits on (the nearby door closing causes the candle stick to move ever so slightly and I normally push it back into place every morning).

So, children and animals accounted for, house still standing and in good condition, but there are hints that I haven’t been here. I felt the void of my absence this morning and it’s comforting to feel myself living here again.