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August 2012

Earth and Sky and Everything in Between

Butterfly
One of my friends is a butterfly.  In almost every sense of her being.  She is colorful.  She flits.  She has always stopped to smell the flowers.  She appears fragile but is able to rise above the fray. 

I have always thought that I was the caterpillar to her butterfly.  Grounded... too grounded perhaps.  I see what is right in front of me.  I move more slowly.  Not particularly graceful, as my tumble in the parking lot at Cardiac Rehab would attest.  Not colorful or light.  My roots are deep and I have never ventured too far from home.

She appears fearless.  Facing strong winds and hale storms with powdered wings and nonchalance. 

And yet, one can't live life to its fullest without the other.  One gives time and attention to the earth, the other to the sky.  We share what we treasure.  We don't envy.  We never wonder what we might be missing.

I thought I was afraid to fly, but it isn't fear it's choice, just as she isn't afraid of roots, she simply chooses to fly untethered.

I love the smell of moist earth.  The feel of it beneath my feet.  Today, my toenails are bright candy apple red and they sang loud songs as I filled the thistle sacks for the gold finch.  They caught my eye when I was mowing my tiny patch of new grass with bare feet and made me smile.  My wardrobe is mostly black and white... and well worn denim.  Maybe a throw back to a past life spent in a convent.  I enjoy the secret of my splash of color when I lace my boots for work.

My butterfly friend's hair was once the color of my brightly stained toenails and she wore it with grace and brilliance.  She walked the streets of downtown Reston with a parasol on a sunny afternoon wearing silk and sandals.  We were the epitome of a dichotomy.

I miss my friend.  She is West Coast, I am East.  But the wonder of our friendship is that our hearts beat to the same rhythm.  We feel compassion and gratitude and sadness and joy and no matter how much time or distance falls quietly between us, we remain connected.

I don't always tell my friends how much I love them.  We crawl through the blades of our lives or catch a warm current and lift, lift... high enough to see only the watercolor world below, but we remain forever connected.

This weekend is our 39th class reunion.  I am so happy that so many friends from so long ago will renew their connections.  I will miss them, but other dear friends from far away will be visiting us, and we will enjoy that lifelong  connection as well.

I didn't know where my thoughts would ramble when I started with the photo of the butterfly but I suppose I have landed where I intended all along...to say to all of you who have landed in this moment with me, thank you.  Thank you for friendships that have only grown more precious with time.  Friendships that celebrate difference and delight in similarity.

Can you imagine a world where everyone is the same..... Ben and Jerry might have quit after Vanilla for goodness' sake~

 


Broken Hearts

Apparently, a broken heart, although fully functional, is prone to moments of intense emotion.  Even  little things are enough to open wounds and demand attention.

Over the last few months I have been incredibly blessed.  I appreciate my husband's recovery, the overwhelming support of family and friends and the endless kindnesses expressed and shared.  I am working, and although this isn't my "dream job", it is financial comfort in an environment so beset with discomfort.

I try to spend at least as much time each day acknowledging my blessings as whining about my struggles but there are days when I just give in and give up.  Sadness feels like a wet woolen blanket, draped across my life.  It obscures my view, obstructs my breathing, clouds my thoughts.  It makes me incredibly difficult to share space with.

Last week my splicing partner informed me that he was worried about how miserable I was.  I was completely offended and thought he was rude and thoughtless.  How could he possibly think that I was miserable ?  Couldn't he see that I was only bemoaning the work ethics and attitudes of everyone else?  Those who were clearly more miseable than I could ever be?  Maybe he should work with one of them.  Maybe then he would see that I was one of the "good" ones.

Helloooo?  Who was I trying to kid?  He was absolutely right.  I can try to blame it on the heat, the work, the uncontrollable need to overextend, the stress of Jules' health, housework, yardwork, too little sleep, too much fast food... anything but me !

Truth is I finally had to crash and burn.  Took a good hard look at myself.... then at Jules.  Tried to blame him.  Demanded accountability.  Cried for a full day.  Scrubbed floors, laundered curtains, went to the dump, then to Target... never a good idea....noticed compassionate looks from other shoppers but didn't realize til I got back to the car that after removing my sunglasses, my bangs were sticking straight up and the only makeup I had been wearing was in stripes down my cheeks.

Somewhere in the midst of my sorrow I had to acknowledge that it had expanded and in the muck and mire,  a tender shoot for anyone and everyone I knew, or had ever known, who was going through some challenge or despair, had appeared .  Then I cried for the animals on the Humane Society commercials.  Then the children in the Save the Children commercials.  Then the losers in the Olympic games.  Then the winners.  Then because I miss Shannon.  Probably, always because I miss Shannon.  Then because she would be so disappointed in me for being such a mess.

In a desperate attempt to adjust the severity of the meltdown, we rented a movie.  It was the lastest in the American Pie series.  For some reason, "sock sex, ice chest poop and inappropriate jokes" just didn't do it, although I do admit with some embarrassment, that I laughed out loud once or twice before falling asleep on the sofa.

This morning the wet blanket has lifted.  I am grateful. 

I think sometimes that we ask too much of ourselves.  We want to always be "happy" and "nice".  We want the world to see the best we have to offer and stuff the rest like dirty socks in life's hamper.  We don't want to be "less than".  We allow guilt and shame at not being at our best, to weight the corners of that wet wool and increase the burden that is already too much to bear.

Let yourself retreat.  Hide out if you want.  Weep if you want.  Eat mac and cheese or cheese cake or brownies or fried chicken or ruffled salt and vinegar chips with bacon horseradish dip. Drink sweet tea or Michelob light or Coke, sugar and all.   Listen to songs that hit that tender place "Say Goodnight Not Goodbye" or "No One Knows But You".  Watch "Steel Magnolias" or "Message in a Bottle", "Hope Floats" or "Terms of Endearment" and let go.  Just let go.  Being "strong" is exhausting.  We use ourselves up trying to be what we think is expected of us and then when there is nothing more we give in anyway.  Give yourself the gift of being sad, mad, glad, frightful or delightful.  They are all pieces of a wonderful you and without even the tiniest teardrop or giggle, we have missed out on the essence of who we are.

If you have ever had one of those moments, or days, or weeks... I just wanted you to know that you aren't alone.  Truth is, we all have them... but they pass.  They really do pass.  We hope that when they hit we can move through them privately, with grace and dignity, but when they don't... when we melt into a puddle at the grocery store or find anger has replaced grace, just hang on and remember....

  ... to give or receive, and I always have extras ~