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 ****************
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
Do you see that? Yes, that right there? I’m a part of that. Just an ever-so-small but necessary part of this microcosm. I say necessary because today I’m sitting at a table looking out on this daunting yet somehow comforting urban landscape and feeling that I belong. Lately as I’ve been sharing with Erma before […]
“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.
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, […]
The transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas (with Hanukkah right in-between this year) should be fairly seamless, incredibly meaningful, and perhaps even bittersweet, especially for those who have become acutely aware of what it means to be blessed and live with intention. The anticipated seamlessness between the holidays has been anything but smooth and unfettered though. The intervening days and weeks have instead been marred with more heartache than ever imagined, as the pandemic and its effects leave some sick, others on death’s door, and still others left in the wake to deal with losses (of life for some, of livelihood for others) of unfathomable proportions, the likes of which can barely be handled in even the sanest and most stable times.
Only through loss, grief, despair, and sorrow though have I learned what it means to experience bounty, joy, and peace. The gifts and acceptance of the latter only come when the three former have been endured with grace. I don’t pretend that I have mastered grace, but I’ve definitely cleared a path to it. The steps toward it offer me mild relief when I stop momentarily to be present and appreciate simple abundance. I have more than my fair share; many of us do.
Gratitude. Forgiveness. Order. Peace. Joy. Purpose. In these last few days, I have asked for both the giving and receiving of each; and in their absence no matter the reason, my plea is for grace.
The gifts of the season? Aren’t they gifts that we should generously offer and graciously accept all year long?
As I jump, well, maybe more of a hop into this week and it’s now Tuesday (so that goes to show how I’ve begun this second week in December, definitely not with a jump or a leap now that I think of it because that would require extra energy and enthusiasm which by any given evening sandwiched between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are nearly tapped out), I am looking in the rearview mirror. I do that sometimes, not because I’m going in reverse but more to retrace a few steps and then gain momentum before I put my life in drive, press the gas pedal to the floor, and gun it. Last week was an unusually long week and this week is turning out to be the same -of stops, starts, planning, dismantling, and rebuilding. Admittedly, in so many ways, the ensuing days since Thanksgiving have left me uncomfortably full. So, needless to say, with the feasts of this next fete or two fast approaching, I am feeling the need to purge and cleanse. Right on cue, Mother Nature provides me with the backdrop I need for reflection. (I can count on her most days to set the tone, and today she didn’t disappoint.) The drops falling from the gray sky this morning were pure, white, and frozen; they were almost welcomed as they forced me to slow down, catch my breath, and recalibrate. Mother Nature today reminds me the world’s innovators and inventors obtain a lot of good material and energy from her. (A day like today must have prompted someone to create the washing machine or refrigerator/freezer as we know them- starting off with a whispered, steady fill or a burst of chilled air respectively, followed by a rapid deluge, and then either quickly or calmly drying out or thawing out depending). For the gift of your time and nourishment of my soul in myriad ways, most importantly that you simply show up to read, listen, and share, I’m grateful. Only one thing has been a constant these last two weeks: unpredictability.
Without hesitation, I admit that not having a daily plan or at least an anchor in my schedule often makes me feel like I’m wandering aimlessly. Then, the most refreshing thing happens and I become grounded again – not in a stalled or motionless manner but rather in a calming and re-focused way. I realize that I have an anchor. All of you. My friends. My connections and reconnections. You are where I begin.
So, on this cold December eve, I sit fireside and vow to start again with you to help me navigate life’s unpredictability and accept it as a good thing. Each new day holds possibility – to make a small change, to start anew or to take a step back. To build, to re-build or to sustain. To ignite, to extinguish or to rekindle. Each day is a series of starts and stops and this week has proven to be just that. The important thing is to get up and start again. And with the help and encouragement of old friends, new friends, faraway friends and friends oh-so-near-and-dear, I’ve concluded that starting can be a goal in and of itself. Simply realizing that yesterday had no end and today’s start means carrying on can be satisfying on a soulful level.
Alas, I’m going out on a limb and asserting that the acceptance of and even welcoming of unpredictability can be an achievement. (It’s my tree that I’m swinging from in my own yard- you go out and find yours or I invite you to swing unpredictably with me.) I’m getting up, stirring it up, and firing myself up because the only thing I know for sure is that yesterday is done, and I- no, WE- made it through.
A week of beginnings. Behind us. In front of us. After all, we can’t stop if we’ve never started. Sharing with you my “days in review” and wishing you well, always in all ways.
Originally posted on “ARE YOU THERE, ERMA? IT’S ME, SYLVIA.”:
Sylvia and Erma are spending the day with their respective families – giving thanks for the meal they’ll share, the orderly chaos of the kitchens, and their children who wish to forego the turkey for the pies that have been freshly extracted…