Memory Plucking and Listening To Your Heart

public domain

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

It’s raining today. It feels like a good day for rain. Health challenges loom over me like the storm clouds outside. In the midst of those challenges, I did some things that weren’t that great for me physically. I drove 1100 + miles in 3 days time. That wouldn’t bother some people but it was too much for me. I got sicker. Why would I take the time, energy, and money I didn’t really have to do that?

I drove across three states to attend my only grandson’s first birthday party. It wasn’t any huge shindig, just snacks and a birthday cake. But I wanted to be there. Destined-To-Be-A-Musician was mostly grumpy and a little overwhelmed. He hated having cake icing on his hands and cried terribly while he held his fingers out to be rescued by Mama’s trusty washcloth.

Musician Daughter and Musician-in-Law tried to pull him out of his funk, but when little ones are tired, they are tired, and that is it. He won’t remember that I was there. But he’ll know later, when it’s worth knowing. Nanny (that’s me) was there.

Within the same three day period I drove for a total of four hours to visit my grandmother. She lives in a nursing home now. She just recently moved there. She was pretty grumpy about it, because at 90 years of age, she still thought she could take care of the daily business of living. She couldn’t and that was that. The nursing home that she could afford was far away from her friends, family and church.

I had been sending her letters, plucking memories out of the ether, trying to help her clutch at the remnants of her mind. Remembering. Like how she taught my sister and I to shuck corn and string beans and how to pick blackberries without getting stuck by thorns.  Remembering how she would pour a cup of coffee and shush us when her ‘stories’ were on tv and how Jack Abbott was an evil cad. How she and Grandpa went into town for the Moose Lodge dances every Saturday night and she wore such pretty dresses. How she let us try on all her costume jewelry and ruin her Hazel Bishop lipsticks and helped us memorize our vacation bible school verses.

To go visit her at the nursing home I had to take away time from things that other people wanted me to do that they felt should be a priority. She might not even know me now, I was reminded. She had good days and bad days, so I might be wasting my time.

She certainly could have thought she was wasting her time when she sat patiently day after day laughing and clapping at the proper times when we presented our daily ‘plays’ all those summers we spent with her. But she didn’t. We didn’t have much else to do, being city kids trapped in the confines of a rural summer. Our fantastic productions amounted to dressing up in scarves bought at the Woolworth’s, shuffling our feet on the carpet, and taking big bows.

There were many things she didn’t do well over the years, words she said that hurt and cut and left tiny scars, especially as age moved in with her like a messy house guest, but the wisdom gained with time and a bit of therapy have shown me that she tried her best with what she was given by her parents and her generation.

Others might say I shouldn’t be so forgiving, but I’d say it’s more understanding than forgiving. Casting stones and all that.

When I walked through the door of her sterile double-occupancy room she knew me after a little prodding, and we laughed and hugged and looked at photos for the next ninety minutes. She didn’t remember my three children very well, but she knew Destined-To-Be-A-Musician Great-Great Grandson as soon as she saw his dimples shining out at her.

Later she whispered a secret to Keeper Hubby and I: She had a boyfriend! Was it today or seventy years ago, no one knew, but I giggled with her anyway. Then it was time for the cafeteria and she raced off on her walker to make sure she got the seat she wanted. It was a mind intent on ordering the mashed potatoes that absently waved goodbye. I didn’t know if she would remember I was there, but I would remember for both of us. I was there.

With all this in mind, when a read a blog post this week by Leo Baubata, it exploded in my spirit. It’s a post he wrote several years ago about making intentional time for the things that really matter. Now, don’t be deceived by all my goodness and light mentioned above. I am a time-waster, procrastinator and busybee of the first magnitude. Making time for things that are sometimes hard but needful is right there on my list with ironing my socks.

Leo’s post was about steps to adopting a minimalist lifestyle, but the quote he shared pricked my writer’s heart:

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

– William Strunk, Jr.

Leo went on to share about omitting needless things and needless activities in order to make what you have, say, and do count.

Read the entire post The Minimalist Principle: Omit Needless Things

Omitting unnecessary clutter and busyness out of your life is a great idea. What would make it doubly powerful is determining what IS needful.

This requires being present in the moment. Sometimes what is needful at a moment is answering all your email. At another time it is sitting in silence on your back porch. At another time it is banging out 3000 words on your work-in-progress. At another time it is playing Candyland for the 500th time. The trick is knowing what is needful at the right moment.

But is there really a trick, a ten-steps-to post, a formula to determining what is needful? I don’t think so, and I don’t think we get it right most of the time. But beginning a habit of  really taking some time to listen to your heart might be a start.

That reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible. This is the Kristin paraphrase:

Two sisters are host to Jesus and his disciples. Martha was all about hospitality and making sure everything was just perfect for her guests. Mary got comfy on some pillows in the living room and listened to what Jesus said all evening, hanging on his every word. Martha got in a tizzy because she was making sure all the napkins were on the right side of the plate, filling the guests’ glasses whenever they took a sip and putting out the unused little guest soaps in the bathroom while her sister was just sitting around listening to the conversation, not helping with anything.

She came up to Jesus and said, “Hey, here I am slaving away for you guys, you had this awesome five-course meal I cooked, I cleaned the house spotless and all my decor looks like it should be in the Pottery Barn catalog. Mary didn’t lift a finger and she’s still not helping me. Tell her to get her butt in the kitchen!”

Jesus said, “Martha, your perfectionism’s got you all stressed out about all this stuff and fearful about what might happen and what people might think, but only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen to grab all that is in this moment before it passes her by, which is the better thing right now and I’m not going to slam her for it.”

Take the time to cut out all the chatter and busyness and listen. Listen to your heart.

Sometimes it takes extra time and effort. Your spirit can hear what the needful thing is at that moment. If you give it a chance.

Twenty-five days after visiting my grandmother, she had a massive stroke. She is unresponsive now, and the doctors say it is just a matter of days. Most of the time I feel like I’m just stumbling through life, caught up in my own petty troubles and vices. But once in a while my heart breaks through the noise, and I come away with no regrets.

Here are two posts that will encourage you to listen to your heart:

Learning What Is Needful For Now and Letting All Else Go from Joyful Mama

Missing The Days of Niffie-Poo from Jenny Hansen

Have you ever had a time it was hard to listen to your heart but you’re glad you did?

7 thoughts on “Memory Plucking and Listening To Your Heart

  1. I used to play checkers with my son a lot. I’ve never liked playing the game, but he loved it and I knew how important it was to spend time with him. A few years ago (he’s 37 now) I found out he still had no clue I didn’t like it. It was such a little thing, but our lives are made up of little things, and they’re all important.


  2. This post brought tears to my eyes…every word seemed perfect. Kristen, your honesty; your ability to put your heart on paper, is a God given gift.

    Recently a certain word kept coming to my mind: EXPEDIENT. I knew it came from the KJV of the Bible, my favorite translation because it’s written with such poetryand beauty, So I looked the scripture up:
    I Cor. 6:12
    “All things are lawful unto me but all thngs are not expedient….”

    Then checked good ole’ Webster:
    Expedient: Useful for effecting a desired result; fit or suitable for the purpose, convenient under the circumstances; advantaegous.

    I’m convinced that the things that God thinks are expedient are very different from what we so often think.

    Congratulations on a good decision; one with lasting consequences of good.


  3. Hmm, I try to visit my mom almost every day at the nursing home, thankfully only 10 minutes away. Thirty seconds after I leave she doesn’t know I was ever there, yet I have little patience for people who think spending time with dementia patients is a waste. If you can make someone’s day brighter for only a little bit, that time is not wasted even if they don’t remember it, and you are rewarded by the warm spot in your heart. Your daughter and husband I’m sure appreciated very much your birthday visit, and if grandson has been less cranky he would have loved it. Minimalist principles are not meant for family time. (As a encourager of lifewriting, I’m delighted to see your memories of Grandma written down here!)


  4. Pingback: Link Feast For Writers, vol. 26 | Reetta Raitanen's Blog

Share Your Thoughts Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s