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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Connecting The Dots

Hi Simon,

I’m trying to find the better part of me, and when I engage in such challenging activity, I am always tempted to talk to you.  You see me as better than I am.  The truth of the matter is, you see everyone and every situation bathed in a light that softens the edges, mutes the glare, blesses the spirit. (If you don’t believe me, check out his blog windinmywheels.com – there’s just something about my friend Simon).

People spent their snowbound days differently.  Just as the snow began, we were meeting with a stager – a very talented woman who claims the professional mission of depersonalizing a home and transforming it into a space that others could love.  So, I have been packing and purging – nauseous and angry and and considering everything except the pictures of my family (in all its iterations) dispensable.  I’m not convinced I’m ever going to feel that sensation of ‘home’ again.

And yet you reminded me that ‘home’ has a far, far different meaning than I ascribe.  Your quote “Home is where your heart is.  It is your resting place” – my heart is everywhere, Simon.  It feels both full and far too diffuse.  It hurts.  And as stupid as it sounds, home could be anywhere (and has been, believe me) I felt my family around me.  And though we will find a place to rent here and a place there, I am less and less tethered.  Is love what keeps one from floating away?  I have no idea.  Clearly if one were to determine what ‘element’ I am, it isn’t air…

So how does this all connect – bear with me.  Our first dog was a little schnauzer named Demi (hybrid of my sister’s name and mine).  I loved that pup as only a child can (though I think the person who truly adored Demi was our dad – they even looked a bit alike).  Yet, when I was told that I needed to ‘share’ him with my sister, my response was to tell my parents that she could have him.  I didn’t want him anymore. A lie of course, indignant and self-defeating without question.  If I loved him so much and had to let go of him a bit, I would let go of him completely.  Just so you know – we shared Demi, loved him and his nuttiness and there’s no unhappy ending.

And here I am today – plowing through closets and rooms that held the people I love in various stages of growing up (which include some moments that one might want to forget) and railing – ‘Take it all. Give it all away – none of it means anything to anyone but me anyway’.  Hmmm…similar reaction to sharing that little dog all those years ago.

I guess I go to extremes, huh?

And yet my friend, if I want to extend a little kindness to myself, I could just admit that sometimes it’s hard to love – family, home, memories.  It’s hard to let go and harder still to trust.  It’s hard to be understood by the people who you think would get it, and then you are given the chance to cry with relief for the friends who do.   And that brings me back to writing you.  Thank you, Simon.  Thank you for being so selfless that from across the pond, you sat with me for awhile.  You let me go first as we sat and talked.  And you nodded and smiled.  And in that moment, I felt blessed.  Wherever I go, I will remember being there with you and perhaps I will rail a little less and relish a little more…

Much love to you and Jilly,

Mimi

 

 

 

 

 

Passing By A Window

Have you ever had one of those moments when you pass by a window and catch a glimpse of your reflection without recognizing yourself – albeit briefly? Please nod your head affirmatively, or I’m going to seriously wonder if my crazy level just escalated.

Is there any greater dissonance than not recognizing who you are? Who you have become? Accepting that none of us perceive ourselves as we are perceived by others, at least our self-perception should align with what we see. And I have to admit, that there are moments when they just don’t line up.

When my head insists that I can rock an outfit which a) I clearly can’t and b) is arguably no longer in style; when I sit in meetings where people moan about millenials and I wonder why they’ve skipped two generations in the dialogue (including my own – hello???); when I dance around my house (full disclosure – only the dogs witness this activity) and find myself hoping the next song is a slow one.

The moments when I realize that my children are now men. Awesome men. No longer in need of that overpowering, all encompassing love that arrived in utero. In my head I am still able to carry them on my hips, pudgy fingers around my neck, little boy sweat and kisses that smacked. And always sensing that if I hold on too hard they will have to wrest themselves from me painfully. I tried to keep my grasp loose-ish. Do they even have these reflections in their mirrors? Perhaps somewhere. Certainly not something they consider when defining themselves at this point in their lives. Nor should they. It isn’t time.

Am I the woman in the little black dress meeting Andy for the first time 23 years ago this week? That curiosity and humor and hint of possibility filling the Georgetown harbor with something unrecognizable yet familiar? I could probably fit into the dress (there was some lycra involved I’m sure), but would I recognize the woman? Sometimes, perhaps…when we dance in the kitchen to a song of Andy’s creation (don’t ask).

So many passages that define this reflection, so many exhilarating moments and sad lessons, an awful lot of pain and kindnesses of indescribable magnitude. To look in the mirror and see that I’m still evolving, the image isn’t static even though there’s something to be said for thinking one is frozen in time. The reflection is the reality – no longer eligible for the ingenue roles, juggling mom, menopausal manic, or driven senior executive. Now? Good question.

The reflection is still blurry, morphing into something gentler, arguably a little easier on the image staring back. Perhaps a little less intrepid and sensing something that haunts my thoughts in ways that are unfamiliar – the limits of time maybe?

The eyes though – the eyes I recognize – they crinkle from laughter, they well too easily, they look to the sky with such gratitude. Sometimes I don’t recognize the face in toto – I just recognize the heart. And sometimes that’s enough.
Photo on 5-25-14 at 5.33 PM