Unambiguous Vanity

“A gray mood, Syl, but when I think of you, I never picture you in gray,” Erma reveals candidly.

“Gray doesn’t suit me, not today anyway,” Sylvia admits.

Sylvia, taking an afternoon coffee break, ponders the seemingly innocuous comment made by her best friend earlier this morning when they chatted via Facetime, itself a rare occurrence for them as they rather look forward to conversations sans the impediment of visual aids. She sits on the bench in the great room, stares searchingly for clouds in her coffee, and finds none. Not a cloud or daydream to be had. For a change, she decides not to fret about the lack of creativity today. She is feeling melancholy which Erma obviously noticed, but she takes a bit of pride in her decision to go black and bold today. Taking the last remaining sip of liquid energy, she commends herself, “I’m not holing up or fleeing from anything or anyone. Let there be no ambiguity in my choices today. No gray. Only black.”

Today, black is decisive and almost vain. And isn’t that what we all need on occasion? Tomorrow, you get to choose all over again.
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“She also considered very seriously what she would look like in a little cottage in the middle of the forest, dressed in melancholy gray and holding communion only with the birds and trees; a life of retirement away from the vain world; a life into which no man came. It had its attractions, but she decided that gray did not suit her.”
~A.A. Milne
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#overfiftyandfine #womensupportingwomen

Simple Abundance

Say these three words aloud: apple, table, penny. Now, remember them. Simple task. Meaningful? Meaningless? Well regardless, we take for granted that we will always be able to perform the seemingly easy; but when all is said and done, those uncomplicated words and ordinary, mundane acts are nowhere near as impactful as watching him react to music of yesteryear or to the retelling of one of the countless stories he shared with me, stories that I am now charged with and honored to share with my loved ones and others on similar journeys. For me and for him, remembering that he was a member of the state championship relay team at Teachers College and being able to play back and recount that race and those feelings of glory were so much more important than the three plain and undecorated words that he could not remember ten seconds after they were uttered. That story of the past brought laughter and smiles to a room full of medical professionals who entered it both seriously and mission-oriented yet who left perkier and even more committed than they ever imagined they could be.

So, when we are feeling sorry for ourselves— admittedly, I do this more than anyone should or has the right to— let’s stop and get a grip. Hold on to the big, bubbly moments and memories from which we draw the strength to start all over again. That is our mission really, isn’t it?

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“…We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
(~Benjamin Button, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Do you see it? Hope is rising and ablaze early on a Monday morning.

Uncomfortable Truth

The glare was annoying. Sylvia was seated and reading a book that she brought along for company just until her friend arrived, when the sun joined her. Although uninvited and unexpected, its appearance created the distraction and discomfort Sylvia needed. Blinded and warmed momentarily by the intense shine, Sylvia looks up from the not-so-captivating text and gives thought to how she might get out of the rut and routine in which she is mired.

Squinting her eyes and wiping a bead of sweat from her brow, Sylvia finds an unusual solace in the sun’s briefly overbearing presence. Instantly, an unfulfilled moment becomes a treasure. The truth of the day.

Beautifully Blinded

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The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
~M. Scott Peck
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Hats Off to Fascinating Women

Sylvia has been unusually preoccupied these first few days of March. The end of winter always has her dreaming and reflecting—even more than she ordinarily does! She dreams of places not yet visited, renewed purpose, and endless possibility. She reflects on the many stories Erma shared with her about how women wear different hats during different stages of life. Student. Sister. Wife. Mother. Executive. Housekeeper. And the list goes on. Erma always said that the most amazing friendships between women happen when we take off our “hats” and allow ourselves to be in the moment for and with each other.

When Sylvia happens upon a lovely duo who appears to be mother and daughter, she smiles and approaches them to gush about their obvious fun-loving nature and friendship. “M&M“—as Sylvia lists them now in her cell contacts—laugh; and then M, the beautiful, young brunette who looks ravishing in every single hat, offers, “She isn’t my mom. M is Mom’s best friend. We have become friends, too.”

The other M, the more experienced, mature, and equally lovely lady, adds that they have enjoyed a glorious and heartfelt day of love, laughter, and overlapping life experiences. Both of them said final goodbyes to very special people this past year. A powerful connection, indeed.

Sylvia, after sharing her personal story of loss from this past year as well and engaging in a bit of fun with her new friends, wonders, “What if Erma were here to share this experience? Sylvia is certain her best friend would be rolling her eyes and then nearly wetting her pants from laughter as each woman tried on hat after hat. Sylvia and the younger M would then have reminded their more seasoned friends of this new trend, “They are not hats. They are fascinators.”

Yes, fascinators! An absolutely fascinating connection between women that is sure to become a favorite memory.
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“When women hear each other’s stories, told from the heart, it gives us inspiration to keep on going.” – Elizabeth Lesser
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Fascinating in every way!

Extra Weight

Sylvia, feeling restless and a bit cantankerous this afternoon, closes the laptop and begins thinking out loud:
Strength is a strange concept.
“Be strong.”
“You are stronger than you think.”
“Keep fighting the good fight.”
Tell me again how strong I am and how strong you think I have been and I might just punch you in the face. I know I am strong, damn it. And I know deep in my soul that I can survive anything—ANYTHING. Well, anything other than my own death, of course. This though, navigating these last ten months of life after loss during a pandemic no less, has tried, tested, and depleted me in ways I never could have imagined. I have tapped into reserves I never knew I had. Most days my belief in myself and my determination to thrive and find the ever-elusive (and illusive) happiness wins. It beckons an inner strength which comes disguised as stubbornness and fear of failure. Strength, or maybe it is willpower, comes cloaked in a thousand thoughts of vulnerability and self-assessment — oh yes, and a smile.

“Just because a person smiles all the time doesn’t mean their life is perfect. The smile is a sign of hope.”
~Anonymous
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Garden on a Winter’s Day

It is a particularly dreary first day of February, and I can’t help but think that it is divinity that shapes this day. The rain is coming down in torrents (it started out as snow, but living on the coast, Mother Nature changed her plan); and as the water from the heavens hits the water on the cove, I’m struck by the natural and pure seamlessness of their meeting. The cove, the canal, and the ocean are being fed; they are being replenished and cleansed by the tears from countless angels above. That is how I choose to think of it anyway.

There is comfort in the thought that those who have left us are briefly sharing with us the gifts of peace and rest for which we all yearn while here on earth. It is by design that complete and utter serenity eludes us here. Were we to find it in our everyday lives, the joy and hope we cull and collect from seemingly small but impactful moments of our daily lives (a mother’s first attempt at nursing her newborn, a baby’s first word or step, or a grandfather’s delight in playing peekaboo or hide-and-seek with his grandchild) all of those meaningful “tidbits” would not be the cherished milestones they become. None of them would be so deeply etched in the memory.

So, as I often do these days, I revisit and attempt to be present and mindful of all that I (and we) take for granted. I think of all the times I was able to hold an old man’s hand; the chances I have had to greet and embrace a young man when he disembarks the train; and I even reflect on the few-and-far between luxurious moments when I’ve had my feet in the sand and my head in the clouds.

No greater gift than a new day, but without the love of those who help us to create the moments each day, giving thanks would be a futile and empty act. So, while I’m ever so grateful that the heavens are nourishing the earth, both land and sea as well as its inhabitants today, I’m even more appreciative of those in my life who sustain me, refuel me, help me find hope, and restore my faith in myself and the world around me.

And where will I find gratitude? In the memories of smiles, the feelings of warmth, and the comfort and excitement of my dreams, of course. On this gray winter’s day, I’ll think of all the seeds that have been planted deep within me that only seem to blossom on days when Mother Nature decides to unleash dramatically. How lucky am I on such days to reap even a few morsels of what has been sown in the garden of my soul? Very lucky, indeed.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ~Marcel Proust

Without it, She is Nothing

“Who is your best friend, Erma?” Sylvia asks of her lifelong confidante.

“That’s easy,” Erma replies with a gentle smile.

And although Sylvia knows she has been a loyal and trusted ally, commiserator, and partner-in-crime, she is acutely aware that she cannot replace the true creator of enduring connections. Sylvia sighs with an assured and peaceful easiness as Erma professes that which Sylvia has come to learn fiercely through her friend, “Compassion. My unfailing companion. Stalwart, faithful, and the foundation of all of my loves and friendships.” 

❤Compassion is something that when shown even with the smallest gesture is felt deep in the core of one’s being. It is a matter of being fully engrossed in that moment of delivery, both offering and acceptance.

❤Friendships evolve as a result of some of the most intimate commonalities we share knowingly and unknowingly. We do not know about our likenesses unless we open our minds and hearts and become our most vulnerable. Whether it is a common thread of having lost a loved one, endured a tragedy, celebrated a personal victory, or discovered a simple “aha, me too” moment, true connection  often requires little effort. It just happens and only requires that we are open to its happening.

❤Every friendship is different. Some are profoundly intricate. Others are simply sweet. Some continuously nourish the soul. Others fuel a moment or event. Some are old and enduring and so deeply embedded in our very being that to live without them is unimaginable, for they sustain us and often resuscitate us. Others are new,  lying on the surface, yet equally as important as the old, for they make-up pieces of the puzzle that we need. If the old ones are heaven and earth, then the new ones are all that lies in between.

❤Each of us has the ability to make friends. It doesn’t mean that “light” friendships- those formed between people who chat over FB or IG or other social media platforms; who were neighbors long ago; or who every so often we invite to or see at a dinner party, are superficial. It means that not every moment in our lives is supposed to be dissected to the extent that each instant carries equal impact and intensity. Friendships give us the yin and yang that we require- the joy and the sorrow, the laughter and the tears. Totality.

Love, hugs, and peace to you. Oh yes, and above all else, compassion.

The Best Gift Sylvia Ever Received

“Can being happy be this easy? Must I live outside of the life I’ve chosen in order to find myself again?”

The Best Gift Sylvia Ever Received

Sylvia Knows Heaven on Earth

I don’t believe in heaven. Not as a destination anyway. Well, let me further amend that to say that I don’t believe that “good” people -those who lived life both honestly and vulnerably, with purpose and love in their hearts for themselves and the world around them, those who atoned for their “sins” (you know, […]

Sylvia Knows Heaven on Earth