Once again, Theresa found the perfect sentiment for this day (in the States).
Before you head off for parts known, before you begin developing a familiar intimacy with your ovens and stoves, before your refrigerator begs you to refrain from adding one more thing…
There are so many clichés associated with being thankful – and I doubt that I will come up with anything new. Yet, in advance of the arrival of our family, I felt the need to extend my thoughts to all of you. I’m thankful for so much and words fail me (which I submit is a good thing). I am truly blessed with a family I adore, a husband who humors my nuttiness and sons/daughters-in-law who accept that their mom is as corny as a Hallmark commercial. I have an amazing sister who I adore and will miss on Thursday (along with my nephews and niece who will be having their own family Thanksgiving in NY). I can appreciate the beginning of a new day and I can delight in the feeling of snuggling into bed at day’s end. I have a body that complains each day and yet we’re still getting along. I know bountiful love. We’ve got three pups – two of whom are perfect and one who is re-calibrating the spectrum of mischief that I used to consider part and parcel of puppyhood. Our home is my sanctuary; I have never felt safer.
I am thankful for all of you who have come to read this blog, write to me and share your thoughts, inspire me with your encouragement and humor. I love that I have learned so much from your posts, taking to heart much of what you have written and incorporating it into my being. My friends – in cyberspace or in my physical reality – you are in this orbit of gratitude which circles rhythmically through my life. And so, you all should be told as often as possible, just how much you are appreciated. Would that we took the time to say these things more frequently than once or twice a year. For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday – I wish you stuffed tummies, full hearts, TUMS and love. Actually, this thought holds regardless of whether there’s a turkey in the oven. I’m heading deep into the heart of cooking territory for the next few days, so I send this to you now. Thank you for being who you are to me.
Loving and letting go may not seem to go hand in hand – and yet..
“Love is sometimes shown in the things you don’t say, don’t keep track of and don’t notice. The greatest kindness is often shown in letting things go. None of us is perfect, but we can all be perfect friends and perfect partners by allowing those that we love to be imperfect. Give those around you the “break” that you hope the world will give you on your own “bad day” and you’ll never, ever regret it.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
If you have yet to discover charronschatter.com, you are depriving yourself of a consistent reason to smile, marvel and delight. While I appreciate her acknowledgement in this post, I appreciate her generous talent even more…
“When I was One I had just begun
When I was Two I was nearly new
When I was Three I was hardly me
When I was Four I was not much more
When I was Five I was just alive
But now I’m Six, I’m as clever as clever
So I think I’ll be Six now for ever and ever” — A.A. Milne
So, my cohort group is turning sixty next year. Sixty. It’s an impressive number. Jo will enter this decade first (though at the end of the day, first or last the goal is to get there and keep going), and it prompted a lot of conversation about what the heck it means.
In an effort to avoid the obvious, we didn’t come up with anything particularly cogent. And that got me thinking, which as you know, is typically dangerous.
As we grow up, we measure our accomplishments by how old we are. At six or seven, there’s first grade and entering real school. Turning ten, at double-digits – one proudly has succeeded at no longer being ‘little’ and has become by rite of age, way cooler than anyone who is younger. Celebrating the introduction to being a legitimate teen-ager at thirteen, it’s even sweeter at sixteen. When eighteen knocks at the door, it brings the perceived gift of becoming ‘legal’, getting out of the house and the anticipation that for all intents and purposes, society will consider you a grown-up in three short years. Of course by the time one is thirty, the realization that learning to be an adult is no longer an acceptable excuse. And so on and so on…
Our self-definition and stories are inextricably tied to our age. What we learned and when we learned it. I think we could have extended conversations about the decades we have lived – tying our stories and our years together in crazy, multi-colored bows.
Somewhere along the way though, we realize that life is measured not in years but in exquisite moments of attention. When the question that begs to be answered is less about our individual successes, accomplishments and somewhat self-absorbed chatter, and more about what we have brought to the table. Did we offer life a groaning board of our best selves or did we just sit there expecting to be fed? (Given that Thanksgiving is next week, it seemed like a good analogy). Though we got here while acknowledging chronological landmarks along the way, such landmarks no longer define the road. We are left now to figure out the topography, and the area is large.
And the dialogue changes focus – am I giving the best I’ve got? Am I more about others and less about me? And if I live another sixty years, will I create a path that others will choose to walk with me?
Theresa captured it all – for sons, for daughters, for all of us – great advice.
Pick your battles.
Count to five before you speak.
Look beyond what you see.
Rescue an animal.
Keep your word.
Choose your words with care.
Dance to your own music.
Listen with your heart.
Honor your family.
Respect your elders.
Remember where you came from.
Root for the underdog.
Keep the faith.
Look people in the eye.
Mean what you say.
Be a good example.
Color outside the lines.
Purple glitter makes everything better.
Feed the birds.
Remember that squirrels like birdseed, too.
Talk to animals.
Be true to yourself.
Visit other countries.
Try your best.
Put in an honest day’s work.
Hold fast to your beliefs.
Patience really is a virtue.
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Soulgatherings.wordpress.com provides a daily quote that invariably touches me. Sometimes it is the words themselves, other times it is a thought that adheres to my brain and requires my attention for hours at a time. Either way, it’s all good. Yesterday’s poem by Carol Adrienne is fresh in my mind –
“Our purpose, I believe
is not a thing, place, title or even a talent.
Our purpose is to be.
Our purpose is how we live life,
not what role we live.
Our purpose is found in each moment
as we make choices to be who we really are.”
I had the privilege of circling in Fran’s orbit for twenty-two years. She was my brother-in-law’s mom – no true familial connection that I can trace, yet a connection that I felt deeply. She passed away last week, quietly, without pain, turning her slumber into what I hope is a new chapter in a story none of us fully understand. Her son is choosing to remember with happiness and grace, the amazing woman he loved so deeply. Denial? Perhaps. I’m not judging, for it would be hubris to suggest how one grieves. That said, I think he’s on to something. It resonates when thinking about what Fran would want.
What was remarkable about Fran was her insistence that she was not at all remarkable. She raised two children, worked side by side with her husband and loved unconditionally. Her life may not have been perfect, but it was perfect in her eyes. Her son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, niece – all human, all subject to the qualities that define our humanity (the good and the less-than-ideal) – could not be more marvelous, gifted, loving, generous. She would not brook any complaints, whines, dissatisfactions – her purpose was to live with love. Period. Fran didn’t try to change your point of view to hers; she changed your mind because you would look at her face and see a sense of peace that few reflect so consistently. And so you’d wonder what she had figured out that completely eluded you. And you’d want to spend more time with her – if only to bask in the reflected light that she saw in everyone. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to ever disappoint her and she would never tell you. Fran left it up to you to figure it out. How one human being treats another; how we show our love to those we ostensibly hold the closest. She taught you by showing you, there were no words or reprimands or chilly shoulders. She lived her love.
And though it’s been a while since Fran was at Thanksgiving, she will be remembered next Thursday with wine glasses raised and full hearts. For to have known Fran was to be given a chance to see someone live her life with the highest purpose; to be loved by Fran was to have your heart opened to the incredible power of simple goodness. Safe journey Fran and thank you for those many mornings all those years ago, when we watched the sunrise as your family slept, and wondered aloud at the fantastic serendipity that brought us to those two chairs by the sea.
…one brings the Sirs to the mountains. We came up here last night to check on a heating system which I left in a questionable state on Wednesday and a pending installation of shades and blinds. Up here, you leave a house key at the lodge and people come and go whether or not you’re around. A little strange for me, but a little instructive too. No one trashed the house, took anything, scratched any walls. They do their thing and they leave. I like being a part of a community that trusts that much.
True, I felt a bit like the theme from “Deliverance” should have played when I stopped at a guns and ammo shack last night to pick up some milk. No, there’s no Seven-Eleven. Two guys dressed in camo behind the counter, one needing dental work, the other needing a haircut. “Can we get somethin’ for ya, ma’am?” They were really very sweet, despite my discomfort with standing in the midst of a veritable arsenal of hunting stuff and snuff with one quart of milk behind multiple six packs of beer.
Anyway, other than Bogey throwing up in my lap, Teddy shaking and panting for the first hour of the trip (even though he had on his Thunder-Shirt) and Archie desperately trying to figure out the benefits of lying down, no, standing up..no, lying down…um, standing up, it was a decent trip. Now these guys are not exactly urban dogs – our house sits on a bit of land, they have chased their share of deer (well, Bogey hasn’t – he barks and then runs behind my legs), smelled the unmistakable markings of a fox, rolled in enough strange animal excrement to make dog shampoo a staple under the sink. But now we’re in the mountains – bears, deer that are far larger than the ones back home, bobcats – probably tigers and rhinos too. “Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” meets “Robin Hood”.
They jumped out of the car and into the leaves – noses down, tails up and ears on high alert. I was just imploring them to stay where I could see them and do their business. They were tentative for a nanosecond, but their curiosity prevailed – where the hell were they? These smells, the sounds – they needed to go in and out of the house at least ten times before settling down to a thorough exploration of the house. Bogey – Bogey, the juvenile delinquent of puppies if ever there was one, proceeded to look for something to get into or chew that would guarantee a chase around the house (he chose one of my shoes). Happily, he soon discovered himself in a mirror, which captured his attention far longer than any other activity of the evening. If he wasn’t so ridiculously cute, I would be looking into canine reform schools.
The sun is rising in a pink and blue sky, the Sirs are currently sleeping after a couple of vigorous explorations of the great outdoors and the coffee is burning my tongue. So far, so good. Bogey hasn’t found any desiccated frogs to bring into the house, Archie hasn’t run off in an intrepid search of the neighborhood and Teddy with his characteristic maturity is just stickin’ close to me. If the day continues to unfold this way, I think it’ll be a far better introduction to the mountains than either Andy or I anticipated. Of course, it’s still early.
That feeling of spinning your wheels, your body rocking with the car thinking it’s going to help in your efforts to dislodge it. Wishing someone would come along to give you a push, yet recognizing that you haven’t seen another car for miles.
The karma truck is stuck in the mud. I think it’s ok though – either I’m on the verge of getting back on the road or I’m making peace with the fact that sometimes you just have to put the damn thing in park.
Why so stuck? Who knows really. A friend of mine was describing this blog to his wife and said I write about ‘all this touchy-feely stuff’. I explained how my initial motivation was to print out a year’s worth of posts and give them to my sons. Ok – it’s been a year and a half – now what? My intent is not to hand them a tome. I will never curate with the best of them, nor will I write with the best of them. My sister told me that writers have discipline – I’m sure she’s right – she’s a truly outstanding writer. I don’t think of myself as a writer – I feel like I’m more of a gusher, spewing forth foam and fluff and occasionally a stream of water that catches the light. So you can see why I’m a little mired. What is this blog to be now? I’m trying to figure that out. Filter out all the nonsense and distill my thoughts down to the most basic. What do I want this to be?
“I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe, over the last twenty-five years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple. Help. Thanks. Wow.” — Anne Lamott. The woman is onto something. [If you have never treated yourself to a book by Anne Lamott, please give yourself that gift]. Getting to the fundamentals. Every morning when I’m out with the Sirs, there is a silent exchange between me and the stars. First I whisper my gratitude, for to neglect to recognize what I have been given is folly and hubris and stupid. The list is long. Then I quietly marvel – how can you not marvel at a sky wallpapered with stars? Or the words “I love you”? Puppy licks (even from an especially mischievous one). The intensity of the yellows and the oranges that inform the landscape on the mountain? And finally, I say “Please”. And I cry. Every time I consider the request, I cry. I feel a little like Holly Hunter‘s character in “Broadcast News“. My therapeutic cry.
Am I sad? No. By the time I get to ‘please’, I’m overwhelmed.
And so we come full circle…I am more than shmaltz and less than Dostoevsky. I am sitting in ‘park’ despite an urge to rock this baby out of the muck. I’m old enough to know that we all have moments like these and young enough to feel impatient and itchy. It feels good to write this to you. It’s been too long.