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For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. (Judy Garland)
I’m a perverse creature. On the surface, I am all calm, cool, and collected – a lot of the time. At first glance, I don’t allow much softness to come through. I’m working on that, actually… At first glance, you wouldn’t take me for a woman much given over to sentimentality or easily swayed by romance. At first glance.
The truth? Just because something seems to be true, doesn’t mean that it is…
So, last night, Jeremy and I watched What Dreams May Come – a movie I always watch with a handkerchief. It was his first time seeing it all the way through, and there were a few parts that got a little tough for him. He (politely) didn’t comment or make a big deal out of it when I dabbed surreptitiously at the corners of my eyes.
The movie over, my emotional needs satisfied, he thoughtful, we sat there. We each have our own blanket, and our own end of the couch, and then our legs tangle up and take over the middle. Sometimes we duel for dominance of the middle territory (this increases as warm weather increases, fueled by me), but today we were content and lazy and comfortably entwined.
And then we started talking about the movie. And he said, “I’d do that, you know. Find you.” And I just smiled in the way that only a woman can when a man pledges to do some knightly deed for her love (a smile that’s one part entranced, one part dubious, and one part patronizing).
He was quiet for a minute. He asked me if I thought it would be like that, when we die. I said I hoped so, that it would be something like that – reunion with friends and family, communion with others and with God, the presence of joy.
At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet. (Plato)
And then he blew me away. He said it didn’t matter to him – that if he died and it was all blackness and endings, and not the heaven that any of us hopes for or dreams of, that he would have spent all the days of his life hoping and dreaming with me and that was heaven enough.
I pretend that my heart is resistant to melting, but it isn’t. It puddled, instantly. He meant it. That is how he really feels. And it was equally humbling and exalting to know that.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. (Lao Tzu)
It made me think of all the times I lost my patience when he took forever to make a decision. All the times I got in a snit because he forgot to do something or I tripped over his shoes. All the times that he left a job half done (I saw it as half-done) and I got an attitude. It made me think about how that couldn’t possibly feel heavenly. And I wanted more for him, and for me – to see our lives in the now, in every moment, as he saw them – a little slice of heaven. Guess I really will have to quit “sweating the small stuff,” hey?
Seeing our life through his eyes, let me see it differently, too. I always say that we’re building an empire – I think he sees us already enjoying the one we’ve built. I always focus ahead, on all that’s left to do – he sees all that we have done, and all that we are and have. I see the promise of heaven, someday – he sees it now, in the moment.
Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. (Zora Neale Hurston)
After I started working at the shop, and Dani saw Jeremy and I together for the first time, she told me later that I was different around him. I, somewhat panicked, said, “How? What do you mean?” And she said, “You’re softer.” And I thought, Hmm – that’s not so bad, I guess. It’s hard not to be when he says things like that and means them.
There is simply nothing like the bond that you have with the folks you happen to be attached to by birth to make you absolutely lose your mind. My family? I call it the Gaar Family Circus. I tend to hesitate to bring new people around, especially if they have “tender sensibilities.”
My mother and father are still married, which I realize makes them a bit of an oddity. I am the oldest child, and following me are one sister – Kate, and a brother – Dave (a.k.a. “the boy”). The sole grandchild – Abby – is my sister’s daughter and my goddaughter, and puts the twinkle in my parents’ eyes.
The majority of my extended family lives within an hour’s driving distance. My people are totally “settlers.” Our predecessors got off the boat, got to Wisconsin, and here they stayed. Here we’ve all stayed to the present day.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I have definitely felt completely stymied by the seeming unchanging nature of this group of people. By the embedded traditions, and the expectations that accompany them. By the sheer weight and force of all of these people.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we gathered at my parents’ house. I have a little joke with my folks, now that I live elsewhere – an elsewhere that manages to be pretty quiet and peaceful most of the time. When the circus starts up, I walk into the glass-fronted pantry, and close the door behind me, and every single time, my dad starts giggling.
My parents do strange things, now that I don’t live there. They bicker and tease one another. They have a different and cool relationship – they have their own secrets and stories again – ones that don’t include us. It’s pretty neat, actually.
My sister is a Gemini. That should explain everything. I always say that her picture should be featured in the dictionary next to “A.D.D.” – she doesn’t really have it, but having a conversation with the “two” people inside her head is maddening. First, you have to realize that as the Sign of the Twins, she can’t help it – there are two people having a conversation with you. Second, you have to learn to play both sides of the issue with her, and know that in each moment there is a part of her that is in complete opposition to what’s coming out of her mouth (hint: that’s the part that talks next). Kate is also incredibly irreverent, and hilarious.
The boy is taciturn and amusing by turns. He’s the youngest and the only boy. He had a hard time of it with us girls – a team and a force to be reckoned with – but he’s relatively well adjusted.
These people have shared moments with me that have made me cringe with embarrassment, grit my teeth with rage, cry with pain or joy. They have watched me walk through some of the darkest moments of my life, and they have seen me shine at my best. We have dealt one another some of the worst blows we’ve ever faced, and provided the strongest support any of us has ever received.
And yesterday, we sat down at a table together and broke bread. All of the drama melted away for just a little while. The three-ring circus emptied, the lights came down, and we just enjoyed one another.
My mother said it best, “I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that we are all here to eat this meal together today.”
Simple words, powerful words.
I am grateful for my family.
Happy Thanksgiving World.
At some point in the past year, one of my friends mentioned that there was this site out there on the world-wide-web called “fmylife.com,” where people could go to post about their ridiculous and outrageous misadventures, the twists and turns of fate, and the crappity things that happen to them.
Being an intrepid web-traveler, I figured I’d give it a shot. Posts ranged from the truly horrific and tragic to the whiney, superficial, and dramatic. I came, I read, and initially, I sat there in sympathy and commiseration with these anonymous unfortunates.
I felt encouraged to focus on all of the small annoyances in my own life, and to mull over the larger tragedies – and then, to just sit there…in that. Not terribly healthy. And then, I realized that wading through this effluvia had an undesirable and marked effect on me – it dragged me down into the slushy muck of self-pity with them. I’m fully aware of how easy it is to slide off the path and into this mire on my own, and I don’t want that kind of encouragement, thanks. I haven’t gone back to their site.
Some weeks later, I stumbled across a site started in response (and perhaps rebuttal?) to FML, called Givesmehope.com (GMH). Instead of posting all of the ways their lives have been fouled up, people write about all of the wonderful, touching experiences they’ve had, heard about, or witnessed – all of the times, ways, and shapes in which they’ve encountered the love of the Divine here on earth.
As I read through the many posts, a lump grew in my throat, and I found myself tilting my head back in order to blink my tears away. Generally, I am not one of those gals who cries at refrigerator commercials and stuff, so I was a little surprised at how affected I was. And, then, insidious, a small voice in the back of my mind murmured, “It’s probably all made up…people don’t do that for one another…what tripe…can’t believe you’re swallowing this ridiculous twaddle…don’t believe it…” and so on and so forth. This “loop” brought me up short and gave me a lot to ponder.
Why did I have such an easy, effortless time believing the negativity posted on one site, and such a hard time believing the optimism on another? And…why did I care if it were true or not? Each post on the GMH site reflected someone’s willingness to believe in compassion, love and unconditional kindness – and that, I decided, was the true thing; Their willingness to believe in goodness.
I started to think about all of the hopeful moments on my own journey, all the times I chose love over fear, all the strangers who’ve extended me love or kindness without expecting anything in return. And then I felt it – that glow, that feeling of utter connectedness to everyone and everything – that sense of knowing that what you foster within yourself, you offer to the world, whether you know it or not.
And, I could see how these two websites symbolized one of the most eternal choices we are given; to choose to live in love and foster love, or to live in fear and spread fear. Every moment of every day of our lives, we are presented with choice.
On Sunday, my only day “off,” I was rushing around, hurried and harried, and growing increasingly crabby, as I tried to get a whole mess of chores and stuff done, so I could get to my folks’ to do our laundry. In my myopic state, I could only see all that I had left TO DO. I was getting into my car in the parking lot of the last store, when an old man parked next to me and said, “It looks like you’re leaving home!” I burst out laughing – I carry loads of stuff with me all of the time and my fiancé, my dad, and my grandpa have said that to me pretty much every time they see me. The old man’s interest and concern snapped me out of my funk, kept me laughing all the way to my folks’ house, and GMH.
It’s so easy to lapse into fear and the negativity that fear breeds – “I have so much to do…how will I ever get all of this done…why is this all on me….” etc., etc., etc. I’m grateful to the Universe for all those “wake-up” moments that remind me that I have a choice here – love or fear.
For your daily dose of optimism, visit:
(Founders of givesmehope.com, Gaby Montero and Emerson Spartz, say “We’re tired of hearing about what’s wrong with this world…who couldn’t use a few more reasons to hope each day?”)