The Beauty of Bread Crumbs

The Beauty of Bread Crumbs

I can’t think of many things more essential to me than friends. And in this stage of my life, I’m referring to girlfriends. Which is odd, because I spent many of my adult years undervaluing their importance. I thought I enjoyed men friends more. They like to be silly, be outdoors, and most have little interest in gossip or shopping; they just felt like a better fit with me. Oh, how wrong I was, and my repentance is sincere and bone deep.

 

When I moved to Floridee about nine years ago and started my new life here, it took a while to really build meaningful relationships. As artists, we worked at home and left our community most weekends to take to the road for art shows. Made some fun friends on the road, a few who have become deeply significant to us, but most often they are people from all over and we see them in short weekend spurts, when our paths come together on the art show circuit. Making friends here at home would take a while longer.

 

And it’s funny how I first met Julie. I was invited by an older couple whom I adored to come to their home one night with a few others to see about being a part of their small group, a weekly gathering, back in my oh so distant church days. We told them we were spending the summer in Jerzey, and were in fact leaving the next day for about 5 months. It’s what we did the first few years down here, we still went back to our house in Jerz to do shows and visit family for the summer. But Vito said no worries, no commitments, just come see what it’s about. Out of nothing but sheer respect and politeness we agreed to attend, expecting to merely meet a few new people and be on our way.

 

Got to their house, saying my hellos, when I heard loud laughter coming in the door. LOUD laughter, and there is no better way to get my attention. My first Julie sighting, and I had no idea what kind of blessing was coming into my life. I was distracted, we all were, by the schedules Vito handed us, listing our upcoming times to host…. in the small group that we had no idea we were joining. However, I’m a big believer in following the path of cookie crumbs the Universe sets out before me. We liked Vito so much, we just thought we’d go along with it.

 

Fast forward to next fall, we return to St Augustine and take our place in the schedule. Turns out to be a good thing, as we enjoyed these new people and started meeting weekly, 8 of us. All of it part of my schooling from the Universe; it’s been a good thing for me to start over, to be less insistent on my own way. Earlier I would not have allowed myself to get embroiled in any regular hang with people until I made sure it was a good flow (for ME, it goes without saying. Yes, I was a jerk in that way, and others, I’m sure). I liked things the way I liked them. But Vito’s ways were Vito’s ways all the way, and I learned from that surrender.

 

I quickly came to enjoy so many things about Julie. I thought I was queen of letting it all hang out, but the crown was mine no longer. I didn’t even realize what a gift her straightforwardness was at that time, because it took me a few years to really find my way through the southern culture. Bless my heart. Her truthfulness was a care package from home, in a land where it is sometimes considered impolite to tell the truth. I would come to rely on Julie’s honesty again and again, and for a while, in my craziest sad days, she was like a compass to me, pointing the way to safety… to truth. Being real has always been the safe zone for me; I’m not great at reading subtle signals, at playing the games of manners, especially with females, ironically. But Julie was as real as they come; I never had to wonder where I stood with her.

 

The Universe was SO behind that involuntary gathering. A year after we started meeting one couple split up, completely shocking us all. This is what I’m saying. We met with them weekly, supposedly sharing our hearts and lives with one another, and to us it seemed to stop on a dime. Of course it didn’t, but this is the thing about southern culture. It’s sometimes hard to know what’s really happening, for me anyway. I’ve since been in another group and experienced this phenomenon for a second time. Believe me, folks, if my marriage falls apart, it shall be no secret or shock to anyone lol. Probably somewhere between my oversharing and their locked lips lies a healthy balance. And when Julie’s marriage struggled she trusted us to know it and be a part of working with them and for them to help, if possible. Sadly, it wasn’t possible, and my friend who had become so dear to me was hurting, openly. It was hard to leave her that spring when we headed to Jersey, and I had no idea that we too were heading for the worst hurting of our lives. Within five days of arriving our hearts were also broken.

 

My phone rang many times that summer, calls and texts from friends offering support. But I could never bring myself to respond, I just didn’t have it in me. The only calls I took were Julie’s. When your heart is broken there is a rest in sitting with another broken-hearted person; perhaps that’s the power of support groups. We were each other’s support group, and we made it through, carried by the kindnesses of many and of each other.

 

One of my favorite things about Julie is her capacity for dreaming. The first night I got back we drove down to the Hammock area, sat by the inlet and watched the sun set with a bucket of clams and a bottle of wine or two. She had lost her beautiful home by the water and yet she told me that night that one day she’d have a home in the woods, on the water again. After enough wine, we actually drove around and walked some of the nearby properties, out on their decks and lawns, imagining what Jul’s future home might look like. She had a passion for farm markets too, and shared with me her vision to start a local market to serve both the community and local farmers. Over the next few years I can’t say that I saw much forward movement in either of those dreams but that never discouraged Julie. She talked of those things as if they already were, and in her mind it was done.  She never stopped believing, in herself or her dreams, and that was huge for me to watch. Like me, she is an extremist. Her personality, her vision, her belief in herself… they are rock solid. I felt for a while that I was almost translucent, wispy enough psychically to blow away in a strong breeze, and being around Julie did much to ground me. She is confident without being obnoxious about it, she is sure of who she is, and I had begun to really wonder in my lostness…The Universe knows what it’s doing when it puts out those bread crumbs, it is best to pay attention. Julie was a touchstone for me, and I hope I served a similar purpose for her.

 

I don’t want to embarrass her by going on and on, but suffice it to say that Julie has been running the Salt Air Farmer’s Market near Marineland for almost 5 years, and since the fall she and her friend and business partner Sloan have been directing the Wednesday Pier Market as well. She’s also bought herself a beautiful home in the woods, right on a spring that leads to Lake George. Dreamer Extraordinaire, she knows how to make things happen. Painful losses and sorrows can hurt us for sure, but they can also strengthen us if we allow them room to do so. I have been lucky in my life, far more lucky than I deserve or ever hoped to be. I know this because of gifts like Julie, and I know that you have similar stories in your own life. Wouldn’t it be great if we recognized and acknowledged them while we have the chance? Thank you, Universe, for unwanted small groups and surprise friendships. May they ever continue.

 

 

 

 

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School Daze

School Daze

So here’s a Lovely and Unexpected Gift that has found its way to me. A little over a year ago I wanted to give myself a birthday treat. I’d been wanting to learn some mixed media techniques for the longest time, and those YouTube tutorials refuse to stay in my dainty little head. I did however keep seeing popups about Flow Art Studio in Jax Beach, offering some great classes, and when one mentioned a free art journaling class on the very day of my birth, it was clearly a sign of favor and I was all in. It meant a two hour drive but it seemed too right to ignore.

 

I kind of enjoy going to new places where I’ll know no one, and since it was a free event I wasn’t sure what to expect. Certainly nothing as delightful as what I found. I met a warm friendly group of about a half dozen women, who welcomed me eagerly, slapped a folder in my hand to contain that day’s and all future projects (again all free!), and settled in to get to know me. We painted, glued and played for a few hours, all the while sharing skills and ideas, and my initial impression was that I could learn quite a bit there if I were to keep attending. Well, yesssssss, but…. not the things I thought I was going for, only everything else in the cosmos.

 

You see, I had been wanting for the longest time to see some changes in myself. I gave myself space to grieve and grow, but let’s face it, I wasn’t crazy about all the places my journey had taken me. Grief can be, by its very nature, a bit self-consuming. And there’s nothing wrong with that; any and all parts of that process are, well, whatever they are. It is its own journey; no rules, no parameters, a bit of a perverse funhouse: all warped mirrors and little fun. It just goes where it goes, or that was my experience anyway. I was coming out of it with no self-condemnation, but that didn’t mean I wanted to stay in that condition either. Self absorption is exactly what I wanted to lose.

 

So while I debate over whether or not I’m willing to drive two hours each week to learn mixed media techniques, the Universe has a happy little chuckle at my silliness, and sets me up to get to know women who excel in giving… in serving… in global caring, seeing beyond themselves, in being amazing humans. In short, being the complete opposite of self-absorbed. And just to personalize it to the nth degree, one of them had also lost a son. All of them, in fact, were well acquainted with sorrow and struggle. Yes, dear readers, you can hear the Universe cackling now, can’t you?

 

There is much, so much, I don’t understand about how things work, but I do believe that the sincere desire for growth stimulates the process. Years ago I came up with a title for a short story I wanted to write called “Gentle by Thursday,” because I caught myself wondering if I could become a gentler, kinder person for some event happening that Thursday. The idiocy of my thinking seemed like the seeds of a funny story, and I never forgot that title. Because it is in our nature to want to change by this time next week; in other words, quickly and painlessly. If only. There goes that mad cackle again.

 

But on some level the Universe does recognize the sustained yearning of our hearts for growth… and sends us to Jacksonville for art classes. My group eventually settled out to include three or four fantastic women, sisters of the soul and so much more. My teacher guides. Robin actually runs the studio and a more generous, giving person I do not know. But Mother Teresa she is not; she’s way too much fun and quick to laugh. Not that the Mother was not; I just haven’t heard of her jokester side. Robin’s is front and center, just the way I like it. As an artist she is fine with sharing her skills and secret methods, and that alone makes her stand out in the crowd. Some artists can be the teensiest bit paranoid and overly protective….shhhh. She is brave enough to walk into the studio some weeks with no plan and just the slimmest idea of a direction, that never fails to inspire and take us all somewhere new. Her bravery extends to her business side as well, and it would have to, wouldn’t it? Giving free classes to whomever shows up, supplying all materials, just because she wants to provide people an entry into the creative world. She also offers a wide variety of paid classes, check out Flow Studio, now in Neptune Beach. If you’re lucky enough to hang out with her, be prepared to laugh while learning. She has become dear to my heart, and for obvious reasons she is known as Comet Girl.

 

Teri was probably the one I felt the most instant connection with, which is kinda funny because each week that we worked side by side, my work was always an explosion of overwrought colliding colors while Teri’s was… an ordered, well thought out triumph of calm, soothing beauty. Always significant, always speaking to me. I began to take note of our processes, our differences… and eventually our similar conclusions. We always talked as we worked and I noticed that Teri’s stories were often about serving… caring for pets at the shelters, doing early morning turtle duty during egg-laying season on the beaches… her passion for caring for the planet. She wasn’t sharing them to impress; she didn’t need to. Teri was just talking about her days, her priorities, how she chose to spend the days she’s been given. I just happened to be sitting next to her while it poured out of her. And I knew pretty quickly that her perspective was fresh and new, to me. The kindness just flowed. I’d been wanting to splash in that river for a loooooong time.

 

Jen always had her baby with her, and I think when I first met them he was maybe 6 months old, mostly sleeping in his little seat. I was just getting back to where I could be with kids again without it hurting too much, and Jen and James were the perfect reentry. I right away picked up a vibe from her that we had similar stories. I’m always drawn to those who have traveled the rougher roads; they are my people. Jen was only with us for maybe another 9 months before she moved to TN but before she left we had connected on a deep level, I think maybe because she also was looking to grow and move forward. We all were but those of us who first go backwards for a while have a deep appreciation for every step, and I loved that about her. I so love celebrating life with those drinking deeply at its cistern.

 

And Christy, well, Christy was the capper. Listening to Christy was when I first realized I was being schooled. She talked often of her work at the Mayo Clinic and another area hospital, of the hours she spent developing occupational and art therapy programs, and her enthusiasm was contagious. Some of the other women mentioned joining her and helping her serve the patients there, and I was impressed by their willingness to volunteer their time. No, I wasn’t impressed; I was more blown away. They talked about it often enough that it began to dawn on me that we were talking about regular, weekly time. It probably says something about me that it took me months to realize that Christy herself was volunteering all of this time. Hours spent developing the programs, and then tweaking them to fit the needs of each hospital and its patients, and then faithfully offering them each week to patients and hospital staff. She is not retired. She is a middle-aged, beautiful newlywed in fact, who has a story that I can’t wait to hear more of. For she, and Robin, and Teri, and Jen, is teaching me by osmosis how to live… how to give… how to wake up to generosity as a life style. I’m from jerzey; that does not come naturally to me. No offense, jerz.

 

Oddly, today is Robin’s birthday and 4 of us will gather to celebrate the wonders of this beautiful sister, who has assembled a thirsty group of artists, seemingly to learn about paint and color and creating art. It’s never that simple, is it? Her kindness and open heart has birthed so much more. We’ve kinda come full circle, birthday to birthday, and that seems like more than a coincidence to me. I am being righteously schooled, joyously recognizing the gift of transformation from the Universe. My sisters would say the same, I’m guessing. And you too…. it’s probably happening to you too, if you’re hungry enough. Happy birthday to us all, right? Would love to hear your school tales too, if you’d like to share. Funny, that school bell has a cackling sound to it….

 

 

Entertaining Angels

Entertaining Angels

So here’s the thing. I’ve been getting signs from the Universe lately about writing. Regularly. Usually when I write and share my thoughts it’s because things have been building up in my head and I need release. I feel relief when I get it all on the outside. But this feels a bit different; this feels more like, well… I don’t need to label it, right? Just do it. When the Universe is sending me personal signals that feel significant I try to go with it.

 

What would I write about? It’s been coming to me for days but tonight I just woke up at 4 with the answer fully formed and flowing in mid-thought. You. I want to write about the amazing people in my life. I am the luckiest girl in the world for a few reasons but one of the more outstanding ones is that my life is lavishly drenched with people that move me, inspire me, teach me, entertain me, and encourage me. And I’ve shared before that people have fascinated me from an early age. As a child I would get in trouble for staring at people, my mouth hanging open in wonder, just watching them interact and be so interestingly….human. It’s probably weird that I was doing it as late as junior high but there you have it. I just can’t get over the way we all think and behave and are made. But I do tend to overthink everything, I am relentlessly curious. A friend just spent last weekend with us and as the poor thing tried to watch a movie with me while enduring all of my questions/comments/thoughts, she finally turned to me and said with a baleful look, “You don’t just watch a movie, do you?” (Well, we may have been the teensiest bit stoned). My reply was, “Sandy, I don’t JUST do anything.” I’m horribly all in if I’m in at all; and this is why at 4 AM I had to get on the computer and begin typing just now.  Like I said, you gotta go with it when it’s happening.

 

A lovely woman who I’ve been getting to know and care for in the past year said a fascinating thing to me the other day. She is a Giver of the highest order, always flowing from a place of kindness and generosity from what I can tell. And she told me that she had recently bought herself the gift of a ceramic pasta set that she had been wanting for about 25 years. She laughed then and said, “I don’t know why I’ve had that in my head for so long but I have and the time was just right this week so I did it.” I got it immediately, and years ago made a similar statement about a spice rack, weirdly. But I also found it intriguing and knew there was a story in there, a story that may or may not have involved pasta. We all have them, and that is what makes life so rich, so endlessly captivating. I love people. All kinds, all ages, all backgrounds. I am deeply curious about our stories, and how we all fit together. So I’d like to write about those….

 

Of course, being female, when I woke up at 4 with this idea, this desire, pouring out of my spirit, I right away thought of reasons not to do it. Things that could be wrong with it. Why do we do that? Like, who do you think you are, that anyone would read this; you’re such an egomaniac. Yes, I am the Queen of Overthinking, but just go with it. Well, maybe no one, and that is fine. I’d still get to put into words my delight in the gifts of the people around me.

What could be so wrong with that? Well, for one thing, maybe people don’t WANT you to write about them, you need to consider that. Like your friend Maryann that you wrote about last week. You didn’t even ASK her before you outted her very personal story all over Facebook. What a jerk…. Well, I did run it by her close friend to get her thoughts on it, but I didn’t want to put Maryann in an awkward position on top of everything else….I wanted to give her and her sons honor, in my own weird way. And I had to get that stuff outta my head, that grief and pain. Writing kinda saved me in my own process…. Even though when I look back and read some of it I find my own tendency toward oversharing and gut wrenching spillage kind of embarrassing now. Well Kevan, this idea of yours could upgrade your embarrassment quota to whole new levels. Yep, I guess it could…. But the thing is, I think I’m ok with that. If I’m true to myself. Being human is kinda embarrassing if you think about it. Us running around being all….crazed with feelings and thoughts and dreams and needs…. Oh, those damn needs. But embracing and sharing and outing those things brings relief, to me anyway.  To many females, especially. So maybe I could write these things and not name the person? Oh, but I really want to, to give them props and honor and mad, mad love. So what, Kevan. It’s not all about you… much as you think it is.  Oh stop. Just stop. Get off my back, will you. Let me be me!

 

Okay then. Go ahead with your bad self. Write about your beautiful friends in all of their mad glory. Do your thing. Maybe just use their initial, instead of their full name. What do you think, readers? Initials or first names? Oh, and one final thought if I may, and this one is, well, honest and real: I am NOT looking for compliments here. Yes, I’m encouraged and flattered by all your kind words about my writing, of course. But that’s not necessarily what’s best for me. Flattery just causes me problems with my ego and I don’t need any more of that. I’d really prefer to pay respect to you, and maybe inch us all toward looking around our own lives and seeing the gifts of each other. Maybe pay it forward by us giving props to one another, privately or publicly. I know I’m not the only one blessed by entertaining angels in her life, aware or otherwise.

Maryann

Maryann

I first met her when I moved to a new town, got involved with a new community. Her son was hospitalized as a raging fever revealed the absence of a spleen, a situation ultimately fatal. Maryann’s first son, Sean, gone at nine months.

The next few years were a blur of babies, as we each had three boys, matching in ages and to a degree, temperament. It was an unexpected development for me, as was our deep involvement in the spiritual community that had opened their hearts widely to us. I never expected to marry, let alone have babies, or go to church or PTA or any of the other activities that quickly filled our hearts and our calendars. But we had already run the games out on our own terms and years on the streets and in addiction made this alternative reality pretty attractive. Very shiny. We were all in.

Feeling such a stranger in a strange land made my friendship with Maryann all the more meaningful to me. In one week I turned thirty, moved to a new town, quit my longtime job and had my first child. It was like being catapulted to an alternative universe, and I’m sure I left scratch marks on the walls, kicking and screaming my way in. Motherhood was an unexpected mystery to me and much of it unfolded through Maryann: nursing, diapers, surviving without sleep….being alone with babies and toddlers for days… A drastic change of course, but our friendship eased me in. With her I could always vent, question, dream…..wonder about so much. My love language is laughter and we did much of it, always talking about things that were real. Keeping things hidden wasn’t our style, and I don’t know if I’d have made it through those years as freely as I did without her.

I went on to have one more baby, a girl, and we both raised our kids in a bubble that seemed to promise a certain future. It took me a while to recognize it but there was much misunderstanding in our expectations. Speaking for myself, I thought if I tried to raise my kids in an affectionate home of love and laughter they’d embrace our values and morality. Simplistic, I know now, but it was the dream that we lived in and lived for. Those early years were some of my happiest; Maryann’s happiness was tempered by the loss of Sean, of course. The loss of a child doesn’t preclude happiness. It does change it, but many of us who have traversed the path of deepest grief reach a new revelation of how to live, and for some it does include joy, or a different version of it. I expected to raise and deliver happy, healthy, helpful citizens to the world.

I often wonder about the various factors that may have played a role in the alternative version of our dreams that ultimately played out. In my family’s story we struggled with addiction issues always; addiction has always been present in my life in one form or another. But that’s not at all the whole story; some of our kids were drawn into the lifestyle, others were completely disinterested. And it is the same in my family of origin. Cruelly random, seemingly. Life isn’t a simple morality tale in black and white. Human complexities plus culture plus circumstances plus….well, you get the idea. Aim in a direction that feels right and hope for the best.

It was my turn next; we lost Zack five and a half years ago. Talk about random; he had a seizure and asphyxiated on his vomit, sleeping on his back. Interestingly, our house was just opened after all the post Sandy repairs, so no furniture yet. Zack’s mattress lay on the new carpet, he hadn’t had time yet to get a bed frame. If he had would his girlfriend have heard the bed shaking and woken him? I say it again: no simple answers. But Maryann and her family were in my house for days, just showing support with their presence.

Three years later, Mare’s turn again when she lost her oldest remaining son David. Absolutely heartbreaking, and she wasn’t even my only close friend to lose more than one. And my heart ached from far away.

I’m driving back to Florida now after yet another cruel surprise for my dear friend. When her third son, beautiful Danny, was taken we drove up to sit beside them. It’s all you can do. After the service a bunch of us took them out, and as I looked at the long table of old friends I realized none of us had been spared. Not all had children who died but all knew the horrendous pain of watching their kids blow up their own lives. And in no small measures. Maybe it’s why we were all gathered, unconsciously. Our dreams have been severely challenged. We’ve had to re-examine our hopes, our own hearts, in the toughest ways. But we still had love, and there was much laughter at the table that night.

I love so many of the 12 step tag lines. Keep it simple, stupid. One day at a time. So much wisdom in these simple yet revolutionary concepts. Our dreams of a beautiful future for us and our children…they’ve been radically transfigured. We’ve had to surrender the idea of simple equations and explanations. We’ve had to learn to never compare; the entryway to endless pain and frustration. We’ve had to redefine happiness…family….future. For the worst reasons. But still….one of my sweet friends at the table that night told me today she’s found friends to be her new understanding of family. I’m so glad she’s able to grasp that silver lining. I’m so grateful that 36 years ago I became friendly with the funny girl who lived across the street. She knew sorrow deeply but she never forgot how to laugh. She never quit living…hoping…expecting goodness. I’m still standing with you, Mare. Counting it an honor of the highest order. 💛

Saddle Up

Saddle Up

Today I will be attending the memorial service of a friend recently lost, a lovely man who played a significant role in our experience of settling into St Augustine, of it feeling like home.  Vito and his equally wonderful wife, Jane, were two of the first friends we made, and that was some serious good fortune right there. A very focused man, Vito’s actions were driven by his huge heart, and the story of how our friendship deepened is kind of a funny one, revealing much about both him and us. He approached us several months after we first met, and told us that he was forming a small group to do some spiritual journeying together. He thought we might have an interest and invited us to come over and hear more about his plans, even though we were leaving for a whole summer in Jerzey just a few days later. More out of respect and affection than anything else, we stopped by that night, along with two other couples.

 

Vito met us at the door with his usual warm hug, and handed us a schedule, committing all four couples to the next six months of bi-weekly hosting and meeting, with our Jerzey time factored in and accounted for. I think the other guests were as surprised as we were. That story could have ended badly, right? But the beauty of it, and of Vito actually, was in its sense of flow. It was hard to miss the humor in it, but we all just as strongly felt the “rightness” of the plan. Something good was happening here, and when the River is flowing right, the only wise thing to do is jump in and start swimming.

 

I’m so glad we did. Two of those eight remain among my closest friends here. It will be my honor to go tonight and celebrate a man who loved chasing the River as much as I do. He spent time in his last months making specific, thoughtful plans for his last service; as I said, a man of great focus. He wanted his friends to enjoy good food, good wine, and some bocce ball. Not a bad sendoff, and I appreciate a well-planned exit.

 

If you know me well, and even if you don’t, oddly, you may have heard me speak of my plans for my own final service. They’ve been in place for probably close to 20 years now, and I mention them whenever the topic comes up because, pushy to the end, I feel so strongly about the feeling I want to communicate one last time to those I love most. Some of the specifics are…. odd. There’s some audience-participation, some physical acting out, and without giving away too much, I will caution you not to wear heels to the service. I know there will be disbelief and/or reluctance, but I figure if I tell enough of you, someone is gonna force the issue, represent for me in my first absence. C’mon, y’all, trust me one last time. It’ll be fun.

 

It came to me when I fell for this song years ago, a song that seemed to encapsulate my own energy and passion for life like no other. For me, there was only one appropriate response to this song. If you know the song and my plans, can I get an amen?! I haven’t been to a ton of memorial services but I know that as much as we want a “celebration,” it’s hard to really get to that emotion on that day. Have no fear, friends, I’ve got it covered. Obnoxious even from the grave. Geez.

 

I listened to the song about a year ago, for the first time in many years, and was kinda horrified to hear how dated it was. It now sounds pretty “pop,” not my style at all.  Some of the lyrics no longer fit as well; my journey has gone off the beaten path since then. I panicked a bit, and wondered if I’d have to actually change my plan, after bugging people about it for years…. Could I really let this song represent me? Can I really go out on a pop song??…. You laugh, but to someone who loves and needs music as much as I do, this is no small thing.

 

Interestingly, the artist is also a parent who lost a child, in a particularly horrible way. Life can take your breath away with its cruelty sometimes. He’s well known, and many people watched him survive, and go on, changed but unbent. “Struck down, but not destroyed.” That’s the thing: life comes at ya sometimes. But this song he wrote that means so much to me… it’s about the adventure we’re all on even as we travel down those rougher roads. Adventure is one of my favorite words. I wish I had the super power that could enable me to implant passion and joy into people who are struggling…or maybe are just missing those things.

 

I think I’m gonna stick with the plan. It just fits too well, with me, with my hopes for you in my absence. Yep, presumptuous to the bitter end. If my peeps come through, and you find yourself at my service doing…unusual things….remember how much healing there is in laughter. Remember the power of unexpected goodness in times of pain and loss. Remember how much fun it is to do crazy things, just for the joy. Let the river flow, y’all, in all of its crazy beauty.

 

 

 

 

Of Kindness and Delusions

Of Kindness and Delusions

Facebook literally made me laugh out loud yesterday. My “memories” included a public apology I had to make two years ago, after yelling at a houseful of guests at a surprise party we threw for friends. To tell the funny story I have to tell some sad stuff too, but that’s how life is, right? And if I’m going to have a blog I need to get this said anyway.

Almost three years ago we heard screaming as we woke up one morning, and ran downstairs to discover that our 27 year old son had had a seizure during the night, vomited in his sleep, and choked to death. There. I said it. I know, it’s brutal. My story since then has had much to do with surviving that morning and the loss of our precious son. I knew fairly soon after Zack’s death that I had to keep living but I had no idea what that would look like.

We’ve been fortunate in having an amazing community of love and support, and that makes a huge difference. I’ve always been a survivor at heart, so my M.O. was to just. keep. going. Simply said, you try to feel what you feel and go on as best you can. There were times when I cried all day but I also had many days when I laughed, and that felt like progress. The whole first year you just feel like you’re underwater, like your connection with the rest of the world is shaky, blurry and distant. You see them and interact with them but it’s all through a watery veil, and you’re the only one who is wet.

Maybe if I’d talked about it more I’d have been more in touch with what was going on inside, but what can you say besides, “I’m so sad”? It’s like an app running on your phone, draining your battery without you knowing; your worldview shifts beneath all those tears without your consent. The world had turned out to be far less secure than I thought, so inside I became very insecure without knowing it. I just wanted to fit back into the “normal” world as quickly and with as little attention as I could. I guess that was the thinking, but I can’t say for sure as I was completely uninformed of this new game plan.

Many of the new friends I’d made in Floridee were much younger than I, but that’s not unusual for me. I’ve always hung with who I enjoyed without categorizing, and never gave it a moment’s thought. I didn’t really think about it this time either, but on some level of desperate, unseen need, I took another tack this time around. I needed to be like them, not just with them. So apparently, despite reality and science and every truth known to mankind, I was now gonna be young again. Like 40. Which is crazy because I’m SO not 40. Like, I’m 40’s grandmother. But whatever. That’s the  decree that came from my trickster subconscious and I pretty much insisted that my friends all go along with it. Like I said,  I had some very supportive friends. Confused maybe, but kind. So they nodded their heads graciously when I talked about our generation, their eyes revealed nothing when I spoke of similarities that existed only in my imagination. And I went on blissfully unaware of my delusions. Ahhh, progress!

Almost a year after Zack’s passing, two things happened. The first was that we planned a surprise party for friends celebrating their 20th anniversary. I had to plan it a good month ahead as he traveled and it took a lot of coordination to make it work and keep it a secret. The second was another tragedy. Another couple in our circle of close friends lost their son in an accident, and we were all devastated. It seemed too cruel to be true, and it actually was. And while my focus initially was, of course, on helping to stand by this couple, it slowly began to knock me backwards as well. Within one month we had the loss of Brandon, then Mother’s Day, the anniversary of Zack’s death, and in the midst of all this, the party for Katina and Greg. Because it was a surprise for a lovely couple who had made it 20 years, we decided to go on, and I thought I could do it.

A BIG miscalculation on my part. Like, scary bad. As if the exorcist threw a party, complete with green slime. I was not into it. And looking back, I think I was just waiting for an excuse to lose my mind and release all of the black venom in my heart. My poor, innocent guests. Like lambs to the slaughter. At one point someone was taking a picture of me and and Katina’s daughter Savannah, a girl I adore. It should have been a nice moment. And then Katina said those fateful words: “Oh nice, Savannah, a picture of you with your OTHER GRANDMOTHER.”

Sure, they seem like innocuous words. Unless your shaky world is built on desperate irrational denial; then not so much. I imagine the black ink of a venomous octopus shooting into the room as I snarled,”Grandmother?! What did you say? GRANDMOTHER?!?!” There was a bit of nervous laughter… until I put a stop to that with another snarl, “Don’t be laughing.” And then proceeded to berate my poor friend for her cruelty AFTER I GAVE HER A FREAKIN’ PARTY. I know, it’s ridiculous, and I can’t help but shudder even now as I remember it. But the truly amazing part was that I didn’t know I did anything wrong. Everyone left soon after, what a surprise, and I went to bed and sank into a deep black octopus sleep.  I was telling the story to another friend days later and when she also laughed nervously I said, “Yeh, that’s what they did.” Kay waited a moment and then said gently, “But then you apologized, right?”

I swear that is the first time I saw it. My watery seas parted and I saw for the first time in a year how deeply delusional I had become. How insistent I was with my friends that I was their age, dammit. ….that the whole prior year had not happened. That the world was not really as insecure as it turned out to be….and yes, that we had not lost Zack.

Even I know I’m not really 40. Now. But in the moments of our lives, we can be so out of touch with all the work our spirit is doing beneath the surface of our busy days…our will to survive. My poor spirit gets a workout. As do my friends. I posted that heartfelt apology and my friends were gracious to accept. In fact, we laugh about that night now and it’s easy, it’s SO ridiculous. I asked one of my closest friends later, “How could you go along with that? Why didn’t you tell me?” Another nervous laugh as she said,”Well, I did try to say something sometimes about your outfits.”

…..wait a minute. Nobody is saying ANYTHING about my fashion choices. Release the black ink!!!!