Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Life of a Poet - Myrna Rosa

Kids, as you know, I am so drawn to the humble, unsung heroes of the world, who  quietly do the work of living as if it's no big deal, even when their load would topple most of us. Myrna Rosa is such a one. For years, she cared for her mother and her mother-in-law, and now views that time as a gift. Myrna writes at  My Daily Spirit: Musings That Nourish the Soul  . The title alone alerts us that she is someone on The Path. I so admire her, and asked her if I could shine a little light her way, so you could admire her, too. Gather ' round, kids. We're in her beautiful back yard in the desert, and it's sundown. This is a house where Love dwells. It has a golden glow.




Poets United: Myrna, would you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you were born, and grew up, where “home” is for you now?

Myrna Rosa


Myrna: I was born in a small town in Puerto Rico.  When I was about three years old, my family moved to the Bronx in New York City, where I grew up. Like many, I combined two cultures and languages. I think my life was enriched by it.

I went to public school, where I didn’t learn much, primarily because I didn’t speak English. Then a very kind nun admitted me to Catholic school in sixth grade.  I didn’t pass any of the tests she gave me, but she gave me a chance.   Many good chances have come my way.  Once, I quit my job with a social services agency.  Three months later, my former supervisor called and asked if I would accept a full scholarship for my master’s degree in social work from Fordham University. Of course I did and that gave me the chance to work with/for so many wonderful people with varying degrees of challenges in their lives. Need I say how grateful I am?

Poets United: You say the most beautiful mountains in the world surround you. Which mountains are those?

Myrna's moonlit mountains

Myrna: My home now is New Mexico.  I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else and though I was apprehensive about moving here, (so different from N.Y.), I love it.  I live at the base of the Organ Mountains.  I know they’re not the most beautiful in the world, but they’re the most beautiful in my world.
   
Poets United: What a spectacular landscape! Lucky you! Tell us about your family, Myrna.


Myrna: My family is small. My only daughter lives in Arizona with her husband and son.  

My husband and I live with our two canine companions, Leroy and Daisy. I guess they’re work dogs. Their job is to keep us busy with walks when we’re not chasing after them to retrieve our shoes or the remote control.

Darci

Poets United: Sounds like a really wonderful family, and happy dogs! It does my heart good. What is your life like, at this time?  I know from your writing that you have spent years caregiving, for both your mother and your mother-in-law. That is truly heroic, as humble as you are about it. Would you like to tell us what that has been like for you?

Myrna: It’s been a year since I made the very hard decision to place my mother and mother–in-law in a nursing home.  Before that I took care of them at my home for about six years.  It was very difficult, and I wish I had been truly heroic and self-giving.  But, I suppose if the experience taught me anything, it was to be honest with myself.

I cannot claim to have cared for them out of a totally altruistic motive.  Neither my husband nor I have any siblings.  So, my decision to retire and care for the ladies (as I affectionately call them) was prompted by cultural expectations and, of course, gender expectations too.  I do love them deeply, and I suppose that had plenty to do with it as well.

"The Ladies"

When they came to live with me, I thought my life was over.  Then, when they moved to a nursing home, I thought I would die.  Both times, my life changed dramatically. 

Currently, my life is mellow.  I spend a lot of time meditating on the lessons of the past years.  I tend to look at everything as a lesson.  I learned a lot about what love means, also some of the darkness within me, which surprised me.  I’m focusing lately on the discoveries of beauty I made, especially in my mother, a cancer survivor. 

"I learned what Love means"

She had Alzheimer’s, became blind and had some other ailments.  She was much like a child, and I saw her raw innocence, the innate kindness of her heart, and the music in her soul.  This was more than a lesson – it was a gift.

Poets United: Myrna, you have such a lovely soul. I so admire that you saw this as a gift. I know your mom died at the end of March this year. How are you doing with that, my friend?

Myrna: When I read this question, tears welled up in my eyes.  I’m grieving.  And I’m discovering different facets of grief.  I don’t think my emotions fall into the known stages.  I’m not in shock, denial, depression or anger.  And I’ve accepted my mother’s death.  I’m simply sad.  I can’t even say that I miss her per se.  I’m just sad.  Perhaps it has to do with recognizing what went into creating her beauty – the circumstances, suffering and joys of her life.

A few years ago I wrote the first draft of a memoir.  Now, I’m rewriting it.  It’s being transformed into more of a biography of my mother’s life.  Maybe that’s why I never finished it before.  Perhaps now it will write itself.

Poets United: I will buy the first copy  and that’s a promise. Don’t edit out too many of the memoir parts – memoirs are my favorite reading – and writing, for that matter! How has caregiving impacted your writing?  Is there a time of day or night that works best for writing?

Myrna: Well, time expanded once the ladies  went into a nursing home.  I still visit my mother-in-law several times a week, but the rest of my time is my own.

Prior to that, each moment of my day was highly structured.  I scheduled time to write between their meals, meds, and other routines. I found it best to write in the mornings between breakfast and lunch.  There always seemed to be a quiet lull at those times. I still write mostly in the mornings.

Perhaps the biggest impact caregiving has had on my writing is that it created space for me to write.  I sought an escape and writing was it.  I was able to feel connected to the outer world.

I think its enrichment came mostly in the form of self-discovery.  I learned much about myself, my response to my own self-pity, my inner and outer resources, my hidden abilities.  All of this improves one’s writing, I hope.

Poets United: I have no doubt. When did you first begin to write, Myrna? And what keeps you at it?

Myrna's husband, Jose

Myrna: Not long after I married, I moved with my husband to Germany.  He was in the Air Force and seemed to work all the time.  I had plenty of time to read and I read voraciously. Though I had already completed a Bachelor’s Degree (in French secondary education), I consider this time to be the beginning of my true education. 

Reading inspired my desire to write.  The first thing I wrote was an essay on boredom.  My poor husband had to struggle through his own yawns before letting me know how bad it was.  But, once the desire was born in me, not even bad writing could kill it.

How does that desire stay alive?  I’m not sure.  When I was in elementary school, the good nuns would have said it is a ‘calling’.  Perhaps they were right.  We are called to do what we love.

We are called to do what we love.

Poets United: I love that! Have you always loved poetry? What makes for good poetry, your own and others’?

Myrna: No, I haven’t always loved poetry.  To me poetry was something rarely enjoyable, that professors made us read.  I never read it voluntarily and did not discover its current irresistible allure until quite recently.

I think, ultimately, good poetry reveals something about the poet.  The revelation is not always beautiful, but it must be real, authentic.  Good poetry is as unique as the poets who write it.  They have tapped a well of creativity that speaks only to them, directly to them. I think we are all potential poets.

There’s a skill requirement too.  I’m learning a little about that.  But the major ingredient of a good poem, besides the clever combination of words, is the poet’s heart.

The major ingredient of a good poem 
is the poet’s heart.

Poets United: You are so right. And so wise.  It is absolutely true. Is there anyone in your life who believed in and encouraged your writing?

Myrna: My husband is painfully honest at times, highly critical.  So is my daughter.  Yet, they have never allowed me to quit.  At times when my inner critic is overly active and destructive, they push me, challenge me and, though I know they’re slightly biased, they’re convinced I should keep writing.  So I do.

Myrna's beautiful back yard

Poets United: Good for them! We can't do without you!! Who would you say has been the biggest inspiration for your writing?

Myrna: There are many authors I’d love to emulate.  But it was Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron who inspired me to write seriously.  After reading their encouraging books, I felt freer in-spirit (in-spired) to just write, without being too concerned with the outcome, or with the fact that I have no formal education in writing. 

With regards to poetry, it was Brian Miller (Waystationone.com) who inspired me the most.  I read his poetry and was instantly hooked on his unique style and expression.  About two years ago he encouraged me to try poetry, and I’ve been trying ever since.

Poets United: Brian is incredibly supportive in the blogosphere. What do you love about blogging?

Myrna: I like knowing that someone has read what I wrote, and my ego is stroked by the often complimentary comments that nice people write.

Beyond that I love that I’ve made some sincere and steadfast friends through blogging. They encourage me, and I feel their sincerity through the cyber waves.

Poets United:  Aren't our fellow poets the best? They do keep us writing, no small gift. I can tell from your writing, and from certain quotes you have included on your blog, that you are on a spiritual journey. When did you begin to understand this, and how have your life experiences deepened your spirituality?

Myrna: I think all of life is the journey of our unique spirit, though we may use different words to express this.  My conscious spirituality began in childhood.  It was instigated by religion, but as I grew into adulthood, religion was abandoned for a more personal, dogma-free, seeking of truth.

Poets United: I have walked that same pathway, my friend.

Myrna: The journey has been speckled with different beliefs at different times.  Today, I think that beliefs don’t matter so much.  That may sound sacrilegious, but what I mean is that what I believe is irrelevant to what is ultimate, unchanging truth.  I may only have clues that lead to that, and we all interpret our clues differently.

Primarily, I try to stay open to learning and focused on what this life means to me at this moment. I try to balance my life by acknowledging what is mystery, mystical and magical about my existence, as well as what is earthly, grounded and simply, beautifully human.

I named my blog ‘My Daily Spirit’  because I think our spirit, like life, is a changing process.  Like the mountains I love, which appear to change depending on the time of day, the clouds, the air, the angle – my spirit is different daily depending on the circumstances, experiences, people, places, decisions, age, even my thoughts. And like the mountains, I have an essence that remains still.



Poets United: Sigh. Such a lovely philosophy. And what a glorious landscape surrounds you! So, Myrna, when you aren’t writing, what else might we find you doing?

Myrna: There are several hiking trails near my home.  I enjoy these, as well as taking long walks with my dogs.   My days are mostly quiet, meditative almost.  Occasionally I go to lunch with friends or invite them over for dinner.  But most days I walk, do chores, read and write.  I love evenings, when I wait to smell whatever delectable surprise my husband is cooking up. 

To break up routine, I like to take little trips, mostly to visit my daughter, son-in-law and grandson.  My grandson is almost three, and I love how he sees the world.  I marvel at his curiosity, and delight in his discoveries.  I won’t subject you to more descriptions.  Just imagine the most doting, loving, proud, excited, loving, loving, loving grandmother.  That’s me.


Ian

Poets United:  Look at the eyes on this beautiful child! An Old Soul, well-loved and happy. Do you have a favorite quote that you live by, Myrna, or a life philosophy you’d like to share?

Myrna: My favorite quote, like my favorite poem, is usually the last one I read that resonates with my experience at the moment. There is such a wealth of wisdom to learn from.  


Poets United: I especially love the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross quote you posted on your site:


"Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star, one of a million lights in a vast sky, that flares up for a brief moment, only to disappear into the endless void forever." And I love this poem of yours, that you posted July 7th. May I share it?


                                                        YOU, DEAREST ...AND THE LIGHT




You push the sun,
whose rays force the clouds
to sway out of the way,
evaporating into ether,
dispersing into nothing
but streams flowing
through time.

Do you remember?

innocence of old world adventure
we travelled on a dime

night of pain that delivered
dawn of beautiful beginning
bundle of potential, a little life
entrusted into ours to accelerate
expansion

Us spellbound, gaping incredulously,
through window of modest new castle
witnessing our growing grass

The poor dragon you courageously slayed
with fleas

The anguish, at times, of raising a teen.

There’ve been clear, clean flowing breezes
blizzards, strikes of lightning, floods,
predictably, more to come.
Gratefully, I know
no storm can make you stop
pushing the sun.

-Myrna Rosa

Poets United: This is so loving, Myrna. I'll bet your husband smiled when he read it.

Myrna: He did smile, and he hugged me! My philosophy, which may sound trite and cliché, is to live the best life I can, be the best person I can.  Underlying that is my goal to forgive others, but especially myself, when I don’t do my best. I hope that makes me more compassionate, accepting and kind.

Poets United: Those qualities shine forth in your writing, Myrna, and, I dare say, in this interview. What would you say to encourage other writers, especially caregivers, whose time and energy are of necessity drained by the needs of others? (I need this advice myself!)

Myrna: There were times when I was caregiving, when I’d get in my car, drive to an isolated place and scream.  It was my way of acknowledging my frustration, anger, resentment or whatever negative feelings I was having.  The scream exposed my fear and broke its spell. It energized me and I made the time to write.

First scream....then write! 

Poets United: First scream, then write? Works for me! 

Myrna: I think our negative emotions are all based in fear.  I encourage caretakers and all who are going through difficult times, to explore those fears.  Writing is a good way to do this.

It’s also a good way to escape for a little while the heaviness that attacks our spirits.  Though journaling about our feelings is therapeutic, I found it was also helpful to write about other things - fun things, wishes, dreams, stories.   That’s what led me to blogging, and I discovered that creativity and relief from stress often sneak in this way.

Poets United: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Poets United?

Myrna: I want to thank Poets United, and especially you, Sherry, for giving me the opportunity to respond to these thought-provoking questions.  I’m so grateful that there are people who dedicate time and effort to encourage and promote poets and writers.    It is such an honor to be selected for participation in this series.  

Poets United: Myrna, the privilege is ours. Thank you for allowing us this glimpse into your life. And for your quiet and steady participation in our wonderful Community of Souls.

Kids, these interviews are becoming a journey in themselves, as we travel around the globe to visit our far-flung, but close-at-heart friends. Sigh. I am filled, every single time, with gratitude for the blessing and the privilege  it is to travel among you, and to meet each of you in greater depth.

Isn't it true that the people behind the pens are some of the most interesting – and often heroic – folks around? Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!






18 comments:

  1. Wonderful interview...
    Happy to know about you Myrna...
    Sherry that was so loving talk...
    Thank you both for sharing your wisdom and experiences..

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  2. Sherry, thank you for writing such kind things about me. It has been an honor to answer your questions. 'm thrilled that you asked me to participate here.

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  3. It is my pleasure, Myrna. I only wrote what's true! I'm happy you like it.......come back to check, some people comment after work, later in the day!!!

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  4. very cool to get to know you a bit better through the interview myrna... i like what sherry says in the intro about you and def. agree.. also like what you say about writing and good poetry, honest and a bit of the poet should shine through - i think this as well...and hey...hopefully your remote control is waterproof with the dogs carrying them around in their mouth...smiles

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  5. smiles...i am humbled and excited to be a part of your journey myrna...and enjoyed getting to know ou a bi more...much of it i have picked up in reading ou the last several ears...i love your thoughts on poetry as well...now go have fun playing tih our grand...smiles...

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  6. You genuinely excel at these interviews Sherry!
    Myrna, it's been such a pleasure getting to know more about you, your life, your family and, your writing. So glad you carried on and, the piece you wrote for your husband is beautiful. Brian is such an inspiration to so many in blog land.

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  7. A touching interview, filled with the joy, the vulnerability and the doubts that plague us all, but it also glows with hope and the creative will to keep striving to be more than we think we can be.

    I very much enjoyed getting to know you, Myrna, and I do understand your love of where you live. When I visited New Mexico, I found it one of the most beautiful places I've seen...:)

    And Sherry...you make this seem effortless, but you have a gentle way of encouraging people to speak from their hearts, and get to the crux of what drives them as writers. Another wonderful read...:)

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  8. Myrna,

    It was a wonderful surprise to find that Sherry had tracked you down.
    I had already formed my own opinion that you were a great lady, whom I knew of by visiting each other's Blogs. I was of course aware of the passing of your dear mother and I admired your strength by putting into words your thoughts at that sad time.
    I love your life journey Myrna and your words that the ingredients of a good poem,'' come from the poet's heart.''....
    Best Wishes for the paths ahead Myrna and thank you Sherry for this interview.
    Eileen

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  9. There seems to be a bit of a theme here lately, about care-giving. I can so relate to what Myrna says too, about both the difficulties and the gifts, and in particular the way Alzheimer's allows the person's inner soul to shine through. It was great to read this!

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  10. Sherry, another wonderful interview. Myrna, so nice to meet you here. I have not yet visited your blog, as I don't think our paths have ever crossed, but I plan to.. I really admire you for taking care of both your mother and mother-in-law for as long as you did. That must have been so difficult, even though rewarding in retrospect. And...I understand the screaming. You are an inspiration!

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  11. I have been reading Myrna for some time now ~ Its a pleasure to know more about you and your journey ~ I am specially touched with the story about your mother ~

    Sherry, wonderful interview as always ~

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  12. Myrna!! Such a n honest voice flows through your words...thank you for sharing yourself with us!!

    Beautiful work Sherry!!

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  13. What a magnificent interview with this talented soul-filled artist...thank you...and Myra, you must repost this on your own blog...wonderful!

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  14. My beautiful Myrna,
    Now I can truly say....I know much more about you (smile). Very nice stories, interview and poem. In my eyes and heart...you are a GREAT human being. Thank you for sharing my sweet friend.

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  15. What a wonderful, from-the-heart, interview ... I'm not the least bit surprised to learn you find encouragement from Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron (1st class mentors and teachers in my book as well) - Your truth rings through everything you write Myrna, as does your philosophy ... Thanks for bringing another fine poet into more of a spotlight Sherry. As always, you hit it out of the park.

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  16. Sherry that was a wonderful interview that really hit home with me. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's and my father-in-law is caring for her, we share in that as well and it's so hard to watch. Myrna has such a humble and honest soul. It was both heart warming and wrenching to read her journey. Thank you to you and Myrna for this interview :-)

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  17. Myrna,
    I feel privileged to read your view on the world~ So many beautiful thoughts coming from your life~ I do think we find beauty in darkness~
    I loved your quotes n' poem you shared! You have an insightful soul~
    I so enjoyed getting to know you better~ATB

    Wonderful interview ladies! (((hugs)))

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  18. Wow!

    Sherry, It is so good to hear directly from the spirit behind Myrna's poems. What a fine interview! I adore the quote and the poem you chose to share and the gently paced way you have, Sherry, of leading from one question into another.

    Myrna, I am so Lucky that you write and gift us with your spirit. Your life is also an inspiration. With the infinity of the web to explore, I think it is meant that I read your poetry.

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