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 ****************
Routine. Wake up. Make coffee. Tend to dog. Drink coffee. Walk dog. Household chores. Write. Shower. Write. Periodic glimpses of social media. More chores or errands. Etc., etc., etc. Wait, Jeopardy. “This is Jeopardy.” (Oh no, Alex Trebek passed.)
Coffee and conversation with a friend. Lunch with a friend. Walk or ride the bike. Dinner or drinks with a friend. Shopping with a friend. Or maybe all of the aforementioned absolutely solo because you don’t wish to inflict you on anyone else. Read a really good book.
Wake up next to the person you love. Wake up next to a person who makes you feel loved. Wake up and laugh with a person who makes you laugh. Spend the day with someone special who gets you, makes you feel alive, and who makes you laugh, cry, and feel all your feelings without shame, guilt, or a need to apologize. (Okay, this part might be a dream, but it could be true–especially if you ever recognize that you are the person you need to love; you are the person who makes you laugh; you are the person who gives yourself permission to feel all of your feelings.)
Read everything you have written thus far and resist the urge to scrap it.
Do all of the above every God damn day of the week and realize that this is your life, but it doesn’t have to be.
Write about how God damn grateful you are to be here.
Now, think. Are you living or lying in state or in a state?
Sylvia never really thought about it until yesterday. After a burst of anger followed by a short period of self-deprecation and sadness, she stops herself dead in her tracks. Neither the vexation nor the momentary lack of self-approval is who she is. They are volatile but thankfully short-lived. She is best who she is when she is standing still in the fresh air. No desire to make herself or anyone else happy.
Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not ‘yours,’ not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you. ~Eckhart Tolle
“Wide open. Closed. Squinting. Teary. Winking. They say it all, don’t they?” Sylvia asked of her friend rhetorically. Erma, with a quick roll of hers, replied.
At once, the two friends sitting across from each other with masks covering all but their eyes, broke out in laughter. Their friendship was so easy because they knew each other deeply and could read each other’s movements. Words, though never lacking, were rarely needed these days. Their eyes always recounted their stories.
Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes. ~Tarjei Vesaas