Badass Wannabe

Badass Wannabe

minerI had to laugh out loud today when I googled the definition of “badass”: ‘a tough, uncompromising or intimidating person. “One of them is a real badass, the other’s pretty friendly.”’ Which of course begs the question, can’t a badass be friendly? If so, please sign me up, sir.

I’ve been feeling drawn to that word a lot lately, especially since it is now so often used in a feminine context. This morning a friend sent me an article describing Helen Mirren as badass, apparently because she’s older, sexy, and very comfortable with herself. Yeh, now I was really digging it. No mention was made of her friendliness. My friend, myself and a few others have been reading a book together and hanging out periodically to discuss it, and our lives, our spiritual journeys, and… you know. We’re women. We talk about it ALL. It’s a beautiful thang.

I’m older than the other women, but that’s usually the case for me anyway, and actually always has been. I’m older than all but a select few apparently, and have gotten used to it, for the most part. It helps that I’m immature and sophomoric. I’ve shared in another blog that when I turned 60 I had an extremely adverse and some might say psychotic reaction, but at the time I was making my way through some other very deep waters as well, and I think that had more to do with my psychosis than just the flip of that decade digit. Or that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Since that time I’m further down the recovery road, and hit a few more notches on the age belt too. My body and my mirror convince me on the reg that this is a battle I cannot win, so I’m less inclined to rage. On a good day I concentrate more on my spirit than my physical fadings, and I consider what it might look like to “age well,” or sanely, or….as a badass.

As the North American dictionary defines it, am I tough? Well, I’m still standing. And that’s not chopped liver, believe me. Hang around for 63 years and some hard times come down the road. Geez, just the past year alone politically has brought enough shock, shame, and sorrow to show up any other decade, and I’ve already seen one president impeached. When I came in late last night my husband had fallen asleep with the TV on, and I saw a banner scrolling across the bottom of the screen announcing the latest mass murder horror, 22 young people killed at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. I confess to you that I quickly turned off the set, because I almost cannot bear to watch the news at all anymore. Call it denial, call it hiding… this world overflows with things that break my already weary heart. Maybe I’m not tough….

How about uncompromising? Am I unbending and inflexible? In a word, no. Much of last night’s conversation actually centered around all that we are un-learning, the shifts in our thinking from certainty to openness in some areas of our experience that had once seemed permanently locked down. Ahh, this is one of my great joys at this juncture of my advanced age… throwing up the window and letting some fresh air in to my heart and mind. To reconsider ideas and philosophies that have been so treasured, even life-saving to me in my own story. I will be forever grateful for the particular trajectory of my story, for I was truly lost and truly found, and would never have made it to 63 years without taking the paths that now seem a bit overgrown to me.  Not all, not even most, but definitely some. And the adventurer in me is enjoying reexamining things, like a decrepit miner kneeling on ancient knees by a stream, shaking his pan for the gold. Hope never dies, and there is always more to learn, more growing to do. That’s what this group of women is about, journeying together. And there is no compromising that. I want to grow to the very last minute.

The last one is interesting: intimidating. Not on my best day. I wish.  If I’d had any powers of intimidation I’d have whipped them out on scary parenting days, or when those thugs mugged me on the street years ago, or when that girl stole my whole paycheck out of my purse and we BOTH knew it. Dag, I wish. But I am completely lacking in power moves, and have to fight my battles on other levels. Any good badass has another holster, another trick up her sleeve. Maybe I am a badass, because I’ve been a fighter from jump. My guns were holstered for a few years, quietly rusting, but I’m on the way back, baby. Maybe I’ll grow into my intimidation chops, who knows?

Or maybe I’ll be the badass’ friendlier sidekick, mentioned in the chatty dictionary illustration. That may match my skill set more. I’m not sexy Helen Mirren, it’s true, but I’m definitely still in the game. I’m still journeying, still believing, still playing. Don’t count me out yet. If there’s a secondary path to badass, a side alley that is maybe less about intimidation and more about mining for gold on creaky knees, look for me there.  Just don’t expect me to look like Helen.

Periscope Up. Like, All the Way Up

swim

I’m someone who tries to pay attention. To people cues, to that small inner voice, to signs from the Universe. So when I couldn’t get my conversation with my sister out of my head, it got my attention. She and my brother had gotten into a snarky little phone hassle, which really had nothing to do with the issue at hand, and everything to do with the baggage they both carry from our…. how they say, formative years. What a loaded word that is. For some of us anyway.

 

Then I’ve had company for a long weekend, a blast from the past. Sandy is someone I ran the streets with in my twenties. Yeah, she knows where all the bodies are buried. Probably my oldest relationship outside of family. We were doing the girlfriend endless chat thing yesterday when she said to me, “You’re the only one who asks me these questions. “How do I feel about that? What impact did that have on you”?” And she wasn’t lookin’ all that thrilled when she said it. To be honest, she isn’t the first one who has said this to me, wondered why I’m inclined toward the deep end of the pool so often. But yesterday must have been the magic hour, because it really got me wondering too…

 

I’ve shared often here about my passion for people, my fascination for what makes them tick, my predilection for watching….and how sometimes that used to cause problems, for myself and those I watched. (Nothing freaky, just general yelling and a lot of ‘scram, get outta here’s). And while I no longer stare at people with my mouth hanging open in fascination, I am still quietly captivated by the inner workings of those around me. Probably because I understand how significant my own processes have been. Formative years indeed.

 

Without being all pitiful, I will simply say that there was a lot of sadness in my years with my family of origin. There was also much rage, desperation and occasional violence, but mostly there was sadness. And man, did I hate that! We lived on a dead end street (of course) and my bedroom window looked out to the corner, where a larger street intersected, a road that ran wonderfully AWAY. I’d spend hours at that window as a child, just staring toward that road, repeating the same mantra over and over: someday I will get out of here and I will be happy. Often stated while blowing smoke rings out the window. After the age of 12 anyway, when my mother’s smokes became fair game.  My younger sister started at 8, LOL, so precocious we were.

 

That’s a sad image, a young girl hanging out of her window, smoking her way through her miserable youth, dreaming of a better future. But like the man said, those are the formative years, baby. And in repeating that mantra to myself, day after day, year after year, I was forming my escape plan, I was dreaming of better possibilities, and unknowingly, I was shaping my destiny, or the emotional landscape of my destiny anyway.

 

Because it’s true, I left that dead end street with a fire in my belly, a drive to pursue happiness that was like a heat-seeking missile. My sadness tank was filled to the brim, and I was eager to padlock that baby, throw it in an abandoned garage somewhere and chase down some joy. Ultimately, those early years of despair and confusion set the stage for the remaining years of my life, the life I chose and pursued and created out of my own longings…as we all do. I am now grateful for the youth that I had, because it shaped me into an optimist, if only in defiance of my old destiny. Come to find out, defiance is my saving grace, who knew?! That stubborn resistance has made me someone who refuses to stay in the pit, who believes deeply in joy. Difficulties, even tragedies, enter our lives that must be endured… processed. And process is the word of the day, thanks for playing, folks. My process is….yeah, this is hard…how can I get to the other side and come out happy? Or at least, not as sad. This has stood me in good stead in recent years, and yes, I am GRATEFUL. For the good and the bad.

 

But enough about me. I’m curious as ever about YOUR processes. That’s why I’m asking all these questions. What shapes you? What drives you? Or are you like my brother and sister, still letting the old signals rev up those less than positive transmitters? (Is that the correct science analogy? Highly dubious.) Do you think about the path you took in becoming you? Or if you had to identify your inner mantra, that thing you repeat to yourself or return to in a crisis, what would it be? Could you identify it? If not, what does move you forward? Or maybe it’s all random. You just drift through and let circumstances mold you daily… I did that for a while… before I identified what was quietly percolating beneath the whole time. It’s in there if you listen for it. And I’d love to hear about it, if anyone is willing to share? C’mon in, the water’s fine!

 

 

Drinking Deeply

well-w-bucket

Oy. I have one of those minds- always, always going. Not by choice, just a case of wiring. I don’t fight it anymore, I don’t really fight too much against any of my wiring anymore. Call it the wisdom of old age. Just don’t call it that to my face.

 

I wake up in the middle of the night in mid-thought. I’m always asking the questions below the question. I’m distracted watching a show because I’m wondering about the back story. My mind is just always going, like a cat’s steady purring, below the surface. And I don’t hate it. I’m curious about other kinds; my husband can just sit and rest his mind. Nothing in his hands, nothing in front of him. Just staring off into space, resting. I’m fascinated by this….and find it a bit horrifying too, to be honest. But that’s his wiring, so it too is fine.

 

What am I always thinking about? I’m realizing lately that I’m mostly considering relationships. People. How they work, how they work together, what it’s like to be them, where that might lead, what’s it all about, Alfie? I’ve always been fascinated by people. Even as a child, I’d people watch for hours. Stare, really, let’s be honest. I had no idea it was wrong, or weird. But it is, I see that now. I can recall a handful of incidents, some as old as junior high, when people I’d been staring at would finally fly at me in anger, screaming something along the lines of “go away, freak.” Yeah, that’s weird, I know. I guess at that point I just went underground, learned to keep it hidden. Because I didn’t stop. Gonna take more than a little playground humiliation to shut this weirdness down.

 

I’ve always had the odd ability to “get” people, to see beneath the surface to some of what drove them. And let me quickly say that it was not an infallible gift. I made plenty of mistakes in my own relationships. Strangely though, it wasn’t usually because I misread people, but more often than not it was because I ignored what I knew. Especially if they made me laugh. Oh baby, if you could make me laugh, I’d throw ALL insight and wisdom out the window fast. My Achilles heel, fo sho. Explains some of the insanity of my 20s. And oh yes, my 40s and 50s, who am I kidding?

 

You’d hope that this insight would make me a kinder person, a gentle person who made room for the weaknesses and wounds of others. I don’t know that that was always the case. I think in my younger years I was as merciless as the rest, as selfish in my orientation as everyone else. I just didn’t recognize it as such, even when I became a more spiritual person. At that point I may have learned to disguise my own ego, hidden it from myself and others. But of course periodically it would show itself, standing up in crowded rooms to announce its magnificence to all, whispering its malignant presence in dark nights of the soul. I’m sure my closest friends saw it, but their own kindness allowed them to overlook it.

 

We’re all on the journey, making our way down the road with whatever light we’ve discovered along the way. Maybe they just didn’t call me on my stuff. I have a strong personality, and I know that sometimes “protects” me from truth-tellers, unfortunately. I would LOVE to have someone tell me the truth about myself as they saw it, someone who really knew me and loved me enough. But that is a forgotten art in our culture, an undervalued gift. Don’t you always wonder about that kind of thing? It’s like hearing your own voice on tape; you’re shocked at the sound of it, while others maliciously testify to its authenticity. I wonder if the same is true with our personalities. See, this is what I’m talking about, the overthinking, the constant wondering…..

 

If you’re close to me, you know I’ve been fighting the aging process tooth and nail. Well, not always. I really didn’t even notice for the first 60. But I admit, rounding the corner into this decade was a shocker of the highest, blackest magnitude. Like, an earthquake whose tremors would not STOP. I think my overreaction had a lot to do with other things happening in my life at that point, but I gotta admit: I handled it as poorly as anyone I’ve ever seen. Or heard of. Or imagined. I mean, I carried ON, y’all, ain’t gonna lie. I yelled at people at parties, I fought with innocent young southern men who called me ma’am, I cried actual tears about my growing insignificance. For a few years. As other pains began to recede, or mellow a bit, this one did also. I recently saw a picture of myself on Facebook where for the first time, in my ego-driven mind anyway, haha, I looked like an old lady. I literally gasped out loud, like some sort of aging southern belle, involuntarily. Then I laughed at myself for gasping, and figured, oh, whatever. Now THAT is an improvement, baby. That is growth.

 

Which brings me back around to my original topic. My aging seems to have softened my insights as much as it has my poor body. Much less cruel. I’m still overthinking, I’m still always watching and wondering. But the things I see are far more beautiful, and yes, I mean, beauty-full. I see the same things but they are now covered with grace…deeper understanding of the human condition…kindness. No room for judgment, for condemnation. I’m way too flawed myself. We all are, and I’m seeing the deep and profound beauty of that. Every day brings news of human goodness and splendor. Yes, I overthink but if I didn’t maybe I wouldn’t notice the beauty of my new friend who fights valiantly against the sorrow and grief of her divorce. She writes her way through her pain, and her words, each of them, are a volley of hope flung against the darkness. She will one day help others making their way down this bitter road. This I KNOW. She already helps me each day as I see her strength, her willful bravery, each word written a testimony of courage.

 

Or maybe if I wasn’t so captivated by humans I wouldn’t recognize the sheer bliss of hearing from my nephew. We’ve never been close so it took a lot of guts to reach out to me and tell me that he’d recently been given a CD of my son’s music, and of how much he’s enjoying it. He’s a very talented young person, just beginning to dig deeply into his own great giftedness, so it meant a great deal to me to hear him speak of seeing the same in Zack. We live a thousand miles apart and yet we’re both learning to draw and paint, we’re both excited about music and life, and discovering this fact was a deeply meaningful highlight of my week, a gift I recognize that is about SO much more than the music. Yes, I overthink, but it brings me so much incredible joy….and life….and meaning.

 

So yeah. I’ll lose sleep to my overactive brain. I’ll miss details of the movie as I try to imagine the story behind the scene. But I’ll see the beauty before me and drink deeply, and gratefully, at its well. Sleeping will come soon enough.

 

 

The Shiny Life

I’m thinking about my aunt this morning. I didn’t know her all that well, or anyone in my family actually. That kind of thing was not encouraged; oddly, it was actively discouraged. No talking at the dinner table. Go into your room after eating. Even better, get out of the house. I have a sister, in fact, who has not spoken to me for over thirty years. No one knows why. That’s just the way they are. 

I was in junior high when my parents finally, blessedly, split. I never saw my dad or any of his family again until after I left home at 17. Every few years after that he’d blow into town and we’d go out and drink. That was our activity, I guess the only one we both felt comfortable with. And on those occasions I’d often see my aunt; sometimes we’d go to her house and start the party there. Connie was different than other women I knew, and keep in mind that in my late teens/early twenties I barely knew myself. I look back now and wonder how that was even possible… but I think I was just waiting all those years to get out of that house, to begin to live. To breathe, to BE. So I was late catching up to myself, and to fully appreciate the wonders of Connie.

 

Both she and my dad came from the school of I don’t give a sh*t. I know, it sounds disrespectful to say, to write especially. I’m sorry. You’d have to be from our family to get this. On my dad, it just came across as admirably selfish; you couldn’t even hate him for it. Once he came by my house to pick me up for something, and my first two children were downstairs playing. I asked him if he wanted to meet them, and without the slightest shame he replied, “No, thanks.” No embarrassment. It was just who he was. And I came to appreciate his self-acceptance, his blithe carelessness. I am far less damaged by those who are honest about who they are.

 

My aunt liked to go out and party as much as anyone, and they both loved to laugh. I am much more like my father and his side of the family than any of the other members of my family of origin, and I find that kind of fascinating. The genetic inclination toward fun, for laughing, for independence. I’m grateful for it, and consider it a wondrous legacy. Connie wasn’t as selfish as my dad, and in fact went on to raise a beautiful family, one that seems to overflow with deep caring, true love. When she passed away this past November, she and her amazing husband had been married for 51 years, and the love that surrounded them came off them like a force field. I’m a little fascinated by that too, as I knew her parents, of course, and it was no Ozzie and Harriet. (I’m dating myself but it works here, trust me). And yet….could it be that we arrive on the planet with our story already written, to some degree, just waiting to unfold? I think of my own family, the four kids that Paul and I raised and loved deeply from day one. Love doesn’t seem to be an indicator of a life without troubles, does it? And an absence of it doesn’t always predict drama. We’ve all seen kids raised in the darkest circumstances come out as shiny as new pennies.

 

For some reason, while I was brushing my teeth this morning I remembered a Facebook post one of Connie’s sons had written before Christmas. Something about how he didn’t feel like hanging Christmas lights on the house, but he was doing it because if she was here she’d be bugging him to get it done, and he missed that. He said he hoped they were bright enough for her to see. I’m a thousand miles away from him, but they seem very bright to me. In fact, they’re bringing tears to my eyes.

 

I didn’t come from a family that knew how to love. But it was arranged for me to have Connie in my path, even peripherally. We look alike, we laugh alike, and I would be so happy if it were true that we loved alike. My story isn’t written by my circumstances. If it was, it wouldn’t be the joyous raucous tale it is. I think we are given the gift of life, and in its meanest conditions it’s always the greatest of gifts. If you are placed in a dry barren field, and you’ve been wired for a trajectory of overcoming, and laughing, and learning to really value love wherever you can mine it, is that not still a great gift? What is better? Connie, I don’t know why but you are burning a hole in my heart this morning, and I am driven to give thanks for you today, for your superlative example of another road taken. For the way you snorted sometimes. For the kindness you showed a young girl who rarely experienced it. For the triumph that was you and Joe for 51 freaking years…. Girl, you killed it. I am forever grateful.

Flexing and the Feminine

Flexing and the Feminine

In our art tent, we hear the same thing over and over: “Oh, I could never do that, I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Boys and girls, we will attempt to dismantle that fallacy today. In the past weeks I’ve been trying to learn to paint, doing some drawing, things I haven’t done in a long, long time. I make my living making and selling mosaic art, but I am being very humbled by trying to learn a new set of skills. I like a challenge, and I love to learn, but it’s got me thinking a lot about the “muscle” of creativity.

 

I joined the Y last month and am using muscles that had been content on the sidelines, and for quite a while. My start there was also very humbling; I left in tears once, upset that I had let myself get so weak. I felt so disconnected from my younger, stronger self, like an old alien woman had replaced me. Done lost my mojo. But I came back the next day. And the next… Once I powered through the soreness, and shame… such deep shame….I eventually got to a place where I found new energy, new strength in my body.

 

We each arrive with a body, with a mind. Inside each of us is the ability to create, and some leaning toward a particular avenue of creativity. Some of us are word people, like to speak and write; more visual people are drawn to graphic expressions, others express themselves musically…and on and on. My belief is that we are created, inhabiting a created planet; it makes sense that we’d all have this gene. We can numb it, ignore it, or dismiss it…but it doesn’t leave. It is only dormant. Pick up a pen….a piece of glass…an instrument…follow whatever sparkle you’ve always loved. And yes, maybe cry a bit like me at the gym at your first attempts. But push through it, and you’ll feel that muscle begin to finally flex.

 

I’ve recently found myself, almost accidentally, involved with a group of women who happen to be, for the most part, awake to their latent creative chops. We’re in various states of disrepair; in other words, regular women. Some bear wounds that are very fresh. None of us are unscathed, of course. And what started initially as a social evening is beginning to organically develop into a haven of sorts. But what is really intriguing to me is that creativity seems to be an instrument of healing among us. One recently divorced woman is making her way through her confusion by writing words of great honesty and power…. I sit in awe of this process, my mouth hanging open in reverence…and delight. Another goes to several drawing classes a week, channeling her pain into pieces of art that communicate… STRENGTH. All of her work contains a fierceness that so encourages me. Another is a dear friend who shares my broken heart, also lost her son pretty recently. But her art journaling has been her path of healing, and watching this process has brought light into my darkness as well. In fact, I’m signing up for an art journaling class with some of these women. I can use all the healing and sisterhood I can get.

 

I so believe in the power of sharing. Lately, everything in the universe is pointing me toward the feminine. Those that know me well understand how unusual, and meaningful, this is to me. I am the girl with many male friends, or I was in the north anyway. Down here, it’s a little different…. And so am I, actually. But I didn’t like some female activities….and behaviors, to be honest. It didn’t hurt that I have a ridiculously overactive and immature sense of humor too; sorry, guys. However…. When I lost Zack, it was the sisters who carried me through. My guy friends were all terrified, I gotta say. But what’s weird is that this group of women all have had similar issues with females. And yet, we’re traveling together…. Probably with some fear and trepidation, but hey, we’re moving forward. And art and creativity seem to be the healing signs along our highway. I know in my spirit that something deeply significant is happening here. I’m excited about it, and grateful. Like I said, I love learning. Learning how wrong I was about women has been a great lesson to me, and I’m ready for more growth and creativity.

Shiny Stuff

shiny

It started with an innocent comment. My girlfriend said, in the midst of an already brilliant conversation (she’s very wise), “We need to start off 2017 with a bang, put that awful 2016 behind us definitively.” (I’m paraphrasing; I am far less brilliant). I was somewhat startled initially, she’s always pretty positive. After a moment’s consideration I was surprised to think, she’s right, at least about this past fall. Lots of relatively tough days for us Floridee folk. And I thought back to another girlfriend convo I’d had the day before, where a friend shared honestly of a struggle she’s in the midst of. More brilliance (my own genius lies in filling my life with amazing people) as she spoke of her will to fight her way out. Those conversations, those thoughts, have been percolating on my back burner all day, and now that I think of it, I realize something has been unfolding before me all week…. Wait, it’s been coming on for a while now….now that I think of it, all through this fall. A fall of hurricanes and illnesses.

 

I can’t even say it’s been a bad season. It’s had its rough days, fo sho. I cried for three days straight going through those dang water-logged photos…. But wait, I remember how on that last day, just as I had reached a fever-pitch of hysteria, a woman I don’t know well knocked on my door to tell me of a couch that was available to replace ours… she ended up staying for a few hours, we had the best visit. I discovered that although I was without a couch and most other furniture, I had made a fantastic new friend. (Yes, it’s amazing, she’s shiny too!). My husband blew me away with his dedication to putting our home back together, working around the clock for six weeks, and he did a great job. Two crazy girlfriends broke into my home to move my car out of the way when they saw trash trucks finally come into my neighborhood during my absence. I watched my beloved community come together in significant ways, and am even prouder to call St Augustine home. SO much good came out of it all.

 

So yes, even as we walked through some damp days, something warm was brewing in my spirit. Something redemptive and muscular, coming to the surface now as I sit and talk with strong women, creative women, inspiring women. And yes, some of them are speaking words of hope, dreaming of new avenues of expression, even while still on the battlefield. Because that is the message of the day, that is the way through it. Whether you’ve had a tough fall or not; your time is coming. Being a part of our communal healing is the way home.

 

Many women seem to know this instinctively. I sat with two other friends last week in a sunny courtyard, listening as one spilled her guts about her own painful situation, non-weather related, I know you feel me. We really didn’t have any words of wisdom for her, but we sat with her in it, listening, being with her as she spoke her truth. Let me add that this is a sister who’s been through it; a beautiful younger woman, she walked in on the cane she’s been using for years now. Her words spoke of being devalued by another but her spirit shouted of her strength and her open heart within. It was an honor to sit with her, to witness her, well, the word that comes to mind is glory. There is a glory that comes with being truthful, with exposing your pain honestly to trusted friends. There is symbiotic power in that giving while trusting your pain will be answered with support, encouragement and presence. She had texted me for prayer last week as she sat outside an office waiting for battle. There is power in that trust and I felt it as I read her text, and I knew the prayer I sent up was endowed with grace birthed within. I knew that her trust had jump-started something strong in me….and on…and on.

 

I’m using trigger words here, I know, but I’m not talking about anything churchy or religious. I’m talking about the Love that fills and drives and infuses the universe, seen and unseen. When women come together in solidarity, with open hearts and spirits, willing to listen and share and learn from one another….. stuff happens. Healing stuff, beautiful, messy, potent, unimaginable STUFF and I want more of it. So more and more is coming into my life, like a glorious tide of discovery and beauty. I find myself in conversations with women who want to write, who are discovering painting, who want to teach others to play and dream, who care deeply for the joy of the journey, and it’s no accident. This too is my autumn; along with the hurricane and stupid cancer, there are spiritual adventures and wonder. How am I gonna complain?

 

Take back your rough season. Gather women around you who are ready to wake up. Maybe they don’t even know it yet, maybe they just need presence, a safe place to be real. Especially in this Christmas season, a time of year challenging for so many of us. I haven’t made it through a Christmas yet without falling apart. I have a good feeling about this one, I feel like I’ve come a long way this year. I feel more like myself. Which is not to say I won’t cry. It’s absolutely okay if I do. But I know where to find some strong sistuhs to get me through if I need ‘em. And did I mention that they’re all brilliant? Christmas peace, yall.

Still Standin’

It’s all perspective, this I know.

 

I live in St. Augustine, specifically in Davis Shores, one of the two or three neighborhoods that was recently devastated by Hurricane Matthew. I’m not a whiner, but everyone in our neighborhood, like those in Treasure Beach and Crescent Beach, pretty much lost everything in their homes that was not lifted up above 2-3 feet inside. Which means all appliances, most furniture, kitchen cabinets, heating/air units, and then all of the countless items you use regularly without valuing until they’re gone. Who knew their blender was so vital?!

 

A bummer, yes, but if you’ve suffered real loss before it almost seems trivial. Material loss is so insignificant compared to other losses it almost seems ridiculous. My first morning waking up in my bed at home after a week away happened to be my birthday. We got lucky; the box springs were gone but we got to keep our mattress. It was a sunny day, by all rights MY sunny day, and I was ready to rock and roll. I am an optimist by nature, in the extreme, like everything else about me. We had lugged out everything wet to the front lawn, we had scrubbed and bleached, along with much help from many wonderful people. We decided to keep hope alive and didn’t cut our sheetrock. Instead we moved a semi-damp thrift store couch back in along with some lamps and plants and our living room looked empty but almost decent, if you ignored the floor and all the piles of family albums and books drying everywhere. To be honest, I really wasn’t that upset.

 

That night friends of ours were playing at a local pub, so we met up with some peeps I enjoy so, so much. We sat outside in the warm sweet air, listening to George and Dave crank out beauty, eating a delicious birthday meal. A number of friends who live elsewhere in summer had come in from out of town to check on their properties, and none of us had good news. Some had traveled from the mountains, some from Canada, and all arrived to some sort of shambles, as our little haven has really been hit hard. I was particularly happy to see one woman who, like me, has just gone through a rough couple of years. But also like me, she refuses to lay down, and we grabbed each other and exchanged knowing smiles, comforting hugs. I felt that more than anyone else here, with the exception of our men, she knew how little this really meant, in terms of life significance. It did me much good to see her warm smile, as well as the joy, laughter and love of all of the others. I do so love this little community and all of its magnificent people. We were all very brave that night.

 

Fast forward two weeks or so….. our initial optimism was unwarranted. We repented in ashes and sackcloth and tore out the sheetrock. More loud industrial fans, constantly, mind you. We had bought one new fridge, filled it with food, then came to realize it didn’t work; a second more insulting food loss. Same thing with the motor on the AC; paid for a new one, left the house for a weekend art show with house locked tight and the AC in war mode, chilling the mold to the death hopefully. Came home to a house eerily quiet and filled with a sweet stench; yep, the whole AC unit died over the weekend and left the house cooking in its own filth. More stories like that, times a hundred, as so many friends are going through the same struggles. Debris still in massive piles all over the house and the hood. And I find myself quietly… wilting. At first I think I’m just tired, but then I realize these feeling of loss and weariness are very familiar. I notice that when I run into friends in the same situation they too look exhausted, they mention unexplainable tears. ….I get honest with myself and cop to it: this stinks. Yes, it’s only material things but it’s tapping into buried emotions, and instead of crying about the loss of the washer and dryer I’m really missing something, or someone, far more important. That’s the thing about loss; you expend much unconscious energy daily not losing yourself to it, and then you suffer a far less meaningful loss, and those emotions get too close to the pit where you’ve buried the real pain. Exhaustion is not your friend when you’re fighting unconscious battles.

 

But… we moved here because we recognized the unique, very beautiful spirit here. It has played a huge role in my recovery from the loss of our son, and I’m so grateful that I was led here even before I knew how badly I’d need that solace. The particular beauty of the place and also its people is greater than the force of any hurricane winds, and I’ve seen so many instances of this power at work in the past few weeks. I will choose to focus on these now rather than the loss. The throngs of lovely peeps who showed up at our house immediately after we were allowed in, bringing fans and tools to help us lug out all our heavy soaking wet things; nasty work and yet we were turning people away who came to help, turning them on to our neighbors. The myriad kindnesses of strangers who traveled from near and far to drive up and down our streets offering food, cleaning materials, hugs. People who I don’t even know very well coming by with gifts of Home Depot and gift cards. The loving support and gifts from our dear artist friends and love from as far away as CA. The giant bags of candy sent by my intuitive sister. The home cooked meals, so very helpful. The friends who let us crash in their condo, and my daughter taking us in also. My girlfriend parking her camper in my driveway, allowing me to use its fridge and bed if we needed it. Friends who came by with lunch, flowers, prayers and laughs, both equally healing. Our neighbor generously picking up a dehumidifier for us when he got his. My crazy girlfriends who happened to be going by my house when the giant claw was picking up debris; seeing that my car was blocking them and that we weren’t home, they quickly called us, got into our house, found the key and moved the car in time! Friendship above and beyond! My sweet friend who came by to offer to help glue art with me so I wouldn’t fall behind in my work. SO touching! And then, the topper: offering us two tickets to see Bonnie Raitt this weekend! I’m telling you, I live in the best place! Matthew couldn’t TOUCH the love that resides in this town; in fact, he only inadvertently strengthened it.

 

I may be tired but I’m not too weary to know that the good here far outweighs the bad. If I’m going to honestly admit my weariness I’m also going to proclaim my hopefulness. We are StA strong, and it’ll take more than a hurricane to shut us down. I am thankful, and I am proud, even if I am a little grimy around the edges. Still standin’.hur