It’s been quite a while, but last night, intense grief hit me hard. It came after watching a powerful movie about unbelievable loss and sadness, but also about holding onto hope. At first my loss was so heavy, I needed both arms to carry it, making it impossible to shield myself from torrential rains of sadness. I was told, time would take care of both, but time isn’t something I can hold onto. What was really needed was some kind of umbrella, self-supporting for a while until I could hold it myself. What I didn’t realize was just such an umbrella was already among all I was handed, and that umbrella was joy, something I didn’t see because joy isn’t behind me but ahead. Joy doesn’t have to be huge and amazing to lighten the load. Joy will keep the umbrella open as long as I collect it and not toss it aside. Umbrellas don’t always work perfectly – strong winds can turn them inside out and the latch is easily released, but joy will re-open it, even after purposely closing it, wanting the rain. Joy knows how to manage the umbrella and it’s waiting for me at each step forward.
Seven years ago today we lost someone very special – a husband, dad, friend. But my thoughts ventured from that loss to all we’ve found. Each day since, there’s been something new, something to be thankful for, even if it’s just another day alive on this earth, regardless if we remember or not. There’s been a new home for me in the Adirondacks – a home, not just a house, because a home is where hearts sleep; mine does along with his, because he’s still here, in my heart. Three lives have joined ours, a welcoming back for one, a return of a blessing, and the addition of two more, just starting out, learning and growing, bringing new wonders and joy every day. Two new businesses were opened, a move and new home in Alaska, and land purchased here for one to come. We’ve become a team; two is better than one, and three, sometimes five, is even better. We became mindful of too late that lingers behind all of us, ready to bite us in the butt, so hugs and I love you goodbyes remain new and appreciated. New comes on its own, you just have open your eyes and look.
My granddaughter has added hand waving to her shout of NO! She mastered the no a while ago, but adding the waving tells me she means what she says. It’s hard sometimes to mean what we say because of the multitude of words to choose from. It’s also difficult to say what we mean – being honest, especially when your honesty is directed at the person you’re talking to. How are you? Good – the automatic response. What do you think of my new hairstyle? Ahhhh – How do I say I don’t like it without saying I don’t like it? Can you work this Saturday? Ummm – How do I say no without losing my job or hurting a friendship? Some of the difficulty comes from knowing what the expected response is – good, I love it, and of course – making the lack of honesty the fault of both parties. For honesty to happen there has to be no expectation of a certain answer, giving a nicely honest response, and an appreciation for the honesty even if you don’t like it or agree. Following the question with, be honest, and starting the response with, well . . . . , might be a good place to start.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, the concepts of freedom to and freedom from were explored. In this constricted society there are few freedoms, making it easy to realize they hadn’t appreciated the ones they had. We have many freedoms in this country, some existing for so long, I hope they’re still valued. We experience freedom to do and freedom to not do on a regular basis and continually seek new escapes from consequences, freedom from. Freedom from religious persecution and freedom to speak are a couple of the initial ones. I’ve witnessed firsthand, animosity for the latter at rallies, when opinions weren’t popular, and also carelessness, when words were spoken because we can, without any thought as to if we should. We’ve gained freedoms to wear what we want and marry who we want. Freedoms aren’t meant as a license to do whatever we want, whenever we want, without regard to anyone or anything. They’re real in the sense of can, but carry with them, the should. When wanting to, outweighs should, new laws appear to prevent harmful freedoms, like texting while driving. Freedom comes down to moving our toes to our own beat without stepping on the toes of others.
Where does responsibility come from? Is it learned? Is it apparent in what define us, like being a Dad or your job title? Is it obvious based on what we do, like driving a car or operating machinery? It comes from all these things, but only if we own it, along with the consequences of not. Parents give their children increasingly more difficult responsibilities, but if reminders and/or assistance are continually needed, they’re just performing a task instead of being responsible. The word parent immediately brings to my mind major responsibilities. Two people created a child, therefore both are responsible for their physical and emotional needs. This is the ultimate being responsible for my actions; one with an 18+ year sentence to protect and provide, but also to love and be loved in return, to respect and be respected in return. Businesses have gotten so big, the head honcho knows only a small number of people who work there and yet, still ultimately responsible for all employees. That’s responsibility in the smallest sense of the word, filtered down and diluted. Responsibility comes down to looking out for ourselves and especially each other; actions this world could use lots more of.
Yesterday I made chowder and as I chose the cook pot I said, this will work, I need a big bottom. I got a chuckle out of that and hoped that’s the only situation I would ever use those words! There was a time when only big cars were manufactured, but with concerns over the cost of fuel and air pollution, they got smaller. Now cars, and especially pickups, have grown large again even though the concerns haven’t gotten any smaller. Homes used to be small and kids shared bedrooms. Now really large ones are desired, some with rooms rarely used. When did sharing become a bad thing and owning much more than is needed become a prerequisite to happiness and accomplishment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear in the news about hearts growing bigger instead of bodies; able to keep up with the growing lack of love, hope, and necessities in our country. Vision is also something in need of growth spurts; envisioning not only how to make my little world better, but the bigger world, including all living things. It costs just as much to dream big as it does to dream small. Sometimes bigger is better!
In the series Westworld, it was said, there are only two things left after a sudden, devastating loss – grief and the loss. A couple pictures came to mind as I remembered. Shock opened a door, and I went through into a small dark box, bumping into the loss right away, then grief. My eyes and ears were of little use; feeling claustrophobic and safe at the same time. This is why I don’t remember most people who came, or the interactions around me; why it appeared everything good, was taken from me. At some point I found my way to the door and waiting there was a hazmat suit, making it possible to leave the box and move around, but still protected from the hazards of reality and all things new clamoring for my attention. One very important rule of such a suit is to avoid punctures, but I’ve got to purposely make some, creating small holes near my mind and heart, letting them gradually absorb reality and release the sadness, anger, and fear that snuck into the box and straight into me. Confined, bombarded, controlled taking in and letting go; the process to heal the broken person still here.
When it comes to something new, there’s I know I can (no trying), think I can (try with hope), and I don’t believe I can (don’t bother). I remember a couple of can’t do it moments, one during childbirth (sorry, too late) and after climbing Flattop Mountain, in Anchorage (no helicopter rescue, so get yourself down). I’ve had some, know I can moments, like, I will be successful as a wife and mother, and going back to college to get my degrees in accounting. I have lots of, I think I can moments, not absolute confidence in myself, but enough. Trying goes hand and hand with the possibility of failure, but so what! For the things that really matter, I refuse to fail, relying on tweaks along the way and starting over in order to get it right. Have I ever totally failed at something? I don’t think so, because there’s one more, never-fail, solution in my arsenal – help from others, even if it’s just moral support. Trying doesn’t go hand in hand with doing it all by myself. Yeah, I’d have lots more to be proud of without any help, but I’ll choose success over pride any day.
I’ve been helping my sister prepare tax returns. My tangible tools consist only of a computer and two monitors. No need for a calculator, pencil, eraser, or paper. To use the programs I need from her laptop in Colorado, I use the internet swirling, and electricity winding, through my home. My personal involvement requires me to funnel the knowledge from my brain into my fingers. Pretty simple with the use of technology, letting me work quickly and efficiently. There was a time when everything was accomplished by laboring with our hands and, it takes time, was something well understood. We grew our own food in fields we nurtured; unprocessed, rarely sweeten with honey or molasses. We raised and butchered our own meat, fresh or smoked to keep through the winter. Our homes were built from trees, using axes, handsaws, and hand-hewn pegs. Where are the fields now? Polluted with chemicals, paved over for parking lots and multi-lane highways, topped with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and oversized homes? Much of our food is precooked and laced with sugar and/or chemicals to enhance flavors, prolong shelf life, and buy instead of make. Lands and hands, things to learn to cherish and use again.
On an episode of This is Us, a young girl was thinking about how we all sleep, rich or poor, and how we have other things in common, like things that hurt us. It made me think of the people who live on my street, who I see occasionally, but don’t know, all sleeping, starting their days, living their lives. There’s differences, but also similarities. Expand that view to the world and I shouldn’t find it so hard to think there isn’t other women like me, who have only sisters, or graduated from college after having their children, or was unexpectedly widowed in their mid-fifties, who live alone. Everyone makes decisions, struggles with one or multiple things, faces challenges, cries, or gets frustrated. Over what can be so different, but the feelings are the same. No one’s life is perfect, some closer to perfection than others, but there’s always room for improvement. And why would I want a perfect life anyway? Perfect means no flaws, no faults, unspoiled, seamless, which means there’s no room to learn, grow, discover, or change. It’s why we invented makeup and glue, why people become psychiatrists and hairstylists, why we need friends, and unconditional love.