12 January 2011

Growing Pains

There are seedlings sprouting in the kitchen.
They make me teary.

Generally I think blogs, well, mine anyway,
should be uplifting or inspiring or at least neutral places.
Certainly not dark holes for people to fall into.

Places where we gather to share ideas.
Find inspiration.
Laugh or think or support one another.
But the glass windows that are in fact a blog-
{portholes into a person's life . . .}
they are often foggy right?
A hazy impression of what really goes on.
As I say, generally.

We, as bloggers allow others to see what we want them to see.
We write only what we want them to know and hear.
It's an edited life we live online.
Rarely do I personally go into the subcutaneous layers of my world.
Rather I stay on the surface,
skating the day-to-day plane
of my very basic and average existence.

Not today.

January has been an emotional oddity for me.
Moments from 2010 that were merely bittersweet
are suddenly back with a vengeance and
pressing hard against my heartstrings.
The soft strum, strum, strum
that was the background sound to my emotional state
has become an internal rock concert.

I hate cancer. I hate dementia.
I hate the notion of aging past a certain point.

Last night I was reading in bed by the light of a lavender candle.
Keith snoring softly beside me,
the dogs on the floor at the foot of the bed.
There was the hum of the heater.
The gentle snorts of canine breathing.
The occasional page turn.

Then my eyes somehow landed on the hand holding my book
rather than seeing the words on the page.
Every wrinkle of every knuckle,
every natural line in my skin had some how turned into
a winding dried up creek bed.
Rough and deep and magnified
in the candlelight.

I can't tell you what that moment made me feel.

Clara Dale is my maternal grandmother.
If she lives another ten years,
she'll still be gone soon.
Memory is a fickle thing.
Dementia a thief.
It robs everyone,
not just the one on whose mind it chooses to nibble.

This is the woman who helped raise me when my own mother
was too ill to do so.
This is the woman who introduced me to Winnie-the-Pooh
and Mother Goose and homemade strawberry jam.
Who always said "Give me some sugar,"
when she wanted a kiss.
Who could have been a cook for Kings
and could grow sturdy plants from the weakest of seeds.
Whose rose garden was nothing short of miraculous.
Who is a true southern belle.
By very definition, a Lady.
Or was.

I have her middle name and her nose.
It is true that as she breaks down,
my desire to sew stems from the need
to pick up where she's left off.
And no piano in this world sounds as beautiful
as the one she plays.


What a wretched feeling.
It guts you.
To miss SO much,
. . . someone who is standing right there.

The family farm in Virginia is not the same.
The sounds are different.
The air is different.
It's melancholy.
We all know things will change drastically in the coming months and years.

I plucked an acorn off the ground the last time I was there.
The oak trees there are immense and mighty.
Symbols of my childhood.

I brought it home and planted it in a small white pot,
and it took.
Slender green shoots coming up through the soil.
Somehow this makes me feel better.
Like some things will continue on, no matter what.
That not everything will morph into that which is unrecognizable.

And rooting something,
watching it live and grow . . .
feeling that maybe I have some small fraction of her in my fingers
when they're dirty with earth . . .
there is comfort in the thought.

Later, I was in Cameron, NC, antiquing with my mother.
There was an enormous frothy fern-type tree,
laden with fuzzy seed pods.
She and I plucked a few shucks from the lowest-hanging branches,
and brought them home to try our hand at rooting them.
They too, took.
And so we've begun this ritual.

Marking moments with seedlings.
Seedlings to symbolize a time or place that was special.
A childhood spent playing in the shaded coolness of a Virginia Oak.
An afternoon spent with someone held dear.

I've been thinking more and more about this life.
And find that slowly I'm becoming more spiritual.
I feel my priorities shifting.
My goals changing.
I feel growth alongside the pain.
I suppose this is normal.
Growing pains.

I don't want to work out of fear anymore.
I don't want to fear competition,
I don't want to compete.
I don't want to be motivated by fear of failure.
I don't want to DO just because others are doing.

I do want to live more in the moments that I have here.
Step away from the computer more often.
I want to capture more of the everyday.
This is why I've created the second blog.
It's for me.
To immortalize these days when my son is still mine
and not the world's.

I want to edit down my life and play up my life.
I want to work more on the flesh and blood relationships that are around me
rather than trying to be charming online.

As I wait for my branding stamps,
As I revamp my website and make plans for the future of this little business,
I find that, in this period of downtime,
I'm writing more.
Reading more.
Things that matter.
I'm watching more, listening more and speaking less.
This is good.

I've all but stopped reading others' blogs,
not because I don't care about you or what's going on in your life,
but because I want to be a more active participant in mine.

I could even let go of my personal page on facebook,
I truly think I'd be okay with this.
I'd be alright trading some of the technology in my world
for a bit more time with those I love the most.

I don't want to care about the numbers.
Numbers that I've been analyzing too much for too long.
Followers on the blog.
On Twitter.
Fans on Facebook.
Feedback Statistics.
Flickr Contacts.

The truth is that the numbers psych me out.
And begin to rule me.
The more I look at them, I now realize,
the more I work out of fear of those numbers plummeting,
than I do out of joy or passion.
Maybe that's part of last year's burnout.
My focus was off.
My vision and priorities skewed.
The numbers numbed me.

It's not that I'm unhappy with myself.
But slowly losing someone you love so much
makes you stop and think.
Am I doing this the right way?
This living thing.
Am I going to be happy when I look back on it.
Did I write my own story well?
Will I remember the little things
that put a smile on my face.

Will I?

They say that out of bad comes some good.
That out of darkness, there is light.
I'm just illuminating some shadowy spots in my soul right now.
Internal changes that are responses to external changes.
An uncomfortable albeit necessary journey.
I'm finding what matters.

And look there . . .
Beneath the blackness
and the damp layer of rainy moments . . .

New growth.


  1. What an achingly beautiful post. You made me think of my own dear grandmother (not that she is ever far from my mind), and all that she gave me while she was here on the face of Earth. These moments are definitely meant to be treasured, and LIVED.

    Your thoughts echo my own, actually. I have been realizing that I can no longer *hear*... the thoughts, the sounds, the music... that I used to be able to hear constantly. I've been pondering silence a lot lately. And how I need more of it. Maybe that will bring the music back.

    Thank you for sharing part of your life with us. My thoughts and good energies go to you, and to your beautiful grandmother.

  2. I agree, we definitely post what we want people to hear. Sometimes I will write a post, and never post it, or delete it, because it shows too much and I think it's too raw. This was a beautiful post, and brought tears to my eyes. My thoughts are you with.

  3. You are able to so eloquently convey emotion, those intangible bits of fleeting thought, the holding tight of those we love, the feeling of a tiny green leaf unfurling.

    My father has been ill with a brain tumor for a long time. It has changed the way we live, but I still feel myself get caught up in everything you mentioned above (an escape perhaps, something else to focus on?). My thoughts are with you and your family. Thank you for this reminder that what we do, we should do for ourselves, and even more importantly, to value those in our lives, spend as much time with them as possible, and make THAT the priority.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for being fully you with us. What an honor and privilege to read YOU so open letting us in. What an honor.

    Much love to you, JJ!

  5. my dear friend, you are still so young. i remember those shifts and i'm so thankful for the all the winds of change that have swept through my life these (soon to be) 42 years. i'm currently in a state of lull, waiting for that next shift. i know it's coming soon and i'm just resting, waiting for the boat to come carry me on my next journey. those who love you most will still follow, even if it's not by computer screen. your numbers will not dwindle, your friends will not abandon and your talents will never fail. much love and light coming your way... izzy

  6. there is no way that someone who doesn't understand what its about could write these eloquent words...

    you are already 'there' Jess....:)
    just keep is close to the heart, and you shall be fine! xo

  7. words [prose really] that comforted you to write them and reach other people in just this way?..what a gift.

  8. This may be a collection of my favorite words you have ever written.

    Deep and beautiful, honest and provocative. Keep those eyes open miss, you're making it every day.
    - U

  9. This was such a beautiful, sad, thought-provoking post. It was amazing to read such honesty.
    I hope that you are your loved ones are ok. I know exactly what you mean about blogging/facebook etc., it's really inspiring how you have decided to get out there and really live. My thoughts are with you and your family. xoxo

  10. Beautifully written Jess! You really tapped into some areas we can all tap into ourselves. Our everyday should always be about spirt and family first, blogs, facebook, twitter, last or not at all. I feel there is a shift in general in the universe, as many including myself, have been feeling we need to be more present in our lives. Technology is robbing us, like a thief in the night, of precious time. It's time to get back to basics and to our roots.

    I sure wished I lived in your neighborhood. You are a spicy, wise and wonderful soul. Like Chai Tea, only better.

    ps. Grandma's are the very best. Painful to watch a dear one slip away too slowly. My heart hurts for you. xxxx

  11. Jess you bought tears to my eyes ~ my Maternal Grandmother is now in a home with dementia ~ the life she was {vibrant, glamourous, full of spring) has gone and a shell has been left with an occassional spark showing for a tiny moment. I'm now 40 and I am sure much older than you ~ I look at myself aging and panic at times but also know I need to grab life and enjoy every second.
    Good luck to you on writing your personal blog you do it so well. x0x

  12. JJ you bought tears to my eyes whilst reading this.
    I lost my sweet beautiful Granma back in June and I can't find the words to describe how I felt.
    My Granma was THE most amazing Granma that a grandchild could ask for....unconditional LOVE for each and everyone of her grand children and great grand children.
    I feel blessed that that my own children had the chance to get to know her and appreciate how special she was.
    She was the looking glass to my heritage.
    I will cherish my memories of her forever.
    I think she is now in a better place and is now reunited with her soul mate.
    Cherish what you have and THANK YOU for sharing such personal thoughts
    I love reading your blog.

  13. Wow!

    I've been through the same experience as you with my Dad.
    He was the best Dad in the world. Loving, gentle, talented, cheerful, inspirational.
    I watched him slowly sink into his tiny world of Alzheimers.
    It was deeply painful.

    This post made me cry but JJ it's good to cry rather than push down.

    For each person I have lost I continue a tradition that is dear to me.
    I take a snippet of a plant, root it then plant in earth.
    I now have 6 plants. I water, nurture and love them.
    These plants are symbols of the never ending and ever growing spirit of each beloved.
    It brings me sweet comfort and sense of hope.

    Thank you kindly for your beautiful, poignant writing.
    I really appreciate it. xo

  14. so i was kind of working my way up from posts i'd missed and then got to here. pause. breathe. okay, this sounds intense for you. i read your words and thought "i wish i could give this amazing girl a huge hug".

    i can tell you are a passionate writer and definitely a heart throbbing people person who cares. i'm so sorry that your grandmother's condition seems so poor.

    my dad passed away from cancer several years ago and ya pretty much hate it too. mom's had it also but survived, thankfully. the real life dealers choice sure knows how to getcha deep. hands dealt out and we just have to play it, wtf?!

    you are right about living in the moments and that's a good thing. if we all were who we used to be then what would we have learned. i know from personal experience; no ones gonna tell you the right thing to make it all better. you need to find it yourself and that's a part of the change too, we all take some time to make room inside our own skin when we've given so much away. sounds like you're on the right track, i see the new growth and it's beautiful! ♥

  15. Dearest Jesse

    I see you

    Love and Light
    your friend

  16. What a beautiful post. I can relate to all these feelings. Every one of them. And you put them into words so wonderfully.
    You mentioned growing more spiritual with age. This is an idea that I was pondering earlier this week, actually. I was thinking about how we don't have the capacity for important things in our youth. Really, we go to school at the wrong time in our lives. It is only with age that we obtain a true desire for knowledge and meaningful things.

    You are truly inspirational. Thanks for sharing.