I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Next steps in this thing called life

The Gang of Five
Last week we managed to get all five of the usual suspects together for this picture at the coffee shop. Roger, me, Bob (in front), John, and Gene. Roger has begun to join us now and then, although he's been coming to the coffee shop for ages, only recently has he started to sit with us. He's an interesting fellow and seems to have a limerick for any occasion. Bob runs his own business in town and doesn't come by very often; it had been months since we'd seen him at all. And of course you know the other guys, John and Gene, who along with me form the nucleus of the gang. They add so much enjoyment to my life and I wanted to share this fun picture with you before getting started with the post.

First of all, my sister Norma Jean and her son Peter survived Hurricane Irma in fine shape. Although the mobile home park where she lives was right in the path of the hurricane, by the time it hit, the hurricane had lost most of its punch. The Florida Keys and the Caribbean islands were not so fortunate and were pretty much devastated. So it could have been much worse for us. Some cosmetic damage was all that needed to be repaired, and Peter is taking care of it. Everything has calmed down and I thought I'd make my plane reservations for December, now that I know there's a place to visit.

Then I went last Tuesday for my annual eye appointment and fully expected to get a new prescription for my left eye, which has gotten even worse over the year. Nope. Instead, I will be getting new eyes: I am scheduled for cataract surgery in late November for the first eye, and mid-December for the second one. I won't be finished with the followup appointments until early January. No plane trips for me right now. To say I'm nervous about it is an understatement. I know that usually it's insignificant and no big deal, but sometimes it is. They don't do both eyes at the same time any more, because if you are in the 2% of people who have complications, they don't want you to be blind in both eyes, after all.

Smart Guy had both of his eyes done ten years ago in Colorado. I remember how much he loved being able to see bright colors and have good vision again. He was talked into getting lenses that would allow him to see close up and especially his computer without glasses, and uses corrective glasses for distance. He was very nearsighted and wore glasses for most of his life, and then I got used to seeing him without them, as he doesn't use them at all except for driving. He's been very happy with his eyes and I can only hope for such success for myself.

I've learned that for people with macular degeneration like I have, I won't ever be seeing things perfectly again, but the surgery will allow me to see much better than I do today. So, even though it's scary, I'm looking forward to it with a little excitement and a little trepidation. It's my eyes, after all. One of my hiking buddies is having hers done by the same surgeon a month before mine, so I'll be learning all about her experience before going through it myself. She doesn't have AMD (age-related macular degeneration) like me, though.

In between that surgery and the holidays, I have my annual trip to Vashon Island for the writers' workshop we have there. It will be our sixth gathering, and the group of six became five a few years ago, and this year we will only be four. I suspect this will be our last year, so I want to get the maximum benefit from this one. I started reading "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott, which I downloaded to my Kindle last year after the retreat but never read. Now I am enjoying it tremendously and want to set some goals for my writing. Anne speaks to me me so strongly in this book, not only about writing but also about life in general. She certainly has had an interesting life herself and tells how and why she became a writer. This is a book I'll read again and again.

I go back and forth about whether or not I will decide to write my memoirs (which, in a sense, this blog has become) or whether I'd even like to take on some fiction writing. I've done a little of it, and I find it to be fun, but I'm not really interested in publishing anything for the masses. I know there are people who really want to be published, but I'm not one of them. I know I've got great stories to tell, but this once-a-week writing meditation takes care of that urge, pretty much. Some weeks I've got lots of write about, other weeks it's a struggle just to get started. I vacillate between those two extremes but still never want to miss a Sunday morning sitting in the dim light from my laptop,with my tea, and my partner softly slumbering beside me. Thinking about what might emerge from my mental processes as I sit here tapping on the keys.
We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. (Anne Lamott)
Yep, that pretty much says it all. I'm enchanted with her take on life, and she even makes me consider that I might one day decide to write a novel. One with people I've created from my own imagination and that would go somewhere I've never been. Not that I'm committed to it, but she has helped me to consider it. The one thing I know for sure is that I need my eyes to work properly if I want to continue to read AND write. So both of these issues are tied into the next few months and what will happen: one, the writing retreat, and two, the eye surgeries, in that order.

For a short while during the recent hurricane, I considered that if my sister's mobile home was destroyed, she might decide to move to the west coast and join me by moving nearby. She was considering it, and Peter woke her the morning after the hurricane passed (they were staying in Tampa at her daughter's rented two-story home) and said, "Well, I've got some good news and some bad news." She asked for the good news first. "Our home is still standing." Then she asked for the bad news, and he said, "Our home is still standing."

Unless the Universe arranges something else that might give her another reason to move, she's probably going to stay there in Florida for the rest of her life. I know that when I visit her in that lovely 55-and-over mobile home park, I would probably not leave, either. Her home is paid for, she owns the land underneath it, and her expenses would never again be as low as they are today. Of course, living in Florida during the summer months is no picnic, but she's managed to adapt to it. I, on the other hand, really could never be happy there. No mountains, incredible heat and humidity in the summer, and plenty of traffic and gridlock during the winter when the snowbirds are there.

Nope, I like it here. Maybe the only excursions I'll be taking will be inside my own head. Or no farther away than a ferry ride to an island or a trip across the border to Canada. However, if all goes well, I'll probably visit Norma Jean in January or February when the weather here has turned to all rain. No place is perfect all year round, other than maybe Hawaii, but it's very expensive even to visit.  Oh, well, it's nice to realize that I do have choices, even if I don't make a change.

And you know what? Those guys at the coffee shop are as entertaining and filled with stories as any I might make up. Perhaps the first thing I should start with, if I want to write that novel, is create some characters based on them. They would probably recognize themselves even with different names, I suspect. They're nice guys, though, and would forgive me unless I made one of them into a serial killer (smile).

So that gives me just enough incentive to find a way to finish this post and get up out of bed, dress and do my morning exercises and head off to join them. It's Sunday morning and it's time to share a bagel with John and enjoy a wonderful cuppa. I do hope your day is a good one, and I am so very grateful for you, my dear readers, for joining me here today. Don't forget to give your loved ones a hug, a pet, or a phone call to let them know you're thinking about them. Be well until we meet again next week.


Linda Reeder said...

I'm feeling a bit melancholy this morning, knowing that summer weather is coming to an end. Then I'll get over it and move on. In a few minutes we'll pack up and head for the cabin at Rockaway Beach, where our "retreat" will be a stormy one.
I have written my memoir, about 175 pages. I just edited it and added a yearly update a few weeks ago. It is not for publication, only for posterity. I can't imagine writing fiction, but then I don't have a great imagination.
I was just wondering about your sister's house this morning, as I was awake long before I wanted to be. I'm glad the damage was minimal. So many were devastated.
I send my greetings to the Vashonistas! Happy writing, and even happier sharing!

Rian said...

"It's my eyes, after all." That's exactly how I felt, DJan, when my cataract surgeries were done last year. Yes, it's routine, but still... And for your ease of mind, both of mine went fine (although I also don't have macular degeneration). Actually mine were done not only for the cataracts, but also because I had narrow angles - which can lead to narrow angle glaucoma. Now... no more worry about that because the lens they put in are smaller than my own original lens.
So happy to hear that your sister had only minor damage from the hurricane. And to put my 2 cents in, I think that you and her have the perfect situation living on both the east and west coast. Being able to enjoy both areas by visiting seems a lovely way to vacation.
And as for fiction writing, I do this... with no intention to publish. Have several stories in book form which I share with family and friends. It's a great outlet for the imagination. I think you would be great at it.
Oh, and I love the pic of your coffee group!

Tabor said...

Good advice at the end there. I have been so sick with a chest cold I have just started working on emails and bills and touching base with loved ones.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

As you know my eyes are not great. But I manage. I am in Germany in my aunie's apt listening to her breath away as she nears her end. She has stopped eating and drinking and wants bo support sotime will soon come as her body shuts down. I see changes each day. I wait and pray she may soon cross to her place of peace.
Ihave been wondering if the writers will meet again in October. I:m happy to hear it will be so,

Elephant's Child said...

Firstly, I am so glad that your sister and her family are fine.
Anne Lamott is a stunning writer. I am awed at the way she so perfectly encapsulates truth in so few words. Powerful, thought provoking truth.
A friend's husband (who does have macular degeneration) has just had his second eye done. He is over the moon about the results.
Have a wonderful week.

Marie Smith said...

I am glad you sister didn't lose everything even though it will keep her in Florida.

My MIL has AMD and had cataract surgery. She is pleased with the result.

I hope you write more, Jan. You tease us with your blog posts.

Arkansas Patti said...

So happy your sister's place did so well but it is a bit of a shame that she won't be moving near you. Still it gives you both a place to go to escape a nasty season. She can visit you during the Fl heat and you can go there during the PNW cool/wet.
I am glad you have a friend having the surgery ahead of you. That should make you much more comfortable. I have yet to hear of anyone having a bad experience.
Lets see, if a group of women with one man is a harem, what is a group of men with one woman. According to the urban dictionary, it is a reverse harem. Lucky you:))

Red said...

Good news that your sister survived the storm. My bet is that she would never leave Florida. Good luck with the eyes and it must be good to look forward to an improvement in vision.

Rita said...

So glad your sister's place was okay. Yes, you might have both liked her to move, but financially it sounds like the best place for her. (She may get sick of hurricanes and want to move in the future, though, you never know.)

I just had cataract surgeries this year, too, as you know--but I had other issues. I can see better long distance and don't need glasses to watch TV, but because of my other issues they didn't want to attempt to change my close vision so I still need trifocals. The macular pucker got quite a bit worse because of the surgery...so mine was a mixed bag. But everyone else in my family and friends has had an easy time of it. Only complaint they've had is the waiting to get new glasses in the meantime between surgeries and some people had trouble with putting in the eye drops.

I was terrified of the actual surgery and it wasn't bad at all. Couldn't really feel anything and couldn't see much of anything, either. Perfect. I hope yours goes easily, too. The world ends up brighter and clearer. I suppose the changes were so gradual over time that you don't notice it so much till things are changed. :) You should do fine. But I know that doesn't mean you won't be nervous about it all. Have a great week.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I hope your cataract surgery goes as well as mine did, I truly enjoy seeing colors again! I am the opposite of your smart guy, I wear glasses for reading and the computer but take them off for distance.
I would recognize John and Gene anyplace anytime! I bet they would make great subjects for a book:)
I am glad to hear Norma Jeans home is almost okay! I see another is on the distance...Maria or some such name is headed that way.

Carole said...

So glad that your sister survived the hurricane.

Your posts are a true inspiration. You are a gifted writer, and all of us readers are fortunate enough to have found you! Thanks for another great post.

Gigi said...

Phew!! Big sigh of relief that your sister and family are okay. I've been out of touch for the past few days and have been thinking of her and you.

Love that picture of the gang. No, not one of them looks like a serial killer...but maybe they could stumble across a mystery and solve it? Make them heroes.

Have a great week, D'Jan. And although, I'll have my fingers crossed regarding your surgeries - I'm sure it will go well.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Bird by Bird is a great book so I'm glad you are enjoying it. Anne Lamott has written so many profound words and continues to do so, but I found Bird most helpful for writing. I understand your questioning of the publishing of your writings. You are already a published and well read writer just on your blogs. Often they can be much better than the stuff we think we want to write and spend hours trying to get just right, maybe. Enjoy your writing group and best wishes on your eye issues. Not fun, I'm certain.

SHON said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Sally Wessely said...

I haven't completely fallen off of the blogging world, but I almost have. I took a big long break for reasons I don't even understand myself. I thought of giving up blogging, but then I started missing it too much. Finally, I'm back...and it feels so good. I miss you. i will miss being a Vashon, but I will always have those wonderful memories of being there with all of you. Sit in the glow chair and think of me. I will be hoping you all have wonderful time.

Cataract surgery is scary. I understand how you are feeling. It will be fine though. I know you will be glad you had it done. I had mine done a year and half ago. Honestly, the surgery is the easiest part. I didn't even have anesthesia for the surgery. (Long story, but I was glad I did it that way.) The worst part is the drops. I had a system where I had reminders on my phone. You will do great. I know that for sure.

I'm glad your sis is ok.


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