Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Peaceful Vibes and Prayers...Send Whichever, But Please Send Them

Please send your peaceful vibes and prayers toward a little town in southern Illinois, where a father of a friend is passing away.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reality Checks and Kindness toward Each Other

Do you ever get exasperated with everyone else's complaints? Do you ever find yourself rolling your eyes or muttering "get real" under your breath when you hear someone complain about what seems like a petty problem?
If you do, then it's time for a reality check for you, too. No matter the size of a problem, no matter the "reality" of the problem, if it feels like a problem to you, then it is.
Am I encouraging everyone to feel free to bitch and moan about every little thing that irks them? Not at all. What I'm saying is the weight of a problem is almost always relative to what else is happening in our life at the time.
If you find yourself in a period filled with illnesses, serious money problems, homelessness, etc, then it probably makes your blood boil to hear someone else complain about the "terrible" meal their spouse cooked last night. It makes you want to reach out and strangle the teenager who sulks about not getting a new CD. Yeah, sitting here right now, I can easily say how petty those last two complaints are. Still, just because you have big problems does not mean that someone with smaller problems isn't having trouble dealing with them.
One moral of the story: When you can, listen to someone else. Offer them some sympathy and some encouragement. You never know when you'll need the same.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Boulder in the Garden

Jane sits at the edge of her wild and cheerful backyard garden, trailing her wrinkled hand in the water flowing over the edge of an oddly shaped, broken piece of slate balanced at the top of a casual pile of rocks. Crinkled eyes gleam a pale but piercing blue behind reading glasses, and her cotton sweater has been wound around her waist because the fading fall sunlight finally warmed the afternoon. Last night's frost is still visible in the browned edges of the dahlias that have happily lingered on into autumn. I reach over the top of the wooden gate, lift the latch, and momentarily consider swinging on the gate as the iron weights on the chain pull it open.

I can't count the times I've come here, but Jane can recall them all and even categorize the solemn visits as carefully shielded requests for solace in the face of life's disappointments or as open cries for encouragement. The laughter from the other visits, the joyous ones, still tinkles the bits and pieces of rescued windchimes that hang from nails along the top of the fence.

Sensing the look of recognition as my eyes rest on the limestone boulder behind her, Jane waves her dry hand and then pats the empty half of the glider.

"You think you know, don't you?" she asks with a hint of glee in her voice.
"It sure has taken a long time, but it hit me all of a sudden yesterday. All this time, I've watched the garden grow from a few clay pots on the brick edge of the patio to this fantasy faeryland filled with surprises like those butterfly bushes gathered over there in the sunniest corner of the yard and the bits of labyrinth blended into that path of stones and moss I like to take to the middle of the yard. All this time, Jane, and you never said a word about the boulder, never mentioned why you'd slowly carved those extra curves and ledges into it."
The chuckle practically explodes from the woman beside me, and we both lean into a big bear hug before she launches into the story that's been here in the garden all along.
"Once John was gone, I cried and cried, of course. No way for me to change what had happened, and no way to stay sane unless I could change it."
She drifts away from me for a minute, and I can tell she's reliving some past afternoon with John, trying to decide whether the scale tipped more to the good or to the bad side when all the pain was measured.
"He was good in the beginning. The good was good enough to make me cry when it was gone. Not even the worst of the bad could make me forget that good. I had to hold onto it. Had to find a way to remember it even when his face faded so I could hardly remember that part of him. I decided to put that boulder to good use. I sure couldn't afford to have it busted up and hauled away. "
"You'd think I planned it all along, wouldn't you? Look at it now. That curve chiseled out of the top is one of my favorite places to bring my books. My coffee cup fits exactly on that little ledge. And heaven knows, those little pansies look like they were meant to grow in that shallow groove on the top."
"It just grew over the years, though, and I never had a plan for how it would turn out. Life is like that, you know. You take whatever you're given, you decide how you're going to use it, and you hope it turns out to be good for you."
"That big old rock could've ruined my yard if I'd let it. I couldn't budge it, even if I got my shoulder way down low and dug my feet in sideways. Same with John's illness. I couldn't budge it, no matter what I tried."
"I couldn't change it."
"But you know what? I could change how I saw it. I could see a big ugly rock ruining my yard, or I could see a neat way to fill in space and anchor my garden. Same thing for John. I couldn't change what happened, but I could change how I saw it. It was bad, and it was unfair, but I finally came to a day when I didn't have the energy to cry another tear."
"That was the day when I realized that John was the boulder in the garden for me. . .he anchored me, and having to deal with what happened taught me to find ways to work around it and still have my garden, still have my life without forgetting him."
For a second, I think she's going to cry again. I know my own eyes are sweating out here in the sunlight.
"Honey, you better wipe your eyes and listen to me. I'm going to say it plain and simple. I know you came over here to tell me you think you've finally figured out life because the importance of that boulder dawned on you. Listen to me. That boulder is the most important part of my garden right now, just like loving John those too few years was one of the most important parts of my life. BUT not a one of us can guarantee there won't be another damn boulder sitting in the middle of our yard when we wake up in the morning."
"No, you've got to carry the understanding of that boulder one more step. You've got to remember that it's not just the size of the boulder nor the number of boulders that's important. . .it's all about how you choose to see the boulders you can't move. You cry. You curse. You shove as hard as you can until you know for sure you can't move it. Then you start building around it."
Here's to finding the strength to keep building your life, even when you think the pushing and shoving and digging your feet into the ground has worn you down to nothing. Just like this rambling story, life is never all good nor all bad, it just is.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Something about Wisdom. . .

Wisdom is meant to be shared. Leave a comment and share yours.
You never know whom your words might affect.
You never know when something you say will help another person move beyond disappointment and into a new beginning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Stones in Your Shoe

I beg you leave the stones that rattle in your shoes here upon this doorstep.
I beg you slip off your shoes and breathe.
I beg you step through the door into a lighter atmosphere.

I beg you know that someone understands, that someone would walk with you
in those very same shoes
with those very same stones
I beg you know that someone understands, that someone would sit with you
upon that very same doorstep
emptying those very same stones
I beg you know that someone understands, that someone would step with you
through that very same door
into renewed strength and peace

I beg you,
know that someone understands a tiny stone under your heel can hobble you.
I beg you,
Just empty that stone and walk forward.
I beg you,
Help others empty their shoes when you can.
I beg you,
Remember you may always return to this doorstep to empty the stones that will inevitably find their way inside your shoes.

This is for everyone who wants to let go of something but is finding it hard to do.
Certainly, you may post anonymously!
This is about helping each other, and small kindnesses can be very big to the one who receives them.