Happy Mother’s Day from Sylvia & Erma!
“A pumpkin spice latte, Erma?” Sylvia asks.
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.
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
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.
Now is a great time to revisit this favorite:
“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!”
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.
As she crossed the bridge, she removed all of the fluff, all of the extra. She got rid of the fillers. The sugar-coating melted away. She stripped down and began to bare her soul.
“Now, you are ready to begin, my friend.”
And with that, what she considered both friendly recommendation and cautious admonition, she noticed the view from the bridge. Wider. Vaster. She looked ahead not down.
“A perfectionist? I don’t think so. No, not at all. Well, you’ll need to tell me how you see me as it relates to that term, then I’ll comment.”
“When you say comment, you actually mean disagree. That’s okay, too. That is indicative of your perfectionism. You need to find the exact word, even if it’s not your thought or sentence to edit.”
“Wow. Ouch. It is a good thing we are best friends and I can take a hit.”
“Sylvia, oh, you can clearly take a hit – the mark of a true perfectionist – you hit yourself, beat up on yourself, condemn yourself, and submit to your own judgments and self-imposed punishments endlessly.”
“Again, wow. I know I have major work to do, but you must admit, I haven’t given up, so that is something. Don’t you agree?
“Something? It is everything. It’s simply perfect in fact.”
Let’s all agree that perfect does not exist. We are not here to be perfect. We are here to till and toil, plant and cultivate, and do a whole lot of weeding. And just when we think we are done, it is time to dig a bit deeper – if we are lucky.
Can you tell?
She’s digging deep.
Uncovering what she was and discovering who she left behind. Creating herself one day at a time.
Sundays, she tills. With soul. With faith. The tears born from overwhelming grief water the ground beneath her as she turns and digs.
Mondays, she plows. Preparing to cultivate a field of fear and trepidation. With each upending and fold of the ground beneath her, she strews hope.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, she sows. Not always pretty and patterned. Frequently not, in fact. Necessarily scattered.
Ah, Thursdays. Her day perhaps. To rearrange. To tidy. To make sense of the beginning. To anticipate fertile ground.
Fridays. Thank God they are? She thinks so. Tilled, plowed, germinated. She waits. Fearfully yet faithfully.
Another hole to dig. This one deeper than the last.Another field ahead. This one vaster than the last. The tears are more abundant than the week before.
Another stop. Grief and joy intermingled.
Sunday once more. Fertile ground. More fecund. More prolific.
She’s digging deeper.
Can you tell?
Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. overfiftyandfine
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)
Sylvia, feeling restless and a bit cantankerous this afternoon, closes the laptop and begins thinking out loud:
Strength is a strange concept.
“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.”
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 and Erma, where are you today?
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.