Thank you Pema, Dusty & Emily…

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, she writes about hope and fear—

“Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something: they come from a sense of poverty.  We can’t simply relax with ourselves.  We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.”

HOPE verb: to cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true

FEAR verb: to be afraid of, expect with alarm

Hope was on my mind, so this morning Dusty Springfield’s 1964 song—Wishin’ and Hopin’ popped into my head as did Emily Dickinson’s poem—Hope Is A Things With Feathers. Oh you brilliant, creative women…you’ve been homesteading in my psyche the last few days. Thank you, your timing is impeccable.

Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms
That won’t get you into his arms
So if you’re lookin’ to find love you can share
All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and love him
And show him that you care

Songwriters: Hal David / Burt Bacharach—Artist: Dusty Springfield

All of this hope talk made me think about parenting, religion, and my childhood. My mother’s prayers for me when I was growing up were that I would eventually become someone or something else—an idealized version of the raw potential she saw in me. Please help Lisa stop picking her fingernails, overeating, cussing, being lazy, not caring about her grades, reading the wrong books, listening to the wrong music, drinking beer, or NOT believing the way I do.

I don’t blame her, this was her programming. I’m sure it felt quite loving hopin’ and prayin’ for my needed improvements. She feared who I might possibly become, and truly believed her prayers could turn things around for me. Her faith then required that she gave the God of her understanding credit whenever my improvements, no matter how barely detectable emerged.

I did the same thing to my children—always hopin’ they would become the best version of themselves. I guess I thought wishin’ for the hidden potential in them to emerge would reflect what a stellar job I’ve done mothering and flatter my ego. Damn, that was my programming too.

Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers reveals the unsettling nature of the never ending loop of constant hope…and never stops – at all -.

Hopin’ I believed would make all of my sleepless nights and heartache worthwhile. However, instead, what I’m finally understanding is that all of that motherly wishin, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ kept me from accepting them as they were/are in the present. I’m truly sorry Ellis, Lucy, and Willa that I did not learn this sooner.

Wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ doesn’t seem to actually be working in any part of my life now that I give it more though...and never stops – at all—thanks Emily for that reminder.

What if I practiced more acceptance in all areas of my life? What would that feel like? Complacent? Uncaring? UnAmerican? Untethered? Unbelievable?

Let’s experiment, take a moment…breathe, just let the word acceptance settle into our soul a bit…repeat it a few times. Thoughts?

What if right now in America we just quit wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ for things to be different than they are? What if collectively we ACCEPTED that the God of our personal understanding is desperately trying to reveal to us that all of the political division, rage, wounded egos, destruction, inequality, brutality, greed, spiritual aches, righteousness, grief, and suffering requires our heart’s immediate attention right now and we can no longer keep hopin’ and prayin’ for it to magically disappear?

All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and love him
And show him others that you care

othering/a transitive verb

by Lisa Lillibridge

to treat or consider 
(a person or a group of people) 
as alien to oneself
 
Merriam Webster

I want to blame
I need to blame
someone else
something else 
anywhere else
for my inner tornado

alienate
vilify
repeat

easy breezy
automatic, unconscious

our world’s challenges
far too complex
and exhausting
to metabolize 
entirely on my own

quell my fears 
confirm my programming
please just tell me who, what, and where
I should other today

my team’s constant drumbeat
deliberate, unyeielding
laboring 24/7 
to justify
their clouding of my inner knowing 

click, forward, like, share, and tweet
fair and balanced
the daily diary of the American dream
all the news that’s fit to print

immutable 
and distracting
like a howling airplane baby

poor mum
damn baby

damn mum
poor baby

othering

seductive 
like an ice cold beer
hot, salty french fries
or another slice of chocolate cake

how did I other today?

those people are not my people
that problem is not my problem
that place is not my place

alienate
vilify
repeat

conformity is obedient and compliant
far easier
than looking in the mirror
and down into my own heart

I know I should not utter a word
until I’ve walked at least 
ten steps in someone else’s
work-boots
sneakers
high heels
wing tips
flip flops
or bare feet

but I do
we all do 
and it’s destroying us

South Dakota gothic…

I’ve always been drawn to remoteness, old farmhouses and a chill in the air. My recent visit to my childhood home in Burke, South Dakota offered it all up for me. A blizzard, below zero temps and a borrowed four-wheel drive vehicle to venture anywhere I dared.

Around Burke, South Dakota—January 2020

Thank you Willa for being my photographic partner in crime.

Sinclair Lewis & prairie stories…

I just finished reading Main Street for the third time. First, I was 20 (college), then 25 (just married) and last week at the uniquely tender and remarkably nostalgic age of fifty-two.

Lewis’ character, Carol helped me understand both why I had to leave South Dakota and why the prairie is so doggedly a part of my identity (and my art)…even though I left nearly three decades ago.

“The days of pioneering, of lassies in sunbonnets, and bears killed with axes in piney clearings, are deader now than Camelot; and a rebellious girl is the spirit of that bewildered empire called the American Middlewest.”

― Sinclair Lewis, Main Street

Main Street—Burke, South Dakota

the land of enchantment & a little magical thinking…

Driving around New Mexico last week made me feel like my 23-year-old self, even though I was competing in the National Senior Games. In 1989 I almost moved to Santa Fe with my college friend, Melissa. At the very last minute, we somehow decided quite randomly to move to Vermont instead. My post-college and midlife selves uniquely collided while I drove around soaking up all of the beauty I was drawn to thirty years ago.

Somewhere Between Santa Fe & Albuquerque

The National Senior Games is a subculture I’m so proud to be a part of now. If you’re at least 50-years-old, regardless of your athletic ability, you should find out how to participate. There are so many options—archery, bowling, table tennis, swimming, track & field, cycling, basketball, golf, road races, volleyball and more. Check out the senior games in your region, many are open to out-of-staters. I might hit Nebraska’s games when I’m visiting South Dakota in August. https://nsga.com/state-games

One year ago at this time, Dad sat in his truck and watched me practice throwing the discus in my hometown of Burke, South Dakota. I wanted to take this trip to the National Senior Games in Albuquerque with Dad. I prefer a lot of time alone, just like he did.

Funny things happened that made me feel like he was indeed traveling with me.

  1. When I arrived in Albuquerque, I got my rental car and headed north to Santa Fe. While looking for a radio station, a song, Dad surprisingly loved came on: JUKEBOX HERO by Foreigner. I sobbed.
  2. I had a headache when I arrived in Santa Fe late afternoon, so I (we) laid down to watch TV…Everyone Loves Raymond was on. Dad watched it all the time.
  3. I wasn’t really hungry for dinner after resting, all I wanted was ice cream—Dad’s all-time favorite food.
  4. The morning I went to throw, in the lobby of Hotel Albuquerque I met two Vermonters who played on a men’s 75-year-old basketball team. They reminded me of Dad and they were so encouraging. I promise them I would go watch them play in the afternoon.
  5. I went to the University of New Mexico’s track and field complex to compete (I got 5th place, but didn’t throw as well as I had been practicing). However, I learned something about myself and my over-reliance on Dad’s spirit to give me the extra boost I was hoping for. 2019 Vermont Results LINK: https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/more-vermont-gold-in-tennis-track-and-field-and-swimming/
  6. That afternoon, during a time-out, Stan and Don came to ask me how I did and told me to go watch the Detroit Metros play (former NBA player on their team). I did. I smiled when I walked into that game, the Detroit Metros were playing South Dakota, yet another sign from Dad. I went out or burgers, fries and milkshakes with them after they were done. A perfect end to my (our) day.

So, with all of these coincidences, I put an inordinate amount of faith in Dad’s presence with me while I competed. When I got to my last throw in the finals, I truly expected Dad to give me the extra oomph I needed to win or at least take the bronze medal. When I didn’t throw even as well as I had been practicing, I was disappointed.

I kept going over my throws in my head. I realized that I actually relinquished some of my personal inner strength & preparation, relying instead on some form of magical thinking and faith in Dad.

We can have faith in all sorts of ways. However, now I understand that faith alone doesn’t take me off the hook from utilizing my available resources, common sense, inner strength, and resilience.

Tinkertown Museum

http://tinkertown.com/

Dad, understanding the nature of faith might be the most important coaching you’ve done in my entire lifetime.

Thank you.

PS I will do my best on July 13th at the Vermont State Games. https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/schedule/

the absurdity of midlife…

I love this stage of life…now anyway. At 52, I feel somewhat betwixt & between, not yet old, but clearly no longer young. I have to admit that loving midlife was a slow burn, a process requiring acceptance, laughter, more acceptance, a whole lot of grace and then a nap from the exhaustion of it all.

Midlife seems to have the best analog to middle school for me. Uncertainty. Flop sweats. Mood swings. Junk food cravings. Fear of what others think of me (this is waning substantially now though). Fortunately, at this tender age, I understand that trying something new isn’t so scary, it’s just really exciting.

Actually an epic fail of attempting something new might even have more value than success…at least when viewed through the lens of COMEDY and not EGO.

With that said…

My late, All-American discus throwing Dad/coach and I are heading west to compete in the National Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m terrified, excited, moderately well-prepared and hoping to NOT make a fool of myself. However, if I do, I will have a funny story to share anyway. I’m sure Dad and I will travel well together. Although he might be surprised how many times I want tacos and how much I appreciate good tequila. Oh well, travel’s meant to be a perspective expanding adventure, right? I’ll eat lots of ice cream in his honor.

Throwing the discus in midlife has connected me to my younger and far more athletic self. My senior year of high school I forgot my discus on my way to the state track meet. I was so damn excited about seeing, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” with my friend, Jon that it slipped my mind. Using a borrowed discus, I threw my best ever distance and ended up with the silver medal. I wish I could locate my 1984 yearbook.

My goal in Albuquerque is to toss one that beats my qualifying throw of 69′ 9″ last June in Vermont. Full disclosure, there were only two of us in our age division.

I inherited this autographed discus from the many sports artifacts decorating my Dad’s office. Alfred Oerter Jr. was the first athlete to win a gold medal in the same individual event in four consecutive Olympic Games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Oerter

I throw next Tuesday morning (hopefully, I remember my discus). Wednesday evening is the “Walk of States”. We will do our very best to represent the 802.

Our team has an 84-year-old decathlete, Flo. I can’t wait to watch her compete. Talk about aging with some serious grit. https://www.mysuncoast.com/2019/03/12/year-old-vermont-woman-still-travels-world-pole-vaulting-competitor/

I encourage everyone to seek out competing in your state’s Senior Games. It’s really fun, the stories and the people are so inspiring. Your only qualification is that you have to be fifty-years old by the time of registration. Here’s the link: https://nsga.com/

Wish me luck and try throwing yourself into something new…there’s always added value in having another story squirreled away in your comic arsenal.

horizontal mystery ship—for Dad

HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP

when you leave at seventeen
rarely home
more than two weeks at a time 
months, years and decades
can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood

only once
in the summer of ‘88
a recent college grad
wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled
my tonsils required more
I stayed a whole month

once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas
off to the southern hemisphere
a young pioneer 
in search adventure
and different stars

now, when visiting 
after a lifetime lived elsewhere
grey hairs visible
no matter my efforts
I find myself
sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts

driving Dad’s truck 
windows down, hair blowing 
mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty 
the prairie 
a determined cellular homesteader 
forever staking a claim in my blood and bones

I want to sneak out to the bar
play Space Invaders
sadly, no longer a standard
unlike 1982
drink beer, eat junk food
and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up

Looking back with midlife sensibilities 
I realize
those late nights in high school
tenth grade, I believe
laser focused, playing Space Invaders
provided a surprisingly valuable education 

initials entered, quarters stacked
protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens
monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance 
my peripheral vision unknowingly trained 
to notice things beyond immediate scope
bonus points pinged
while friends waited impatiently

twenty more minutes, please

under a waning August moon
only one lunar phase ago
I was still my father’s daughter
a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager
pretending time actually plays tricks
wanting desperately to disregard reality 

one more visit on the calendar
one more phone call
cheeseburger or ice cream cone 
one more evening watching
Everybody Loves Raymond
M.A.S.H. 
or Mayberry RFD

twenty more minutes, please

quarters stacked no longer
Space Invaders
the nearly forgotten teenage relic 
of a heartbroken
fifty-something
fatherless daughter

once again, 
I am protecting my bunkers
monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship
paying very close attention
to what's just beyond my immediate scope

just twenty more minutes, please

I’ll give it my best shot, Dad.

Today I throw the discus at the Vermont Senior Games at 10:30 eastern time. I’m hoping to qualify for the Senior Olympics in Albuquerque, June of 2019.   I’ve been practicing.  I’ve watched many videos of remarkable Olympic Women throwing, studying their techniques.  I’ve worked with a coach. Thanks Matt.  I’m prepared to at least give it an honest effort.

Just over a week ago, my Dad sat in the pickup while I practiced throwing at the spot I learned to throw the discus as a seventh grader.  My Dad, my coach gave me some pointers and we laughed about a fifty-one-year-old woman throwing the discus again after 34 years.  Today he’s in the hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, getting world-class care and struggling.

I want to qualify for Dad today.

A standout thrower, Lillibridge placed third as a sophomore, finished second as a junior and won the North Central Conference discus title as a senior. Lillibridge, who placed second in the NCAA Division II national meet in the discus, earned All-American honors. A graduate of the USD School of Business in 1962, he has received the USD School of Business South Dakotan of the Year, the USD Alumni Award and the South Dakota Philanthropist of the Year honor. He has been a major supporter of Coyote Athletics for many years. He held State of South Dakota, Howard Wood Dakota Relays and USD records in the discus. A prep star at Burke, he was first-team all-state in basketball as a junior and senior, scoring a school record 1,631 points. Lillibridge was named to the fourth team of the Sport Magazine High School All-American squad. He also won a state title in the discus in high school.

SOURCE: University of South Dakota Hall of Fame website

USD Hall of Fame John Lillibridge link

It’s hot and humid, good for throwing and keeping middle-aged muscles loose.

I’ll let you all know how things turn out today. 

Wish me luck!

 

 

 

Burke, South Dakota—afternoon light

 

 

 

Burke, South Dakota—early morning light