Writer's Tree

As a writer with each endeavor I grow and my branches spread to encompass the world.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me!

It has been a long time since I have written and I am now prepared to embrass my blog again. Today is my birthday, a day for celebration and introspection. I find myself facing many things in my life; the loss of loved ones, a fragile future with the opposite sex, and an empty nest. But under it all I feel a sense of well being and above all of embracing my womanhood. Who am I as a woman, who will I be, and how will I face my future?

At 54 what one knows for sure is that live is short and can be lost at any moment. Does that make me feel defeated? Only if I let it. I am looking forward to taking the time in my future, however long that turns out to be, and I am looking forward to it being a good long time, and making it the most wonderful, exciting part of my life. I plan to read more, write more, love more, and just embrace life more fully!

I have a friend that has a beautiful portrait in his kitchen of what he calls, "the Gay Nymph", gay as in happy. She is naked, in the forest with her arms up and spread wide with glee and a look on her face that says, "it doesn't get any better than this!" I intend to live my life with the attitude of the gay nymph from now until the end of my days!

So on my birthday I spread my arms with glee and say to myself and to you and to the world....."it doesn't get any better than this...ENJOY!"

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Fountain of Youth?

I had a very interesting encounter last night and felt compelled to share it this morning. I have found myself at age 53, in a manner that is surprising to me, embracing the idea of aging. I have written about it here before but this was so wonderful that I wanted to share it with you.

While having a glass of wine at Gigi’s, I was approached by a much older woman. Her age was impossible to tell. While her skin and white hair spoke of a very old woman, her smile and countenance were mesmerizing and I was enraptured! I was in the presence of someone wise and loving and extremely beautiful. Her eyes smiled and the glow around her was radiating love as if from some celestial being. Sounds corny but I still think of her face this morning and can’t help but smile.

Her skin, translucent and wrinkled was like the bark of a wonderful old tree, it added to her beauty in a way that transfixed me. Like a child she was bubbling over with enthusiasm about a book my friend was reading that related to Quantum Physics. She spoke of having discovered it many years earlier and how it had changed her life, she was delighted with herself for being so open minded and ahead of her time, her spirit was contagious.

I could not take my eyes off her and I felt revived in a way that I have only experienced when embracing nature and its beauty. It felt like being with an old forest and young wood nymph both at the same time, and in that moment I believe I was forever changed, which would fit with quantum physics and perhaps I have taken a bit of her away with me.

She was young and vivacious and old and wise all at once and somehow it made me look forward to growing older. It was like she had discovered the fountain of youth. While it did not stop the aging process, it allowed her to love and embrace life with the eyes and excitement of a child. To never stop learning and to excitedly share what she had learned with those around her. I knew that I wanted to have that affect on others when I am old and it made me look with longing at the prospect of it.

So a little old woman who took the time to share a moment of her joy with me has changed my life, and my hope is that more of us will find that joy each day of our life’s until we are as old and beautiful as she.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day? Woman's Day!

I am not sure how I feel about Mother’s Day. It is really an unnecessary event in reality. I don’t need a day to be reminded that I am a mother, or that my children appreciate the fact that I am their mother. For those of you that are not mothers yet, or perhaps will never be mothers, either by choice or fate, it is perhaps a day of reminding you what you are not. Whether that is a good reminder or not is something that only you perhaps know and understand. But is it a necessary reminder?

At a time in my life when I am trying to discover still who I am, after many times in my live causing me to struggle with that question, it can sometimes be a cumbersome title. Do I resent being a mother, never; I have loved every moment of it. Even when I thought I was not doing a good job, it was never something I would have chosen to quit. But do I wish it be the definition of who I am?

I grew up with a mother that was not a good role model and late in her life choose to cut off my relationship with her. I was, however, there at the moment that her life ended and it was beautiful and yet sad to feel her heart beat against my palm for the last time. I felt at peace with her and I believe she was at peace with me but there was a sadness that we would never share what I felt was the definition of a good parent – child relationship. I would never really feel that she had loved me. I have always felt “motherless” in spite of the fact that she was alive for the first half of my life. Her entire life from the time that she was 18 was defined by the fact that she was a mother, and still I felt “motherless”.

I have watched the suffering of my sister as she buried her only son, lost at the barrel of a gun held by the hand of his best friend. I watched her struggle to define herself without that role that she had filled for 17 years. He was her life and she did not know how to continue without that role. She has done well and is a beautiful woman and person but she is reminded every day that she no longer has a role to fill and she feels the pain of that.

Mother; it is a powerful word and an awesome responsibility. It is something that defines us whether we like it or not. But, is it the definition of who we are? My job of "parenting" is coming to an end and I must face my future without their constant presence in my life. Yet every decision is filtered through the fact that I have children, even now when they are grown, when I make decisions for my life it is always there and I consider how it will affect those relationships. Will I be alright, do I know who I am and what I want to do with the future? I am seeking to find that out, my love for them and the wonderful close loving relationship that we all share will never end but I must think of myself now. I must forge ahead, and define myself for the remainder of my life.

So I am asking myself this morning, on Mother’s Day, if this is the most important thing for me to celebrate? Am I a good mother, was I a good mother? If my children are the criteria by which we answer that question, I was a great mother! Was I perfect, no, but I was the best that I knew how to be and they know that I love them unconditionally.

So what I am asking myself this morning is am I a good human being? What do I have to offer the world now that I am done with the hard part of parenting? What will I do with the rest of my life? You see we are all mothers, whether we have children or not, by virtue of our womanhood, it is part of our humanity. We all mother, take under our wing, support and foster the future of others. So I say to myself today, am I a good woman? The answer if a resounding yes!

Today I say to all of you out there, mothers or not!

HAPPY WOMAN’S DAY! I am proud to be one of you!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Growing old or growing up?

I find myself more often thinking of my life in terms of my age. I don’t remember doing that when I was younger. My children add, at your age, to things that they say to me and I find myself wondering why I still feel the way I do about things, at my age. I suppose it is because so many of the struggles in my life are not that different than the struggles in my 20 year old son’s life, but he is allowed the grace of being young.

He struggles with his future and his career path, as do I. He wants to be free to travel while he can; I share that desire with him as well. We both search for that one person that will make our lives more complete because we share it with someone that knows us and understands and loves us completely, our soul mates if you will.

The key to this dilemma is that the young have never been old, while the old have the advantage of having once been young. They have no way of understanding that while time and your body tell everyone that you are older, your spirit and soul continue to be young. You still want to dance and sing and have wild adventures and exciting love affairs. You are still “turned on”, to use an old person’s cliché, by doing something that you have never done before, seeing someplace new that you have always longed to see, or walking hand in hand in the rain with someone anticipating that first kiss while your heart beats emphatically with anticipation and desire.

So I would like others to understand that my age is not dictated by how many years I have spent on this earth, or how many wrinkles appear in my smile lines or around my eyes. It is dictated by my desire to embrace my life, this world, and those I encounter along my path with the excitement and delight that I have always possessed since my youth and will continue to possess until my spirit decides to dwell in some other time and place.

And, of course I have included a poem inspired by my journey and my attempt to understand the concept of growing old. I hope it speaks to you and allows you to take the time and freedom to enjoy the process and to say, to hell with growing old, I’m too busy growing up!

Growing Old or Growing Up?

It’s a strange thing, growing older,
I hear the concern in my children’s voices,
we want you to take care of yourself,
you shouldn’t do this, or that; at your age.

They are unaware of how this sounds,
the impact of their words.
Keep in mind you are growing older, resonates,
pressuring me to be defined simply by my age.

The young have no understanding of growing older,
perhaps, neither do the old.
Do we cross some mystical age barrier
and are unwillingly escorted to the realm of old?

The voice I speak to myself with
is still a young girl, a young woman.
At certain moments she remains a child,
with a child’s delight, or unbidden fears.

I am still learning to communicate with men,
themselves, young boys yet in many ways.
Hoping like some teenage girl,
to someday meet the man of my dreams.

Dreams, and I have so many of them,
are yet to be fulfilled and eagerly sought after.
I continue to gain knowledge and wear fresh wisdom,
ever searching to discover who and what I will be.

You may say I am growing old if you like,
but each new discovery that sprouts in my life
fills me with wonder, and I dance with joy, knowing
I am not growing old, I am simply growing up!

Conni Struss Johnson©

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Work of Revision

I have discovered a new excitement and delight in the challenge of revision. I spent lots of time in my recent poetry class learning the skills of revision as it relates to my poetry and have been unable, of course, to keep myself from comparing it to the process of growth in my life. From small subtle changes that make a line a little more interesting, to the changes that completely transform it into a new and exciting piece entirely.

We sometimes look at change as scary, what if I loose who am I or change in a way that won't be so attractive to those that are comfortable with me as I am? It is possible to make change less painful. Try things in small doses, share your ideas for change with others and get feedback. Say it out loud and listen to how it sounds to you. Somethings will fit and the result will be more beautiful, others will not and we will go back to our original with a stronger believe that it is the right fit. But each time that we make a change, no matter how small, it feels very fulfilling to look at the whole anew and see that it is more beautiful than when we began.

I have included here a poem that I posted earlier and have since spent many hours revising and revising yet again. It was painful, I needed it to say just the right thing with just the right result. I believe that the end product is much better than the beginning even though it is not that different. Just like my life when I dare to make changes, I will know that I have changed and those around me will still recognize me, but will have a sense that I am somehow a little different, perhaps it will be subtle enough that they can't quite put their finger on it but they will sense that I am a little stronger, a little braver, a little more complete and, therefore, a more beautiful version of myself than I was the last time they encountered me.

Please read this and then page down and read the first version and see if you don't agree with the beauty of revision!

You Need To Tell

You stand there, small in your large frame,
your weakness giving you sympathy

He is gone, my brother, your son,
and though you stand there,
you are gone as well.

He is gone, I remind you for the third,
no fourth time, and in a moment
you have forgotten.

She is gone, my mother, your wife.
Died long ago, taking your guilt.
You stand unaccepting of your part,
unaccused of your freedom to
silently sanction my destruction.

You need to tell me how
she possessed such power.
You need to tell me why
you just stood by and watched.
Just stood by,
so tall,
so strong,
so weak.
Watched a woman with razor tongue
and clenched fists, wound
both body and spirit.

Now I stand looking at you,
loving you, hating you,
knowing, that you too are gone.

You need to tell me how
……to love
………after you are gone.

Conni Struss Johnson

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Changing of the Guard

It is a really interesting experience when you become older as a parent. Your need to direct and guide the lives of your children diminishes and their belief that you need to be directed and guided increases. Some of this I believe comes from the fact that you are all now adults and if you have a strong and mature relationship with your children you will begin to relate as adults rather than child and parent.

Slowly you notice their concern and they begin to refer to your age and if you are not careful you will become the child and they the parent. One area that this has been very noticeable is the area of dating. It was very entertaining to have dates and see the reactions of my sons as I left the house with men. This is just a little writing that was inspired by the changing of the guard so to speak.

Changing of the Guard

I am greeted by your face, sullen and grave.
Your eyes of suspect keeping diligent watch
During practiced rituals, preparations of the night.
Your toes tapping with the slow tick of time
as I am interrogated about my anticipated return,
admonished, to keep a tight rein on my desire.

In times past, it was I who feared that your desire
would indeed bring me to an early grave.
I, the gatekeeper anxiously awaiting your return.
The matriarch, keeping the ever faithful watch,
my toes tapping with the slow tick of time
till my young charge returned from the night.

Other times, it was I who cried, all through the night.
To see the sparkle missing from your eyes was my only desire.
My heart loudly beating with the slow tick of time
in an atmosphere heavy, sullen, and grave.
I who would sing to you, who would pray, and watch,
waiting for the rosy bloom in your cheeks to return.

And it was I, who prayed diligently for my shape to return
after having struggled through the pain, through the night.
Your father, an onlooker, responsible only to wait and watch
as I birthed the fruit of our shared passion and desire.
I grunted and pushed, proclaiming him deserving of an early grave,
until that moment when I saw your face for the very first time.

It was your father, who courted me once upon a time,
promising to love me with a love I vowed to return.
A love we believed strong enough to carry us to the grave.
Love we cherished, and celebrated long into the sweet nights.
Sweet nights of passion, intensity and delicious desire
yet, somehow love escaped us on some late night’s watch.

So for a time, I did not partake but only waited, kept watch
my toes barely tapping with the slow tick of time.
The slow tick of years spent hoping for dormant desire
to seek me, to find me, to awaken and return
that I might again dance the dance of delicious night.
A night with passion found and revived from its grave.

Now keep guard, if you must, watch and wait my return
your toes tapping out time as I search for my knight.
For I’ll not again rein desire, till I rest in my grave.

Conni Struss Johnson©

Friday, March 24, 2006

My Mortality

Being in ones 50’s tends to make you much more aware of your mortality, and if that were not enough, I recently lost one of my younger brothers. It is very hard to say good-bye when you feel that they are leaving you much too soon. Adding to the difficulty of saying good-bye to my baby brother was discovering the fact that my parent, though present, is in many ways no longer reachable.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or simply old age doesn’t matter. Whatever label you put on it will not make the reality of the situation any easier. We all hope to be sprightly old folks, still present enough to be annoying the hell out of those around us simply because we can, we are old, what can they do to us. So watching someone that you love loose that sense of presence is very difficult, especially if you feel that you have unresolved issues.

This was the case for me at my brother’s funeral. I was very aware of the pain of saying good-bye to Mark but did not expect that I would, in some ways, be saying good-bye to my father as well. So as I usually do, I put pen to paper to help deal with my emotions.

You Needed To Tell

He is gone, my brother, your son,
and though you stand there,
you are gone as well.
I have things to say, but you will hear them
only for a moment,
and they too will be gone.

She is gone, my mother, your wife.
Died long ago, taking with her your guilt
you stand unaccused, unaccepting of your part,
your freedom to stand by and watch
her actions of destruction.

He is gone. I remind you for the third,
no fourth time, and in a moment
you have forgotten.
Is this more painful for you, or for me?

You stand there, small in your large frame,
your weakness giving you sympathy
There are things you needed
to hear,
to know,
to say.
But that moment too, is gone.

You needed to tell me how
...she possessed such power.
You needed to tell me why
...you just stood by and watched.
Just stood by, you
So tall,
So strong,
So weak.
You needed to tell me why,
when you walked away from her,
you walked away from me.

Now I stand looking at you,
loving you, hating you,
knowing, that you too are gone.

You needed to tell me
...how to love
......after you are gone.

Conni Struss Johnson

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