“Are you looking for trouble, Sylvia?” Erma, hoping for a juicy reply, asks her friend.
“No, I don’t think so. Well, perhaps – maybe a little,” Sylvia admits.
“Good, get out there, and do it for the team!” Erma adamantly encourages. **************** Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. [Commencement Address, Wellesley College, 1996] ~Nora Ephron ****************
Sylvia spent most of the day purging. Dresser drawers of mismatched socks and threadbare pjs. Closets of dresses and outfits that no longer aligned with her body or attitude or both. And shoes. Ah, yes, more than a dozen pairs of shoes that were gently worn, overworked, or had never made it onto her feet. She made room in her physical space; and at the end of the day, she felt her mind might actually have some room for fresh thoughts and ideas, too.
Erma rejoiced at the news and praised her friend for finally shedding some weight. “Now that you’ve scaled back on things, scale back and free yourself from people. Reduce your tribe to those who feed your soul, those who accept you without condition, and those who don’t run from your tears and sorrow. You need to be more discerning when it comes to who knows your secrets,” Erma cautions.
Sylvia, priding herself on the headway she made today, sighs. She knows that Erma is right. She has allowed those with no true interest in who she is becoming to stay and weigh in. “Tomorrow. It begins tomorrow. A smaller inner circle and more attention to the person who deserves my attention the most. Me!” **************
Solitude and loneliness are not related. The former celebrates the peace and contentment she gains from her own company. The latter reaps strength and rears its ugly head when she makes herself smaller for others. **************** “Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people—it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” ~ Parker Palmer
“Hitting Black Friday sales today, Sylvia?” Erma asks her friend, even though she already knows that the two of them made a pact long ago to swear off malls, grocery stores, and shopping of any kind the day after Thanksgiving.
Sylvia, almost choking on her coffee as she entertains the gruesome thought and visualizes the throngs of overzealous consumers, replies, “I stand by the agreement we made long ago, Erma. No shopping on this day. Not even online. I’m offline and out-of-network. Simply being is more than enough today.”
“Just wondering if you needed me to remind you that it will all be there tomorrow. I’ll save you a place in line then if you wish,” Erma assures her.
“Don’t bother. Not this year. Hopefully, you’ll never have to wait and hold my place for me again. I’ll always accompany you, walk alongside you, and then commiserate with you ad nauseum about how stupid we are leaving holiday shopping until December, but you’ll not need to hold a place for me. I’m claiming my own space. Wherever I go, Whatever I do, and whenever I need to remind myself of where and to whom I belong — I’m on my way home and making my own space for anything and everything along the way.”
Erma, beaming at Sylvia’s words of confidence and tone of determination, declares in an equally committed voice, “No sales ever. You own your space, and you paid full-price. So worth it, Syl. So worth it.”
**************** The world belongs to you as much as it does to anyone else. Claim your space.
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.
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. ******************
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?
“…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)
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…
“Sylvia, that is a Wednesday whine not Wednesday wisdom.”
“Here’s the thing though, Erma. I don’t care.”
“Sylvia, that is a lie. Couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“Erma, well it could but okay. Here’s the thing. Really, this is the thing…”
“Sylvia, before you go on, let’s just say that there is no one thing. Not a single, damn thing…ever.”
“Erma, there it is. That is exactly the thing.”
Here’s the thing about people with good hearts:
They give you excuses when you don’t explain yourself. They accept the apologies you don’t give. They see the best in you. They always lift you up, even if that means putting their own priorities aside. They will never be too “busy” for you. They make time, even when you don’t. And you wonder why they’re the most sensitive people, the most caring people, why they are willing to give so much of themselves with no expectation in return. You wonder why their existence is not so essential to your well-being. It’s because they don’t make you work hard for the attention they give you. They accept the love they think they deserve- and you accepted the love you think you’re entitled to. Don’t take them for granted. Fear the day when a good heart gives up on you. Our skies don’t become grey out of nowhere, our sunshine does not allow the darkness to take over for no reason. A heart does not turn cold unless it’s been treated with coldness for a while.~Najwa Zebian
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?