This is my favorite O.Henry story. A story about human heart. Merry Christmas, everybody!

O.Henry

The Last Leaf

 

IN A LITTLE district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called “places.” These “places” make strange angles and curves. One street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!

So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth avenue, and became a “colony.”

At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. “Johnsy” was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d’hote of an Eighth street “Delmonico’s,” and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”

Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.

One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, gray eyebrow.

“She has one chance in—let us say, ten,” he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. “And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-up on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she’s not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?”

“She—she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day,” said Sue.

“Paint?—bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking about twice—a man, for instance?”

“A man?” said Sue, with a jew’s-harp twang in her voice. “Is a man worth—but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind.”

“Well, it is the weakness, then,” said the doctor. “I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent. from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten.”

After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy’s room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.

Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.

She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.

As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle on the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.

Johnsy’s eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting—counting backward.

“Twelve,” she said, and a little later “eleven”; and then “ten,” and “nine”; and then “eight” and “seven,” almost together.

Sue looked solicitously out the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.

“What is it, dear?” asked Sue.

“Six,” said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. “They’re falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it’s easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now.”

“Five what, dear? Tell your Sudie.”

“Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?”

“Oh, I never heard of such nonsense,” complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. “What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don’t be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were—let’s see exactly what he said—he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that’s almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self.”

“You needn’t get any more wine,” said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. “There goes another. No, I don’t want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I’ll go, too.”

“Johnsy, dear,” said Sue, bending over her, “will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by tomorrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down.”

“Couldn’t you draw in the other room?” asked Johnsy, coldly.

“I’d rather be here by you,” said Sue. “Besides, I don’t want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves.”

“Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as a fallen statue, “because I want to see the last one fall. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves.”

“Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I’ll not be gone a minute. Don’t try to move ’till I come back.”

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo’s Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress’s robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.

Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy’s fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.

Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.

“Vass!” he cried. “Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der prain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy.”

“She is very ill and weak,” said Sue, “and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn’t. But I think you are a horrid old—old flibbertigibbet.”

“You are just like a woman!” yelled Behrman. “Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes.”

Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.

When Sue awoke from an hour’s sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.

“Pull it up; I want to see,” she ordered, in a whisper.

Wearily Sue obeyed.

But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, but with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from a branch some twenty feet above the ground.

“It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time.”

“Dear, dear!” said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, “think of me, if you won’t think of yourself. What would I do?”

But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.

The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.

When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.

The ivy leaf was still there.

Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.

“I’ve been a bad girl, Sudie,” said Johnsy. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and—no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook.”

An hour later she said:

“Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples.”

The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.

“Even chances,” said the doctor, taking Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “With good nursing you’ll win. And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is—some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable.”

The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s out of danger. You’ve won. Nutrition and care now—that’s all.”

And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woolen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.

“I have something to tell you, white mouse,” she said. “Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him on the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn’t imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it, and—look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman’s masterpiece—he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

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Understand and appreciate your shit and the shit of other people

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr. Seuss

“Guys don’t feel vulnerable.”

“Oh, yes, we do.”

“I want her to accept my ‘shit’.”

“What ‘shit’?”

“Under stress I get angry, etc.”

These two conversations triggered my thinking process on the subject of ‘shit’.

I believe that, deep inside, each of us needs to be in intimate relationships -romantic or not doesn’t matter – relationships that give us the deepest sense of belonging, understanding, safety, connection, love.  It’s congenital.  We all need it, though not all of us want it anymore, because of some painful experiences in the past.   Because of those painful experiences not many of us are willing to go deep, to let our guard down, to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is our willingness to be completely open and honest as to who we are in front of an other person; or like Townsend and Cloud like to say – to be naked and unashamed.  So what seems to be the problem in being open? The problem is in our ‘shit’ – habitual behaviors and the patterns we exhibit under stress.

Usually, we are willing to show our nice side – here I am, nice and caring, smart and funny, predictable and unthreatening.  This self-presentation creates initial attraction, but shallow relationships.  To go deeper, you need to let another person experience all that you are, your most authentic self.

When we become aware of our unwanted patterns and behaviors, we say: “Holy shit, this is shit!  I don’t like this shit!”    And the more we are aware of our “shit”,  the more risky it is to let another person in.  It’s too risky, because we judge our “shit” and we are ashamed of having it and cannot imagine that another person, that ostensibly wonderful, whole and pristine human being could possibly accept that we are that “shitty”. And we try to hide our “shit” and it is not that easy because everybody else can see it, or at least smell it; and the longer we hide it, the worse it becomes.

Here I was thinking about a challenge Tony Robbins gives in one of his programs to people who want to get rid of fat – to go and buy a slice of animal fat from a butcher in a size that weights exactly that of your own unwanted fat, tie it to yourself and carry it around.  So I was thinking how it would be to carry with you a packet of actual shit for a day or two - or better, for a week or two - trying to hide it from everybody, especially from people you are in relationships with. ;)

So what is the “shit” anyway, and where does it come from?  “Shit” is nothing but a by-product of our growth.  Once it served us pretty well.  Some of that shit was even quite nutritious at the time; some of it not necessarily, since  we picked up some crappy food from our parents table.  But altogether it indeed served us very well at the time, otherwise we wouldn’t have used it long enough for it to become a pattern.  When we see our “shit” in a new light, we have  choices:

-We can still hold onto it (secondary gain game), because it still serves us – shitty serving, but still serving:  by holding onto our “shit” we’ll contaminate ourselves, become ill; and it either wakes us up and motivates us to grow, or we will die.  Law of life: everything is either growing or dying – and “shit” will serves us in our choice;

- Or we can let it go in at least two ways I see:

*first, colonic – go to self improvement seminars, or therapist for a fix – feel great after all, change nothing in your diet and lifestyle, go for another, and another, and another, and another – so life feels great, …. or go for one, then wait until you are constipated again – go for another, etc.  It could be an approach, but it is an addiction, it is a dependency;

*another one (and colonic could be the first step for this one – I honestly have nothing against colonics – unless you depend of them – they serve) is to change your lifestyle and your diet so you eliminate your “shit” regularly and effortlessly.

How to do it? Make a decision that there is nothing to be ashamed of in your “shit”, that it is a byproduct of your growth, that it contributed in the wonderful person who you are today and as long as you evolve and grow it always will be some “shit” – it is a way of life by design, because we are humans, not Gods.  Go to the seminars, trainings, to gurus, mentors, read books, watch movies – use it as a jump start – but after that implement what you’ve learned, do your work, train your self habitually eliminate what is not serving you and go for nutritions that support your growth.

Also surround yourself with people who are on the same growth spiral and who are dealing with the same “shit”, or people who’ve been there and done it – surround and be vulnerable.  This will be your safety net – they will recognize the smell of your “shit” and will call you on it  - and visa verse – so you will grow together. You’ll grow together to a higher levels because you’ll share what works and what doesn’t – synergy creates greater result then individual efforts.

I promised to my partner and a couple of other people to write my thoughts on “shit” a month ago.  And in a way I done it above it was ready a month ago – it was raw, but it the thoughts were there.  It was done, I needed only to put it in more readable order, but I didn’t have any willing to sit down and complete it. I didn’t know why but I didn’t force myself to do it.

I didn’t have any willing to sit down and complete it until yesterday. Yesterday another piece found its place.

Yesterday I had an acupressure massage and the lady, who was doing it, told me to breath deep.  I started to breath deep and when she was working on some painful points I started to use “pain-eliminating” technique I learned long time before.  The technique is simple: when you breath in – imagine that the healing energy goes into the place that in pain, when you breath out – imagine that the energy of your pain goes away.  When I learned this technique I had a moral difficulty with breathing out the pain – where will it go, what if somebody will pick it up?  So I changed it a little bit: when I breath out I imagine that my pain becomes a firework – solid pain energy disintegrates into milliard of different colors and streams.

Yesterday, as I was lying on a massage table I was thinking about pain – what is it?   Why when the lady presses some points on my body it hurts?  Answer is simple – because of “shit” – it either some shitty physiological choices I made along the way (food choices, bad posture, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, etc. ) or choices my unconscious mind made when I was unable to deal with some emotions and situations – it hided those unresolved emotions into my body (people develop cancer after having some significant emotional events; or people who have anger issues prone to liver diseases, etc.).  I was lying on a table thinking about this pain energy and that no wonder I haven’t wanted to breath it out – it is like spoiling everything around with my “shit”.  In a while I realized that I may call my “shit” a firework, but it still be my “shit”.  And here came the last piece (as of today) of my thinking – my A-ha! moment:  “Shit” is not only byproduct of our growth, it is also a fertilizer for another growth. If I let go of my anger that was stuck in this painful point of my body – somebody in this Universe is looking for this anger right now – somebody needs it in order to break out of addiction, or to stand up for his rights, etc.  Holding on that energy doesn’t serve me, it doesn’t serve others.

To conclude: my point is share yourself – it will help you eliminate your “shit” faster, it will assist others with growth as well and you’ll have a “shit-less” relationships the ones we all dream about – deep, fulfilling, stimulating, naked-and-unashamed ones.

With love,

N.

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Yes, It Could be Too Late

It could be too late to say “Thank you!”, “You
touched my heart!”, “You inspired me!”, “I appreciate you!”, “I love you!”.
….
The first time I saw this lady was probably more than three years ago. I
couldn’t get where I was aiming to get, so I had to entertain my brain for 15
minutes and a playing DVD caught my attention. She was on that DVD – sound was
poor, screen was small, but it didn’t matter – something in this lady captured
my heart and I was watching and listening, and experiencing, and feeling.

Months later I saw her in person in a crowd
and following my heart’s impulse without thinking went to hug her and tell her
that she touched my heart by her liveliness, openness, love and commitment to
be the best of herself.

A year or so later the Universe gave me an
opportunity to experience this lady in close proximity for six days. I
experienced more of her: she made me laugh, she made me think, I was inspired
by her leadership abilities, by how she made things happen, by her presence and
willingness to serve. I appreciated that experience highly and I told her about
it, and I told her how special she was to my heart. It was a year ago. We said
“Good Bye!” and didn’t keep in touch after that.

Today I got news that she is not around in
this physical world anymore. I learned the news and I started to reflect on
what she was in my life – not a close friend; not somebody I knew intimately,
or to any extent well; not somebody I got to spend a lot of time with – but she
was one those people who touched me on a deep level, whom I will never forget,
who have a special place in my heart. I love and appreciate all people, but
honestly not many of them have that special place in my heart.

I’ve been thinking about this person all day
today, and surprisingly I don’t feel miserable about the loss – I feel some
sadness, some blues, but mostly I feel gratitude, love, serenity.  I asked myself why I don’t feel bitterness,
heaviness, desperation – after all, I will never meet this wonderful person
again. The answer I found so far is: in the relationship with this person I
never held back – I was present, I enjoyed the moment and I told her in the
moment how special she was, how I appreciated her, how she affected my life –
so there no regrets here, no should of, could of, would of… and I still feel
connected… and probably I will be in years to come…

…………….

We meet many people everyday, more every week, a lot during each year. Some of them are just another face in the movie called “Life”. Some of them are not just another face, but also a heart that beats in unison with our heart. Some of them for some reasons, some of them for no visible reason at all touch us on a deep level and we feel connected, inspired, loving, loved; because of them being in our lives we are becoming the better version of us, we grow, we expand, we learn. Some of them are here for a reason, some of them for a season, some of them for a lifetime. Whose lifetime? We never know when it will be a time to go, to move forward, and who will be first….

My learning: play fully in relationships with people who makes my heart sing – be present, add value, and right away tell them how I appreciate them. Don’t be caught in a trap of one day I’ll do something special for that person because she is so special to me, that something special for her should be very special, so I need some extra time to specially make it very special. Make it simple – “Thank you”, “Love you”, a hug, a smile, a touch, an eye contact, a five minutes of full attention, an e-mail, a phone call…. as long as it comes from heart…. a present of connection…

If it is a brand new person in my life and right away I feel connected – invest in the relationships, take a first step. Sometimes it is not very comfortable to tell strangers how you appreciate them, or how they make you feel – but do it anyway.
…..
It could be too late to say “Thank you!”, “You touched my heart!”, “You inspired me!”, “I appreciate you!”, “I love you!”. Don’t wait – do it now! – call your mom, e-mail your friend, hug your husband, pet your dog. Do it now! Do it every time you are with them. And do it again and again. Every day show your love and appreciation to people who are close to your heart. Tell them specifically why they are so special to you, what specifically you appreciate about them. Show your love and appreciation to the strangers who for some reason awakened this love and appreciation in your heart – tell them specifically what it is so great about them – it may or may not make a difference in their day, or in their life, but it is definitely will make a difference in yours because you will have no regrets and if not this person, than another with these qualities will fit that special place in your heart.
….
Love you,
Natasha

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Voice In My Head

I’m really blessed. You know how we have different voices inside of our heads (don’t tell me that it is only me who has them ;)). Some of them are critical, some of them are encouraging. We usually don’t pay conscious attention to them but they are present.

Today I finally paid attention to one of mine and I was amazed to discover that habitually in situations when I’ve done somethng stupid, or made a mistake, and so on, I tell myself: “Наташка, ты артистка” that in English would be something like “Natashka, you are funny”. Isn’t that cool????

Now I am definitely curious whose voice it is – my mom’s or my dad’s – who was telling me that, and I am very grateful for that voice and for that love. Now I will pay close attention to the words my sons will hear inside their heads 10, 20, 30 years from now.

Love you all,
N.

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Here is a post about broccoli. Broccoli is very attractive vegetable – green and curly – what can be better?

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Vse cho bilo

vse cho bilo

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Conversation with my son

Just finished a phone call with my 22 years old son. Max called and we had 30 minutes conversation. I realized that he is one of my greatest teaches, challenges, inspirations. He is my blessing. It is interesting, people say that we will always see our children as kids. Today I understand that it is not a case with me and my son. I do experience him as a young man – smart, risky, passionate, outrageous, emotional, searching, growing.

I remember one day somebody told me that 18th birthday is a much bigger celebration for parents than for kids, because it is a celebration of independence from consequences of kids’ choices. I think the biggest gift and pleasure of having an adult child is the opportunity to have a unique relationship with him – open, honest, challenging. Max made a lot of choices that I didn’t do in my life and that looked for me as a total stupidity. He put himself through a lot of challenges. Through last months I learned to let him live his life, experience all the consequences of his choices and to love him and appreciate him for who he is. I also learned to experience and appreciate my consequences for choices I make in connection with our relationships. It is liberating. It is not always easy, but it is liberating.

My golden nuggets from what Max said today, not his exact words, but what they ignited in me:

I don’t believe in idols. I believe in inspiration.

We all people and we all have our ego, and we all selfish. But as human being we have a unique quality to overcome this selfishness in order to serve a greater good.

Pride is a double edge sword: bad pride comes/breeds arrogance (one thinks low about other people, one think that he can be noticeable only if he puts down everybody around himself) – it is either me, or you; right/wrong. Good pride comes from self confidence (I know who I am and I acknowledge and value all my talents and gifts, I think good about myself), good pride is “we all together.”

I don’t count what I don’t have, I count my blessings.

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Art of Living

“A Master in the Art of Living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both”.

Francoise Rene Auguste Chateaubriand.
French writer and statesman
(1768 – 1848)

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