Thoughts: How are you doing?

A small boat, protected by a stone jetty.
Waiting for the tide to carry it out to sea again.

Those are the two lines of poetry I began with this morning. I never actually finished the poem, which is rare. Generally, if I can get two or three lines down, the rest just flows. It is as if my brain has been trained that when I lay down a couple of phrases, it just takes over. The poems write themselves. All I have to do is edit once it’s done.

Neuroscience at work, In truth, the brain really does work like that. Train it to do something and it will take the path of least resistance, and do it again. And again., and again. And each time, it gets easier.

When I moved to Vermont, I had to give up my beloved therapist and find another one. The woman I found had a background in neuroscience, and during my time with her I learned a lot about how the brain works, and why we do the things we do, good and bad. It’s made me more forgiving, and it’s made me more aware. It helps me do my work. It helps me as a pastor, a poet and most everything else I do.

Best of all, it has made me more forgiving of myself and my own foibles. I spend more time now trying to understand why I do what I do, or don’t do what I should be, which in turn makes me more likely to improve.

Practice makes perfect. It’s neuroscience. Who knew? I just thought it was my mom nagging.

I am in a time of transition. I am not sure where the transition is leading. But I do know I am trying new things, some out of necessity, as a result of my cancer and treatments, and some out of choice, rethinking work and how I do it.

I am not very good at any of it right now. I tell people when they ask me how I am doing that I am muddling along, but the truth is more like I am struggling along, trying to figure out new ways at sixty five.

I always thought sixty five was a magic number. People retired. Life slowed down. Everything became settled. Kind of a cool concept, if it was real. But that’s not been my experience. I have and I am shifting one kind of work for another. Like a twenty-five year old, I have all these new things to learn to be bad at until I get good at them.

I have become OK with that. Less impatient. Because I know that everything is about practice. Time plus work equals results.

I worry less about the time than I used to. I have had two places in my life where life got delayed for one reason or another. Devastating times. And guess what? Life went on. Most of life wasn’t much affected by my not running headlong into things. It did just as well with my slow progress as my hellbent pace.

And I was better off. And I will be again. I just work. I do what I can. At times, yes, I get frustrated with my progress. When the exhaustion kicks in, I just let it. That’s what my body needs. The rest will catch up. I do what I can, a little practice for the future each day. Each day.

My treatments end next week. It will take a few weeks for me to get back to something resembling normal, to lose the nausea and diarrhea and the constant tiredness. I look forward to it. Time plus work equals results, and I will have both again. Or so they tell me. It will take a month or so for everything to heal enough for us to know if we got it all this time. As I heal again, I expect changes to come, in me, for me, and if I am fortunate, because of me. There’s a lot in this world that needs help, and I can offer a little. And after this, a little more.

I have plans. And I refuse to get so old that I don’t.

A small boat, protected by a stone jetty.
Waiting for the tide to carry it out to sea again.
It has been a day of rest, of mending nets
and tending to the old iron engine belowdecks,
but the time for rest is nearly done. Soon it will be dark,
time to plow the seas again, to become
what boats are for, hard work and harvest.

That’s my second stab at the poem. And see? Practice. The words come. God is good. We are, as the book says, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Be well, travel wisely,


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