coming to term with our grips, 2


“The blueprint isn’t the building.”

Mary Pipher

“actions speak louder than words.” shoot, if i had a nickel for every time i’ve heard my mother say that, we’d be having this conversation in person, and i’d be picking up the tab. laboring, trusting, noticing, speaking, writing, yearning, connecting, pondering, desiring, building, standing, dancing, surviving. these are all actions that julie mentioned in her post. her post reads to me as a segue, a bridge from talking to doing.

caring is an action. so is caregiving, tending, pondering, deciding, preparing, singing, trying, loving, wiping, cooking, nurturing, hugging, listening, crying, seeking, writing, bearing witness. see, actions don’t have to be global to be valid or worthwhile.

many women who are career caregivers and family hearth keepers eventually find themselves stepping over the threshold of their front door, and all too often, it’s like leaving a darkened theatre and stepping right smackdab into the sunny parking lot. there’s an acclimation that must take place. many of these are women can tell you in the blink of a gnat’s eye what everybody around them thinks and feels, but ask them what their opinion is on something, ask them what gets their blood churning, and they draw a blank.

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.

~Virginia Woolf

knowing our own thoughts and passions takes a little longer. discovering, defining, and clarifying personal voice are actions. so is supporting ourselves and others as we move through this stage.

we talk, write, listen. we poke around, visiting blogs to see what resonates with us – all actions – and while there are books and plays i want to write, i’m itching to do something that involves moving more than my fingers. i’m ready to live into my word of the year, ready to do something JustBecause.

some women go spend time at the ocean. other women get a job doing something they’re interested in. others collect, paint, draw, yarden, train for marathons.

but me? right now – as of last week – my action involves finding an old piano and deconstructing it down to the keyboard. all i want is the keyboard. a full keyboard. 88 keys. and once i have the keyboard, i want to hang it on the wall in my studio. it’s a desire, and desire is an action.

when this crazy idea came to light, i smiled (a good sign) and said to myself, “okay. so where do i find a piano?” i have a piano, mind you – music is in our blood – but i don’t want to take it apart, so i did what i always do: i asked my friends. within 4 hours of posting a note on facebook, a woman i seldom see even though i’ve known her for decades, commented that she had a piano i could have. the plan is to look at it tomorrow, then find a way to get it from there to here, find some tools, and let the deconstruction begin.

will harvesting the keyboard of an old piano save the world? shoot, no. will it cure cancer or restore order to haiti or stop domestic violence and rape? don’t i wish. no, i expect this is nothing more than one woman who’s itching to do something, doing something. nothing more, nothing less.

and i’m doing it with the help of friends. some i haven’t seen in years. others i’ve never seen (in person) at all. helping, listening, giving, picking up . . . those are all actions. and every action leads somewhere.

even the teensy little action of clicking on the name of a woman who left a comment on julie daley’s blog. there’s one more piece to this post, but i’m about to be late to a very important writing date with a friend i met when she came to audition for a show our theatre company produced last summer, so till soon . . .

my great aunt rene (and i mean “great” in terms of lineage and as an adjective) was a career caregiver. she never had children, but she took care of us, her brother, her two sisters, and countless others. in her younger years, she took such good care of a sick, elderly man that when his father died, the son deeded the house to her in appreciation. she then build a small house on the back of the lot and created an apartment on one side of the house, and the rental income fed and clothed her when her youngish husband died. laughing, playing canasta, yardening, and flirting were some of aunt rene’s more noteworthy actions. she took care of people and plants, and she tended them – us – well. the azaleas in the photo are in her yard.


  1. Square-Peg Karen

    ooh, Jeanne – I've been thinking about “worthwhile” since yesterday, and what you said here: ” actions don’t have to be global to be valid or worthwhile.” -WOW! love it – seems to connect with the feminine to me.

    2 wishes – wish I could've met your Aunt Rene (she sounds an awful lot like my great-aunt Huna – family matriarch, who i adored) and I sure wish you lived up my street – coz I would SO be at that piano busting. So glad your piano found you!!

  2. ronnadetrick

    Ah, again: so beautiful. And these words?

    “…knowing our own thoughts and passions takes a little longer. discovering, defining, and clarifying personal voice are actions. so is supporting ourselves and others as we move through this stage…”

    The grace of time, kindness, and others as we continue to grip (and let go) is ALL – and so much – of what has enabled me to continue discovering my own voice, my own passions, my own desires.

    I am deeply grateful.

    And I SO want to see the keyboard on your wall. The metaphor, combined with the physical object, and all the music that soars from your space, your voice, your heart? Stunning.

  3. Kathy

    Worthwhile…I wonder what Divine Cosmos would have left uncreated if worthwhile, as we have come to ascertain worthwhile to be, were the criterion? Worthwhile being about time and effort spent, imagine the time and effort spent to come to the dawn of the human being…how “productive” was that? ha ha

    My father passed away a couple of years ago and my mother said “Now I can find out who I am.” She also called him controlling. Something I never realized, being the fish that swam in that water from the day I was born; a very connected to her Dad fish at that. Yet, being tossed into the world of making your own decisions like that, as exhilarating as the initial prospect might be is also mightily disoriented. Heck, most of us shun responsibility in some way or other. Give it all to us in one fell swoop and we just might wish for someone to come and take care of us.

    There is so much compassion and empathy called for here, for all of us.

    What is worthwhile? Anything that is life giving and if that's a piano keyboard on the wall for reasons that are inexplicable in a rational sense, then so be it. There is little that is rational about evolution, about love, about life. Our attempt to make it all so has caused us all a lot of pain.

  4. AlanaSheeren

    Oh Jeanne – I am catching up on your last few posts and feeling this comfortable, warm, coming home kind of feeling. It's lovely – as are you. Wishing I could give you a hug of the non-virtual, real-life kind.

  5. whollyjeanne

    lord, sweetpea, if we lived even within an hour of each other we'd never get anything done. or we'd be more productive than ever. one or the other. either way, i wish it were so.

  6. whollyjeanne

    thank you, ronna. it's odd, this stepping out from the caregiving role. the last one leaves home, the last one dies, and you have to learn a new language called self. just as some people don't understand why an abused woman goes back to her abuser, many people don't understand how a woman can honestly not know what she thinks. like atticus finch said, you just have to walk a mile in their shoes.

  7. whollyjeanne

    i love you, kathy loh. and i hope your mother has discovered the incredible woman i know she is.

  8. whollyjeanne

    well, hey, sugar. i'm afraid i've let things get really out of hand over here and am woefully behind in my blog reading, yours included. have been missing you and plan to catch up this weekend. hope you're well and smiling. xo

  9. emma

    I CANNOT WAIT to see the pic of those keys up on your wall. What an awesome project. Every time I learn something new about you, I shake my head with wonder. If ever there was a person whose ENTIRE being is CREATIVITY, that person is you. And Rene sounds utterly delightful – I wish I'd met her.
    Love you to bits and bits. Gorgeous.

  10. shoreacres

    “Actions don't have to be global to be worthwhile or valid.” Yes. Absolutely. And they don't have to come along with an agent, media reps, paparazzi and an entourage. Hidden works, too.

    We were treading the same path with this one. From my current post:

    “In the ages-long struggle against adversity, the smallest gesture counts. In the midst of the world’s anonymous masses, the most insignificant and unnoticed person is worthy of infinite respect. The most hidden event may alter the course of history forever, and the larger forces pulsing through society…are not the only harbingers of beauty and truth.”

    Who knows what music that keyboard will sing?

  11. whollyjeanne

    well, it's one of those wonky-gotta-do-it-but-can't-tell-you-why things that has haunted me. then, when the woman responded to my facebook request in less than 4 hours, i took it as a sign to move forward. and i will. aunt rene, oh you two would've had soooo much fun.

  12. whollyjeanne

    i have missed your blog lately. work harder to maintain balance here because blogs like youre replenish me, nourish me.

  13. Julie

    You amaze me and you inspire me, darling. “there’s an acclimation that must take place.” I've never heard that phrased so perfectly. Yes, an acclimation. From caregiver to creatrix in one's own right. Love you so, Jeanne.

  14. TheWordWire

    Deconstructing a piano sounds like one of those things that occurs to you in a flash of inspiration that some other part of you dismisses – at least, that's what happens to me. I love that you made it a goal, and then found a piano! I've never seen the inside of one of those things, but this whole project sounds like a lot of work. Post pictures, please – look forward to seeing that baby on the wall.

  15. parkridgedds

    Every action leads somewhere…..and isn't that the most exciting aspect of the journey? I could just sit here and read your blog all day long….you have a relationship with words that I could only HOPE to attain. I love stopping by here….thank you.

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