Sylvia spent most of the day purging. Dresser drawers of mismatched socks and threadbare pjs. Closets of dresses and outfits that no longer aligned with her body or attitude or both. And shoes. Ah, yes, more than a dozen pairs of shoes that were gently worn, overworked, or had never made it onto her feet. She made room in her physical space; and at the end of the day, she felt her mind might actually have some room for fresh thoughts and ideas, too.
Erma rejoiced at the news and praised her friend for finally shedding some weight. “Now that you’ve scaled back on things, scale back and free yourself from people. Reduce your tribe to those who feed your soul, those who accept you without condition, and those who don’t run from your tears and sorrow. You need to be more discerning when it comes to who knows your secrets,” Erma cautions.
Sylvia, priding herself on the headway she made today, sighs. She knows that Erma is right. She has allowed those with no true interest in who she is becoming to stay and weigh in. “Tomorrow. It begins tomorrow. A smaller inner circle and more attention to the person who deserves my attention the most. Me!” **************
Solitude and loneliness are not related. The former celebrates the peace and contentment she gains from her own company. The latter reaps strength and rears its ugly head when she makes herself smaller for others. **************** “Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people—it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” ~ Parker Palmer
Although the house is still in darkness and the coffee has yet to brew, Sylvia, unable to tolerate her restlessness a moment longer, rises well before the sun. The early hour necessitates illumination of the Christmas tree much to Sylvia’s delight. Coffee by the tree in total silence amidst the twinkling lights sounds like a perfect way to start the first week of the year. And yes, the tree is still up (until the sixth at least) as was her mother’s custom. The only thing lacking this morning is a generously powdered, raspberry-jelly-filled donut.
Sylvia, bypassing the automatic setting on the coffeemaker, awaits her daily tonic with a favorite mug at the ready. Unlike most mornings when she rushes to consume that first cup to jumpstart her, today she purposely and patiently delays because she wants this feeling that is washing over her to linger as long as possible.
Hearing the three beeps signifying the end of brewing, Sylvia picks up her pace. After pouring that first cup, she shuffles from the kitchen across the dark hickory floor to claim her presence and this day by the tree. Being careful not to spill a drop, Sylvia facing the tree slowly squats, smiles satisfyingly, and raises her mug. “Cheers to the ultimate purveyors of jelly donut love! How lucky I have been to live this life as your daughter!
Today would have been their sixty-third, and I’ll repeat that which I have posted in recent years and have felt every year since my mother’s physical absence here in the world because it still and always rings true. (I’ve edited a bit now that Dad has passed and has been reunited with the love of his life.)
I feel my mother’s presence more than ever. She continues to give me strength. He continues to teach me even in his absence that all that matters is right now and what is in your heart. Their example – their devotion to each other, to me and their other children, to their grandchildren, and to extended family, friends, and community– allows me to get through each day and find something to smile about in the face of all of life’s chaos. I’ll celebrate them today in their way, going about the business of life.
While she taught me to keep going no matter what, he showed me in the end the importance of resting quietly in the moment. Like hummingbirds, she soared and flitted, and he perched and rested. One was left behind to face the world alone without the other, but the bond between them was never broken. It grew. It provided strength to the other. Her soulful and spiritual energy fueled him. The love, the friendship, and the mutual respect endured. I saw that each time in his eyes when I mentioned her name and in those moments when he thought I was his wife. Now, he has her back in his arms again. I believe that because I will forever subscribe to the power of jelly donut love.
Happy anniversary to the two people who modeled what true love, partnership, friendship and respect are. I’ve been pulled and pelted and torn, and it is only because of your love for me and the love you showed each other that I remain hopeful and able to get up again. Thank you for teaching me how to love, how to parent, and how to live. **************************
Sylvia, entranced by the dancing flickers and soothed by the warm morning elixir, has not even noticed that the day has dawned. Almost jolted, she finally hears the neighborhood coming to life; everyone readies for this new day as if it is any ordinary day. How lovely it is for Sylvia to carry deep within her the knowledge of how special this day truly is.
Indeed, there is solace knowing that the best days can be lived forever in the feelings that such memories have embedded on the soul. Happy heavenly anniversary, Mom and Dad. You always celebrated on this date, and no matter what else comes to pass on the tenth day of Christmas, I’ll smile and dream that those ten lords-a-leaping were hopping and dancing about reveling in the obvious joy you shared and showed the world.
Just a friendly urging that in the process of going about your life, you hang on to who matters most and make sure you leave nothing left unsaid.
“Love knows no reason, no boundaries, no distance. It has a sole intention of bringing people together to a time called forever.” – Unknown
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Is it though? I don’t know about you, but every single Christmas, though blanketed in tradition, has been markedly different. Not better or worse, but different.
I have done as much shopping and preparing as I am going to do this year. A lot less than last year, so Christmas is definitely looking different. I am not apologizing this year for feeling less than joyous; that’s a big change. I’m not taking blame for raining on anyone’s parade either. That’s a biggie, too. So, is it really looking like Christmas? Yep, I think it is. It finally is.
My gifts this year to you, to those whom I love and show up for each day, and to myself (for whom I’m only beginning to show up) are grace and forgiveness. They go hand-in-hand. I’m learning. Grace isn’t about being gracious or delicate. Grace is bold and tough as nails. In fact, this year, I’ve learned that grace often cloaks itself in armor – not an armor that protects me from others, but an armor that protects me from myself. Grace allows me to rise. Grace permits me the space I need mentally and physically to breathe and make it through the day. Grace empowers me. It restores my faith in a humanity that often seems to be disappearing before my very eyes. That’s a new look for Christmas, wouldn’t you say? Attempting to reconcile living in a world where our lens has become focused on self-interest and disrespect rather than tolerance, acceptance, and pursuit of the greater good? Now, that requires grace and invites forgiveness, wouldn’t you say?
The look of Christmas? Learning to forgive is a big part of it. Forgiveness changes the landscape. Forgiveness for me this year means letting go. It is not for me to judge and absolve anyone else of egregious sins or hurtful behaviors. I’ve committed plenty of both, I’m sure. I’m human after all. What Christmas looks like in terms of forgiveness for me this year is completely different than it was last year, the year before, or even ten or fifty years ago. As we lose those who shaped us and gain others who help us find new ground, forgiveness changes. It moves from perfunctory to profound, in hindsight, of course.
At ten, I feared lumps of coal because of spats with my siblings or falling short in school or fleeting bad feelings about my parents. In my twenties, requests for forgiveness involved momentary lapses in judgment related to indiscretions, promiscuity, and discovery as well as not measuring up to the community in which I was educated. Thirties? I didn’t forgive myself…ever. I never asked for absolution, cleansing, or forgiveness because I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t think I did anyway. I had a child and a husband and a home. Forgiveness was a luxury. I got exactly what I deserved, good or bad. Forties? Forgivable forties? Fuck that. I was too busy. I didn’t think about grace or forgiveness. Life in auto-pilot when your spouse decides his pursuits are more meaningful and you’ve a child to launch and parents to honor. My 40s gave me nothing and everything. They taught me the most, punished me the most, and rewarded me the most. Irony, indeed.
And here I am, on the cusp of my 58th Christmas (actually 59th) “celebrating” the look of Christmas and I’m talking about and reconciling everything, particularly grace and forgiveness. They go hand-in-hand, I think. This year they do anyway. Next year, who knows?
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Christmas is the life we celebrate on one day and should fete all year long!
Sylvia is feeling vulnerable, emotional, and overwhelmed this weekend as she considers all that has to be accomplished before Christmas and the new year, much of which has absolutely nothing to do with the holidays. Erma, in her infinite wisdom after years of agonizing to produce the perfect celebration and realizing there is no such thing, shares a newly acquired tidbit that leaves Sylvia feeling more empowered, not like with the force or toughness of a superwoman or wonder woman but perhaps with the mightiness of one of Santa’s reindeer.
Did you know that male reindeer lose their antlers after the fall mating season? Female reindeer keep theirs.
“All of those guiding the sleigh, Syl? A group of badass women with a sense of purpose and direction!”
Sylvia, amused and enchanted, thanks her friend and knows now that “she’s got this” whatever this may be. 🌲🎄❄🎄🌲❄🎄🌲❄🌲🎄❄ Male reindeer lose their antlers in winter and females don’t. Therefore Santa’s sleigh is actually pulled by a team of strong, powerful, underrated women!!!!! YOU GO, GIRLS!! I SEE YOU!!! (@catreynoldsnyc)
“Hitting Black Friday sales today, Sylvia?” Erma asks her friend, even though she already knows that the two of them made a pact long ago to swear off malls, grocery stores, and shopping of any kind the day after Thanksgiving.
Sylvia, almost choking on her coffee as she entertains the gruesome thought and visualizes the throngs of overzealous consumers, replies, “I stand by the agreement we made long ago, Erma. No shopping on this day. Not even online. I’m offline and out-of-network. Simply being is more than enough today.”
“Just wondering if you needed me to remind you that it will all be there tomorrow. I’ll save you a place in line then if you wish,” Erma assures her.
“Don’t bother. Not this year. Hopefully, you’ll never have to wait and hold my place for me again. I’ll always accompany you, walk alongside you, and then commiserate with you ad nauseum about how stupid we are leaving holiday shopping until December, but you’ll not need to hold a place for me. I’m claiming my own space. Wherever I go, Whatever I do, and whenever I need to remind myself of where and to whom I belong — I’m on my way home and making my own space for anything and everything along the way.”
Erma, beaming at Sylvia’s words of confidence and tone of determination, declares in an equally committed voice, “No sales ever. You own your space, and you paid full-price. So worth it, Syl. So worth it.”
**************** The world belongs to you as much as it does to anyone else. Claim your space.
Erma, with furrowed brow, looks at her friend, and rejects the idea unequivocally. “God, never. You know better than to even think that I’d adulterate my first brew of the day in such a way.”
“It’s National Pumpkin Day though. You’ve got to celebrate the famous fruit of the season! Come on. Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin cheesecake? Pumpkin ale? There is a plethora of the orange autumn fruit’s offerings out there. Choose something.”
Erma, with her hands wrapped around her stoneware mug of choice, puts forward her intention of the day, “I’ll fete the fruit in my favorite way – with memories I’ve made and shared in patches over the years.” **************** What’s not to love about autumn in full bloom? The sounds, the fragrances, the colors… Oh, the glory of it all.
How will you celebrate National Pumpkin Day? Do what makes your heart happy and your soul dance. ~k.morgan 🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁 Come said the wind to the leaves one day, Come o’re the meadows and we will play. Put on your dresses scarlet and gold, For summer is gone and the days grow cold.” – A Children’s Song of the 1880’s
Some days, most if truth be told and we are truly committed to appreciating and living in the present, we should only pay attention to what is right in front of us. It is what can bring us the most peace and comfort. It is okay to put on blinders once in a while; they allow us to keep our eyes open and focused on what is important. And more often than not, we discover, Sylvia & Erma discover, the what is a who. Who is most important in your life? You.
A bit worn this midweek but in the best way – from multiple days of self-care, a change of scenery, and a bounty of unconditional love – the “blinders” are helping. Twenty-four hours of worrying, lamenting, and second-guessing herself gets wearisome each day, so Sylvia opts for the here and now. The blinders can be eye-opening and restorative. ****************
Some days, 24 hours is too much to stay put in, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-size pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness. I actually put my hands up to my face, one next to each eye, like blinders on a horse. ~Regina Brett
Hazelnut eyes. Cherry lips. Milky complexion. A bit of a muffin top. A few spoonfuls of cottage cheese (in places that only she can see). Our body parts and appearance are often compared to food, from all types of the required food groups to even some of the more forbidden and indulgent. We move through life allowing ourselves to be both pictures of a veritable feast for the eyes and a shameful smorgasbord of gluttony and a lack of self- control.
Today, after Sylvia and Erma exchange pointed comments about their own diets, they force each other to see the beauty and wonder of their midlife bodies.
Yep, a feast. A smorgasbord. Delicacies and deliciousness resulting from lives well-lived and survived. Joys celebrated with cakes and muffins; disappointments swallowed with milkshakes or wine; dilemmas pondered and cracked like nuts.
A well-balanced diet looks different on each of us, so feed your soul – mind, body, and spirit – in your own way.
“All of you shows and is multiplied in everything you do, so know yourself and take care of yourself first, so you can live on purpose and contribute from a place of abundance and overflow.” ~Anton Uhl, FEEDING BODY, MIND AND SOUL: How What Goes In Changes Everything
It is the last day of summer, and Sylvia and Erma are feeling less ambivalent about summer’s ending and autumn’s beginning.
“The year has four perfect pieces, Sylvia. I love its definition, don’t you?” Erma asks.
Sylvia, after a long day of trying to arrange her thoughts and her schedule, considers both Erma’s comment and query before offering her perspective.
“It is four pieces, yes, but I wouldn’t say perfect. Four unpredictable chunks of time. And honestly, that is what I like most about the year. It is broken into parts, and we don’t try to make those parts more or less than they are. Even when the seasons don’t end or begin as they should weather-wise, we accept them as they are. In the end, they always make a year. They make up a whole.”
Erma, very aware of Sylvia’s penchant for overthinking which occasionally borders on wearying rumination, nods her head in gentle agreement. **************** Pieces do not have to fit together perfectly. They are not always indicative of brokenness. In the end, their edges – their beginnings and endings – may create a different pattern, but they still result in wholeness.
You are not broken. You are whole regardless and maybe even because of imperfections.
“Smiling so profusely on a Sunday?” Erma asks her friend with a tone of disbelief.
“Don’t seem so surprised, Erma. That is a genuine grin of satisfaction,” Sylvia counters.
Erma, still a bit perplexed but bringing herself to delight in her friend’s newfound countenance, replies with an equally broad smile, “Isn’t it a peaceful feeling when you can finally stand and listen to your own voice?”
Indeed. Be your own person, and be the person you listen to first!” ****************
“The Voice” by Shel Silverstein
There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long, ‘I feel that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.’ No teacher, preacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what’s right for you – just listen to the voice that speaks inside.