Thursday, February 26, 2009

Learning to be Tenacious

Looking out on the Pacific Ocean, I feel eternal gratitude for the life that Mark and I have achieved over the course of the past twenty-eight years.  We have come from a place that was built on the dreams of two idealistic college students, to a reality that neither one of us ever could have conceived of.  We began with so little, yet so much.  We came from two divorced families.  We held numerous odd(and I do mean odd) jobs throughout our college years so that we could put some boxed macaroni and cheese on the table, while studying our way through endless text books and political science classes.  We withstood the rocky behaviors of our teenage years in a relationship that was well beyond our years in maturity.  We were two young lovers who met the right person at what many thought, was the wrong time.  Different backgrounds, different religions, different geographical homes.  It shouldn't have worked.  So much to learn.   The numbers were against us.  Neither one of had a model of what a healthy adult relationship should look like.  Yet, somehow, and in some way, even when meeting the right person in the wrong time or place, we made it work.  There might have been many, many odds which were stacked up against us, but the one thing that we both had was tenacity.  Tenacity to ride out the tough times.  Tenacity to grow up together.  Tenacity to know that we were meant to do important things.  Tenacity to believe in each other.
I shot this series of photos over the course of a single day, last weekend.  I was interested in the way that the colors and textures and shapes could change so rapidly throughout the spans of the day.  From the luminous, full clouds drifting over the pier, to the wispy, ethereal puffs of white, transparently floating throughout the sky, no hour was ever the same.  No scene exact.
Yet each vignette, each transforming moment in time.  Each small shift in the hour of the day, shows both change and tenacity.  Tenacity to continue to be what is, while slowly evolving into what will be. 
And with the changes, come growth.  Subtle, evolving growth.  Until morning becomes day, becomes, afternoon, becomes, dusk, becomes nightfall.
Until the seagulls group together to feed off of the ocean and what lies underneath the waves.
Until the dusk begins to take over the scene and things change into something more.  Something deeper.  Something richer.
And then there is the calm.  When the clouds either disperse, or come together to form one, single blanket over the sky.  And all is as it should be.
As is typically so, I set out to write something entirely different when I looked at these pictures.  Yet the story evolved in a very different way.  It took on the subtleties of life and relationships.  

You see, there is never really a "right time" nor place for anything.  A relationship can start out with one hundred strikes against it.  Others may look in from the outside and say that it will not last.  Yet if we allow ourselves to flow with the natural rhythms of the day, if we take what is good at the core and then build around it, tenacity can see us through.  We must have tenacity; cohesiveness, courage, and perseverance.  We must be able to look at the larger picture in smaller fragments.  Accepting the changes as they come and working to incorporate them into something larger.  Understanding that there never really is a right time and place to do anything, but allowing life to happen anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Under The Sea (and Hi Dad)

The scenery from the shoreline is forever-changing.  So much so, that each day brings with it a new seascape, an entirely different perspective.  Depending upon the tides, or the weather, or more importantly the position of the moon in the sky; endless miles of coastline can either be covered under a blanket of fast-moving ocean waves, or exposed, revealing the layers of sand and rock and seaweed which are usually nestled, hidden underneath.  This afternoon, at low tide, another yet undiscovered natural display was uncovered by the retreating ocean waves.  I have both observed and explored the large rock formations which become visible when the tide makes its way out to sea, but not once during the course of the past year have I observed the rock formations which I was lucky enough to witness, today.  At first glance, I noticed the heart that stands prominently in the center of this row of rock formations.  Having never noticed it before, it momentarily took my breath away, and I systematically told everyone who was at home at the time to look out the window!  And now, sitting here looking at the photos that I took of this lovely heart, I can see another message in the rocks.  I have decided not to share my interpretation of what I came up with when I put all three of the rocks that are lined up together.  I will leave it up to you to see if you see what I see, or if you can see something entirely different.  After all, it is all about perspective, and just as the shoreline constantly evolves and changes, so does our view of life.

And for another perspective from today:

It's not far down to paradise
At least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away
And find tranquility
The canvas can do miracles
Just you wait and see
Believe me

Takes me away
To where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

It's not far back to sanity
At least it's not for me
And when the wind is right you can sail away
And find serenity
The canvas can do miracles
Just you wait and see
Believe me

-Christopher Cross

When I saw these sailboats riding gently along on the breezes, the song "Sailing" by Christopher Cross began making its way forward from the deeper recesses of my mind.  If, by chance, you are too young to remember this song, go take a moment to listen to it.  Then close your eyes, and you too will be sitting on the deck of a sailboat headed for someplace wonderful!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bruce Springsteen, Breakthroughs and Being Here Now

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my beloved younger brother's death.  In Judaism, we say a special prayer called the yizkor, or a memorial prayer, which marks the one year anniversary of a loved one's passing.  It is a prayer that should be said in synagogue because it is necessary to have a minyon, or a group of ten or more, in order to recite this prayer of remembrance.  Last Friday, Mark, myself and our four daughters, went to temple to recite yizkor in my brothers memory.  It was quite surreal to hear his name said out loud and to stand, in unison, with my husband and our children after my brother's name was recited.  At the same time that my family was saying yizkor for my brother, sweet Jen of Jenx67, was posting an incredibly touching tribute to my brother and I on her blog.  Jen and I were "introduced" to each other via my little brother and that is something I will never forget.  But that is a story for another day, and thank you, Jen, for being a part of that minyon without even realizing it.  Tomorrow evening, we will light something known as a yazreit candle which will burn for twenty-four hours.  It is said that the flame of the candle is used to remind us that the soul of the departed still burns brightly.  I believe this with all of my heart.

As I was contemplating the past year and thinking about my brother, I was using my computer to search through the lyrics of Springsteen songs.  I know many of them by heart, but my brother was a huge Springsteen fan and I wanted to get lost in the poetry behind the music.  I needed to feel close to my brother and somehow, Springsteen music always makes me feel like he is just hanging out with me.  So here I was, just scrolling through the words searching for something that might help in the continuation of the healing process when I decided to search for the words, "brothers and sisters" in Bruce Springsteen songs.  That is the exact moment, right in the middle of the word, "sisters", when my bracelet broke and the beads began gently cascading down onto my bed.  Several years ago, I began wearing bracelets made by a company called Energy Muse.  They are known for creating beautiful bracelets made with beads which represent various elements.  Each piece is created with a specific intention.  The beads which are used possess certain qualities which are said to be transferred to the wearer.  I have worn several of these bracelets over the years and I now feel naked without one.  I wear them as a sort of talisman and I often play with the beads when I pray.  The people who make these bracelets say that when one breaks, the wearer is having a breakthrough of some sort.  Having gone through several of these, I can attest to the fact that mine have broken at some very significant times in my life and although the company will put them back together for free, I prefer to keep them in a little box.  I then choose a different intention and attach a new one to my wrist.  The one that I was wearing for quite some time carried with it, the intention of 'protection'.  Protection, knowing that God is always with me and always available, is something I needed to feel desperately during the past year.  My bracelet helped to keep me grounded in my belief.  

I am not exactly sure why my bracelet broke at the exact moment that it did.  I only know that I truly believe that there are no accidents.  Things happen as they are meant to happen in order to let us know that we are either on the right path or that we need to take a detour along the way.  I purchased another Energy Muse bracelet that I found on sale, for my birthday back in July.  It sits, waiting, on my nightstand and I take comfort in the fact that I won't have to go naked for a few days until I go out and purchase another one.  This time, I chose one which carries a different affirmation along with it.  It contains the message, "I surrender both my past and my future; I live in the power of now."  And isn't that what living is all about?  Experiencing this moment, at this time, on this day.  Some of my dear blogging friends reminded me in my last post's comments, that I should not allow the moment of my brother's death to define the rest of my life.

Tomorrow morning, when I clasp my new bracelet onto my wrist and breathe a prayer into the Universe to live in the power of now, I will also think of my brother, my husband, my Angel Daughters, my Angel Nieces, Bruce Springsteen, JenX, and all of my other sweet blogging friends who have gotten me through this first year.  I will also think about the One who protects, but also reminds, when it is time to move forward.  I will say thank you to God for the gentle reminder that the period of mourning is now over.  And I will say thank you, dear God, for getting me to now.  

I will then take a long walk on the beach so that I can have a talk with my brother.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Learning to Rely on Hope as a Shelter

It has been a wet and stormy week here in Southern California.  We are in the midst of what is known as "the rainy season" and  although there are many years when nary a drop falls, right now we are getting drenched.  We are experiencing a weather pattern that is typical for this time of year in a very non-typical sort of a way, meaning that this is the way that things are supposed to happen, but often times don't.

I began to think, once again, about how life often mimics nature and nature often mimics life.  I began to think about how utterly sad this past year has been for me and my family, yet during the times when the clouds momentarily broke and the sun shone through, there was joy and love and hope.  I began to think of a broken family and broken hearts and how the unexpected can hit us during times that are well...unexpected.  That just like the supposed "rainy season" which sometimes comes and sometimes doesn't, both sadness and joy can hit us at times when they are least expected.   
This past week, although outwardly rainy, has brought with it many reminders about the richness of life.  We spent the later part of last week celebrating Angel Daughter Number One's moving and multi-layered performance in a play called Expecting Isabel by Lisa Loomer.  AD1(wearing the green scarf in the above photo) played the part of Miranda, a married woman who is going through the complex maze of trying to start a family.  Like the expected rainstorms of Southern California, Miranda and her adorable husband, Nick(played by another one of my most favorite student actors, Brad), start out by forecasting what creating a baby will be like, but soon find out that the experience is nothing like what they assumed it would be.  In the character of Miranda, I saw my daughters who are growing up so fast, yet I also saw myself.  Planning the way that our lives are going to turn out and then hearing God's laughter echoing softly in our ears.  And I remembered that the only thing we can be about sure of in life, is to expect the unexpected.

Yesterday, we celebrated Angel Daughter Number Four's fifteenth birthday and I must admit that I cannot really believe that my youngest child is now fifteen years old.  How and when did that happen?  Watching her enjoying all of the attention while blowing out the sixteen candles(We always add one for good luck.), made me think about the storms that blow in and then blow out and what we are left with.  Is it the happiness that we choose to resonate with, or do we view our lives through the dark clouds of the storms?
I am trying to teach my daughters that giving up is never an option.  That we must always try to focus on the sometimes very tiny ray of hope which will someday lead us to the clearing in the storm.  If we stay focused on the negative, then it is the negative that will succeed in overshadowing our lives, but if we look for the positive, then hope will always prevail. Others may behave in ways that are irrational or even deliberately hurtful in nature, but if we choose to live our lives with loyalty, integrity and ultimately, hope, if we remember to keep our focus on what is important and right and good, then we can always be assured that there will be better times ahead.  

The photo above is of me and my oldest niece.  My beloved brother's daughter who has experienced more loss in her short ten years than a child should ever have to.  And although I have only been allowed to see her twice in the past year since my brothers death, I will never quit on her or her little sister.  I got to tell her this myself a couple of days ago.  She knows that on the other side of any storms that might arise, I will be standing there waiting for her with an always open heart.  She knows that she doesn't only have a Mom and a little sister, but that she has an Auntie, and an Uncle and four cousins who will never give up on her.  And so we continue to fight our way through the storms and the sadness.  Back to where we belong.  Back to one another.
Just a couple more photos that were taken on Sunday.  My six Angel girls.
Together as they should be.  And for now, I know that my brother is smiling above all of the sadness, above all of the clouds.  I can actually feel him.
And Angel Daughter received something that she so badly wanted for her birthday.  To be able to see her two younger cousins and to spend some time with the people who matter most in her world.
Yes, it has been a rough year and yes, there has been a lot of expected and unexpected rain, but we choose to focus on the better days.  We have gotten through most of the "firsts" which feel so disconcerting following the death of someone we love and now it is time to begin living with what is.  It isn't healthy to stand out in the rain without seeking shelter.  To do so, for a very long time, is to give up on the sun.  I cannot take this precious gift of life that I have been given and focus on living only in the sadness.  By remembering that the rainy seasons will eventually come when we expect them to, and sometimes when we do not, we can also be reminded that the skies will eventually clear.  And in the clearing there is always hope.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Learning to Value One Another

It is a dark and dreary day here in Southern California.  The rain is coming down at a slow and steady pace and the clouds have meshed together to create a band of grey over the horizon.  Tonight, Angel Daughter Number One will be performing as the lead in a play about a woman who is trying to conceive a baby.  A far reach for a twenty-one year old college student who has no experience from which to draw in this area of life.  She hasn't gotten there yet.  And although her inner, biological clock has most likely begun its quiet, steady tick towards the desire to become a Mother someday, the drive, the absolute hunger that many women feel when their body and spirit tell them that it is time to procreate, has not yet gone into overdrive.  She is still figuring things out.  She is still maneuvering her way through the maze of very young adulthood that will lead her into the first stages of becoming a woman.  From where I stand in my experience of a little more than four decades, and a little less than five, AD1 is exactly where she should be on the continuum of life.  Actually, all four of my Angel Daughters are.  And although I am coming from a place of having been where they are now, there are many, many women who have walked this road before me.  Somehow, I hear their voices telling me that I am exactly where I should be now, as well.  Yet the confidence that they might have in me, is not always a confidence that I feel in myself.  And so I question and I explore and I question some more.  Much in the same way that my daughters question their own journeys.  With an ear towards those who have gone before, but with some doubt, some trepidation, and yes, some fear.  Who will I be next?

Angel Daughter Number Two, my nineteen year old, has experienced a lot of changes throughout the past year, and after a lot of thought and deliberation, she decided that she needed to come back home for a bit.  The path which she had chosen straight out of high school turned out to be one that she did not find accommodating and so, she is in the process of redirecting.  I am not worried.  She has a huge amount of familial support and we are all working together to readjust her flight pattern.  No decision should ever make you feel as if your wings have been clipped forever and that there is no way out.  That is not what life is meant to be about.  And while I know that AD2 will eventually settle into a plan that feels right to her, she is still searching and exploring and testing her wings.  There will be plenty of time for the more serious stuff.

All of the photos on this page were taken by AD2.  When I looked at them,  they made me think not only about how I see my daughters, but also how they view one another, and more importantly, how they see themselves.  It made me think about what complex creatures women inherently are.
As women, we need each other in order to gather perspective about what being female truly means.  We need one another not only to celebrate our differences, but to mirror back our wonderful similarities, as well.  We must be able to look towards one another for the difficult answers that sometimes plague our hearts.  We must be able to provide one another with support when the road looks more like a question mark than a straight line.
We must give each other confidence to move past the sometimes naked feeling of being totally exposed to the world even in times of inner darkness.
And provide each other with nurturing and hope.  Hope that will always guide us back into the light.  Hope that will remind us that so many have paved the road ahead of us, but that there are still so many bricks to lay, so many gifts to share.  Hope that will lead us to the answer when the question is Who will I be next?

As I watch Angel Daughter Number One perform tonight, I will not only sit closely next to the man who holds my heart, but with our three other daughters who I continue to learn so much from.  As I witness them each growing boldly into their own futures, I gain the confidence to also grow more boldly into mine.  And that is something about mothering that I never even realized was possible.  Until my own children began to become women.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Learning to Trust the Timing

I discovered this huge sunflower sitting proudly in my front yard, recently.  I tend to think of sunflowers as summer blossoms, basking in the constant warmth of the hot summer sun, yet this irreverent burst of beauty seemed to pop up out of nowhere.  It did not pay regard to what time of year it is, or the fact that it stands alone in our garden.  The only thing that seemed to matter to this sunflower is that now is its time to shine.  The spotlight is on its absolute beauty and at a time of year when many other flowers are laying quietly dormant, shine this lovely flower does.

I began thinking about how nature and humanity tend to mimic one another.   How there are times in life when we feel as if we must wait before we do something which we feel drawn to do.  And how by waiting, we often lose the opportunity to shine on our own behalf.  We miss the moment.  We allow the inspiration to pass.  Yet if we are to learn anything from this sunflower, it is that sometimes, life's timing, God's timing, the Universe's timing, is not always our timing.  We must learn to grasp the chance to live.  We must trust that everything will be as it should be.  We must take the opportunity to shine.

So allow the winter sun to warm the skin on your face.  Put your trust in the timing.  Turn your face up to the sky and blossom.  Allow the spotlight of life to shine down on you.  Your time comes when your time comes.  Seize the moment.  
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