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, July 24, 2022

Choosing to remember

Lake Padden yesterday morning

 You know what? I'm actually accomplishing plenty of stuff in a day's time, but for some reason I can't appreciate it and think I should be doing way more. Yesterday I finally chronicled everything I did from waking until I climbed into bed, and it was, surprisingly, quite a lot. Certainly not nothing. But usually when I think of what I do in a single day, it seems inconsequential. Perhaps the passage of time has more to do with paying attention to the present moment than much of anything else. As many sages remind us, the present is all we have: yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not yet.

After all, what is there to be accomplished from one day to the next, other than taking care of our immediate needs and keeping our heads above the waters of discomfort that emerge as we watch and read about the ills of today's world? I can choose to focus on the positive, or allow myself to be pulled into the morass of anxiety that surrounds all of us. Nothing really changes in the world (for the better, at least) if I fall into the trap of unease that is constantly pulling at me. I get to choose!

So, today I am going to allow myself to play, have fun, and think about those I love who brighten my days. Like my sister Norma Jean.

Life is really pretty tricky, and there's a lot of loss, and the longer you stay alive, the more people you lose whom you actually couldn't live without. —Anne Lamott

She has a birthday tomorrow. My baby sister is turning 77, if you can imagine that. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

Me, Mama, Norma Jean with doll

You mean that adorable blond creature is that old now? It seems almost impossible that my baby sister is now an elder, one whom I still talk to and visit on FaceTime once a month. Although I do have other siblings, she and I grew up together and she has become one of those people I can't imagine living without. She, and my dear SG, are essential underpinnings to my mental health, so I cherish every moment of every day that we are still all together on the planet.

When Norma Jean was born, she entered a world where I had already staked out my claim for our parents' undivided love, and she usurped what I felt was a perfect life. Mama used to tell the story of how jealous I was and had to be watched to make sure I didn't harm my sister. I'm sure I must have demanded that they send her back. Fortunately for me, they protected her from her older sister who was in her Terrible Twos and quite spoiled. As the years passed, we grew closer and closer, and all the early pictures of the two of us show that we became inseparable. She taught me how to share.

We were very different from one another: she was shy and reticent, while I was outgoing and extroverted. We only became more so as we grew up. Since my father was in the Air Force and we moved around often, we became dependent on each other for stability. When I was seven, our next sibling was born, PJ, but she was far enough away from us in years that she didn't disrupt our bond. 

In school, Norma Jean would make one close friend when we first arrived in a new environment, while I made several acquaintances. It was very difficult for her when we moved and she would have to leave that friend behind, while I hardly noticed and was happy to be the "new girl" in the next classroom. This didn't change as we grew up, and we both learned to cope with our situation in ways that helped to form our adult selves. Through all our formative years, the one constant friend I had was my sister, and she was always there for me. Looking back, I wish I had learned how to be more like her. I didn't know how to develop close friendships, which I realize now was my own coping mechanism for our lifestyle.

I think that helps to explain how I never was able to have a stable marriage. By the time I had turned thirty, I had been married and divorced three times and pretty much felt that I would never find a true mate. For twenty years, I stayed single (or involved without marriage, anyway) until I met SG. It astounds me that we have now been together for almost thirty years. I am blessed to have him, and love the fact that my dear sister is still available to me for FaceTime visits. In this moment, I am surrounded by all the love and affection that I need. 

I have known more than my share of loss, and I can attest to the fact that as time passes, those losses fade from memory, and what is left behind are many wonderful moments of happiness I had with those who are now gone. I can only hope that this will continue into the future, as I consider a life where one of my anchors has fallen into the depths and left me behind. Or maybe I will be the lucky one and will leave first. Who knows what the future holds? But again, I must remind myself that looking forward into the future is fruitless, since none of us knows what lies ahead.

I am reminded once again that I have the ability to choose what I focus on, and whether I choose happiness and contentment, or allow myself to wallow around in "what ifs" and squander the incredible gifts that I have been given, that's up to me. This Sunday morning meditation, where I focus my mind on something that is foremost in my thoughts, is another gift I cherish. I've made some good friends here in cyberspace and feel the need to give you something to think about in the coming week. Who could have foreseen this incredible gift of instantaneous connection to others we will never meet in person?

My friend John will pick me up at 7:15, and we will make our way to Fairhaven for our usual Sunday morning breakfast. When I come home, I'll greet my guy, who will be up and about by then. Right now, however, he sleeps next to me as I tap the keyboard and think about how to wind up this post. 

How about with a fervent wish for robust good health and happiness to all? That seems like a good idea, since happiness is not in short supply, if I allow myself to have it and give some of it to you. It just spreads outwards like warm sunshine. And with that, I will finish up with the admonition that we all look to the present moment and choose joy. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.


John's Island said...

The photo of you, your mom, and Norma Jean is just a classic example of a sweet family photo. The Lake Padden image is also a delight. I always enjoy your reflections on life. Have a great day and week ahead!

ApacheDug said...

It's always nice to read about Norma Jean, and the three of you in that photo should've been painted by Norman Rockwell--what a beautiful picture and some real Americana! I sure hope she has a wonderful 77th birthday tomorrow. DJan, I had to smile at you wanting to leave some inspiring words at the end of your post, frankly your Sunday columns always inspire me--today's was a reminder to do more with my day, and it's okay to appreciate and enjoy your own life. I very much plan to do the same. You're a good person & I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy Birthday to Norma Jean! Think positive...I think that is the way to go!!

Marie Smith said...

Love that photo of you, your sister and Mama. A photo of that time which defies time in its sentiment! We are a product of our circumstances in many ways. You were fortunate to have good parents and a wonderful sister who was a bosom buddy. Happy birthday to her.

Elephant's Child said...

A very happy birthday to Norma Jean - and huge thanks for this post. A timely reminder here...

Dee said...

Dear DJan, please wish Norma Jean a happy birthday from one of your "virtual" friends who's been touched by your philosophical musings each Sunday. I'm grateful for all you ponder and share because so often you reflect what is also moving through the labyrinth of my own mind and heart.

Like you, I seek to live in the present and in Presence. And like you, also, I have a rosary of those who have gone before me into the Beyond--a mystery that beckons. I find myself increasingly grateful that my friends who have died chose me to be a friend and shared their lives with me. Increasingly grateful also for the embrace of my mom and dad who provided me with a moral compass that has shaped my life.

Take care. Be gracious, please, to yourself. And know that your writing, which reflects the beauty of your soul, has touched so many of us so deeply. Peace. PS: thank you for leaving a coming on my blog recently. I'm unable to respond to the comments there--Google won't let me--but I do so appreciate the response of others. Dee

Arkansas Patti said...

Happy Birthday Norma Jean. Ah to be 77 again. I can say that since I turned 83 yesterday.
You two sure looked alike. So happy you both have each other in your lives. A constant is such a blessing. My brother is mine.
I understand how you enjoyed the "new girl" mystique. We moved a lot and I know that feeling. Kind of neat. I did hang on to one friend for 75 years even with all the moving.

Linda Reeder said...

My next in age sister and I are quite close, and our birthdays are just three days apart. She just turned 76 and I was 78 just ahead of her.
Yesterday was busy with a garden club outing I was in charge of that lasted well into the afternoon, and then a Sounders match at 7:00, which we left for at 5:00. They won! We got home after 10:oo, and I am trying to take it easy, but I had to primp the yard because we invited one of our new garden club members to come get a garden tour here. I did my hour of PT while Tom in handling the tour, but he goes on and on and now I am impatient to have her move on before my 1:00 lunch time. So, yes, I need to to a better job of living in the moment.
Thanks for the Sunday post. You always offer something to think about.

Rian said...

It is wonderful that you and your sister are so close. It's nice to have someone who shared your childhood. My sister and I were almost 10 years apart and were just getting to know each other as adults when she passed. My older brother and I were 4 years apart and we WERE close. I still miss him a lot. But luckily I still have cousins who shared my childhood. I am grateful to have them. Wish Norma Jean a Happy Birthday for me! (BTW, one of my closest cousins is Barbara 'Jean').

Linda Myers said...

I have just begun to live in the moment on Sundays! That is, no schedule or computer work. However, on the other days my to do list is mostly optional. I love the unexpected stuff that comes along.

Gigi said...

I always wanted a sister...but I've got a few friends that have stepped into that role - so I think I'm set. Yes, trying to figure out what the future holds is an impossible task. So, we shall look for the positive in the here and now.

Have a wonderful week, my friend.

Red said...

Some people are just naturally happy. They don't have to chose. It just happens. Some people chose happiness and they make it work. Others do not to choose happiness and will never be happy.

Anvilcloud said...

What a lovely and thoughtful essay. It centers around your sister but is about other things too.

Mona McGinnis said...

Yes, DJan, your words are provocative and inspiring. All we need to do to realize the consequence of all those things we do in a day that we deem as inconsequential is to stop doing them. All those "inconsequential" activities contribute to the fabric of our days. Our days wouldn't be the same without them. Just as all those people who came and went in our lives has contributed to the fabric of our lives.

gigi-hawaii said...

Yes, choose joy. Absolutely. I am glad that you have 2 stable bonds: Your sister and your husband.

Rita said...

Happy birthday to Norma Jean! You are so lucky to have such a wonderful sister you are close to. :)

Galen Pearl said...

Your post made me curious about what your sister would write about you! Maybe she could do a guest post and share her own sisterly reflections sometime.

MARY G said...

Imsomwanted a sister as I grew up an only child. I have been lucky with friends, though. My longest connection dates from Grade 7 and we are now both 80. And I am incredibly fortunate to have made a good friend just a few years ago. You have inspired me to post about friends ... many thanks.