Don't be afraid of storms_edited-1Years ago I used to spend a lot of time on sailboats and I became familiar with the doldrums. This is when the wind drops, the sails just hang limply, and, unless you turn the outboard motor on, you’re not going anywhere. This usually happens during the summer so, not only are you not going anywhere, it’s also very hot. also defines doldrums as: a dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits. The illness and death of an old friend brought depressing thoughts of aging and dying, missed opportunities and the swift passage of time. On top of that, the hot, humid Florida summer has sapped my energy and left me unmotivated. My early morning walk with Liberty leaves me exhausted and, after a shower, I usually don’t want to go out again. I push myself to go grocery shopping, run errands, and do household chores but, most of my time is spent reading, listening to The Blaze radio, and watching movies. I’m so tired by 3 p.m. that I have to take a nap! Occasionally, I meet a friend for lunch or dinner and a movie. I haven’t even been doing many pet visits for Haven Hospice over the past few weeks. Visiting Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is difficult for me under the best of circumstances and, when I’m already in low spirits, it drags me further down.

There isn’t much you can do if you’re experiencing the doldrums. It’s probably best to accept that you are stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for the wind to fill your sails again. Obviously, if you think you’re seriously depressed you should seek professional help but, if it’s just the doldrums then all you can do is ride it out the best way you can. Probably the most important things you can do for yourself are to focus on doing what you enjoy, be grateful for your blessings, and avoid negativity as much as possible. Pamper yourself. Seek inspiration. I feed my spirit by listening to cds by Rabbi Lapin and his new podcast on The Blaze, sermons online by Rev. Ken Lawrence of the First Baptist Church of Hampton Falls, NH (my friend, Nadine, turned me on to him-she spends July and August there. Lucky dog!)  As exhausting as it is in the hot weather, I continue to get out and walk every morning (thank God for Liberty!) because I know that spending time outdoors and getting some exercise is good for me – especially when it’s over!

All things must pass, including the doldrums, and eventually my spirit will be sailing again. If I close my eyes I can almost feel the cool breeze …

I often wonder if my imagination is one of God’s choicest gifts bestowed upon me to deliberately break me free from the frequent doldrums of my humanity. ~Craig D. Lounsbrough     

Hang in there, Mom! I think I feel a breeze.

Hang in there, Mom! I think I feel a breeze.

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My friend Carol

Beach club 002The other day I received a call from the sister of my friend, Carol, to let me know that she had passed away on July 4th. She was 81. Carol had cerebral cortex dementia and, in January, had been given 2-5 months to live. Although we didn’t see each other often over the past few years, for many years she was my friend and mentor so, today I’m remembering fond memories of her.

I met Carol in 1995. She was 17 years older than me and, when I met her, she was a semi-retired social work consultant. She had run her own successful consulting business in Cleveland for more than 20 years before moving to Florida at the age of 60, about a year and a half before I met her. She had done grant writing, board training, and program development for some of the biggest social service agencies in Cleveland and was still doing those things on a part-time basis. She was a tall, imposing woman – about 5’11” – with silvery white hair and piercing blue eyes, large features, a wide toothy smile and a loud voice. She was confident, assertive, even somewhat overbearing; not a shy bone in her body. She immediately invaded my personal space, which is something that always makes me uncomfortable and, although I knew she was trying to be friendly, she came across as loud and pushy so I didn’t warm to her right away. It took a while before I accepted an invitation to meet her for lunch but, gradually, we became friends.

There was a lot to admire about Carol. Her generous nature and willingness to help anyone. The way she managed her life – work she enjoyed, volunteerism, an active social life, and financial independence. She had a lot of energy and always seemed to be in motion. As a younger woman she had been a marathon runner and when I met her she still regularly worked out at the gym and swam in the pool. She enjoyed movies and plays, all types of music, and she loved to dance. She had a soft spot for children, especially teens, and she started a non-profit children’s theater group with a friend who was a former actress and convinced me to serve on their board. She had several single friends in her age group, “the girls”, who regularly got together for birthdays and other celebrations – Carol loved to celebrate life – and I was often invited to join them. I started the “Quarterly Group” with Carol and two professional friends. We would get together for dinner once every quarter, on a rotating basis, at each other’s houses and we did that for several years until family and health issues started to interfere. She had been married twice but seemed more than capable of having a full, happy life without a man. I looked up to her as a good role model for a single, independent, successful career woman.

During the early years of our friendship I was struggling financially, dealing with a stressful job and difficult times with my son. She was always supportive and encouraging. She was a good listener and she gave good advice. She had been through struggles of her own – her father (and both husbands) had been an alcoholic, she got pregnant and ran away from home at 17 and gave the baby up for adoption, and then went on to earn Bachelors and Masters degrees in Social Work. She invited me to join her at her timeshare at the beach many times and she always referred to me as her “beach buddy” (I did the drawing on this post as a birthday card for her one year). We were both on a path of spiritual searching and personal growth and we enjoyed sharing the books we were reading with each other. In the mornings, we would sit on opposite ends of the long balcony sipping coffee, reading and writing in our journals, and occasionally reading something aloud that had especially resonated with us.

It was a sad ending for such a vibrant, energetic and caring woman but, I’m choosing not to focus on that. This week I’m going to meet Carol’s sister and the surviving “girls” at the beach to spread her ashes and celebrate her life.

God bless you, Carol. I’m glad I knew you.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.  ~Anais Nin

Carol at the Beach Club 12-03

Stuff I Like-Part 3

Make a joyful noiseThe other night I went to see “Love & Mercy”, which is a film about the life of Brian Wilson (creative genius behind the Beach Boys), focusing on the years 1962 through 1992. It is well written and acted but, it’s not about the Beach Boys so you don’t have to be a fan of theirs to like the film. It is the story of a sensitive musical genius and his struggles to overcome an abusive childhood and years of mental health issues and drug addiction. It is the best depiction of one person’s creative process that I have ever seen. It is sad and dark at times but, in the end, it is also about the redemptive power of love; one of my favorite themes.

I became an instant Beach Boys fan the moment I heard “Surfer Girl” in the summer of 1963, when I was 12, and they and the Beatles provided the soundtrack of my life for the next couple of decades. I liked other rock n’ roll groups and other types of music but, because their music was so important to my formative years, they will remain a part of who I am forever. I probably drove my parents crazy by playing the same albums over and over but, as much as I loved the Beach Boys music, I didn’t appreciate the timeless genius of it until I was much older. Not so much the lyrics, because most of those are anchored firmly in a certain time and culture but, the music itself and the amazing production arrangements – both Brian’s creations. There are some songs that still bring tears to my eyes, among them “Caroline, No”, a heart breaking song about the loss of innocence, “God Only Knows” one of the most beautiful love songs ever written (both from the classic “Pet Sounds” album) and “Don’t Worry, Baby”, supposedly about a guy’s fears regarding a drag race but, if you listen closely, I think much more is being said between the lines. In addition, Brian’s soaring falsetto will make your heart ache.

By 1965 Brian had grown creatively and wanted to move away from the “cars, girls, beach” formula but he was under constant pressure to keep delivering Top Ten hits so his family (this was a family business – the three Wilson brothers, Brian, Carl and Dennis, their cousin Mike Love, and a friend, Al Jardine) could continue to make money and maintain the band’s popularity. The pop magazines I bought as a teen presented a fluffy, happy, version of the Beach Boys lives – back in the ’60’s we very rarely knew the truth about our celebrities (or our elected officials!). A sanitized version of the reason Brian stopped touring with the group in 1966 was published – the real reasons were darker and more complicated than just a desire to “focus on song writing and production”. I had no idea of Brian’s true story until 1995 when I read “Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys” by Steven Gaines (if you’re interested in reading a well-written portrait of Brian Wilson I recommend “Catch a Wave” by Peter Ames Carlin).

I saw the Beach Boys in concert every year for 10 years – 1971 to 1981 – and every show was a celebration of youth, summer and good times complete with beach balls and frisbees. I saw them for the first time in 1971 with my fiancée in but in 1981 my marriage ended and I went to my last Beach Boys concert at the Providence Civic Center. Over the years I had often wished they would perform more of their new music instead of relying so heavily upon past hits and, for a few years in the early 70’s, they seemed to be doing that but, eventually they went back to the old formula. As a result of that and changes in my own life, I viewed the Beach Boys through a different prism in that last concert. Suddenly the sight of nearly middle-aged men singing “Be True to Your School” and “I Get Around” seemed sad. At the end of the concert Mike Love yelled out “Party in the bar at the Marriott – you’re all invited!” to 22,000 fans. I looked at my friend and said “Could that be real?” and he said “Let’s go and find out!” The bar in the Marriott was packed but, gradually, some of the Beach Boys back up musicians arrived and then, we saw Mike and Carl across the bar from us. My friend went to the bathroom and, as I was sitting alone at the bar, Dennis Wilson came toward me with a man holding each of his arms. He seemed to be drunk and they were apparently helping him to walk out of the bar. Dennis was always my favorite of the Beach Boys and I was thrilled just to be that close to him but, he veered towards me, stopped and said “What’s a pretty lady like you doing all alone?” I was tongue-tied! I think I said “My friend is in the bathroom” or something equally witty. He asked if I had been at the show and I said yes and he thanked me. Then he kissed me on the cheek and he and his escorts continued on their way. (Years later I read “Dumb Angel: the Life and Music of Dennis Wilson” by Adam Webb and learned what a tragically self-destructive person he had been – ironically, the only real surfer in the Beach Boys drowned in 1983 at the age of 39) When my friend came back from the bathroom he was furious that he had missed the whole thing but I told him it never would have happened if I hadn’t been alone. It was a memorable and fitting end to my decade of Beach Boys concerts.

The good news is that all the beautiful music Brian Wilson has created is still available to me any time I want to hear it and he is still creating. He has an almost unfiltered innocence and vulnerability that touches me and his song “Love & Mercy” is wonderful – after all, who can’t relate to the simple need for love & mercy in their lives?

PS/check out the absolutely gorgeous BBC production of “God Only Knows” on YouTube

Washington Oaks-Matanzas River 5-22-15

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions