A Well Earned Ambush

times_square__new_york_by_nravemaster-d4bzwgmI don’t think I qualify for “social anxiety disorder” but my dials are certainly set a few clicks beyond “introvert” compared to most people. If I can’t have days of solitude every week, I start to snap and growl, productivity drops, and sleep suffers. For the past week, I’ve been in the office until all hours, getting ready for an audit of my foster care files by the State of Maryland.

audit-magnifying-glassAll work on the case must be documented including time, date, duration, location and nature of the task performed. To the minute, no confusion of dates or cases allowed.

This kind of detail/paper work drives me round the bend. My contracts are also up for re-competition, and the proposals are due in about ten days. Fortunately, I love to write, but unfortunately, the proposal requires a lot more than creative writing–it requires details, documents, references, insurance certificates, budgets, affidavits… Oh, bring me my hartshorn!

glen finnan monumentBUT I’m not entirely without the self-care clue. I scheduled a massage for Thursday afternoon, the day before the Big Audit. I was mostly ready for the State, and I’d been looking forward to the massage.

Except, I have a condition called restless leg syndrome, and it often rears it’s oggly head (or foot, as the case may be), toward the end of the day, when I’m restless legtired. Halfway through the massage–my big, soul-sustaining treat–I start to twitch and jump and jiggle.

Restless leg doesn’t hurt, I tell myself. It’s a just a nuisance, like thyroid disease, Lyme disease, taxes, loneliness, state auditors, post-travel credit card balances… I’m little-girl-crying-300x225in the lobby, writing the check, making the next appointment, and onto the Muzak comes a quiet, classical piece.

The Barbara Adagio for Strings has be to be the most sad, honest, wrenching composition I have ever heard, and I hadn’t heard it for years. (If you want to break your heart, watch this version, which is set to images of 911.) My busy, competent, highly functional, has-an-answer-for-everything cuddleself just started bawling. Stumbled out to the truck, and went Pathetic for the next half hour.

I HATE being a lawyer sometimes. It’s hard, it’s not a good fit for me, and I don’t have the type and volume of energy to do it as well as I’d like to. I miss my dukes and ladies, I want to go for a ride on Sir Regis, and figuratively offer a rose to a small child. I want my mom, and my daughter with me, not thousands of miles away. I want to rest, thoroughly, not just until the dogs have to go out.

All of those real, understandable, human needs, would probably still be duct-taped into silence by my deadlines and duties, but for Mr. Barber giving me a tap on the emotional shoulder. I called my daughter yesterday, I talked to my mom single_purple_roseand my dad, I scheduled lunch with a writin’ buddy for Wednesday, I called another writin’ buddy last night.

Solitude is fine, but solitary confinement is wrong, even for me. I needed Mr. Barber’s reminder, though it landed with the force of a blow on my to-do list and on my heart.

When was the last time music, art, dance, a sermon, a book, a poem, a flower garden, brought you home to yourself?


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18 comments on “A Well Earned Ambush

  1. I love the Barber “Adagio for Strings” too…there’s a choral version, “Agnus Dei” that brings me to my knees and it’s beautiful in its own way.

    But the piece that calls to me (in fact, I just posted it on my choir’s Facebook page) is Bobby McFerrin’s (yep, the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” guy)”Psalm 23:For My Mother.” It’s a very beautiful, very spiritual, very chant-like version of the 23rd Psalm, using female pronouns. Bobby’s dedicated it to his own mother, Sara Cooper MsFerrin, and it is nothing like his “Be Happy” ear-worm.

    My choir has sung his version twice in concert and my choir likes it so much, every time we have a gig, they request we sing it. I like it so much, we used his text adaptation for my own Mother’s prayer cards for her wake and funeral.

    When I hear it, I think of all the things our mothers do for us, all the sacrifices, all the comforting, cooking, and joy they bring to us. It touches me on a level that is beyond……I’m a musician, love Bach etc. but this piece, written recently touches me like no other.

    Take a listen, Grace. And happy Mother’s Day to you!

  2. I’ve had a lot on my plate. Another work reorganization, three dormer windows that need replacing, an older dog, needing to buy a car for my daughter, and a child overseas. And the diet…no carbs, no sugar and I have cut back on coffee.

    A week ago, DH and I watched a PBS special on Frank Sinatra. Listening to his work from the 1950s-1960’s reminded me of my childhood and all the good feelings associated with growing up in a house filed with music. I felt a bit sad after the show ended but DH reminded me that the song My Way was our daughters first ballet recital song and she sang it very loud and off key!

    The next day, I called our contractor who came by with an estimate,
    researched used Jeeps, reassured DD that she was on the right track with her exams ( and told her to go to St. James park for a walk) and got up early to take care of my old girl. And got back walking the other dogs.

    I need to remember to take one thing at a time…and to stay away from the Pepperidge farm milanos!

  3. I’m one of those who has always needed a certain amount of solitude. If I didn’t have it, I’d get a little cranky. But now that I’m retired, I have all the solitude I can stand. And too much of a good thing IS just too much of a good thing.

    My books and music are wonderful, but now that Spring is here I like to sit on my porch amidst my flowers with a cup of coffee or glass of ice tea, commune with God, wave and chat with the neighbors when they pass by and watch the birds. That brings me home to myself.

    • On nice days, I take my first cup of tea out to the porch steps. If I’ll sit for five minutes, I’ll recall that something is always going on out there. Birds, squirrels, a feral cat, quite the happenin’ place, and with few exceptions (the occasional visiting possum or raccoon in the kitchen), they all go about their business without a thought for me.

      I am not the center of the universe. Hmm.

  4. If your wisdom was not so needed and appreciated, it would be creepy how well you address my heart’s needs with your blog posts. Thank you.

    “Solitude is fine, but solitary confinement is wrong, even for me.” is my new catch phrase. I now have plans to go for a walk with a friend this week. A new friend who also struggles with mental health issues. There is still plenty of time in the week to be solitary, but I just know this walk will be a highlight.

    Strangely enough, I went to a Maroon 5 concert in March and found it to be a spiritual experience. Not what you would guess a pop concert to be. But I love their music, was able to sing along to every song but one and had a vivid moment where I thought, “this is healing my heart.” Classical music is a balm, The Brandenburg Concertos are my favorite, but that concert was a bomb of awesome in my life this year.

    I hope you get back to your dukes and Sir Regis soon. 🙂

  5. So, Mother’s Day is not a good day in my house. My husband was in a bad mood. I could have stayed at the house and been miserable with him. I decided to treat myself to a nice day. I left the house at 1pm. I told my husband I was going to do errands. I did do errands, but I also had a nice salad, saw a good movie, and bought myself flowers.

  6. I’ve been caregiving for the last 2 months for my mother who recently had a stroke, but I’m back home here, too, so have made it a point to visit with friends and family, get a massage, and a mani/pedi. I’m also going to be divorced soon so my life is extremely stressful right now, making self-care even MORE essential.

    • Stroke recovery is such a grueling, frustrating, wearying road for everybody. Hope there’s some respite available, and that you’re seeing progress. My Mom had a stroke at 86, and at 91 has pretty much recovered. Took a while, but she got back the ground she’d lost, and hasn’t looked back.

  7. I came on here looking to see if you had released anything new as I needed a Grace fix for my Kindle, and found this. Brilliant and so very wise.

    As a licensed body worker, I can tell you that massage and/or energy work is known to release deeply held emotion. I once had a client who, after energy therapy, released a suppressed memory of very early childhood sexual abuse.

    I was recently very moved by the performance of India Carney last week on The Voice of the song Glory. Wow! Cold chills.

    • That’s part of the reason I see the massage therapist fairly often… I don’t want to live a short distance from my body, but know I have the tendency.

      I’m in what I call a compression phase right now, with the law office, the writing, and the family stuff all converging emotionally and logistically. I know to keep breathing, but getting through this knothole will feel soooooo good!

  8. Boy do I know about those stressfull points in work– I call them board recertification, Meaningful Use Audits, HIPPA, Uprade to a brand new EMR (no one seems to like good old fashioned pen and paper), and ICD-10. All happening in the next four months. In addition to the call rotation and duties of being a wife and mother.

    So self care is critical. This includes my Kindle loaded with ALL of your books, Oprah’s Chai Tea from Teavanna, accupunture (Discovered this before oral boards), massage, and chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation. I have also learned that I have to rely on MYSELF to schedule these things, known as “me-time,” because everyone else is focused on the first list of items.

    Music is also my constant self-care item. My tablet is always on in the office, and the playlist is very diverse. Redlite Kings “Comeback” to Mumford and Sons “Below my feet”, to Zach Brown Band/Jimmy Buffet “Knee Deep” to Steven Curtis Chapman “I will be there” to Katie Perry “Unconditionally” and “Roar” to John Legend “Glory”, to Third Day “Thief”. Since I can’t have one of my “me-time” fixes, as often as I like, the music helps me get though the day.

  9. You write that being a lawyer is hard and is not a good fit for you. I imagine you’re highly competent at most tasks you turn your energies to. As you know, a certain kind of woman, often an oldest daughter in a large family, but of course any person who is bright and disciplined and takes seriously any responsibility she has for others, is going to be ferociously competent wherever she lands.

    I just wanted to show you some of the gifts from your work as an attorney that I find in your writing.

    Like a lot of other bright, responsible women, I’ve worked at jobs that were a poor fit for me, but I did them well because they needed to be done well. I love it that you create heroines in similar straits. The painter and the violinist in Beckman are obvious examples, since they have defined and developed talents, but with less specific talents (like most of us), there’s Mary Fran “going to waste” in the first MacGregor novel, running the near-B&B for her family with a broom in one hand and a tot in the other. A lot of us can relate.

    But what I really wanted to tell you was that I love the way your lawyering life informs your novel writing. I love it that in your novels, domesticity is a healing balm, family and friendship can be a refuge, and making a home means nurturing the spirit. This sounds like Betty Crocker propaganda, and I spent years in college arguing for “a room of one’s one” and against “the angel in the house,” but you are not depicting isolated suburban boredom and despair–your characters are making homes for one another and caring for one another. You know from your work in family law how different this experience is from the experiences of the folks who end up in family court. Even those of us who don’t travel through those courtrooms have friends and family who do, and beyond that, our entire media-driven and over-scheduled, overworked, distracted-by-technology culture works against a true sense of home. Your novels remind us of what home can be, and what family can be. You model it for those who’ve never experienced it.

    I also love it that your heroes respect women and love children. When I first started reading your novels, before I appreciated the subversively healing modeling of a nurturing home, I thought of your world as almost like Lake Woebegone, since all the women are strong, all the men are good looking (and emotionally committed, skillful lovers), and all the children thrive. The children heal. I couldn’t stand it if they didn’t. I imagine you couldn’t, either.

    Which brings me to healing. I love it that in your novels, people heal. Not through magic, or by being rescued, and not in isolation, pulling themselves up by disintegrating bootstraps, but by growing and loving AND by being loved by others. Both.

    The novels are a kind of utopia, but that’s radical in itself. I’m exhausted with dystopias and with the dystopian interactions with others we replicate after watching our Hunger Games and Elysiums. I don’t think of utopias as escapist literature but as blueprints of possibility. Star Trek was a utopian vision of the future. It was silly and fun and its premises of equality and its vision of possibility had a transformative effect on our culture. I think your novels quietly, radically open possibilities in the way we treat each other and in how we expect to be treated.

    But this would all be too prissy to care about if the stories weren’t page-turners. You get inside your characters heads so we can care about how they see the world and empathize with the choices they make. I like the companionship of their friends–another quiet bit of modeling in a culture that isolates everyone in algorithmically spun media silos. I like the characters–I like the people–so I care about what happens to them. The range of conflicts they face is impressive–probably you’ve seen a fair amount of conflict in family law– and I love how they triumph. Those triumphs themselves make a heartening sweetness in my day.