An amazing extemporaneous commentary – and though I am Jewish, I find the words echo in my heart with their truth.
My in-laws left today after a few days visit with us here in VA. Our time together was relaxed and laugh-filled, much conversation and time to enjoy each other’s company. And I sit here reflecting on what I learned while they were here.
Pop is 87 and his beloved is six years his junior. They met when she was 16 years old. He was an ex-GI, recently graduated from NYU. She was a beautiful girl with a very protective father. When Pop’s friend first told him about her, he told him to give her a nickel and tell her to call him when she was older. Love finds its way – they married three years later.
The number of times they say “I love you” in a day exceeds the number of digits on my body (even if I include my eyes, ears, nose, etc – and yes, I know they’re not digits). We downloaded a bunch of songs on Pop’s new iPad (Louis Prima is a kick; Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong) – and he told me about a theater in the Bronx where he would go to and pay fifty cents to hear these masters perform. I suggested that now they had music to dance to – he told me they already do. I think they will keep dancing whether or not the iPad is charged.With the Kindle app, he’s got the ordering process down and has some reading to get him started. And yet please don’t think that I was the teacher while they were here. There’s a reason why the family calls him “The Coach”.
Their life together is changing. Age does that. Memory doesn’t serve my mother-in-law in the way we all wish it would. There are new challenges, frustrations, adjustments that the most flexible among us would be hard-pressed to adopt. And they are taking life one moment at a time – and laughing along the way. Their laughter is intimate; it’s an inside joke that none of us need to get. It is tender to watch; an element of the character of deep love. There are no classes offered on grace, so you only get to learn it by seeing it. These days were a lesson in grace. And the enormous power of love that can thrive for over sixty years.
“To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the art of living.” — Henri Amiel
I’m not rushing time, it has a speed of its own which is already too fast for my liking. I am however, appreciative of the wisdom that comes with time, savoring the lessons one can learn from those who are cherishing every moment. Thank you both – this is for you..
Bill @ drbillwooten.com had posted a quote from Brene Brown that has stared at me for days now..
“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable…”
And, as is typical with the route of the karma truck, a confluence of moments stop me along the road and force me to pull over and take stock of my surroundings.
– Elizabeth asks me about the act of becoming the me I am today. Who was I before I left biglaw? How am I defining myself today? Oh Elizabeth – do you want the short answer or the long one? 😉
– An email from a friend with so much sadness, I thought the screen was streaked with her tears. A chapter closing with an ending she didn’t pen. Now a character in a story that she would have written much differently.
– Friday night with Andy, Jo and Ben seeing “Pippin” on Broadway. A long ago story with threads that carry through from the days when I made up songs to sing while my dad played the Prince to my sister’s balletic swan.
I don’t remember when I began singing, but it has been my protection, my home, my sanctuary, my arguably limited coping mechanism when humor fails me. Standing under Roosevelt Avenue letting one note escape from my lips as the subway rattled overhead. Missing the green light because I was focused on holding that note until the last car was on its way to the 82nd Street stop.
When I sang at ‘Catch A Rising Star‘ my sophomore year in college, I did it I think, more out of naiveté than anything else (well that, and an incredible crush on the guy who arranged it). Jo and Bruce were there. Had we not bumped into each other on the street earlier in the day, the moment would have passed. I sang “Magic To Do” – stepping up to the mike after a gorgeously built woman in a gold sequined bathing suit and heels almost as high as her hair, ponied her way through an off-key version of “V-a-c-a-t-i-o-n”. The audience loved her, for they thought she was a comedy act. To say I took the mike with tremendous hesitation and nausea is an understatement. But I saw Jo – and her delight. On the wings of her smile I let it go. And they asked me to do an encore (I did “Summertime”).
I got an email yesterday from her telling me that she heard me singing during the show on Friday…I thought I was being pretty quiet. But I had to sing – this was my coming of age story. Believing that I had to do great things and having no clue what that meant. I believed I was destined to do the extraordinary, and in my nineteen year old mind, extraordinary meant ‘big’, ‘notable’. And I’m sure sequins had to play a part.
My extraordinariness is hardly extraordinary, but I have come to understand that it is what it is. My sons are miracles – and though I take no credit for anything other than being their mom, I would submit that their arrival trumps any other accomplishment of the exceptional. They were my reason and my privet for so very long. And they moved forward into the world with the knowledge that they are more than capable of soaring.
I built a great career and felt needed by a lot of people – which was pretty heady and gratifying and I didn’t sacrifice more of my soul than I could handle in the process. And when it required more compromising than I could abide, more injury to my body and soul than either could handle, I left. And where I’m heading…well, later to the supermarket.
What I am though is here. I am in this moment for those who need me to be. I am here to remind my heartbroken buddy that we shatter and somehow mend again. I am here for the moments when one doesn’t know if another day is really going to change a damn thing, and suggesting that if it doesn’t, a series of days may. I am here with a cup of hope. And if you sit close enough to me, probably a song.
“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.” – Brene Brown
There are some days when I think I have done absolutely nothing of value and can’t understand how the hours got away from me. At that point my self-talk is particularly harsh – ‘Idiot, you wasted a day’, ‘is this how you define living?’, ‘you have no excuse for such inertia’, ‘what are you waiting for?’ (I did censor these thoughts – I usually throw around a few expletives in my head too).
And even though I self-flagellate with impressive vigor, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I’m missing the point. I’m not snoozing through life – I’m wide awake, acutely aware and learning how to be in this skin without apology. I believe that my senses are calibrated more sensitively than ever before. I can find a chirping wren in the top of a tree, discover the mystery in a song I’ve listened to a thousand times and never really heard. I am increasingly attracted to people who have a curiosity about anything other than their own navels. It dawned on me the other day that there are some people who think of me fondly and/or with friendship and have never asked me anything that would suggest they really had any interest in who I am. And that’s ok – as long as I’m asking myself the questions that matter, I don’t need to be queried. I like inquiring better.
I am aware that life delights in such elemental ways that I can’t wait to wake up in the morning. The rich silence in the pre-dawn hours punctuated by the occasional grumbling of a bullfrog, the decadent smell of fresh coffee and the morning air fresh from the nights’ rain. I’m awake. I’m getting the message – there is no dress rehearsal, so make sure you pick up your cues. Life isn’t waiting for you to begin, it just wants you to notice.
“In these bodies we live and in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life” — Mumford & Sons
Such a simple concept, yes? Hard to argue, pointless to debate – and yet. There is no doubt that I have exhausted this body with thoughts and actions and feelings that had little to do with love. There are years when I succumbed to the pressure of living to work, displaying outrageous disconnection between value and true purpose. I don’t think I’m unique. I think we remember what is in front of us in the moment.
It’s been a challenge to get the karma truck in gear over these last few weeks, and I’m not sure why. Feeling that perhaps my thoughts are becoming trite and overdone like a delicate Jenga edifice of clichés. And this morning something clicked, the starter turned over. Back on the road.
I had a particularly challenging consulting project that is now over. The participants were awesome, the conversation engaging. The untenable weight was a result of the politics behind the engagement and I agitated beyond anything remotely sensible. The details don’t matter – the phenomenal emotional toll that was exacted each time I received vitriolic emails and disparaging comments from the company that had arranged this program – was far more than I should ever have permitted. The client was thrilled with me and I was happy with the terrific group with whom I spent many hours. And that’s where I should have been able to insert a full stop. It’s like trying to separate egg yolks and whites – it takes practice. I still conflate the relevant and irrelevant; arguably giving way too much attention to the latter.
With the luxury of time, I watch people around me as they approach the tender reality of savoring what really matters. There is the obvious – our families and friends, a firefly playing hide-and-seek before becoming invisible in the daylight, a newborn fawn nursing vigorously and then falling over his/her legs in an initial attempt at play. Finding the delight in every story told to me, by people I may never see again, and others who I will know forever. Holding on to curiosity and expanding the vista to include more and more and more. I’m not ready to narrow the perspective – this body has room to breathe and absorb and take in and wonder. This body has room to rest and rejoice, listen and learn, commit and walk away and commit again.
Such simple, unassailable truths – yet coming to this post, I was close to breathing into a paper bag. The anxiety of insecurity, the constant questioning of whether or not I’m getting this right. It’s done. It’s written, and I’m on the road again. With time however, to renew.
Some men know that they want to be dads – the-kind-who-are-always-there – dads. Today is your day. Some men know that they will never be as flummoxed as when an adolescent girl attenuates her irritation over nothing by intoning “D-a-a-a-a-d” with dramatic flair reminiscent of Sarah Bernhardt and Camille.
For every dad who first danced with his daughter by having her stand on his shoes (and there was a time when shoes were polished, but let’s not go there). The dad who threw pitch after pitch, went to every game, and in an act of incredible love and extreme foolishness continued to try to impart guidance and direction to ears and minds that were destined to follow their own path (as it should be).
For Andy, my favorite father-in-law and brothers-in-law, for David and Bill and Russ and Ben and all those friends of ours out there whose love for their children (and fur kids) is so palpable I can almost match the beat of my own heart to yours. It is a delight to honor you today.
And for the dad of all dads (at least in my eyes) – my own. Whether I was hanging upside down on the bunk bed pretending to be dead (I was eight, it was a gag – it didn’t work), looking for grapes in a bowl of Cheerios, walking to school with you almost every day for twelve years (and then commuting with you into the city), or watching the unadulterated mutual adoration between you and your grandsons – you were an amazing, involved, funny, smart, occasionally snarky, willing, curious, surprise-filled, loving dad. And I still think of you as ‘daddy’ – and you’ve been gone for nine years. But it’s your day too – and I miss you and celebrate you today.
A view of the demonstrations in Turkey that most of us will never see from a clos up perspective such as this.
Once again, timing proves to be everything. Lately it seems like a lot of people have started following the karma truck. I will confess I’m not convinced that all of these new passengers are real – something tells me the WordPress filters are going through some kind of crisis. And yet, today I received the loveliest message from someone new, and it was clear that she was neither a salesperson, corporate entity or accidental tourist. My delight in her arrival somehow tripped the ignition which lately has been reluctant to start.
In the ether, it is tough sometimes to separate fantasy from reality. Are we, in real life, what we project in our posts? I seem to follow those who I believe are as transparent as their defenses and sense of propriety permit. I have become friends with some who I have yet to meet, and I have every confidence that should circumstance and fortune collide, I would find them to be even more than my thoughts could have imagined.
Like Lori. We finally met this week. I recognized her instantly and she was more beautiful than any picture suggested. She has a giggle like a song, and a heart that beats with a rhythmic love that just draws the world to her. To be in her orbit was both exhilarating and comforting – for I was with someone I have known forever though I can’t remember where or when. I just know it to be so.
For twenty-four hours we talked, commiserated, wondered about people we have grown to care deeply for (despite not being able to identify them if we passed on the street – and you know who you are, which is a good thing), shared personal histories in more exquisite detail, cried a bit, laughed far more. My words are not doing this visit justice, yet I’m certain you get the gist.
Last week Bill @ drbillwooten.com was generous enough to include me as part of his WordPress Family. The coincidence of these two moments is not lost to me. We who write and read each other’s posts, who comment and delight, commiserate and comfort, find ourselves in a family of sorts. Perhaps it is not one that is standard issue, nor one that can be identified by pictures and get-togethers. But nonetheless, to one degree or another it is defined by connection and dare I say it, levels of love. There is no ambiguity despite the opaque wall of anonymity. Within these posts lie the magic of people I have come to love in a way that I need not try to define. I just have to acknowledge that it is there. And I do – with arms wide open.