Author Archives: theAcerbicBlonde

About theAcerbicBlonde

Feisty, opinionated and loud-mouthed. Striving to be strong yet always kind. Standing for what I believe while keeping an open mind. Speaking my truth, but always with respect for the truths of others. Seeking ever the high ground. Taking nothing for granted and living life on my own terms.

Wabi Sabi and the Lesson of the Traveler’s Notebook

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wabi-sabi-bowlI have spent the majority of my life as a perfectionist.

There, I’ve said it.

Although, those who know me well don’t really need me to say it…it is quite obvious. I like order, uniformity, have high esthetic standards and like straight lines, right angles and flawless finishes. I have been known to start an entire page over in my day planner if I was unhappy with the way my handwriting looked.

Perfectionism is a fruitless pursuit, however, since in reality there is no such thing as “perfect”. I know this logically, but until recently, I haven’t really bothered to apply that knowledge and embrace the imperfection in life, and more specifically in myself.

I have written about how the sea of life has rounded and softened my hard edges, my right angles, over time. Along with all that tumbling about, I came across a Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi, the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Expressed as an aesthetic, it is sometimes described as “the beauty of that which is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”.

Reading a book called Wabi-Sabi Simple by Richard Powel, this powerful sentence caught my attention, “Wabi-Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities…nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect”.

Wabi-Sabi reveals the stark honesty of natural processes – aging, wrinkling, fading, deteriorating, etc. Items reflecting the esthetic of Wabi-Sabi graphically mirror our own mortal journey through existence.

One ah-ha moment, served up, not on the mirror finish of the stereotypical silver platter, but rather in a rough, hand hewn Japanese tea bowl lovingly gilt at the broken places.

For when the Japanese mend broken objects, they ennoble the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered and has a history; it becomes more beautiful.

I now consider myself a recovering perfectionist, and I strive every day to take notice of and cherish the beauty and uniqueness of what I once perceived as flaws. It is effort, don’t get me wrong…but it is worthwhile, enlightening effort, and I have found that it nourishes my soul in a way directly opposite of how the path of striving for perfection once depleted it.

The path of life is a series of steps. New territory, new discoveries.

A few years ago, I discovered something very cool. As a writer, it instantly appealed to my love of all things pen, ink, fine paper and writing by hand:

I discovered the Traveler’s Notebook (affectionately known as a TN).

There are a plethora of reviews already written about them. The most widely known and commercially available of these little wonders is the Midori Traveler’s Notebook; this post is not meant to be a critical review…or a review at all. It is merely me sharing something that I love (and the lesson it taught me) with you.

The essence of a Traveler’s Notebook, in case you are not already familiar with them, is a thick piece of hand cut leather, which holds its inserts (paper notebooks and other accessories) by means of an elastic band (and, in the case of the Midori brand, a modest tin clasp). The leather is usually naturally vegetable tanned but not otherwise treated, so as you use it, wear marks and the like become very apparent and as it ages a wonderful patina develops, making each TN unique to the life journey of its owner.

I have a small collection of these notebooks – my first, a genuine Midori courtesy of Wakako at Baum-Kutchen (I buy all my refills and accessories from her lovely shop, and find inspiration there even on days I’m not shopping), was a full sized brown leather beauty that serves as my journal and resides on my bedside table. But my constant companion is a stunning find called a Traveler’s Star Edition. In lush camel colored leather, this beauty commemorates the 5th anniversary of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook in the smaller Passport size. I find the size easier to cart around with me, even on small handbag days.

I have had this notebook for a matter of months, rather than years, but it already looks as though, based on the cover, my life is akin to an Indiana Jones movie.

There was a time, not that long ago, when just looking at scuffs, scratches and dings on any fine leather good would have made my left eye twitch uncontrollably and my OCD reach for leather lotion to buff out the marks and return it to “perfection”, but these notebooks have a quality to them that not only embraces the rough and tumble nature of life, but almost revels in it.

They change from day to day…from moment to moment really…every time you take it out of your pocket or bag and write in it…a key mark here, a pen clip indent there…just as we ourselves change, evolve, grow; become molded and re-formed by that which rubs up against us every day.

Nothing stays the same. Not the world. Not our trusty little Traveler’s Notebooks. Not even ourselves.

Yes, the used notebooks look even more beautiful to me than the day I unwrapped them in all their pristine glory. That day each was a clean slate, full of potential…and today every one remains unchanged in its ability to make me catch my breath whenever I take it out of my handbag…only now they have become imbued with my energy; from my deepest thoughts scratched on its pages, to the ink marks from a shaking hand, or tear stains left on  nights I have wept myself to sleep.

What I once would have cursed as “ruining” my notebooks I now look upon as enhancements, embellishments. I love them more simply because they bear the marks of my life…the emotional equivalent of bedazzling, if you will.

Quite an object lesson for a card-carrying member of Perfectionists Anonymous like me, and a gift that has turned out to be far more profound than a mere heft of leather and a couple elastics.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons to be gained from the imperfection in each of us, the impermanence of the world and all of life that swirls around us, is that we ourselves are incomplete…and that we each have a story of our own waiting to be told.

Through my own experience with blogging, I have come to know this firsthand. As I not only open to those most tender and painful parts of myself (usually written first in one of my Traveler’s Notebooks) but also share the stories (and the wisdom that I have gleaned from them) with you, those wounds begin to heal. Transform. No longer something that feels weak or ugly to me, but now…much like that bowl with the gilded cracks… something which served only to make me stronger and to reveal more of the beauty in life. In myself.

More wondrous still, I have discovered that when I share these stories, a joyous, mysterious ripple effect happens…others are touched and opened up in a way that allows for their own process of accessing their inner wisdom and they themselves begin to heal as well.

Each time I reach for my Traveler’s Notebook, I am reminded that there is value in the simple, humble, weathered and worn of this world. That shiny and new have far less to offer than well-used and well-loved. That things which leave pocks, dings and scars on you can go on to become soothing balm to someone else.

That beauty does not come from being perfect…it comes, in all its flawed, pitted, frayed-edged glory, from being real.

TN

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Love Is How You Stay Alive…

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Today, six years ago, my Mum died.

As those of you who know me or share our blood are aware, she passed away from breast cancer (after keeping it at bay for an impressive forty-one years) in 2007.

I woke up this morning with her foremost in my mind…and I thought about what I could do today  to honor her memory.

My mother loved quotes. One of her favorites (especially toward the end of her life) was “Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone”.

I’m not sure who originally said that, but in the last days of her life, Mum made a point of paraphrasing it over and over…either to comfort me, herself, or both of us.

A quote that has become one of my favorites since her passing is by Banksy, a prolific UK graffiti artist.

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time”.

Well, there was nothing I could do about the death by which my mother stopped breathing, but there is a lot I can do so that her name continues to be spoken.

Today I will “say her name” in a way way people have from the earliest of time; by telling you a story about her. It is one I have told before, but today of all days, I feel that it bears repeating. As all good stories do.

This is the story of the very last conversation my mother and I had. Even six years later, the memory still sets my heart aglow. Hopefully it will warm yours as well.

She was in Hospice and I had been camped out with her in her room for the prior ten days. She had been spiraling downward and I was, quite honestly, afraid to leave.

When I made the decision that I was going to stay with her 24/7 until the end, I asked her “Will my being here make it harder for you to go when the time comes?” She closed her eyes for a few moments and then said, “Perhaps…I don’t know…but let’s see.”

(As it happens, she left this world the following day while I was in the community kitchen making myself some tea, so there’s your answer.)

Anyway, my last conversation with my mother…

We’d had many discussions over the years on what happens after we die. Neither of us had really adhered to the Judeo-Christian ethic, and both of us had very open minds when it came to global culture and belief systems. I tend toward the Agnostic but  if asked,  I say that I consider myself Jewish (in homage to my Grandfather, yes, but to be honest, mostly for the food). Mum started out the requisite Jewish of our patriarchal line, somehow almost became a Catholic nun due to her one true love being a Priest (story for another day) but in the end, she called herself an Atheist.

Suffice to say, they were interesting discussions.

At one point when life was easy and she was healthy…and no doubt over a bottle of wine or two…during one such conversation, we had made a pact that whoever died first would, if indeed we carry on in some way after death, come back and haunt the other – not in a scary way, but in a “hey guess what, there really IS an afterlife” kind of way, and we vowed we would do it in an unmistakable, undeniable manner that left absolutely zero doubt that it was us, and that we were somewhere watching over the other.

So, our last conversation that day in Hospice began with my mother saying, rather out of the blue, “Well, I guess it’s going to be me doing the haunting.”

I looked up from the book I was reading, my mouth open in surprise, to find her grinning…a twinkle in her eye. We both chuckled. What else could we do?

“Make it good,” I chimed in. “Nothing polite or ladylike (her trademarks in life). Be loud and unruly for once; make sure I know it’s you and not the wind. But not SO over the top that I think it’s Aunt Sandy, okay?”

Her boisterous sister, the aunt to which I referred, had passed the year prior, unexpectedly, from botched surgery that she should have survived.

She laughed at that, and shot me a look that said, “Good one!” An image of Sandy’s broad and unmistakable smile flooded my mind and I wondered if Mom was thinking about her too. She met my gaze and nodded, as if in answer to my thought, and after a couple progressively faint little laughs, her eyes fluttered closed and she dozed.

The humorous moment had come and gone. I just sat there and watched her chest go up and down for a long time.

Breathing, it occurred to me then, is something we take entirely for granted. Until we are sitting in Hospice with someone we love.

Eventually she opened her eyes and weakly patted the bed by her knees. I smiled and went to sit beside her. She took my hand. I looked down at it, frail and wrinkly and spotted with age, her paper-thin skin crinkled where my fingers intertwined with hers.

“It’s up to you to carry the torch now”, she said, and she somehow managed to hold my gaze with a brief flare of awareness, strength and determination.

“I know,” I said, silently willing my voice not to crack or falter. “I will.  I Promise.”

“I know you will,” she whispered, “I know.” Her chin went up ever so slightly; a gesture I recognized from times I had made her proud, and her eyes fluttered closed again.

We sat there for several minutes like that. She would occasionally nod, pat my hand and mutter, “I know”.

My family came over from Russia in the early 1900’s. My grandfather, her father, was born here in 1907, but some of his siblings were born in the old country. We are a tough, feisty, determined, stubborn, loud, emotive, take-no-shit kind of people who are intensely driven, sometimes to our detriment. In the typical old school European way, the men rule the roost. But in our family it was really the women who were the strong ones.

“The man may be the head of the house”, my mother’s mother once told me while attempting to teach me how to make noodle kugal and dispensing advice about boys, “but the woman is the neck…and the neck turns the head.” I have never forgotten those words, or the twinkle in her eye when she said them.

Like I said…strong women.

And man oh man, my mother and my aforementioned aunt (who, due to my mum being in and out of hospitals most of my life, had served as my second mother) were two of the strongest you’d ever want to meet. I can’t think of a woman in my family that wouldn’t give you a run for your money, but my aunt was a veritable juggernaut. My mother, a force of nature. If you knew either of them, you are nodding your head emphatically right now.

These were the women who raised me.

Carry the torch.

Hers, my aunt’s, my grandmother’s…all of the women in my bloodline who came before.

Be strong yet always kind. Stand for what you believe yet keep an open mind. Speak your truth but always with respect.  Lead yet remain humble. Seek ever the high ground. Own every room you enter. Never forget your worth. Take nothing for granted.  Do not ever give up.  Live life on your own terms but always, always with honor and integrity.

The legacy of generations of stout, solid women with wide faces, wind blown cheeks, firm jawlines, colorful babushkas and penetrating eyes. Pointing with gnarled fingers.

At me.

I saw them, gathered around my mother’s bedside that day. Hands entwined, eyes alight with that mischievous twinkle, chanting in a tongue I didn’t understand but felt instinctively in my bones none the less.

“All I ever wanted,” she had told me once, decades before, from another hospital bed, on a day we had both been convinced the cancer was going to win, “was a daughter.”

I blinked away the introspection and gazed down at my mother’s sleeping face. I gently released her hand and when I had satisfied myself that her breathing was steady, I went to make myself some Quietly Chamomile.

When I came back, I knew immediately that she wasn’t just sleeping. She had gone.

I opened the window and lit a candle on the sill to show her the way to move on. The Hospice nurse had told me days earlier when she placed the single white candle there, that was their tradition. And Mum loved it when we learned a new tradition and made it our own. Here was a final one.

I kissed her on the forehead, told her goodbye, that I loved her, and that I hoped to hear from her soon.

The room was silent. The ‘babushkas’ were gone. It was just me now.

I took a deep breath, swallowed a sob and went to fetch the nurse.

That was six years ago now. Two weeks after her 73rd, and final, birthday.

So today, as I remember her, it is with that familiar twinkle in my own eye, for I am filled with thoughts of her life, not her death.

I am keeping her alive by sharing her with you…and she would like that very, very much.

Nancy Ann Sanel, you are alive in my heart and by my love, and the love of those who’s lives you have touched, you will be immortal.

I am remembering you with a smile. With gratitude. With respect. With awe.

It is my honor to carry on your legacy…with brightly burning torch ever in hand.

Guest Post – Roots of She

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The link to a piece I wrote last year as a guest post for the wonderful and enlightening website, Roots of She is apparently no longer live, so I have added it in full below:

Her Passing

And then comes the day you get a phone call from someone you used to be tied to. One with. ‘Till death you did part.

Or a cute, young brunette with big almond shaped eyes he saw himself reflected back in and imagined it was more pure an adoration than what shone in my own baby blues.

A phone call. The phone call.

Early here, so even earlier where he is. Trouble.

Death. Shock. Grief.

I was the first one he thought to call. Had to call.

We had been close, his sister and I, kindred. But in whatever manner he spun the demise of our union, I became anathema. My attempts to keep her in my life had met only silence. Now I had to let go of the hope that one day she would respond.

Some dark thing inside of me uncurled a gnarled finger and jabbed my left ventricle.

Agony. Muffled weeping. He had turned away from the phone.

Pain and tears…I was all too familiar with both from my own, still fresh, losses.

I knew words are useless against them, so I waited.

Silence. Once so comfortable between us, now singed with tension. I felt him shift. Wind changing direction. Monsoon.

Regret. His.

I licked my lips and tasted roiling sarcasm, “Really? After years of insisting how much happier you’ve been without me?” No, that is not who I am. Cruelty is for the weak.

The silence of two heartbeats.

My voice now. Calm. Low. Full only of compassion.

Not for him. I would be kind for her. And for me.

Memories of sunshine and laughter. The way her nose crinkled when she smiled. I stifle a sob.

Would I fly there?

“No.”

Could he fly here…after?

“No.”

Is there any chance a spark may yet glow, buried in the ashes of what was?

Anger begins to snake its way up my spine. This? Now? Seriously?

I quell it in an instant.

His smooth familiar voice speaks the words, but Mortality is the breath giving life to them. He smoked in his youth, just long enough to get that voice. It used to roll over me like delicious fire.

Used to.

“There is nothing.”

Condemnation now. Lashing out. How heavy I was to carry. The burden of my moxie. Of my curves. How helpless he felt in the face of both. The weight of my independence. How it crushed him. My fault. All of it. I ruined everything by wanting when he so craved need.

“Remember”, he spat mournfully through a fresh wave of tears, “when you said you would love me forever?”

My mind’s eye flits to redwoods. A fairy ring. White flowers in my hair. Air still. Sky cloudless. Words. Vows. His hand in mine, the epicenter.

So many years ago. I was a different version of myself then. Not better. Not worse.

True, I did make those vows. Though it was he who dashed them to bits.

I was younger then. Two decades not yet lived.

One with him. One after he left.

What happens to love? Does it evaporate into the ether? Disguise itself as hate? Morph into something else altogether over time? I don’t know. What I do know is that whatever once bound us, no longer held sway.

I searched for it a moment before speaking, nonetheless. Exhaled. Let go. Let down my guard. Reached within myself. Felt for the slightest heat signature. For any signs of it, hidden away somewhere deep. “It’s alright” I called to it soothingly. “Come out, you’ll be safe”, I cooed reassuringly.”

I groped.

For her.

His breath hitching on the other end of the line was the only sound.

I summoned my own, strong and sure, when nothing echoed from my depths except the song of She Who is Me Now.

“That woman,” I said, knowing they would probably be the last words I ever uttered to him”, is dead too.”

 

Sea Glass

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I had an interesting conversation with an old friend a few evenings ago regarding the differences between people to whom difficult (or even traumatic) things had happened throughout their lives and those who have had smooth sailing. Which group was the more fortunate of the two?

Perhaps it was the wine, but I found I continued to think about this long after we parted ways.

I know people who have led what appear to be charmed lives. Nothing ever seems to go wrong. They somehow always slide through life without so much as a ripple.

This friend is one of them. When I asked, after the second bottle of Moscato, what the most difficult thing was that she has come up against in her life thus far, she replied that it was not being able to buy the most recent season of her favorite TV show when it came out on DVD.

“No, no”, I said shaking my head, “the most difficult thing you have ever dealt with in your life”.

“Oh”, she countered, and seemed to ponder the question earnestly. “Not being able to buy the most recent season of any TV show I like when it comes out on DVD”.

This, I thought to myself, explains a LOT.

I was in a relationship once with a man like this and I always had the niggling hunch that the root of our trouble was that we saw life from drastically differing perspectives. He, like my friend, was blissfully clueless as to the ways of the world. Imobile in the face of chaos or tragedy. When he considered something (a topic of conversation or life event) “deep”, I always found myself feeling like I was standing alone in the kiddie end of the pool, up to only my ankles. Deep?  This guy and I had wildly varying definitions of the word.

Because life had been easy on him.

So who has it better? Those who claw their way to daylight on the other side of very dark tunnels, or those who wouldn’t know tragedy if it stared them coldly in the face.

My vote goes to the former…the gritty survivors.

Perhaps I am biased, for I am one.

I come from a thick-necked, volatile, feisty Jewish family. Even back to the beginning, my people have had to meet the challenges of life with chins up and fists balled.

My venerable Grandfather used to say, when life took a decidedly uphill slant, “At least it’s not dull.” I can’t tell you how many times throughout the years I have had a chuckle thinking that very thing. I’ve had my share of suckage, trust me. Not a moment of it dull.

Her father’s daughter, my amazing Mum used to send me to my slumber growing up disseminating life lessons as one would tell a child  fairy tales, “Do you want to know the only thing you can count on to carry you through this life?” Even when I had heard it a thousand times, I would whisper eagerly, “Yes!” And she would smile and point her finger as though it were a magic wand down the bed to my feet.

My own two feet. The one thing I could be certain would keep me moving forward.

They haven’t failed me yet.

Her sister, my cherished Aunt, taught me this: “If you lay down you can be sure of one thing; you will be walked on. So stand up. Always. Never quit. Never turn your back and run. Whatever it is, you are stronger.”

One more. A dear, dear woman and friend of the family I was privileged to know used to hold me in her fragile arms and say, “Life is short and full of pain. Be thankful for the oases of happiness”.

These were people who had lived through shit I can only imagine and which it is not necessary to speak of here except for this: The last one I mentioned bore a tattoo on her paper-like skin from Dachau.

Whenever life throws something at me that I begin to imagine I cannot handle, I think of her.

The ones who have influenced me most in the nearly half-century I have walked this earth have been wizened by pain. Clarified, as if precious metal.

Perhaps it is impossible to genuinely know the “oases of happiness” unless you have first known devastation.

Those beloved members of my soul circle have passed on now, and I cannot express in mere words how empty my life has felt as they one by one trickled from it, leaving me to murmur to them in my solitude as I fall asleep, recounting their lessons and stories, lest time make them fade.  And so I can pass them on to you and thus keep their legacies alive.

I am drawn to the steely strong ones of this world. I don’t suffer a victim easily, or for very long.

As for me, my life has surely not been dull. Looking back as the decades ticked by, I can clearly see how the events on my path have shaped me. Rounded my rough edges. Smoothed me.

Softened me.

I have had experiences that were so spectacular they can make the breath catch in my throat even now. Sometimes I can’t believe how insanely blessed I have been.

Then again, I could tell you stories that would leave your mouth agape. Or make you cry. I used to think that, if you were a good-hearted person and did your best to do right, bad things wouldn’t happen to you.

Boy was I was wrong.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t trade those stories for anything. I wouldn’t take the things that shattered me like glass out of my history. Both the sublime and the ugly have made me the individual I am today.

Not much will shake me anymore. Sometimes I am cognizant during some far from ideal life event, that me in younger days would have reacted quite differently – often these moments  call to mind a vision of a ‘twenty-something me’ reacting with loud indignation, while ‘forty-something me’ just snorts and shakes her head.

The years also find my heart fiercely loyal. Most likely because I have known my share who were decidedly not. Should you earn my trust and respect (and, dare I even say it, my love) you will find in me a woman who will stand in the midst of the very fire with you.

Chin up and fists balled, just like those who came before me.

So many things in this world have become shallow and petty. We are evolving into a disposable society. We crave the latest and the greatest the moment it appears. Hard work is often accompanied by resentment. We have lost track of what we need in the vapid pursuit of what we want.

People are transients in our lives. Relationships have become “options” to keep open. No one plants their feet and clasps hands to stick it out and work through things anymore. The illusion of the next best thing has replaced persistence and problem solving.

I’ve had the wind knocked out of me by this mentality in those I have chosen to allow close to me.  I have marveled at how my conscious decision to overtly treasure those I care about is utterly taken for granted – as though the next friend, worker, lover, whatever, would give what I am willing to give.

Everything I am.

In all it’s flawed, nonsensical, unique, filterless, probably at times frustrating as hell, wondrous glory.

Someone said to me recently that they had a hard time believing I am as easy to get along with as I appear to be. My response? I am. It really is that simple. I’ve learned what truly matters in life and what is merely minutia.

Hint: most of it is minutia.

I’m not looking for anything out of life, or from people, that I’m not willing to earn. I have no interest in demanding or scoring a free ride or in “winning”. Another thing my Grandfather used to say is, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Amen to that.

It’s not a trick. It’s who I am. It is who life shaped me into.

What matters to me the most is creating a life that is simple, happy, a part of something meaningful. The thing I have come to treasure over any possession, accolade or station is the simple gift of loving and being loved. The best gift I could ever hope to receive, a new day to learn and grow and, hopefully, make someone smile.

Sure, it took forty-seven years and a tempest to get me here.

To polish me.

For a long time I thought of myself like a river stone.  Once a splintered bit of limestone now rounded by the constant flow of the water around me.  But river stones are grey and bleak and I am neither of those things.

I am sea glass.

Once I was shiny and new. Fragile. Once I  had razor-like edges. Once I was full of…something.

But I found myself in the ocean, and the brine emptied me; stripped me of any label I bore and broke me upon the rocks until I barely recognized myself, tossed me in its furor and washed me clean.

I wouldn’t trade my journey for anything on this earth. I wouldn’t have wanted the easy way. It’s not in my blood after all.

Now I no longer catch the light in my translucence. I’m pitted and opaque. I have taken on the aquamarine color of my vast, liquid mother. I have let go of my contents and instead of containing, I myself am held by something far greater than myself.

I thrill in the adventure of where the waves will take me next.

I am free.

My sharpness has finally been relinquished to the tides.

I am smooth.

No label could ever be adhered to my imperfectly perfect surface again.

I am infinite.

Regardless of the fact that the world may walk past me, unseeing, as I lay waiting in the sand to be refined by the tumult yet again…

I am beautiful.

The Present…Open It

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Have you ever known people who live in the past? They circle around it, never straying too far, as if it had its own gravity to hold them in orbit. Clinging to it as though it were some sort of life jacket in a turbulent sea.

I get it, I really do. The past is safe. It is far easier to look back and see all the good things than it is to look forward and not know what you’ll find. Like photos that are taken with that fuzzy, beautifying feature; the flaws are blurred out. Even if it wasn’t necessarily all that pleasant the past holds comfort because, like a movie that you’ve watched before, the roles are clearly defined and you know how it’s going to end.

But I would submit to you that, watched often enough, any movie becomes less and less engaging and exciting. Eventually, you might even want to turn it off.

Whether or not you’re brave enough to is another matter.

The present is risky, sure. You never know how it’s going to turn out…what kind of future it’s going to bring you to. And some people just flat out prefer churning the past over and over with its mundane, predictable rhythm to the in-your-face unknown nature of the present.

Whether or not they admit this, living in the past is a choice. And I am always amazed when  people who have chosen the past become confused, angry and upset when the present grows weary of being forsaken and moves on without them.

I myself have personally been sacrificed on the altar of the past more than once in my life. Perhaps the present I represented and the future I held out my hand to offer was more of a bold, challenging adventure than they were willing to embark on.

So be it.

The beautiful thing about life is that we all have the right to choose how we want to live ours. That goes for the ones who paddle around in the known quantity of the shallows and for those of us to close our eyes, take a deep breath and cannonball into the deep.

But don’t expect us cannonballers to be there when the safety starts to feel stale and it becomes obvious why the past is in fact…well, you know.

Because we won’t be. We will be off to our next adventure.

Nothing stays the same. Not even the precious past. Our minds edit our memories. And even if our minds left well enough alone, guess what – the past no longer even exists. It is dead.

The present…the present is life.

Each moment truly a gift!

How sad to invest so heavily in a shadow when the bright, thrumming NOW veritably vibrating with potential, stands before you beckoning.

Could I choose the past? Heck yeah. I have memories of times when I was so happy and felt so loved that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Experiences. People. I could tell you stories that would make your cheeks ache with laughter or your eyes well with tears.

But I want new stories.

Life is a series of choices. I know which one I’m making.

Life is this moment…………we are this moment.

Phone Booth

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The people we are when we begin a relationship are not the ones we become within it.

I have, since I was a little girl, always thought of myself as somewhat of a superhero. I was an only child who wiled away Saturdays and summer vacations exploring the breadth, depth and width of my own imagination. Often with a pillow case tied around my neck, pretending to “fly” around the backyard.

My mother raised me with the instilled knowledge that I was capable of anything and everything.  She said that the only reason people don’t do amazing things is because they fail to believe they can.  And that I should never make that mistake myself.

To the young brain encased in that chaos of  white-blond ringlets, being able to do pretty much anything equaled having super powers.

Mum once bought me white patent leather go-go boots to wear with some hideous dress she was determined to put me in for one of the High Holidays and I promptly found a magic marker and attempted to color them black.

Because all the female superheros I knew of had black boots.

My reward was a pair of truly crappy looking boots and a vigorous spanking. For a woman with one good arm, let me tell you, she sure could dish out one hell of a punishment.

Anyway, back then in the realm of my own mind I was Super.  I’d be lying if I said that now, in my forty-something mind, I didn’t struggle with doubts.  Are my Powers still there? Merely dormant? Or have I outgrown them like my patent leather Super boots?

I have always thought of the men in my life as Phone Booths.  Remember how Clark Kent used to dash into the phone booth and Superman would come out?

Men are my Phone Booths.

Usually what happens is, a strong, feisty, blazingly empowered, open hearted woman full of verve and hope goes in and after time passes, a lesser, dimmer version of that woman steps out, tired, bewildered and nursing a broken heart.

Once or twice that strong, feisty, blazingly empowered, open hearted woman went in and the woman who emerged was a hollow, wounded, lost, broken soul.

Up until now, the Phone Booths did their best to drain my power. I went in Super. I came out small.

Fortunately, the effects were never permanent and I was back to full force before too long. I did, however, come to be very leery of Phone Booths nonetheless.

This time though….this Phone Booth is different.

I went in a woman who guarded her heart the way one would cradle and protect a broken arm that had just come out of a cast.

I went in a woman who thought love was for other people now, not her.

I went in a woman who saw in neutral colors and who clung to symmetry and perfectionism as if they were armor.

I went in a woman who had begun to buy in to the notion that perhaps she was in fact not enough.

But this man is more than a mere Phone Booth; he is a Hero himself. Swooping down from the sky (literally) and saving lives with his strong,  steady hands. He may not have a cape, but he does have a sexy green flight suit.

And let’s face it, in the real world capes aren’t very practical anyway, so…

Seriously though, I am not the same woman who began this relationship. Not even close.

Perhaps in his safe, sure embrace I am able to shed the layers of street clothes that life has shucked upon my shoulders over the years and bare the glittering, hot pink “S” on my chest once and for all. Or perhaps it is his own Super Heroic nature that nurtures, and calls to, my own.

I am now a woman with a gleam in her eyes. Just like the one I had when I was tearing around my back yard with a pillow case tied around my neck and my arms outstretched like wings.

I am now a woman whose heart is so open and full of love that sometimes I’m overwhelmed with it to the point of tears.

I am now a woman who craves bright color and embraces the imperfect, the unfinished and the ever changing.

I am now a woman who will never EVER give so much as one synaptic firing to the thought that I am not enough again. Because I am. More than enough actually.

I stepped into his Phone Booth, and emerge every day more Super than the last.

Like I told you. He saves people.

He saved me.

A Lesson to be Thankful For

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In the US, this past weekend was a long holiday surrounding the tradition of Thanksgiving. While I tend to put my energy into having a spirit of gratitude and appreciation every day of the year, I always enjoy the time off from work and the opportunity to connect with loved ones over some yummy food.

I will confess however, that like a lot of individuals, I battle Holiday Depression. I’m not going to go into a discussion  on the phenomenon…those of you who deal with it already know plenty about it, and those who are interested can Google further.

I’m also not going to bore you with the why’s of my own struggle, except to say that in my case it is event driven. Specifically loss driven. Grief driven. Every year it gets a bit better, but when you lose people, they leave holes in your life that can never be filled. You just have to learn to work around them. Around the holidays, my holes loom large.

But I don’t want to focus on all that.

What I want to do is share with you something that I learned this weekend as I felt the old familiar shadow of what I refer to as “my dark place” moving slowly over me,  like an eclipse that temporarily blocks out the light that is my core self.

I find when I’m feeling down that people generally don’t like it very much. They’re not accustomed to a quiet, droopy, sad me; it makes them uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do or say, so quite often they either avoid me altogether or try to “cheer me up” by inadvertently completely invalidating my feelings.

This  I am used to and will often call them on. It seems I can easily defend my feelings when an exterior force tries to tell me not to have them.

What I didn’t realize though, is that I have been guilty of some pretty invalidating self talk too.

“I shouldn’t feel this way…”, “Why do I feel so down when I have so much good in my life?”, “I’m supposed to be strong, so why can’t I get over this feeling?”

Stuff like that.

While I won’t let other people beat me up, I seem to have no trouble beating myself up for operating at anything less than optimal.

There is an old saying (and I would give credit if I knew where it originated) that what you resist persists. What you focus your mind and energy on is what remains circling around you like an orbit. It’s the Law of Attraction baby…you can’t fight it.

So at some point on the day before Thanksgiving, when I felt the dark shadow of depression crossing over my sun, I just decided to quit berating myself for my feelings and accept that this was me right now, and if I honestly believe in myself and love myself, that has to mean unconditionally.

That has to mean embracing who I am even when I’m not being strong, vivacious  and fabulous.

And so I did. I went with it. I allowed my feelings to just be, without judging them. Without judging myself for having them.

I was down in the doldrums for a day. Big deal. Every time I started the negative self talk about not getting anything done or refusing to even shower, I caught myself and countered with a soothing, accepting inner dialog.

“Hey, it’s okay. Just feel it and know this too shall pass. Because I love you no matter how you’re feeling.”

Over and over throughout the day I spoke to myself the way I would want someone I love to speak to me. I would want them to just wrap their arms around me and say, “Whatever is going on with you right now, know I’m here for you no matter what, know I love you and know I totally think you’re cute when you don’t shower. Everything is going to be okay.”

Well, I love me…so I said those things to myself.

It worked.

Making the conscious decision to love myself no matter what…even in the dark moments…was incredibly liberating. Embracing what I had formerly considered a flaw in myself and just allowing myself to be freed up a lot of mental space to allow myself to heal.

It’s not just about living in the now for good moments…it’s about being present for and accepting what is in all of them.

Love is not an emotion…it is a decision. We all make the choice to love and be loving toward the people in our lives every single day. Start applying some of that to yourself.

So let go of who you think you should be, and decide to love who you are.  Who you are in this very moment. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. ESPECIALLY if it does.

Because I promise you…it is precisely who you are supposed to be right now.