Friday, September 29, 2017

on having dreams and being your own damn hero

I believe in magical moments.
Those quiet interactions we have with enlightenment that happen during an ordinary day. Because you have them, and so do I, more regularly then we realize.

And only later, when you look back you’ll see how a string of little circumstances aligned, like stars in the sky, to bring you in contact with someone who might not be a regular in your daily life. A passing brush with an acquaintance that lasts only long enough for something vital to be passed along to you, and it will feel like an answer to a personal question you had not yet formed in your mind.

But you sense it, this wisp of truth or wisdom left dangling behind, ready for your taking.
"Wow," you’ll say later. "That person or place came along at such a perfect time."

Linda was one of these.

And someday I hope you’re like me. I hope you're lucky enough to find yourself standing in a cramped kitchen while a tiny white dog sniffs at your shoes and a yellow-tailed cockatoo screeches from its corner cage and sends creamy colored feathers fluttering in your direction.

I hope that you’ll have your own version of a platinum blonde woman sitting across from you at a messy table stacked with yellow-lined note pads, monthly bills and rows of medications, who will surprise you with engrossing stories of historical US battles and obscure facts about Navy Frogmen in World War 2.
“Hmm… do you know what kind of suit the Navy divers wore back in the 40s?” this woman asks me as I stand in her kitchen.

Earlier she had told me she was writing a book about her courageous uncle—an original Navy Seal--and in the middle of talking about one of his life-and-death missions she realizes she needs more research on the fabric used for the early frogmen suits. Before I can answer she makes a quick note on her yellow pad and keeps talking.

In the next room Linda’s mother is dying.
This is how we met.  I talk to Linda each week when I read to her mother from her favorite book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Ironic, considering how long I had avoided reading this best-seller, mostly because of the graphic POW details I find so troubling, but here I am each week, catapulted into a world of unfathomable courage, harrowing battles, and a fight for survival.

Linda’s mother is my co-voyager during these literary time-travels and on good days she stays awake most of the time, on bad days she sleeps throughout. Some days I admit that the parallels between the stark life-and-death tone of this WW2 book and the atmosphere of this house leaves me with a vague sense of the surreal. One minute I am reading about a fragile Louis Zamperini clinging to life by a thread, and the next moment I am looking at a woman who is laying in front of me clinging to life by a thread.
For me, the lives of Linda’s mother and Louis Zamperini have become intricately connected.

On my way out, I always check in with Linda, since she has become her mother’s voice and energy and her devoted nurse. On this afternoon, she is telling me about the books she is currently writing.

And of course, as a wanna-be-author, I am intrigued and a tad jealous. Oh how I would love to be writing a book. From her seat in the kitchen Linda is beaming while she talks.
“My grandmother was a blood-sucking alien. That’s the title of my other book I’m working on,” she laughs, “I just love science-fiction, don’t you? My husband keeps kidding me about finishing the book so we can sell the movie rights and he can retire.”

And I chuckle too, not only because I’m madly love with the boldness of this title, but because it’s becoming clear to me after she mentions the screenplay, that Linda is unabashed about dreaming big.

And god I admire people with bold, ballsy dreams. People who walk around with enough sparkling Hope spilling from their orbit that it effects those standing in their presence.
In fact, listening to Linda describe her love of painting and her current writing projects suddenly makes me feel like the melting version of the cackling green witch in The Wizard of Oz, a weak, diluted form of this solid, resilient woman.

You see.

Linda has liver cancer.
She also has severe arthritis in her knees which makes it difficult to walk and physically tend to her mother, who happens to be dying of leukemia. Because Linda is the only daughter and her closest child—and dealing with her own personal battle with cancer-- I can only imagine how emotionally tough these days must be for her.
Once on a sunny afternoon, I asked her if she had been able to get outside to her garden and she answered by telling me the life lessons she was teaching her teenage nephews who came to do her weeding.

“I’m showing them how to plant from cuttings, she said, “making something from nothing, it’s wonderful.”  Those were her words.

I never finished reading Unbroken to Linda’s mother. She died before we got to the end of Zamperini’s riveting story and for some reason, I haven’t been able to finish it without her.
But if you asked me to sum up my experience in this house I would say it’s the exact opposite of sadness.

Instead, Linda--her surviving daughter --left me with a profound impression. She reminded me by her own resiliency to have the courage and chutzpah to keep dreaming. That no matter what’s happening in our life, our dreams are powerful intentions that keep us moving forward physically and spiritually. They infuse our life with exhilarating hope and, life-affirming possibilities that might not otherwise be there. And no matter what our age, we should never be afraid to use the word “dream” when we talk about our future.
Everyone deserves to have dreams. Period. But especially those nurturers out there, those women who find it much easier to dream and hope on the behalf of others, and who might not take enough time to examine their deepest desires.

 Maybe as  you're reading this, you’re not quite sure what dreams you have anymore.
And that's ok.

As my platinum blonde friend might say, pick a dream that helps you answer this question:

“What would my life look like if it were organized around my deepest values?”
This is how you begin.

This is the direction to your joy.



michele said...

Rich with layers of lovely, Leslie. Felt like I was sipping your words like wine rather than simply reading them. I hope you will write a book if that desire is burning in your heart. I'm a dreamer too and have half of two books written. Maybe I enjoy the process of discovery more than anything and will not finish either. I have some interesting things to say, but it's okay if just a few hear my story. My deepest held value? We are all one organism being held together with love energy...both the joy and sorrow belong...there is nothing to fear, not even death. The more I learn about quantum physics and the cosmos, the stronger this conviction grows. I think it's important to notice when a dream is swelling within us and to discern where it is coming from because if it involves feeding the ego or evening some score, well, those are the dreams I am happy to let go. All dreams are not created equal in my own heart. Even resistance (which often springs up when you're working to make a dream come true) belongs. Tension plays a role in helping things grow, and we don't have to fear it as we do. I'm trying to live this out by allowing reality to be requires humility and maturity and nondual awareness. Thanks for inspiring all this stream of consciousness, dreamer. xox

brenda murphy said...

Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. My mother recently died and some of the loveliest times we spent together before she passed was me reading to her. I knew that we both had The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poiter, but neither of of had read it. So the last few days mom lived I read this book to her. It was wonderful to see her light up with fond memories of watching Poiter on screen. She loved him as a human being and an actor. What a blessing you received in the presence of Linda and her mother. Words are indeed powerful tools to heal and entertain.

Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours said...

Wow. Leslie, I can imagine that your experience with Linda and her mother will enter your thoughts (and emotions) often for the rest of your life. As Michele said, this post is "rich wish layers...." I've struggled lately -- during our longer-than-expected adventure -- with what my dreams look like, will they live or die, do I give up too easily, what's the purpose really... You get the idea. Your final question has given me lots to ponder. Thanks for sharing this amazing story.

mdickson said...

You are an amazing writer leslie! I really believe that our dreams are what keep us hopeful and moving forward. Love reading your posts!

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences, Leslie. I can see you were touched, and in turn we are touched. Using your wonderful way of using words to weave a inspire me to re-examine my dreams.

Debra said...

This is a powerful essay. Dreams do get us through life, don't they?

Stonecropsister said...

Hi Leslie,
This is a wonderful post. It highlights the beauty of connections with people, and the lasting impact they can have on us. Some days to be honest, I would be happy to come home, close the door, and never leave the house again. But then there are moments and interactions that you've described, and that's why a person should just keep walking out their front door every morning.
If I could do life over, my life would be completely different. completely. I did not learn courage until late in life, and really and realistically, too late in life. i value honesty above all else. It would interesting to live a life guided by that. Anyway, that's a bit heavy, but there you go. I have first world problems, and a very good life. Wishing you a wonderful weekend. xx Nancy

Blondie's Journal said...

Beautiful post, Leslie. It's a testament to how both of these lovely and brave women have effected your life, and I thank you for passing it on to us. They are pure inspiration when we seem to falter in finding and following our dreams, and being at peace with the very real knowledge of how much time we have on this earth.

I read to my mother much like you did with Linda's mom. She had visual difficulties near the end of her cancer. She was a big reader and a persistent writer. It was back in the day when stories and book drafts were submitted to publishers. She had a stack of rejections. Sadly, she gave up writing as she did with living. She had no desire to leave her bed, she simply surrendered to her prognosis.

My sweet sister was a fighter. She had cancer in almost every organ in her body when she was diagnosed. She had a doctor who told her he had seen people live as much as 2 years with her stage of cancer. She believed him, and said she would outlive even 2 years. She died 6 weeks after her diagnosis. I will never forget that determination.

So, your post has made me realize that we can choose our paths. It made me reflect on the two women in my life who went different ways at the fork in a road that was leading to the same destiny. You have made me want to get more passionate, and use the tension I have with writing the best I can as a tool for motivation. I have been given the blessing to finally be a professional writer, yet I grumble about the deadlines and stress. Its time to get over it, and make further dreams come true. I would love to write fiction, and my goodness, maybe a book! And I hope you do, too, seriously.

Thanks so much for your post which expresses your experience and feelings so well. Please keep us posted on Linda.

Jane x

Lou said...

Beautifully put. I didn't know you wanted to write a book. You could always become 'the person who is writing a book'. It's just like writing a blog post, but you keep going and it gets a whole lot bigger! Trust me; it can be done. Lou x

La Contessa said...

A BEAUTIFUL STORY..................
AND YES we all NEED DREAMS..............and something to look forward too!

Calypso In The Country said...

Just like every time I read one of your blog posts - I sit and think for awhile. The description of your thoughts and experience are truly beautiful. Somehow you always make me evaluate my life a little. Dreams are so important...

Sandra Sallin said...

This is the first time I have come to your site. You have left me speechless. I don't know what to say. I've overwhelmed with emotion. Thank you for your writing.

Sheepskinsandfairylights said...

So eloquently written, with emotion and love, your kindness coming through Leslie, XXX

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