Mother’s Day

Melancholy rolled over me yesterday for a few different reasons and while I largely tried to ignore it, I couldn’t shake it off either.

Mother’s Day is always a mixed bag for me. I try to focus on my kids and the moment and just enjoy them, but I feel my own mom’s absence even more acutely on this day because reminders are everywhere and inescapable. And then I get texts in the middle of church from my sis about how she is struggling today too and I’m the only one who understands, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to not get teary myself, both because I know she’s feeling sad and the reason why, and she’s too far away to actually see and hug today. I feel guilty sometimes that I cannot fully embrace the day and just enjoy it with my kids, and selfish that a large part of me would like to skip it completely.

So when today dawned gray, foggy, and rainy, I didn’t mind.

I enjoy posts and pics about people and their moms, but seeing them also makes me achy, so I only peek at the internet here and there or mostly stay away. People have every right to enjoy time with their moms and I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who has that privilege not to waste it, it is a thing to be treasured and cherished. Admittedly, seeing the pics, sometimes I have all the envy, but I am also happy for those people.

They passed out tulips to all the ladies at church today, and that was a thoughtful thing to do. I appreciated it.

The pastor talked about handwritten letters and how they’ve really become a lost art, and then he read a story about a woman who wrote letters, many, many letters. She had told one of her children that she had always wanted to write a novel, and they asked why she hadn’t. Her response was something about her purpose in life being to write letters and that she believed that the act of writing them could somehow connect the person to her words and they would feel them, even if the letters never actually reached them, that letters connect us to each other.

I love that thought. I love the idea that writing words about and to someone could affect them in a positive way even if the actual paper they’re written on never reaches them, and how much more powerful it must then be when they hold the missive in their hands and see the words meant for them. I have always thought of writing letters as sending a little love out into the world, maybe a little light, but this story transcended that and took the thought to a whole new level.

Earlier this week I decided to commit to writing letters again since it’d been awhile, so the timing of this felt a bit like affirmation. Going with that woman’s line of thought, that the words affect people even if they never read them, I may have to write some letters to send some love and good thoughts outward, even though I can’t mail them, in hopes that they will reach those people.

That lady may have been onto something. The notes I have from my parents in their handwriting, and especially letters from my mom, are very powerful ties to them for me. I read her words and in my head I can almost hear her voice again, her inflections, her laugh, and most of all, the love. For a brief flash, I can almost feel her presence again, enough that reading one moves me to tears every single time I see her handwriting and read her thoughts. Most of them are just simple glimpses of a few minutes of her day or week, but I absolutely cherish them.

I needed a bit of her with me today, so I wore this.

My mom apparently had a charm bracelet with four charms on it, one with the name and birthdate of each of her four children. The Christmas following her death, one of my brothers surprised us by giving my sister and me each a bracelet and my brother a keychain holding our individual charm. It has been one of my favorite pieces of jewelry since.

Judging by the scratches and somewhat worn look to the charms, I’d guess she wore the bracelet quite a bit at some point. I know some people might get the scratches polished off and make it smooth and shiny again, but those scratches mean she wore it, that it was next to her skin, and that it got dinged during her movements. To me, those scratches represent life, her life, and this simple little bracelet is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.

I’m not really sad, but my heart is a bit achy. I’m enjoying the day and trying to relax. I decided to come home and put on some of my favorite soft clothes with a touch of black lace (I am a huge fan of black lace) and now that it’s quiet, I’m about to curl up with a cup of tea in my mom’s teacup (Mom loved her tea) and a book I’ve put off reading because even though I know it’s really good, when I started it months ago, I was in tears before page 3, so tremendous was my empathy for the protagonist, and I put it back down because I didn’t want to be weepy. Today seems like a good day to pick it up again and dive in, because I feel a little weepy. I think I kind of need to cry a little.

And that’s not a bad thing, or even a sad thing, not really. It’s actually a joyous thing, because I was so blessed, so fortunate to have once been so loved that the loss of that love and that understanding has echoed through 19 years and is felt every bit as strongly today as it was then.

So today I’m a little teary. And grateful for it.

But my kids make me smile.

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Letter to My 10-Years-Ago Self, an excerpt: Things I’ve Learned

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[I am participating in a 30-day writing boot camp (and pretty jazzed about it). Our first assignment was to write a letter to our 10-years-ago self, and then finish it up with some life lessons learned. Turns out I had a LOT to say to my 10-years-ago self, mostly quite personal (it’s been an eventful and at times very difficult decade). I surprised myself by writing for a solid 90 minutes and roughly 2600 words. Beats staring at a blank page with writer’s block. Anyway. Here’s the excerpt of the things I told my 10-years-ago self that I have learned in life thus far, including the last 10 years.]

1. Middle-age isn’t nearly as “old” or as bad as people make it out to be. You will really not mind being here. You are much more comfortable in your own skin. You worry far less about what you look like or whether people like you. You are much more comfortable with an attitude of “This is me and I make no apologies for being me.” This especially holds true in regard to your being sensitive and deeply feeling, so very high in empathy. You no longer care if people think you’re “weird” in your depth of feeling or the way you think, or look at you like you’re from another planet. This is very freeing. You now think, “Love me or leave me, this is me.” It has taken you a very long time to fully embrace who/how you are. It’s about dang time.

2. One of the biggest lessons of the decade – and most difficult: You need to stop giving your precious time to people who don’t have time for you (we’re still working on this one – Self, we’re bad at this).

AND

3. Other people’s behavior is not a reflection of you. The fact that some people don’t value you does not mean you don’t have value and worth. Your worth comes from within, not from without. You cannot let people mess with your head and your heart in that regard the way you have in the past. (Self – Be patient with yourself. We have to undo years – nay, decades – of negative reinforcement in this area.)

4. One of THE most difficult things to do is to trust again after being devastated, to be vulnerable again after having been deeply wounded, to reach out again after being rejected. Do it anyway, no matter how terrifying it is; BUT be discerning. Choose wisely. Even then, you can (and will) get kicked in the teeth on occasion. You WILL get hurt. But being vulnerable is how you reach people. It’s how you connect and encourage. It’s who you are and when you close yourself off, you’re not being true to your authentic self. You’re being just a mere shadow of yourself and it just feels wrong. I know this is really tough for you, that it would be so easy to close off and become cynical, and honestly, it will hurt like hell sometimes, but fight that and stay open. Believe me, I know how very hard that is to do, how very scary it is to risk all that hurt yet again, but I have to believe some people really are worth the risk.

5. People will disappoint you. Even if you have very few expectations or none at all, people will still disappoint you. We are all human and flawed. It will happen. It’s how they behave next that matters. COMMUNICATE. Always listen and work toward understanding why people do what they do. Be forgiving.

6. You will disappoint people. You are nowhere near perfect. You are very flawed. This does not make you disposable, not good enough, or unlovable. Own your mistakes. Apologize. Make it right if you can. Again, COMMUNICATE. The people who truly care will not leave you because you make mistakes. You are NOT your mistakes.

7. Your dark periods and tough times will show you who your true friends are. The people who draw near when you are at your lowest or most difficult and not great to be around – those are the people who truly care. They are there for you, not because they need or want something from you or because of what you can do for them, but because they care about you. Keep those people.

8. Everyone has hurts, struggles, insecurities. They are often not visible. Be compassionate. It is not difficult to be kind and give the benefit of the doubt. We don’t know what people are carrying, and we all carry something. Sometimes a word can be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back or a literal lifesaver. Being kind is always an option. It is a choice. Always choose to be kind.

9. You will never not make a stupid face in photos except for that rare selfie (and you know how hard that is!). Give it up and just laugh at all the many derp faces people capture of you and try not to avoid the camera like the plague. I know you HATE having your picture taken, but your kids will cherish those derp photos some day, so force yourself to be in more photos. You know how much Mom avoided the camera and as a result how few pics you have of your parents, especially Mom, and how much you cherish the few you do have. So do it for your kids so they’ll have those precious memories. (It’s not like they aren’t an accurate reflection of your true goofy self anyway.)

10. Laughter and a sense of humor are still – always – one of the most imperative necessities in life and one of the things that makes life worth living. Never lose your sense of humor. There are bad things coming and your sense of humor will help save your sanity.

11. Time is fleeting. It goes faster and faster. Focus on what matters most (people – it is always people.) Spend as much time as possible with your kids. You will blink and they will be graduating, engaged, starting lives of their own. You won’t believe how fast it goes. I still struggle with it some days.

12. Say I love you. Say it often. Tell people how you really feel about them. Never assume they know. You’ve always been aware of this and pretty good about it, but it bears repeating. We both know how life changes on a dime and people are just gone in literally a heartbeat. Make sure people know how you feel about them. It avoids regrets, yes, but even more importantly, they need to know. Don’t make people wonder where they stand with you or question if you even care. That’s an awful place for someone to be. (You know, you’ve been there.) Remove their doubts by telling them. Trust me, they need to hear it, even if you’ve told them before or 100 times before. It can make all the difference if you take the time to tell someone that they matter to you, that you care. Don’t take for granted that you can do it later. Sometimes now is all you have.

We have much, so much to learn, Self. I swear every year we realize more and more how little we know. Hang in there. Here’s to us both growing in wisdom and grace over the next 10 years and to making 10 years from now me/us proud of who we become.

On Movies, Stories, and Buried Treasure

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Awhile back, I watched Life of Pi. It was beautiful. I believe I had read “visually stunning” and I cannot argue with that. I am sorry that I did not see it on the big screen. Some of the scenes literally had us “oohing” and “aahing.”

What’s interesting to me is that one of my kids was kind of interested in seeing it, one had heard it was about a boy and a tiger and wanted to see it, and one had heard from their friends that it was “long and boring” and not worth seeing, so didn’t really want to see it.

I mentioned that maybe they didn’t care for it because it wasn’t your typical exciting movie, but that did not mean it wasn’t a movie worth watching, a story worth hearing. Some movies have a slower pace and require that you give them a bit more of a chance, a bit more of an investment, but they can surprise you.

After it was finished, they were all glad they had seen it. They all liked it a lot and the one who had heard it was “boring” was glad they had not listened to their friends and had watched it with us.

It wasn’t an action movie. It wasn’t wildly exciting and didn’t have us on the edge of our seats. It required some investment up front to get to know the main character, learning his back story, before we could understand the main part of the story.

The movie really was beautiful to look at, but it also had, I thought, many subtle insights into human behavior, and some subtle lessons, woven throughout. It was well worth the time invested.

And this started me thinking …

Sometimes it is the same with people. There are those who are loud or flashy or charismatic or funny or outgoing (all in a good way) and immediately draw our attention, much like an action movie or a thriller. They draw us in right away.

Then there are those who may be shy, or quiet, or maybe who have been hurt and are a bit more hesitant to engage, or are just a bit different from us, so we either tend to overlook them because they don’t draw our attention, or maybe they are just a bit harder to get to know, for whatever reason.

Those people can take a bit more investment, a bit more persistence, a bit more “work” to get to know them. Some of those people may be written off as “boring” or “not worth the time.”

Take the time. Make the effort.

I often think of people as buried treasure, not unlike a sunken ship or a diamond mine. Some take more time and effort to get to the good stuff, but oh the payoff.

People are treasure and to be treasured. I believe I can learn something from every single person with whom I cross paths. I believe that people matter and that they contain a wealth of good things, i.e., treasure, though often we need to take the time to “dig” for it, as it is not always readily apparent. I like to think of myself as a “treasure hunter” and my treasure is found in people.

You may be surprised at what a treasure people are if you invest a little time, if you give them a chance. They are worth it.

Everyone is.

There is not a person alive who does not have a story to tell.

They might not be the most captivating storyteller. They might not have the most exciting story. Or maybe their story is absolutely stunning, just told in a simple way. Maybe they have a story that you need to hear. It could be a funny anecdote that is just the bit of humor needed to brighten your day. It could be the start of a wonderful friendship. It could be a lesson that is life-changing.

It could be buried treasure.

Pens and Pencils

This writing prompt asked when was the last time I wrote something substantive by hand, be it a letter, story, journal entry, etc. It also inquired whether I could ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era.

This is an easy one for me. I write by hand all the time. I carry notebooks and journals with me. I have one next to my bed, one next to my chair, several backups ready to go. I always have one nearby for jotting down thoughts and ideas.

I have a fondness for handwritten letters. To me, there is no substitute for the personal touch. When someone takes the time to sit down and actually prepare a handwritten letter for me, I deeply appreciate the time and effort that takes, particularly in our electronics-driven world of instant gratification.

My stash of stationery, ink stamps, and stickers is rather large. My love of writing utensils is unending. I am tickled that my daughter shares this passion. We wander the aisles of all things paper and writing together with glee.

It’s probably a natural extension of these things that this past year I have begun to attempt to teach myself calligraphy. I want to learn the Spencerian/Copperplate style the most. It will take a great deal of practice, but I am hoping to be fairly decent at it by the time her wedding invitations need to be addressed. Hand lettering is a form of art, to me, a creative outlet, and one I very much enjoy, even if I never become proficient at it.

While I cannot imagine going back to the days of typing pre-keyboard, with Wite-Out and carbon copies and all the headaches that entailed, and certainly I very much like the instant access to faraway friends and family, as well as my children, via texting and email, I don’t think I will ever tire of writing some things out by hand.

There is just something about the flow of ink, the forming of letters, feeling my words travel from my brain, down my arm, through my fingers, and out my pen onto the paper, that delights me.

Handwriting, to me, is as unique as a fingerprint. Just seeing the handwriting of certain people can instantly bring tears to my eyes because of the love the very sight of their handwriting immediately conjures.

With online friends, I sometimes request a sample of their handwriting, because not knowing what that looks like feels like an essential piece of their puzzle is missing for me. The thought that I would not recognize their handwriting if I saw it feels very wrong to me.

I fear that knowing and recognizing a person’s handwriting will be something that future generations largely miss out on, and that makes me sad. I hope there will be a resurgence of handwriting and that schools will bring back cursive.

My handwriting is an integral part of me and how I express myself to others, and when I take the time to write to someone, I put a lot of myself into that simple expression, specifically tuned to the recipient, because it’s one way I try to show that I care about them, and I always hope that comes across.

Pens and pencils, ink and paper, to me, are some of life’s simplest pleasures.

Thankful Thursday

I would like to make this a regular thing and I just realized today is Thursday (it’s been a crazy week with cancellations, snow days, reschedules that were then cancelled), so two posts today.

Off the top of my head, today I am thankful for:

  1. Snowplows, snow shovels, and men/boys to utilize them! Also that as much snow as we have, that we have nowhere near the amount some places in New York have received this week. My heart and prayers go out to the families of the people who were lost in that sudden mess.
  2. The fact that when my husband was being kind and plowing someone’s driveway (for free on a regular basis) an hour ago, they weren’t upset when he accidentally banged his side mirror against theirs and broke their glass. Unfortunately, his truck has those fancy very expensive telescoping mirrors and while his glass didn’t break (that would’ve been the cheap fix!), the arm did and now it’s hanging down the side of the truck by the wires. Sooooo, I’m thankful it was the passenger side and not the driver’s side while we figure out how to pay for that unexpected expense that just occurred.
  3. Yarn. All the yummy yarn. Every year once serious snow hits I suddenly want to make ALL the projects. I’ve decided to make a few cowls/snoods/neck warmers for Christmas gifts and maybe try to sell a few too.
  4. My sister. There’s nobody in life quite like a sister. We have known each other longest, irritated each other longest, loved each other longest, cheered each other on longest, and been there for each other through it all, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright devastating. There is no other relationship in my life quite like it, and I would not trade the one I was blessed with for anything. She’s beautiful and she rocks.
  5. My Baby Girl comes home tomorrow!!! Squee! (Yeah, I went there.) I am so excited to see her and hug her and hang out with her and cook with her and shop with her and … you get the idea. I. CAN’T. WAIT. I’m now crossing fingers and toes that the weather is decent, the snow stops, and the bridge is safe for crossing.

A Book or No Book? That is the Question

Do I have a book in me?

This is actually a question I’ve been pondering for a while now. I had a dream several months ago about being in a bookstore when a book caught my eye. I picked it up and saw, to my utter astonishment, that the author was yours truly. The idea of the book certainly appealed to me. It was a bit of a variation on a theme, taking, in part, something I have been doing for the last few years as a result of blogging and putting it into book form.

The dream surprised me. It caught me off guard, as I had thought about writing a book for years, but nothing had really solidified in my head as to what direction that would go or what that book may look like, other than it would be nonfiction. The dream was fairly clear in that regard.

As a result, I have been jotting down notes and ideas for the past few months. I ran the idea past an online writer friend, another friend who professes to love my writing, and my adult daughter, whose opinion I value highly. I expected three very different people/personalities to yield three very different opinions.

Instead, each of them told me it was “perfect for me,” that it’s basically what I have been doing all along, and that it’s something they would read. So.

I may have a book in me. It remains to be seen.

Even if I do, no one may have any interest in it beyond the people in my immediate sphere. I am sure that there are tens of thousands of aspiring writers who write far better than I and whose works are never published. For me, it would be far less about being published, and far more about the actual writing of it and the satisfaction of having accomplished it.

The more I have sat with the idea for a while and let it rattle around in my brain a bit to see how it feels (keeping the details of that particular dream largely private for now), the more I have thought that it is something I would like to do. The conclusion I have reached is that if no one but my children were to ever read it, it may be worthwhile just for them to have for their journey down the road of life.

Thus, with a second snow day this week today and what may shape up to be a very long winter indeed, after the holidays I may have some long cold days to cozy up with my notebooks and pens or my laptop and attempt to begin the process of getting the ideas out of my head and into written form.

We shall see.

Controversy

“I just can’t believe all the things people say, Controversy …”

Today’s writing prompt asks what is the most controversial thing I’ve ever written on my blog.

I strive for honesty in expressing my opinions in my posts, as in life, but always respectfully and always trying to see the other person’s point of view. I have shared my thoughts elsewhere on the web before starting this blog, and I shared one of those posts, http://www.blogher.com/yesallwomen-yesallmen, on BlogHer last spring.

At the time, it was a trending topic and as it is something that has affected me in various ways most of my adult life, I felt I should share some of that, with the hopes that maybe it would give people who didn’t understand it well a better glimpse into the ways it can affect a person.

I don’t know how controversial it was, since it was just my own personal thoughts and experiences, but it is probably my most read post in any forum, especially considering it wasn’t featured anywhere and it was my very first post on that particular blog site.

“Thirty-Two Plus a Few, Thirty-Four Plus some More”

Do I enjoy growing old or do I fight against it?

Yes.

There are things to dislike about growing old.

Duh. Of course there are things to dislike about growing old. The list is long! There are the dreaded wrinkles and sags. Our bodies begin to creak and groan. Things begin to grow in weird places. Hormones can get whacky. We don’t recover as quickly as we used to or have the same amount of energy we once did. We have far more responsibilities than we did in our younger years. Some days we feel old and tired.

I’d like to say I proudly declare my age and embrace it, but I really don’t share it. People seem to think I look younger than I am, and I rarely feel the need to disabuse them of that notion, I think in large part because my mother ingrained in me when I was younger regarding a woman’s age that “a lady never tells and a gentleman never asks.” She had a thing about no one knowing her age, and for a very long time I really didn’t know how old she was. It might have had something to do with the fact that whenever one of us kids would ask her how old she was, her answer was always, “32 plus a few” and a few years later, “34 plus some more.”

But wait, there’s more!

Indelible Marks

I think …

Some things just leave an indelible mark on your soul.

The words that cannot be unheard.  The sights that cannot be unseen.  The actions that cannot be undone. The events that cannot be unlived.

These indelible marks are imprinted on our souls so deeply that we are forever fundamentally changed in some way.

We can move on from them, overcome them.

Unlike scars, that sometimes can be seen, but do eventually heal.

I think these indelible marks are like invisible ink, unseen, often forgotten.

Until circumstances are just right and, suddenly, like invisible ink, there they are, coming to light, surprising us, making us realize that they were there all along, still affecting us.

I also think …

that these marks don’t always have to be negative.

That you can leave positive indelible marks on another’s soul.

With caring.  With compassion.

With love.

You can mark another’s soul so deeply that those marks can come to light when they least expect it as well.

Giving them something to cling to in a time of grief.  Faith when they are lost.  A warmth in the cold.  A light in a dark night of their soul.  A reason to hold on.

Be mindful what indelible marks you leave on another’s soul.