Defining Purpose

Note to you, my friends – this post contains some political opinions which may likely differ from yours.  I respect yours; thank you in advance for respecting mine.

Hi,

The night merged at some point with the morning, although I honestly can’t tell you at what point that happened.  Yet here we are, 5:00 AM – the Sirs walked and fed, the sun preparing for its entrance stage right, and somewhere behind the clouds, the moon is tiredly anticipating some rest.

I’m over-caffeinated, over-tired, and my thoughts are a muddled reflection of both.

I alternated between watching our election returns and watching ‘The Crown’ on Netflix.  Arguably one offset the disbelief that informed the other.  I despair of the choice the US has made.  It isn’t the despair associated with backing the losing candidate – one reaches a point in life where loss is not unfamiliar; rather something that winds its way around the soul, infusing it with a sense of dread, a shortening of breath that mimics a mild panic attack when one tries to determine what is going to happen next.  I am not going to offer you chapter and verse of my concerns and/or fears – they matter little in a forum which precludes dialogue.

My mom told us that following Kristalnacht, my grandfather went to synagogue with the belief that what was needed was more prayer.  Whether his assessment was right or wrong is not for any of us to say.  He lost brothers and sisters in the Holocaust, my mother bore the internal scars of a survivor with a burden on her teen-age shoulders that was unfairly weighted.  Yet, my grandfather, grandmother, mom and uncle made it here along with a few other relatives.  Was it faith that got them here?  Certainly, there were millions who perished who were equally righteous.  Serendipity?  Luck of the draw?  I have no idea.  I do know her reverence for this country, the way her eyes welled when she even mentioned Ellis Island – her belief that her life was to be lived for those who had not.  She was a complicated woman; she was a woman of valor.

Her perception of her purpose for being was fraught with ambivalence.  How the heck can an adolescent assume the responsibility for so many lost lives?  How does an adult fully actuate when she identifies herself with such a legacy?  Somehow it all got distilled into taking care of her family – and that was both a blessing and a burden, I think.

During one of the episodes of ‘The Crown’, the Queen Mum, still mourning the loss of her husband, her home (ok, Buckingham Palace isn’t exactly homey, but still…), reflects that these losses were deepened further by the loss of her purpose as a mother.  Her girls were grown, their paths understandably not reflective of any maternal need.  And so, she wonders what her purpose may be.

Switching back to the election results with tears spilling down my face…I’m identifying way too much.   Here I sit, in a temporary house with and without Andy (he’s still working in VA),  my sons fabulously grown, retired from a career which was defined by taking care of others and anticipating strategies for future success (within my purview).  What is my purpose now?  What is my place in a country in which I am not sure I am a part?  We have done such a powerful job of alienating each other, pouring vitriol as gas on a flame.  We have blamed and shaken fists, self-righteously proclaimed opinions with no regard for debate and conversation.  We have been disrespectful and judgmental, narrowing the width and breadth of love for humankind, replacing it with some weird sense of superiority.

So, before I devolve into Alice when she was carried along by her own river of tears, I demand to know what am I doing here?  What the hell is my purpose?  Here’s my short answer – I’m here to chart a path where I can make a small impact (let me tell you how challenging it is to try and volunteer anywhere – no, better save that for another day), I’m here to show that there is more to this world than self-important excuses and justifications for things that are just not justifiable.  I am here to love my family and small circle of friends to whatever degree they need that love.  I am here to breathe deeply and try to blunt some of the painfully sharp edges that reflect our current narrative.  One smile perhaps at a time, one genuine moment at a time.  I’m here to grow really, really, really old (I pray reverently) and take up my small space with unflinching love.  Even when I don’t see it.  Just means I have to look harder.  So world, I’m coming for you…after I take a nap.

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Oxymoron

Hi  my friend,

The night was sleepless and I’m wide awake…and the co-existence of contradictory realities seems to prevail.  I am a contradiction in terms – held together by the small inhalations between words.  You’d think that living within duality would at least offer up some deep slumber at the end of a day.  Ha.

Here’s one for you – I stopped believing in atheism a long time ago (yes, an oxymoron with a little hint of humor).  About the time I stopped writing everything in lower case and pretending that I was a potential hybrid of joni mitchell and e.e. cummings.  That said, I still belief in disbelief, if disbelief equals wonder and incredulity and stuff that’s just really hard to believe.

I believe in God.  I believe that there is something that I can’t adequately explain and seek daily, even though I know it’s there.  We have conversations (ok – I do all the talking, but given my profession and personality, that’s not too common).  Perhaps as my sister notes, the older we get, the more comfort we seek – whether it be in a more spiritual grounding,  greater connections with others, opening our eyes and arms a bit wider  – or all of the above.  One’s world may become more circumspect while one’s outlook widens….see what I mean?

I believe in humankind despite our reiterative behaviors of intentional cruelty and deplorable injustice.  It exists within the same construct as acts of graciousness and generosity that I witness everyday.  I cry over both.  And a sunrise can be as comforting as a sunset.  Go figure.

So much for the theory that it can be absolutely one thing or another.  Life is beautiful and unforgivably ugly.  We seek forgiveness when we find it difficult to forgive.  We ask for people to be held accountable and shy away from personal responsibility.  We’re a funny species – which makes me wonder why we came up with ‘oxymoron’ – it’s not a particularly appealing word.

And yet –

Faith is unassailable.  Small wonders are unassailable – the magnificence of a child delighting in the way a flower yields to its touch;  the silliness of dancing while taking a walk (me, with my earphones on, and yes, I did make sure there was no one around); those kinds of hugs where you feel completely surrounded by love and warmth; sunlight on spiderwebs…

And somehow it is through that prism that we look everyday – how we hold our days, each other, our lives.  Through its angles we are fractured and we are gorgeous,  a spectrum of dualities that make no sense and yet belong together.  So I repeat, go figure..

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Holding On

Hi,

It’s been too long, I know – most of you have understandably moved on to more reliable (and probably far better) musings.  What can I say that you haven’t read before?  Transitions are not seamless for me – that’s an understatement.  Cognitively I recognize that every beginning requires a transition to something else, movement is far preferable to stasis, new adventures are uplifting – yada yada yada…Internally, I ache for breath, tiptoe around my life until I get my bearings and slip through the day as unobtrusively as possible.  For all of the bravado, I stand before you – a wimp.

I have found it impossible to write, for I find the current climate so negative, toxic, skewed to the vitriolic that I can’t find my voice in this cacophony.  I don’t want to contribute to the noise; if anything I would like to turn the volume way down.  Waaaaaaaay down.   How about if we whisper for a while?  We might listen to each other more attentively.

Which brings me to my quiet, sacred moment of grace.  I have the gift of watching one of my granddaughters once a week.  I don’t write about the babies often – suffice it to say, I am every besotted grandmother who finds her grandchildren magical, perfect, amazing; every mom who marvels at her sons as adoring, devoted, gentle dads who are awed by their own children.  It’s hard to write this stuff without hyperbole

Bu that’s just the segue – sorry if I went on too long.

Sophie will soon be eleven months.  We get a kick out of each other, we really do.  We make each other laugh, hold each other tight, she places her head in the crook of my neck and I place my nose to the crook of hers and I tickle her.  She’s starting to walk and toddles with determination – stout of heart, if not necessarily equally strong of leg.  Up and down the stairs, slapping each step with little hands that grab and clap and point and propel her up, up, up.  When she laughs at the Sirs, her nose wrinkles.  Between cruising the house and the neighborhood, reading (of sorts), engaging the dogs, and her ‘learning’ toys – we’re pretty busy.  And when it’s time to nap, there’s no negotiation – she can fall asleep in her high chair.

She wakes a little disoriented and as I lift her up, she places her head on my shoulder.  Within a moment she has found her spot, falling back to sleep and I lie down on the couch.  I place one hand on her head, the other rises and falls with her breath.  I try to count her eyelashes, trace the little pucker of her mouth as it drops open.  I feel the pads of her fingers, softer than cotton.  And in her breath, I find the breaths that I find so elusive these days.  In this moment, we breathe together.  Perhaps she can feel my heart,  as I let mine adapt to the rhythm of hers.  There is a reverence to this kind of quiet.  This is what we’re here for.  And if we’re fortunate souls, we dial it down so that we can feel it.

She wakes and we look at each other – my eyes wide and grateful, hers dreamy and a little unfocused.  And then she sees it’s me and smiles, rubbing her face against my shirt and receiving kisses from the Sirs who are ready for her to chase them once again.  Our little respite is done, the awe lingers.

Soon, Sophie will start day care, for it will be time for her to hang out with her peeps and engage with the world.  We will still have our time, our moments.  These little girls and the generosity of their parents have given me my breath, in these times when it can be so hard to breathe.  And they offer the greatest grace of all – to love, to love, to love.

 

 

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Disbelief

Dearest Simon,

It has been too long since I’ve written – but if you knew how often I think about you and Jilly, you would feel overwhelmed with warmth, friendship and arguably quiet smiles.  You are so loved.

Your pictures have filled me with delight (and is there any way I can make copies of some of them – seriously – I want them in my new house) and comfort and hope.  Even when hope sometimes seems too ephemeral to hold.

This is going to be a bit political, perhaps more than a bit.  I ask that people refrain from posting ‘hate’ rebuttals.  At the risk of sounding harsh – you are entitled to your opinion as much as I’m entitled to mine.  But this is my blog, so perhaps you can begin your own if you want.

Audrey Niffenegger wrote – “There is only one page left to write on.  I will fill it with words of only one syllable.  I love.  I have loved.  I will love.”

I don’t understand what is happening in our world.  I don’t understand why we don’t hold our children in the highest esteem – so that we raise them in a world that doesn’t feel like it’s one breath away from self-implosion.  I can’t wrap my head around vitriol, hate, rage that foments more rage, violence that – like a cattle prod –  propels people to consider more violence.  Yes, this is about Orlando.  Yes, this is about insincere apologies (if they are offered at all) and veiled intimations that extremism is the best answer to extremism.  What can I say?  I’m an aging woman who marched after Kent State and was hit with lead pipes for doing so, who wore a necklace for too many years with the expression “war is not healthy for children and other living things”.  And yes, it turned my neck a hideous shade of green.

I wasn’t going to write about this today.  I was going to tell you a funny story about my new temporary neighborhood.  It can wait.

There is no comfortable way to end this – other than by sending love to you and your family.  To insist that I will just try greater kindness, find opportunities for compassion and work like crazy to make sure that my walk and my talk are in sync.  There really is only one page left – and we are writing it with our words and deeds.  I write to you because I write with the deepest, most loving conviction.  We have to stop killing each other.  We have to stop jumping from individual perceptions to massive generalizations.  One person at a time, one heart at a time, arms wide open.  So, with head bowed and heart hopeful and saddened, I send much love, Mimi

Before The Sun Rises

Hi Deb,

You have helped me through these last few weeks more than you know.  And my gratitude is inestimable.  Thank you for understanding that new chapters are exciting and daunting, bold and frightening, hopeful and rife with doubt.  That I swing between these extremes from one minute to the next, like the proverbial cradle in a treetop.  A precarious position from which to observe one’s days, let me tell you.  Have I snuggled in yet?  Hardly.  Right now I feel like I’m invisible in my own life.  My son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter know me, her family has welcomed me warmly.  And that’s all I know.

And that’s all who know me.  Well, my neighbor Mike – who has graciously welcomed the Sirs, despite Archie’s early morning sun salutations that arguably could wake the neighborhood.  Poor guy, he spent his life with acreage separating him from the rest of the world, so he and Bogey could greet the day with unbridled enthusiasm and only risk the ire of some late-rising birds.  He really doesn’t understand why I’m telling him to ‘shhhh’ at 5:00AM.  I’d like to know that someone knows I’m here, but not necessarily because my dogs insist on it.

Because of my geographical challenges, Andy keeps encouraging me to purposefully get lost each day and find my way back to home base.  Funny guy – his rationalization for my GPS not being updated, I guess.  I’m lost already – and I’m sitting at the kitchen table!  Oh, and did I tell you how I took out my side view mirror as I backed out of the new garage?  Yup – thought I saw a snake (it was an extension cord).  And you wonder about my hesitation to just go?  I’m intrepid in my imagination – it’s safer.

Ah well…life transitions.  I’ve never been good with them as you know, though I’m damn lucky that they happen despite my reluctance.  Just when you feel like you’ve got one aspect of your life down, fate yells “Plot twist!”.  Children grow before you’re ready to let them go; newlyweds get used to each other and morph into something familiar, but different from that frenetic excitement; our inside age begins to disconnect from our outside appearance; life laps at the shore as we’re standing on the boardwalk wondering what the hell just happened while we were looking for the concession stand.  I keep looking at everyone else and wondering why I’m not getting my feet wet.

The truth is this is the perfect time to wade in – because no one knows me, because I am not really visible.  I can try anything I want and it will make no difference one way or the other.  But for the fact that I tried.  And that’s what I’m slowly starting to understand.  I spend so much time fretting over what I did or didn’t do, wondering if I’ve pissed someone off, what I could do to make a situation better – it’s kinda exhausting honestly.  And I don’t have any power other than to try to be a decent human being.  To love wholeheartedly and let go when asked, try and be a little nicer to myself as I haltingly begin to walk to the shore.

And so I circle back to you – and your loving reminder that I’m not untethered, that I belong even if I’m not sure at this point where I am.  Your refusal to let me deflect the conversation away from me (and we both know I’m pretty good at that).  Maybe it’s just knowing that you remind me I’m ok, that you’re my sister,  and when one is loved, precise coordinates aren’t necessary.