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Archive for the ‘letting go’ Category

This is my Christmas gift to you, my readers, a bit of advice someone once gave me: 

screen-shot-2015-12-07-at-5-24-57-am1.png“When someone in anger says something that hurts you, and you know it was said in anger, but you’re left wondering if there’s an element of truth in their words, something you need to see, ask God to bring you that truth from somewhere else, from someone whose love you trust.”

Isn’t that marvelous?

* * *

And now a tiny tale:

In the days leading up to Christmas 2009, the song “Mary, Did You Know?” was playing somewhere and I realized, upon hearing it, that an unpleasant memory attaches to it for me. I tend to turn the volume down when it plays, and that’s a shame, because it’s a good song.

That year, we weren’t sure we were going to church on Christmas Eve until the last minute. We flew out the door at 5:48 for the 6 o’clock service. We arrived a bit flustered, but we made it.

About 2/3’s the way through the service a dear friend got up and sang….you guessed it…..”Mary, Did You Know?” I recognized the opening notes and smiled. It was like God knew I needed to hear that song sung in different circumstances than the memory I held, in a setting with no unpleasantness attached. It was like He was saying, “See? I heard you.” (And to think I’d almost missed it.)

Is there ANYTHING better about Christmas than the “God with us” part?

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23

I encourage you this year, if someone in anger has spewed something on you and you reject their words, but wonder if there exists an element of truth underneath the anger, put the matter before God. Ask Him to bring that truth from somewhere else, from someone else, someone you know loves you and cares about you. He can bring the hardest truths to you in a way that is gentle and useful to you because His interest is in restoring you not condemning you.

We spend Christmas shoving aside the hard memories, but why not make this the year to do something about them, once and for all?

The story about the song with the unpleasant memory attached to it originally appeared in the Christmas Eve post “First Gift” (December 2009).

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ladies luncheon

The SADNESS of a CHRISTMAS PAST reappears, but only briefly, not as a 6-week block of time. It’s likely triggered by a song on a playlist. It passes as quickly as it comes and it’s all okay.

“All okay” is the refrain of people like me. There was a character on Grey’s Anatomy who kept saying “I’m fine, I’m fine.” I try to be careful about that. (Meredith. It was Meredith.)

On Saturday, I attended a Christmas luncheon and stayed the whole time. Victory!

Last year I showed up, but left before it began. The mix-and-mingle time beforehand was too much of a freefall for me. Nobody did anything wrong. Everyone was lovely. There were just so many happy mother-sister-daughter/daughter-in-law combinations there that it made the big hole in the middle of my family seem more pronounced. I wore myself out smiling, wishing the program would begin. When the greeting time was being extended another 30 minutes, I knew I couldn’t do it. I had to get out of there. I needed some fresh air. Under pretense of making more room on the table, I picked up the large cheesecake I’d purchased at the bake sale and carried it out to my car. But when I got to the car, I just got in and drove off. I don’t think that was my plan when I stepped outside. It just came over me at the car. MAJOR FAIL!

Next day in church, I told the young woman who sits by me what I’d done.

“Next time, we’ll go together,” she said.

* * *

Two weeks ago, she came to me and said, “I bought my ticket for the luncheon, have you? Remember, we said we’d go together.”Golly, I can’t tell you how nice it was that she remembered!

So on Saturday I gave it another try AND I made it all the way through AND I was glad I went. One year is not the same as another, not unless we insist it be. A sadness that was once all-consuming is now fleeting. Give it another year and it will be a distant speck, there but not dominating.

I do think there’s something in at least trying.
I got a do-over on a major fail and things turned out differently.

Courage is important. Also, knowing when you’re at your limit. Also, having a friend to tell and then telling.

 

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The Parting

image

THE TABLE is too big now. I remember my mother’s words when we purchased it all those years ago – 33, to be exact:

“Who are you planning on feeding, the Kennedy’s?”

At the time, we had a big eat-in kitchen and a small table. We were a growing family (#3 was on the way) with a growing circle of friends who loved to gather at each other’s homes. We needed a table that sat more than four.

“If the Kennedy’s wish to come, they are more than welcome,” I said.

Ma shook her head. Daddy warned me, “With a table that size, your house will turn into family headquarters.” He didn’t want me burdened in that way.

It was the largest expenditure of our married life, excluding cars and the house.

But I had a vision.
Vision … but little experience.
Vision … with a hitch. It included breaking out of my shell, daring to invite people.
Vision … but no clue the number of times we’d move household – FIVE! NJ to PA to OH (2 different homes there) to KY. And we aren’t even military or Methodist ministers.

“There’s no room in my address book for any more changes!” someone protested two moves ago.

The table went right along with us.

There have been a lot of faces and a lot of mismatched chairs, pulled up, drawn into the circle.

* * *

NOW, just the two of us and a dog, we have a small kitchen. And the big table? It’s too big.
It’s not cozy.
It’s not attractive.
It’s not a magnet for socializing.

What it is is a catch-all and a launch pad for the dog. He goes from chair to table and, from there, to whichever countertop appeals to him most (only when we’re not home – otherwise, he has company manners).

For the 8 months we’ve been here, I have justified keeping it with plans to invite this one, that one and the entire Sunday School class, our support group, my ESL coworkers, the neighborhood and anyone else I can grab off the streets.

I can do all those things without this table.

* * *

A NEW KITCHEN FLOOR is being installed today. Even as I type this, a polite young man is sawing and piecing the wood in place.

A few nights ago I said, “We need to move that table out of the kitchen so the new floor can be laid, and when we do, I have a feeling I won’t want it back in there.”

It felt a little like pulling a plug. On what exactly? I don’t know.

Last night we moved it. Not out the door, but just one room over to the far end of the family room. I need to call someone to pick it up, but not yet. I’m going to let it sit there a bit. I’m going to think about it.

I’m going to think about
all the youth group kids over the years,
the family gatherings in different houses,
Gram and Pop, now gone.
I think of my folks, too, though they rarely sat.
I think about the children that hid under it, the cousins, giggling, thinking nobody knew they were there.
I think about college decisions made at it, engagements announced, phone calls taken……

There’s the imprint of the crossword puzzle Pop did without anything underneath the page to protect the veneer. I’d rather have the impression made by his hand than a perfect anything.

AND and and…….I see the spot where the icing from the gingerbread house we 4 girls made together one Christmas left a haze on the finish that I never was able to remove. We’re down to 3 girls now. Can I let go of that haze? Is it the haze I’m having the problem with?

Everyone in the family’s been asked.
Nobody wants it.
Nobody has room, and they don’t foresee having room in the future, or else I’d hold onto it for them.
Nobody needs to feel guilty about this.

I need to make room for the life I am living now, I keep telling myself.

Someone at Goodwill is going to see this table and capture a vision. Maybe someone expecting #3, someone with a group of friends who like to gather. OR perhaps an artist needing space to spread things out.

It has a future.
So do I.
But part of carving out a life is letting go of what isn’t needed and making space for what is.

Hey, Ma! The Kennedy’s never came, but a lot of other super people did!

image

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pencils at the ready

I’M THINKING OF DUMPING MY BLOG –
been thinking it a while –
but is it one more step away from writing?
Or toward it?
Unsure.

I admitted to these very thoughts
while riding to church a few weeks ago
and wouldn’t you know it?
The morning’s passage included
immediately they left their nets.”
I like that.
(Long before Nike’s “just do it”
were the first disciples.
They were more cutting-edge than me.)

So what’s the hold-up?

I will miss the friends I’ve met in cyberspace,
not that I won’t be in cyberspace,
but I think I’ll feel only half-in.
Now that I see that in print,
I realize my thinking on that is wrong.
This hadn’t struck me before.
(This is one reason writers write, says Joan Didion,
to find out what they are thinking.)

I’ve been blogging over a decade, so it’s a hard break,
like parting with a old sweater,
too tattery to be seen in
but there are so many memories attached.
Okay, my blog isn’t that tattered.
Still, sentimentality is often the obstacle to the uncluttered life, is it not?

But mostly the hold-up
is the cry of the platform-builders,
“You must blog.”
Must I?
Did anyone actually say that
or is that how it got twisted in my mind?

I wish to say something fabulously acceptable,
such as,
I’m working on my doctorate
or going to do third-world orphanage work
or donating all my writing parts to a needy person
and so – apologies, apologies – I no longer can blog.

But I don’t have a noble cause to give as excuse.
And my faithful readers do not require it of me.

It is enough to say
I have nothing to say,
OR,
that what I have to say,
the topic closest to me right now,
the one I dedicate my peak writing time to,
which is as it should be,
doesn’t belong here,
and I belong where it is.

You are nodding. I know it.

A few times in my life I wondered how to explain to a friend a decision I made, only to discover no explanation was necessary.

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paper chain

Usually I write a post, then tweet a link to it. This time I tweeted a thought and now will expand on it.

The tweet: Stop thinking “This should be a book.” Start writing on the topic and see what it turns out to be. #creativity #writing

* * *

DRIVING HOME FROM THANKSGIVING, I have a thought, and the longer I think about it, the more I think I may have something worth writing about.

“I should write a book about that,” I say.
Or maybe he says it and I nod. No matter.

Yeah, actually this idea is a refinement of another idea I thought I might write a book about.
But there’s no book.
There’s no book on the original idea nor several (dozen) before it on other topics.
Add it to the list, not the list of discarded ideas, but the list of ideas never acted upon.

This “I oughta write a book” thing is the wrong way to go about it, I think. Maybe it’s best, when an idea seems promising, to just start writing and see what form it wants to take. Maybe it’s better to write down the thought, then write down the thought that comes after it, and so forth and so on, until you’re done writing about it. Then see what it is you have.

Maybe you have a book’s worth of stuff to say.
Maybe it’s an article’s worth or a blog post.
Maybe you have thoughts that ought to go in a letter to someone – just one someone. Or an email.
And maybe, just maybe, like with this, the whole shebang can be contained within the confines of a tweet and there’s no need to expand. Still, some of us can’t resist. :-)

Eliminate preconceived notions about what form a thing should take and just start writing. It will become clear as you go.

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1957
HEY, next week is my older sister’s birthday. She’s the one who, 50 years ago, suggested I write a letter to my grandmother who had just that day left us to go live in NYC with her sister.

I had been crying for hours. Everyone else in the house had gone to another room to get away from it, but my sister poked her head around the corner.

“Why don’t you write her a letter?”

I poured my heart out in 3 short sentences. I don’t know what I wrote, but when I was done, I wasn’t crying anymore. I count this as my first writing lesson.

Q: If you write, what was your earliest clue that you may be a writer? Leave a comment (below) or send me an email, whichever you like.

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FREDDIE dies.
Anchor to the whole neighborhood.
First house on the street before there were streets.
Freddie, the keeper of the history. Who will keep it now?

Freddie, #5 in my Gratitude Journal. He and Ginny.

Nine years I’m in this house. He was in his since the beginning of time, or at least time out here.

There was once a quarry
and a dirt road for trucks going to and from it.
And there was his house.
I wasn’t even born yet.

He and Ginny saw cornfields cleared piecemeal as houses went up, one by one. They saw families come and go, kids grow. They saw saplings turn into giants, giants removed and new saplings come as replacements. They were witnesses.

They told us the history of our property, how it was once forest-like and the house tucked back in there, dark. One of the owners had 35 trees removed. Was that 3 owners ago? Four? We tried to work it out a few times. Nobody could say for sure.

* * *

SEVERAL summers sitting, I talked about the screen room I dreamed of for the back of our house.

“That would be nice,” he said. “I can picture it.”

But by the time we finally did it, he couldn’t see that far and was already starting to spend more time at the rehab facility than his own house. And then they both went to assisted living.

* * *

SHE WAS NOT YET 18 when the far reaches of the county were beginning to get electricity and he delivered a refrigerator to her family’s home way up Rt. 7. That’s how it all started for them. And then a war and kids and sickness and health and plain old trying to make a life.

I came in at the end of the book and was brought up to speed, which was by then quite slow, but so was I.

It’s been quiet over there a long time now. And the porch swing that was hung every year at the start of summer has missed a few turns.

Maybe another part of the fog lifting for me is a day to stop and consider the long view and get some perspective.

first house on the street

Freddie and Ginny’s house. View from my screen room.

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