Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Indescribable Wow (Sam Phillips)

July 29, 2009
An Instant Vacation
Relaxing at Home

Throughout our lives, most of us are led to believe that relaxation is best pursued outside of the home. As a result, we spend months anticipating weeklong vacations, seldom fully appreciating the leisure time we are blessed with on a more regular basis. It is possible, however, to reexperience the same utterly relaxed state you slip into while on holiday within your home’s walls. The feelings of serenity you enjoy during a vacation are a product of your outlook rather than your locale. You give yourself permission to enjoy yourself and unwind while on vacation. Granting yourself the same privilege while at home allows you to experience complete relaxation, even when surrounded by routine.

Our homes can be distracting places as most survival tasks are addressed there. Reviving the tranquility you felt on holiday is as easy as creating an atmosphere that helps you relax. First, divest yourself of the notion that messes must be cleaned up immediately and reaffirm that relaxation is as vital as physical nourishment. Then, set the mood. Music that reminds you of a beloved vacation destination can put you in a vacation mind-set. The exotic flavor of a tropical beverage or the spiciness a favorite ethnic dish can transport you to a more restful mental space. Finally, put aside your projects and commit to doing only what you consider truly pleasurable. Your responsibilities will wait as you put up your feet and revel in peacefulness that comes from within.

If you find it difficult to ignore the temptation to simply fall back into your usual schedule, consider that relaxation should occupy a prominent place on your to-do list. You deserve to take "you time" and to care for yourself, even during life’s busy periods. While you may not always be able to get away from it all, you can still nurture yourself and regain your peace of mind.

It's been an exhausting few days - last week's visitation and funeral seem forever ago, plus I had Sarah here until mid-day Saturday. Sunday found me, Mari and Brad getting together for our first family dinner without mom - I continue to be amazed at how quiet the house is without her oxygen concentrator, her TV in the background and her palpable energy field. She spent all of each and every day at one corner of the couch... her "nook", as we termed it - a few days after her death, I placed a couch pillow, flat, on the empty space, and on top of that a plastic tiara from mom's 70th surprise birthday party. It stayed there to mark her place throughout the visitors, the extended family gathering, the post-funeral-mass get-together - it will remain indefinitely...

On Sunday Mari, Brad and I read aloud a copy of the will - everything will of course be split three ways, although there is not much, understandably, as mom lived on a limited income (retirement and Social Security). Once the house is sold, the proceeds will be 70/30 (the former to the three of us, the latter to her second husband's son and daughter) - there is some money in CDs and IRAs, which will also be thirded. What we thought would be the most difficult has in fact been easiest: the distribution of mom's belongings - Mari and I have spent the last two days going through the house room by room, and comparing it to the inventory I did with mom when I visited last January.

Mari recently divorced and moved into another house in her same neighborhood - money is tight and, although she's done a beautiful job of decorating, there were still three rooms with virtually nothing in them. I don't need furniture and neither does my brother... so it's comforting to know that Mari will turn the downstairs bedroom into an "homage" to mom, complete with mom's childhood bedroom furniture (a lovely maple dresser and nightstand), the Hummel latchhook rug mom crafted and mom and Ralph's framed wedding invitation - Mari will be able to use mom's dining room table and eight chairs and buffet... as well as furnish an upstairs bedroom (sporting a lighthouse wallpaper border) with mom's futon, nightstands and dresser from her and Ralph's bedroom furniture and mom's lighthouse collection (many of which Mari gave to mom over the years)...

I will be bringing home an antique washstand that was my grandmother's (my father's mom), a cherished piece with many memories, as well as a lovely baker's rack to use on the patio and many household items (linens and glassware) - Brad will get mom's wicker patio furniture, her everyday dishes and flatware, the TVs, the painting over the couch, some small appliances and mom's cutting board (which her father, who was in the linoleum business, made). We have all chosen various knick-knacks and religious paraphernalia - next week we will call in the neighbors to see what items they'd like to have to remember mom by, and then we'll donate the rest.

As I'm Executrix of the will, I've also started proceedings with the lawyer, followed up on with the funeral home to find out when we'll receive the death certificates, called the church to thank them again for doing such a beautiful job with the service - our next step is bringing in a realtor to take a look at the house and then put it on the market. A big plus in our situation is that Mari's college sweetheart/current boyfriend is in process of getting a divorce, which should be final in the next few weeks - we've discussed him renting mom's house for at least six months. He will keep the house show-ready for potential buyers... and we will have the mortgage payment/utilities covered as well as someone trustworthy staying there - win/win...

So... with all of this going on, I decided I was taking a day off today - Mari is at Six Flags with Julia and friends, Brad went back to work... and I'm going to enjoy a well-deserved "staycation" (as Mari terms it). There is still much to be done with my business brain (including massive amounts of thank you notes) but, for today, all will be put on hold while I regroup/recoup from the hard-hitting emotional drain of the last week... and the exhaustion of the last two months - as soon as I hit Publish Post, I'm going to soak in a hot bath, curl up with a good book, nap (I slept very poorly last night, unusual for me) and generally nurture myself. It's much-needed and long-overdue - then I can get back to it tomorrow with grace and style and, most importantly, energy...

Speaking of WOW, which was the jumping-off place for this post, I reprint below a paragraph from my eulogy - one week later and I still glance down at my wrist with joy and memory (love you, MOM!)...

Mom was absolutely prepared... physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – and because she was, it helped all of us to be. Monday, as you can well imagine, was most difficult – Mari, Brad and I spent many hours with Theresa at the church and James at the funeral home, finalizing last-minute details for last night's visitation and today's mass. At the end of a very long day, the three of us headed to the local tattoo parlor in Buford and we each got a memorial inking on our wrist, with the saying “it is what it is”, which was on the bracelet my children had given her for Christmas last year and which she never took off – we also put the date of her passing, 7/19/09, as well as the word mom (which upside-down spells wow, a word she was fond of using after a bad breathing episode). It was a healing and bonding experience for us, as we begin to navigate the journey of life without Connie – what a legacy she left us, which we are passing on to our children, who will in turn pass it on to theirs.

SONG: The Indescribable Wow by Sam Phillips (yeah, I know it's the
title of an album not a song!)

BOOK: What A Coincidence!: The wow! factor in synchronicity and what it means in everyday life by Susan M. Watkins

POEM: To My Mother by Wendell Berry

I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.

QUOTE: "We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results." ~ Herman Melville


  1. ahh...this was my hardest part but it seems, in true Susan fashion, that you are organized, well-prepared and, as always, surrounded by love. Sending my love to you too


  2. Hey, Catherine ~

    This is indeed a very hard part of the process - I want more time to mourn... yet the practical details keep knocking, insisting to be dealt with.

    I pendulum between uber-efficiency and utter-meltdown... and I embrace both - your love is welcomed as well... and I thank you for checking in on a regular basis... (keeps me connected to the "real" world, you know? <3 )

  3. Susan, I'm reading this through blinding is still much, much too fresh for me...please know that I am with you in spirit and am here whenever you want to talk.

    Much Love..


  4. Hey, M ~

    Oh... I *do* know you are with me in spirit... and I may just take you up on that phone chat sometime over the weekend - today has been a very hard day...

    Staying busy this week has kept my mind off everything... but somehow it all welled up fresh and painful last night/this morning... and I could barely exchange pleasantries with the cashier at Target this afternoon before feeling I was going to dissolve into hysteria, tears or both - I also realize this is all very fresh for you... and I look forward to receiving your counsel on how to navigate these next few tender months...

  5. May the moments you need be the moments you are provided. And, when the time is right, may your 'new normal' be both a comfort and comfortable . . . when the time is right.

  6. Hey, Fred ~

    You always know exactly what to say... comforting and comfortable - I do cherish our friendship, you know... <3

    "When the time is right" is so subjective in situations like this, right? - I am attempting to follow my intuition without wallowing in my sorrow... although there's certainly a good bit of the latter, which I know is only normal... new or old... :-)

    God, I knew it would be hard - I wasn't prepared for the wash of redemption (the proverbial icing I so desperately needed)...