it’s still love, just hold the vows

Saturday prevening I had a deep, caring, and thoughtful heart to heart talk with my first friend from 1st grade.  She knows me too well to not know that things had been off with me for months and she called me out.  BOOM! conversation changes from dieting and shopping to  “what is going on with you, let’s talk.”   She is also the kind of woman who you can’t really disobey, she tells it like it is, whatever it is, and so the dude abides.  We sort shit out, succinctly, by just being clear and honest.  She makes me seek her guidance with her directness.  She gave me advice that has worked for her and gave me pointers in how to change-up the thoughts that were not working for me.  She listened to every word I said without interruption and more importantly without judging me, and chose her responses with care, she wanted to say the right things and she also wanted to say what she felt I needed to hear and she did it with kindness above all.  Some of what she said was harsh to my ears, but I needed to hear the words and they are the truth.  I felt better after speaking to her than I had felt for months.

Yesterday I made a choice to do just about nothing…I napped in the sun, read a bit, did minimal housework, & I thought a lot about the changes that I have to make in my life for me through the talk I had with my friend, that all of this upset these months has been self-created and NOTHING that happened in the past can be changed, NOTHING anybody else does or thinks has anything to do with me, people change, people change their minds, people say words they can’t take back and people make questionable choices and circumstances change,  but NOTHING is for me to worry about…worrying about things that have nothing to do directly with me and also trying to change the thoughts that somebody else is having is like flogging a dead horse…I can keep wasting the energy but why???  …it’s futile…and that really hit the nail on the head…I had been worrying about so much for so long that is really so unimportant to my survival…I have to change some of MY bad behaviors, MY bad choices, MY bad decisions, and focus on what matters to me and me alone, a good kind of selfish…my house, my job, my loved ones, my yard, my physical and my mental health are all directly tied to how well and good I am, and I have been neither well nor good, and all of the above have suffered.

I sat in the gloriously bright, but not humid sunshine on my south deck yesterday afternoon with only the sounds of music pulsing through the outdoor speakers and crickets, and felt so peaceful, thinking about how I can change some things very quickly, and some others will take some patience & practice and behavior modification, thinking that a talk with a friend who has known you and loved you for so long is perhaps the best remedy for anybody when they are in a difficult place, and it’s free, be it mental or physical or spiritual or financial or familial or habitual or all of the above…that guidance from a friend is sometimes the best way to start a change because they knew you before, or during and will know you after.  Other than my parents and my Aunt, and my sister, she is the person I have loved the longest in my life.  She has been with me through some of my greatest joys and through some of my saddest lows.  She has seen me at my skinniest and hottest (late teens and adult successes with weight watchers over the last 20 years)  and has seen me at my fattest and worst (three hours after I’d given birth to the biggest baby in the hospital comes to mind) she has seen my brightest smiles and has seen my pools of tears, she has been my friend when I have had a big fat wallet and she has been my friend when I literally did not have two nickels to scrape together.  She has watched me make some really bad decisions and has cheered me on when I made some really smart choices.

Was it just coincidence, or was it perhaps one of those “cosmic clues” for which I have such fondness, that the hour we were speaking on Saturday was about the same hour, of the same day of August, that 28 years before she watched me make one of my very first of so many terrible choices, when she stood by my side in a fuchsia mini dress in my parents back yard, holding my purple flowers  as I got married?  …said words I knew were ridiculous, knowing full well, despite my youth and inexperience in life, that nothing was going to be as I wished or dreamed or wanted, and nothing good was going to happen from that day forward…She wants what is best for me and wants me to be my best, that’s love, no matter how you look at it…She has shown me love for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, and we will probably remain friends until death do us part.

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She lives for today

My Mimom, my Dad’s mother, is old.  She refers to me as, “my granddaughter the grandmother” and yes, she is a great-great grandmother.  She works out with a personal trainer at the gym in her building for a half hour almost every day.  She has been nearly blind for all of my adult life.  She lives more fully, old and with poor sight, than most people half her age do.  She is sharp as a tack and while we have grown apart these last several years, she moved much farther away than she used to be, she remains one of my favorite people of my life.

Some years ago a girlfriend of mine said to me about her, “do you buy a gallon of milk or a quart?  When you are that old, do you think about how few or many days you have?”  …and I realized this morning, thinking about my Mimom, and how she recently asked my Dad’s sister to take her furniture shopping,  that she cares not for how many or how few days she has left, she simply lives for the day, each day, every day…her present tense is ALL that matters.

It is a flaw in me, my inability to embrace the now, the present, the what is, and while I do try, repeatedly to get better at it, I need to learn from one who knows, who has lived a long time, through good times and bad, how to be present.  I admit fully that I have been difficult to be around for the last many months, that my inability to be content with how things are and what things are, makes me on edge and uneasy and pitifully unable to appreciate my present tense.  I have come to understand over many weeks, perhaps more than I ever did before, that you can only be moody for so long before people just want nothing really to do with you…My Mimom, on the other hand, is one of those people who, everybody wants to know, and spend time with, and has always been this way…As a child I spent most if not every school vacation with her.  She is the person who taught me how to set a formal table, eat an artichoke, serve crab imperial, how to mingle at a cocktail party, how to throw together an impromptu dinner…she used to be the ultimate hostess, and not only had neighbors and friends for cocktails many times a month, she also threw luncheons for her lady friends and had bridge games with snacks weekly…she has a big laugh and a big voice and has a kindness and joyousness about her that made and still makes people simply want to be around her.

I have not been living for today for too long.  My friend Miss B. who lived down south for many years often uses an expression, “any day you wake up on this side of the dirt is a good day.”  I love the expression but have not been successful in my implementation of the concept.  I believe I am either not trying hard enough or am too consumed with other thoughts to simply be present, to have my “Ah” moments, to just live well…it’s sad for those around me who can only take so much and so many of my mood swings, and it’s sad for me, really, who has so much to be thankful for and grateful about and can’t simply stop with the roller coaster of occasional or sometimes frequent, negative thoughts.  My Mimom clearly went through hard times in her life; getting married during the depression, having her husband go off to  Europe in World War II…I’m sure they had downs in their marriage and that she had downs of her own, but in all my life knowing her, she never gave any indications ever that things were in any way, amiss…I never asked her, but I am pretty sure she probably never needed to pay a therapist my BigDad’s hard earned money to help her get her shit together!

My Mimom always told me to keep my relationships with my girlfriends at the top of my list of important things, that relationships with men often end and men often die first and that it is critical to a happy life as an adult woman to have close girlfriends.  While I only have a couple with whom I share time, and even then it is not so often, I do have many women with whom I am casually acquainted whose place in my life I treasure.  I can’t be a good girlfriend to others if I am not a good friend to myself.  I’ve great aspirations of being a better version of me.  To have my public persona jive with my own state of mind is as good a place to start as any…but how to make it happen is what trips me up, time after time.  I can’t write that I am lazy or unconcerned, because I am the opposite of both, and I truly want to be better at being me, living for today.  We live this life day in and day out and sometimes things fall brilliantly into place and sometimes they crumble horribly apart, but it’s still OUR life, we have to make the best of the situation, any situation, any time…I do not wish to upset my friends or family or people in general with my words or my actions.  I do not wish to feel so conflicted and confused and frustrated so often with myself.  My Mimom was a guide for me as a young girl and woman who I should have paid more attention to in the details…I could have learned so much more from her than I did…She gave me a good foundation, it is up to me alone to build upon it…day after day…

Be Our Guest

I had many jobs this last week but two in particular brought me so much pleasure…two different customers were having weekend guests, so in addition to my “regular” work they wanted to make things even more special for their visiting friends…mind you, both homes are magnificent, modern, masterpieces with views of the bay that are priceless. A friend of mine opened a new florist in our area this season so my first stop was there to put together arrangements for the bedrooms.  I felt oddly excited, perhaps because as a woman who loves pretty things, I was sort of giddy with the task of choosing flowers and decorative stems and greens to design modern arrangements for vases, as if they were for me!!!

Because our season here at the shore is just about over and all the annuals I planted for Memorial Day are looking pretty shabby, I also bought a variety of late-blooming flowers and fall plants to fill in all the planters I have tended all season.  I mixed gothic looking dramatic black pepper plants with hearty red hibiscus bushes, I mixed purple angelonia, which blooms into October, with mini white mums and was so happy, of course being dirty and playing in  soil always makes me happy, (I’m sure it comes from all my weekends making mud pies in my playhouse as a child) but when I finished all the planters at both properties the satisfaction was almost as glorious as if I had freshened up all my own pots in my own yard!

I arranged the fresh flowers into vases at both houses and put them in the bedrooms, I refolded towels and made sure there was nothing missing, that they would not have to go looking for anything, much like if these weekend guests were staying at a fine hotel.  I plumped pillows, and I smoothed out duvet covers and all the time I was working I realized it didn’t feel much like work at all.  I felt oddly like I was nesting, as if it was my home in which they’d be staying, as if they were my friends who I wanted to feel comfortable and relaxed.

The man I love sometimes laughs at me when we make the bed together; the way I go from side to side to even out the blanket and smooth out the sheet and make sure the matelasse’ coverlet is even on both ends and pound and plump the pillows so there are no lumps, and he often says with a grin and perhaps an exhaustive sigh, “babe who is going to see it?”  …and I realized this week, in all the preparation for beach guests that were not mine, that part of my joy in this house, my dream house, is that I like the idea of making a space feel like the most perfect space…clean, tidy, organized, loved, tended to, maintained…cared for. During the hurricane we had here in October, at one point I had nine people, two dogs, and an iguana staying here.  A friend who really wanted a shower, and was so excited that my generator made this house livable, when he opened my linen cupboard his first word was “wow” and then he laughed and walked out to me in the hallway and said, “you have all white towels and they are folded perfect, I’m afraid to touch them, it’s like a fancy hotel”…and we all got a good laugh, I got teased for my ways, but I sure felt happy, that a guy would notice and that I really do care that my towels are folded perfectly…I treat the homes of my customers the exact same way I treat mine, like a treasure.

My house is very small by comparison to most other houses, certainly compared to all of the homes I work in and on.  I have no room for guests here, literally or figuratively.  When I was walking through the house in the fall of 2009 with the building inspector and the tax assessor, with fingers crossed that a Certificate of Occupancy was going to be issued at the end of our grand tour, they both asked me what on earth made me build a one bedroom house?  My answer seemed so obvious…I’m single, I live alone, who needs rooms that never get used??!!  I will most likely never have the opportunity to prepare for weekend guests like my customers do.  I doubt I will ever have the means to add on to this house if the need arises, so the chance to make a space welcoming to friends for an extended stay will probably never come to me…so I will simply always jump at the chance to do it for my customers, and will continue to do it in my own way for myself…making this space that I so love, that I designed and planned, and drew, and built, feel like the most wonderful place to visit, and count my blessings, unlike the friends of my customers who will stay through this afternoon and then go back to the cities from which they came,  that I don’t ever have to leave.

Over the Rainbow

I worked last week for a customer I’ve had for many years, she still works full-time as a practicing attorney at 79 years-old and she is still madly in love with her husband of 46 years.  While I cleaned and organized linen cupboards she chatted about her work, her life, her family, and she shared stories of some of the many travels and adventures she’s had during the years of her marriage, which are the entire years of my life.  I felt a mix of happiness and hopefulness those hours in her company…happy that I love my job and that I enjoy so many of my customers, and hopeful that my time to really live, will come…that it is not too late for me, that nothing is too late for me, that I’ve not missed the boat or the bus, that no doors have closed, that it’s not too late for me for anything…

I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of months about the life I am living: Am I living well, or just, well, living?  By global standards, I live lavishly, if I make the mistake of “comparing” my life to those for whom I work,  I do not.  If I focus on what I have and what is good and what is happy, I can safely write that I live well and have a very good life.  If I focus on the few things I want that I have not got, I find my view becomes narrower and narrower day after day and I begin to feel that I am  simply existing and not living really or living fully at all.  Anybody who knows me, knows that I use the word “fabulous” a lot…how am I today?  Fabulous! …but my propensity to too frequently dwell on the few -have nots-  rather than the many -haves- of my life, makes me anything but fabulous.  It is a self-perpetuating cycle of occasional unease and upset that only I can break.  Nobody can fix this flaw but me.

During the work hours I kept saying to myself, ‘I am this happy, I am this satisfied, I am as content as this woman’…just because I don’t yet have the money or the freedom to travel like I wish to, and just because I’ve got a few nagging thoughts that irk me, does not make me any less “well” than she.  My unease about a few things I can’t change somehow begins to make me uneasy about everything, even things I CAN change.  I am in charge of my own joy.  I am the captain of my ship, I am the mistress of my domain, I am the boss of me, so I must wonder why I keep thinking about WHEN things might be different, when I know, I honestly know, that I am in charge of me.  My happiness, my contentment, my satisfaction, my ease…I am the creator of my joy and therefore I am the creator of my woe…things can be different JUST by changing the way I think about them…

I’ve never heard this customer say one bad thing, one negative thing, one not “happy” thing about her life, her husband, her work…she is totally at ease with all that is her world.   I am in charge of the rainbows and butterflies…it is up to me to find them even when they are in hiding.  This customer is as in love with her house as I am mine…she loves its design, its layout, the treasures she has accumulated in it, she feels most “right” when she is there…she feels most herself when she is there, it is her space to regroup and restore her soul after her long week of work in the city.  I realized in talking with her that her joy upon arriving at the shore is not much different from my joy when I get to the base of my driveway at the end of each work day.  I suppose much like Dorothy, even if I got over the rainbow I might find that there’s no place like home, that Oz is just some other place, not some better place…

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

I was among friends last night, remembering one.  I spent a lot of my evening chatting with a man,  (who happens to be the first boy I ever kissed, in kindergarten no less,) and his beautiful wife and her beautiful sister, as well as a number of other acquaintances from high school and grade school.  This man’s father grew up with my mother on the island that not many of us call home, at least not anymore, but the island that to all of us in many ways, is home.  We have all played on its beaches and swam in its ocean and for many of us, who never strayed much farther than a few miles from it, it remains a place to which we feel connected.

We were all together at a local bar to remember a friend who died unexpectedly last weekend.  This friend who died did live on the island and he also left it, many times, in his adventurous travels.  He shared his journeys with all of his cyber-space friends and for me, a girl who has not traveled much at all, the photos and the descriptions of his explorations were glorious.  He did not go to all-inclusive fancy resorts where workers cater to your every need…nope- he backpacked through icy mountains and hiked wildflower filled hillsides…His photo albums on his Facebook pages are titled: Morocco, Scotland, Ireland, Pompeii, Tuscany, Paris, Prague, Iceland, Switzerland…VERY different from most of the rest of us who have Facebook photo albums labeled “the zoo”  “the boardwalk” “the dance recital” or “the soccer game.”  That he took the time to share his adventuresome spirit, with those of us who have neither the means nor the guts to explore the world or spread our wings, was a gift.

I left the bar early last night, and said goodnight to the man who was the 1st boy I ever kissed, and went home to the boy who I hope is the last one I ever kiss.  On my drive I thought about how many times I go over this bridge and how seldom I’ve  been very far from it, and how it’s doubtful I ever will be very far from it…I realized that as much as I have suffered with wanderlust in my life, the fact of the matter is that if the only place I go is home, where there is love and friendship, sharing food, sharing drinks, sharing laughter…sharing a life…I’ve actually gone quite far, and perhaps that is enough…