She’s Not Here

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The one thing you need to know about this big adventure is that it is a True Story.

I love that. I think I will say that about everything I write from now on.

True Story.

My husband and I have been watching the newest season of the television show Fargo, and it starts out every episode with that same message: This is a True Story. Sortof like they are preparing you to be shocked. It’s like a warning label for viewing that might be deemed harmful to your health. Or maybe it’s just a way of teasing people to make them think twice about whether they are really up for the episode’s wacky or stomach-turning madness.

That won’t happen here.

Well, the wacky may happen but the stomach-turning madness, with the exception of one scene which I may or may not be allowed to share, will not. (It all depends on if I let my husband read this before I publish it, giving him the opportunity to censor me).

For example, I won’t tell you how I came to create the Montana Slammer out of necessity.

Montana Slammer

We were in Montana. We needed a happy hour cocktail. We were dangerously close to being out of Bloody Mary mix, our “Go-To” vacation fun drink that has historically set up an evening of merriment (yes, I said “merriment”) and loss of control of the motor functions in my face that allow me to speak clearlyish and without mushingtogethermywords so you really have no idea what I am saying.

Not that I have ever done that.

I won’t tell you what we had to do to maintain “vacation cocktail hour” mode whilst competitively playing mini-golf at an RV campground overlooking the North entrance to Yellowstone, using “sticks” (not putters, because, apparently, folks in Montana that run RV campgrounds that have mini-golf courses call them sticks). Or maybe we started calling them sticks because we had no idea what those long, skinny metal things with the flat heads were or why they were in our hands, due to the slammin’ beverages… Who knows.

Anyway, true story. This trip we are packing for has us last-minute hustling to find lodging when we have already passed the “It’s too late to find a decent hotel” deadline and are now into the “Whose freaking fault is it that we will be driving around in our rented RV looking for campgrounds that are not 100 miles away from our target destination: Yellowstone?

“I thought you were handling all the logistics planning,” I say politely to my spouse. (It’s possible that the way this actually comes out is more like: “(WTF), honey, you are the map and planning genius. Where’s our freaking trip map?!”)

See how polite I am? I mean, I call him honey.

To which my beloved sweetly replies, “(WTF), you just as easily could have done the legwork to book the hotels. You always do it when we go anywhere else. Why is this my fault?”

Sweeeeet.

So instead of booking lodging in a variety of hotels in or around this national treasure park of ours, we end up reserving a 22-foot Class C RV. Points for you if you know what RV stands for. I sure as heck don’t.

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RV2

This requires us to now book campground lodging in strategic locations preferably within Yellowstone, so we are scouring the National Park website’s list of campgrounds for a site – any site – that is still available with full hookups. If you have ever camped with an RV you know that this is an important part of the experience. Full hookups mean you will have fresh water to wash dishes, shower in a stall that will make an MRI machine look like the Grand Ballroom at The Ritz Carlton, and be able to do your daily “business” without having to traipse to a public restroom facility.

Oh, the days when a full hookup meant something totally different……

So back to the True Story. The back story to this True Story is the other True Story about two sisters who dreamed of driving cross country before they settled down to “real life.” Wacky adventures were the norm for these two, so Lord knows what shenanigans would hatch.

(Note to self: A+ on the use of “shenanigans!” It is one of the words in my Favorite Words list concocted in the little black mini-journal I carry with me at all times. Everyone keeps such a list, yes?) 

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Oh, you are all in for a fun ride if you are following this so far…

The True Story is not going to bum you out so let’s just say that this version of Version 1 is the truest version it can be without changing 99% plus 1% of the facts to make this fun to read without all the heartache of reality.

My God, this is hard to write!

Before this gets too far out of hand, let’s wrap it up with the True part of the Story. My sister Joyce and I had talked about driving cross-country as young graduates so we could see all the cool sights of America. The Road Trip of our Youth, I guess you could call it. Do this while we are young and before we could be bolted down by the Bills of Adulthood, the Jobs of Adulthood, the Requirements of Adulthood. Blecch. Adulthood.

The plan was not yet fully formed, like most of the plans of teenage girls who get all excited thinking about the world as a welcoming, happy place that doesn’t hurt you, really, and doesn’t disappoint you in the realization of your Dreams.

We figured we would just get in our car (the one we didn’t have yet, because we were teenagers at the time), and drive literally west. As in, turn the key, hit the gas, Go. Keep going. Heading toward the Rockies in Colorado, and stopping anywhere along the way that we felt like checking out.

That’s how kids think, isn’t it?

Well, that’s how we thought, anyway. Dreaming of seeing all the cool stuff in the United States and just enjoying taking in the scenery and the people along the way.

So the hard part in this True Story is that all of those preconceived notions got blown up, like Nakotomi Plaza in the first Die Hard movie. (Or the Death Star in whatever Star Wars installment that was…)

As I prepare for this Trip of a Lifetime with my husband, Joyce is always there. In my mind. In my ideas of what Mike and I might do on this vacation. I have determined that there will be activities that are definite “must-do’s” and there is everything else. That way, I leave it open to the workings of the Universe and whatever it will serve up as an opportunity to meet people, embrace nature, etc.

Whew!

Your reward for sticking with me through this meandering early part of the story is this: my personal recipes for the drinks that made our vacation comical at moments, relaxing at other moments, and downright yucky at one moment in time….

For now, remember. This is a True Story.

 

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Trip of a Lifetime

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Note from the author: The story you are embarking on is true. The timing, however, is adjusted for your reading pleasure so you can take this trip with me. The trip is in the can, as some of you who know me already know. I’m writing it in the past tense because I’ve taken some time to let the memories sink in, and to reflect on how this part of the journey went. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

How do you take a trip that you’ve wanted to take your entire life, but were supposed to take it with someone who is no longer here?

I haven’t thought about it like that, but in a nutshell, that’s what I’m doing. Next week. The good news is I’m taking said trip with the love of my life. The hard part is, I expected to take this trip when I was a 20-something, before Life had taken hold to compress me into the Adulting World of work, family, and the dreaded “R” word …. Responsibility. It won’t be spoiling the ending to explain that my upcoming trip was meant to be part of a cross-country adventure that my sister Joyce and I planned on taking when we both finished college back in the 80s.

The problem is, Joyce and I didn’t get past 1984. Well, I did. Joyce did not.

joyce at bungay field

There is so much “story” to this one, I’ll need a few quick blog posts to set this up. Here’s the scenario:

The What:

A trip out West, part of what would have been the dream road trip for my sister and me.

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The Who:

Me and my husband of 13 years. Let’s call him Mike. He was a childhood crush of mine when he played third base for The Rebels in the George J. Hummel Little League in our hometown of Seymour, Connecticut.

Michael the Rebel

Small-town sports take root early, and in our family of seven children, our parents volunteered for activities that we kids were involved in. It was a way to help out, but more importantly, a way to be with their children in our leisure time, precious that it was. My father was the coach of The Rebels, an expansion team added to the league at that time. My then-future husband, Mike, was a “free agent” from another team that had to offer up a player to the newly formed Rebels. Okay, reeling you back in so as not to get too far off topic, The Who of this story is Mike and Me. Note that the original version was supposed to be Joyce and Me, so keep that in mind.

The Where:

Not so fast, I can’t give away all the details. First, I will have to pose a question to see who can guess this detail. I’ll give you a big hint for starters: We are heading to a major landmark in the U.S., out West as we have already established in this post. Name the primary location we are headed to, and who is responsible for it becoming such a Bucket List location? Visit the Walking Distance Facebook page to offer your answers!

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The When:

One week from today. Wheels up, baby! We’re flying out to [Wouldn’t You Like To Know], getting to our destination a bit differently than Joyce and I were planning to do it, but the journey is not about the logistical details as much as it’s about the experiences throughout. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about traveling, it’s that your expectations should never overshadow the reality of what you are experiencing. That cute little old lady sitting next to you on the flight may offer you some of her homemade Divinity candy and click! Instantly you are chatting like longtime neighbors that share a common driveway. Go with it.

The How:

Camping, RV-style, so we can wake up each morning and decide – Go west or go east? Free to drive along taking in the ride, pulling over to have a bite to eat when the view is too tempting to pass by. It ain’t the Ritz but it sure is heavenly at times.

Okay, so that’s the Who, What, Where (sortof), How. Can you see the former journalist in me sticking to the fundamentals? One critical question left to pose and answer: The Why.

The Why:

Why do we go where we go? What makes “vacation” to each of us? Time off from the daily grind of work, household chores, bill paying, family caregiving, and, did I mention work? Is it the quest for adventure or exploring new places? Do you need down time sunning on a beach, hiking a trail, checking out a cool city?

The Why for this trip has many layers, but the bedrock lies deep in the core time of my life: teen-hood. The days when my sister Joyce and I were dreamy, optimistic, carefree teenagers. Nothing was impossible to us, because we grew up under the tenets of positive parents who encouraged us to shoot for the stars. Well, shoot for the stars, but work hard, get an education, be strong and diligent in your faith, love your neighbor, and a few other things that were the doctrine of our Catholic upbringing in a blue-collar family of nine (that’s including our parents).

The Why of this story will be explained as we go, I think, since there are revelations that come to us that we don’t always see coming or intend to experience. That’s the beauty of having experiences! Shit happens, both good and bad. We can embrace it or not, but either way, it’s going to leave a mark.

Okay, so that’s the setup. Trip of a lifetime, coming right up.

Coming Up Next: She’s Not Here

©️Marianne Heffernan, 2017

The best reason: pure love

I’ve been quiet because words come too fast and also too slowly. The things I want to share about the Trailblaze Challenge I took up were the Who’s, the What’s, the Why’s. I’ve told you some of the How’s. But the W’s… those are the things that need to be digested. For all my ambition to blog every step of my Make-A-Wish fundraising way, I ended up taking a step back from my social media sharing to do what most of us these days are mindlessly forgetting to do: embrace the experience. 

So here I am, on the brink of Hike Weekend, penning a post to let you know that I am still in this, I am still humbly asking for monetary donations, and I am still planning to push myself to my physical limits to hike the Mahican-Mohawk Trail in western Massachusetts on Saturday for 30 challenging miles.

Yep, that’s more miles than a marathon. And hell yeah, that’s 12 miles more than my max training hike was. That one took my about seven and a half hours to do so I’m guessing 30 miles will take me a good 12 hours, give or take.

I’ve learned a lot and I plan to share those stories, post-hike, after I’ve had time to collect the stories of my fellow hikers and their reasons for taking this daunting challenge.

One thing I will share now is this: it is a hell of a lot harder to gain potential supporters when you don’t have a directly personal story that is fueling your motivation. I was surprised by that for some reason, but not discouraged.

So here it is. I don’t need to have suffered the anguish of being a parent whose child is battling serious illness to have compassion and want to do something to help. What I have is a natural affection for kids. It’s nothing more than that. Maybe a few real-life examples will help you to get what I mean.

On a recent training hike, I watched as three little ones joined a woman on the town Green as she did what looked to be Tai Chi. They took her instruction and then mimicked her movements. They laughed, they connected. I looked on, smiling. Warmed. 

In church, I’ve watched children accompany their parents in line for Holy Communion. They fold their arms to accept a blessing or they take the wafer, depending on their age. Or they are carried in the arms of their mother or father because they are too young to walk. Their faces are indescribably beautiful in their purity. That’s a gift, and I have received it more times than I can count.

On a recent training walk, I watched as three little ones joined a woman on the Town Green as she did what looked to be Tai Chi. They mimicked her movements, they laughed, they connected. Another gift. 

On my ride home from work today, I found myself behind a school bus, its back seats filled with rambunctious middle-school aged children trying to get the driver of an 18-wheeler alongside them to honk his horn.

I knew it was a matter of time before it happened. No, the truck driver did not honk. I knew that the kids would eventually turn their attention to me, the lady driver following their bus. I knew. And I was not disappointed. The smile was on my face before those kids even gestured to me.

They started waving.

You know I waved back.

Connected.

It’s the way children express themselves, without hangup or pretense. It’s a purity I can’t find a word for. It’s a combination of things: Joy. Innocence. Love. Humor. Curiosity. Sincerity.

And guess what? All of those things are qualities in the kids I am hiking for, too. The difference is, the Make-A-Wish kids are learning to develop a few other qualities as well: perseverence, strength, and a host of others.

So I’m giving back. Just like all the other “unknown” children — as well as those I know and love — who have put a smile on my face or warmed my heart, I’m giving of myself what I can, in the purest form I can manage. 

With the Trailblaze Challenge looming, I am a mere $425 shy of my $2,500 fundraising goal. I’ll get it one way or the other. Just don’t tell me that I don’t have a good enough reason to ask for help on their behalf. 20160929_182950

Time is all we get. But how much?

I keep telling myself that there are many people who feel this way but the nagging sense of defeat before I’ve even begun is like tinnitis. The constant humming that won’t go away. I’m in this but hey, I can get out, right?

It’s like this: I signed up for the Trailblaze Challenge with the sincere desire to help a worthy cause — Make A Wish foundation, for children — and after a few training hikes I am noticing something. I’m no kid myself.

I hate to focus on age because, what a stupid “barrier” that is to hold up, but the fact is, I’m finding the demands of aggressive, purposeful hiking to be, well, demanding. No big deal, right? Just keep training. That’s the whole idea of training anyway. But I have to admit, I am allowing the concept of quitting to visit my thoughts, here and there.

There are the time constraints, for one. It takes a few hours to do a hefty hike (7-9 miles, I’d estimate, depending on my pace). That’s precious. Time is all we get, and even at that, we don’t know how much of it is coming.

There are no guarantees of years or months. There is only today.

So let’s just stop at that one because blogging also is a time-taker. If I stop right there I should be telling myself, “Exactly. Time is all we get, and we don’t know how much.” And there, with that revelation, I’ve hit on it. That is reality for the children that Make-A-Wish is supporting. It is an even scarier reality for the parents of these children, who are hoping to watch them grow old, have achievements, live their lives.

Time is precious. Every day, precious. Make-A-Wish here in Connecticut is hiking to make those precious moments happy ones for these kids, and memorable ones for their families.

So after logging nine miles yesterday, I took it easy today. I blocked out the humming that’s suggesting to me that my athleticism might not be up to the challenge. And I decided that I will take this one day at a time. Because today is what I have. Just like the kids I’m hiking for.

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Circling to settle in

It’s the first full day of my planned almost-week off from work. I’m supposed to be looking at my dissertation draft, or, rather, the collection of writing I have done to assemble this monolithic paper. I’ve been procrastinating for two hours.

The time has come for me to recommit and make it stick, or do the honest soul searching to decide if yes, I do really want to finish this and be awarded a doctorate degree.

Come to think of it, I do not know that I ever really had that private, inner discussion with myself. I think I just took for granted that I do. Why else would I have started this journey in the first place?

When I set out to get a PhD in the Humanities, I was sure that I wanted to finish. At the time, I saw it as a new challenge and a goal that I could achieve though the generosity of a (then) employer that paid tuition for degree programs. This was my Plan B, or my future optional career path of teaching at the college level. A PhD is a must-have, and I saw it as a great way to transition, when I was ready to move on to the next career phase.

It is now several years later. I successfully completed all the required coursework, exams, and topic proposal, and have been treading water in the dissertation phase for far too long. I no longer feel that a professor’s path is calling me. But I do know that I cannot abandon this work until I have finished it.

Life pulls at us.

Life pulls at us. It makes its demands of work, family responsibilities, the human needs of rest and relaxation. For me, there is also the intense lure of the creative. The need to explore my interests, my arts, my thirst for experiences. I’ll abandon my research chores in a heartbeat if I even glimpse at the first chapter of a new book that I can’t put down.

I used to be far more disciplined when I had a goal. Now, I find that giving in to the lures of personal pursuits and human limitations are much more important than goals. We get one go-round here.

So for the next six days, anyway, I will settle in and demand of myself the discipline to do the work. I’ve been round and round trying to find my comfort zone, but this topic is not one that fosters “comfort.” I mean, writing about the way people write about their grief… I can see how you might think that’s a bit of a downer.

Then again, if I thought that my dissertation did not have the potential to inspire, empower, perhaps even help others to interpret their loss in a powerful way, I would not push myself to stick with it. The paper is called:
Toward a Theory of Internet Memoir: A Content Analysis of Expressions of Grief in Social Media. I’m seeing evidence every day. There is so much to understand here. Maybe I can help.

So I’m back at it. This time it’s personal. Keep an eye on me here, will you?

Fearless, Awe-inspired, Undeterred (so far)

Got my hiking on over the weekend to prepare for the 30-mile Trailblaze Challenge. The Challenge is about three months away, but since I’ve never hiked that far in a day, I figured I’d better get out and see what I’m up against.

Apparently, I am up against a lot.

First, there was the four-letter word posted on a sign at the entrance to the Bent of the River Audubon Center. Well, to be precise, it was a four-letter word in the plural: Bears.

The warning sign posted at the entrance to Bent of the River in Southbury, Connecticut, that black bears are among us.

The warning sign posted at the entrance to Bent of the River in Southbury, Connecticut, that black bears are among us.

So there’s that.

I’ve seen the reporting of black bear sightings in the news for a few months and have been on the lookout, given that our home is surrounded by woods. I’m sure the chances of me coming upon one of these regal beasts are fairly small. Still, it’s good to know.

Add to that the fact that I recently finished reading, Emory’s Gift, a coming-of-age story about a boy who befriends a grizzly bear, and my awareness of the wildlife living in the woods was high enough to, let’s say, put a bit more spring in my hiking steps.

Reminding myself that I am hiking for a children’s charity, I took the bear warnings — both fictional and real — as a sign that I need to be fearless in my focus to get the job done.

I chose to hike the upper trails of the looping nature center, to get a level-set on my abilities, stamina, and overall fitness for the task that lies ahead in this Challenge. As previously noted, I’m up against a lot. And apparently, the recommended training goal for this weekend was 4-5 miles, so I fell a bit short there. Well, technically, I did log 5.5 miles on Saturday, but only 3.27 of that was actual “hiking” miles. But I’ll take it.

I was all alone in the woods for my hike. But in truth, I really wasn’t. The birds, the animals that were there but not directly within my sight— rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and who knows what else — all surrounded me. The trees stood sentry as I stepped along the paths. You might think I’m going overboard in my sensitivities to the experience, but it was an awesome feeling.

I have always loved the crunching sound of the sticks and old leaves — long since shed by the trees — and always loved the feel of the smooth rocks and soft forest floor under my hiking boots. I was tuned in to the sounds of the wind in action, and the rustle of streaming waters somewhere in the vicinity. I was surprised that I did not see a single person on my hike, at least not until I changed directions on the turn for home. But I was pretty pleased to have this natural beauty to myself for a couple of hours.

Climbing up the Pootatuck Trail, I barely stopped to hold a steady frame. The photographs in my mind are somehow clearer than this one, seized by my smartphone's lens.

Climbing up the Pootatuck Trail, I barely stopped to hold a steady frame. The photographs in my mind are somehow clearer than this one, seized by my smartphone’s lens.

I’ve come to cherish solitude, because it is one of those things that you must seek out with intention. Our daily schedules threaten it, and I worry that many of us are not mentoring our children to value it. We are quick to sign on to promote “peace” in our world, but what about nurturing peace within ourselves? For some, it is not easy to let the quiet have its time.

One of the benefits of volunteering to support the Make-A-Wish organization is my personal rediscovery of my love of the outdoors. And while I was thinking that my spontaneous volunteering was a bit philanthropic of me, I am already grateful for the gifts that these anonymous children have given me: a reminder of the beauty of nature and the chance to challenge my physical abilities. In other words, another way to explore being human.

Recommended Reading: 

I’m intrigued by the thoughts that came to mind as I hiked, and I have to wonder if these are the kind of thoughts that prompted Emerson to write Nature, or Thoreau to pen Walden (two books sitting on my coffee table for my ration of summer “fun” reading, once I finish my required research work). This year, my appreciation of nature has been energized by the reminders that this is the 100-year anniversary of America’s National Parks system. Suddenly, I’m researching John Muir and re-embracing Ansel Adams and savoring my National Geographic each month.
A couple of other books for your own exploration: Emory’s Gift by W. Bruce Cameron; A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Any other recommendations out there?

Magical Trailblazing. Who’s in?

I really did not know I was going to do it.

A 30-mile hike on the Mahican-Mohawk Trail in northwestern Massachusetts. In one day. On a Saturday in October. 

This year.

I don’t think it has sunk in yet, what this will demand of me, but yes, I have signed up to take the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Trailblaze Challenge. It’s a commitment that will require training and time, two words that have tested me endlessly throughout my life. Then there is the individual goal to raise $2,500 for this organization that plays fairy godmother to children between the ages of 2 1/2 to 18 who have life-threatening medical conditions.

Make-A-Wish has a hefty goal: To go out and find every possible eligible child and grant him or her their greatest wish. The Connecticut chapter of the organization is looking to grant 250 wishes this year. As of yesterday morning, I volunteered to help.

I committed to supporting this cause after barely five minutes into the introductory remarks of the information session at the Bent of the River nature center in Southbury, Connecticut. It was probably the anecdote about the little girl whose wish was to be a published author that nailed it for me, but I could be wrong…

Today, in the light of a new day, the question did come. What in the world am I doing?

I am not a joiner. I am not a salesperson, and I hate asking people for money.

I don’t have any children of my own, but I can say that I have always felt a special love for kids. How many times have I visited a friend or relative who had small children and found myself being taken by the hand to help them color, or play Barbies, or let them affix a full package of assorted hair clips to my head so they could practice their hairdresser routine?

Yeah, I’m a sucker for kids, so maybe that’s my reason. Add to that the fact of illness, and the opportunity to do something nice for a child becomes a compelling motivator for “getting my hiking on,” as our Trailblaze Coordinator Sierra would say.

Naturally, as a writer, this means that my insane compulsion to capture the stories of this experience kicked in. I’ve relaunched my Walking Distance blog and heck, maybe I’ll toss in a podcast or two along the way so you can listen to the voices behind this cool journey. I’m excited to find my way to help this worthy cause, and I’m hoping that my network of friends, family, colleagues, and beyond, will support me in this effort.

My personalized fundraising web page will be live online soon. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for you to get on board. There’s no pressure, but I hope you’ll consider it.trailblaze bandana
Meantime, kick around that giant question for yourself, because it’s an interesting one to ponder: If you could have one wish in the entire world, what would it be?

Now, imagine if you had a fairy godmother just waiting to make it come true. That’s where we all come in, in this opportunity. We get to bring the Magic.

Mom’s a Superhero; Her Power? Abundant Love.

It was a fourth grade homework assignment that should have been easy for the A-student that I was, but for some reason I had put it off. I’d waited until the last minute to get it done, and there I was stressing out as only a fourth grader of my delicate constitution could.

I’m fuzzy on the details but as I recall, the project was for my Geography class. We were tasked with creating a map of a location – might have been Connecticut, or maybe we were allowed to pick a state that we were studying at the moment. Whatever the assignment, I was wrestling with how to accomplish it. I found myself on the evening before the homework was due, completely baffled. Fear of failure, or more likely, fear of not handing in the homework, had me frozen and distressed.

Lucky for me, I have the best mommy ever. My mother, who at the time was a school teacher with vast experience, was there to rescue me.

It’s impressive what one can do with a little poster board, Elmer’s glue and imagination. 

Mind you, there is no doubt that I had to suffer a mini-lecture about putting off my work. It wouldn’t have been right, had my mother not set me straight on the obligation to assume one’s responsibilities. Nine-year-old child, or not, I could learn from this.

ImageWe worked on that map together, gluing feathers from a pillow onto the poster board, letting the Magic Markers inject just the right amount of color and imagery to the location. 

I have no idea what my grade was for that assignment, but the memory of my mother’s support, guidance and compassion has never left me. She didn’t do my homework for me, let’s be clear on that point. She helped me to think it through, and nudged my creativity.

Good mother? The best.

 

Who has a fond memory of their mother to share? I’d love to hear it!

 

 

 

Lick your wounds, adjust your mind, then fight back

We’ve all been there. Well, some of us have. The “job” starts sucking the life out of you. Getting you down. Stressing you out. You feel like there’s no escape.

I’m having that experience lately, and it isn’t the first time. I can accept that maybe this routine I’ve come to live over and over again is partly my fault, for caring about the work I do and wanting to excel.

But enough is enough, right?

Corporations are cutting back, eliminating jobs but not lowering their expectations of what their employees must produce and be accountable for each day.
Lean is one thing. Skeletal and anemic is something else.

So this past week when I felt the crush of work demand just a little too severely, I allowed myself a momentary meltdown. No husbands or pets were harmed in this incident, and no snap decisions made about the course of my career. I simply allowed myself a couple hours to let the bad experience eat me up.

I swallowed two acetaminophens, got into my jammies and clammed up. Well, first I let the tears flow.

Cathartic, maybe. Weak, eh. I don’t care. I needed a release and that was all I had in me.

I have been told by several people that they see me as an exceptionally strong person, capable of handling adversity and struggle. Looking at my history, I can agree with that. We all have our junk to deal with, and my methods of doing so have generally been healthy ones.

But a person can tire of being resilient. Still, I guess I bounce back pretty well. By the next morning, I was on to the new day and my 45-minute commute, for once, served a positive purpose. I turned on the radio and resisted the news channels. I switched on my favorite music station and stayed in the moment all the way to work. It was just the tonic I needed to set me on a better course.

From Queen’s “39” to Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston” and Heatwave’s “Groove Line,” I let my physical reaction to this audio medicine flow. Bouncing along in the driver’s seat, I literally drove myself to a better mental place.

It’s a start. Will I maintain the positive attitude? There are no guarantees. All we can do is keep fighting the good fight. Who doesn’t have something they struggle with? I’m working on keeping a good focus, and looking ahead to the next good thing. It’s just a matter of time.

Thank God for music, good husbands and pets, and yes, 45-minute commutes.

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I Just Met Marina

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I just can’t seem to shake her story and the way it continues to be told through the magic of the Internet. Marina Keegan was a Yale grad in 2012, poised to bust out of academia and into a fresh new life chapter with a job at The New Yorker, an essay-gone-viral after it was published in the Yale Daily News, and a now newly published book of essays that delivers this talented young woman’s voice to the world. 

As I am studying the continuous, almost rampant evidence of grief expression and the development of a person’s life story on line, I am stunned at the way I have come to know some of Marina’s life story in such a short time. I came across Marina quite inadvertently. It was simply the opening of my web browser one morning before work, as it is often my routine to scan news feeds for interesting stories to share on my social media networks – usually to save those links so I can return to them later when I have more time to absorb and savor their information. But Marina’s story was not one to save for later. I saw the headline as my Yahoo! account opened up, and the words instantly reverberated. That’s what working on a dissertation will do to you. Your brain is at heightened sensitivity to the terms, images or concepts that you are drowning your thoughts in, on a regular basis: 

Life Lessons From Marina Keegan’s Posthumous Book of Essays

Life lessons. Posthumous. 

What is this? I thought. An immediate “click” and I was thrust into Marina Keegan’s life.

I hate to “summarize” her because there is so much to share, but with the Internet at your disposal, you can find out more details than you probably should be allowed to by searching for her on line. For now, I’ll just tell you that at 22, Marina Keegan led a life of purpose in exploring her talents and how to offer them to the world in words and deed. The Boston Globe ran a story just the other day about Marina’s book of essays, so I’ll let that article fill you in:

http://b.globe.com/RfuFcW

This is why I am writing a dissertation. This experience of being compelled to know more about this young woman, and understanding how this kind of content on line presents something of a phenomenon in literary expression. I need to figure out what it all is, still, but I am convinced that something big is happening here.

The story that introduced me to Marina, as many Internet stories do, contained other links. Those led to other content about Marina including photos and the now archived news coverage of the accident in which she was killed. The layers of information and storytelling kept going.

For now, I continue to explore this hard-to-pin-down category of grief storytelling. And I grieve for the loss of someone I never knew, but whose work and life approach has inspired me.

Copyright 2014 By Marianne V. Heffernan