Wednesday, November 27, 2013

STILL WALKING DOWN ALLEYS

Eight-block walk to elementary school;
During winters, on trails at top of snow banks;
During falls and springs, down alleys paved
With cinders, from City Heat coal slags.

Even today, walking down alleys brings back
Childhood memories as well as provides
Quiet respite from busy streets and avenues
Clogged with speedy cars, trucks, and buses.

In alleyways, opportunity see other side of life.
Like the back of our hair, some backyards are
Pristine as front yards; others, in stark contrast, 
Unpainted garages propped up with cinder blocks.

Construction site stalks of rebar lined up like cattails;
Balconies with functional and frivolous decor;
Apartment windows blinded by variety of curtains;
Parking spaces defined by prohibitory signs.

Neighborhood alleys continue to entice and intrigue.
Welcome any incentive to walk out my door for exercise.
Morning alleys have different connotations than nighttime.
Maybe our paths will cross soon, but not after dark.

Ann Beth Blake
November 27, 2013

DRIVING LIKE LITTLE OLD LADY

In 20s, once clocked, and ticketed,
At 84 mph to avoid lateness to work.

Now, more often, driving in slow lane,
Keeping to city and highway speed limits.

Less willing take risks as rain splashes;
Clench hands and hold breath passing trucks.

Still too many miles and hours on I-5,
+150,000 on drives-like-butta car.

Next vehicle, a Volvo from Sweden?
Bright red & ghost flames to belie age.

Ann Beth Blake 
(c) November 27, 2013

AFTERMATH, THE POEM

Even after sleeping well and long,
Tired, tired, tired, and more tired.

Persisting localized soreness,
Improvement, then plateaus.

Almost three weeks after ending
Radiation, future peeks brightly.

Soon, Solstice, too, brings additional
Light and optimism of coming spring.

Ann Beth Blake 
(c) November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

AFTERMATH

In aftermath of crises, initial intense connections and support networks predictably evaporate, leaving a dearth of contact for patients, clients, and the bereaved. This transition, painful and necessary, is a challenging passage even when facilitated by informed knowledge.

Within intense crisis-oriented connections, informal and formal conversations are usually one-sided, resulting in patients, clients, and people in grief feeling special and well-cared for. These temporary relationships are crucial, yet limited. Abrupt closures can leave people feeling adrift, confused, isolated, abandoned, bereft. 

During crises, a variety of professionals offer kindness, thank goodness, and expertise, thank goodness. During crises, people, fortunately, get attached to caregivers, facilitating necessary connections of leaning-against, temporary-dependency, and necessary complete trust within a wide variety of treatment interventions and specific processes. Yet when intense contacts end, people 
enter a disoriented grieving process: "I should be happy, but I am so very sad." "I am deeply grateful for all the support, but now I am alone and lonely."

Informal caregivers, tired and needing respite from absolutely essential constant and concentrated attentiveness, often disappear into valiantly-earned and well-deserved breaks. These relationships can easily be re-initiated and reformed.

Vulnerable people comforted within professional relationships are protected during and afterward by fiduciary codes of ethics, offering confidentiality and strictly-defined boundaries of OK/ not-OK professional behaviors. Formal professional caregivers' ethical codes, aware of our tendency for attachment within intense, yet intentionally-temporary relationships, insist on a specifically-defined hiatus between ending professional interactions and entering into personal friendships. Ethical codes define and proscribe dual/multiple relationships between clinicians and clients/former clients (see citation sources below). Antioch University Seattle requires 5 years before instructor/student status can be renegotiated to a clinician/client relationship. The American Counseling Association's ethical code requires 5 years prior to a romantic relationship with a former client. The American Psychological Association requires a mere 2 years before clinician/client relationship can be renegotiated to romance. 

Historically and recently, I have been on both sides of these intense relationships. Currently, I am highly aware of emotional and logistical reverberations. I am astonished by and appreciative of the team of talented radiation technicians' ability to warmly and playfully interact with me so that I experienced being personally welcomed and attended. The team members are able to closely attune, open their hearts, deal with closure of each patient's intense/daily treatment, and then offer equally-receptive attention to the next patient. Truly a remarkable skill and feat. 

After cessation of 16 days of radiation treatment, I poignantly and intensively missed each radiation team member as well as missed my escorting pals. Daily contact first thing each morning had become comforting and ritualized. As treatment came to a blessed end, so did contact with all my morning caregivers. My family and pals are certainly just a moment away, yet different from automatic daily contact. I now have to return to intentional and spontaneous social contact. Transition from intense relationships to low-key interactions requires awareness and assuring self-talk: "I am OK. I can grieve and be grateful. I am glad to return to normal life agin. I thoroughly appreciating people who deeply invested in accompanying me through that brief phase of treatment. I am OK." 
Thanks, and I miss you.

Antioch University Seattle, School of Applied Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy
 

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 25, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

CAPTAIN, OUR CAPTAIN

A soprano sax jazz version of "Smile, though your 
heart is breaking" plays in background as I write,
Again offering advice and admonition to hold
Opposite experiences as key to staying present.

Many half-century anniversaries; High School 
reunion last year; now 50 years from the defining 
Week for Boomers, innocents born post-WWII.
Searing shock and grief, incomprehensible 
Betrayal, this generation's direct experience of
Every generation's exposure to human inhumanity,
Behaviors beyond comprehension and meaning.

As I entered junior college women's lounge,
Linda intensely relayed that the President had
Been shot. My instant denying response, 
"The president of what?" followed by crushing
Reality that our captain, hero, contemporary savior 
Had been mortally wounded, assassinated, slain;
Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit also murdered;
And Texas governor Connolly seriously wounded.
Innocence also slain, which must necessarily occur,
But too often unexpected, suddenly glaring, ripping
And wrenching away illusion of safety and well-being.

Many defining moments followed initial disorientation:
Civil Rights struggles; 60,000 deaths in Vietnam;
Chicago Democratic Convention; Woodstock.
And many more crushing, incomprehensible losses:
Martin, Bobby, and Malcolm; Janis and Jimmy; 
Evers, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; and more.

Innocence must be shattered so that joy can be fully known.
Valuing these two opposites, and holding all other opposites, 
Yields defining, difficult challenges informing consciousness.
Breathe in and breathe out; smile and cry, smile and cry.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 22, 2013

USEFUL MISTAKES

"To err is human." Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

"We all make mistakes, which is not necessarily a bad thing."
JP Jofre, November 22, 2013

Crucial learning is usually 
The result of glaring mistakes;
Indelibly embedded, always
Memorable, indisputable.

Sometimes embarrassing,
Humiliating, shameful, but
Only when we forget to
Appreciate and embrace
Each and every decisive event.

Rumi invites us to welcome all
Guests with open arms and
Expansive hearts, to relish and 
Cherish offered experiential 
Gifts without any exception.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 23, 2013

FIRST PILL

Took first hormone-suppression
Pill today; only 5 x 365 - 1 remain.
Saving my life; could come with
Side effects; hold the vision against.

Slightly leery that such a small 
Tablet packs such a big wallop:
If missed, not OK to take two
On same day; just go forward.

Three generations of cancer
Survivors; general good health 
And resilience, augmented by 
Kind and competent medicos.

Current usual stance to assume 
Best, prepare for worst; hold each 
With equal valuing, assuming 
Emergence of integrative Third.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 21, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

RECOVERY

Rather than completed healing, 
"Recovery" implies a continuous
Process of re-achieving health,
Encompassing time as well as 
Patients' and caregivers' persistent,
Consistent involvement in treatment.

I and many people are challenged by
And/or resistant to regularly patterned, 
Daily interventions of medical care,
Medication, daily/weekly meetings.

Self-discipline, a distinctive 
Component of mature self-care,
Must be reinforced, ironically,
Via constant discernment and 
Re-orientation to healthy and mature
Actions, reactions, and responses.

Healthy habits require self-disciplined
Attention, rather than tactics often 
Associated with "discipline," namely
Punishment or shame or force.
Instead, healthy habits are based on
Support, encouragement, acceptance,
And, especially, on realistic appraisal 
Of universal human imperfection.

All of us are on the same path of 
Ever-more-deepening self-knowledge
And self-acceptance, as well as
Ever-more-deepening knowing 
And acceptance of the reality of the 
Temporal and temporary nature of 
Our and the planet's existence.

I appreciate companions traveling
Similar paths to similar destinations.
Welcome to the practice and to the race,
That is, the imperfect human race.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 18, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

RAINY DAY AGAIN IN SEATTLE

Precipitation and wind,
Trucks splashing dense
Mist onto windshield,
Occasionally obscuring
Roadway and vehicles.

Nothing like obliterating typhoon 
In Philippine Archipelago, causing
Deaths, devastation, and disaster.
Unimaginable suffering; isolated
People, as yet, beyond assistance.

Nothing like multiple, unseasonable 
Tornadoes in Illinois, Indiana, and 
Kentucky, blowing off roofs and 
Flattening buildings and stranding 
People, most covered by insurance.

Eternal and universal continuum
Relativizes and, sometimes, 
Inadvertently minimizes or 
Masks lesser suffering, still 
Troubling to psyche, soul, body. 

How to balance and contextualize
Own suffering in the face of local
And global, individual and societal
Disasters that affect too many:
Hold my pain and joy; hold others also.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 18, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

DANCING LEAF

Golden aspen leaf dances in gusty wind,
Wildly maneuvering, yet never escaping
From two-foot circle near parent tree.

What holds the leaf in kite-like arcs?
Gravitational pull, like planets and moons?
Long, thin strand of spider's webbing?

Leaf buffets and swirls, but makes no
Substantive progress, like marginalized
Folks' persistent taps on glass ceilings.

When I returned two hours later, leaf had
Achieved independence. Relief for flight, and
Regret about not witnessing final pirouette.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 14, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

FINISHING SCHOOL

Super smart Grandma, student in
First class of Hibbing Junior College, 
Went away to complete degree,
Majoring, surprisingly, in Phys Ed,
Perhaps to teach in public schools, 
Level unknown. Upon dad's death, 
Dropped out to run and close family 
Store. Never completed college, but
Ran tight ship for family and finances.

Mom attended Macalester, one of 
Premier Minnesota colleges;
Dropped out early due to illness.
Worked as librarian in DC during
WWII; married Marine; had me.
After divorce, moved to western MN,
Echoing Gram by assisting aunt to 
Run family store and care for kids.
Met and married second husband;
Three more children; worked as 
Waitress and bar maid for 20 years.
As widow, returned to finish BA and MA
In Special Education, teaching people 
To read until and after retirement.

Each time exploring family traditions and 
Roles, new and head-tilting information 
Pops up to astonish me and to expand
My horizons and understanding of self.
Although all three successful, does my
Consistent grappling to complete echo
Gram and Mom's dropping out of college?
2nd question: Can I focus on whole picture,
Including their incredible completions?

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 14, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE

Radiation appointments completed.
Missing starting each day escorted
By companionate pals; sadly missing
Welcoming receptionists and radically
Talented, cheerful radiation tech team.
Bitter sweetness of missing contact and
Life-saving intervention, yet regaining
Ability to set own schedule, discern
Next steps and directions, re-align.

Next day, slept until awoke on my own.
Applied deodorant to both armpits,
Although three weeks sans left side 
Resulted in no discernible difference.
Teeth flossed, erupting in minor 
Bleeding from weeks of neglect.
Accomplished several essential errands.
Too tired yet to exercise, but soon.

Holding the tensions among opposite 
feelings, experiences, and priorities.
Awe and AHH! Gratitude and tacksam!
The first day of the rest of my life.

Ann Beth Blake 
(c) November 8, 2013





 

WOUNDS

Rushing down darkened hall
Toward preparing dinner, 
Slammed shin-first into 
Spout of watering can
(thankfully plastic, not metal).
Left shin, of course.

Skin broken, bump forming;
Hobbled to bed to collapse
Into gasping, eye-bulging,
Astonished agony; tears dripping;
Imagining foreverness of pain.

Strategies soon initiated to
Quell bleeding and swelling--
Slight massage to stimulate 
Healing blood flow; applied
Anti-bacterial lotion, loose
bandage, and ice, ice, ice on
Leg elevated by pillows; aspirin.

Pain subsided, calm returned.
Memories of recent wounds
On left foot and left breast.
When body ably assisted,
Natural healing process takes
Charge and moves forward.

So, too, mind/psyche/emotions:
When made room for, attuned,
Accepted, and cherished, 
Calm regained and maintained.

So, too, relationships: when
Processed and resolved, 
Transition to deeper layers
And broader levels of
Intimacy, offering solace
And comfort and growth.

So, too, the Earth, tho'
Maimed and excavated:
When allowed to lie fallow
Or offered nutritious food,
Recovers vegetation and 
Clean, clear waters, housing
And supporting all beings.

After bruising, when afforded 
Time, patience, and care,
Everything re-generates.
Keep the Faith, Everything 
Will be OK. Lean back and 
Let go. Breathe in, then out,
Then once again and again.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) November 11, 2013







Tuesday, November 5, 2013

AUTUMN AGAIN, AT LAST


My favorite season of all.
Colors complement my
Palette, providing comfort,
Rest, and ease; relief from
Jarringly bright summer hues.

Fall offers final joyful burst of
Energy, prelude for quiescence.
Flora and fauna change colors,
Turn inward, return home to
Recharge energetic batteries.

Autumn leaves falling, foliage
Bending backward to nourish
Earth from which they sprang.
Humans mirror by slowed pace,
Staying in to read, nap, dream.

After weeks of dampening fog,
Red leaves, shimmering, floating,
Glow in returned sunshine,
Although daylight wanes and
Shortens thru most of December.

Dark as I leave home, and dark
As I leave work toward home again.
Longer days than in Sweden, home
Away from home as oft as possible.
Snow soon blankets Scandinavia.

Seasons chronicling time, loftier
Chronometer than minutes or days,
Dividing year by fourths across
Variations of latitude; opposite
Hemispheres, opposite seasons.

Ann Beth Blake
© November 2, 2013

Last Minute Update

Only two more treatments to go. Done by November 7th--so soon! I so appreciate the radiation techs
who are kind, gentle, and cheery. They all wore costumes for Halloweeen, so I wore my button jacket, sequin cap, and sequin earrings, just for them.
Busy with school and with health, so I will write again very soon.
Love to all, Ann