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Featured, Gal Pals, Grief, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Trauma

Crying Towels

March 13, 2017

The scene is set for an interesting eavesdropping opportunity. One woman sits alone in a coffee shop, her latte beside her, a book in her lap. Across from her sit two women engaged in a conversation loud enough to force the eavesdropper to, well, eavesdrop.

One of the pair begins a monologue about how last year was a disaster. She catalogs too many travails for the eavesdropper to remember; however, said eavesdropper hears a series of┬áproblems ranging from a husband having an affair, the wife having a retaliation affair, a dog dying of old age, paint peeling on a ceiling in an unused bath, forgetting where she put a book she was reading, etc. The eavesdropper notices that all travails, trivial or serious, are delivered with the same amount of drama and angst. The captive listener does little more than nod. When the second woman tries to break into the monologue, the first woman plunges ahead, seemingly oblivious of what her friend wants to say. Half an hour into the coffee “date,” the talkative woman stands and leaves, saying, “That’s enough about me. See you next time.”

The eavesdropper is exhausted. She imagines the friend is too. She looks at the friend, who has a tear in her eye. She smiles and receives a watery smile in return. The eavesdropper feels the need to comment.

“Your friend certainly has her share of difficulties.”

“She does. And she doesn’t mind who knows about them. I invited her to lunch to tell her about my brother, but she had no time to listen.” The woman wiped a tear.

“Would you like to tell me?”

Her brother had been diagnosed with a rare disease and has weeks to live. She hoped her friend would offer support.

“This may not help, but a few years ago I was in a support group where each of us was experiencing life-changing events. The leader handed out a small white towel he said was a crying towel and a marker to each of us. He asked us to write all of the problems facing us. We then read them to the group. Like your friend, some had multiple problems, all given equal importance. Others had a single, or at most two, life-changing challenges. We exchanged towels.”

“How did that help?” the woman asked.

The eavesdropper found a clean napkin and wrote, “My sister had a miscarriage. I’m struggling with grief.” She handed it to the woman sitting opposite.

The woman looked at the napkin. Then, she picked up one of her own and wrote, “My brother has ALS. We’re estranged. I don’t know how to reach out and help him.” She handed the napkin over.

“I accept your problem as my own,” the eavesdropper said. “If I may, let me be your sister and help you through your crisis.”

The woman wiped a last tear. “And I’ll help you with your grief, sister. Are you free for coffee next week, same time, same place?”

“I am,” the eavesdropper said. “I look forward to hearing more about your brother and what else is going on in your life.”

Sometimes, crying towels are full of trivia. Sometimes, they are full of human drama. And always, they need is a friend to share them.

Inspiration, Muse

Muses and Musings

June 2, 2010

I never know when an image will strike me, or when I will smell something that sends me down long-forgotten mental highways, or where the smallest item dropped on the ground might be the next clue or trigger for a scene.

To wit, last weekend Terry and I slipped away from Smith Mountain Lake and drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Blowing Rock, NC. Terry had been through there with his wild hog biker buddies and thought I would love it. I did. Sitting on benches with a terrific cup of coffee watching people walk by. Drifting in an out of shops, doing some early Christmas shopping, more looking than buying. Finding wonderful restaurants with good wine lists. Dropping in on a British pub for a late afternoon pint.

And then there was the little white baby sock lying near the sidewalk. I wonder who owned it. I wonder who dropped it. I wonder if there is a half-barefoot baby in a stroller some place, kicking its bare toes in the sun. I wonder when I will use this wee bit of ephemera in a story.

Inspiration, Writing


April 29, 2009

I never know where inspiration — or ideas for a story/poem/essay — comes from. Usually when I least expect it, an idea grabs hold of gray cells and won’t let go until I face it.

So it was the other night when I was driving home from Jim Minick’s poetry reading (see earlier post). I was deeply moved by his oral stories and poems about his aunt who has passed away. How lucky he was to know her. This got me to thinking about my dear relatives who have also passed.

Missing my aunt, who was my second mother, led to me to finish an essay called The Gift. I polished it and submitted it to a writing contest. That wasn’t enough to calm the twitchy gray cells, however.

Now, I don’t believe in automatic writing, but I do believe in channeling people’s feelings and thoughts. I couldn’t get my dear mother out of my mind. I began writing what I thought would be another essay. Right now, it looks more like free verse. Funny, neither my mother nor I like poetry all that much. I don’t know why the feelings came out in poetic form. Maybe because I wanted to keep the words sparse. Tell the story with the least amount of words possible. Maybe I was too tired and lazy to form complete sentences for an essay. Maybe it came out the only way I could handle it.

At any rate, I can thank Jim Minick for stirring up emotions that have, thus far, manifested themselves in a poem.

Wonder where my next inspiration will come from.

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