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.
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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.

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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.

IN THE ERA OF COVID -19

We’re living in a surreal time. I had to watch my sister’s burial and memorial service through a computer – Zoom, the all-purpose connection. Not to be able to stand by her grave with others who loved her, to throw the traditional handful of earth on the coffin, to hug one another in our mutual pain, but instead to sit at home alone and see all this as if it were a TV show. .. It all feels inhuman.

It’s as if we’re dwelling (locked down) in a science fiction story and, at the same time, thrown back into a medieval plague. No wonder we’re all edgy, especially when we must maintain “social distance” from one another. I go for brief walks to escape from my solitary existence, but if I have a chance to talk to anyone there must be at least six feet between us. (I’ve learned to measure by guessing.) If someone’s face is blatantly without a mask, I detour around that familiar person who now appears dangerous.

Yet in this inhuman time something human is emerging. There’s belated caring about each other – not only friends and family, but neighbors we hardly noticed, lonely clerks in the few stores that are open, brave delivery people to whom we apologize, “Just leave it by the door.” I find there’s a growing concern even for a stranger. Perhaps a more accurate word is awareness that this other person is struggling with the same things we are. Conflicts that used to seem monumental shrink to trivial.

I am one of the many who is not only “sheltering,” but doing so alone. There are days when I long for the comfort of having someone with me. The silence can be deafening, the solitary dinners a hurdle, TV anchors with their depressing news my only companions. Yet there are other times when I realize the unexpected rewards of being alone. I can write without interruptions, and without anyone asking, “When is dinner?” My desk, my room, my time are mine.

I’m also giving myself a gift that may not seem like a gift: getting to everything I’ve been promising myself to take care of for years. I’ve been organizing drawers and shelves and closets, and discovering forgotten letters, photos, documents. It feels as if in the midst of chaos, I’m putting myself in order.

Some day there will be light at the end of this dark tunnel. Meanwhile, the fact that so many are reaching out– even to those they scarcely know – with phone calls and E-mails, is in itself a sign of hope. (How many people I scarcely know have called to ask if I have enough food! And, if not, to offer to shop for me.) I hope we can maintain this caring about each other afterward. A caring manifested in what has become our shared signature: “Stay well, stay safe.”

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 through CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.

ISOLATION

They are invisible, each one 50 times smaller than a red blood cell. Yet they have shut down almost the entire world!

I don’t know anyone whose life hasn’t been altered by the pandemic. Not only those who have the dreaded diagnosis “positive,” but all the employees now working at home or thrown out of work, students unable to go to school, any and all of us whose long-planned vacation has to be canceled, and so on – and on….

Many of us are in “voluntary quarantine.” What’s voluntary about it? We have scant choice: isolate or risk infection. If we do venture out we have to stay at least six feet away from any human being. Gone are reassuring hugs or even handshakes. I wonder what kind of people we will be when this Orwellian nightmare is finally over.

In what looms as a perpetual midnight, we need to find glimmers of light. One of the most meaningful ways is to refuse to let isolation equal loneliness, by phoning or E-mailing everyone we care about. We may be far apart geographically, but we don’t have to be distant emotionally. I’m finding many of these conversations have a depth they never had before. Even friends and relatives I seldom had time for are proving to be surprising.

I fight fear and futility by keeping as productive as possible. Just before this crisis broke, I had completed a book about my partner’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and my desperate attempts to keep us connected. We both lost recently and I’m alone. It makes isolation even more challenging. Terrible time to try to get a book published, I thought, but decided to send it to a self-publishing house immediately. Part of me says this is absurd, how could I publicize it without being able to give book talks or send copies to book clubs (that aren’t meeting anyway)? But another part of me stubbornly follows the mantra: “If not now, when?” Besides, if people are isolated they have more time to read!

Aside from phone and computer, I’m finding odd pleasure in finally clearing up all the papers I’d been meaning to sort through for years. A closet I’d hardly dared open is now a model of orderliness. I think there’s something about feeling we’re in charge – even if it’s just a closet – that strengthens us.

This is not to say that isolation is the choice we’d make if life were normal. But isolation and social distancing are the new normal – and we have to salvage what we can. I grasp at whatever encouragement I can find, like the discovery that no less an author than Shakespeare was quarantined by the Bubonic Plague. Fortunately for him, he was unable to waste time by watching endless replays of TV news. Instead he used that enforced isolation to write some of his greatest plays, including King Lear and Macbeth!

I, on the other hand, am merely writing this blog. But blogging is a way of reaching out. Try it for yourself. And feel free to reach back with your comments.

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.

What’s on your mind?

CONDOLENCES

I have just had a shattering loss. It isn’t my first and it’s not likely to be the last. What has sustained me are my friends – the phone calls, the cards, the expressions of sympathy.

So I find myself thinking how difficult it is for most of us to convey adequate words – especially not in the efficient coldness of a text! A friend who is usually eloquent simply said, “I’m sorry.” Then apologized because she couldn’t say more. But a genuine “sorry” can be enough. It’s like a hand reaching out to yours. Any heartfelt words can help. What I don’t want to hear is the cliché, “It’s for the best.” Best for whom?

Too often a message reflects the other person’s need, not ours. I’m thinking of the nights when I came home from an exhausting hospital vigil, and heard a recorded message from a woman who “had to hear” and “needed” to know what was happening. But I was so drained that speaking to her was more than I could handle. By contrast, another friend left messages that weren’t demanding, such as: “Just want you to know I’m thinking of you.”

Yet in the midst of our grief we can be thoughtless, ourselves. For we often don’t recognize that we aren’t the only ones who are suffering.  Friends may be losing a companion of many years, losing shared memories, losing the possibility of any more joyous times together.

So I will try to tell my friends, I know you miss him, too. For when I’m open to listening to their pain , and to sharing about the beloved person we’ve both lost, it strengthens the bond between us.

This makes each of us less alone.

Website: www.annehosansky.com

Books: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com;Turning Toward Tomorrow – xLibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play -Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle