creationism

When an artist conjures up an idea or image and creates a masterpiece, or what she believes could be a masterpiece, she might make many small changes to her work, before she feels satisfied that it is right and complete.  It’s doubtful she begins with negative thoughts that this will fail, that this will be ugly, that this will be nothing very special… When a chef creates a dish she imagines will be appreciated as a masterpiece, she might increase the spices, change the texture, adjust the temperature, or add more ingredients  before she feels it is right and complete.  It’s doubtful she begins with thoughts of things that won’t blend well together…what a waste of time that would be.  I believe that when we’ve created the life we imagined, or are having the lifestyle we thought we wanted, and find ourselves actually “living the dream,” we must do whatever we have to do to keep it operating smoothly and change or add and revise as needed, so that it feels right, and we think of it as our masterpiece.   What purpose is there at all to simply exist and not relish what we are ‘having?’  Is just breathing in and breathing out, living?

Over many years of trial and error I found myself having to accept the reality that the life I had -“dreamed of-”  was neither the life I was actually living nor, upon deep thought and reflection, really what I wanted anyway…so I would end a chapter and turn a page and create the next phase, in a perpetual effort to live a life I could think of as a masterpiece.  I have done this over and over, over the years of my life, and do believe it is the only way to ultimately GET where you want to be, both figuratively and literally; to assess and to modify, to adapt or to overcome, or to end a chapter and start a new page.

“Live as though life was created for you.”  – Maya Angelou

The WHERE, as in place is set, not in stone, but in 2×4’s, 5/8 plywood, 3/4 gypsum, and the coolest silver metal roof in my town, right next door to the three girls who make my heart pitter-patter; my daughter and her daughters.  I built my house exactly when I did and exactly where I did so that I could be an active participant in helping my adult child raise her young children.  Sometimes,  if I’m in one of those moods, I feel anxious  that babysitting is on the schedule far more times a month than perhaps it is for most neighbors or Na-nas, but that was the plan…I would be an integral part of their lives…and I do believe that it really does “take a village” and we created our own village…

GET where I want to be, as in the dreamy philosophical idealized sense, the way I imagine I want my life to be, or think I want the days of my life to flow, is not set at all; it’s totally fluid…in and out, heavy and light, rough and calm, it is nothing I can modify, because it ISN’T anything…the masterpiece that is my life is being created every day I am alive, it is constantly changing…I think hundreds of thoughts a day.  I imagine hundreds of scenarios a day.  I have hundreds of narratives in my head a day.  There are hundreds of  ‘lives’  I could create, all of them appealing and seemingly right, and any one of those ideas could be the masterpiece.   Any change to any part of the equation can turn the whole “thing” into something else…Meaning I could fall down any rabbit hole and the outcome would be manageable…

A couple of days ago with my granddaughters the youngest one asked, “Nana do you have a boss?”  and I told her no, I was my own boss, it’s called self-employed, to which she responded, “you are SO LUCKY, that means you can do anything you want to do.”  She said it with such reverence for this concept and I thought later that day, she is so right.  I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT TO DO…to be clear, I HAVE to pay my property taxes every quarter so the township does not put a lien on my house, BUT I don’t have to live where I do, I live here because I want to.  I HAVE to work so that I can make money to pay my property taxes BUT I work the job I do because it’s something different every day and the views are priceless, and I do what I do because I want to.  Her way of seeing the world helped me tweak the way I had lately  been seeing mine.

She reinforced my belief that we all are the creators of our lives and have a responsibility to ourselves to do whatever we think we must to “get right.”  We must continually assess our masterpieces and adjust accordingly, to be well, to feel well, to “be” right.  We can work very hard to create our DREAM only to discover, thankfully sometimes quickly or sorrowfully sometimes much too late,  that the people with whom we are sharing our dream don’t find any value in it all, it is not a masterpiece to them whatsoever…and they do things that sabotage, knowingly or not, our creation…do we just give up?  do we just accept that somebody stomped on our dream?  People can mislead, deceive, delude, lie, stab us in the back, cheat, steal, make us feel like fools, and suck the wonderful out of our lives…if we let them…do we let their choices and actions destruct our masterpieces?  do we call it failure and feel like we lost?  or do we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, & turn the page and start a new chapter?  It’s all a choice.  A choice to feel defeated or a choice to feel challenged.  Let somebody trudge all over your project or pick up whatever pieces you still have in tact and get busy recreating…it’s up to you… As we grow older we can think somebody rained on our parade, that somebody derailed our plans, BUT the fact of the matter is that quite simply their dream/idea/masterpiece/creation is their own, it just did not or could not synch with ours…their vision did not grok with our vision.

I know people who are stuck… I know people who are stuck in houses they can’t afford or are no longer worth half what they paid.  I know people who are stuck in relationships; with marriages that have slipped to the ‘so-so’ or  ‘ it’s tolerable’ range from the ‘great & crazy about each other’ zone they once lived in, but with small children or financial obligations and literally can’t afford to break up.  I know people who have empty nests and now feel lost without a specific familial role to play, and I know people who can’t wait for the freedom associated with finding their nest empty.  I know people who have had to spend their nest egg to live, and I know people who every week of the year think about amassing more of an egg.  All of us should be doing whatever we can, to reshape our lives as we can, so that we constantly try to live our masterpiece, whatever it may be and however we envision it.

My granddaughter’s expression of amazement that I could do anything I want reminded me how much I truly believe that we all are creators. Some people really do ANYTHING they want, and some do most of what they want and a little of what they have to, and some do most of what they have to and only a smidgen of what they want to…but so many fail to consider that it’s always an option to DO SOMETHING ELSE, CREATE SOMETHING ELSE…Erase what you wrote, Apologize for what you said, Change your mind, Change your attitude, Leave, Stay, Start over, Pick up where you left off, Kiss and make up, Shake hands and break up, Tear it down, Build it up…WHATEVER…we can spend time feeling good about our choices when they turn out to be right, and  beating ourselves up and suffering the consequences when they turn out to be bad, but there is nothing bad at all about creating a life you imagine, and recreating it when your imagination thinks  it’s time.

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Then, Now, and so many days in-between…

The winter my daughter turned one, I was living in a tiny island apartment with  my husband who had recently been discharged out of the Coast Guard.  He was working sporadically with friends and spending every cent of money he could get his hands on, on cocaine, weed, and beer.  I was working as many hours a week as I could at a gallery and hiding every bit of money I made in secret spots around the apartment.  I used the pay phone at 7-11 when I needed to make a call, I often bought groceries, like cereal, cans of Campbell’s tomato soup, milk, and bread (you can live pretty well on tomato soup and Cocoa Pebbles by the way) at CVS because it was the nearest place to walk with the stroller.  It was not an easy life but it was my life.

My boss’s daughter had recently gotten married, moved off the island, no longer needed a bike and so she gave me her orange ten-speed which I then used to get 27 blocks away to work.  I would leave for work after my grandparents or my in-laws, or whoever was babysitting for me that day, had driven to my apartment to retrieve my adorable Buddha bellied bald baby girl.  On rainy days, whoever was babysitting would drive me to work and then leave with my child and come back to get me at the end of the day. Most winters the gallery closed after December 31st not to reopen til spring, but because I needed to work my boss stayed open off-season that year so I could work Friday through Monday, and people who loved my baby were willing and able to babysit, so I at least got four days of work a week.  My rent was never paid on time on the 1st of  the month and my oil tank for heat became empty too many times to count over that winter, but I managed somehow to get through every day, day after day,  and each day had to hope that ‘this day’ would be better for me than the day before.  To write that this was  not an easy way to live would be an understatement.

My apartment came with access to a washer in the landlord’s garage and was located just 23 blocks from the laundromat where the nearest dryer was, so I would often do two or three loads of wash on Thursday night so that Friday morning I could evenly distribute the wash into two Hefty trash bags so I could stop at the dryers before work, so that after work I could fold my dry clothes and take them back to the apartment.  If you have never had to ride a used orange 10-speed boy’s bicycle 23 blocks to the laundromat with a Hefty bag of damp clothes on each wrist, count yourself very lucky.  It is a balancing act worthy of any Cirque Du Soleil show.  One morning during the February of that winter one of the bags got lopsided as I pedaled, and as the red ties started to twist around my wrist, the  bag began to spin and within seconds my balance of both heavy trash bags was thrown off and before I could stop the bike one of the bags got twisted up in the spoke of the front wheel and I went flying off the bike, and the one bag tore open and there I sat, on a cold morning, on a rather empty island, in the middle of Central Avenue, with a torn bag of wet wash beside me, and I cried.  I cried so hard sitting there in the street and wondering what on earth was I going to DO…is this what my LIFE WAS GOING TO BE??…hardship after hardship after hardship…there was no light at the end of my tunnel, there wasn’t even a tunnel.  I was in a hole.  The pit of despair.  I had made terrible choices and that morning accepted completely that my life was awful and it was awful because of the choices I made.

I did not want to move back home with my parents again, (I had moved back to their house when my baby was four months old, but moved out again by that September, I don’t know, even now, what made me hate living with them so much, that the alternative was better in my mind, and remains a mystery even these almost 30 years later) which was odd, since they had a big beautiful house with heat, air conditioning, and food, and my bedroom at their house was bigger than my living room, kitchen, and bedroom combined in the tiny island apartment, and they loved me, and were kind to me and treated me nicely…who would not want to live there?!  What kind of idiot would choose the alternative?!  um, yes, it was me…I have often wondered why I made the choices I did, what could possibly have made me think that being on my ‘own,’ was better than living with my parents and my sister?  Why would I have chosen a tiny apartment with a mean man who neither provided for me nor really cared about my well-being, over my parents who loved me and my child unconditionally and had an empty room waiting for me…it still blows my mind to think about it.

There were moments that winter when I thought I might die;  both figuratively from sadness and hopelessness, and literally by the hands of a  husband who was often high,  and terrifyingly strong, and terrifyingly mean, when he was drunk and on drugs.  I don’t remember if he was ever nice to me that winter…did we ever laugh together or take a walk and hold hands, or smile at each other across the dinner table, or-or-or???  …I have no memory of butterflies in my belly or a kiss or a hug that made me feel loved or cared for, or any nice thing that he did that made my spine tingle…I do not know what I disliked so much about living with my parents that I CHOSE living with him…I did finally leave, later that June 1st, when I called my friend and asked her to ‘please just come,’  and she did…Who I was then and who I am now is exactly the same girl, woman, person…I still love to read, crochet, work, clean…the hours of my days then were rather similar to the hours of my days now, so little, honestly is different.  I don’t know what made me think of all this today.  I don’t know why I opened up a wound so long ago closed and healed.

I guess when I feel confused, conflicted, or uncertain, or at a difficult point in my present life, I ponder, in the big scheme of things, what is “wrongnow and the realization sinks in that the answer is honestly, “not much,” when compared to my life then.  I find that when I compare my life to somebody who is living a seemingly better one; fun toys,  fat wallets, taking vacations…I suffer, BUT  that suffering is when I am comparing apples I guess to oranges…nobody has my life, nobody has my past, nobody has my blessings or my sorrows…they are mine to embrace or shed…comparing anything about myself or my present circumstances to anything or anyone is just being a glutton for punishment…it’s purposefully thinking about things that make me feel bad, so it is my duty to my well-being to STOP.  To think only about what is good about my life today, now, at present, when I compare it to my life then…that sad, hard winter…

One of my dear girlfriends would say simply to stop thinking about anything or anyone or any situation that does not make me feel good, that does not make me feel positive about my life today.   She also would tell me that it is sometimes very hard to do, but it is part of how she lives, to stop her thoughts when they stray to the ones that hurt her.  It is part of her daily practice, to control her thoughts.  So, WHEN I think about the life I have and live NOW and compare it only to the life I had and lived THEN, all those years ago during that cold lonely and scary winter, there is no suffering…there is no sadness there is no fear, there is only joy…Happiness and gratitude, beauty, smiles, laughter, a fullness, a quality of life that anyone, if one wanted to compare, would find to be perfectly fine…there is pure and true and honest happiness when I compare my life then and my life now.  No envy of some woman’s fine jewelry, no envy of some couple’s fancy vacation, no envy of some friend’s expensive wedding, or exotic car, or designer shoes…just acceptance that I made many choices in my life, some very good and some very bad, but  that all of those choices got me here, now, today, and I hope, well I believe really, that I’ve learned a little bit more, about what really matters,  all of the many days in-between…

one to go

I breathe a sigh of relief today, this hot July Thursday morning,  the first child of my child is now 9.  She is no longer eight and I feel a weight lifted off of me, and I have one more to go, the second child of my child will be nine before too long, and then the curse of my thoughts and my worries will be lifted…You see, when my mom was a teenager her little brother drowned in the bay off  the island where they lived.  He was 8.  –Getting beyond 8–  in my mind, once I became a mother, became a goal that must be achieved,  so deep it was in my thoughts, and even more so since I’ve become a Nana.  It’s a thought in my head that I can’t shake and never could.  My mother’s and my aunt’s loss as teenagers, and my Nana’s as a woman, became part of my history, herstory, without ever experiencing it myself.

When I was 17 I found out I was pregnant.  I neither wanted to be or wished to be and made great efforts to get rid of it, only to learn that it had been inside of me longer than I had thought or counted, and inside of me was where it was going to live.   It moved and grew, and I grew, and it forced me to give up drinking Tab and eating SuzyQ’s as my lunch choice, but not much changed for me other than my size.   When I was 18 and about to give birth, I still had no deep maternal feelings for it, no warmth, no attachment to it really at all.  Then after a few minutes of pressure, sweating, and dizziness I heard my sister say “it’s a girl” and all I wanted in the whole world was her.  I suddenly and inexplicably wanted to keep her next to me and safe, and love her more than I ever had wanted anything in my life.

And that is when it hit me the first time…that it takes only minutes to fall in love with your child.  I understand clearly that for many women, most women probably, that this happens during pregnancy, but that is not my story, that was not my herstory… I did not fall in love until she was here and had taken her first breath of air on this planet and then I was so deeply in love with her I didn’t know what could have possibly happened to me.  But that kind of love comes with a very high price…it could be snatched away by circumstance or by nature…through no fault of your own, it could be taken from you…and once I became a mother, I understood so deeply what my Nana had lived with for all of my lifeLoss.  Devastating, unimaginable, indescribable loss.

I have never heard my mom or my aunt refer to him as anything other than “little Billy” he is forever an 8 year-old boy, truly a boy who won’t grow up.  I talked to my Nana about heaven a lot when I was a teenager, she who was so full of faith, and I who had none, talked about heaven and God and things that we really knew nothing about, and I would ask her what she thought, if there was heaven would he be still just an 8-year-old soul?   She really wanted to find out, and then after my Pop died, her husband, we talked more about heaven, she was so curious, never fearful.   She had no fear really at all about dying and believed as deeply as the day is long that she would be with them again, that being said, I seldom asked her details about how she felt, how she learned, who told her, that day in 1960, that near a bulkhead in Beach Haven Terrace her son went missing and then later his body was found.  I never really asked my mom or aunt for many details either…it became a story of a family who suffered a tragic loss.

But it also became a fear deep inside me, once I became a mother.  I learned rather rapidly that the love you feel for this child that you didn’t really want in the first place, and now want more than you want any single other thing, is so all-consuming it becomes part of your cells, your being, your soul…and that is when I first really thought deeply about my Nana’s loss of a child, my first weekend home from the hospital, cold dreary January, the realization that ALREADY I love this child THIS much, and she is only hours on this planet, being completely unable to wrap my head around how my Nana felt when little Billy died. During my pregnancy my Nana had embroidered the edges and corners of many cotton diapers for me to use as burp cloths and every time I washed one or touched the decorative threads I felt her sorrow…I wondered how many of little Billy’s things she touched after he died…how she managed to take her next breath, how she managed to wake up that next day, how she ever could go on…she used to have this odd habit of once in a while taking in this deep loud and sharp breath and I used to think it was a reminder, from that day long ago in 1960, her body reminding her that she in fact was alive and that she must breathe…

So I had this little infant girl who grew into this toddler who grew into this preschooler who grew into this really fabulous kid, and I became consumed with fear, a purpose,  that I had to get her to age 8, that once I got her to age 8 the universe would take care of her for all of the rest of her days on this earth…I convinced myself that this family history of loss became a burden I had to overcome, not an obstacle so much as a challenge.  I never re-read my writing after it’s written, so I won’t go find my journal from January of 1995, but if I wanted to I could find it in the box under my bed, where all of the journals are (I’ve been keeping my journals since I was 14) I am sure that that day’s entry was filled with many emotions and relief, that she was –no longer eight–  and I had gotten beyond the curse of loss that had been in my mind all those years.

So today the child I call ‘Sweet-Ti’  is no longer eight and I again feel an ability to take a deeper breath, to worry a tiny bit less, to enjoy a moment of relief.  I have one to go…the little blonde tan one I most often call by a nickname ‘Bug,’ due to her love of ladybugs and all those multi-legged and flying creatures, and another year plus of over-thinking, over-worrying, over-protection until it will be her time for me to let the universe take over and wrap her in glorious protective goodness for the rest of her days on earth.  When each of these children was born I went to North Carolina to help with all things related to new infant care.  I kept these babies in the living room with me and slept on the sofa for their first few weeks of life so that their parents did not have to get up for late hour feedings and diaper changes, but I also did it for myself…to connect with them, to make them part of me, and I whispered to each of them that I would do my very best to care for them and protect them until such time as the universe took over…When they are grown women and perhaps mothers themselves they’ll understand too…but it’ll no longer be history, it’ll be herstory, our story, the way we women in this family feel about the humans we make, and the joy to see them turn from eight to nine…one to go, and then I am free to let the universe take charge…

 

Wonderous Woven Magic…

Living life, the day in and the day out monotonous bits…the gloriously good bits, however infrequent they may be…and even the devastatingly dark bits, with hopes that they are few and far between…they are all part of life, and we have to take all of those bits and weave them, like the threads of the fabric of our lives, as best we can into something that comforts us and we call it living…The first lines of  ‘Tapestry’ by Carole King…

“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold”

I know some people who have time and time again suffered; death, sadness, worry, losses that build and accumulate to a mountain of woe that seems insurmountable, yet they keep on going forward.  I know some people for whom life has been cushy, pampered, generous, easy as pie, yet they are miserable, frown filled, and unpleasant, day after day.  I know some people who had really terrible horrible very bad childhoods, yet raised really remarkable terrific wonderful children.  I know some people who had picture perfect fairy tale childhoods and sadly produced self-centered self-absorbed know-it-all assholes, and that’s never a pretty picture.  The older I grow the more I realize that it is our choice how to see the world and the life we are living as either full or empty, great or God awful…life as a tapestry that hugs us and brings us comfort like a flannel cloth to a swaddled infant, or like a heavy itchy blanket we can’t wait to throw off that suffocates us in the heat…

For most of us life is constantly changing, morphing into something else, something “other” over time, over and over…sometimes it is slow and sluggish and sometimes it moves  fast like Speedy Gonzales.  Some of us notice something changed or different, the moment something changes or is different, and some people hardly notice anything around them at all.  I can’t say, or write, or guess which one is better or correct, I suppose there is no such thing, but I know what is right for me, or at the very least, feels right for me…to try every day to see life as a wonderous woven magic tapestry, some of it glitters and shimmers and is filled with the finest of threads, and some of it is worn and ragged, some of it has moth holes and pulls,  but it is mine.

My tapestry…to bundle around myself when I feel chilled and to curl up with if I feel lonely, and to spread open as a welcoming mat when I crave friendship or companionship, or laughter and a full house and lots of dishes… It is the tapestry I used to comfort the crying infant  that came from my body, and to comfort the crying infants that later came from hers…it is the tapestry that has wiped my tears and the tapestry that has polished my awards…it is mine to pull tight and hold against me like a cocoon and claim as my own, “No room at the Inn” …or it is mine to open wide and wrap around another and share its embrace of tranquility, “please do come in, Welcome” …we can share our life with others and allow ourselves to be open to all the positives, or negatives that come with that exposure, the vulnerability that comes with opening up your tapestry, where there was just one, then there was two…or we can choose to be solitary and isolated, safe and protected from any of the forces or thoughts from others, but at what cost?  …but it seems to me such a colorful mix of textures and threads ought not be hidden, alone in a linen cupboard, but shared as needed and proudly displayed, and fully used lovingly over time, until it has served its purpose and we take our last breath and no longer need its warmth…