Flashbacks

desperately-seeking-susan_592x299
Back when we were beautiful…

I had to go to the mall today to buy a birthday present for my friend’s daughter, who is turning 8. Walking into the mall with a five year-old boy is always an adventure, and I usually sneak all such errands under the radar while he’s at school or camp. I couldn’t do that today as I had to be a grown-up and have a mammogram during his last hours of camp, so I was stuck.

We entered through J.C. Penney as I wanted to go the store Justice for the birthday gift. I was told that the birthday girl is into fashion, so I decided clothes were my best option, and from my limited wanderings around the mall, Justice seemed like as good a place as any to get some cute little girl clothes. In we went, my stride long and determined, The Boy skipping to keep up with my pace.

Then we hit the women’s clothing section, and I saw the cute little red blazer with the rolled up sleeves and the cuffed, faded blue jeans with the rose embroidery. I stopped and touched the blazer, the soft silk of the lining showing on the outside of the sleeves where the were rolled. For a moment I was back in college, circa 1989, finishing getting dressed to head out on a Thursday night with my roommate and best friend, our hair curly and pulled up off our faces, cascading down our backs, unruly and sexy and wild.

How beautiful we were, how completely unaware of our own power and the luxury of our lives as undergraduates at a private women’s college in Boston. Our tuition was paid, and our part-time jobs provided enough pocket money to ensure we could pay the cover charge to get into any bar we wanted, where we then would drink for free all night courtesy of the handsome and buff young men who clamored around us. We never felt it, of course, but we held all the cards. We had what they wanted. All we felt, however, was the fleeting loneliness at the end of the night when we would walk away from the bar, arms wrapped around one another to keep ourselves from falling down, laughing at something one of the hapless young men had said or done. We wanted them to love us, and they did. We just never knew, and in our own way, we were as clueless as they.

I came out of my reverie to the sound of The Boy’s whining and tugging at my hand. “Let’s go, Mama! I want to go to the Lego store!”

I released my hold on the blazer and allowed myself to be pulled forward through time to the present, to the exquisiteness of my real life, by the beautiful boy who now owns my heart. As he dragged me along, I mused that fifteen years from now he will be one of the handsome and buff young men in another bar, in another town. He will wait for one of the young women in that bar, so beautiful and powerful, to notice him, never dreaming that was his mother forty-odd years before.  With much bigger hair, of course.

Six Sentence Stories

I stumbled across the blog Two Shoes in Texas earlier today.  The author, a woman named Josie, posts writing prompts for her readers to participate in, and the one that started accepting submissions today is called Six Sentence Stories.  Each Thursday, Josie posts a new prompt.  This week’s prompt is “dream.”  Here is my submission.

ECHOES

Your hand snakes over my hip and curls around my hard, rounded belly, tugging slightly to let me know you want me to move backward into the curve of your body.  I breathe, feeling you tighten and push between my legs.  Your lips on my neck make me shiver, and I put my hands out in front of me, pushing back to get closer to you.  Waves of pleasure wash over my consciousness, and my body responds to your touch.  I feel my hoarse breath pulsing at the base of my throat.  My eyes fly open and I stare out into the dark, but you are gone, the only traces left the echo of my ecstasy and the swirling presence inside me.

Gratitutde

images-4

As I’ve been going through August, I’ve been diligent about publicly stating each day one thing for which I am thankful. At first I thought that my Facebook friends and Twitter followers might find my devotion to the exercise quirky or even a tad annoying. Really, who wants to read the status updates of somebody when all she does is focus on how wonderful a life she leads? What’s so interesting about that? Nevertheless, I persevered with my effort, and I have been pleasantly surprised.

I’ve received encouragement, praise and even commentary from a couple of people who said they like the idea so much they’ve decided to do it themselves. One particularly amusing comment from a woman with whom I attended high school a million years ago queried “Are you taking happy pills? If you are, sell me some!”

Of course, I can’t take the credit for the idea; I must defer to Gretchen Rubin and her book The Happiness Project, from whence I borrowed the idea. What I can do, however, is take credit for my implementation and follow through, as well as for the changes it’s generated in my life during a brief period of time.

The three weeks that I’ve been posting my daily thankfulness tidbit, and ruminating on the people and things in my life for which I’m grateful have brought much joy into my life. For the last few years, more often than I’d like to admit I’ve felt sad and downtrodden by life and my place in the world, but the last few weeks it is as if a cloud has lifted and the sun is shining brightly, illuminating all the dark spaces and chasing away the shadows. I made a conscious decision to be happy, and I haven’t let anything stand as an obstacle. I looked around at the happiest people I know and made a deliberate intention to be more like them, to stop battering myself.

Since I stopped incorporating negativity into my life, I find myself turning into an optimist, and that positive attitude is bringing positive energy to my life. My little gratitude experiment has made me happy. That one small shift in attitude has made me realize just how truly blessed I am to have the life I do, the family and friends I do, the husband and child I do. Because I love and cherish my people, and their meaning in my life, for the first time in a long time I feel and know that I am loved and cherished, that I am important.

Determining that I will be happy has given me to freedom to open my heart to all that I have in my life, and I’ve discovered how good giving of myself and letting people see the real me can feel. I’ve stopped hiding myself, stopped trying to protect myself from something I was sure was waiting around every corner, stopped presuming the bottom was going to drop out and instead started assuming that the best is yet to come.

I’ve ripped the tarp off of long buried family secrets and discovered that the dysfunction doesn’t define me, but instead makes me human, makes me approachable and real. I’ve stopped being ashamed of what I’ve survived, and intend to share it, to illuminate it, to confront it at last so that I can be free of it. No longer will I hide the secrets, keeping them in the dark to grow like so much fungus, afraid that if the world sees, it will pass judgment on me for the sins of others.

From the earth to the heavens, thank you. You make me smile.

images-9
It feels the same in any language

Where I’m Going

2013-07-14 13.28.22
Where I’m happiest

I started this blog with just a kernel of an idea:  to get my writing out into the world, possibly find a connection with some like-minded people.  Seven months later, I’m beginning to figure out why the monumental drive to write and publish a blog – and I hope someday more – lives within me.

I took a long detour in life and very nearly threw away everything that was dear to me because I couldn’t see that where I was for the last 15 or so years was neither who I was nor who I wanted to be.  I’m finding my way back to me, day by day, and I hope you’ll be willing and interested to join me for the journey.

With that in mind, I’m making some changes to narrow my focus, to clean up the rough edges and, I hope, find the people who really want to connect with what I have to say.  I know I’ve got a long way to go, but to anyone who has read any of my posts, and is reading this now … thank you.

2013-07-27 13.52.36
Where I belong: my beloved husband

Where I belong, Part II:  my adored son

Contemplating the Heavens

images

Another month has passed, and here I am back to add another brick to my happiness home. According to The Happiness Project, August is the month I’m supposed to spend contemplating the heavens. The “to-do” list includes the following:

a) Read memoirs of catastrophe.

I’ve always loved a good catastrophe memoir or story, even movies. Maybe loved is too strong a word; I’ve always been drawn to them. I’ve read The Buffalo Creek Mining Disaster by Gerald M. Stern, Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson, The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough, Columbine by Dave Cullen, and most recently, Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. I’ve seen Titanic, The Impossible. I force myself to watch 9/11 every time it is re-broadcast so that I never, ever forget.  I own a copy so that when my son is old enough we can watch it together and he will know what I cannot explain.

I cannot articulate why I am so drawn to these stories. Perhaps it is a curiosity to see how the survivors made it out of the horror that engulfed them. Perhaps it is a hope that by reading about the details, I can somehow avoid ever being in such a horrific situation. Intellectually, I know that I can never be so careful to avoid every bad thing that could befall me, but the control freak in me screams differently.

My gut tells me that the real reason is the human connection I feel when I read and watch, the vicarious fear, grief, pride and exultation that emanates from these survivors as heat radiates out from a fire. I never want to lose that connection, so I read and watch, and for a few moments I suspend reality to be in the shoes of the storyteller. Then, when it’s over, I am grateful for everyone and everything in my life anew.

Which brings me to my next assigned task for August….

b) Keep a gratitude notebook.

This is actually a really good idea, one which I plan to implement for at least thirty days beginning tomorrow. Even if I only do it for the month of August, I think it will be a great exercise to make me truly consider my life and things and people that have been meaningful to me, things and people for which I’m thankful. Now, if only I could find the right notebook in my pile to make into the gratitude notebook … Orange? Purple? Pink? Red? Green? Hmmmm……

Can you tell I have a bit of an obsession with Moleskine notebooks?

c) Imitate a spiritual master.

A spiritual master? I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean! Is it someone like Gabrielle Bernstein, motivational speaker and life coach? Or is it someone more like the wonderful rabbi at the temple where my family and I are members?

I’ve always subscribed to the journal of “I’m not really religious; I’m just spiritual.” The trouble is that I’ve never quite known just what that meant. I think I’ll tweak this third of Gretchen‘s tasks for August a bit. Instead of imitating a spiritual master, I’ll try to find my own spirituality and be my own spiritual master by incorporating into my daily life the teachings that most appeal to me and that have the most relevance to me.

When I was pregnant, I approached my rabbi with the question as to how I should deal with Yom Kippur. I had always refrained from taking in any food or liquid for the 24 hour period of atonement, but being pregnant I didn’t think that was a particularly prudent course of action. My rabbi told me that one of the most wonderful things about the Jewish faith was that it was forgiving, and fluid, meaning that I could observe the holy day to the best of my ability within the limits of my physical condition, and, in fact, I was not to endanger myself or my unborn child by refraining from food or water. The following year, I sought her counsel again as a nursing mother. I received the same advice peppered with even stronger language. Since my child’s only source of nutrition was breast milk, I could not partake in the fast because to do so would be to endanger his life.

I enjoy my religion. I enjoy the camaraderie of Sabbath and holiday services. Mostly, however, I enjoy knowing that I can interpret my relationship with my God, and I am not told how I must conduct that relationship.

With that in mind, I will research spiritual masters, and incorporate what I like best into my existing relationship with my God. Perhaps God will be my spiritual master. After all, God loves all humans equally and allows for many different expressions of appreciation and interaction, so there is no reason I cannot incorporate different expressions and interaction into my daily spirituality.

August is for contemplating the heavens. I wonder if that includes watching storm clouds approaching and holding my face up to the cool winds that roll in just before a soaking summer storm.

images-1