Categories
Art Living Poetry

Alternate Ending

As soon as I heard the tone of your voice
I knew I would change the story.
Right there, sitting on the step,
with the phone still warm against my ear,
I said out loud “It will not end this way.”
I never looked back.
I just cut a hole through the wall,
and changed the language of doors.

©2013 Jen Payne. IMAGE: The Open Door, Leon Spilliaert, 1945

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE the Divine Intervention issue of MANFEST (zine)

Categories
Living Poetry Wellness Writing

Transubstantiation

Be the change you wish to see in the world — be the change you fear.

Serve it up in bite-size pieces and make peace with it because resistance is futile.

Change comes and change comes and change comes
and you change and you change and you change.

Extra change in your pocket
is just reserve for the next detour.

Recalculating.

Better to live in fluidic space, liquid and organic,
bending time, not biding,
moving from here to there effortlessly.

Gracefully.
Gratefully.

Because an object at rest stays at rest
but an object in motion stays in motion

and we all know it’s the motion in the ocean that counts.

Poem ©Jen Payne

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE the Divine Intervention issue of MANFEST (zine)

Categories
Living Love Poetry Writing

Measuring Water by Sound

I want to know the color of your eyes, not just the browns and greens of them, but by the specific Pantone colors of their constellations.

I want to know by rote how your tongue forms the syllables of my name, the way your lips make words in the dark.

I want to know your skin like I know these sheets, how they caress my shoulders, hug my hips…where they rest against my belly.

I want to know you by sound, the way I know I’ve poured enough water in the pot for coffee we’ll drink by moonlight at 3.


HAPPY NATIONAL COFFEE DAY!
This poem appeared in the anthology Coffee Poems: Reflections on Life with Coffee published by World Enough Writers, 2019.

Words ©2015, Jen Payne. Image: Monhegan’s Schoolteacher, Jamie Wyeth
Categories
Creative Nonfiction Living Memoir Quotes Spirituality

Flexible Flyer

This week, I learned that Nicholas Koutroumanis, an old friend of my family, died recently. I thought I would share this piece I wrote about him 8 years ago.

 


 

Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you.…All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.

– – – – –

We call him Pappous, or Nicholas.

He and my mother became fast friends five years ago while neighbors at the their senior-living apartment complex. They went for walks, grocery shopped, and sat in doctors’ waiting rooms together. They listened to each other’s stories — her two daughters, growing up in Pennsylvania, the divorce; his life in Greece, the war injuries, his son.

He is old enough to be her father, really, but they seem to find comfort in such differences. Her patience with him seems endless, and his with her. He speaks broken English and Greek, she nods her head; she talks forever, and he nods his. He picks a piece of lint off her sweater and she waves him away; she kisses his cheek and he waves back.

The first Easter he spent with my family, he sang hymns in Greek — his voice so pure and beautiful you would cry at the sound.

Nicholas has been a frequent companion with my mother for holidays and birthdays and family celebrations over the years. He always brings pears, or grocery store pies, and tells stories about wild turkeys, God…and spirits. On my nephew’s first birthday this summer, he sat on a folding chair in the shade wearing a Hawaiian lei watching his little “Cowboy” enjoy the festivities.

– – – – –

And then you will be ready to begin the most difficult, the most powerful, the most fun of all. You will be ready to begin to fly up and know the meaning of kindness and of love.

– – – – –

My friend MaryAnne and I saw Nicholas today. He has a nice room at Yale, overlooking the hospital’s parking garage. Outside of a little high-blood pressure, he seems no worse for the wear of his 88-years, except…

“You’ll have to forgive me” he says for the fifth time in 20 minutes, “This is my first time getting old.”

For six weeks, Nicholas has been in this holding pattern — somewhere between his old life and his next one at a yet-to-be-determined nursing home. But he makes do. There are photos of his families taped to the window — his son and granddaughter, my sister and her son. A Greek newspaper is half-read and folded across the arm of a chair next to his favorite hat and familiar tan jacket. He makes easy, flirty conversation with the nurse who arrives to take his blood pressure. He tells old jokes and hugs us each with full and firm resolve.

A dry-erase board in front of the bed reminds him that TODAY is Friday, NOVEMBER 23. It includes the names of his doctor, the nurse. The blue magic marker notes that he is INDEPENDENT, but he is as much aware of the confines of this new life as we are.

“What are you going to do?” he shrugs his shoulders. “This is the day you have.”

In one moment, he is tangled in loops of conversation — “So, how are you?” he asks four, five, six times. And the next, he is as lucid as the day he fixed me up on a blind date, and sat as chaperone over tea and pear slices.

As we drink coffee from paper cups in the hospital cafeteria, he moves effortlessly from 40 years passed to last week to 10 years ago. My mother is his wife is his daughter is my sister is me. The details are off, the timeline is skewed, but the meaning of what he wants to share is clear.

“I woke up at 4 a.m.,” he says, “because there was a bright light. When I opened my eyes, I saw Stella. My wife. She was so bright. I told her how much I miss her.”

Stella passed away three years ago.
He is trying not to cry.

“I told her ‘I miss you Stella, come here’ but she would not come. I asked if she is in heaven and she said no. No.”

It is not heaven, he tells us, just a different side of the atmosphere.

“Here,” he says, holding his heart, “is heavy because we are here,” he points downward. “But there, on the other side of the atmosphere, everything is light.”

– – – – –

Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip, is nothing more than your thought itself.

– – – – –

In and out of the conversation, I am reminded of the pages in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which I read for the first time earlier in the day.

Nicholas, my elder and my Pappous, teaching me as wise Chiang taught Jonathan.

The trick… was for Jonathan to stop seeing himself as trapped inside a limited body.…The trick was to know that his true nature lived, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.

Nicholas seems to move that way now — effortlessly across space and time. If he is bothered by his current situation he doesn’t let it show too much, and then forgets soon after. Besides, what are you going to do? This is the day you have.

 

©2012, Jen Payne. Quotes from Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Categories
Creativity Living Wellness

Blessing Shout Out!

I fell in love with this fabulous Self-Soothing graphic! Isn’t it wonderful?

Know what’s event better? The lovely Miss Dominee at Blessing Manifesting who created this fab artwork. Are you anxious, worried, scared, sad? There a blessing for that!

Needing a little self-care, some mental health boosters, positive affimations? There are blessings for that, too!

She even wrote this great article about “Managing Anxiety About the Corona Virus.”

Please visit BLESSING MANIFESTING now. What a treat in these dark and twisty times!

 

Categories
Creativity Living Wellness

Calm Down

calm down
what happens
happens mostly
without you

— JOSEF ALBERS

Poem and image, Homage to the Square: Blue & Green, by Josef Albers.
Categories
Creativity Living Wellness

Coping in Our Genes

This is my grandfather, Henry Clay Payne, posing in Okinawa, 1945. The photo was taken about a month or so before his ship was torpedoed and then sunk by a kamikaze. He was one of 152 men killed that day, four days after my Dad’s second birthday.

He’s been on my mind since I read the article “These Royal Navy Submariners Know A Thing or Two About Isolation,” by BuzzFeed correspondent Tom Warren. Blame it on the vintage, black and white navy photos, I guess — since Henry Payne was neither in the Royal Navy nor on a submarine. Still, I imagine that he — floating somewhere in the East China Sea, away from his wife and young son and daughter — might have offered up similar suggestions:

Routine, routine, routine!
“Develop a routine quickly and stick to it….This means giving yourself breaks, permission to relax, and times when you’ll focus on work.”

Exercise.
“In order to be mentally alert you need to be physically alert.”

Eat healthy.
“If you eat badly your serotonin will drop and you will go into depression.”

Start something new.
“Keep your mind active… With no commute, you’ve just cut down on a load of non-value added time. You can use it to take up a new hobby.”

Keep talking — and joking.
“Conversation is really important, it keeps you and your friends informed. Laugh at anything. At this moment when stress is high, it’s really important you don’t stress the little things.”

The other reason Henry Payne has been on my mind is that this pandemic is pretty scary stuff. Probably the scariest thing I remember, really. But my grandparents’ story reminds me that the world has faced things like this before — global crises like when Henry went to war, and my grandmother raised two young children on her own. There was fear and anxiety, isolation, and an undeniable sense that their world had changed. But they found ways to cope. All of our families found ways to cope back then. And we will too. It’s what we do, right?

So stick with a routine. Exercise and eat healthy. Keep your mind active. Keep talking, and hold on tight to that sense of humor until we see it through.

Take care.

©2020, Jen Payne. With quotes from the BuzzFeed Article “These Royal Navy Submariners Know A Thing or Two About Isolation,” Tom Warren.
Categories
Creativity Living Wellness

Coping Tools

I hope this blog post finds you safe and healthy, with a good selection of coping tools at the ready. Goodness know we need them right now.

My coping tools include reading escapist fiction, keeping creative, taking long naps, and maintaining some semblance of a normal routine with my business and my writing. If you’re like me, work offers a familiar place to settle into when the world outside is swirling too fast and crazy to recognize.

While we wait in this holding pattern, I’ll be posting regularly here on Random Acts of Writing, trying to share words of wisdom, coping strategies, and the saving grace of humor when possible.

Like this. This lovely piece of wisdom I saw online this week. During this time of social distancing and quarantines, ask yourself:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
  • What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
  • How am I getting outside today?
  • How and I moving my body today?
  • What beauty am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?

Please share your responses below in the comment field.


Here are mine:

What am I grateful for today?
I am grateful for my health and the sweet network of friends helping to keep me in the moment.

Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
Today I have phone dates with my old college roommate Melissa and my friend Judith.

What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
I try not to think about Normal right now. When it sneaks into my thoughts, I remind myself to be present and just right here.

How am I getting outside today?
Hoping to take a short walk in the woods this afternoon.

How and I moving my body today?
Yoga this morning at 4, PT exercises for my knee a little later.

What beauty am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
I find I keep saying the Serenity Prayer, not so much to keep me calm, but to remind myself what I can change (me) and what I can’t change (everything else).

Please be well and stay safe.

Categories
Living

Gratitude

Categories
Living Quotes

Let Go

I’ve been thinking a lot and often lately about the move Contact. You know, the classic Jodi Foster movie from the 90s based on Carl Sagan’s book?

There’s a scene towards the end of the movie when Ellie Arroway is hurtling through the wormholes of space in a contraption designed by aliens but built by humans. Built by humans who improvised on the design by welding in a secure chair and safety harness. But then Ellie accidentally lets go of her keepsake compass and watches it float gently away while she is being wracked back and forth in her chair. So she unbuckles herself. Loosens herself from the safety harness, floats up from the secure seat.

It is then, and only then, that she is gently brought to the true purpose of her journey.

The lesson of that scene has been applicable more than once in the past few months, but probably no more so than right now. Here in shadow of this worldwide pandemic, we ourselves are hurtling through new territory, wracked back and forth by the headlines, the fear, the uncertainty. Slowly changing course while wondering and worrying at this new direction.

But somewhere in all of that, we have to find a way to let go. Like Ellie, bravely let go of the familiar things on which we rely to get us through, rise up, and see what happens next.

©2020, Jen Payne. Image by Maicol Narea. CLICK HERE to watch Contact now on Amazon.
Categories
Living Quotes

Settle

To let knowledge produce troubles, and then use knowledge to prepare against them, is like stirring water in hopes of making it clear. —Lao-Tze

Photo by Min An on Pexels.