Hit or Miss

I met a man a year and a half ago whose laughter, smile, eyes, talent, personality, and kindness lit up my life in a way I always dreamed of but never expected.  I hadn’t “given up” really, but I thought my chances for a relationship like this were long over; I was too old, too set in my ways, too demanding of what I wanted and what I needed, to be particularly compatible with anybody.  I have looked at his face every single day since our first date and every single day I think how glad I am that I met him.   I can’t pretend that it has been perfect for every single one of those days…We have had some difficulties and we have had a few sad and stressful times, but that’s life and those experiences, both the good and the bad, got us to where we are today.

New Year’s Eve for me has always been a time to reflect on the days behind me and to think about the days ahead of me & while I know nothing about baseball, and sports analogies seem uncharacteristic of me,  I do think of a year as the hits and the misses of the last 525,600 minutes.  Every year I grow older, and hopefully wiser, I know better that I can do nothing about those days of my past but that I can do much better with those days in front of me.

In 2011 I was involved with a man who used an expression about how being in love “halves your sadnesses and doubles your joys”  but the months that I was in that relationship, I was more sad and less joyful than I think I’d ever been.  I let myself be fooled and acted foolish, and when it was finally over  I felt stupid.  I like to think that all bad experiences lead to valuable learning tools, and I have, during these 18 months of happiness, thought back on that difficult experience and I feel like I do not even know that person… what on earth was she thinking, where was her backbone and confidence??!!  It’s embarrassing, when you have to accept responsibility for stupid things you have done and said, and we all have at one time or another done stupid things and said stupid things.  I have learned since that awful time that being in love actually can  halve your sadness and double your joy, BUT you have to be in love with a good quality person who is good for you…I have learned that I love myself and my life so much more, because I have been surrounded for these 18 months by a quality, creative, passionate, loving person…and those characteristics of his,  bring out those same qualities in me.

So we are today on the edge of a new year, and I can think of no better time to take a look at who I am, who I want to be, who I thought I was, who I tried to be…that sort of self-reflection that is sometimes necessary when you wish to keep your past in your past and press on ahead.  Most events of our lives are hit or miss…there is much mediocrity to be sure, but in general I think things are good or bad, happy or sad.  I have had jobs that did not work out and I have had relationships that did not work out, and I have had many situations in life that were pretty sweet in my daydreaming moments  but horribly sour in my waking moments, but despite the few lows and misses in a life filled mostly with smiles and hits,  I have used the bad situations and uncomfortable experiences to teach me something…I may not always know what I want, but with each failure and with each miss  I’ve learned what I don’t want.

When I was in that low place of 2011 I was given a copy of  a poem by David Whyte called Sweet Darkness.  I was asked to read it by a woman who cared about me & thought it might help me get my head on straight, to look at things from a different perspective and to turn myself around…  “* Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own…There you can be sure you are not beyond love…The night will give you a horizon further than you can see…You must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in…Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your alone-ness to learn, anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.*” 

I had that last line on my refrigerator for months…*anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.*  It was such a powerful statement and rang like a gong in my head when I finally felt “healed” from that bizarre situation…which now seems like a lifetime ago.  I read it every single day for months.  I honestly can’t recall the day I took it down in 2012, or the day I read it and realized that wound had healed.  I can’t write with any certainty the day or time of year that I realized I was in a relationship where the person who says to me the words, “I LOVE You” brought me more alive than I ever imagined I could be.  Tonight when I count my blessings of the last 364 days, and make my wishes for the next 365, I am going to give an extra special thanks to the universe, for not giving up on me despite my frequent failings and misses, and for bringing a ‘hit’ into my life that makes almost every day feel like a home run…

If you can’t be kind, be quiet

I was very surprised on Christmas morning when  I unwrapped a very big box, which was a case of wine but felt light as a feather…and when I opened it there was another smaller wrapped box inside, and another inside that, and another inside that…and then the little square box.  Anyone who knows me knows that I was really wishing that when I opened said box it was not a pair of earrings, or a container of paper clips, or an assortment of eyeshadow, but being the considerate person I am, in those few seconds I told myself to look happy and be appreciative if it was not what I hoped it was.  I was taught at a very young age that whenever anybody thinks to give you a gift, you are to be thankful that someone thought of you at all, regardless of what it is, or if it is nothing you want, you be polite and absolutely must put a smile on your face…my mother taught this to me ages ago, so it was right there in my brain as I opened the box…but the box did not hold earrings or paperclips or eyeshadow, it held a * beautiful * sparkly * shimmery * modern engagement ring and a band to match, and as I uttered shakily “oh my God” and he asked, “does this mean yes?” I realized that I didn’t  have to pretend to be elated,  that THIS was IT!!!

My parents, my father in particular, used to remind me to –think before you speak– and it would drive him positively mad when I insisted on having the last word…so as an adult I truly am okay with being silent, even when I’ve still got much to say, and I am comfortable with letting someone think they’ve won an argument by letting them have the last word, and I do not want to say words that I will regret, or later have to apologize for.  Once you speak words, they can’t be taken back and the person you said those hurtful things to can’t ever “un-hear” them…so I try to think before I speak and I try to be quiet if I can’t be kind.  For example, if I had a friend who had a really ugly husband and she called to tell me she was pregnant, what I might want to say is “-wow, I hope it doesn’t look like your husband-” BUT…instead I would choose a more socially acceptable statement like “-you must be thrilled-” because it’s kind.

I am neither a nitwit nor oblivious to the statistics of marriages in this country, and when adults choose to create a shared life, know that there are technical, legal, and practical things that need to be addressed in the event that things don’t work.  I know very well that before I ever get married I need to modify my will and dot my ‘i’s” and cross my ‘t’s” and if we were coming into this union both owning homes, he would surely make the same accommodations for his own child, as I would expect him to.   If neither of us had children it would be less of an issue, or if we were both crazy Brangelina or Kardashianish wealthy it would not be an issue at all, but this is real life and  while it is not at all romantic, it is necessary.  Who knows what kind of glorious future we will build together, who knows what kind of wonderful life we might create and where we might end up…we’ll modify our practical bits as we go…BUT…these are not the things I want to talk about, or even think about, when I am sharing exciting news that on Wednesday morning the boy I love asked me to marry him.

Through the 19th century a new bride came with a dowry…a goat, a cow, some money, some dishes, some family heirlooms, and food to stock a pantry and in Europe girls could not inherit property from their fathers.  It always seemed to me in history books and on PBS programs like it meant, ‘take our daughter out of our hair and have this stuff.’  Back when my mother and nana were married,  unless she came from a wealthy family, a new bride pretty much brought -nothing to the table- so to speak, and came with nothing but a promise for sex and cooking, and a hope for a healthy uterus and some good DNA and perhaps a cedar chest filled with linens.  Men in general had careers, occupations, or jobs, and homes of their own, and generally women had neither careers nor occupations and maybe had a job, or maybe a college degree that they probably would never use, and a wish to be a wife…there was nothing at all balanced about those relationships, and the expectation of a dowry had long been forgotten.

I think in this modern world where families blend together like they do, where an eight year-old girl is going to have a 28 year-old step sister, and where a woman already owns her house and where a man is in between careers, there has to be an understanding from their friends and families that it all may appear to be out of balance, but it is theirs to sort out and steady at their own pace and in their own way.  I’ve read that when you are in a social situation and have something to say, your are supposed to ask yourself three questions: is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?  I am 46 years old, I don’t need to be told that I am silly and that it’s just  a piece of paper…this sort of statement most often has been said to me by people who HAVE that piece of paper.  That’s like me, living in this amazing house and telling a homeless person, ‘-it’s just plywood and a metal roof-‘.  Or to a friend desperate to get pregnant as I have my beautiful daughter and precious perfect grandchildren beside me, ‘-oh, it’s silly to want a baby, they’re just a cluster of divided cells.-‘

I grew up in a household where my father adored my mother and still does.  “She’s the best wife I ever had” is a sentiment he uses often and with a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face.  I have always wanted to be wanted THAT much. I have had dreams of someone I love wanting me to be his wife.  It may be silly and old-fashioned, but it matters to me, a lot.  People like happy stories.  People love love.  The world needs more love and more happy stories.  There are PLENTY of awful, miserable, and sad things going on in the world every hour of every day…I think it’s nice, if even for a day, somebody shares news that is joyful and hopeful, and this week I felt really excited to do the sharing.

All about Eve

This day before Christmas can be so hectic and positively overwhelming for so many people, and the older I get, the more I understand that it’s all a self-inflicted deluge.  There are no “rules” of which I am aware that imply a child of a certain age is supposed to get a certain number of gifts, or that one has to spend an equal dollar amount per child, or have precisely the same number of gifts for each child under the tree, or that one even must have a tree, or play holiday music during the month, or visit family or…well, anything…as far as I know, or have been told, the holiday is what we choose to make it.  We can create joy, kindness, loving feelings, and magnificently decorated sparkling surfaces, or we can do nothing different from what we do the other 364 days in the year.

I am neither religious nor a Christian, so the meaningfulness and formality of the holiday is not particularly significant for me.  My family lives both within 1000 feet and 10 miles from me, so I’ve no travel obligations.  My child is grown and married with children of her own, so there is no “necessity” to create this environment of toy explosion in my living room under the tree tomorrow morning.   I’ve no spouse or in-laws so I don’t have those obligations to do “his family this year, and mine next year” as I frequently overhear women talk about in conversations during the holiday season.  I don’t work at a job where we have a Christmas party or gift exchange.  On this day before Christmas I am reminded that I have nothing to do but what I WANT to do.

What I want to do tonight is to read The Night Before Christmas to my granddaughters, as I did every Christmas Eve to my own daughter.  I want to remember to get the candy canes in the flower pots before morning so that the children see their “harvest” from planting their peppermint seeds.  I want to remember to take our ‘Elf on the Shelf’ Everbloom, off of the top of the Christmas tree, the same spot the girls have found her every Christmas Eve for the last four seasons, and hide her since she is supposed to be back in the North Pole before morning.  What I want to do today is to get to the store to buy M&M’s for my boyfriend’s daughter’s stocking that is hanging on the fireplace and to remember to get extra batteries for gifts I bought for the girls and to get to my parent’s house with my homemade macaroons for my Dad and my orange rolls for my Mom.

I watch the news almost every night and I read “news” posts on social media every day…I know that so many people this day are angry at store clerks, upset in lines at the bank, irritated with gas station attendants, freaking out over airport delays and icy runways, honking over desirable parking spaces at malls, slamming shopping carts into rude aisle hogs at the supermarket, yelling because their bakery order or floral arrangements are not ready at 11 as they were told…I choose to not be involved in any of this unkindness or irritability or upset.   I choose to play The Nutcracker, Johnny Cash’s, Elvis’, Frank Sinatra’s, and Nat King Cole’s Christmas albums, over and over over because I love them.  I choose to enjoy each minute of each hour of this Eve of Christmas because I want to…and my Christmas wish for you is that you choose to do the same.

If Wishes Were Horses

I’ve heard this expression, and thought about it last night, while making wishes on the last full moon of the year…I know what the old-fashioned Scottish nursery rhyme means, “If Wishes Were Horses then Poor Men Would Ride,” it means you get nowhere and nothing by wishing for anything, but there I was last night, looking out my window at that radiant round moon, making wishes…There are things and moments about the past year I want to remember for the rest of my days on this earth and there are things and moments about the past year that I dearly want to forget.  There are things I desperately want to change in the coming new year and things that I want very much to remain the same.

I made only two wishes for myself last night…the rest were for those I love and a few for people I don’t even know.  It feels somehow ‘pure’ to me, to wish, the act of making a wish…juvenile and immature some might call it; wishing on stars, full moons, fallen eyelashes, itchy palms, head-side-up pennies, throwing salt over my left shoulder, smudging with sage…all those old-fashioned superstitions some call “silly” but are part of who I am, or who I think I am…it’s like an innocence in some way…a belief that I’ve been good enough, kind enough, generous enough, loving enough…that good things I wish for and hope for will happen…

A friend of mine shared an article with me recently about ’20 things to let go of’ as we head into a new year & most of them are what I call the ‘obvious’ ones; worry and stress and anger for example, which seem pointless to me because I think we either are worry-warts with anxiety and rage, or we aren’t, and it’s hard to “let go” of something that is so firmly established in our character, but some of the ones I really liked, and that I believe are doable,  were to ‘stop thinking that you need to do more and be more than what you are, stop focusing on your money woes and focus on your abundance, stop thinking that you are damaged because you are not where you want to be in your life, stop dwelling on what you regret, stop being afraid of the uncertainty of your future’ and I liked thinking last night that I can probably manage all of these 20 things with practice and patience, to make my next year better, knowing it won’t happen overnight, but it could happen over 365 nights…

I watched a story on the news yesterday evening about a line of people in California waiting to buy lottery tickets for one of the biggest jackpots in history that stretched all the way to the Nevada boarder…those people were making wishes no? …and don’t get me wrong, I know people win, but I also know the odds of winning are really, really slim…it seemed to me, very late last night, looking out at the dark shadowy sky, looking up at the gorgeous glowing moon, that my wishes on the last full moon of the year were perhaps just as likely to come true as the wishes of others for six numbers all in a row…

Enlightened by lights

I use my dictionary often.  It was a gift from my Aunt when I began work on my Batchelor’s Degree.  I most recently used it to remind myself what exactly the definition was of the word ‘Enlighten,’ because earlier this month that’s how I felt, Enlightened, and I wanted to make sure that the word I was swirling around in my head was the right word to use to describe the way my heart felt, and the way my soul felt, and the tingle that was pulsing through my spine…

past tense: enlightened; past participle: enlightened; present participle: enlightening
give (someone) greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation.

Earlier this month I suffered a few sleepless nights in a row and awoke in the wee morning hours with a sense of dread, unease, and worry.  The last time it happened I had a bit of a ‘meeting’ with my mind, and put forth the simple reality that worrying does nothing but cause a restless sleep.  The things that I was worrying about are indeed valid things with which I should be concerned, but not things that I can solve or fix immediately, let alone today, tomorrow, or perhaps even this week…so to worry about them is nothing but a waste of energy.  This is what I told myself, and this is what has started me on what I anticipate to be a new path for the new year soon upon us…

I made a decision at that moment that I was going to focus every night, for the rest of the month, on something that made me happy, so that my thoughts at bedtime were those of thankfulness and gratitude and joy, rather than any of the day-to-day upsets.  During that first day I was thinking about how many people I have known in my life who “hate” the holidays…or at least those who say they do…people who get sad or stressed-out and who don’t get any joy out of the season.  I was also thinking about girlfriends I have and have had, who recently lost loved ones, or who had childhoods far less idyllic than mine.  I was thinking about many people I have known in my life who neither decorate nor shop with any enthusiasm…people who go through the motions because they think they -have- to, rather than because they -want- to. 

The first Christmas after my daughter was married and living an eight hour drive south, I still decorated my house with all of the joy and anticipation and elation that I did during all of her years of childhood.  I remember one friend remarking that she was surprised I decorated like that now that “nobody is here,”  and I said, “but I’m here.  I decorate for me, I would have decorated like this even if I never had a kid.”  …and it was the truth.  I love to shop, I love to give gifts, I love to make people feel happy, and the glitter, sparkle, twinkle, euphoric bliss of decorating for Christmas is like the icing on the cake for me…it does not feel like too much work, or too much trouble, or a drag…it feels like just something that I adore doing right after Thanksgiving and then un-doing on the 1st day of the new year.  I indeed get as much excitement from the un-decorating, mostly because every single Christmas bauble gets packed up and my house becomes for a few hours, a blank canvas…and I clean-clean-clean…and then bring all of my treasures out from storage and put them all back where I like them to be, and the new year starts out fresh and as perfect as I can make it. 

So back to the topic at hand…I have been, for almost two weeks, having something of a nightly gratitude.  I suppose some would say it is a form of prayer, but whatever I call it, it feels good.  I was thinking about those who truly do not like the holiday season and for whom it does not conjure joyful memories or feelings of excitement and cheer.  I was thinking that if even one sad person reads my nightly posts in cyber space of something that made me happy that day, she might think to herself, “well, there has got to be ONE thing today that didn’t suck.”  or he might think to himself, “I liked my dinner tonight, I didn’t get a flat tire when I hit that pothole.”  I felt, as silly as it might seem, that I could give a gift to people who were sad, without them really even knowing it, by putting that little seed of thought into their heads, that even on a bad day or even during a sad time of year for them, they could find just one happy thought that day.

That first night of my social experiment I was walking next door to the house where my daughter and her family lives, to read the first book of Christmas, a nightly (or at least I try to do it nightly) ritual, where I read my granddaughters a bedtime story from my assortment of holiday books, more than half of which belonged to their mother, and I thought about what made me happy that day, which included the lights I had finished stringing outside, the book I was about to read to two excited little girls, and my new comfy fleece pants.  They might have been “silly” but they were, off the top of my head the things that made me happy at that moment, and now I have forced myself every night to think, FAST, “what made me happy today” and the first things that flash into my brain are thoughts that bring joy.  It feels good to think this way. 

Several nights ago I was at the stove starting dinner, and my FAVORITE piece from The Nutcracker came on.  I suppose I should backtrack a bit and share that I love holiday music and have many Christmas playlists that I shuffle through during the holidays and that there is always music in my house throughout the year but in December it is all Christmas all the time…I even press play before I leave for work so that when I arrive home, no matter what time of afternoon, prevening, or night, there is Christmas music to welcome me back…So anyway, I am at the stove and song 10 comes on…my favorite of the cd, Pas de Deux, and I look to my right out my kitchen window at my twinkling new Christmas peacock, my crystal star-burst  solar lights subtly changing color down the driveway, my illuminated pussy willow sticks in my pots of evergreens off my east deck…then I look to my left at the living room, no light fixtures or lamps on, no television on, just the fiber optic tiny twinkling lights of decorative objects and trees throughout the space, the glitter, the shimmer, the sparkle… the big fat ceramic Santa that my mother painted the first Christmas she was married to my father, the decorations on every single flat surface, a room bursting with Christmas cheer…and The Nutcracker Suite bursting through every speaker in every room of this house, and I started to cry…

…not tears of sadness or worry or upset, tears of awe…”I can’t believe this is my house” was the first thought in my head…and then the thoughts just started rolling in so fast like the Polar Express…that I get to live right next door to my grandchildren and that they are wickedly witty and perfectly beautiful and so super smart, that my parents and family are healthy and near, that I have a man in my life who I think really really loves me, and that I have girlfriends who I may not see as often as I like and I don’t call as often as I should but if I needed them…they would be here for me…I felt an all consuming sensation of blessedness.  I felt that I had been opened up in some way, unlocked…all those sparkles and all those lights, it’s like the last unopened door inside of me magically opened…that I understood without question how lucky I have been in this life, how much I have to be thankful for, and how much I have to look forward to, I felt like I knew everything that mattered…while it only lasted a few moments…the Pas de Deux, the lights, the love in my heart, the food I was preparing…the whole thing was just a moment in time, but the whole thing became everything…I think I had at that moment my enlightenment…I felt at that second, or minute, or hour that I had a greater understanding of the subject of me and the situation of living a life, and everything that mattered in my life and everything that mattered about myself…I understood at that moment that there is nothing I could possibly want or need that I don’t already have…”Happiness wants what it has” has been my father’s creed of life, and at that moment, in my kitchen, surround by lights, I understood it… I think, for the very first time…