I’ve been told all of my youth to relax and chill out; don’t let the actions of others stress you out. I’ve avoided conflict and confrontation as much as I possibly could. It became a quest. I became an artist, and alternative health practitioner because of this I believe.
I remember in a college class auction saving all my chips to buy Inner Peace, while my classmates were bidding on imaginary sport cars, houses and millions of dollars. I had it all figured out – if you had inner peace then who needed all the other stuff. Two things to note here – “INNER” and all the other stuff. I figured a sure and steady route would be to maintain an air of peace outwardly and work on the inside until they met in the middle. I’m sure you can guess how that has turned out. First off the world doesn’t care how peaceful you are – it wants your money and your subservience.
Somewhere along the line that “Inner” thing becomes an issue to others on the outside.
One side of that is that your outward peaceful is counted as indifference to others. Most people are unfamiliar with inner peace you see. This may in fact piss them off more than inspire them to calm down. The other side is people may be doing loads to wreck that peace because all they see is your placid face not freaking out. This signals them that you’re okay with everything happening to and around you. Try maintaining that inner peace then!
What happens is that you keep all that resentment and your truths inside then they come rushing out when there’s no more room and you can’t take it anymore. That is greeted by surprise from those who pissed you off in first place with “Why are you sooo aggressive?” The answer in my head of course is – I’m not. I didn’t shout. I simply wanted to be heard. I got heard alright, but still not sure I got understood.
A very good friend of mine heard me, and respects me enough to tell me what she sees; apparently I lack some boundaries. I’m guessing my acceptance of people and their foibles indicates to the world exactly where my boundaries lie…. I live on Crown Land – everyone is allowed in as long as they don’t poach the wildlife. But even Crown land comes with signs stating the rules. I love my friend, she has given me a clue. I need to make some signs!!!
We live in a world where kindness has become equated with weakness. We are reduced to less than strong if we choose not to fight or quarrel over what in essence are small issues. We may choose to lead by example; by being able to adapt to the shifting emotions of others with a level response hoping that our outward cool and acceptance will foster reciprocal action. The problems occur when a society is deeply entrenched in me first philosophy. Somewhere along the line we translated personal freedom and empowerment into entitlement take what you want, look out for yourself and let everyone else figure it out. we’re constantly given the message that we’re entitled to the whole enchilada. We’ve transmuted inner health into outer bravado. Respect no longer begets respect. Might makes right wrong.
While my “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you” is noble in thought, it is unsuccessful in application in my current incarnation. I am learning how to paint my signs with color, light and indelible ink. I’m still wary of conflict and not too down with confrontation so I’m going to use my “healer” skills for preventative medicine (the most effective kind) instead. My first patient is me.
Some blogs come. Sometimes I wake up with them already written in my head. There is an easy satisfaction with giving these stories away having sheltered them for so long in my own mind. But sometimes they get torn out of me, like I’m painfully giving birth to them. I always eagerly await the other side of these blogs. The sweet sorrow flooding with relief for having somewhere else to put them. This is one of those blogs.
People often track their lives like in the bible – “before christ’ and “after christ”. I do that too. Before the divorce and after. I’m surely not the first person who recognizes this fragment in their timeline for this exact reason. There are plenty of groups, meetings, books and TV shows devoted entirely to this subject. I don’t believe I am any less or more impacted by it than anyone else but from my own eyes, it matters. It changed me. Deeply.
When I first started to imagine writing this blog, I was overwhelmed with how badly I wanted to write about the bad stuff. I’ve erased it about three times because they keep sneaking in, disguised as harmless explanations but really they want recognition. Look what’s been done to me. Broken hearts always seem to want retribution. I have been seeking refuge from this desire for the better part of three years. I am haunted by the idea of forgiveness. It feels impossible some days to just let by gones be by gones. But I keep rolling Buddha’s words around in my head: Not forgiving is like poisoning yourself and waiting for the other person to die. Dammit Buddha. That is some solid logic.
I want to list for you all the reasons I should not forgive him. I want you to read them and recognize how terribly I suffered. I want someone to write him a strongly worded letter of admonishment. What I do not want is for you to look behind the heavy curtain and investigate my side of it, my contribution to the end. Of course, there is that. And perhaps this sense of denying forgiveness has a lot to do with forgiving myself. For my sins during the relationship, and there was many, and the way I short circuited my grief of rejection to include every living being on the planet so as to save myself from getting hurt again. Of course, this required me to in turn reject people who loved me in the process. Oh what a tangled web we weave…
But here’s my first best go at it. I have spent most of this day trying to remember the good things about him, the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place since you cannot grieve what you don’t love. I will admit, I have tantrumed several times as the lovely memories got mixed up with the hard ones. I can hear myself thinking “what the …” in response to some of his incredible kindness to me in the beginning. I still feel tricked. I have to stuff the idea down that he did some of those things intentionally to hide a whole bunch of other things. I’ll never know. I can only tell you what I remember and how it made me feel then. And in handling them all day, I have found some genuine space for them separate from the rest of it. It’s not quite forgiveness all the way, it’s demi-forgiveness. And it’s all I have today.
I feel compelled to tell you about the time he carried me through a lake to a floating dock in the middle of the night and we lied on our backs talking to each other and the stars. It was one of our first dates. I remember thinking right then, “I could love this man”.
His friends were the originators of BrandiLand..saying he was lost in it. We talked on the phone for hours. I couldn’t even tell you about what, but it was endless. One time he even talked to me almost the entire time while he was at a party and he passed me off to everyone there and said, “Tell this girl how much I like her” and I was regaled with tales from virtual strangers about how impacted he had been by my presence.
I remember the first time he went away to go visit his mom for 2 weeks. It felt like an eternity even though we talked every day. He shared very intimate things about his early life with his family – some sweet things, some disappointments, things he was struggling with being home. Without any forethought, I blurted out, “I want you to come live with me when you come home”. I surprised myself having been a cautious woman for many years. He said he knew I was going to say that for some reason and he was quick to say, “Dear god, yes”. I picked him up from the airport, he looked so handsome in his dress pants and baby blue button down shirt, all wrinkled and buttons askew from the long flight. He smiled at me from way far off as he caught sight of me coming down the escalator. And I stupidly stood and smiled at him. It seemed like an hour before he got to the bottom and we couldn’t get to each other fast enough. It was happening. Our beginning. He asked me to marry him with a baby blue stone because he knows I hate diamonds. Baby blue memories. Baby, baby blues…
I can still see him walking, barefoot, down the middle of our street, while our house burned behind us. I was just standing there watching the fireman struggle with the fire in the roof. I knew the house was going to be lost. I didn’t know one other tangible thing at that moment. I couldn’t grasp onto anything and it felt like I was just floating there. When I turned and saw him, I was utterly entranced by the sight of him, so self-assured, smiling at me with his head cocked to the side and that “Come here baby” look he gave me. He wrapped me up in a blanket and hugged me and said everything was going to be ok. And I believed him.
I have been trying, trying, trying to burn those memories into my mind over the smouldering, putrid aroma of our break up. It is the most insane thing, to love someone and then not know them at all, never see them again, never have the chance to reminisce of these things. It has always felt like the right way to break up was to have a moment where we shared those things that we would remember, those things that made a difference and say “Thank You” for all the good that came. People think I’m crazy when I say that but I’ve done it. And I picture all the people I’ve ever met who had terrible, bitter separations and how different it would look if it was mandatory on the way out to say a few nice things you’ll remember.
But something funny happens to people when they get caught in the face of their bad decisions. There is no last few nice memories to share. It is just a heart tearing open trying to stem the blood with paltry excuses and denial. And you are left sputtering and gasping for air, viciously clawing your way out, trying to save yourself.
There is someone back in my life who has been graciously sharing his love stories with me, assuring me that love does come despite my cynical and protective denial of this for the last 3 years. I am so grateful for this light at the end of the tunnel, the signalling of a certainty that it exists. I am trying to find a way back to love by practising with the ones I already love. By being mindful of myself in close contact with others. By being mindful of the times we hurt each other and rally back any ways. There are examples of it all around me. Relationships I have nurtured and nourished for years that prove my theory wrong…Fairy tales are NOT just for suckas. Given a look into my life, you would be astonished at the calibre of women who have stood by me and raised me from the dead when I had all but given up. It’s not the same thing, humbly I accept that having someone love you as their partner, as their muse is different than your lady friends but it doesn’t overshadow it. On paper, my love life is a disaster but in the bigger picture, it is extraordinary. And if I died tomorrow, no one could say I wasn’t completely wrapped in some serious love. And save for the empty space left by him, I would never have realized by comparison how full the rest of my life really is. That is the way life works, it is in the absence that we appreciate what is present. A gift if you will, when you’re ready to open it.
I was at work lamenting my impending birthday when a young man came up behind me and said,
“Is it your birthday today?”
“Not yet sweetheart, in a couple of weeks”
“Well how old are you going to be?”
I sighed…”Well hon, I’m going to be 40″…more sighing
And he said (drum roll please) “You don’t look 40! You look like sunshine!”
Oh, out of the mouths of babes. And just like that, 40 meant something entirely different than mid life and thoughts of botox. Never mind the smile on his face that could have easily melted the sun itself, it occurred to me that he wasn’t being a show boat, he was serious. He did not see 40 when he looked at me. He saw sunshine.
He didn’t try to convince me I looked younger or advise me he thought I looked older, he cast the numbers aside entirely and looked AT me. He measured and weighed out all the time we had spent together, searched deep within himself and found what he thought was a reasonable facsimile and then said it out loud. Imagine…if we all did this?
If you couldn’t use a number to describe your age, what would your age look like?
I asked my very good friend and she looked me dead in the eye and said, “weary…that’s what my age looks like”. I could see that asking this question wasn’t always going to elicit the same response as I got from my 8 year old friend. And so it almost begs the question instead, “What do you think other people see when they look at you? If you think about the people who love you, what would they say?” So I looked at my friend and I thought…I see trees. The kind that everyone sees and calls “majestic”. The kind with deep roots, the roots that don’t stay put in your own yard because she considers everyone family and her family tree extends to anyone who needs to understand the definition of unconditional love. Her tree – her family tree – holds a hundred different people, all ages, who seek her out in times of trouble, in moments of accomplishment and just about any time…because her door is never closed. She thinks this is nothing, but she’s so wrong. Not every one sees the greatness in people who are struggling. Not everyone has enough strength to hold every one of them without falling over. Strength and beauty. That’s what her age is. Does that sometimes look like weary? It would be ridiculous if it didn’t. That doesn’t change the fact that in her years she has developed the ability to create oxygen for people who are gasping for breath. Sorry sister…nice try. ; )
Now let’s get real – she would not come up with this answer on her own. There in lies the problem doesn’t it? Why do we need to rely on other people to tell us all the cool, amazing, wonderful, crazy things about us that honestly can only be garnered with years and our life experience? Because as my magnificent friend pointed out, it can be very difficult in trying times to find the gift of said trying times. Aging brings wisdom and perspective but it also brings gravity…and challenges…and sometimes regret. It would be very unethical of me to peddle it as rainbows and butterflies. Aging is tough. Your body slows down even if you are the kind to live at the speed of light and proudly display your developed pecs. It’s just harder. I used to be able to jog around the block and lose 5 pounds, now I gain 5 pounds after a work out and my trainer says it’s all muscle. (I love you lady but we both know it’s my love of cake ; ) I get injuries that I never used to and they take much longer to heal. My brain holds an infinite amount of experience and wisdom but I can’t always access it at the moment I want to and I find myself saying much more often…”You know that thing, with the thing that does that thing!” And if I’m lucky, I have my very good friends around me who nod and say “Yep, I know exactly what you’re talking about.” God bless you sweet women, even if you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.
The truth is, despite my very best efforts (and I am VAIN so my efforts are intense), I have not always been able to age gracefully. Cue the time a 26 year old told me I was the perfect woman…for his Dad. Cue the 10 shooters I drank right after to console myself. Nothing graceful about that. So I am going to try instead, to age gratefully.
Here’s what grateful means. Grateful means that I recognize that above 26 year old spent the better part of the night at my side and told me he had not had so much fun in all of his life. He also noted that he would have stayed longer but he felt truly that he would hold me back. Grateful means that despite the hangover that lasted almost 3 days, I can dance like a beast, drink like a sailor and become best friends with the DJ in a way that would have my 20 year old self green with envy. Because I am sure of myself in a way that my 20 year self could not have dreamed of. I accept compliments with “I know right?!” instead of “Oh this old thing?”. Grateful means when my adult son comes and sits on my bed and regales me with tales of how his friend doesn’t know how to do his own laundry – I recognize that my son DOES. And I taught him that. Even though he spent years turning everything pink. Our struggles have turned into accomplishment and his acknowledgement means it was all worth it. I’m grateful suddenly for the years he said I was the “meanest mom ever”. Even though to be honest, I did his laundry more times that he ever did.
Aging gratefully does not have to mean I turn in my sexuality badge and and get myself a cardigan. It means that I can redefine what sexy means to me. Sometimes I am the sexiest when I am in my sweat pants, pounding out a blog on my laptop, wine in hand, sparkle in my eye. And now I know to have people around me that recognize the sexy in that. It also means that I can clean myself up in clothes that compliment my body, tell a story about what it can do, about what it has yet to do. I have a shirt I call “The Baby Maker” – let’s get real, I’m closer to being someone’s grandma than making any more babies but DAMN…it makes me feel like giving it my best go and by proxy, it has brought the suggestion from others. You know when you have a really good hair day, it brings all the boys to the yard? It’s the power of suggestion my friends. When you are oozing the HOT vibe, people can’t help but notice. Age is exactly like that. If you are putting off the varicose veins and water pills vibe, you will find people respond in kind. Here’s the thing, I have varicose veins. I have stretch marks too. But I can still rock a reverse cowgirl like nobody’s business. And you can too. If you like that kind of thing ; ) Define your own sexy and wear that shit, even if it is a cardigan.
Being grateful means presenting the things you know about yourself to be true and that you are proud of. My friend may not have said as much when she used the word “weary” but she got that way for a reason – because she is tireless and caring and relentless in the pursuit of sending out love. She got weary because she is fabulous. And being weary does not change all those fabulous things about her. And being grateful means we learn how to tell THAT part of the story too.
So tell me, if you couldn’t use a number to describe your age, what would your age look like? Go on and use the first word that comes into your head even if it’s negative but then look deeper into that and tell me why. If you could only use one picture, one symbol, one word – what would your age look like?
I’m going to stick with sunshine. It was given to me by someone who simply doesn’t have the ability to complicate the issue. And it resonated with me. I am silly and ridiculous and have never failed to see the good in any person, (Even you ex husband. Harumph). I am the life of the party. I am the burning hot optimist. I am sunshine.
B : ))))))))