Attention Short Story Writers!

The Writer’s Community of Durham Region in Ontario, Canada, is holding a short story contest. You don’t need to be from Durham Region to participate. The top prize is $750 CDN. Please share widely.

Thanks!

http://wcdr.ca/wcdr/contest/

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The Lost Art of Waiting…

Impatient Blog I left the house this morning with a line from a Kinks’ song in my head. I’m so tired. Tired of waiting. Tired of waiting for you.

While waiting for a real job, I have been picking up kids and seniors and dropping them at schools or day programs, while looking for full-time work and doing some writing. This morning, I picked up Little Amelia—my favorite of all my kids—and we were waiting for other kids and some teacher-supervisors to show up.

Amelia: I see two kids!

Kari: Do you? That’s a good start, but we need to wait for a teacher.

Amelia: (I can hear her eye-rolling from the back seat) I AM FIVE-AND-A-                                                      HALF YEARS OLD!

Kari: (Trying to hide my amusement) I am sure that sounds pretty old to you, Sweets, but it might not sound so old to other people.

Amelia: ARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!

Kari: I know it’s hard, Amelia. Kids are notorious for finding it hard to wait. Life is about learning how to wait.

Life is about learning how to wait. I flashed back to yesterday afternoon, when I was trying to get my charges home. I was waiting for a kid at our usual stop for about 10 minutes and I could feel my level of irritation growing. Eventually, I gave up waiting for him and drove around to the front of the school, took my other kid out of the child seat and went into the office to look for my missing kid. There he was. I pointed out that I had been waiting for him for 10 minutes in our usual spot. He responded with. “It’s raining.” Trying to shake off the sketchy kid logic that a little rain meant we would have a different pick-up location, I loaded everybody into the car. Everyone else would now have to wait longer for all of us.

I got the kids dropped off and drove to the senior’s with dementia day program to pick-up two clients. When I arrived, they were busy either playing a game or arguing with the staff about what they brought and what they needed to take home. I waited.

One of the clients was new, and as her mobility issues looked even more dicey than the other woman’s, I put her in the front seat. I engaged her in conversation, where I found out she was once a dentist in the Philippines. I laughed and told her I had spent the previous hour waiting in the dentist’s chair for him to give me four fillings and I was still having a hard time speaking through the freezing. We talked about good dental health and being a dentist, and how she felt like she was a leader in that part of her life. But now she had to learn to be a follower and she wasn’t adjusting well. She admitted her brain wasn’t functioning like it used to, and I could sense her frustration with it. She told me she wasn’t sure why she had been placed in this program. I suggested that perhaps one of her daughters thought she needed some stimulation. She said, “That would be great if there was any! We didn’t do ANYTHING! I have waited all day to go home.”

In talking with her, I realized this very educated woman, who was justifiably frustrated with her lot, was not only waiting to get home, she was also waiting to die.

At this point, I caught-on that my GPS was leading me around in circles and I got increasingly more impatient with trying to get her home. I called in the big guns—SIRI—and she finally got us to the right address. I helped her out of the car and saw her granddaughter getting out of an SUV in the driveway. She was frustrated because her mother had forgotten the house keys and they were waiting for her to get home with hers.

I went to take my final passenger home and when we got close, we got stopped by what I am sure was the world’s longest train. I heard myself sighing in frustration. I sent and returned a couple of text messages. I sighed some more and grumbled under my breath. The last flatbed car finally passed us and the opening gates released us. I dropped her off, and headed out to get my mother a Mother’s Day card. I thought the drug store would be quicker than driving in rush hour traffic to the card store, so I pulled in there. I found an appropriate card and noted the line-up at the cashier. A woman with a loaded shopping cart let a woman in ahead of her, but she didn’t let me in. I looked at the huge number of items in her cart and found my annoyance levels climbing to the red light zone. I am sure people outside could hear me sighing, so the woman-who-was-buying-eight-of-everything told me I could go to the make-up counter and pay for my card.

Exasperated, I walked over to the make-up counter and stood behind another woman who, I learned, was having trouble with some previous returns. I started wondering how big a mess the throbbing vein on the right side of my head would make if it just burst from the level of my frustration. Did aneurisms actually make a mess? I am sure my face was pretty much purple, at this point, as evidenced by the number of apologies aimed in my direction by the cashier. Any thought of having a relaxing evening at this point was gone.  Completely. I was angry. No, more like seething. I am sure my blood pressure was doing its own rendition of the Amazing Race.

So, yeah, Little Amelia. Life is about learning how to wait. And it’s really hard on kids. And apparently old people. And, okay, it’s a RIDICULOUSLY DIFFICULT CHALLENGE FOR EVERYONE!

Waiting and impatience. Impatience and waiting. Why are we so impatient with waiting? We have all the personal entertainment devices in the world and even they won’t stop the impatience for long. Maybe they even make it worse. How have we changed the way our brains work, over the last century? There was a time when we weren’t always so passively entertained by television, the radio, computers and smart phones. What did we do then? Did we daydream more? Did we create more? Were we more mindful of the world around us, noticing flowers and birds and trees? Were we happier and more content people? I don’t know. But I do think we have lost the art of waiting.

Out of the Darkness

In August of 2012, I got very ill. I thought it was a simple recurrence of a digestive issue I had struggled with for years. Actually, it was. The problem was for over two decades, it was misdiagnosed as IBS, when actually what it was was chronic appendicitis. This time it had finally burst, thanks in part to an inexperienced, overly cocky Emerg doctor who shrugged and told me to follow up with my family doctor, later. Then he released me to go home to brew up a shit storm (if you’ll pardon the expression) of deadly bacteria.

Five days later, my then-partner (now wife) burst into tears and told me she was frightened for my life. I wasn’t eating, drinking and was barely able to get out of bed. Her tears were the only thing to get through to my foggy brain and I agreed to see my own doctor. My doctor sent me immediately to Mount Sinai Hospital, where I would spend the next 16 days–some of that period fighting for my life.

I had four abscesses, a blocked intestine, pools of infection in my abdomen, peritonitis and the scary bit–sepsis–a potentially life threatening complication. I remember some of the dialogue in my head that night, before the surgery. “But I can’t die…I still have my novel to write. What if I have waited too long and I didn’t do it and now I am just going to die?” There were parts of that day I felt so sick, I actually didn’t care if I died. But this voice in my head reminded me of my partner and that she really needed me to stay.

When I awoke from the surgery, I remember thanking my surgeon for saving my life. She said, “We’re still trying to do that, Kari.” Between the morphine hallucinations, feeling like I had been hit by a Mack Truck, struggling with a deep, almost indescribable fatigue, the inability to eat or drink and an incision that decided not to close, I remembered the value of life and purpose.

I had months of painfully slow recuperation, where sometimes I didn’t feel particularly positive. But during that sometimes dark, lonely period I also realized what mattered. Love. Life. Authenticity. Creativity. I wanted to write. About things that mattered. Still, somehow I managed to get lost in all the “how am I going to support myself, so that I can do this?” kind of stuff. In many ways I have yet to find the answer, but I can’t continue to be caught up in that creativity-killing mindset. I can’t give in to my previous fears. Not anymore. I am not dying with an unfinished first novel inside me, if I can help it.

I have promised a talented, writerly friend that I will follow her hunch and write everyday for the next three months. I promised another entrepreneurial, rather high-achieving friend, that I will start a blog and throw down the Cloak of Invisibility.

This seemed like an appropriate image and thought for today. Thanks Anna Taylor.

For Blog 2 (2)

And off we go…so mote it be…

Kari