The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
This is not about how to change the world.
Or saying that we should stop fighting
against crime, corruption, poverty, oppression or racism.
This is simply about you.
Yesterday I drove an hour outside of Cape Town
with my family to be with the snow.
A rare occurrence us Cape Townians hardly get to experience.
It was then when it hit me, we need to celebrate more.
But not in a traditional sense.
But in a way to celebrate life and our time on earth,
which we all seem to be rushing through.
Let’s celebrate being young.
Let’s celebrate love.
Let’s celebrate family.
Let’s celebrate the offering for no reason.
Let’s celebrate the city you live in.
Having the ability to be able to watch this video is a privilege.
Having access to internet, celebrate that.
Every day I see these negative things on Facebook like…
We had all the kids at home yesterday, and the house was resonant with laughter and teasing, generous gift-giving and a love I can only reference as palpable. My heart beats more deeply, echoing in my chest, snippets of serious conversation that stay in the forefront of my thoughts as I process and hold them as gently as feathers. “You really are my only mom” (a figurative comment that was so full of history and stories and trust and love that I will never ever forget its intent); “Remember when Grammy would give us shit for playing ball in the playroom and I asked her why it was called a playroom then?” “I used to think it was so ridiculous that you would treat me like a child when I was over; of course now I realize it was because I was a child”. Lessons in wine tasting, a book titled “The Story Of A Lifetime” which offers prompts and questions to facilitate the telling of one’s tale in a way that may be at least salient if not interesting. Laughter that included some good snorts, bad fart jokes and hugs good-bye for which I am never fully prepared.
And so it is as one year ends and another waits in the wings. I guess I’m not fully prepared. Certainly for some of the people I love, it has been a challenging year with losses that re-shape the heart. For most though, it has been relatively gentle. Our lives are intact, marriages seem happy though not without their requisite effort, young adults are realizing that the operative word has changed from ‘young’ to ‘adult’. We’re still close and I am forgiven my maternal neuroses that at least can be shared among three. I consciously tried to be kinder, cared less about judging and more about accepting, placed the notion of acquisitiveness somewhere down on the list where it belongs. I learned this year, perhaps more than the one before, how deeply I can be touched by the candor and stories of people I have come to know in this little universe. I have been gobsmacked when I received comments insisting that I have inspired, or tickled, or pleased, or echoed a thought that had been unspoken in someone else’s thoughts. I’ve been brought to tears and moments of spontaneous delight by David and Bill, Russ and Andrea, Bonnie and Liz, LouAnn and TIna and Ivon, Kizzy, Rhonda. Of course there are more and I do not intentionally omit anyone – you are in this circle with me and I believe you know it. People who comment with thoughtfulness and generosity and love. My friendships have been enhanced and allowed to flourish (for Lori wouldn’t have it any other way).
We found a house to hide in and stand outside of in that mystic fog of the morning when the world demands stillness. Memories have begun to be made, new places to claim as one’s own. And we got Bogey – our juvenile delinquent puppy, who should be wearing a leather jacket with a skull and crossbones instead of his snappy little tartan plaid. Except of course when he’s just so laughably adorable that he is forgiven everything.
I will turn 60 this coming year, a number of some sobriety. I know that at this point I’d be aged-out of employment in many cases (if I was looking), considered truly senior in the eyes of people with younger eyes and minds. And yet, I’m so far from done, I don’t swallow too hard at the number. There is abundant time to try and do better, be kinder, live in moments that should not be ignored, celebrate that which others often miss. Read more, give more, dance in the driveway and maybe even get up and sing. Who knows? There is so much yet to be. Thank you for sharing this part of the trip with me. And Happy Happy New Year.
“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together” — Garrison Keillor
At the risk of sublime irreverence, there were a few years when the boys were little, that we had a Christmas tree each year. They may not even remember for all I know, but I loved the whole process (up to taking the tree down and cleaning up the pine needles). And may I say, they were magnificent. Plaid bows, white lights, the boys’ names spelled in blocks underneath the tree. I would sit on the couch at night and just feel bathed in the gentle glow – I would forget that I had no idea how to pay the electric bill, didn’t worry about how I would kite a check at the supermarket and didn’t mind making a pot of coffee out of grounds that had already been soaked once. Sounds so stupid as I write this, but my sons were so little and I didn’t want them to feel that they would miss a thing (given that their bio-dad and I are of different religions we celebrated both holidays. Ok, I celebrated both holidays.).
This time of year is one which we all experience together. Most of us show the better part of ourselves (with the exception of those bizarre people who end up fighting in parking lots) and I like that. I feel the exhausted anticipation in the air, the rush for people to be together. The Salvation Army bell ringers outside the supermarket (who receives money from me every time I exit – I can’t help it – by the end of the season we’re on a first name basis). I don’t get tired of the holiday music, parents invoking the all-seeing, all-knowing Santa as an effective means of getting little ones to hold their tantrums until they get home. I cry each time I hear “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas“. Such a sap.
Tomorrow Andy and I will join our brethren and grab some Chinese food and see an early movie. I will be particularly sensitive to the silence in the morning, for it is a different sound than that of a typical morning. And I will listen respectfully. To those who celebrate Christmas, my wish is the same as every year – may you receive all that you wish for and may you wish for all that you have. And to those who just allow themselves to be enveloped in a blanket of goodwill – snuggle in and enjoy it, extend it and I’ll see you at the movies.
I could have stayed at our mountain home for far longer than we did. Air that was breathlessly cold; sky and ground the same color white, blurring the boundary that keeps one anchored to the ground; good friends (who fortunately arrived after the new heat pump was installed) – and Sir Bogey.
The Sirs have been to the house before, but this time Bogey got to be the ‘special’ fur-kid who made the trip. He loves being part of the pack, but he really delighted in being the center of attention. Four adults catering to his every whim, four laps to test, four sets of ears listening to his lengthy diatribes and demands. He’s quite the puppy, with far more opinions and expectations than any puppy I have ever had. Needless to say, he’s training us very well.
At night, he would see his reflection in every window and was desperate to have the interloper evicted from the premises. Same thing with the floor length mirror. He huffed and lunged, banging his head repeatedly. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but arguably one of the cutest. When he is with the other Sirs he is far bolder than when he’s on his own. Every morning he would venture outside, greeting the frozen air with a lot of bluster and bark – from behind my legs. He was more intrepid when the sun rose, jumping through the snow with abandon, skidding around the driveway as if his paws were made of fiberglass. Bogey maximizing his moments – playing with abandon, sleeping heavily, eating with enthusiasm and delighting in tummy rubs. He’s impulsive and demands the most from the world around him, for last he looked, it’s totally his world. As I said, he’s training us well. And having his perspective while we snuggled into the days made any sense of the serious impossible. We even played a new game, sort of like ‘Marco Polo‘ but calling “Bogey” or “is the puppy with you?” instead.
Icing delayed our departure, and I was ambivalent when the salt truck arrived. Home is wherever love is, so arguably it travels. But it’s the peace of the mountains, the demand that you scale back your worries and amp up the volume on appreciating the smallest of delights. Feeling snowflakes on your face, playing with abandon, talking with friends, sleeping heavily and treading lightly on the earth. Bogey is teaching us well. The mountains are the perfect backdrop for lessons such as these.
Up on the mountain, the wind is announcing the day before the sun even has a chance to make its presence known. Sitting here with the fire dancing, lap blanket tucked under my feet, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pause for one moment and just snuggle into the moment. This is not the beginning of an extraordinary day – which is what makes it so remarkable. At some point, I’ll make it into town, run some errands, shiver my way back home and read. Drink some tea. Knit a bit. Listen to music. Listen to the wind. Pick up a message here and there about the deliciousness of being in the moment. Marvel at how flexible the trees are as the bend to the will of nature without snapping in two.
We won’t be getting up here too often this winter and I will miss the opportunity to just hop in the car and be here. Though the house still has that new house smell, it already has the feeling of being lived-in, of knowing its role as an escape and a womb, protecting and holding me safe. And though I have always thought of myself as one who would be happiest by the water, I’ve already learned that the mountains echo a welcome that is equally compelling. Maybe it’s just the peace that comes from being placed in the middle of all that is so much bigger than me, A way to remember that we are a part of something so much bigger, a stage whisper demanding that we pay attention. Our days, these accumulations of seconds strung together and passing with such speed they are easily disregarded. I don’t want to miss a thing, primarily because I fear I miss so much.
So before the morning breaks, I watch and listen and breathe in – the feeling of warmth, the smell of hot coffee, the music of the wind. The next moments will come, for they are more determined than anything else I’ve ever known. And I can’t stop them. But I can – and I will – dissolve into right now.
So I decided it was time to clean out my closet. This in and of itself is hardly post-worthy. It was a matter of necessity – I couldn’t walk inside. I started with the five drawers that are in there – not that this made the path any clearer, rather it was a manageable place from which all other organization could start. I am nothing if not optimistic.
My top drawer is for underwear. My own unsubstantiated belief is that most people put their underwear in the first drawer. Call me crazy, but assuming one has a reasonable level of hygiene, clean underwear is the kind of staple one relies upon regularly, ergo its premier location. The point is – I go into that drawer a lot. I know what’s in there – despite the lack of symmetry and color coded rows. There was a lot to discard – when articles of clothing have lost so much elasticity that they become caricatures of themselves, they need to go. I will also cop to keeping some jewelry in there (which I will now move if you’re thinking of breaking into my house). The point which bears repeating – I don’t expect breathless moments that make no sense to present themselves as a result of scrutinizing the contents of my underwear drawer.
To abbreviate this little tale – once the contents were emptied, two things remained that I swear to you I had never seen before. A sealed envelope from the funeral home that handled the arrangements for my mom and the eulogy I had written. The words I wrote for my dad were buried with him; I didn’t really want anyone to have those words but him. I had chosen to keep my mom’s – not sure why. What I did know was that over the years, I had misplaced it, and had torn apart my ‘spaces’ looking for it. Could I have put it in the drawer and just never seen it? Possibly – but the words are written in purple ink – they show up against a white backdrop and would be just about impossible not to see. In a silence that engulfed my head like a wave, I read it. I remembered every detail of those days. In the sealed envelope? My mother’s wedding ring and the little gold earrings she wore daily. Mommy’s wedding ring. My sister has dad’s, I had mom’s. Why did I not see this before? That I would have it in my possession and not have held it? If I close my eyes, I can see it on her hand. I can almost feel her skin. Why did I find this now?
I have no doubt that there are many logical explanations for this, yet I can counter each one of them with a strong conviction that I have been to the bottom of my underwear drawer many many times before, and these things were not there. Lori reminds me that there are some things that just can’t be explained, and I believe that to be true. Is this one of those events? Perhaps. It begs questions like why now? What’s the message? Am I missing something that I should be seeing in these moments of mine? Is it just the universe’s way of reminding me that there is no talisman that one must hold that is more powerful than love? Maybe it was just mom giving me a ‘atta girl’ for finally cleaning out my closet.
“Love is the vital essence that pervades and permeates, from the center to the circumference, the graduating circles of all thought and action. Love is the talisman of human heal and woe — the open sesame to every soul.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Her wedding ring is now on a chain on which I have a charm from my sister. I hold them both in my hand until they’re so warmed that their essence travels through my skin, traveling to a space in my heart that is kept for those I miss – guarded and protected by walls I have tried to make impregnable. There is no surprise that my mom would find the one entrance – she was always persistent.
As the sky reluctantly lightens and the air holds this peculiar pre-snow quiet that forces you to listen, two birds alight on a leafless branch. They are not going to break the spell with chatter and idle conversation. We hold our respective places until I’m too cold to stay outside and the Sirs are no longer inclined to patiently wait for me to come inside. I whisper “Hi” and “Thank you”. I wonder about all I don’t understand and under my breath I add “Please”. Please let there be so much that defies explanation; let me graced with so much time that I can continue to be amazed.
There have been many posts today that have struck me with their beauty and eloquence, thoughtfulness and somber tributes. This for me though, held on – perhaps representing the power of all that has been written.
This morning, Bill @ drbillwooten.com touched off a train of thought with another one of his fantastic quotes – this from Ernest Hemingway – “And if there’s not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your life, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.”
Assuming that one is living a life of relative physical and emotional comfort, I think being happy takes guts. It seems to be far easier to ascribe one’s frame of mind to the actions or inactions of others, the elements of living that remain decidedly out of our control and/or historic wrongs that we suffered from which it seems likely we will never recover. I know you have met people who have affixed a figurative piece of velcro to the back of their hand and permanently placed it against their forehead. Lots of sighs. Slews of “if onlys”. Eeyore on steroids (and I say that with affection, for I am a huge Eeyore fan).
There’s a lot of conversational fodder in looking at your life and finding happiness contingent upon something or someone else. Life as a perpetual “if….then” statement. The operative word for me is ‘perpetual’, for arguably there are times when we are anticipating, hoping, planning, etc. But all the time? Are we always waiting to react? Are we never responsible for initiating? If one believes the latter, then what in the world can we claim personal responsibility for? What do we get to claim as ours?
Happiness is a challenge, for it means you own it. It’s on you. No one else. Your boss can be impossible (I’ve had those), people may not offer what you are hoping for, someone may ride your bumper during an interminable rush hour. Maybe your kids don’t get you or you don’t get them. Perhaps the list of irritations far outweigh the list of delights. I get it. But I own it. My lousy moods are mine – rarely do I blame someone else. My happiness – which can certainly be fostered and enhanced by the phenomenal people around me – is also mine. Because at the end of the day, I’m the one in this moment. Our perceptions of the present moment are not the same, even if we’re sitting here having a cup of coffee together. However I interpret this time is my job. And I’m ok with that – because I can adjust and recalibrate – I don’t want someone else to do it for me.
When I was a young adult, my mom would repeatedly admonish “You never listen to me. Well, you listen to me, but you end up doing what you want to do anyway.” She was right. I asked her many years later whether she really would have wanted to take responsibility for my actions – a question answered by her silence. It’s easier to point a finger out, but honestly? You’re the one who makes your day.
Why do I post this today? Because I needed the reminder. Because the morning broke grey and indifferent and I felt my body concede, bending to the power of a day that didn’t give a damn. Joints in active rebellion. One look in the mirror and all bets on a good hair day were off. The Sirs decided to bark passionately at absolutely nothing and my head began to feel like it was in a vice. The kitchen still looked post-apocalyptic. This was my moment. And unless I kicked myself in the butt, the day was going to continue to spiral down with alacrity. So Bill’s quote brought me back to baseline. If this is all I’ve got, it’s fine by me. And though I wish that all your moments are golden, I know that some may not meet that threshold. So when they don’t, consider that this is all we know for sure. Right now – and it’s yours. For that reason alone, it deserves at least a smile, and perhaps a shake of the head.