Thursday thought: If someone else draws it well, writes it better, or captures the essence of what you are striving to explain, let that person help you lift your voice. And then, give her or him a nod, credit because it is due, and a big thank-you.
Today, Sylvia and Erma found the precise words. Thank you, Ms. Angelou.
**************** I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach. ~Maya Angelou
“You were away for quite awhile, Syl. Are you well-rested?”
“Not at all. I’m exhausted. Two weeks of caregiving and then some self-care of the best kind.”
“I’m happy that you recognize the need to care for yourself. However, wherever, whenever, and with whom you choose to refuel are secondary to the need. Good for you.”
Sylvia took care of an aging family friend and realized the fragility of life. She learned that tough love is still love.
She decompressed on the beach, walked the shore, bid farewell to the days as she watched the sunsets, and slept soundly. She even managed a delicious dream or two.
Meeting with both old and new friends who shared their stories, she became acutely aware of her insecurity but also extremely cognizant of that which set her apart from others. Early morning walks and play with canine companions, adventurous rides on a jet ski enjoying the vastness of Lake Michigan, and sipping wine and swapping stories, Sylvia then shared with Erma the greatest lesson of all – the epiphany she had amidst the sunflowers. “I am deeply rooted in vulnerabilities – we all are – and in them, I’ve found my gifts. I’ll let you decide for yourself what they are, Erma. I know what’s inside.” ****************
There’s something in this world that makes you happy– find it; do it; breathe it in; let it wash over you; simply hold it; stare at it; bask in it; enjoy it; keep it to yourself. Or, share it. It’s the beginning ofsomething – at least another glorious summer’s day. I’m starting to recognize my happy, and I wish the same for you.
The last two decades, Sylvia has risen each day knowing there is work to do – in life, for others, and for and on herself. Lots of work! On extraordinarily tough days, Erma commends her. “See, you didn’t give up. You put one foot in front of the other, and you made it through.”
“Did I really though?” Sylvia wonders. “Am I optimistic about the future? Do I remain hopeful? Am I keeping that hope ‘perched in the soul’ as Emily contends?”
“Optimism and hope are different, my friend. Each day they look different because no two days are ever the same,” Erma tells her matter-of-factly.
And after another swallow of the coffee that has been growing cold in front of her, Sylvia considers her trusted confidante’s statement. “Yes, I do believe you are right, Erma. I guess what really keeps me going is faith; that’s the difference,” Sylvia determines.
Erma, feeling proud once again that she has successfully imparted some of her hard-earned wisdom, sums it all up as she finishes her last cup of morning brew. “Yes, indeed, Syl. Faith makes all the difference. Faith in yourself, faith in the world – you need that in order to feel either optimistic or hopeful. You need faith, in fact, to feel both.”
The start to summer has Sylvia and Erma discussing the joys and ravages of basking in the sun, literally and figuratively.
Sylvia: Sun on my face. Sand between my toes. Fresh ocean air.
Erma: Sweat dripping from my brow. Sand in my car. The lingering taste of salt in my mouth.
Sylvia: Long walks enjoying plush, verdant paths. Sun-kissed cheeks. Evening cocktails on the patio.
Erma: Bees and bug bites. Crow’s feet and weathered skin. Sugary spills and the ensuing march of ants.
“Well, aren’t you the definition of a curmudgeon? A true crank,” remarks Sylvia.
Erma, tongue-in-cheek and with her signature sarcastic tone, lobs back, “Yep, that’s me. Ageless and timeless, my dear.”
“What? Ageless? Timeless? Those choice words are used to describe a woman’s looks,” Sylvia counters.
Erma, ever the teacher and always poised to debunk her younger friend’s perceptions, staves off any further commentary in one thought-provoking and accurate analysis. “Who says that ageless and timeless have anything to do with looks? Both are so much more!”
“She tells her story in her face. When her life comes to an end, she can only hope that others see what she aspired to – a life well-lived and well-loved with some very juicy parts that kept her going.” ~ K. Morgan
Up early, coffee-inspired, dressed, and ready to cross the threshold into a new day, Sylvia smiles at the prospect of the here and now.
In our 20s, we live with anticipation and energy; the goals (for most of us) are to make tomorrow come faster, have fun today, and remove ourselves from what we looked like yesterday.
The 30s hit and we live with hope that tomorrow will be easier; today we will get ahead a bit or at least stay afloat and that our mistakes from yesterday will not be repeated.
The 40s for many of us are wrought with anxiety and fear that tomorrow we will find that we do not have enough of anything – time, money, love or patience. Today we went through the motions and have little recall of what actually transpired. We long for the lack of accountability and responsibility we had in our youth – yesterday was not so bad.
Ah, our 50s and 60s? Well, we live with intention and purpose. Tomorrow is getting close and it promises nothing, so we focus on what absolutely must be accomplished today. Today we will carve out a little bit of time for ourselves, even if it’s only a second to reflect, breathe, write, or have a bit of conscious “me” time, for yesterday, though we intended to do just that, time slipped away and we cannot get it back.
And here’s where Sylvia & Erma stop and welcome the many wise and witty friends of a certain maturity to add their two cents which has infinitely greater value than anything either of the gals could pretend to know or even imagine.
This Sylvia knows: tomorrow is not guaranteed and yesterday is done. Here and now is all we have!
With Erma’s steadfast friendship and support, Sylvia has come to believe that she has the strength and power to sprout wings on the way down. Today, both admonish the danger of standing in the doorway. The gals recommend crossing the threshold into here and now. No hesitation. *********************
Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt. You can’t fear the in-between. ~Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Sylvia woke this morning to a teeming rain with little hope of seeing the sun today; and for a while, she couldn’t get the “Annie” tune out of her head. She hummed silently and repeatedly, “The sun will come out tomorrow…”
She busied herself. Saturday morning chores ))nally raised her head from her routine a few hours later and realized that Annie was no longer belting out “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow,” she noticed the sun accepting the open door the clouds had left ajar. “No need to ever wait for tomorrow,” she thought. “There is joy right here in this second. I better blow it a kiss while I can,” she told herself.
And as the sun grew stronger and its beams broke through the dark sky closing the door on the clouds behind it, she knew that the sun never really leaves us. Joy, even fleeting moments – especially fleeting moments – are right here and there waiting to be kissed. ******************
Sylvia: I’m thinking about life right now in terms of jelly donuts.
Erma: Of course you are. Everyone should think of life that way. Sweet and full. **************** One year ago today, while I held my father’s hand as he left this earth with the same strength, dignity, and humility that I imagine he entered with, I thought, “Why? Why now?” And after reflection with my son and conversations with God and those in my circle, I realize that the point is not how he died or even that he died. The key is how he lived. With integrity. With conviction. With zest and appreciation. With gratitude and intention. With love. With LOVE. Jelly donuts, folks.
And now I know. My father’s purpose and legacy is one that is so simple, so timely, and so easily missed if you haven’t been paying attention. Jelly donuts.
My father was raised by a man who emigrated from Russia in 1916. A slight, sweet man who raised a family and worked hard to provide. A man, a zayde, who trekked to Cousin’s bakery (New Britain, CT) to pick up jelly donuts and bulkies for his grandchildren. My father, Sam, learned from his father, Jack, the importance of jelly donuts. Jelly donuts every Sunday morning, rain or shine. Jelly donuts equalled love.
So, Dad, like his father, brought his four children jelly donuts every Sunday along with hard rolls and Breakstone butter. (Truth be told, a dozen mixed including jellies for him, two plain for Mom, and glazed, chocolate frosted, and sprinkles for the kids.) Every Sunday. When his children began to have children, Sam became Pop-Pop and would make the rounds to his grandchildren. Jelly donuts. Love.
When my father was declining, I never thought about my actions. I just did. I went into auto pilot. Comfort and consistency. Dad loved his jelly donuts. From Cousins bakery in New Britain to Village Bake House in Niantic to O’Henry’s in Morgan Hill to Dunkin on Cape, we devoured, savored, and indulged in jelly donuts. And I vowed when my father left my home that he would never go without a jelly donut! I’d like to think he never did.
Jelly donuts. Love. Giving and receiving of both. THAT is my father’s lesson and legacy.
Dad, the first man who had my heart❤ Missing you terribly, but I’d like to think that you and Mom are enjoying your favorites today and fighting over the crossword. **************** “To love and have been loved. That is the essence of a life well-lived.” ~ (K. Morgan)
It’s strangely refreshing that life is cyclical — the seasons, some moments, and indeed so many raw emotions often repeat. Sylvia hit play today, and what was in the machine could have taken her breath away, but instead it revived her and gave her the buoy she needed to stay afloat long enough to catch her breath and keep going.
The universe is at work; and curiously when an old friend calls unexpectedly or Sylvia comes across a photograph of herself smiling and thriving, she reminds herself that she has successfully weathered a storm or two. She may not have a lifeline immediately at hand all of the time, but thankfully she is learning to save herself most days. And when Sylvia is at a loss or not quite sure which line to grab, she has learned that it is perfectly acceptable to float a bit. Oh, and worst case scenario which is far from frightening and is always reassuring is knowing that Erma and others in her “tribe” will throw a line should she need one.
I don’t know what time she was born. I guess I could dig out her birth certificate and find out easily enough. To me, my mother was born the day I came into the world. Obviously, she had a life “B.K.”(before K.Morgan), but I didn’t know her then. All I know of that woman who became my mother, both the little girl who wore braids and gingham and the young, blond-haired teen who played the drums before it was cool for a girl to play a full kit, has been conveyed to me through others’ recollections; her own accounts as she would share an anecdote from her past with the slightly or even poorly veiled purpose of teaching a lesson (Mom was not subtle in getting her points across especially as she neared death); and the photos that I have and covet, still kept in the rubbermaid container that she bequeathed to me before her passing and after my childhood home was cleaned out and sold more than a decade ago. And what connects all of the snapshots, real and those that I have taken in my mind’s eye which remain guarded like priceless treasure, are her eyes. It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul; thus, it follows and must be that my mother, B.K. and always, was and remains one of the most beautiful, trusting, and trusted souls God could have offered this world.
Most of us, not all – and I say that without one iota of judgment – love our mothers and have been loved by our mothers. I have been accused of worshipping mine. In fact, my mother often reminded me, especially as she closed in on fate, that she was indeed human, flawed like the rest of us, so she too should be allowed to make mistakes. She would often say that the one bad rap that mothers had to endure was that they were held to a higher standard than everyone else on the planet! Now that I’m a mother, I admittedly understand this so much better. I digress though.
I did worship my mother, something she never demanded or expected, but it happened nonetheless. How did it happen? Ah, that’s the question. The trusting and trusted eyes! My mother had xray vision, vision that led her to know exactly what another human needed. To many and certainly to her family, this special sense (some call it a sixth sense while others deem it intuition) was who she was and how she lived her life at the very core. And while she may have regretted not doing all of the things she had hoped to do before she died, I do believe she lived a purposeful life and her legacy is an honorable one. Her legacy? Her gift? She left it to everyone who had the honor and pleasure of looking into her eyes. My mother made those who crossed her path feel important, no matter their lot in life. She gave others hope. She found and saw something redeeming in everyone. She wasn’t oblivious to the harshness or evils of the world. She was far from naïve. She was perhaps not even optimistic. Mom was hopeful though; and I do believe there is a big difference between optimism and hope. I think, actually I know, that her trusting and trusted eyes became reflective of that difference.
I’m babbling a bit because as we all know the totality of a life cannot be put adequately into words. Indeed, my mother’s life cannot. Her legacy can though. Hope. She believed in me. She believed in my son, the only grandchild she actually witnessed enter the world. (That connection proved stronger for them than I could have every imagined.) And if you had the good fortune of meeting her, befriending her, working for or with her, she believed in you. That belief, the depth of it in those trusting and trusted eyes, keeps me hopeful to this day and through each day. I don’t believe that life is perfect and I’m far from thinking everything will turn out well in the end. However, I am hopeful.
On her birthday, I am going to trust her and her legacy. I’ll celebrate her life buying her favorite purple blooms, reminiscing about how she and my father captivated wedding crowds with their dance moves, and thinking of my son’s smile, the one he wears when he recounts either a memory he made with his champion, Nana. Her legacy of love and hope endures.
Thanks, Mom. And finally you will be happy to hear that I’ve come to realize that you never wanted to be worshipped; you wanted to be loved. You were. You are. You always will be.
Hey, you! Yes, you! Call your mother today. And when and if you have the chance to see her in person, squeeze her tightly—from me and my mom with love.
2021. All rights reserved. “The Adventures of Sylvia and Erma” overfiftyandfine.com