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regrets

an rsvp sent to friends with whom I will be missing our annual reunion.

Good morning friends,

I awakened, as I imagine many of you also may have, to exubertant birdsong celebrating the return of life from the long sleep of winter. I am in Tennessee where the awakening is vibrant. The drive south was like a fast motion film of spring’s arrival, with blooming redbud painting the roadsides and hillsides throughout Virginia before the first dogwoods made their appearance in the southern end of the state. I’m always struck by the way in which the spring vistas seem to be mirroring a subtler shade of autumn, the softer pastels of those reds and yellows and apple-greens washing  over the land.

We visited the Smoky Mountains, for a few brief days, before making our way to Nashville for Easter with my daughter.  There the forest floor was blooming with promise after the devastating fires that had ushered it into its deep sleep last November.

As you know, I will be missing our annual time of reconnection and renewal.  It was not a hard decision at all to accept the invitation to go north when it came, though as with so many decisions to say ‘yes’, there soon came the tension of the necessary ‘no’s’ that were naturally attached to it. Even as I write this, I note the regret that would have me in angst about my decision, but I am seeking to live a life less torn asunder by so many pulls on my heart, a life where I can be present as wholly as possible to the place where I stand.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons I go. When I am there, I am there.

I trust that, with you all, one of my deepest desires will be true, that I can be connected and free at once. A paradox, of course, as all the deeply true things of life seem to be.

Don and I continue to search for that balance, I suppose, too as we seem so often to be pulled in opposite directions…. his ESTJ to my INFP, his southwest to my northeast, his human-made material and concrete world to my natural intangible one.  In good times, we wonder together about our complementary pairing. In stressful ones, we wonder what we were thinking!  I sometimes think about those householder, childrearing stages of life in a marriage, the way that two disparate selves come together to create a separate third, an actual new life into which the two then also come together with mutual passion and love.  I think I am waiting (longing?) for that 3rd love that the two of us might pour ourselves into at this stage of our lives.

Don had a second ankle fusion surgery last fall, and the recovery has been difficult and long. He is still not physically able to walk without a cane and has significant pain. WE are hopeful, but I am coming face-to-face with the reality, much sooner than I’d anticipated, of having married a man 10 years older than me, something that is inviting the deeper practice of surrender in me, no matter how I resist.  It has been a frustrating time in our marriage these last 2 years, as being nurse/caregiver to your partner develops habits, establishes roles, and reveals communication and control issues in the relationship. I have recently realized quite a bit of anger in me at choices and actions made by others, including my husband, that impact the direction of my life. So often, I feel like George Bailey on the train platform with my suitcase in hand… When I am able to step outside and observe, I find it fascinating that my partner developed a problem that kept him grounded in place at precisely the time when my long-waiting spirit had been imagining flight!

Connection and freedom.

I won’t go on, lest I lose you in my endless ponderings, but I wanted to share with you all here something of my life , as I will miss the sharing we have when we are together. ( gosh, and here comes that longing again…. See! It isn’t the other at all, it is me who does this to myself)

Loving you all,

Vicki

red belly

Today, I realized something. The way that I stress so much about my failings and shortcomings when I am here, the ways that I can’t be enough, the ways that I can’t measure up, keep my commitments (there are too many), nurture my relationships (there are too many), be attentive enough, set boundaries, be available.  All of these ways that I stress , all of these wasy that I feel torn to pieces ,scattered when I am here. Even the ways that I feel guilt and stress about leaving. All of it ! is gone when I am there.

When I am there, I am there. When I am here, I am scattered into a million pieces. When I am there, there is only one thing. One community. One meal. One responsibility. Oneness. I do not feel guilty when I am there about not being somewhere else, about not being enough or doing enough, about saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, because I have no ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There I am free to be me.

What feels torn asunder from me here, returns to me there, is knitted back into the fabric of wholeness and presence. I wonder if it is possible to bring that single focused presence home, to not feels this war within me raging.

I wonder why it has gotten worse in me again? How to stop feeling guilty ALL OF THE TIME! Is the guilt perhaps speaking some truth? Or is the true answer distance? OR would this monster catch up with me there?

I wonder why surrendering, or the thought of surrendering, makes me feel dead inside, imagining a lifetime of giving up and giving in.

I have climbed out of my bedroom window onto the porch roof, where I can be outside with a view of the sky. Even up here it is visible only because of these leafless spring trees, 100 ft tall trunks not branching out until far above the roofline of the houses here.

The red-bellied called me out here. He has been visiting the tree outside my window for weeks now. I finally heeded his call. Two round drilled holes are here in the fork of this towering oak. Several times, I have observed him looking into one of those inviting openings, circling the trunk, then coming back to it once again…as do I with this pondering home.  I wonder if he will go inside, if she will say yes, if they will make themselves at home, nurture some eggs into life. Perhaps she will lay three.

Three things I hope to nurture in my life, the exercise asks of me. I list connection and passion with my husband, connection and passion (adventure and joy) with the earth, and a sense of freedom- freedom from guilt.

When these things are attained how will my life look/feel?

I believe I will move freely and with excitement, wonder and joy. I believe I will feel less anxiety, less overwhelmed, less ‘not-enoughness’ about myself, less censure and judgment, less fear of rejection, less loneliness. Yes, I am noticing all of the ‘lesses’.  I suppose I must let go of those lesser feelings in order to make space for others to grow. I suspect these 2 practices go hand in hand – the “letting go” which I hit upon so tearfully yesterday and picking up hope.

To put my image of hope into a positive frame (rather than that list of erasing this and that) I hope to feel free AND connected.

As I write, I wonder about sharing these ramblings on my blog and if perhaps I should stop doing so for now. Oh, I have such mixed feelings about it. I do believe my blog helps a few people and connects me to them, perhaps even intimately so, as this honest sharing of myself and my journey connects to something deep in their own stories.  And as I write this, I realize that this place also helps me to maintain some sense of  my true self, where I don’t have to hide or be afraid to be who I am. Here I can speak my truth (warts and all) and remember who I am (beauty and all). Inside this place I can be authentic without fear. That feels different than most other places in my life, for there is a freedom here that I do not experience in my day to day relationships.

I feel free here, but am I connected? Perhaps I am idealistic, but I believe that home should be the kind of place where you find both. Freedom, perhaps, to be loved as you are. This begs me to wonder where home truly is for me. Turtle reminds me to carry my home with me… from there back to here.

The red-bellied calls again, calling me out of my reverie, circling around to peer into that hole once again. Perhaps he too has decided that he has found a safe place within to lay a few eggs.

 

 

tell about it

watercolor.jpg

There I stood again, so dumbfounded I am certain that my mouth was agape, as my mind searched in a panic, rifling through so many blank pages for an answer. Though the question was asked slightly differently, I was just as caught off guard as I’d been for all those years when it was posed that other way, ‘What do you DO?’ (for a living –‘career’ implied).  This time, innocently proposed, the children’s nature hike leader attempting to use the adults in the assemblage to illustrate the ways in which all living (and even nonliving) beings in the forest neighborhood have a job to do, she turned to me and asked, ‘What is your job?’

‘Oh, I’m retired’, I stammered. (wait, is that even true? or is that simply one more place that I have hitched myself to the coattails of a man – my husband retired 4 years ago – has that become my easy out? – though I never had a career to ‘retire’ from – oh there I go still discounting all those years of devotion to the art of motherhood)

‘Oh, but surely you still have a job to do. Everybody has a job!’

Back home, I rehearsed all the responses I might have given… each one of them so soft and indistinct, they may as well have been an abstract watercolor, those free-flowing works of art where the water and the pigment seem to be given rein to do their own thing, without boundaries or structure or any sense of control, outside of the artist’s command.  

Seer of Beauty.

Seeker of Wisdom

Lover of Earth

Payer of attention

I thought of Mary Oliver’s ‘Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Harrumph. What is the purpose of a life such as that, what ‘job’ does it perform for the neighborhood?

A friend supplied me with this one – ‘Guardian’ – ( she also gave me ‘Caregiver’ but I have been desperately trying to escape that!) because I suppose this is who I am for her, the space I hold in her life. Back to that image of Indra’s net flew my heart, to the assuaging notion that each of us is to simply be who we are, to hold our bejeweled knot in the web.

Guardian of the Sacred?  Perhaps. That seems like it could be a ‘real’ job in the neighborhood after all. A Doing Something Job. A Tangible Job. A Needed job.

I realize that perhaps the first place that requires my sacred guardianship is my own value. Is my worth dependent upon what I can do for others? Or is there something inherently sacred about my own life, regardless of my role? And might there be something profoundly sacred about the lifeforce contained in hope or the energy of a dream?

I have been feeling diminished lately, not quite desecrated, but definitely unseen. When something is not visible, it is far easier to forget that you are walking on sacred ground. Choices are made that don’t honor the inherent dignity nor take the essential welfare (not to mention, thriving) of the other into account. I wonder if all beings start screaming a little louder for attention when they are about to get stepped on.

You see, my anger has been acting out lately.  Actually, for years now I have felt myself to be in an almost constant state of rebellion, fighting determinedly to survive, not to surrender to the crushing, striving valiantly to hold on to some sense of self –self-agency, self-determination, self-direction, self-worth. Instead I have felt my life so very much out of my own of control, as if I am utterly powerless to move it in the direction I seek it to go, as if it is flowing haphazardly in response to opposing external stimuli, its color helplessly altered by a drop of red spreading out on the wet canvas.

Alternately angered and then aggrieved, it seems the choices of others continually alter my own. Of course, I realize that on some level, it is my choice to acquiesce, and most often that choice stems from love.  I am a relational being,  after all, and when one of those jewels in the web nearby me pull, I come naturally attached. We all affect one another with each move that we make, I suppose.  The birth of (8) grandbabies, the retirement of a spouse, his choice of a second avocation, a year and a half of orthopedic surgeries, the pulling of our hearts in opposite directions, the ‘settling’ into a new home, the saying ‘no’ to a dream. Cancelled plans. Altered visions. Diminished dreams.

 Then there are the tangible everyday pulls, tugging loose my guilt and fear-of-missing-out from the sweater I wrap around myself to keep out the cold and keep myself contained. Beneath that false guilt, I realize that these everyday pulls nag at my heart because I understand that each moment shared is an opportunity to nurture relationship, and  I continually feel as if I am letting someone down.  A birthday party. A baptism. A grandparent’s day.  An invitation to lunch. A daughter’s phone call. A yoga weekend with a friend. A son’s unexpected weekend visit. A mother’s decline. A dance/violin/gymnastics/piano recital. A daddy-daughter camping trip. A neighborhood need.  A sister’s walk. A beloved’s recognition reception.  A relationship here. A relationship there.

A nature walk.

The stuff of ordinary life, each one attached to my heart. Each one a seeming obstacle on my path, altering the course I have longed to set for myself, to that elusive Sacred Lake, where I might find myself in the reflection, or be stirred awake by an inner passion, or even be held in stillness beneath the ice.  To my own true North, where I feel my own sense of self, grounded, centered and rooted, come alive, I long to flow.

I write this morning with green ink.  My husband bought a new box of pens for me because he knows I prefer the Ultra Round Stix roller pens. I like the feel of the pen in my hand, the way the roller glides across the page, allowing my thoughts to flow easefully from my heart through my hand.  Nevermind that the store didn’t have any blue ones left. I hadn’t asked him to go purchase them, but he had seen. Who knows, perhaps my eyes will grow accustomed to the muted pastel flowing across the page. Perhaps it might even become a signature of mine. Become a longtime companion made from ‘making do’, receiving a gift of love even when it feels like a compromise, from letting go of control. Become a watercolor wash of beauty.

Though something deep within my spirit longs for my life as a lake – contained, secluded, and bounded, still and deep, quiet and reflective, perhaps I am destined to be a river, and not such an old river at that. Not at all ancient or wise or even wide, but quite young, narrowly twisting and turning around obstacles along my way. Unable to carve my way through the huge boulders of granite left behind when the glacier retreated, or through the upheaval of my own bedrock, my path is altered on its way.

Perhaps life never flows in a straight line, after all, it is always more organic than that, dynamic, continuously changing … ceaselessly slipping through our open hands. Like this ink from my pen, my own life continues to flow from my heart, though it looks not at all like I’d envisioned it might on the page.

Oh, I don’t know. I only know that when I check in with my heart, it feels at peace in that other, quieter place. It feels like it can see itself there, and to be seen is to know oneself as Sacred. To be seen is to be Guardianed. My heart does not feel at home in the river. Always distracted. Never focused long enough to deepen. Constantly running. Forever catching up. Never quiet.

What is a woman to do?

So much latent in me, longing.  A friend emails breathtaking photographs , images that tug at my soul, instinctively drawing my hand to my heart. There is that yearning in me, too, to follow that love of the lens of my own eye, forever undeveloped in me. I read a few essays that likewise draw my hand, my heart, my tears, at the beauty and tenderness, presence and pain revealed and expressed, contained by those words on the page, my own story forever unwritten in me.

Except in this blessed journal, where it flows green (though I yearn even here to be blue), like those abstract watercolors, unstructured, uncontrolled, uncensored, pastel and vague. Hinting at something unnamed and yearning to be seen.  Though it appears that I also have no control over my life, perhaps it can still be a thing of beauty.

Something sacred. Worth guarding.

In the forest neighborhood, those trees that are rooted, unable to move from where they are stuck, are greening. The children were asked what the job of the Tree was. Their answers – shelter and shade- were diverted quickly away by the sight of a salamander under an upturned log, but I knew the true answer to that one. She is the primary gatherer of the light, transformer of that primal energy into something green that can offer nurture to all other life forms in this vast web.

I wonder if she ever wonders what it would be like to be blue….

 

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