Doing the Best You Can is the Best You Can Do

My father has a theory. My father has lots of theories. Some interesting, some ignorant, some humorous, and some are just downright insane. My father, he’s an interesting man, and I suppose he is somewhat insane. But I guess we all struggle with or celebrate our own variety of insanity.

Anyhow, one of his theories, and it is by no means unique to him, is that there is positive and negative vibrations. The positive being all things you would think are positive: honesty, commitment, kindness, sacrifice, etc. When you die, you have a review of your life on some sort of mystic flat screen. Preferably with a bowl of buttery, mystic popcorn.

You get to see all of the wonderful things you did in your life, like zip-lining through the forest in St. Marten or holding your first born child in your arms. But you also get to review all of the horrible things that happened, like the time you did that thing after six too many gin and tonics. You know, that thing? Or the time you stood by your grandmother’s hospital bed as she struggled to release her last breath and you didn’t look away.

Yes, you get to see it all, feel it all, experience it all and then if your positive vibration is high enough you can move on. On to a higher frequency, wherever that is. Heaven perhaps? Or maybe the suburbs of Heaven. And if your vibrating at a negative level, well…I don’t like to think about that.

What interests me though, and what this post is really about, is the idea that some people might have a high enough vibration to move on but will make a deliberate choice to come back. When my father told me his thoughts on that, all I could think was really? Someone would actually choose to come back to this place if they had an option of moving on to something better?

Now I have been fortunate enough to experience some truly beautiful and amazing things in my life. The way the Virginia pines looked to me as a baby lying in my stroller. Oh that contrast of green against blue. The softness of my mother and how safe it felt to be wrapped in her arms. The way that horse looked in a Danish field, a giant in the fog, slowly taking shape as I came closer. Giant, gentle, creature. That first kiss opening up the world for the very first time. The way it felt to be in his arms, flesh against flesh, to feel the rise of his chest against my cheek. And babies! Life inside of life! Creation out of love giving birth to new love. Soft thighs, tiny grasp, complete and total trust only a child can give. Complete and total love, unconditional, that only a child can give. So many beautiful memories.

But I have also been unfortunate enough to experience some truly horrific and painful things in my life. Enough to think I would never deliberately choose to come back to this place. Ever.

But lately, as I reflect on my life and the bad choices I’ve made, the bad things that have happened to me, and the awful things I have done, a thought creeps into my mind. If I could have another shot at this thing, at life, I would do it differently. I would make different choices, better choices. I would get it right. If only I could have another shot.

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks falling from a twenty story building followed by a six ton elephant. I might be one of those people. The ones that would deliberately choose to come back to this place. The lure of getting it right, getting it perfect, the misguided delusion that it is even possible to get it perfectly right would be enough to bring me back.

But I guess there’s the rub. I know even if I were given another shot, the likelihood of doing the same exact thing, making the same exact choices, is very real. Because in the end, there’s no guarantee where you land when you get here. It’s a crap shoot.

So maybe the point is not getting it right. Maybe the way we move on in this life or the next, is the ability to accept that fact. No, I didn’t get it right, not by a long shot. But I did the best I could with what I had. It might not have been any good, but it was the best I could do.

We’re not given a choice when we’re born. If we were, I’m sure a good many of us would have put in for a transfer within the first week of living with our parents. And as we continue on our paths, we’re often not given a choice of what happens to us given the fact that our lives are interconnected with the lives of 7.53 billion other people that inhabit this Earth. As cliché as it is, the only choice we really have is what we choose to do with circumstances thrust upon us.

I can’t help but think of the wisdom wise old Gandalf bestowed to Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” But I think even more importantly, it is to accept the outcomes of our decisions. And if we’ve truly done the best we could with what was given to us, then accept that is all we can do and leave the rest behind.

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Chunk and My Overworked Imagination

My imagination gets overworked sometimes. Ok, in all honesty, my imagination gets overworked many times.

I recently, for the first time in over eight years, applied for a job. When I went to request the employee packet to fill out, my imagination went into over drive.

Your hair looks awful. You’re soooo fat. What kind of outfit is that you’re wearing. They’re going to see right through you…Remember that box of cheese-its you ate last night? They know all about it. The library book that was due three months ago that you somehow keep forgetting to turn in? Yep, they know. You, Lilly, are a derelict.

I suppose the best way to describe my inner dialogue prompted by my overworked imagination is that scene from the movie The Goonies when Chunk is asked to tell the bad guys what he knows.

My imagination is the Fratellis family and my lack of self-confidence is Chunk. Get the picture? In retrospect it’s funny but only because I push through it and divert my imagination from my perceived failings to my perceived successes.

In the end, if you suffer from insecurity the way I do, that’s what you have to do. You want to work over time imagination? Ok, how about this. You are a single mom who is getting it done! Bed time, bath time, bills, loving, nurturing, disciplining, striving and most of all never giving up.

I know a lot of women who have overworked imaginations constantly confessing their short comings like Chunk. But just remember this my sisters, Chunk rescues the abused Sloth who is then pivotal in rescuing the entire Goonies. And by offering Sloth his unconditional love, Chunk is the ultimate hero in the end.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/overworked/

via Daily Prompt: Overworked

The Mess Which Bespoke

Ugh!!!

There were several pairs of shoes, their shoes, littering the dining room floor which is where the front door was. As soon as they entered, their shoes were kicked off, leaving the shoe bin (purchased specifically for…well, shoes) feeling neglected and lonely.

She walked past the table surrounded by chairs laden with winter jackets, their winter jackets, to hang her own coat on the desolate looking coat rack. No coat rack should look that barren in winter time. She attempted to shrug off the tired anxiety along with her coat, but only managed to elicit a crink in her neck.

The Amazing World of Gumball filled up the space in the living room and her eyes scanned over the cups, their cups, littering the little table in the middle of the room which was spilling over with markers and crayons and multiple pieces of art, her art, composed on white copy paper.

What a mess. That is what she thought. That is what she always thought. Stuffed dolls on the steps, laundry over flowing, letters and reminders from school piling up: the Holiday Shop on Tuesday, the winter concert on Thursday, and the cookie exchange on Friday.

Sigh…

It was a mess.

But it was a mess that bespoke love, laughter, and most of all…it was a mess which bespoke family.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bespoke/

via Daily Prompt: Bespoke

Only Pillars of Salt

 

I grew up with Bible stories – Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, God parting the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, the wall of Jericho – but the one that has resonated with me most since my divorce is that of Lot’s wife.

If you remember the story, Lot parted ways from his uncle, the eccentric Abraham, and decided to move to the city of Sodom. Eventually it was revealed to Abraham by three men (two angels in disguise and our Lord Jesus) that Sodom was going to be destroyed by God because of their grievous sins.

Most Badass Angels Ever!!

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Abraham, being the great negotiator that he was, convinced God to spare the city if ten righteous men were found. So the two angles disguised as men went to Sodom and naturally, Sodom being the cesspool that it was, were soon accosted. Lot hid them in his house and when the angry mob came to Lot and demanded that the two angels be handed over, Lot refused and offered up his two virgin daughters.

I have to pause for a minute because that part is incredibly enraging. Who offers their daughters to be raped by a bunch of men to save two strangers? When I was younger, this was one of many instances in the Bible that embittered me against the Bible and Christianity.

Women are clearly abused and treated very poorly in many parts of the Bible, and as a woman I find it repulsive. But when I came back to the Bible a couple of years ago, I realized that God never told Lot to do that. The Spirit was not encouraging Lot to do that. That was all on Lot.

Just as God never told Abraham to pass off Sarah as his sister when they entered into foreign lands. The idea that God sanctioned Abraham’s lie that could result in her being placed in a harem and raped is horrific. Thank goodness God never did. That was all on Abraham. Just as God never directed Abraham to sleep with Hagar. That was all on Sarah and Abraham. I guess it’s kind of encouraging that such a flawed man can be so favored by God. Gives the rest of us hope.

Anyhow, I suppose the point is that a majority of the bad things that happen don’t happen because of God but because of man. We are just lucky enough he helps us clean the mess up afterwards.

So where was I? Right, Lot and his family. When ten righteous men could not be found in the whole city of Sodom, its fate was sealed. But because Lot did the right thing (sheltering the angels not offering to sacrifice his daughters) his family was led safely from the city. And as they were fleeing, as fire hailed down from the sky, they were warned not to look back.

Lot’s wife looked back, and because of that, she was turned into a pillar of salt.

This is a picture from The Jehovah Witnesses’ Bible my mother bought for me when I was four. I don’t think she realized it was a JW Bible…

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When I was little this fascinated me. What a strange punishment. Why salt? Why not just strike her dead? When I was little, it was a mystery, and the bottom line was when an angel speaks, you’d better listen.

As a woman approaching her middle years, with a wealth of experience filling my coffers, I understand it a little differently. Many people argue whether these stories should be taken literally or figuratively. I mean, it is a little hard to imagine a woman turning into a pile of salt, right? To me, it doesn’t necessarily matter which way you want to take it. The meaning is there either way.

After my divorce I was devastated. I was tormented by all of the mistakes I had made. What if I had done this differently or that. What if I had listened in the first place and not married the man to begin with? But it was not just the bad memories that caused me so much pain. It was also the memories of the good times. The times when our family was together, the times when there was laughter, and unity, and intimacy – times I would never again be able to experience. I had lost them all.

And I cried. More than I ever thought possible. I was so tired of crying I split in two. And I kept hearing that voice. Don’t look back. But how could I not? And so I looked back and I cried. I looked back more and I cried more. And the more I cried, the more Lot’s wife filled my mind. My fellow woman, my sister, tell me. Show me. Teach me.

No, I am not a pillar of salt. I still have arms that move, that can embrace my children, stroke my dog, wave to a friend. I still have legs that can run, that can chase my daughter up the stairs in a game of tickle monster. I have eyes that can blink as the sun stares down, that watch as the clouds in all of their beauty pass by overhead. I am not a pillar of salt. I am still alive.

But every time I look back, my body is suspended as my mind and heart become stuck in a past that can never change. And as the tears fall down, over and over again, I can taste it. I can taste…salt.

I suppose I understand the message behind the story of Lot’s wife now. It was not simply a story about weird punishments you can expect for being disobedient. Like any good father, there is always a lesson in the punishment. The lesson her story has taught me is that there is no life in looking back. It is better to leave behind that which God has taken. As tempting as it is to look back and catch a glimpse of what was, to reminisce about what could have been, and to decipher exactly the reasons it was destroyed, there is no life there.

There are only tears.

There are only pillars of salt.

Flee

via Daily Prompt: Flee

I Have a Little Shelf

I have a little shelf that holds my treasures.

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No one would think twice about the items on this shelf: a Lego figure of a famous Harry Potter character, a piece of wood, a cross, and a card. To the outsider they would seem rather ordinary. But to me? Well they are things I treasure; they are pieces of me – the good, the bad, the things that make up a life.

The cross was given to me two years ago by a young man who worked with me at the farm. He was a gay Christian and needed a place to stay for a week. As a thank you he bought me the cross as a gift and is a reminder of Jesus’ command to love one another regardless of politics, religion, race, gender, or sex.

The Lego character is that of Professor Snape. After my divorce my children and I discovered the Harry Potter movies and watched them straight in a row. The moment Harry dropped Snape’s tear into the pensieve and the true measure of his love for Lilly was revealed, I fell in love. Professor Snape epitomizes that unconditional love and devotion we all seek yet seems an impossibility.

I’m not sure why I love the piece of wood so much. Perhaps because it’s so random. It will always remind me of the constant surprises involved in raising children and the joy in the real and unscripted that can only be found in the company of those small creatures.

The card is from the man, my therapist, who guided me through that first year after my divorce and helped me sift through all of the broken pieces of myself. It came to me two years after our last meeting and is the confirmation of what I felt but never said. In the hours that unfolded through the weeks of one year, feelings were birthed. Though for obvious reasons those feelings will never be explored. They will simply remain on my shelf, a reminder that there was once a man who cared for me.

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The little wooden box was given to me by a dearly beloved cousin the day I left VA eighteen years ago. Inside this box contains a past I cannot let go of yet, at least not entirely.

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Inside is a tiny, painted, wooden duck. It once was packed in a small blue chest with tiny, painted, Easter eggs and bunnies, along with Easter grass. It was a gift I sent to the boy, who would become my husband and ultimately the great devastator of my life, when he was in the Navy and out to sea. I loved to love him then. I destroyed the rest of the figures and threw the chest away but could not bring myself to destroy this last remaining one…at least not yet.

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The next treasures are the checker pieces from the original checker/backgammon board game my ex-husband and I played on. Nights we spent sitting criss-cross on the bed drinking wine and discussing my uncanny ability to always triumph in backgammon. Eventually our first-born son took control of the game when he was a toddler and the pieces became his bread. They are a reminder of soft baby flesh and sweet imaginations.

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Then there is a fragment of a Willow Tree figurine my mother gave me after my first son was born.

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I will always believe there was potential for my marriage, as painful as that is and perhaps delusional, if my husband had ever really wanted it. But he never did and it was not until the end of our marriage that I realized I had unknowingly held such a deep contempt-laced hatred for him for so very long. One night, years before he finally left, after I had a miscarriage, I threw this figurine to the ground breaking it into pieces. The only part that remained was the swaddled infant. I held onto it as a reminder of the baby I lost and that no matter what, I had to get her back; I had to have another child. I did have another child and she has been my heart for seven years.

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This folded note is the last note in a treasure hunt l made for my sons to tell them they were going to have a baby sister. I placed it in the mail box of the house we were hoping to buy along with the ultra sound pictures. Sometimes I wonder if we had gotten the house could our marriage have been saved? This note is a reminder of the possibilities that will never be.

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The next treasure is one I hate but cannot let go of. It is the second of two wedding rings. My first one meant more. I still wore it briefly after my divorce until one summer day while frolicking in the river, it was swallowed up. The second one belonged to a matching pair. It was given to me when my husband refinanced our house. It epitomizes greed, shallowness, and debauchery. Perhaps I keep it as a reminder of what can happen, how something beautiful can be tainted if not guarded.

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The last treasure is my daughter’s hospital bracelet. She was the last one as I had made the decision to have the operation to ensure l could never have children again. She marked the ending of the happiest time of my life, a time when I was a mother to small children who looked to me for everything with complete love and trust. She was the closing of a chapter. But she was also the beginning. She was the beginning of my attempt to make her life better than my own, to do for her what I was unable to do for myself. To make sure she always felt loved.

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On top of my shelf of treasures stands a doll I have had for fifteen years. When I first bought her, her head was loosely attached. Then it detached itself completely and I laid it by her feet. Eventually it disappeared entirely. What struck me about this doll is even though her dress was tattered and torn, one arm nothing more than a wire as if the very flesh had been torn from it, even though she was without a face or an identity, she was beautiful. And I could see myself in her. She is a reminder that though there is much about my life that is tattered and has been torn, though sometimes I feel like I am invisible – nothing more than a twisted wire for a head – I am so much more. I am beautiful.

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So that is my space, my special, unassuming shelf that holds my secret treasures. Masquerading as knick-knacks and an odd piece of wood, these are the reminders of a life lived – my life.

via Daily Prompt: Treasure

Sometimes I Feel an Echo

via Daily Prompt: Echo

Sometimes I hear an echo, only it is not quite a sound but rather a memory. Or perhaps a memory of a feeling. Like yesterday, when I saw him standing there and I felt a giddy sensation of possibility. The new and exciting feeling of “love” that I only remember feeling too many years ago. And it is though I have never felt that feeling before and it is all new and wonderful and filled with a mysterious magic. But I am no longer young and I have felt that feeling before with devastating results. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will watch a married couple and I will smile. I will remember the days when I too was married and how, even though there was so much unspoken misery, there was also times of unity. And an echo of that memory when I was not alone but a part of a team, however incomplete that team may have been, will swallow me up and for just one moment I will sigh with relief. But then I remember that I am alone and the only unity I can speak of now is the unity of all of the fractured parts of myself. Yes, the echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will see a commercial, like the Amazon one with the Dad who drops his son off at preschool and peeks through the window to see his son sitting desolate and alone while the other children play. And I will feel the echo of the days my oldest son, who is now nearly fourteen, was in Kindergarten and he was terrified of the boys bathroom and how it sounded as if the whole world would disappear whenever the toilette was flushed. Or I will see a mother in front of my children’s school with a baby and the chubby, fleshy thighs will stir an echo of a memory of my own children when they were just babes, and oh how my heart will swell. And an ache will accompany the memory because those days are gone forever. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

There are constant echoes of past that sound at different times: days of playing kickball in the old neighborhood covered in dirt and grime and all the signs of childhood happiness, the first kiss that released the bevy of butterflies aching to be free, the roundness of my belly that swelled with life, the long walks with those babies through changing seasons…And the feelings reverberate within my heart as if I am standing on the edge of some great cliff overlooking the world and I am shouting out as loud as I can to the universe, to God,

Thank You.

Swallowing Darkness

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”

Thirty-nine-years-ago, a light came into the world in the form of a slimy, mucous-covered ball named Lilly.

That would be me.

Though my light has had darkness swirling around and about it, though the darkness has tried to eat my light, the darkness has not overcome.

No.

Darkness has not swallowed me; I have swallowed darkness.

Now it lives in me but it is not me.

It lives in this body made of flesh and bones and tendons and joints.

It lives in my mind made of lobes and ganglia and synapses.

It lives in all of this which is me and which is not me.

Today I am alive.

Today the darkness has not overcome.

Remembering Love

She had loved him. It was as though she were waking up from a long sleep to these feelings that she had held for this man all along. Feelings that had been buried, suppressed, in a deep, deep sleep. The wrongs committed could now be thrown into the smoldering rubble in which there still remained enough heat to turn them into ash. The many offenses, his offenses and her own, she had worn like a cloak, a cloak so heavy that she had not realized how it had hampered her movement until she found the strength to shrug them off. She had loved him. She held this old love in the palm of her hand and it glowed warm in the sun and she smiled with remembrance. She had loved him. And it was a relief.

She looked at his picture. She looked at the young face she could barely remember. The eyes that were so bright, so blue. They had dazzled her once. Over the years, through the battles she had stopped seeing them, could not see them through all of the smoke and flames, through the depressed fog. Only now, the war that was their love was over. The flames were dying down, the smoke was just beginning to lift, and like any war-torn landscape, the damage to her heart was devastating. At first the devastation was overwhelming. It was nearly impossible to imagine how this barren broken place could ever be rebuilt. But as time passed, she began to notice that the trees, though scorched still stood. There were green patches of grass, peeking out hesitantly, on the soot blackened scarred ground. And somewhere in the distant she could hear the laughter of children.

Rearranging: Embracing Impermanence and Letting Go

I like to rearrange, change, reconstruct, and readjust.

I do it all the time.

Why in the past four years I’ve shaved my head bald twice.  I’m talking Buddha bald. Just. Like. That.

I gained eighty pounds, hiding my once thin frame which garnered me more than a few looks, with extra soft flesh. Just. Like. That.

The former blog I spent three years creating with love, sweat, and tears – the very thing which helped me get through my divorce – I deleted. Just. Like. That.

Love letters from my ex-husband that were my tether to possibility, two years worth of love letters I held onto as a drowning person does drift wood, thrown into the fire. Just. Like. That.

Pictures of that other life – complete with a mother and a father, a husband and a wife – I threw on top of the burning love letters. Just. Like. That.

I said goodbye to my children, the sole purpose of my existence, and sent them to another woman without creating guilt or conflict within them (by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done). Not quite “Just. Like. That.” but close enough.

When I rearrange I let go and letting go is the way I stay sane, the way I remember who I am. My identity is not attached to my hair, my weight, my role as wife, or my role as mother.

I was not always good at rearranging and able to embrace the changing. Before my divorce my identity was attached to material things (house, husband, children, hair, body) or ideas related to material things (middle class, wife, mother, beautiful). But when my ex-husband left all of that disappeared. Just. Like. That.

I found myself teetering on insanity no longer knowing who I was. Nights I would spend lying next to my two-year-old daughter as she slept blissfully, reciting my name over and over in the quiet darkness, terrified I would fall into the abyss of nothingness.

It took years but, by the grace of God, I managed to inch away from the edge and find solid ground to stand on, only now the solid ground or foundation is found not on the outside in impermanent material things or ideas, but it is found within me.

So that I never forget, I continue to make myself rearrange things. Whether it is something as minor as the dishes in the kitchen cabinets or something a little more meaningful like donating baby clothes I held onto for my future grandchildren (future grandchildren that are not guaranteed), I purposefully and intentionally let go.

It reminds me of the Buddhist sand mandala. Days of painstaking creation ending with a breathtaking piece of art only to be dismantled. Why? To remind us of the transitory nature of life and the impermanence of material things and ideas.

As the trees can testify, with their leaves falling once more to blanket the earth with color, it is a good thing to remember.

“Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.”
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

The Twitch

I have a small twitch inside of my brain,

A terribly tricky and ticklish tick.

A thing in itself that is quite insane;

A thing in itself that is truly sick.

 

It crawls and it slithers, it finds its way;

It screeches aloud and calls me by name.

A sound like madness, like death, like decay,

It fills me with comfort covered in shame.

 

Yet in the darkness within my own mind,

There grows a light with a gentle fierce air.

It covers the twitch with a love refined,

So the twitch and the tick sleep unaware.

 

There is a hope within discourse divine,

That sorrow’s terror can be redefined.