A new year

I’ve had the last 12 days off, using paid time off instead of losing it at the end of the year. It’s been a heavenly break from normal. I started a major purge in our spare room and along the way uncovered some found some miserable reminders of the past as well as some sweet surprises.

I spent part of this afternoon at the back yard fire pit burning boxes of paper that should have been shredded and recycled ages ago. One revelation in envelopes filled with more than three decades of cancelled checks was that my handwriting hasn’t changed much.

We made it through the holidays amid the usual fuss and dysfunction. It’s very hard when you decide it’s best to hold your tongue and not speak frankly with those who create difficulty. Hell, maybe I’m the one who created all the troubles and I’m just trying to pass it off on other people.

I guess it’s the Libra in me that makes me carry it rather than cause more hurt by sharing it. I still resent the pressure it puts on my heart.

So, on we go to the next moment, the next milestone, the next mistake, the next mystery, the next mission. It’ll be OK as long as it’s an adventure.

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Exuberant Christmas… not

I’m struggling to make it through this Christmas, more than one in any in recent memory. I’m not writing to get sympathetic messages but to try and explain why this holiday is so hard for so many.

I miss the joy that used to come with Christmas.  Now it’s a block of time and a particular date that are scarred for many.

It’s marred by miscommunication and divisiveness. Failing to listen entirely enough to actually hear what is being said. Speaking without thinking about the words that are being said. Stubbornly permitting our hearts the chance to talk and listen again in hopes of finding common ground. Refusing to agree to disagree.

It’s a time for loneliness to be more profound. It’s a time when we most deeply feel ourselves missing those who aren’t here (we miss them all the time, but holidays are the hardest times). It’s the time when we get the most angry at them for leaving. Our common sense selves know they didn’t mean to leave and, given the choice, they’d choose come back. We know they are not coming back and the abandonment hurts like hell.

It’s a time filled with pressure and obligation to go places we prefer not visit and see people with whom we’d rather not spend time. The “supposed to” dates on the calendar become overwhelming.

Mental health experts tell us that sequestering ourselves is a mistake and that we need to be with other people to best balance our complex feelings during the holidays. I can only think that the mental health experts haven’t walked in our shoes.

It’s a time when the desire for caring and sharing go into hiding. It’s hard as hell to care when you don’t. It’s hard to share when you feel as if you will shatter if you are forced to give away one more piece of yourself—that the one piece you’d give it the only that has been holding your whole self together all this time.

It’s a time to hold on and paste on that sunny smile. It’s a time to pretend that everything is just fine, so that our profound sadness doesn’t ruin the day for someone else. The root of our sadness doesn’t matter, whether it’s missing a friend or loved one, the loss of family due to dysfunctional squabbling, or the obligation to be distant from home. The greatest gifts we give others are those of our false selves.

Please be patient with those of us who don’t feel exuberant enthusiasm. That would be the greatest gift to receive.

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It’s my fifth anniversary

I’m celebrating my fifth anniversary along with Susan and John, the first couple whose wedding I officiated. After five years I can count:

  • 111 weddings
  • 109 Gentlemen
  • 113 Ladies
  • Two more ceremonies for couples who were already secretly married and didn’t want their families to know
  • One ceremony read in both English and in Mandarin
  • One filmed for the TLC Network program “I Found The Gown”
  • One for a couple who had married and divorced, then realized  that they are truly soul mates and married again
  • Two “Mad Hatter Tea Party” themed weddings (one was spectacular)
  • Nine in New Hampshire
  • One in Maine
  • One in a bar
  • One on an island
  • 29 at private homes
  • One in a vineyard
  • One on a town common
  • One in a castle
  • Two in county jails
  • One in a cemetery
  • Six in parks
  • One at a campground
  • Three at the same restaurant
  • Four on farms
  • Five at a beach
  • One of those at sunrise
  • Five more overlooking bodies of water
  • One that was a surprise to the guests
  • One with a cat as the only witness
  • Three with dogs as wedding party attendants
  • One with golfers on the adjoining tee

It’s hard to express what it means to be part of such a defining moment in the lives of 222 people.   I can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.

just

 

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Will it save her life?

Something really important might have happened about an hour ago. I was shopping at a local business and asked a member of the staff for assistance finding an item. We got to talking and laughing and I noticed her beautiful skin. Radiant, flawless, not one line, simply beautiful and I told her so. She said that she has been blessed her entire life with great skin and uses no complicated products, just soap and water and a general moisturizer.

She said she is blessed in many ways. She said,  “I’m a survivor.” I said, “I am too.”

“Uterine, seven years.” she said. “Breast, nine years” I answered. That’s when things got serious.

“I found a lump,” she whispered. She went on to tell me that for reasons of poor health insurance she hasn’t had a mammogram in number of years. She’s scared.

I opened my wallet and took out a business card. I told her to schedule a mammogram. I told her that I care and that I will be waiting to hear from her, by phone or email, but that I want to know that she is taking care of business and taking care of her health.

I told her that I will come with her and hold her hand. I hugged her before I walked away.

Have you had a mammogram lately? Have the women in your life had one? Your girl, you wife, your mother? Ask them. Tell them you care. Tell them you’ll go with them and hold their hands. Tell them you love them and you need them to be around for a long time to come.

 

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41 Years Later

I did something 41 years ago that I had no business doing at the time. I got married.

I was a few weeks shy of my 22nd birthday. Marrying young was what we did back then.

In 1973, when I graduated from community college, my dad told me he’d pay my expenses to go on for a Bachelor’s Degree. Nope, I was a newly minted fiancé and I all I wanted in life was to get married.

There was no question that I loved Dave, at least based on what I thought love was. I thought it was all about playing house, picking out dishes and curtains, deep pile carpet and a couple of paintings from Sears.

I had never done a load of laundry until our honeymoon. I wept when I opened the washing machine at the motel and found all of Dave’s underwear had turned pink because I’d thrown a red shirt into the wash.

I hadn’t had to manage money beyond having to make a $26 monthly car payment (really). I wasn’t much of a cook (ask Dave how many times I made a dish he called “Morang Surprise”).

I had never lived on my own or been forced to be responsible for myself in any real way. I wasn’t ready to be a wife. I don’t think Dave was ready to be a husband. I think I pushed him into marriage much sooner than he’d have preferred.

I went from hanging onto the 11 p.m. curfew my parents set when I was in high school to being a wife. It was heady stuff and it was overwhelming.

We stumbled along, made some mistakes, recovered, made mistakes again, recovered again. Rinse-lather-repeat.

It took us a while to understand what we had done and what we were doing. We shouldered along and did the best job we knew how to do. We were tested a few times and at least once it seemed like it would be easier to walk away. But we hung in and we hung on. Even in the hardest time of all, we stood together and faced the darkest days we’d even known.

It hasn’t all be hard. It hasn’t always been a struggle. But given the chance to go back and start again, I’d marry Dave again, but not on this date in 1975. I’d go back and take the time to blossom into myself. I’d have sooner discovered my weaknesses and strengths. I’d have challenged myself, hopefully fallen a few times and learned how to pick myself up and start up again. I’d have known better what I was made of and been better prepared to handle the challenges and the decisions that were waiting for me. I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to do what everyone was else was in such a hurry to do.

These words are particularly meaningful:

From “Captain Corelli’s” Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

I’m proud of my marriage and I love my husband. If this had been easy it wouldn’t be worth it.

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Mother’s Day 2016

It’s Mother’s Day 2016 and I’m having a little “me” time before my brother and I motor north to have breakfast with our mother. I spent the better part of yesterday clearing out my daughter’s bedroom closet and bureau. It’s been six and a half years since she stood in that room trying to decide what to wear on wherever the next adventure would take her. I had memories of many of the items I folded into boxes and bins. It was bittersweet time with my thoughts. Most of what I packed is headed north today, to her friend Sarah.

I know some extraordinary women who are mothers. Sadly a number of them mourn the deaths of their children.

I know women who never had the joy to hold a child of their own in their arms—their compassionate and gentle hearts must ache today too.

I know women who raise their children on their own and who demonstrate strength, courage, and endless love.

I know women who have children but no idea how to nurture them. It’s not for me to say that they don’t deserve their children so I will not.

Lots of women. Lots of tears and smiles, frustration and joy, irritation and amazement.

My toast today is to all of the mothers I know and for their children. My toast today is for my mother and my mother-in-law, because without them I’d never had known the joy of being Penney’s mother.

My toast today is for me. Mother is the best of the many titles on my resume. The job didn’t end six and a half years ago. It’s just done a little differently now.

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Channeling Bob Dylan

I’ve been struggling for a long time about how to let go of things that just don’t work anymore. It’s time to get some distance from relationships and situations that are just shitty awful.

I don’t write here are often as I’d like, mostly because I find it difficult to be as honest as I’d like to be. I don’t know how to be honest for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

It’s that or I’m writing about grief and sadness. That gets old.

I find I spend a lot of energy being what I think someone else needs or wants me to be. That is exhausting and it gets old real fast. It’s time to­­­ think of myself first (or at last sooner than has been  usual).

I’m waking up. I’ve said that before — at least felt it before.  Often.  What kicked me in the ass was the chance to be with an acquaintance over the weekend.  I had not looked forward to the encounter but it was a part of a deal I took for the chance to be with someone else whose arms I couldn’t wait to feel around my own.

History repeated. Previous experiences replayed without missing a step  She is an un. Unhappy and unsatisfied. With some reason but it’s old — that’s all there is. Bob Dylan sang “Positively 4th Street” in my head. (I want to grow up and be brave enough to write with that kind of honesty.)

Is that harsh? Yea.

Is it honest? Yea.

Will it be painful? Perhaps.

Does it feel right? Yea.

 

 

 

 

 

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