Tag: friends

of likenesses and lightnesses

Candle

when my children were tots, we’d bundle them up and drive around looking at the christmas lights, refining our aesthetic senses, you know, each of us awarding our own best display award that grew more competitive every year under our increasingly trained and discerning eyes. just when i’d definitively declare that i preferred the white lights over the colored lights, we’d come upon a house that was obviously festooned by someone with a knack for design and a love for color. we all panted at the sight of trees (not christmas trees but plain ole’ yard trees) decked out in strands of white lights – initially because even with the gentlest breeze, they look like they’re twinkling and because they were ordinary yard trees pulled into the holiday celebration and what’s not to love about that), but it didn’t take all that long for us to pity the trees given a single, solitary strand of lights, poorly and thoughtlessly placed, preferring the trees lavished in white lights – so many it looked like they were an organic part of the tree, like they were well-lit lichen. (we developed a new degree of respect for the more miserly, haphazardly lit trees though, when we began to imagine them being dressed by a well-meaning but blind mother.)

when the children got too old for such things, andy and i weren’t nearly ready to bring this tradition to a close, so we bundled up my 90-something great aunts, put them in the backseat, and drove them around to look at christmas lights. one year, as we passed through the center of this town in south north central georgia (i’ll wait while you figure that out) (that’ll take too long, so a hint: it’s my clever way of saying “landlocked”) on the way to deliver them home, aunt lucy looked out the window at fayetteville’s main street awashed in well-lit snowflakes and said, “Irene, don’t the people who live on the water have the purtiest view?”

we had one or two trees in our own yard that we festooned with white lights annually, andy and i, and with the repeated effort, we learned how to apply them so that they didn’t look like what it were: trees dressed by a well-meaning but blind mother. as we struggled with ladders and branches and never enough lights, i remembered the year daddy outlined the roof of our house in blue lights. (using a single color instead of every hue in the crayon box simply wasn’t done in those days.) (mother was always cutting edge when it came to design.) daddy put those lights up and didn’t take them back down for something like 949 days.

an aside: that particular story remembered at that particular moment in that particular context is when i learned about what my friend jane cunningham calls reframing – a most helpful tool when dealing with family memories, if you catch my drift.

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my christmas decorations this year include the red candle that kicked off this post (a free gift with purchase at a local antique store.) (using my highly trained and discerning eye, i chose the one that hadn’t been burned yet.) (the buckeyes were free, too.) (at lest i think they were.) and these two adorables created by my friend tom smith. i LOVE them, don’t you? there’s such a playful spirit about them. they’re just downright fun. the small santa with the black eye and the blue beard (reference to folktales or temperature, tom?) and the larger santa hobbled together from an assortment of tender scraps and bits. (just imagine this larger santa at the office christmas party. he’s probably the guy hanging out by the copy machine the entire time.) it’s the definition of art for me: taking something out of its intended use and giving it fresh life in a new context. now that i think about it, being friends with tom is like having christmas every day. he’s a treasured friend who challenges me with his thoughtful, well-placed questions that are always asked (or at least received) as gentle nudges and window openings (often windows that have long since been painted shut); delights me with our conversations (which often come together like his artwork – a gregarious pulling together of all sorts of odd things that initially seem unrelated); and encourages me with his keen insightfulness (that always makes me feel like he finds me intelligent and capable and maybe like he sees more in me than i present). (if you find yourself wondering if his mother was also a formidable teacher, you’d be right.)

you know, now that i think about it, what i’m really doing is decorating my studio with self portraits of and by tom. no lights required.

gifts of friendships

Birthday2

~~~ an altar to friendships ~~~

today’s my birthday,
and i don’t think
i’ve ever felt
so seen,
so loved
as when i
opened the gifts
from angela
and julie,
when i read
the post penned
by angela.
when my husband
and daughter
spent the entire day
doing just what i wanted
to do,
and doing it
without complaint.
when my brother
and sister
gathered with us
to enjoy my favorite foods
cooked by my mother
and to eat the cake
made by the
recipe my
grandmother used
to bake my cakes.
when my son
called at both
ends of the day,
just to talk.
and oh my goodness,
all the birthday wishes
awaiting me on facebook
– some of the most beautiful sentiments
and wishes that sent tears making
a run for my chin –
and twitter
and email
and voicemail.

thank you all
for taking time
for me
in this, a day
dedicated to love.

though i don’t want to
age accordingly,
i am thinking we need
to proclaim the 14th of
every month
a type of valentine’s day,
a day to pause and say
“i love you” to
those special people
in our lives.
or then again,
maybe we just tell
at least 14 people
every single day.
yes, maybe so.

More about 365 Altars

my soul food

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mary talks to her bookkeeper from under the dryer, hammering out an appropriate memo to explain to her employees that there will be no holiday bonuses this year – not because of the economy (well, not directly anyway), but because her store manager (for reasons she can’t fathom) approved 33 hours’ worth of overtime for one full-time employee and 24 hours’ worth of overtime for another. after those two checks are written, there simply isn’t any more money.

suzie sits on the gold sofa with a leopardskin throw over her legs as she patiently explains how to cook a turkey to her daughter who is preparing the holiday dinner for the first time ever.

janie’s grandmother drops by to beam her pride at her teenage granddaughter who is now working as the salon’s receptionist and girl friday.

as i sit waiting for kristi (the owner and my stylist) to mix my color, an adorable little 10 year old girl appears at my chair and introduces herself. “are you alison’s mother?” she asks. “i sure am,” i told her.

“i’m ansley. miss alison is my voice teacher.”

that’s when her 5 year old sister, lily appears. in her flannel nightgown. we chat a bit, and just before her mother appears back on the scene, lily tells me “you’re funky” – which i take as a compliment and put my glasses on to punctuate and prove her right. “lily, child, you go put your clothes back on. go on right now. shoo,” her mother says, sending the girls to what was a bedroom when mrs. geiss owned the house decades ago. ansley and lily will spend the day playing with brandie’s (the other stylist) daughter while their mothers spend the day making other women like me feel special and beautiful.

in answer to the simple question as to her readiness for the rapidly-approaching holiday, beth pours out her grief, frustration, and exhaustion. as she tells us about her mother who’s in the depths of a deep depression, currently in ICU where the medical staff treats her body and refuses to treat her troubled mind, as she tells us about her teenage daughter who’s recovering from injuries received in an automobile accident, injuries requiring her mother’s assistance with everything – and i do mean everything, phone calls are quietly ended and cell phones tucked away. it’s two days before christmas, yet all thoughts of shopping and parties and cooking completely disappear as we bear witness to beth. in that moment, nothing is more important to us. nothing.

this is my soul food. this gathering of women in an old victorian house tastefully transformed (with the help of mid-century accoutrements and the tasteful style of the owner) into a veritable pink tent where women come together regularly in the name of beauty, always remembering that there’s beauty . . . and there’s beauty.

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~~~
today’s post is my response to today’s #reverb10 prompt by mysticflavor: What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

made some new friends on the twitter playground today & you can, too

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some days the galaxy conspires with me.

either that, or i’m so self-absorbed i see whatever i’m looking for.

whichever way it is, i’ll enjoy it, appreciate it, and tell you about it . . .

to sneak up on the day, i opened the book An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor who captured my attention and affection with just the title of her first book, Leaving Church. anyway, the book fell open to page xvii where barbara writes about being asked to go speak to a church in alabama. when she asked the priest what he wanted her to preach about, he said “come tell us what is saving your life now.” well, that must’ve ignited something cause when i sat down to write in my journal about 30 minutes later, i pitched a written hissy fit. a good, old-fashioned out-and-out hissy fit. then i tweeted about it, and wound up twalking to some gals i’ve either never twalked to before or don’t get to talk to that much. @happinessinside twasked what my plans were for the day, and when i told her i did have plans for the day, but i just didn’t know what they were, she asked if i was perhaps on the cusp of writing my story today. which tells me she was lurking closeby.

~|~

@efloraross, asked if i felt better to which i said that starting the day off with a hissy fit gives a whole new meaning to the term morning constitutional. then later i gave her advce on dressing for preschool interviews:

@efloraross: Taking DD to tour another preschool today. Guess I’d better brush my teeth and put on some makeup, huh?

@whollyjeanne: for preschool: yes. for high school: no.

@efloraross: A bra would probably be in order, too.

@whollyjeanne: ditto for what i said about makeup.

she’ll no doubt be consulting me daily about what to wear.

~|~

@mrsmediocrity said she has volumes filled with her hissy fits. (she’s usually much pithier, but she had trouble waking up this morning.)

~|~

@nicholebernier said: “Venting 301. The FDA recommends it.” now i want you to click on and visit her web site. go ahead. i’ll wait. did you see that she’s working on a book about a woman who leaves behind a diary? well, naturally, i couldn’t let that slip by, so i asked her if elizabeth d ever had hissy fits in her journals to which she replied: “There’s nothing good about a journal unless you can pitch a few fits & tell where the bodies are buried. Probably early 2012.” (you’ll note that she didn’t answer my question about elizabeth d recording her hissy fits, but in answer to my question about when her book would be out, she did tell me that i’m gonna’ have to wait over a year on her book. which is okay cause i’m sure it’ll be worth the wait. i mean go back and read about it. and look at those pictures while you’re there.

~|~

@abccreativity told me: “i love starting my days like that! those hissy fits sparked big life changes for me.” and that got me remembering a tweet from my friend @angelakelsey the other day when i showed a picture of my still-new zafu made of brocade with dragons spitting fire and said i got it on account of wanting to sit on my dragons. “@wholllyjeanne,” she said, “the best part about dragons is the fire.” then she said, “write, speak, paint, photograph, quilt, sing the fire.”

now that made good sense then, and it made good sense to remember it today cause we all know that throwing a hissy fit is a lot like exhaling fire.

~|~

before long, i spied a tweet from @Wendy_Tokunaga mentioning a new lit review called The Sharp-Tongued Woman’s Review, and since i seem well on my way to becoming a class-a sharp-tongued woman, i visited the site and helped spread the word a bit cause i sure liked what i found there. (you oughta’ take about 5 minutes and read meg’s schneewittchen.)

~|~

the morning was capped off with a tweet from @elizabeth_stark with a link here. i once again copied my friend @angelakelsey and took down the sticky note on my computer saying “comma” and replaced it with one saying “write like a mf.” which is what i really want to do anyway, you know.

 

 

 

 

this changes everything

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amanda farough offered me a new dress for my blog, a little something she stitched together from her own creative hands. but i thought i needed more color. i selected my current blog dress (aka template) because it is colorful and messy, more than a bit of a chaotic conglomerate – a virtual snapshot of my life. inside the chaos, in the space where my words are, is orderly. calm. uncluttered. there’s space to breathe there . . .

we spent memorial day weekend in room 545 at the hospital, only a few doors down from the catherization lab where they discovered the need for – and ultimately inserted – a stent in his restricted artery.

things like that change everything.

as an occasional end-of-life doula, i’m pretty much in touch with my own mortality. but in touch with my husband’s morality? well, that’s something else entirely.

for a while now, i’ve been carrying around this postcardesque image of Jeanne’s Ideal Day. it involves yoga, writing, walking, cooking (i honestly can’t believe i wrote that), yardening, maybe teaching the occasional workshop and speaking to a group somewhere or other every now ‘n then.

in other words, i want to live in the bubble that is my blog’s text box.

so i organized my calendar, blocking out boxes in my days and started poking around in search of yoga classes. in an act of desperation, i shook my tin cup out on facebook, asking for recommendations of yoga classes in my area. i heard from a few who were only about a 2.75 hour drive each way, then – in the same day, i want you to know – i hear from bindu wiles that she’s throwing a party that involves 1 part yoga and 1 part writing.

i guess they’re right: when the student is ready, the womentors appear.

it’s only day 2, so i’m still pretty much moving around in the chaos, looking longingly at the text bubble, but i’ll get there.

eventually.

hey, anybody got a plan combining yardwork with facilitating a workshop?

coming to term with our grips, 2

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“The blueprint isn’t the building.”

Mary Pipher

“actions speak louder than words.” shoot, if i had a nickel for every time i’ve heard my mother say that, we’d be having this conversation in person, and i’d be picking up the tab. laboring, trusting, noticing, speaking, writing, yearning, connecting, pondering, desiring, building, standing, dancing, surviving. these are all actions that julie mentioned in her post. her post reads to me as a segue, a bridge from talking to doing.

caring is an action. so is caregiving, tending, pondering, deciding, preparing, singing, trying, loving, wiping, cooking, nurturing, hugging, listening, crying, seeking, writing, bearing witness. see, actions don’t have to be global to be valid or worthwhile.

many women who are career caregivers and family hearth keepers eventually find themselves stepping over the threshold of their front door, and all too often, it’s like leaving a darkened theatre and stepping right smackdab into the sunny parking lot. there’s an acclimation that must take place. many of these are women can tell you in the blink of a gnat’s eye what everybody around them thinks and feels, but ask them what their opinion is on something, ask them what gets their blood churning, and they draw a blank.

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.

~Virginia Woolf

knowing our own thoughts and passions takes a little longer. discovering, defining, and clarifying personal voice are actions. so is supporting ourselves and others as we move through this stage.

we talk, write, listen. we poke around, visiting blogs to see what resonates with us – all actions – and while there are books and plays i want to write, i’m itching to do something that involves moving more than my fingers. i’m ready to live into my word of the year, ready to do something JustBecause.

some women go spend time at the ocean. other women get a job doing something they’re interested in. others collect, paint, draw, yarden, train for marathons.

but me? right now – as of last week – my action involves finding an old piano and deconstructing it down to the keyboard. all i want is the keyboard. a full keyboard. 88 keys. and once i have the keyboard, i want to hang it on the wall in my studio. it’s a desire, and desire is an action.

when this crazy idea came to light, i smiled (a good sign) and said to myself, “okay. so where do i find a piano?” i have a piano, mind you – music is in our blood – but i don’t want to take it apart, so i did what i always do: i asked my friends. within 4 hours of posting a note on facebook, a woman i seldom see even though i’ve known her for decades, commented that she had a piano i could have. the plan is to look at it tomorrow, then find a way to get it from there to here, find some tools, and let the deconstruction begin.

will harvesting the keyboard of an old piano save the world? shoot, no. will it cure cancer or restore order to haiti or stop domestic violence and rape? don’t i wish. no, i expect this is nothing more than one woman who’s itching to do something, doing something. nothing more, nothing less.

and i’m doing it with the help of friends. some i haven’t seen in years. others i’ve never seen (in person) at all. helping, listening, giving, picking up . . . those are all actions. and every action leads somewhere.

even the teensy little action of clicking on the name of a woman who left a comment on julie daley’s blog. there’s one more piece to this post, but i’m about to be late to a very important writing date with a friend i met when she came to audition for a show our theatre company produced last summer, so till soon . . .

~~~~~
my great aunt rene (and i mean “great” in terms of lineage and as an adjective) was a career caregiver. she never had children, but she took care of us, her brother, her two sisters, and countless others. in her younger years, she took such good care of a sick, elderly man that when his father died, the son deeded the house to her in appreciation. she then build a small house on the back of the lot and created an apartment on one side of the house, and the rental income fed and clothed her when her youngish husband died. laughing, playing canasta, yardening, and flirting were some of aunt rene’s more noteworthy actions. she took care of people and plants, and she tended them – us – well. the azaleas in the photo are in her yard.

coming to terms with our grips

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“I’m not sure where this post is going to go, but I trust it will take us somewhere” wrote my darling julie daley. she stepped out on the digital page that day, not knowing where her fingers would take her, and oh what a journey she set in motion. earlier in the week, she wrote about voice – about finding hers, me finding mine, others finding theirs. two days later she found herself writing about connections. connecting. the digital currency of the internet, she calls it.

“As we tell each other who we really are,
we find the people with whom we really belong.”

Christina Baldwin via @creatingwings on twitter

the comments after julie’s post are filled with women tracing their digital lineage, paying tribute to women they’ve met online, women who have been and who have found breadcrumbs leading to a forest (or desert) of women ready and willing to bear witness, encourage, cajole, dance.

in our journey to voice, we gather around the digital well of blogs and comments and tweets, telling our stories and speaking our truths (perhaps tentatively at first and at times), and an entrainment takes place. we find women with whom we resonate. women who inspire us, tickle us, enkindle and excite us. we gather around the digital well, knowing that encouraging, supporting, cheering on other women does not diminish us in any way because this is a well of abundance.

as i scrolled down to leave my comment at julie’s place, i came across a comment left by a name i’d never seen before. debra notes that women finding their voice is an “old, old” theme, one that’s been “grappled with” for centuries – which is true. she goes on to point out that actions speak louder than words, and, on the topic of voice, asks the good question “how will you use yours?”

feeling a quickening, i click over to her blog, eager for a chance to learn more about her, to have a conversation. I find that she’s written a post elaborating on her comment, but alas, there is no place on her blog for comments. though i take exception to her use of the word “soppy” because it reads judgmental, i do see how if it’s your first visit to some of the blogs i call our digital well, they could be received as soppy. sometimes when i write a particular post, it feels soppy. necessary, but soppy nevertheless.

i’ve only been on twitter three months, and the first time i called someone “sugar”, it was scary. i knew there was a chance folks would recoil and unfollow me in droves, but i did it anyway because it felt right. i am fluent in english and southern – it is who i am. now several of us have sweet pet names for each other, and it works. for us, it works. for a while, my son (who’s knows his way around the digital social scene) would read the comments on my blog and call on his way to the office, offering feedback. “mom,” he said more than once, “when you tell people you love them, when you call them ‘sugar’, when you use ‘xo’, and compliment them profusely, you sound needy. cut it out.” he read a few more weeks, then one day i got a call saying, “mom, about the way you reply to people in the comment section of your blog . . . that’s not neediness, that’s caring, and they’re two different things. i see that now, and it works for you because it’s who you are. you care. you really care.”

i do care. and the way i see it, caring is action.

it’s where action starts.

it’s the ember, the kindling for action.

to be continued tomorrow . . .

contagion

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last week, three people i hold dear (though i’ve only know them for a scant few weeks) wrote posts that opened doors in my heart that have been long closed. their conviction and courage, their honesty, their willingness to outright own vulnerability because silence is no longer an option is nothing short of inspiring. these women have enkindled conversations that are long overdue, conversations i hope will continue and spread and take on a life of their own – a full, rich life that will change the world.

though this poem was written by a man who wrote of political and social upheavals, it is the one that has kept me company the past several days, and it is the one that i am sending – in spite of the near-oppressive notion that i’ll get red ink comments from my english teachers noting my usual erroneous interpretation – as a salute to my three guests of honor, women i am proud to call friend . . .

bonnie of windshieldthinking.com

emily of pleasurenotes.com

julie of unabashedlyfemale.com

p.s. yes, i changed the two masculine pronouns to feminine, so sharpen your red pencils and deduct points at will.

Emerging

A woman says yes without knowing
how to decide even what the question is,
and is caught up, and then is carried along
and never again escapes from her own cocoon;
and that’s how we are, forever falling
into the deep well of other beings;
and one thread wraps itself around our necks,
another entwines a foot, and then it is impossible,
impossible to move except in the well –
nobody can rescue us from other people.

It seems as if we don’t know how to speak;
it seems as if there are words which escape,
which are missing, which have gone away and left us
to ourselves, tangled up in snares and threads.

And all at once, that’s it; we no longer know
what it’s all about, but we are deep inside it,
and now we will never see with the same eyes
as once we did when we were children playing.
Now these eyes are closed to us,
Now our hands emerge from different arms.

And therefore when you sleep, you are alone in your dreaming,
and running freely through the corridors
of one dream only, which belongs to you.
Oh never let them come to steal our dreams,
never let them entwine us in our bed.
Let us hold on to the shadows
to see if, from our own obscurity,
we emerge and grope along the walls,
lie in wait for the light, to capture it,
till, once and for all time,
it becomes our own, the sun of every day.

© Pablo Neruda

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#mindfullist

singing my heroes and sheroes

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i tell them i love them, but do i tell them why?

i tell them i’m proud of them, but do i elaborate?

sometimes i do, but not nearly enough.

today, i tell them that they are my unsung heroes and shero, and yes, i tell them at least some of the reasons why (to list all the reasons would get us into bandwidth issues) . . .

my husband, andy has been my hero for 36.5 years now, and here’s why:

he makes me laugh. sometimes he cracks himself up more than he cracks me up, but he still makes me laugh.

~~

he listens when i talk (well, not like i’m some e.f. hutton. i mean, sometimes his eyes glaze over, but we’re working on that).

~~

he will go to the grocery store with me just because. once, in the days before cell phones, he figured out where i was and just showed up in the spices aisle to help me get groceries then we went home and put them up together.

~~

to this day, we hold hands wherever we are.

~~

he shares the scepter (read: remote control) to the television. he may leave the room when i’m in control, but he shares.

~~

willingly and without complaint, he helps members of my family.

~~

he is wicked smart, talented, creative, and funny.

~~

he gives me cards. now, honestly, it used to make me mad that he gave me store-bought greeting cards. but then i had this small-huge shift in thinking and realized that he spends a lot of time sifting through racks of cards in search of one that says what his engineer-trained brain can’t quite articulate. or maybe it says what he doesn’t even know he wants to say until he finds the card.

my son, kipp. my hero because . . .

he knows that you can learn more about humans and their relationships from poetry, music, and literature than from any psychology class or textbook.

~~

he edited my thesis, and when it was done, he asked if he could share it with some of his friends (who then became my friends from ensuing conversations.)

~~

once, on a trip to hawaii, he surprised me with a handblown stylus and inkwell set because he knew – he just knew – how much i would enjoy the scratching of nib to paper and how much i needed to allow my brain to exhale and make room for all the important things that get buried and shoved aside under burgeoning to do lists and overcrowded calendars.

~~

when he landed in l.a., he took a job delivering food to learn his way around.

~~

he is an adventurous eater, something he learned all on his own.

~~

he writes poetry, songs, and essays; does open mic events; is an actor and skydiver – all this and balances his checkbook.

~~

we go to movies and shows, and afterwards to dinner or for drinks and discuss what we just saw from as analytical deconstructive creativists.

~~

he is willing to say “i don’t know” right out loud.

~~

he is wicked smart, talented, creative, and funny.

my shero is my daughter, alison. want to know why?

she ran for local city council then the state legislature before she was 25 years old. (and in the state legislature race, he was in a run-off with the older male career politician. lost the runoff only by a slim, slim margin, too.)

~~

she started a local theatre company in 2005, and it’s still going and growing.

~~

she supervises my hair stylist and goes clothes shopping with me.

~~

in 2006 she hit a rough spot with depression, and i just kept putting one foot in front of the other, doing what needed to be done. a year later, she directed steel magnolias, casting me as m’lynn to her shelby. coincidence? i think not.

~~

as a beautiful, articulate, talented public figure in a small town, she receives more than anybody’s fair share of other people’s insecurities and bad behavior. yet through it all, she remains the bamboo – bending but refusing to break. she is tenaciously nonconformist.

~~

she is wicked smart, talented, creative, and funny.

~~

she can do genealogical research and retain what she uncovered.

~~

if you need to know what to give a person, call her. she knows people better than they know themselves.

~~

she speaks her truth. others may not understand or agree, but she speaks it anyway.

yes, i am one lucky woman. luckier than i deserve.

best09
~~~
the stories are mine, but credit for the kindling goes to gwen bell and her best of 2009 blog challenge. today’s prompt: who is your unsung hero?
~~~

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#best09, #bestof2009

will all the queen’s horses and all the queen’s women be up to it this time?

wisps of hope float around, but they’re hard to latch onto, harder still to hold onto once latched. i am anxious today. nervous. looking for the redbird as confirmation of today as a happy day. trying hard to be hopeful and optimistic, trying hard not to invest too much in hopeful and optimistic . . .

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i sent a friend a book and a l-o-n-g letter, and she gets home today to open the package. this is not just any friend, mind you, it’s one of my precious few soul friends. a woman i grew up with – not in terms of chronological progression through the years, but as women growing into ourselves. this is the woman i called in the middle of my darkest night.

this is also the woman who broke up with me over a year ago. she sent me a dear jeanne email, and i have not talked to her since.

i didn’t reply to the email, didn’t call her, didn’t write her letters because the ball was in my court, and honestly, i wanted to keep it there. i didn’t even dribble the damn ball for fear it would get away from me because you see, as long as it was my turn to write, i still could. and as long as i still could, the friendship wasn’t totally, absolutely over.

we went to graduate school together (that’s where we met). she waited outside the office as we checked out of the residency, saying she wanted to walk back to the dorm with me, and that’s when i knew she was crazy enough to be my friend. while in graduate school, we shared research, ideas, and even feedback from our faculty advisers, asking each other to read the emails from faculty lest we missed something important.

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in our togetherness, we built our own cathedrals.

we once spent a week in a cabin in the woods, writing, talking, laughing, walking, eating. she was working on her thesis, i was her sounding board, her editor, her questioner. the day we emerged from our week in the woods was the day sue monk kidd’s book the mermaid chair came out. before we left, i called the local bookstore and asked them to reserve 2 books – 1 in each name. we picked the books up on our way back into civilization.

a year or so later, we attended a weekend writer’s conference in charleston led by – you guess it: sue monk kidd. it was, as all our togethers were, a special time. hot like you wouldn’t believe, but oh the laughs, the tears, the places we did go in that one town on that one weekend.

she’s from the north; i’m from the south, so we decided early on (another of her good ideas) that instead of sharing physical presents on special days, we would meet twice a year and spend a week together. longer, if we could manage it. the world fell completely away when we were together, leaving us free to explore our overlapping interests without having to justify or explain. we were free to create our own little rituals, doing things that held meaning and marked significance for us, even if it looked downright silly to the outside world. for several days of our togetherness, for example, we’d put a banana out in a certain spot, and upon awakening each morning, neither of us spoke a single word until the banana was moved twice, indicating we’d both journaled our way to the surface.

we created collages as outlines for books we would write. we peeled back the bandages on old wounds and trusted that the light and salt from shared tears would help heal. we laughed till we peed and kidded each other as though a shared secret language that only the two of us spoke.

you get the picture . . . but only part of it because i haven’t the bandwidth to paint this picture of friendship in its true colorful and magnificent breadth and depth.

early in september, sue monk kidd’s new book came out. i was there, at the same local store, first in line to purchase 2 copies of the book. i brought them home and began to read mine, underlining things, making notes in the margin of things i longed to talk to my friend about.

her copy of the book lay on my desk, waiting for me to take the next step.

waiting.

waiting.

one saturday morning i woke up knowing it was time to write The Letter. i couldn’t’ve picked a worse time. daughter was here, recovering from pleurisy. husband was here doing his saturday things (which means i’m on call), and to top it all off: my Self chose to write not tucked away in my studio, but at the dining room table (a.k.a. the fishbowl).

i didn’t ask, i just found paper and pen, took the book and sat down to write. i have no idea what i wrote. i remember writing “i miss you” several times, but beyond that, i just don’t know. did i even tell her why i was sending the book? will she remember if i forgot to tell her? did i come close to telling her how much she means to me? did i beg? did i say anything, anything that will spark a fire of reconciliation? i wrote for years, but it only took about an hour, and when i came to the end, i found myself rambling. though i can’t remember the words i wrote, i remember the feeling of not wanting to close the letter because signing the letter just might mean closing, ending the friendship. i was tossing the ball back, and the possible finality of that was not lost on me.

the package sat on my desk for several days before i took a deep breath and mailed it. somehow i managed to not think about it every single minute of every single day, then came an email from her last monday that she was out of town and would be home to open the package today.

today.

though i’ve tried to keep myself busy (read: distracted) this past week, i have also spent inordinate amounts of time creating an emotional scenario, giving words and feelings to my biggest hopes. feeling the absolute full body tingle of excitement when i get an email from her that opens the door to possible reconnection. imagining the talks we’ll eventually have about this time apart and our coming together again – how we’ll explore it with symbols and myths and personal archetypes. how we’ll find ways to fit it into our personal theories of resiliency and female development. i’ve tried to actually read over our imagined shoulders as we write about this whole chapter in our togetherness. i have tried to write the script then will it to happen. it is an exercise of relinquishing control.

i have also thought of all the things i wish i’d’ve said. for example, there’s the upcoming 6-week online session with clarissa pinkola estes – the kind of thing we would enjoy doing together, the value of the session hugely enriched by the discussions we’d have aftewards. i’ve signed up already, but i forgot to mention it to her. do i send her an email or is that too much? there is a deadline because of the beginning date of the session, but do i need to give my friend space? it is an exercise of patience.

who will i share these deep interests of the soul with, these explorations and forays into the unknown? who will hold the space for me to cry without clucking over me and trying to stop the tears? who will be bold enough, willing enough to step in when needed, even if not beckoned? it is an exercise of trust.

have i made a fool of myself? it is an exercise in risk.

in her book, i will not die an unlived life, dawna markova writes of learning to open herself to fear instead of numbing it out. she then asks the question, “what do i love more than i fear?” it is an exercise in confronting the bully called fear and moving past it towards something – or in this case someone – i love.