A LIGHT WITHIN

It’s a freezing February morning and I woke to see the world transformed by a blizzard. There’s pristine snow disguising so many familiar things; my neighbors’ garbage pails, for instance. If only the ugly schism in our country could be covered as easily.

January transformed us, too, for it was a month of stark opposites such as I’ve never seen before. First the hate-filled attack on the Capitol, followed two brief weeks later by an orderly change of power. ”Democracy has prevailed,” declared our new president.

As hopeful as Biden’s speech was, they aren’t the words that have been replaying in my head. Rather I’m challenged by the closing lines of Junior Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem.:
For there will always be light
““““` `If only we’re brave enough to see it
I““““` `If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Light is a metaphor in so many poems, songs, quotes. I’ve used the image many times, even as recently as a blog where I quoted J. K. Rowling about the need to “find the light” even in darkness.

But there’s a huge difference between finding light, and being it. For instance, suppose you’re handed a daunting assignment: create a meaningful inaugural ceremony in the midst of a pandemic, without the visual and auditory images of massive crowds cheering. So what do you do? Do you wait for an illusory fairy godmother to come up with ideas (she’s been on leave lately). What if there’s a light within you that assures you that you have the imagination to empower a novel idea. Instead of crowds of people, you’ll crowd the Mall with a dramatic sea of American flags. You’ll add rows of candles to memorialize those we have lost to Covid. Images so successful, there are already demands they be continued in the future!

Closer to home, the manuscript you’ve slaved over for years is rejected again and again. So what do you do? Sink into the darkest of moods and stay there? Or does a power within you illuminate the strength to keep trying? My first short story was rejected by editors   28 times. On the verge of giving up, I summoned up enough belief to submit the story again. On the 29th time it became my first published story.

I don’t mean to imply that belief magically makes things happen. What I do mean to say – and that I work at every day – is that the ability to rise above defeat does ultimately reside within us. We don’t have to wait for someone else to light a candle for us, we can keep our own light burning ; a light that can only be extinguished by a lack of faith in ourselves.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

A

THOUGHTS FOR A NEW YEAR

I doubt that anyone regrets the end of 2020. By any measurement it was a traumatic year. We can only pray that next year will be better. Actually, we can do more than pray. We can be proactive and bring something new into our life to make it more enjoyable and purposeful.

Looking back through my 2020 journal, I find things I wish I’d said or done differently. I wish I had written more and that I hadn’t wasted so much time. But now I have a new journal, blank pages waiting for me to inscribe days I have a chance of making worthwhile. I’m not talking about resolutions, they usually evaporate by February. I’m on to something different: putting something new and challenging into my life.

Coincidentally I came across an article in “Medium” about curiosity, as defined by “a desire for new experiences.” This can mean learning a new skill, gaining new knowledge, or finding a new friend. According to the article, research finds that people with this kind of curiosity lead healthier lives, both physically and mentally.

The article calls curiosity the “secret sauce in a happy life.” It reminds me of a friend who complained that while preparing routine meals for her family her mind was on the depressing problems the pandemic throws at us. Recently she signed up for an online cooking class. As she painstakingly followed the chef, concocting a Szechuan dish she’d never tried before, she found herself “so focused on making sure I had the right ingredients I couldn’t worry about whether or not I felt happy.”

Actually it doesn’t have to be something you’ve never done. It can mean reclaiming an interest dropped by the wayside. Another friend says she used to cut up photographs to form a collage, but hasn’t done that in years. She’s now taking an online course in Experimental Collage. “It’s on zoom,” she explains, “so even that is something new for me.”

Whatever your personal “ingredients,” I hope many of you will choose something that adds savor to your life during these difficult times.

To all – –a Healthy, Safe and Hopeful year!

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

SEEING THE LIGHT

“Happiness can be found  in the darkest of times, if we remember to turn on the light.”

Those are the words of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Unlike the books, her words don’t refer to wizardry, but to magic of a different kind: the ability to find the light even when fate seems against us.

Easy for Rowling to say? After all, she’s  one of the most successful – and wealthiest – authors in the world. But it wasn’t all that bright for her years ago. She was a single mother struggling to survive, when her life changed. It wasn’t a wizard who did this. It was Rowling’s courage and determination to achieve – and her refusal to give up  even after a dozen rejections from publishers.

I hear such a wide range  of reactions to this Covid time. One former friend informed me she was miserable, adding, ”I’m sure you’re miserable, too.” Obviously this all-or-nothing negativity doesn’t help. On the opposite side there’s one of my students who lives alone (a challenge in itself), but said  of the recent holiday: “Let’s all try to embrace Thanksgiving.”

I swing back and forth between both ends of that spectrum. I could view the Pandemic though dark glasses  and say  how painful it is to be unable to visit my children . Or I can value the increased phone calls and closeness based on our mutual realization that life these days is more precarious than ever.  It’s we’re-in-this-together closeness I’m finding with friends, too. (I  also bless the technological gift of Zoom.)

I can curse the huge challenge of marketing my new memoir, when in-person book talks have become rare. Or I can  find other ways to make people aware of the book (e.g., this blog)!  I can also see that I have more uninterrupted  writing time than I‘ve ever had.  No taking time off to meet friends for lunch, since no one’s going anywhere.

Of course , I’d far rather be living in what used to be “normal” times, But since I can’t I can decide to live this “new normal” the best ways as possible.  I can’t go to a movie or eat in my favorite restaurant, and the traveling I’d planned is on hold. But there’s another aspect  to this waiting time. It provides a mental and emotional space to catch up with ourselves, to realize we don’t have to run-run-run and do-do-do. We can be quiet for a while (turn off the TV news!) and become acquainted with who we are and what we want and how we can  bring some light into our lives. The answer may be different for each of us,  but the power to ignite  that light is in our  own hands

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play-bothavailable throughCreateSpace.comand Amazon.com;also Amazon Kindle.

 

FINDING THE PASSION

After my husband’s death years ago, my days were lonely and empty. Then I began writing “Widow’s Walk” and those hours were no longer blank holes in the universe. I had found something to do that was meaningful to me. A friend said, ”You’re lucky, because you have a passion.”

Lately I’ve been aware  how important this is for everyone. I don’t have to look further than my late partner. Chuck was a commercial artist by profession. He also had a studio where he went every Friday evening to do his own artwork –– three-foot-high oils, imaginative collages. For decades nothing was allowed to interrupt his Friday sessions – until Alzheimer’s did. That thief robbed him of memory, but not of something within him that loved – and needed – art. The nursing home he eventually went into had workshops in various crafts. I’d see him painstakingly select the crayons or paints he wanted, and apply them with the considerable skill he still had. I realized that the artist within him would be the last to go.

When an exhibit was planned to show the work of all the residents, I asked an aide if Chuck would be included. “He’ll be the star of the show,“ she said . And he was, though he didn’t understand why his drawings and collages were mounted on the walls. When visitors began arriving I was stunned by the sight of Chuck pulling at their arms and clothes to make sure they looked at his work!  This from a shy man who had never wanted attention. But then in his eighties he was having his first exhibit.

Within hours afterward his cruel disease had obliterated any memory of it. So I taped many of the pictures on the walls of his room, creating a private gallery. He’d nod at them as if approving the shapes and colors. Until almost the end his work was the remaining link to the man he had been .

Art, writing, photography, crocheting, music, baking – whatever gives meaning to our lives – is essential to keep alive within us, if we’re to come through this Pandemic intact.

(Excerpted from my new memoir COME and GO)

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.
.

A MANY-SIDED VIEW

Last week one of my closest friends morphed into a different person. It was during an increasingly heated argument over what she terms my “excessive” caution about the pandemic. She insisted I should stop being afraid of going to restaurants, stores and other populated places. I testily defended my caution in staying close to home. Suddenly her usually sympathetic voice hardened into judgmental criticism. It wasn’t just that she became disapproving, but as if she had exited and a censorious stranger took her place. I hung up to avoid escalating into war.

Afterward I kept thinking about what had happened. I know that there are various sides to everyone but I’d never seen this displayed so sharply. Long ago I learned not to label the people in my life as “good” or “bad.” We’re all far more complicated than that . As writers we learn not to make our heroine 100% virtuous (and boring!), or have her villainous counterpart solely evil. As an actor I was taught that in order to play a villain believably you have to find something you can relate to. Is the stepmother plotting to kill her beautiful young stepdaughter totally wicked? (see “Snow White”). Isn’t she also a woman terrified of growing old and losing her beauty? Playing her that complex way might not suit Disney, but it makes her more human. It reminds me of the first line of a story I wrote years ago: ”I was visiting the sister I love and the sister I hate.” I wonder how many readers were surprised to discover they were the same person.

We need to see each other in this multi-sided way, especially when the pandemic is causing rancor and rifts among so many of us: the pro-mask wearers versus the anti-maskers, those honoring the C.D.C. social distancing guidelines versus those who are flaunting them.

We have a right to avoid those who disregard the rules, for our own safety. We also have a right to decide the guidelines of a relationship. But it’s a valuable skill to be able to disagree about behavior without condemning the person, and to remember that friend’s other qualities . This is triply important in families.(Hard to divorce a sibling and futile to turn your back on a parent.)

My friend and I were quick to make up our quarrel, because we know friendship is more important than claiming “I’m right” territory. Anger is a dangerous virus, too. Some day this pandemic will be over. When that time comes, we shouldn’t have to mourn the wreckage of irreplaceable relationships.

COMMENTS WELCOME

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com, Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

.

THE 19th

This is supposedly a blog for writers, but this particular writer is taking time to cheer, not for an editorial acceptance, but ACCEPTANCE on a grand scale. One hundred years ago this month women won their long battle for what should have been theirs from the beginning: the right to vote. At our nation’s birth “all men” were deemed “equal,” but that left out more than half the population. As Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, when he helped form the new government, “Don’t forget the women.” Unfortunately, he and his compatriots did just that.

I can imagine the exhausted but triumphant Suffragettes that heady day 100 years ago when the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, was added to the Constitution of the United States But I can’t imagine how they would feel if they saw us today with a woman on the national election ticket. Note that I said “a woman,” not “a Black woman,” though Kamala Harris is that, too. This triumph doesn’t belong to one race, but to all races, and to all women, and it transcends political party.

Yet I’m also wary, for I remind myself that when a Black man was elected president, I naively thought it meant the end of racism in our country. We know now how far we had to go – still have to go. So I’m under no illusion that Harris being the vice-presidential nominee will mean the end of gender discrimination or racial hatred. But recently I heard a rabbi preach that although the world is dark around us, if something good happens we shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate it . So let’s take time to rejoice in a historic marker that not only belongs to Harris, but to all of us.

We can also choose to do what she did: use our talents in meaningful ways – whether its working for the election, donating to an immigrant cause, helping to feed the elderly, whatever and wherever. Our place isn’t on the sidelines any more.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available at BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com, Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through Amazon.com and Amazon kindle.

REACHING OUT

 

 

My interest in people who are finding interesting ways to keep their spirits up during the Pandemic has led me to an inspiring example: a retired biology professor who hasn’t retired from her desire to help others.

Twelve years ago Dr. Roberta Koepfer was given a frightening diagnosis, bronchiectasis (a serious lung disease).

“I felt as if my world was getting smaller,” she says. Her next thought was: What can I do to make my world as large as possible and whom might I help?

So she embarked on an unusual activity, which she’s continued and even expanded  during this pandemic. The first thing each morning  (“it’s a discipline”)  she researches Google  for inspiring quotes and poems that relate to a theme she has in mind. The theme may be something that came to her during the night, or the day’s news, or a family photo. If Google fails, she turns to A Poem A Day.

“Then I look for a photo or the copy of a painting to illustrate the theme.” Frequently she finds what she’s looking  for in the  collection of  stunning photos that she’s taken herself. Putting all this together takes, she figures, about an hour. But that’s only for one. She creates  anywhere from one to three of these every day! She posts them on the Internet and enjoys responses from a  “steady core” of readers.

Roberta’s  also added something else to her schedule. Although she’s fortunate to be with her husband, she’s aware how isolating the pandemic is for elderly people who live alone. She has the names of four people  and phones an alternating two every week. The calls aren’t just brief check-in’s, but “pretty long,” she says, “maybe 45 minutes each.”

It all takes a lot of time and work,  Roberta admits, but it helps keep her from dwelling on her fragile health or the fact that Covid  prevents  her from seeing her two young grandchildren.

She also has no doubt that her projects are  worthwhile, not only for the recipients, but for herself.  “The most important thing,” she stresses, “is helping people and keeping in contact.”

(Share your story: Send to ahosansky@gmail,com – and “meet”yourself in these pages.)

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com; Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com,; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play-bothavailable through Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.

 

 

 

STORM-TOSSED

“We’re all in the same boat.” That common greeting is supposedly reassuring in this Covid era. But an Ohio woman has a sage retort: “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re in different boats.”

What she means is that we’re afflicted by the pandemic in different ways. Two of her adult children have fled back home for safety. She may be envied by a boatload of other mothers who are unable to see their children because of the virus. On the other hand, having your offspring come home with their careers shipwrecked can add their anxiety to your own.

Someone who is out of work, and/or struggling for money to buy groceries, will think the couple locked down in their luxurious condo has it easy – unaware that the couple may have serious problems of their own, ranging from health to the marital stress of too much proximity. The truth is that pandemic stress mixes with the age-old human tendency to assume that the other person doesn’t have it as hard.

This was brought home to me when I was trying to get my latest book published and had to deal with invisible individuals who were working at home. Trying to make conversation with one editor, I listened as she complained how hard it was for her to work in a crowded household, since her siblings had moved in along with their young children. “At least you have company,” I said. “I’m alone.”
“You’re so lucky!” she said.
Amusing? Yes. But it made me realize how differently we view what we’re going through. I’m all too aware of the downside of living alone – no one to reassure me about the day’s (usually dire) news, or hold my hand after a difficult day of work, and so on. Yet if I view my “boatload” from a different angle, I see I have uninterrupted time to write, no obligation to stop work in order to make dinner for anyone, read all night if I wish, and so on.

The important question isn’t who has it better, but who is best at finding ways to survive fear and anxiety in this surreal time. So I’ve gone on a personal quest to find people who are buoying their spirits by getting involved in rewarding new activities or resurrecting youthful ones. The solutions differ, but they all stem from a desire to save ourselves from drowning in self– pity.

Next week you’ll meet one of these people: a woman who is filling her days with a meaningful project .
(Share your story! Send to ahosansky@gmail.com. I’ll publish the most interesting .)

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO (NEW!)– available through BookBaby.com; WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY – both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

 

 

“COME and GO”

Life has a strange way of circling around. Thirty years ago, trying to cope with my husband’s death from cancer, I began writing journal entries that became my memoir Widow’s Walk. Flash ahead to 2020: different century, similar trauma. My partner was afflicted with Alzheimer’s, losing memory and speech . His long struggle was met by my desperate battle to keep our connection, to salvage the love. I began writing about this, because writing enables me to survive.This January he lost his valiant struggle. In June my memoir COME and GO, was published.

Sometimes I think writers are scavengers, grabbing what happens even with people we love as material for a story. With Widow’s Walk, I had to overcome overwhelming guilt because I felt as though my success was built on my husband’s grave. This time, instead of guilt , there’s anxiety. My memoir is so revealing – my complicated feelings, his humiliating debility, as well as what friends and family did – or didn’t do.

A lot of choices go into writing any book, including what NOT to say. For instance, I tried to tread lightly on a family member who gave almost no help, because I wasn’t out to use my memoir as a cudgel. But I was less gentle with my own conflicted feelings of rage and anger. I believe honesty is the only way a book can help others on that same challenging journey. “Thank you for helping me realize my feelings are normal,” is a message I’ve received from so many readers.

When I was writing that first book, hours alone were no longer empty holes in the universe, for there was something I wanted – needed – to be doing. A friend told me I was lucky because I had a “passion.” But that doesn’t have to mean writing. Just being able to communicate in some form – whether a memoir, painting, song, multi-patterned quilt that weaves its own story – is a blessing we can reap from pain. And recognizing those blessings is what survival is all about.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: COME and GO – available at BookBaby.com (print and E versions); WIDOW’S WALK – Iuniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW – Xlibris.com; TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY – Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.

OUR OTHER VIRUS

The pandemic has turned every life inside out, but we also have another epidemic: it’s called racism.

The images on TV are familiar: rubber bullets or worse, tear gas and pepper spray, used against people asking to be treated like human beings. I’ve seen this too many times, back to the days of Civil Rights protests. Yet I cling to fragile hope that something different may happen this time. Just as Covid has made us aware that we’re all in this together, I feel there’s more awareness of our common humanity. This latest killing of a black man has created a tsunami of pain and rage, not just in those of the same color, but all colors. When George Floyd’s brother spoke so emotionally about his brother, I wept. He has lost his brother and I, who recently lost my only sister, felt his pain as if it were mine. The difference is that my sister died in her bed, with her children by her side. George Floyd died in the street, surrounded by men who hated him.

In a strange way, social distancing has a reflection in the “us” and ”them” division long infecting our country. Yet as I see huge demonstrations in city after city all across America – and supportive throngs in lands far away – I have a stubborn hope that this time they may be heard. Despite a government that turns a deaf ear and a threatening fist, the country that’s burning may also become the country that’s united across every color line.

Edmund Burke famously warned, “’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” But good men and women of all races are refusing to silently sit by. They are rising up and speaking out in voices that insist on being heard. Those of us who are unable to march can still contribute whatever skills we have – including writing blogs and op-ed pieces – to make the world aware that we must join together in a mutual battle against hatred and prejudice.

There’s no vaccine for racism, but may we find ways to heal both our viruses.-

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.