Monday, March 24, 2014

The Puzzle

My last living grandparent, my paternal grandmother, Granny, died just shy of her ninety-fourth birthday. She passed a few days before Christmas. She took her last breath in her own bed, while living in her own home, as one of her three daughters held her hand. Since death is inevitable, the end of Granny’s human experience is about as good as it gets. Granny survived the Depression, wars, raising four children, and giving all she had to several cherished grandchildren. She used to joke that her sole reason for birthing her own children was the assurance of grandchildren. She loved every, single one of us. Granny was a force, a gentle force, who imprinted creativity, toughness, and love on all she encountered; especially those of us lucky enough to be called her grandchild.

When my dad called to inform me of the news, I didn’t cry. I didn't cry because I wasn’t sad or wouldn’t miss her, but because, with my Granny, there wasn’t anything unsaid or unlearned. Christmas night, my aunt, the aunt who so lovingly cared for her during her final years and held her hand as she left this world, asked us each if there was anything of Granny’s we wanted or that was sentimental to us. I actually couldn’t think of one thing I desired as a remembrance. All of my memories are alive in what remains in my own life. The way I so vigorously clean a sink, the way I insist on clean sheets and the proper way to make a bed, or how I set a table. How I know it’s okay to have dessert for dinner every once in a while and the way I cook mountains of food and barely sit at the table long enough to eat it. The parts of her I remember most are the pieces I live each and every day. 

The past few months proved to be particularly rough for me. I am not quite sure why. I can’t pinpoint exactly one thing that forced me over the edge or caused me to lose my footing. The truth is, I asked, begged, prayed for change, and boy did my request blossom. Anything I thought was constant and forever and stable blew up and shattered into a million little pieces. I’ve struggled to collect bits and pieces and find new homes for them over the last fourteen years, but recently, an entirely new box of these pieces spilled all over my floor. At first I thought, oh what a mess. I lived in this space of oh my god what a disastrous mess for quite some time, and then I finally let go and realized the reason, discovered the momentum behind the scattered pieces. Life is a puzzle and I must fit the pieces back together again, no matter how many times they come apart. Each piece relies on another and the gift isn’t in the finished product, it lies in the puzzle, the fitting of each piece to its match.

Granny loved puzzles. We often had a large collective puzzle set up for days on the round, wooden table by the huge window in the living room. During moments throughout the day, we would take turns focusing on a section and piecing together what we could fit. Sometimes we were quiet as we concentrated and other moments we were loud and boisterous as we celebrated a completed corner or the dreaded middle part of the puzzle. When the puzzle was complete we stared at it in awe, but always wondered what to do next. We would leave it for a few days and Granny always offered to glue it and have it framed. I can’t remember if we actually ever did frame any of them. However, what I do remember, is her suggestion, a suggestion I adored, that we take it all apart, destroy it, and start a new puzzle. Pulling it apart piece by piece was more fun than actually putting it together and reveling in the finished product.

As I struggled to determine the source of my discomfort, I figured out new pieces of my puzzle are always popping up, and needing a place to fit. I relax because I complete an edge only to find a new section that begs my attention. Even though I work very hard to overcome my obsession with perfection or the finished product, this obsession can derail me at a moment’s notice. A house that works for me is just on the horizon, but isn’t yet complete. Loose pieces continue to pop up and need a spot to fit. On the other hand, waiting for the perfect fit teaches patience and a confidence I can live in a world that isn’t quite right and has ugly wallpaper and a pink toilet. My health isn’t exactly where I desire it to be, but this creates space for improvement and greater balance. But, the largest piece, the piece I thought I didn’t need, the piece I thought belonged to a past puzzle, an old Sarah, was hidden and surfaced just recently. This piece is called letting go and having fun.

Self discipline is my thing. I thrive on ritual. Mediation and exercise are my lifelines. Eating well and avoiding preservatives and toxins and plastic comfort me. I try not to plan too many events in a row so I don’t get off schedule. The problem is, I live a little bit out of fear. While all of these things help me immensely, I am also afraid to just let go and live a little. I allow my health and my concern for doing the right thing, at the right time, and concern for my body to take over and letting go and just living hides in a dark closet inside of a sealed container. An energy entered my life and shot a gust of wind through me and forced this piece of me to surface. I picked it up, held it for a bit, and decided it needed a place in my puzzle too. Finding where it fit was hard at first. I went out with a few friends, had dinner with a friend, and quickly jumped back into my regimented life. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, I just felt the fear of oh now something bad will happen, and I felt pangs of guilt because I let go for a minute. 

And then a switch flipped. It was time to fit this new piece into my ever-changing puzzle. So, I let go. I let go for the first time in so many years. I brushed my hair, put my boots on, and headed out the door for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and a day of bar hopping with my dancing friends. The weather provided and offered a sixty degree, sunny day. I wasn’t sure how the day would pan out, but I didn’t care. I let go and allowed the day to unfold. And boy did this trust deliver. I didn’t feel one tinge of stress. The bars, which usually make me crazy and feel overwhelmingly paralyzed, were comfortable and fun. My friends ran to grab tables and stood in line for drinks. We ended the evening at a wood fire pizza place, sat outside because we were so loud and laughing so much, and ran into two very special friends. Letting go could not have turned out better. This act precipitated more change and more fun. I let this tiny flame that barely flickered deep down inside have a little air and turn into a blazing fire. I’ve ventured out and stepped outside my comfort zone more in the last few weeks than I have in a long, long time. 

And while I am not quite sure where this piece fits exactly, I know the effort to find its place is rewarding. I now know it’s a vital part of me, a part I thought I didn’t need anymore. I spent today back on my schedule and feeding my soul with my ritual. As I walked my dog at the river, I felt tears falling down my cheeks because I knew this broken mess, found one more part of herself and put it back together again. I also cried because I opened up and learned that even though joy definitely does shine through ritual and discipline and treating my body well, it also radiates through letting go and allowing. The finished product isn’t the point, the discovery of where each piece goes, no matter how painful, is where we find life. And if my puzzle is peacefully complete at the age of ninety-four, I hope, like Granny, I can bust it up and pass pieces out to all of those I leave behind in the hopes they create new and beautifully, unfinished masterpieces. You can’t frame joy. You can’t glue it together and preserve it forever. Joy doesn’t arrive neatly packaged or easily salvaged. Joy comes from a lifetime of breaking apart and coming back together again and then doing so all over again. Joy is a beautiful, untethered mess.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Addiction

Winter, once again, reigns triumphant. I sit here with a notebook and computer full of half written, incomplete posts that seem like drivel. None of which feel worthy enough for my finger to inch up and select and then finally hit the publish button. Forced lock down equals brain block. More than ever, I realize the importance of my river ritual. Outside, fresh air, and exercise feed my brain, but more importantly feed my soul. One day soon, I hope to piece together these fragments of my thoughts, but for now a bit of a reflection, a bit of a hey, I never thought about it that way moment to share. I hope this post finds you all well. And here’s hoping spring forward defines more than a time change.

A few short nights ago, I shared a photograph with a friend. Without a thought, almost as a reflex, I flippantly said, “Obviously, my sister is the one standing.”

I frequently joke about my condition. I would get that for you, but I can’t walk or I would take out that trash, but I can’t walk, are common phrases that fly out of my mouth. I use humor quite a bit; not to nurture the seeds of malice or discomfort, but to grow shrubs over a bit of shame I carry. I struggle to find ease with my limitations. Still, after all of the years, I sometimes feel like a burden or the girl who just sits and doesn’t help because she can’t. I know how foolish this is, believe me, I know. But, then are times, more than I like to admit, when I feel less than, when I devalue who I am. Whether this coping mechanism comes in the form of humor or tears, deprecation robs me of what I achieve, despite my limitations, and only points out what I can not do. 

Until this conversation, with this friend, I thought I was just laughing instead of crying. I assumed I chose light and funny over dark and twisty. I also did not realize how automatic this humor reflex is for me. When I want to say, look I really don’t want to show you this picture because I am sitting in my wheelchair and I hate it. Instead, knee-jerk humor reaction kicks in and takes over. The humor fixes very little. I may change the conversation, but my feelings still penetrate my heart, my mind, and my body. The cover-up is inconsequential. The shame is still alive.

Years may go by, but the strength it takes to point out that I am, in fact, someone else other than the one in the wheelchair, well it’s simply too hard to muster sometimes. I know I can say the girl in the scarf or with the blonde hair, but the chair, it’s what sticks out to me, it’s what beams like a spotlight. The choice of a different description seems futile because, in my mind, all anyone sees is my wheelchair. 

I thought my shame cover continued on quite well, until this particular exchange. As soon as I uttered the comment, my friend shot back, “Hey, no self-deprecating humor.” 

My friend’s response hit me in a place I haven’t been hit before. My humor is a safeguard. Humor explains why I can’t do something or why my life gets just too unbearable sometimes. It covers up insecurity, it guards a soft heart, and it protects against attack. 

While humor is a quick remedy for vulnerability, it is also a thief of confidence. Sure, it’s good medicine when the tears flow so rapidly nothing can stop them. But, self-deprecating humor can also be a dangerous drug. It is a drug I run to often and I am an addict. 

I hope to remedy this addiction. I hope to stop seeing the girl in the wheelchair in photographs and start seeing the girl who cooks and cleans and walks her dog and does yoga and runs errands and meditates and holds doors for others. I vow to see the girl who overcomes and achieves and takes out trash and fixes people drinks. She exists. She exists every, single day. 

So, thank you, friend. Thank you for opening this door. I shouldn’t devalue my efforts or my strengths. It takes quite a bit to show up and pose for a simple picture with friends. It takes courage to allow my true self to transcend my physical self. And for that, I shouldn’t be ashamed. I shouldn’t devalue my efforts. I try, I show up, and I keep on keeping on and there isn’t any shame in that.

This is the picture. I am the girl in between her sister and two loving friends.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baby Will

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination, full of hope.” 
-Maya Angelou

January 17, 2014 marks a change in my life. A change that arcs towards hope, rather than despair. July 17, 2000, also marks a profound leap from one reality to another, but the arc began with despair and, mostly, but not always, this particular arc leans towards hope. However, without a doubt, January 17, well, this day’s arc is all hope and all love. 

Unless previously scheduled, a baby bursts into this world, purely on his own time. Itineraries and dinner plans and weather conditions are of little concern to him. He comes when he is ready. He accepts little direction and tests patience and determination. He is hope. He is love. He comes when he is ready.

This is the story of Wilson’s arrival into this world. Wilson is Ashlea’s third child. Parts of this particular story are left out and this is on purpose. Much of the whole story is Ashlea's story and only her pieces to share. When I started this blog, I promised to tell only my story, so that I will do. So, here it first birth story...of a dear friend’s baby. 

Friday, January 17, a cold and icy day, forced much time at home cuddled on the couch, gathered around the television, and mandatory pajama day. This winter is relentless and reminds us to respect power of nature and the earth. Hunkered down in my own home, I worked on house renovation details. About midway through the day, I sent a text message to Ashlea. I asked her which window treatments she prefers, roman shades or curtains. Ashlea responded, weighed the difference between roman shades and drapes, and left me sure of the decision. I took out a ball of pizza dough from the freezer, put in on the counter to thaw in time for dinner, and went on with my day. Snow exaggerates entrapment, familiarizes a night in, and urges preparedness. I know this all too well this year. And, then, several hours later, just as I stretched my pizza dough and chose a movie, my phone buzzed. The buzz came from Ashlea. It read, on the way to the hospital. I think he’s coming.

Several months ago, when the air was warm and the grass was green, the nights never ending and short sleeves and tank tops a must, Ashlea invited me to the birth of her baby. This baby, at the time, was a tiny little seed, a little seed of hope, a little far off dream. Yes, he was growing, but he was still just a seed. Over time, as her belly grew, so did his roots. We learned he was a he. Ashlea and Kyle thoughtfully chose a name. Her two kids, Kate and Jack, knew they had a brother on the way. Eventually, he had a bedroom. He had carefully washed and folded clothes. He had wooden letters, spelling his name, delicately painted and secured to the wall. He grew from a dream into a reality. And I promised to be there for his arrival. 

I took this promise very seriously. I don’t get to make promises very often. Promises aren’t something I can easily fulfill. They are abstract and fleeting, at the most. I tend not to make them. I tend to always offer caveats. I know I will disappoint. When the body is in charge, much like a baby and his arrival, time is not optional or convenient. An itinerary or promise is not binding. The body leads and the body wins. I vowed I would keep this promise to Ashlea, but knew deep down inside, it was a long shot. Paralysis and spontaneity don’t really go all that well together, but it was worth the hope. It was worth the effort to try. So I said, okay, I will be there.

Well, baby Will, decided to show up on an icy, freezing night during a cold, brutal, and dangerous winter. My driveway and most of the roads were covered in ice and offered little empathy. After I received Ashlea’s first text message, I packed my hospital basket. I threw in a bottle of champagne, that happened to be in the refrigerator, a few waters, some necessities, and a quilt.

This old quilt that is very special to Ashlea and me. It is special to Ashlea because she used it in a gender reveal video she sent to her parents and sisters. The quilt is special to me because it is the last blanket I slept under as a walking person. A quilt tells many stories, and this blue, white, and orange masterpiece is no different. It holds the final moments of my previous, walking life, and now holds the first moments of a new and fresh beginning. I washed it several months prior, saved it in a plastic bag, and separated it during my move. I actually carried it out of my old apartment, into my new house, as if it was my toothbrush or clothes for the next day. I stored it on a shelf and it patiently waited until I needed it. 

I grabbed the quilt. I put the pizza dough in the fridge. And then I looked out the window. I looked out the window because I, naively, I hoped the drive way would be miraculously clear, but it wasn’t. I sat for a minute in silence. My phone buzzed again. Another update from Ashlea. The baby was on his way. This was the time to act. Honestly, I felt a moment of doubt. I felt impending doom that my injury, my condition, my body might actually pull ahead and force me to break my promise. The ice was too much, the cold was too much, and I felt stuck, yet again. But then, this increasingly all too familiar, wave of determination and hope and life came over me. This sudden jolt of life, flew through my body and refused to leave. It said to me, you can do anything and now is the time to believe it and actually live it. So, instead of retreating into I can’t do this, it is too dangerous. I decided, yes, I know I can’t do this alone. Yes, the odds are against me. And yes, I failed in this situation many times before, but for some reason I know I can do it this time. I know I can do something I actually want to do, something I want to do for someone else. This wasn’t about me, this was about Ashlea, and a promise I made. I know Ashlea understands my limitations, she understands as much as my own family understands. This isn’t the point. I promised I would show up and I was going to show up, no matter what it took to get there. I don't always feel this free from my limitations, so I decided to take each step as a sign. If a particular step on the became difficult or too steep, the plan ends. But, as I do many times, I remained determined to try and try with all of my might. Only this time, it worked.

I put my basket by the front door. The basket placement seemed visionary and I wanted it to sit there as a goal. And then I came up with a plan. I called my dad. I knew he was home. He spends Friday night’s with his friends in his backyard, whether it is snowing or raining or sweltering. When he answered, I shot out my ideas with determination and gusto. Later, he said he heard so much determination in my voice, he knew no was not an option. I asked him if he was able to come over, help me down my ramp, down my hill, and into my car. Right away, he said, yes. And not only did he say yes, but his friend, well his brother, and my should-be-uncle, Ron, said yes too. They were on their way to help. I jumped in the shower and showered faster than ever before. I only did this because I had no idea how long I would be at the hospital. The next day, I previously scheduled an early morning meeting with one of my contractors, to discuss house renovation plans. I decided if I came home just in time for the meeting, I wanted to be ready. I dressed like I was walking again. I never once thought about the legs I have to dress or the awkwardness of pulling up my pants. I just went through the motions, without a second thought. Out loud, I continued to go over what I needed to do next. Get dressed, take the dog out, grab the basket, wait on the porch. I said this mantra over and over again. I realized, about half way through my furry of preparations, I had no idea how to get to this particular hospital. I am kind of a hospital pro, but this hospital happened to be one where I’ve only been once. Kyle, Ashlea’s husband, sent me directions to the hospital room once I was inside the hospital, but I didn’t want to bother him with driving directions. I called my friend Kelly. I took a chance and called her on a Friday night, as well. Luckily snow and ice assures that people answer phones on Friday night. She answered, calmly told me she would send me a text message of the instructions, and reminded me Ashlea needed me to calm down and not panic. A good reminder because I was acting like the one having the baby, for a minute. 

Like clockwork, my dad and Ron showed up in my dad’s four wheel drive SUV. They parked at the bottom of the driveway and turned on the headlights to provide light as we inched down the slippery hill. Dad and Ron dashed up the icy and snow covered driveway on foot, met me at the top of my ramp, took my basket off my lap, and Ron began to push me down the driveway, while my dad carried my basket. My dad also decided to shine his little key chain flashlight, which was the tiniest little light you ever did see, but hey, I was not turning away help this evening. I would take anything I could get. Even a light the size of a dot. Ron carefully slid down the driveway, while tightly grasping the back of my wheelchair. My dad coached us the entire way down and kept a finger on that little light. When we arrived at the bottom, all three of us breathed a sigh of relief. And as we entered the garage, my dad and Uncle Ron went over my instructions. They directed me as how to best pull out of the garage and how to, methodically, head up my steep hill. They told me to call the second I needed help, with anything at all and if they didn’t answer, I was instructed leave a message, and they would call right back. My dad and Ron hugged me, put my basket on the front seat, wished me luck, and Ron said, “Hey, tell Ashlea we love her and I am so happy to be a part of this.”

The way up the hill wasn’t without drama. I went up and slid backwards several times. At one minute, I thought, I am not going to be able to do this. But, instead of giving up, I listened to Dad and Ron. And finally, Ron pushed my car, almost the entire duration of the hill, and I was off, waved out the window, and headed to the hospital. 

When I reached the stop sign at the end of my street, I stopped, called Kyle to tell him I was on my way, glanced at my phone, and saw the directions from Kelly waiting in my text messages. It was as if everything fell magically into place. I sped to the hospital with tremendous caution. I don’t even remember the drive, other than my constant repetition of, main entrance, main elevator, third floor, to the left. These were Kyle’s instructions and, once again, I repeated them. I threw my chair together, put my basket on my lap, and bolted towards the hospital door. Of course, the doors were locked. My life is never without a bit of difficulty. I waved and tried to gain the attention of anyone inside, so as not to have to wheel over the snowy sidewalk to the emergency room entrance. Luckily, a family tried to enter at the same time, and they helped me wave. We caught the attention of someone inside, and we filed in through the doors in no time. I remember a lady in the family offered to carry my basket. And I remember I only replied with my repetition of directions, main entrance, main elevator, third floor, to the left. This family also saw my determination and started opening doors, holding doors, and pushing elevator buttons for me. As I arrived at the main desk, I just shouted, my friend Ashlea, she’s having a baby. I don't really know how to be a visitor in a hospital. I’m rarely the visitor, I usually have a lifetime membership. The nice people directed me and I was on my way. 

The details of this next part of the story are Ashlea’s story, but the part I can tell, is of the moment I suddenly saw my friend holding a baby that was, only moments ago, inside of her. During this moment I finally understood, that the invitation to hope does exist. This invitation is, really and truly, alive and well. It isn’t always timely, but it comes, when least expected. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls. I knew the barriers ceased to exist, the moment I saw, the now mother of three, holding her brand new, little baby, in a hospital room. A room that I, previously, loathed. A room that was once a holding cell for me. Only now, the room wasn’t a jail cell, it was a passage of hope, a warm, inviting blanket of love. The room bore new life and a new beginning, for all of us.

A baby is tiny and cute and sweet and gentle and chubby, but what he does most, is act as a fresh start. A beacon of hope. He is a ray of sunshine and a brand new, untainted, beating heart of love. He is full of gratitude, knows infinite peace, emits joy, and only asks for our care and nurturing. And this is a lesson I constantly learn. I can’t expect  joy and love and hope and dreams and gratitude to show up without effort, I must nurture them and birth them. I must be as determined to be a part of them, as I am determined to have them be a part of me. 

And as much as I desire these blessings, these gifts, to show up in my life, I can not force them, either. These miraculous gifts will show up on their own time. I must have the fortitude to go after them when they arrive. I must exhibit enough courage to ask for help, to shout for help, and to believe I will wheel through to door to greet them upon arrival. For it is not up to me when these lovely gifts arrive. It is not up to me how they arrive. These blessing may show up in unusual ways. They may show up on a night that is far less than perfect; A night when doubt runs deeply that I will show up to greet them. My job, my only job, is to be determined to be a part of their arrival. Be courageous enough to be there to receive them. And mostly, to recognize them when they arrive. 

Two weeks later, and I still can't take my eyes off of him. So full of hope. So full of love. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I am, literally and figuratively, stuck. Snow falls every other day and then freezing temperatures dominate the forecast, leaving a sheet of ice. And ice doesn’t work so well with a wheelchair. So, I am stuck. This stuck feeling is what precipitated my unintended break from writing over the holiday season. After Thanksgiving, a snow storm pounded my area and forced a season of feeling emotionally and intellectually paralyzed. And this mental strain, in combination with my physical paralysis, fed my frustration and allowed it to take over my life. I did have a wonderful holiday, consumed with party planning and all things holiday. However, I also felt a void. I don’t seem to function very well outside of my routine and ritual.

The ritual I miss most, when I am stuck, is my river walks with Belle. This ritual clears my head and opens my heart. Without this experience, I feel lost and out of sorts. I tend to have mini breakdowns and lose myself quite a bit. In addition to these walks, I do exercise at home. But, there is something about the path, the river, and the quietness of the park that bring me peace. 

Yesterday, the snow melted for five minutes. I packed up Belle and headed out for a walk. Bliss. I felt renewed. My heart overflowed with gratitude. But, then, here I am today inside and wondering if I will ever get outside again. Instead of allowing this trapped feeling to dominate the day I chose to get over it and move forward despite my cloudy head. I decided this stuck feeling is only a feeling and I need to choose a new feeling. A feeling that makes me less stuck and more motivated. And I did it with just starting the day with a better attitude. An attitude that is grateful for this time inside. An attitude that is grateful for the time to accomplish things on my list that seem to always reappear or are pushed to another list for another time. I chose to be grateful for the pause, instead of pining for the play button.

I am currently working on a story to share with you. A story that tells of this past Friday night's adventure. A night I will always remember with great laughter and overwhelming love. I can’t wait to finish it and share it with you. I also fill my days with this house renovation project. The details are buttoning up quickly and I should begin a photo report soon. Please keep up the positive energy. This time inside forces completion of a lot of unfinished details and projects. It also encourages more time in my bed which only aids in my healing process. So I need to learn to be grateful for this time as much as I loathe it. I inch closer and closer to my dreams of a healthy, as it can be, body and a house suited to my needs. I need to learn not to get so frustrated when I hit a bump or stall out for a bit. Every day, I learn something new. Every, single day.

Be back shortly and hope you are very well. If you are cold, please stay warm and if you are warm, please remember to be grateful for the sun. And if you are stuck, be grateful for the pause. It is difficult to hit this button sometimes. Believe me, I know.

And this is what a stuck dog does all day long...after she is ornery, of course. I wish I could find her inner peace.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It's Not A Concession Speech

Several months ago I shared a magical conversation with a friend. We discussed suffering, loss, and grief. While our circumstances are vastly different, our emotions and our pain are quite similar. So as not to betray her confidence, I shall say we both have holes in our lives, unfulfilled dreams, and brutally interrupted plans. We discussed these vulnerabilities without shame, but also expressed much hope and determination. And without hesitation feel grateful for our lives, holes and all.

As the discussion veered towards the gratitude for these holes, gratitude for the lives we currently live, she said something so wonderful and with so much confidence, that it sticks with me all these many months later. Sometimes, when I venture into a bit of a dark place and I pull out of it using tools like my gratitude journal or focusing on what I do have, I remember her words and everything falls perfectly in place. 

Immediately after she named all of the good in her life, despite her pain, she simply said, “And this is not a concession speech.”

Not a concession speech. She is so right. Just because we learn to focus on the love in our lives, rather than the fear, doesn’t mean we are grasping for straws. Just because we choose to see what is right, rather than focus on what is wrong, doesn’t mean we are defeated. And just because life doesn’t turn out exactly as it should in our heads or by what we see as a first rate life, doesn’t mean the life we have is second best. It isn’t a concession speech to be content as we are and with what we have. In fact, it is the courageous person who takes looks her circumstances, with the falls and the stumbles and the bruises and the torn heart strings and the dashed dreams, straight in the eye and is willing to return her life again and again no matter how many times it knocks her down. This is courage. This is a win, not a concession speech.

Thank you, Shantini. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Grace Farrell

Well, I planned to write about my unintended break from this little space and resolutions and forgiveness, but after a conversation over text message with Ashlea, I deleted everything I wrote and decided to just write straight from my heart. Straight from the emotion I feel at the moment and just go with it.

So, what I do want to pass along from my deleted post is that I despise resolutions for the new year. They sound great and all rah-rah, but honestly I think they are a waste of time. I don’t have an issue with change or focused determination, but resolutions that last a week or a month and then cause disappointment or feelings of failure just simply irritate me. Lofty goals are made and lofty goals are not reached. Some people may stick to these plans, but I am not one of them. In order for me to make meaningful change, I must feel the time is right. A lot of time, the change comes from necessity and I see nothing wrong with it. Sometimes the change comes from increased awareness, which is even better. However it comes, I can’t ask the desire to show up on January first or second of each year. It just doesn’t work that way for me. And I don’t need one more reason to feel like I am not living up to my potential just because of a calendar change. 

What I do agree with...and you can call this a resolution or adding more ritual and finding more joy and cultivating more peace. I work every day on these changes. Somedays, I do well, and other days, not so much. Instead of feeling like a failure, I just simply think, oh well, tomorrow is another day. And if I can’t find tomorrow or fail to see the light behind the clouds, well I get down on my knees and pray that I find the hidden rays of sunshine and find them quickly.

A few nights ago, I found myself crying alone in my kitchen. I was cutting an avocado one minute and the next minute found my head resting on my arm, while I shed tear after tear. I slept very little for a number of days and was probably just overly tired. At the moment my thoughts were not clear and it felt as if the tears would never end. As I cried, I felt the urge to reach into my bag of tools and get on my knees and pray. Since I can’t literally get on my knees, I folded my hands in my lap, bowed my head and prayed to whomever was listening. I simply asked to feel better, surrendered my issues, which I can’t even remember what they were at the time, and begged for the ability to be of service, to be useful in some way, and to be guided into that direction. Immediately, I felt immensely better. I, then, decided to return to preparing dinner, turn on Friends, because it always makes me laugh, and move on from the crying. For some odd reason, I wasn’t into watching this show that usually makes me literally laugh out loud. I changed the channel. And two channels down, starting at the exact time I chose to change the channel, was Dr. Wayne Dyer on PBS. The particular show was his lecture on his recent book, Wishes Fulfilled. I said out-loud, as I eerily looked around as if some cosmic force actually heard me, okay, okay, I hear you loud and clear. I watched his lecture for the billionth time, found new meaning in it, and like a light switch, flipped from a perspective of fear to love. 

Over the next few days, I adopted a new ritual. Instead of asking to heal my body, I asked how can I heal the world? I asked how can I be of more service? And how can I spread the abundance of joy and love? The answer didn’t come as quickly as the Wayne Dyer on television the minute I turned it on answer came. In fact, the response still seems to be showing up in many, varied, and different ways. So, instead of making a resolution this year, I chose to make a ritual that sits me in the space to be more open and aware of more joy and more love and how to share both of them.

And tonight, as I conversed with Ashlea, a bit of this awareness seeped in like water through a crack, slowly at first and then forcefully busting through with vigor. As we discussed silly things like baby blankets and our dogs dashing inside after they do their business because the air is so cold outside, I asked her how she was feeling today. Ashlea is eight months pregnant. She shared how she took down the Christmas decorations, then told me she randomly fell asleep watching a movie with her daughter. She said it happens during the final months of minute she is watching Annie with her daughter and then the next she is fast asleep on the couch. 

Annie. She had me at the mention of the movie, Annie. I adored the movie, Annie, as a child. And by adored, I mean obsessed over the movie Annie, as a child. I think it came out when I was four Only, I didn’t want to be Annie as much as I wanted to be Grace Farrell. In fact, I acted out this movie many times. My sister can tell many tales of how I made her play Annie to accompany my Grace Farrell act. I sang, Let’s Go to the Movies, while wheeling across the room with my legs propelling my Great Grandmothers ottoman on wheels, just like Grace did in the famous scene. I could twirl my legs in the air and practiced Grace’s dances over and over again in the mirror. I can do a mean, We Got Annie, performance. I named my first cat Annie and my dog surprisingly looks like a miniature Sandy, but with black hair. And no, it does not escape me that I noticed, with great detail, the scenes with FDR and his wheelchair. I always wondered what it would be like to be a president in a wheelchair. I know half of the answer now. 

Back to Grace Farrell. She, after all, was my favorite. With great pleasure, I practiced her scenes and her songs. I danced as if no one was watching and twirled and swooped my legs through the air with gusto. And tonight, for the first time in a quite a while, I watched those scenes over and over again. I felt like my heart burst into a confetti of joy and spilled all over the place. I didn’t care the happy tears drenched my laptop keyboard, I was overcome with joy and just went with it. And then, I knew. I knew what part of my purpose is, what a bit of what I am supposed to do with this life is...I am to find that bit of my soul that flails my legs through the air and sings dangerously out of key and not be afraid to live in that place. And not only live in that place, but to spread the feeling that comes from that place, all around me. And no, I can’t dance those dances anymore and I am certain singing is not my gift, but the pure joy and bursting heart are equally important gifts to share. All I need to do is smile as if I am scooting that ottoman across the floor, treat everyone as if, We Got Annie, and learn to tap into that joy found in dancing around my room, as a daily ritual. 

So my new hope for this year is that I may find that space that resides deep, down inside where Annie and Grace Farrell still live. And on the days when I do find it and not only find it, but grasp a hold of it, tightly, may I learn to gracefully share it, in any way that I can. And if I can only find it for a minute, may that be the minute I pass it along in the most meaningful and gracious way possible. May I find my purpose in the service of others and help spread the cultivation of joy and inner Grace Farrells everywhere. For my purpose, I believe, is to this spread joy and spread this light, I once innately knew so well. Because, in the end, isn’t that what we are all supposed to do? 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Silly, but I Believe

“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
-Miracle on 34th Street

Just a silly story to begin the holiday season...

I love the movie, Miracle on 34th Street. Not the new version. The old black and white version with Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood. Since childhood, I watch this movie at the start of every holiday season. For those of you who haven’t yet seen it, it is a story that begins on Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas. Santa Claus is on trial and a little girl struggles to truly believe in him. A heart warming tale that leaves me in happy tears, no matter how old I get. 

In keeping with tradition, I watched this movie a few days ago. I honestly can’t remember which day I watched it, because the days all seem to run together during these holiday weeks and weekends. That’s kind of the joy of this season...time stands still for a moment and days run together. I am kind of a sucker for this time of year and even though I don’t want to decorate this year because of all of the renovations, I still switched out all of my candles and hand soap to scents like, Vanilla Bean Noel and Hot Buttered Rum and Citrus Holly Wreath. Oh the dreams that run wildly in my head for next year. Luckily, I have an entire year to plan my first holiday season in my first home. But, back to the story...

So I watched the movie with my usual preparedness. A box of tissues in hand and my dog sleeping on my legs. Though, this time, the lines rang a bit differently, they struck a new chord. I couldn’t quite figure it out at first, but about halfway through the movie, it hit me. 

Recently, I learned the power of positivity and dreams and imagination. I always thought these were things kids posses naturally, without practice, and then adults, naturally, cling to realism and so goes life. But, the more I read, the more I learn, the more I grow, the more I know for sure the imagination holds so much power. It is a place of freedom and expression and bliss. I work on honing my dream and imganitation skills constantly. I just assumed this was new to me...until I watched Miracle on 34th Street for the umpteenth time. 

There is a particular line in the movie I love, have always loved. “It’s silly, but I believe.”

Young Natalie Wood says this over and over and she tries to trust her friend, Kris Kringle. She says it kind of haphazardly, which I adore. I kind of love repeating lines of movies and television shows. I do it quite a lot, sometimes without realizing it. And, as silly as this is to admit, in the past thirteen years since my accident, I find myself repeating this line too, haphazardly. Just the other day when I thought I hit a road block with my health, instead of allowing my head to venture off into negative land, I switched gears, looked in the mirror and repeated, it’s silly, but I believe. The line just turns my thoughts to hope instead of despair. That’s all. Nothing too complicated. What I learned, though, as I watched this movie, is that I repeat this line all of the time. And not just in the last thirteen years. As a child, any time I was said or feeling down, I would look in the mirror or utter softly to myself, it’s silly, but I believe. I’ve probably been repeating it for thirty years.

What I do know now though, is I never say it or said it because I needed convincing Santa Claus is real. I say it because it is a short statement or affirmation, as my new self-help lingo calls it, of hope. Plain and simple. A quick reminder to focus on the dreams and images of a better day. Basically, in one quick sentence, it says, I believe in a better moment. I believe in a better tomorrow. I believe in a better time. I believe in those lovely intangibles called kindness and joy and love. It’s silly, but I believe.

Just think, I could have saved all of this time and money on self-help books and just watched Miracle on 34th Street. Clearly, I joke, but how eye-opening to learn I always practiced my affirmation. 

That’s all for now. I spent the day with dear friends at a brunch that lasted well into the afternoon. None of us noticed the passing of time, just kept talking and eating and enjoying. Now, I will end this day with The Godfather. I know, quite an extreme opposite of Miracle on 34th street. But, hey, I’m all about taking the good with the bad. I look forward to a sunny river walk, with Belle, tomorrow morning. And to cap off the weekend start of the holidays...I will watch Homeland with Kelly and eat appetizers for dinner because we can. It’s the holidays. Not a bad start to a season of joy...especially for an introvert like me, right Steph, Jenni, and Jos? A lot of down time peppered with meaningful moments shared with true friends and loving family. Here’s to joy...‘Tis the season.