"Thank you for a good day of yard work. Thank you for not burning me to a crisp. Thank you for the little things. Thank you for the big things. Thank you for everything in between." SAB 3-29-1998
Sometimes when I have been under the weather, I come out with abundant appreciation for health. I feel such compassion for those who are not blessed with good health and who are faced with the daunting task of undergoing treatment that is painful and challenging.
I also have the gift of reading what gave Shannon a light spirit, and she inevitably takes me with her. There are things that I would like to ask her about, things that she abbreviated to save space, abbreviations that I can't quite figure out. Maybe it's just her opportunity to have a secret or two, a way to keep me thinking.
I've thought a lot about happiness over the last few days. Seems to be a topic that comes up with some regularity. What is happiness? I'm sure that it is different for everyone but I continue to try to find what authentic happiness is for me.
Once in a workshop, we were all instructed to create a positive affirmation that would encompass what we were hoping to embody in our lives. For a number of my friends, they were searching for a meaningful, fulfilling, lucrative career. For others it was the perfect relationship, or place to live. But for everyone, the word happy or happiness was without exception, included...until they got to me. I can't remember what I was trying to find, but I did know that I wasn't all that bothered about being happy. As a matter of fact, they were all aghast when I admitted that I didn't think I wanted to be happy. I had found joy and acceptance but happiness seemed frivolous and superficial and unnecessary in the life I had decided to live. I admitted to having "sad bones". I reassured them that I was fine with this realization and I promised not to wear the wound of sadness on the surface...but I also had no intention of forcing happiness to make the world more comfortable.
Last week I was indirectly asked to reexamine my resolve. My dear friend, who lost her husband a little over a year ago, expressed her personal experience with grief. She told me that after a while she had to let some of her sadness go in order to make room for the good things in life... to make room for happiness once again. I am always so grateful to her for giving me openings to think beyond my own mindset.
I can only hope that I haven't imposed my sad bones on those around me. That is certainly never my intent. I try to embrace all that life offers. I did, after ten years, decide to spend Shannon's birthday with Shannon. Last year Jules was out of town and Shannon's best friend and mine, with their daughters and grand daughter, spent the afternoon with me. Of course we had cake. And we sat in the garden and we laughed and reminisced. Is that happiness? I'm not sure. Perhaps like most things, happiness comes in different shades and hues, like the newest box of 120 Crayola crayons.
I think that I spent time thinking that happiness was like an amusement park, loud, frivolous, colorful, funnel cake and roller coasters, musicals, bright lights and fireworks...none of which seem important in this newer life. If happiness is transient, as another friend shared, then it changes from moment to moment and has more or less relevance based on where we are in life and what our expectations are.
Happiness could mean contentment or satisfaction or gratitude or acceptance. If that's the case, then I am happy. It's a matter of perception. When the tulip tree blooms before Shannon's birthday, it makes me happy. When bluebirds nest in the bluebird house, when my family is safe and healthy, when I see an old friend, when the house is clean, when I get an exceptionally good photograph... I guess that feeling is happiness. But it also wells up with random acts of kindness, given and received, or when I watch a little child holding his Mom's hand, skipping, innocent and unconcerned, without a care in the world. Yes, that, to me is happy... children know it instinctively and share it without reservation. I can appreciate the societal yearning for happiness but I will reserve a small place deep within my bones for my sad.
It takes nothing from anyone and does not diminish my life. It is merely the place where I can feel the absence. My place, deep inside that doesn't impair or cripple me in any way. It is that place that reminds me that life is not always happy or simple, and everyone will at one time or another share ache. It is our connection, the connection that also comes in 120 different colors. We will all know sadness and we can choose to hold that sadness close, but being sad will not exclude happiness. Sometimes, sad simply makes happy brighter, the way most things in life are clear only when cast beside their opposite. I think that's why I am so drawn to the charcoals in my "Lingering Light" series. They allow us to focus on the light, even in the midst of overwhelming dark. They remind me that as long as there is even a sliver of light... it is all we need to see what is beautiful and precious.
Shannon certainly had it right. Little things... big things... and every thing in between. I have decided in the days to come, as we approach the end of April, to allow myself the freedom to really express everything that I remember about that last amazing month with my daughter. I know that I will share emotions that might be uncomfortable, raw, pulled straight from that sad place inside my bones. It's okay if you don't want to go there with me, but I have to write it down. I have to remember every detail. It feels necessary to look back, revisit all of the ways Shannon took my hand and led me through her leaving, touched me from Heaven and refused to let me give in or give up.
I've tried to write about those times a thousand times in the last twelve years. Perhaps now, with you, I'm ready. Ready to share with those she loved and those who love her. Ready to reassure those who are lost in their own grief, to let them know that they are not alone. Ready to finally record all of the times that I heard my Angel's whispers.
"Thank you for everything in between. Thank you for Shannon smiles. Thank you for crock pot chicken. Thank you for conversations with friends. Thank you for yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows." JJB 3-29-2010
I would love to hear from you, about any thing, any time.