Monday, July 27, 2009

The Deeper Well of Memory

I went to Barnes and Nobles on Saturday. Nothing new. I bought two books. Also, nothing new.

One of the books I purchased was created from an NPR series called: This I Believe. The "This I Believe" series created a forum for everyday ordinary and extraordinary Americans from all walks and ways to share their life philosophies. They sought to answer the question, "What do you believe?" and to share that answer with others. It's been a thought-provoking read. I've enjoyed the journey so far and I am so thankful to those who have shared of themselves in these pages.

I plan to write my own "This I Believe" essay one day. It's an important thing to think about: what you believe. And it takes courage to put it into words.

For now, I just want to share one particular essay that touched my soul. Not because I think it is above the others; they are all equal. But, because it's a topic I can relate to so well: Memory. My soul found comfort in the author's words.

I believe that memory is never lost, even when it seems to be, because it has more to do with the heart than the mind.

At the same time my 44-year-old husband, Ed, was losing his life, my mother was losing her ability to remember. As Ed's lungs filled with cancer, Mom's brain was becoming tangled in plaque. She forgot how to start the car, whether or not she had eaten and which family members had died — including my father.

I became afraid that one day I, too, would be unable to recall my husband, not because of Alzheimer's, but simply because my memory of him might fade. So from the day of Ed's diagnosis until his death a year later, I set out to memorize him: his crooked smile and vigorous embrace, his woodsy smell and the way he cleared his throat when he reached the top of the stairs. I knew I'd always be able to recite his qualities — kind, gentle, smart, funny — but I wanted to be able to conjure up the physical man in my mind, as fully as possible, when he was gone.Back then, I thought memory was a deliberate, cognitive process, like remembering multiplication tables or lyrics or where the keys were. Unable to rescue Ed from cancer, I was determined to save him from the only thing worse than dying:being forgotten.

Later I learned that memory has a will of its own. You can't control it any more that you can influence the weather. When it springs up, a person loved and lost is found, if only for a few seconds.

Recently when I was driving, I had a deep and sudden sense of Ed and the way it felt to have him next to me in the car. My body softened as it used to when we were together seven years ago, living a shared life. I wasn't remembering his face or the way he walked; the careful details I had stored had nothing to do with this moment in the car. Looking in the rearview mirror, I recognized in my own face the same look I once saw on my mother's face in the nursing home. I had asked her a question about my father, and she became confused about his identity. Yet, as she sat there, dressed in a shapeless polyester outfit, she briefly appeared young and radiant, her face filled with love and her eyes misty. Her brain couldn't label the man correctly, but that was not important. It was clear to me that her husband was vivid in her heart, a memory even Alzheimer's could not crush.

I believe there is a difference between memory and remembering.

Remembering has to do with turning the oven off before leaving the house, but memory is nurtured by emotion. It springs from a deeper well, safe from dementia and the passage of time. ~Christine Cleary.

God works in mysterious ways. I was having a normal day. It was nothing special. And then, I read Christine's words. And I fell in love with them.

Memory is so important, it's the lifesaver when you feel like you're drowning. The light in your darkest night. My brother lives in my memories. It is there where he laughs and hugs and is with me. Manny is alive in my remembering. The specific events, the exact words, the precise moments, may be fading with the passage of time. But I'll never forget what really ties me to my brother. What makes him my Manny. My heart will always remember how I love him. And, in the end, like the beginning, it's all about love.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Being like trees

We grow a lot faster than trees, he said, so we miss a lot of stuff.
~ Storypeople

As some of you know, I love Storypeople. Love them. I get a quote of the day emailed to me every morning. It's a great way to start the day and I definitely recommend it. You can sign up here. Yesterday, this quote above came and it really made me pause and think. I really do miss a lot of stuff. And, the worst part is that I don't even realize it. I'm so busy going from one point to the next, checking something off my to do list or just stuck inside my own thoughts that my life passes me by and I'm hardly a part of it. My life.

I've always loved trees. I love them like I love the sky. I read For One More Day by Mitch Albom once, and in it, there was a character who was talking about carving her prayer into a tree. When asked why she carved her prayers into trees, she replied: "Trees spend all day looking up at God". Trees spend all day looking up at God. At the sky. Their majestic.

So, today, after another long day at work, I am saying my own prayer. To be more like the trees.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A little list.

I feel compelled to write tonight mostly because I haven't written in a while and not necessarily because I have very much to say. Work has been busy but good. There are some rough moments but I am getting through them. We're nearly at halfway point with the summer program, so that's exciting. Time flies when there never seems to be enough of it, it seems.

I tend to like to list things these days, so I'll do that now. I don't have much to say really, but I'll list some happy things.

1. The weather. It's been nice. (Knock on wood), we've escaped the horrible humidity NY is known for in the summer. At least for now. I've really enjoyed spending time outside reading, being with family and just enjoying the nice weather.

2. I'm doing things. Outside of work. Little things that make me happy. I'm relaxing, I'm reading, I'm shopping, I'm spending time with friends and just not letting unnecessary stress get to me. It's been good. I'm slowly learning the art of real self care. The only trick is not to let it slide into self indulgence and self centered-ness. It's a fine balance.

3. I'm running again. After many months of on and off again injuries and illnesses, I am running and it's been really great. I don't think I'll be doing another half-marathon any time soon, but I'm getting on that treadmill most mornings and going out for some great runs outside on the weekend. I really love running.

4. I'm being. For the most part, I've been happy this summer. Not for any particular reason really, but I am laughing a lot and crying very little. It's been nice.

5. I'm noticing the sky more. I love the sky. It makes me happy. It reminds me of Manny. I've been remembering him a lot lately.

Monday, July 13, 2009


The sky was beautiful tonight. I noticed it most as the sun was setting and I was walking home. It was comforting. I needed to see a beautiful sky tonight. It's my little reminder that I'm never really alone at all. Beautiful sky.

I'm still here...

I'm still here. I promise. This last week was insane. Our summer program started at work which led to many 11 hour work days and lots of exhaustion. I've been living on coffee through it all and I'm glad to say that I survived it fairly well!

This weekend was great. I was able to catch up on some much needed sleep and spend a lot of time with family. On Saturday, I went to New Paltz with my mom and sisters. We did a lot of driving and a saw some beautiful scenery. (ok, so we got a little lost, but it wasn't so bad!) We went to a local farmer's market, grabbed lunch and then walked around New Paltz before heading home. I've really been enjoying the road trips we've been taking lately (we spent July 4th weekend in the Poconos). Truth is, I've been working a lot lately. A. lot. And getting out of NYC is just what I need to feel better and re-energize for another week.

The weather in NYC has really picked up lately which is nice. It's been in the mid-70s mostly, sometimes hitting the 80s and it's my perfect summer weather. I hate the humidity and heat that NY summers usually bring so there is no complaining from me! Added to this nice weather is the fact that it's finally stopped raining. I've been trying to run outside, and just be outside more. If I can get home before too late tonight, I will definitely fit in another run before going to bed.

In all, this summer has been good to me so far. I'm seeing friends, doing some weekend travelling, spending time with family and relaxing. Work is busy but good. I can't complain.

I hope you're all doing well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I just want you to know....

It's been awhile since I've blogged. Mostly because work has really been kicking my butt lately and I am just exhausted. But, before I crawl into bed tonight, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to read my blog. For the loving, funny, understanding and comforting comments you leave in response to my (many) rambles. Some of you are family (or should be), some of you are friends (of the very best kind) and some of you are strangers (who became friends through writing). You are all amazing. You are all unique. Your words mean so much to me. You mean so much to me.

I promise to write more soon. But for now, I just wanted to thank you. Because your words matter. You matter. More than you will ever know.

Smiles, love & fluff,