Monday, July 18, 2016

Four for Five

I was paying for spaghetti. The boxes were on sale four for five. I was surprising a friend with dinner and was in a store I almost never frequent. I heard someone behind me calling my name in a questioning way. I turned. I recognized her right off and enveloped her in my signature hug. “I knew it was you because of your foot,” she said.

Before we continue, a little backstory.

It is many years ago. My son is in elementary school and has decided to become a Scout. This is a wonderful experience and keeps him busy in a productive and appropriate way. He builds birdhouses, creates mosaics out of dishes he gets to break, and, thanks to his overzealous mother, earns more badges than any young boy ever truly needs. He goes to camp, discovers a love for archery, and gets super excited about not bathing the entire time he is away from home. He also makes new friends. Among these friends are two little boys who are twins.

This is not a best buds kind of friendship but is an acquaintance that is both comfortable and strong. I get to know the mother. Our connection is the same as that of the boys. I like her energy. I like her spirit. She is a beautiful soul with a smile that is too big for her face. She is one of those people who smiles with all of her face. As the years go by and those boys grow into men, the mother and I cross paths many times in many ways.

Then one day, the mother posts on Facebook that she has been diagnosed and the prognosis is not good. She sets up a hospital bed in her home. Friends bring dinners. Her husband coordinates surprises and visits from those who care. Her boys prepare for a day when she will no longer be physically a part of their lives. This is too soon, too early, too much for anyone to grasp. Cancer has its own mind and does as it will damn well please.

This woman creates a Facebook page dedicated to her dying and death. Only she could pull off a feat this strange. She refuses to allow this space or the people who read it to become morose. This is her page, a page of love and energy and sunshine and good will. Her dying will be as was her life. I do my best to infect her friends with my positive vibes. She has messaged me to insist I do. Through this page, I am strengthened, I am comforted, I am moved to put both life and death in proper place. Through this page, I also make a friend. We become a close group, the followers of this page. We connect in a way we ordinarily might not. And, so, this new friend and I gel from moment one.

This friend and I exchange many of those conversations all friends know. “You should come down sometime.” “We need to meet for lunch.” “Let’s plan a time to get together.” Of course we never do. We live in different states and have our own busy lives. Two years pass and never once do we meet. Never once do we meet until I am watching, tonight, my baguette and bagged salad being scanned by the clerk. “Tammie?” “Holly!” Of all the stores, of all the places, we are in line next to each other at this point, at this time, sharing a hug that is bigger than hugs, sharing a hug because of a woman who refused to die.

We love you, Kelly, for who you were and for how you lived. Thank you for never being afraid to just be you.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Time to Dance!

I am sitting on the bleachers in the gym at my seventh grade dance. This is my first experience with this kind of thing. Girls are watching the boys. Boys are watching the girls. And I am sitting in contemplation analyzing this thing called dancing. My friend encourages me to get out on the floor. “But I don’t know how,” I tell her. “You just go out there and move your body,” she says as if this should somehow clarify the situation. In the end, I would remain sitting on the bleachers watching and wishing I had the balls to not care how I looked or to worry what people thought.

As it happens, I would remain on those bleachers, metaphorically speaking, for most of my life.

I found the following words on a blog once. The words sat inside my head and grabbed at my heart. I was certain the floodgates were, indeed, bursting and ready to be opened. The author beautifully penned, “Whether you’ll admit it or not, there are dreams you’ve kept since childhood. There are things out there that make you come alive. There is a burden in your soul that feels like it’s been lit on fire, and it makes it difficult to speak, and you fumble for the words, and you ache to quench the thirst. What could it look like if you just opened the flood gates and let the passion pour out?”

What could it look like?

Have you ever struggled with this? You know there is more of you inside than what you have shared with the world thus far. I was going through a difficult period in my life, recently, when a friend sent me the following. I feel the flame is ready now, ready to spread its light and joy. My friend said, “I see you as a dancing flame of an exotic candle. Moving silently, bending and throwing light in blue and white and sparkles. No one blows it out.”

No one blows it out. No one blows it out but me. I may be guilty of having blown out my own light.

I attended my high school reunion last night, my thirty-fifth. We are somewhere between showing up pregnant to these things and showing up with walkers. At one point, I was just inebriated enough to allow a friend to encourage me to dance. For two seconds. I danced for two seconds. I forgot for a minute to care. I danced only because a small group of us joined in a circle and held hands as we swayed back and forth. It was lame, really, as far as dancing goes but I was not alone. That’s what mattered most. I was not alone. I was surrounded by those encouraging me to open the floodgates, to relight my flame. “I want to dance, but I can’t,” I told my friend. “It’s already inside of you,” she assured me. “I’ve seen glimpses. You just have to find it and let it out.”

I just have to find it and let it out. I’ve imprisoned my own spark.

I am transitioning in my life. Transitions are never pretty or easy or always even desired. But they are necessary for growth. Growth is necessary for life. And life, well, life just happens as a matter of breathing. It has been a long winter. It has been a long life of covering and hiding and piling on sweater after sweater. It is time now to shed those many layers and find out what lies beneath. It is time, my friends. It is time to dance.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Love Challenge

It was one of those silly things that get passed around Facebook. I had commented on a friend’s post. The post was meant to fling humor and bring smiles. My friend is funny like that and so it was mission accomplished. There was mention in the post of a challenge, a love challenge. I am always up for spreading love. You know this. What you might not know is that I am also a sucker for a challenge. Guess how many jellybeans in the jar? Sure. Spend five days kicking my diet into gear? I need to do that anyway. Sell five hundred dollars worth of lipsticks to win a lipstick pin for my lapel and a round of applause from my fellow cosmetics consultants? Consider it done. I have won jewelry, gift cards, movie tickets, kitchenware, luggage, and hot air balloon rides as a result of the challenges I have met. So, a love challenge? Count me in!

I discover, however, that I cannot participate in this particular challenge. The goal is to post a photo of you with your spouse or your significant other for seven days. Having neither a spouse nor a significant other, I can’t even post one day.

I am learning to be single.

I took myself to the beach the other day. I have no problem doing things on my own. I have always rather enjoyed it. An afternoon at the movie theater, a beautiful dinner at a corner table, hours in the coffee shop penning essays and finishing up my latest read, a long car ride down an open highway. I have never understood those, partnered or not, who do not enjoy time in their own company. I have never understood those fearful of being alone in a crowd. Anyway, the beach. So, I’m browsing a shop in town. You know the kind I mean. It is one of those with the sort of trinkets you think are a good idea at the time but will have no place or practical purpose in your home. Among the painted rocks with inspiring messages, the heart-shaped geodes, the humorous cocktail napkins, and the beach-themed fabric-covered refrigerator magnets, I spy a shelf full of wine glasses covered in sparkles and adorned with clever sayings. Among them is Divorced and Having the Time of My Life.

Given that it was empty, I stared at that glass longer than any sane person should ever look at stemware.

Divorced? Yes. Having the time of my life? Is this supposed to be a party? Am I supposed to be proving myself? Are there “Time of My Life” standards to which I have to measure up? My entire life has been spent measuring up. I no longer have interest in that. As for proving myself, I won’t be doing that anymore either. Oddly, despite the advice to the contrary, I don’t feel the need to show anyone, do anything, be anything, or accomplish anything. For the first time in my life, I just feel like being me. Whether anyone is okay with that or isn’t. Partying and having the time of my life as defined by some imaginary criteria for all newly single women are not among my top priorities.

I feel I am supposed to appear sad, morose, because I am no longer coupled. Either that, or I am to be uncharacteristically slutty and searching. I don’t feel either. Yes, I sometimes would like to sit on the couch watching a movie in the arms of someone with man smell. No, I don’t hate men. I rather like them. But neither do I feel the need to compromise my heart or my world just to have someone to ride shotgun on a day trip to the lake.

So, I’m thinking now about this challenge, about this love challenge. I may, just for fun, post seven days worth of photos of nothing but me with my cat. Single lady humor? I may be getting the hang of this.