Echoes Trailer

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blank Page

Blank Page

I’m sitting here at the keyboard with a blank screen in front of me. It has an appeal I cannot describe that borders on addiction. The keys are smooth beneath my fingertips and innocent, yes, as innocent as a toddler. I can take myself on an adventure just by tapping these keys, stroking them until I decide they can endure no more. Where are the words I need? How can I begin an adventure without words or inspiration?

My thoughts are rambling and I am sure I am teetering between being sane or becoming insane. Have I written too much? Have I chosen my words the way a shopper might chose a dinner meat? Have I added a pinch of humor here, a pinch of detail there, and maybe a dash of mystery to involve the reader? Will I write my thoughts down in poetic form or should I scribe my thoughts into prose?

The screen is white, almost white hot, burning my optic nerves if I stare at it for too long. There are no edges, no boundaries, and no depth to the screen that could give birth to a printed page if only I could collect my thoughts and type them out. I long for my words to burst forth with the same urgency a lover feels when they need to be touched. I can almost feel the warmth of completion known only to those who have freed their soul, their heart, and their mind by putting thoughts on paper.

I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee, a cat curled into a ball at my feet, three pieces of chocolate, and a heart shaped necklace around my neck. What will I write about today? It’s not as if I have a charmed life to write about. I touch the sterling silver heart shape of the necklace and hope it will inspire me to write about flowers, love, rainbows, friends, holidays, or anything at all. Anything, that is, except death. I do not like to write about death, nor think about it, nor imagine what it feels like. No, I shall not write about death today.

The screen is white but my muse has finally touched me on the shoulder. He is pointing something out to me with a long narrow finger. He is pointing to the floor beneath my desk. Beneath my desk…what in the world could there be beneath my desk? Is he showing me the dust bunnies? Is he trying to tell me I could write about the white cat now purring loudly but still lying at my feet?

I finally understand that my muse wants me to look downward because everything that has ever happened is now beneath my feet, even the things I don’t want to think about or talk about or even hear about. The past, even something that happened just five minutes ago, is like an old movie that I can remember seeing but didn’t really play the lead role in myself. There are plots, scenarios, and paths within my past. I have found inspiration! Thank you, Muse!

My fingers are sated now. They are touching the keys of the keyboard in a frenzied rush to put moments into words before the train of thought derails. I pause just long enough to softly touch the screen as if arousing a need within it. I have found the words I need, the words that fulfill me, the words that warm my soul and keep my heart beating. I no longer have a blank screen in front of me. I may never have another blank screen in front of me again!

Dianna Doles Petry

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School Days

School Days

My Goddaughter, Courtney, and my son by choice, Cole, both returned to school yesterday after a long summer of what seemed like endless days. They’re teetering on the edge of adolescence. Adulthood, and the reality of the responsibility that comes with it, is within sight now but still just out of their reach. This is the last stage of childhood and the first step of a long journey filled with possibility and potential, dreams, challenges, demands, and often, failure or heartache.

School, from Kindergarten to the day we graduate from high school, gives us more than just an education. It leaves us with powerful memories and many relationships that alter the way we think about others. I can still remember how awkward I felt my freshman year in high school. Entire class periods slipped by while I did little more than watch the clock and pray for the class to be over. I didn’t realize that in wishing for the class to end I was also wishing hours of my life away.

Waking early, I walked onto the front porch this morning just as a morning mist was giving way to sunshine. A cool breeze flirted with my neck and carried the strong aroma of my coffee deeper into my nostrils. Maybe today would be a good day to pick weeds out of the flower bed or scrub the kitchen walls while there was no sign of life waiting for home cooked food to be consumed before it had time to cool. The strong scent of Cole’s body wash and several applications of his favorite cologne wafted through the screen door and out onto the porch. Within minutes he was walking to the bus stop to mingle with other teenagers until the school bus arrived. I started to feel as anxious as he probably felt on this first day of a new school year.

I remained on the front porch long after the bus had pulled away from the bus stop. I was at peace with the morning until the squeaking sound of my back door opening signaled the approach of my neighbor. She was ready for a cup of coffee and conversation. Quickly after her entrance my mother slowly shuffled through the dining room in anticipation of a hot meal and conversation. My day had started to unfold and my thoughts were dancing with the past when I had been a student attending my first day of high school.

Oh, the lessons I learned in and from school! I learned about the Presidents, the Civil War, World Wars, and current events. I learned to sew, learned to exercise, and learned how to speak properly. Creative writing, and this should come as no surprise, was my favorite class. The teacher in that class often told us, “It’s not the length of the pages that make up a book. It’s really the depth of thought that makes up a book.” Oddly enough, until this morning I hadn’t given a single thought to that quote in years.

I learned, during my first week as a high school freshman, about water fountains. Two handsome young men from the senior class had picked me up and promptly placed my ample backside on top of the water fountain. Before I could jump away, as if I really wanted to jump away, one of them had turned on the ice cold water. I had no choice but to walk to my next class looking like I’d just had a terrible bathroom accident. In all honesty, I loved every moment of that few minutes of fame. I laughed about it and silently gave thanks to God for allowing it to happen while moaning and whining to my friends about how embarrassed I was about it.

You see, I was going through that backward stage of my life. I didn’t think anyone really listened to me but I was also very much aware that there were some things my parents would not want to hear anyway. I spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts. I like to think I was cultivating my mind but I was most likely just brooding because I was sure I was able to handle the world if I could just get out there to handle it! A few seconds on the water fountain, a ritual at that time, made me realize the world was far larger than the little bubble I was living in. Maybe my parents were smarter than I thought they were at the time, but probably not, so I quickly dismissed that idea.

I experienced a lot during that freshman year of high school. By the end of the second semester I had absorbed all the knowledge I needed to make the perfect paper wad. Two boys sitting in front of me in English class helped me to acquire that knowledge. I learned how to pass notes without them being seen by the teacher thanks to the well-endowed girl sitting to the left of me in math class. She was two years older than I was and she had a crush on a boy sitting to the right of me. Because of her age and rumors about her strength, I was almost afraid to get caught passing her notes to the boy; after all, it was important for her to get the answer she needed from him. “Do you think I’m cute? Circle YES or NO.”

By the middle of that school year I had also learned how much I cherished the long lazy days of summer. I longed for the conversations shared on the front porch on long summer evenings. I yearned for the carefree hours I spent at home with friends and family I wasn’t competing with to gain acceptance, grades, or social status. School is never easy. If you’re unpopular it’s stressful to feel alone all the time and if you’re popular it’s stressful to feel like you never have any time alone. If you’re gifted with the intelligence of a rocket scientist you’re expected to know everything all the time and if you’re closer in intelligence to a slug you are expected to study non-stop until you gain the proper level of intelligence your teachers and peers expect you to have.

One of the most important life lessons I learned was how much I needed to respect individual differences and I wanted others to respect the qualities I possessed that made me different too. We cannot all be thin, or have blonde hair and blue eyes, or understand Algebra as easily as we understand how to change the channels on the television set. We all have genetic codes and personality traits that make us unique but if we didn’t the world would be a very boring place to live.

As I sat with the two elderly women talking to each other, neither truly hearing what the other was saying, I realized they were communicating much the way a lot of students in high school communicate. They nodded a lot, looked like they were deeply interested, and occasionally uttered, “Yes” or “Well, I’ll be.” Physically they were present here but mentally they were still young women falling in love, driving to town, or dancing the night away.

I wondered if these ladies faced their school years with the same anxiety and eagerness students have today. High school is just one of life’s rituals, the passing of a torch; the coming of adulthood and the going of childhood. “I bet that boy is going to have more girlfriends than he can handle,” my mother said with a toothless smile. Somewhere within the shell of this eighty-six year-old woman there is a high school freshman full of dreams hoping for a hot date!

This morning I watched these two “tweeners” as I lovingly call them. Both were filled with excitement and ready to take on the world in their new clothes and new haircuts. Both were also full of anxiety as they started another school year. I know the summer has come and gone much too quickly for them and yet, I know they need to move forward. I know these things because I have been where they are standing now.

I heard my neighbor say, “When you’ve lived as long as I have….” I smiled. Courtney and Cole are still young pups, still facing a future looming with surprise. They don’t have to worry about bills yet, or whether or not the lawn is too dry, or if there is food to prepare for breakfast tomorrow morning. Right now their major concerns are keeping folders in order, passing quizzes, having friends, and falling off the stool in Science lab because they’re trying to get a better view of their current love interest…oh wait, that was me just thirty-five years ago…

Some things just never seem to change.

Dianna Doles Petry


Friday, August 6, 2010

Evolving Friendships

The teenage years, when I’d get to hear every single detail of a friend’s life, seem to have passed by me in the blink of an eye. I think about the silly chats I once had with friends, the important secrets we shared that didn’t turn out to be important at all in a short span of time, and the vows we made to keep in touch before we took on adult responsibilities. Our biggest worries back then were grades and what our peers would think about us.

I wonder if they all went through a period of time when they had no idea at all about why we were put on this planet. I know I sure did. As the years have passed my views on life and my priorities have changed considerably. Instead of seeing my future as being filled with endless possibilities, I now view it as a limited time to fulfill goals I’ve set for myself.

I’ve made serious attempts to be the best friend I can be to all of the people I care about but I know there have been times when I’ve let someone down or had to cancel or postpone a project or planned get-together that I really intended to see through. That always bothers me because I believe we hold our dear friends to a much higher standard than we do anyone else. You see, I know that if I've hurt a close friend, even if unintentionally, it hurts much deeper than the same disappointment from someone they didn't care about. I am familiar with both sides of the coin; "We always hurt the ones we love" and "Because we love them, they hurt us the most."

Maybe I still want my friendships to be like they were when I was younger but the reality of life is that no matter how guilty I feel about not being able to communicate on a regular basis, my friends are pretty busy with their own lives and probably guilty of the same broken vows to keep in touch.

The problem is that when we feel rejected or hurt we tend to hold onto those feelings instead of looking back and remembering the times when the same friend that hurt us was the one making us laugh or comforting us when our heart was shattered.

I’m often guilty of wanting to be a better friend than my life allows at this place in time. I often think about the times a friend has held my hand in a crisis or called me up and listened while I sobbed uncontrollably about an event in my life. I cherish the friends I still have who make themselves available to me when I’m distraught or maybe even ecstatic about a blessing that has fallen to me. I love close, honest and intimate friendships. Lately though, I just don't feel like I am able to give enough of myself to really be a good friend.

For the sake of self-preservation I’ve had to learn how to limit my overwhelming list of demands. I can only tackle so much every day. While I no longer need a perfectly trimmed lawn or a plate of fresh baked cookies sitting on my dining room table at all times there are routine chores and obligations that I cannot put off no matter how much I would like to avoid them. Like most of us, I often need forgiveness and understanding from the people I have reached out to so often throughout my life. I need to be able to interact with others who have walked the path I’m walking now and offer advice, suggestions, and a friendly ear.

I don’t sweat the small things anymore. If I’m stuck in traffic I don’t beat on the steering wheel and growl because I’m going to be a few minutes later getting to my destination. I allow myself more time to make the trip and if I get stuck in traffic I pull out a notepad and write down my thoughts, or make a store list, or write a note to a friend I have been thinking about. Sometimes I just sit there listening to the radio and allowing myself to totally relax. It’s wonderful. You should try it.

In short, I’m the best person I know how to be. I would never hurt anyone intentionally and I will not apologize for the direction my life has taken. I’m not a teenager. I’m a fifty-one year old woman who is a caretaker to two elderly women, a mother who still wants to lead her children by example, and a human being who has spiritual, physical, and mental needs of her own. I made a new vow today. I will make sure I am as healthy as possible both physically and mentally. I will embrace change instead of avoiding it even though I may not always like it. Friends come into our lives for a reason and while not all of them stay around forever, they all contribute to our lives by helping us see things in a new light or guiding us to new spiritual or emotional heights.

I have friends and family who believe in me so if there are one or two people who choose to be upset because I don’t meet their expectations, so be it. It only takes one person having faith in another person to work wonders in a lot of lives. I will allow myself the precious gift of time for myself and not feel as if I’ve created a world catastrophe because I can’t be everywhere, doing everything, for everyone at all times. Lastly, I will work on having more patience for myself and for others. To truly live life we must have roots and wings. We have to stay grounded and still be able to evolve and change as our lives change and take us in different directions.

The teenage years weren’t that great now that I think about it. Every day there was a major drama going on whether it was a pimple that appeared the morning school photos were to be taken or a broken heart because a boy I’d never spoken too asked someone else to a dance. These days there are very few things that truly rattle my cage. I don’t want a Silver Shadow Rolls Royce or tickets for a rock concert anymore. These days I want laughter and friends to share it with because it keeps reminding me that life is beautiful. As I've matured, my friendships have too.

Real friends value us when we don’t see a value in ourselves. They overlook the hurts, the cares, and the disappointments in our lives and try to lift our spirits. A true friend helps to build self-esteem and the courage to share parts of ourselves we might prefer to keep hidden. In order to be a good friend to someone else I have to start with myself. My grandmother once told me, “Wise is the person who fortifies their life with friendships.” I have no idea who made the statement originally but I finally understand exactly what it means! If I've ever spoken a hateful word to any of my friends, or neglected to see a need even if it was unspoken, or failed to carry through on a promise, I am deeply sorry.

For years I taught my children "It's the thought that counts." I was wrong about that. Words don't mean much if there is no action to go along with them. Charles Kendall Adams once said, "No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction." I hope from now on I can give more to my friends than they expect or need.

© Dianna Doles-Petry