I know this doesn’t sound like an earth-moving decision, but the question has deeper roots in how I see myself. I don’t “feel” like a gray-haired person, so I haven’t liked seeing the silver strands framing my face when I let it lapse between color rinses.
I honestly don’t even know for sure how much gray I’ve got (besides “a lot” around the face), because I tend to run to WalMart for another three-dollar box of Revlon color every time I start seeing silver.
When I started coloring my hair, it wasn’t because of gray; it was because I’d always wanted to be a redhead. Unlike my literary heroine Anne of Green Gables (who always lamented her hair color) I admired its “standout” quality, and wished as a kid that my subtle copper highlights would somehow morph into a full-on head of red.
So I bought a box of red ten years ago, and I loved it and I stuck with it. While my late husband and I owned our restaurant, his spicy barbeque sauce was called “Redhead’s Temper” after me (though he was politic in declining to comment on the “temper” half of that label). I spent that whole marriage as a redhead… And then the day after his funeral, I went back to the brown that God and my mother gave me.
That shift was entirely unpremeditated, and I didn’t bother at the time to try to explain it to myself. Perhaps it was a modern expression of a Victorian sensibility—a sort of putting on mourning, or the mark of a chapter-of-life being closed.
Because I’d never colored my hair to its natural hue, I didn’t know what color to buy. I took my daughter (whose tresses match mine) to the store and walked her down the hair-color aisle, holding a hank of her waist-length locks up against the various boxes to find a match. And I figured that was my last box of hair color, since going back to my natural color meant not having to cover or color roots, right?… Continue reading “Going GRAYcefully?”→
If you’re not familiar with poker, the thing to understand is that you start a hand with some cards of your own, and you don’t yet know what other cards will be available to you to use in that hand. You have to “sign up” to play that hand by putting some money in the pot before the other cards are revealed, and there’s a minimum amount (the Blind) that’s essentially the baseline price of admission to play. Sometimes people will bid higher than the Blind (if the cards they CAN see bode well for play, or if they want their opponents to THINK that), but sometimes a player will hope to see the next few cards without investing a great deal up front. Calling the Blind, or going in for the minimum amount, is called Gypsying, or Limping in.
The other day my counselor told me several times that the word “Gypsy” describes me. (I don’t think he even knows that I literally do live on wheels, in an RV!) In that same day, reading a book about Borderline Personality Disorder*, I got forehead-smacked by chapter-headings titled “Playing the Dealt Hand,” and “Learning to How to Limp.”
With the word “Gypsy” on my mind, and the poker-connection of Gypsying or Limping, those headings felt significant, so I read mindfully; I believe in Messages rather than Coincidence. (“As my first Sponsor always said, “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous!”)
The chapter in question talked about practicing change, which can be “a monumental struggle” for a Borderline Personality. Okay, that sounded odd to me at first, given my own very-varied past performances in Life… On the surface, you wouldn’t tag me as a person who struggles with change.
I admit it. I have joined the ranks of Pinterest addicts. I’m not considering that a bad thing, however, given the folders full of great ideas I’m accumulating–combined with the fact that (ohmygosh) I’m actually following up on those ideas! Most of the Pinterest jokes (which you can find as pinnable items on Pinterest itself) reference the idea that “Pinners” are too busy pinning stuff to actually use any of it. (“Honey, can you pick up pizza? I’ve been busy all day Pinning nutritious recipes for our family.”)
So I’ll defend my Pinterest Habit by pointing to the Useful Things that have already come of it. Case in point: I had just done a spring-cleaning run-through of my closet last week, clearing out things that no longer fit, or haven’t left their hangers for a couple years… And then I found loads of DIY (do-it-yourself) tutorials for “repurposing” clothing. I’ve dusted off my sewing machine and retrieved nearly half the items from the “give-away bag” (including the cat, who seems inclined to take up residence in it–possibly in protest of the fact that we’ve put her on a diet…) And one by one, those items I’d designated for Goodwill are taking their places–in their reincarnated forms–back in my closet… and on my person.
This is good stuff! Especially since we have zero budget for clothing and (aside from a new pair of work-shoes for Keoni when he got to the point of duct-taping the soles of his old ones) we haven’t even shopped at the Savers’ second-hand store for more than a year… So I have some newly-useful items–ranging from the three-minute no-sew alteration of my teenage son’s discarded T-shirt into a “vest” for use as swimsuit-cover, to the conversion of an unused summer dress into an empire-waist top and matching wrap (from the skirt fabric)…
Another category of “stuff to try”–which I’m working my way through–is the collection of recipes for making your own cleaning products and personal-care items. Those of you who have been following here for a while might remember my earlier commentary about necessary items which can’t be bought with Food Stamps–like toilet paper, soap, or shampoo… Well, I haven’t found a toilet-paper recipe yet, but look for an upcoming post on “Food-Stamp Kitchen Chemistry”–all kinds of ideas for cleaning the house (and the people) from ingredients we can buy with Food Stamps… (Keoni just got the initial response to his application to resume his previous career in Corrections, and we’re praying our Food-Stamp days are numbered–but some of these are ideas I’d continue to use even when that’s the case…)
But the category in which I’ve been dabbling the most is playing with jewelry-making… With the help of Suzy-cat, who can’t resist the tempting beads, threads, and wires…
I’m realizing, actually, how many years it’s been since I indulged my “crafty” side. (And I’m using the word in its colloquial sense, of engaging-in-crafts, rather than the dictionary definition of cunning-or-sly…) Back when the mugwumps were little and I was a stay-home Mommy, I used to do a fair bit of craft-work… crocheted afghans and cross-stitched wall-hangings and sewed curtains and (my favorite) crafted hand-made books with pockets and pop-outs and artsy little bits and bobs… A couple years after I went back into the workforce (full-time-and-a-half!) I gave my sister my book-making supplies for use in her scrapbooking–I hadn’t touched them since I’d been back in the draining and demanding office environment.
Thanks to the Pinterest nudge, though–not to mention my newly unstructured life–I’m playing again. And jingling a little when I walk…
When I wrote last week about growing a readership online, the one element I mentioned which I admittedly haven’t been cultivating is the use of social networking. Getting into social networking can be a daunting prospect, given that social networking sites these days can be numbered in hundreds instead of handfuls… Still, I think it’s past time for me to go play research and see which of these sites and tools might be useful for a writer & blogger…
An online “Expotition,” as Winnie the Pooh would have it… and if I turn this into a reporting-mission with a blogged report afterward, I won’t even feel guilty for spending the time playing researching. So here’s the first installment in my Social Networking Expedition Journal–with hopes that my exploring might prove useful to someone else as well.
Pinterest allows users to create online “bulletin boards” of images and interests (Pinterests?)–either re-pinned from other Pinterest users, or snagged from anywhere on the internet with a “PinIt” button on the browser toolbar. (Pinterest supplies a “Pin It Button” which can be easily added to your toolbar, and which allows you to add any online picture directly to one of your Pinboards with a single click. Super-easy!)
You can create different Boards, adding and arranging images of your choice, and add tags and comments to the virtual pinboard or to the images themselves. The social interaction includes the ability to “follow” other Pinners’ Boards, “like” or comment on Boards and photos, and re-pin any image from other people’s Boards to one of your own. You can also choose to post any new Pin or Board to Facebook or Twitter with a single click.
Pinteresting stuff, to be sure–and engaging enough to pose a danger as a “time-suck!” Though I see some uses for it, which (for me) are sufficient to justify my time spent playing…
How I’m Using Pinterest
1. Collages for fun & inspiration.
I began by just fooling around with a few themes that already have a visual interest for me. “Markets,” for example–I enjoy Farmer’s Markets and Co-Op type stores as much for the visual feast they offer as for the products I might purchase. So a Markets pinboard sprang up easily enough, with appealing photos of bulk bins and jars and bottles, fruit and flower displays, garlic braids and coffee beans and… The stuff I enjoy at markets.
I used to keep ziploc baggies full of cut-out pictures from magazines, and I’d periodically get out a gluestick and collage all over a couple pages of my journal. It was therapeutic at times, and it often sparked an interest in whatever theme developed from the process, as well as a renewed energy for writing–either on that theme, or on some other thoughts that developed from the exercise. A “collage” on Pinterest is considerably easier (the search tool is far more convenient than pawing through my baggie of magazine cut-outs!) and far less messy. Plus, no problem if my gluesticks are dried out.
2. Pinboards for projects and planning purposes.
Lots of Pinboard users post DIY (do-it-yourself) projects or craft instructions among their Boards, and I found myself setting up a couple boards as visual idea-collections for projects we have planned. Our son Christian really wants chickens, and we’ve promised him we’ll work with him on building a chicken coop and learning about chicken care… Now I have a collection of fun and interesting coop-designs, as well as detailed instruction on chicken-care from some other users’ “Poultry” pinboards (which I’m now following online).
Another project for which I’m already happily Pinning ideas is the Bed and Breakfast we intend to open in Hawai’iten years from now. We’re tied to Idaho for another decade while the kids are in school here–but there’s an acre waiting for us on the Big Island, and we have a notebook-full of scribbled-down ideas and sketches for the B&B which exists at this point only in our minds… We’d like to make it as self-sufficient as possible, with water catchments and solar power and growing food of our own–and we look forward to sharing Keoni’s cooking and our combined enthusiasm for and knowledge about the island and its culture… And now we have a start at collecting the visual versions of our ideas–so much more effective and inspiring than all my collected notebook-scratchings!
I have a hunch that Keoni will get hooked on Pinterest for the food-ideas and recipes here–and he might find it a satisfactory venue for the hundreds of food-photos he currently has stored on his phone! (I always know dinner is ready when I get an email, sent from his phone in kitchen a few steps away, with the photo and gourmet description of my meal… “Corned Beef Sandwich, Sautéed Mushrooms and Melted Swiss Cheese, with Baby Spinach and Vine-Ripened Tomatoes on Grilled Alpicella Rye Bread“–that was the tag on my lunch today!)
3. Saving funny stuff!
At last–an easy way to save the jokes and cartoons and funnies that come my way! I always have messy folders full of “bookmarks” or copy-and-paste conglomerations where I try to keep track of things I want to come back to or think I’ll use later… But this is a much smoother solution. Pinning a picture is just as easy as creating an online bookmark, and now I can see all the pinned items at a glance. Probably there will be another folder for things-I-expect-to-use-in-blogs…
4. Creating links to my blog.
Among my Pinterest boards, I’ve created one board titled “The Blog: Kana’s Chronicles.” For each new post, I can use my “Pin It” button to add a photo from the post onto that Board, and it will be posted to the Board with the link to the blog-post. I’ll be watching my stats to see what kind of traffic this brings in, at least once I’ve established myself as an active member of the Pinterest community.
User-Notes About Pinterest
To begin using the sharing service, you need to get a Pinterest invitation. You can request a Pinterest invite from the site itself (it took about a week from my request to the arrival of the invitation) or you can ask someone you know to send you an invite if they’re already using Pinterest. (I’m more than happy to send out an invite to anybody who wants one–I just need your email address.)
When you click on any image while logged in to Pinterest, you’ll have options to Tweet that image, post it to Facebook, email it, or embed it in a blog (Pinterest will give you the HTML coding to past into your blog if you want to use this approach.)
Pinterest itself provides a brief list of Pinterest Etiquette Rules, which includes crediting sources of images, and reporting “objectionable” material (no “nudity, hateful content, or content that encourages people to hurt themselves” allowed).
If you want to see what images have been “pinned” from your own website, open a new browser window and type in this address: http://pinterest.com/source/ADD YOUR URL HERE. You can see what images from your blog or site have been added to Pinterest, and by whom.
Do be careful of a recent “phishing” scam that has recently been playing out for Pinterest users… A user is offered a gift certificate or coupon in exchange for re-pinning a product image and completing an online survey.
So that’s my initial “expedition report” on Pinterest.. But since I’m new to it and some of you are experienced experts, I’d welcome your suggestions about how YOU use Pinterest!
Yesterday I was stowing some papers in our fire-proof safe, and I paused for a moment to contemplate the odd assortment of items tucked into it. In theory, an inventory of this little fire-proof box should answer the question people sometimes ask: “If your house were on fire (and the PEOPLE were all safe) what item would you grab on your way out?” In actual fact, however, the things in the safe aren’t the items I’d grab on my exit in such an event. Sure, they’re “important” in their own way–passports and social security cards and birth certificates and court custody orders and even my sailing certifications–but everything in that safe could actually be replaced. It would be a hassle, of course, but nothing in that box is truly irreplaceable.
The burning-house query operates on the underlying assumption that there’s some stuff from which each of us couldn’t bear to be separated, and asks us to contemplate what stuff that would be. I’ve had one opportunity to answer the question in practice–though not on quite as tight a timeline as that proposed by the burning-house scenario.
After I left my first husband, he gave me a four-hour window in which to return to the house and round up my things. I had the advantage of being able to think it through in advance (as well as the assistance of several gentlemen co-workers and their trucks)–and the personal guideline that I wasn’t going to take away anything that wasn’t strictly mine. What I came away with that day were my own books and journals; clothing and personal items; my lathe & pen-turning tools; my Scuba gear, snow-shoes, and hiking backpack; four pieces of furniture that had belonged to my great-grandparents; and (with the agreement of the soon-to-be-Ex) one of the two beds we owned. A few other items were already out of the house and decorating my office–my favorite wall-hangings, and my shamrock plant, the seeds for which my mother bought on her 1965 trip to Ireland, as a gift for my Irish great-grandmother.
After fourteen years of jointly accumulating stuff–from camping equipment, canoe and tent-trailer to the furnishings and decor of the house we’d owned and improved for a decade–none of that community-property stuff seemed more important to me than simply getting out. Despite the love and attention and emotional investment that had gone into hundreds of items I’d added to that household over the years, none of that stuff passed the grab-it-on-my-way-out test of attachment, or the test of being worth-fighting-for.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. My thesaurus doesn’t have an antonym for the word “packrat,” but whatever that nonexistent word would be, it’s a word that should be applied to me. I have this almost compulsive urge to continually streamline, simplify, consolidate–and get rid of things.
“Cloud computing”–digitizing and storing things online–is a concept that seems positively made for me. Where previously I had shelves and drawers and boxes and storage cupboards full of journals, yearbooks, photo albums, movies, and books, the digital copies of those things are now all accessible from the little iPad that fits in my purse. So I suppose if the house were burning down, I’d grab my precious Mac and the iPad.
Although even if I didn’t manage that, I could log in anywhere to retrieve everything stored out there in the “cloud”… I’m becoming increasingly “portable”–and our next move should be far easier than the last. (Which is just as well, since we’re actually intending to leave the continent when the kids are through with school here in Idaho, and move back to my husband’s native Hawai’i.)
Come to that, our last move was easier than the previous one, thanks to the “emergency yard sale” we staged as our house headed into foreclosure and our overall financial situation crashed around our ears… Anticipating a move to a much smaller living situation (and trying to keep our power turned on and our cupboards from going bare in the meantime), we offloaded everything from furniture and wall hangings to movies and (for the first time in my life) books. To my oddly anti-packrat nature, an intensely satisfying “purge” of extra stuff.
My recurring urge to purge makes for an interesting dynamic in our home, because my husband definitely does fit the “packrat” category. A few months back he was pawing and rifling through his bedside drawer, muttering over and over: “I know it’s in here somewhere. It’s got to be here somewhere…” I inquired what he was searching for, but he just went on digging and muttering the mantra, broken at last with a triumphant “HA! I knew it was here!” Intensely curious, I asked one more time what it was that he had finally found.
“The bottom of the drawer!” he announced with a proud grin. Later that day (with his permission) I staged an intervention, tackling the drawer with a garbage can. It was jam-packed with sales receipts. For things we’ll never be returning–like groceries and tattoos.
He generally doesn’t object to a purge–he just can’t bear to do it himself. He leaves the room and busies himself elsewhere whenever I go into clean-out mode and start tackling drawers and closets with my give-away bin and a garbage can.
I should take a moment for a disclaimer… You might expect, given my habit of regularly getting rid of stuff, that my house would be spotless, spit-shined, and utterly uncluttered. Not so! For one thing (for reasons unknown even to myself), I’m more often moved to target drawers, cupboards, closets, boxes, bins, and storage units than the things that are out in the open. For another thing, three kids live here (and a pack of teenage boys spend a lot of time here)–and it’s okay with us that the place looks as though we’re LIVING here.
At any given time, you might find the living room floor dotted with segregated piles of Legos for some building project, the coffee tables invisible beneath Beyblade battle arena, Bakugan pieces, doll clothes, stacks of kids’ books, an in-progress game of Monotony (pardon me–Monopoly), Crayola markers, and pieces of unfinished kid-art… The corner of the living room has been draped in blankets for some time now, as the semi-permanent “tent-fort” in which Christian has taken up residence in preference to his actual bed. And because we have no one to “impress” but ourselves, we don’t ask the kids to interrupt their kid-living or clear away its evidence for the sake of a clear coffee table.
But back to the subject at hand… Given the tendency on my part to offload stuff, any item that still remains with me through several years’ worth of clearing-the-decks episodes must be something that tugs on me in some way. I may have a tendency toward offloading stuff, but I’m not immune to stuff-attachments either.
I just went wandering through the house (not a time-consuming stroll, as we live in a double-wide trailer now) with this question in mind, and I conclude that the things of which I’m most fond aren’t the useful things.
There’s a bowl of dried rosebuds from the first summer we were married, when Keoni used to cut a bud from our backyard bush every morning for me to tuck into a pigtail. (On the left side, according to Hawai’ian culture, signaling that I’m married.)
And the Willow Tree carving of a mother with two little ones, which I bought when my own Squirts were precisely that size and shape.
A memento booklet I made when my favorite poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, gave a reading here in town. Her reading coincided with my daughter’s sojourn in Neonatal Intensive care, and the book’s pockets contain items from the hospital and some of my own verse, along with Nye’s “Different Ways to Pray”…
There’s my great-grandmother’s New York teaching certificate, dated 1913, and my great-grandfather’s camera, which he took with him on a tour of Europe about the same time. A little frog with a book, which my parents gave me. The turquoise prayer beads Keoni strung for me, and my straw “hiking hat,” which I like to wear when we go adventuring.
These are all things to which I’m attached, and which won’t be subject to my clearing-out impulses. But if it really came down to it, I’d be content enough to have photos of these things if I lost the things themselves. (And I guess I’ve just taken care of that by including pictures here…) There really aren’t that many things from which I couldn’t bear to be separated. Only two items actually come to mind.
The first, I wouldn’t be in danger of leaving behind–it’s my wedding ring. A traditional Hawai’ian-style band, with “Keoni” engraved among maile leaves on the outside, and “We will be amazed” (from the A.A. Ninth Step Promises) on the inside. I wear it with my great-great-great-grandma’s diamond–one of a set of three, with the other two on my mother’s and my sister’s hands.
And the second, my battered teddy bear, Toots, about whom I write in “(Used) Lions & Bunnies & Bears, oh my!” And yes, Toots is definitely a “who” rather than an “it” (despite his puzzling physiology), which is no doubt why I can’t imagine leaving him behind. That raggedy item has a little piece of my soul in him… not in a creepy Voldemort-black-magic-horcrux kind of way, but in an I’ve-loved-him-till-he’s-real kind of way. Toots is the stuff I would grieve if I lost him.
In contrast to my stuff-collecting window of time at the end of my previous marriage, Keoni experienced the loss of everything at the end of his. He exited his last marriage by ambulance after hanging himself, and when he left the hospital a few weeks later, he had literally the clothes on his back, his eyeglasses, and the iPod he’d had in his pocket. (He jokes that I married him for his money–he’s sure he had thirty-seven cents in his pocket.) Despite the court-order requiring his Ex to relinquish his personal items, he never got so much as his wallet back. And while there are a number of sentimental items he dearly wishes he had, we have proof that Life goes on without the stuff.
Keoni has been putting away a clean load of laundry while I write, and (not knowing what I’m writing about), he just paused in the doorway to offer the bemused observation: “You know, those towels have been with us a long time. When I see those striped towels hanging there, I just know I’m home.”
So there we have it–we DO get attached to Stuff, even seemingly insignificant stuff like our towels.
But we also know that “Home” can be recreated in a new place, or with new Stuff. At the end of the day (literally), I’ll be HOME if I fall asleep with his arms around me–wherever we are.
This may not be a problem a lot of you have run into, so I have to share that it’s kind of challenging to find clerical shirts for women that a woman would want to wear. Particularly if one’s clerical activities fall outside the realm of traditional church-choir stuff (more on this in “Confessions of a Street Minister”), and if one is not generally a button-down, demure-demeanor kinda gal…
There are plenty of online clergy-shops out there, though some of them you can discount right off the bat as a woman (um, the Catholics, for example) and a lot of them have pages of men’s clergy-wear with a token women’s blouse (usually black) thrown in. A few lovely sites actually cater exclusively to clergywomen, including maternity clergy-wear (the Catholics would faint!)–but if you’re looking for something specific and it’s not there, you’re pretty well S.O.L.
I am in search of something specific at the moment, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. (And since we’re speaking specifically about the business of not being damned, please believe my emphasis that this item does not exist to be found.)
Our daughter Anelahikialani and her wife Sarah are legally joined by means of a Civil Union in California, but now that full-on MARRIAGE is available to them in that state, they are gleefully planning a wedding. They’ve honored us by asking me to preside (and Daddy to cook!), and I am now looking for a clergy blouse in hot pink (the wedding color), with a tab collar, and sleeveless (the girls aren’t interested in covering the family-stories of my Ink)…
Having given up on finding such an item ready-made (or in my price-range if I were ever to find one), I Tweeted the other day to ask if anyone has a pattern for converting a collared shirt into a clerically-collared shirt. (My mother met a minister’s wife in Hawai’i who refashioned Aloha shirts to clergy shirts for her husband–she called the pattern her “spiritual conversion kit”… I could use something like that.)
In any case, no one in my immediate circles had such a thing, but someone suggested “Pinterest” as a place where I might find it. So I stopped by Pinterest.com last night, put in the request for an invitation (evidently a person has to wait for a spot there) and while waiting for my invite to show (it still hasn’t–evidently they weren’t joking about the waiting list!) I went browsing to see what it was all about.
And immediately got sucked into this little outfit-building fashion gizmo that somebody else had used to assemble an ensemble and post it on the board.
Minutes later–and to absolutely no purpose whatsoever–I found myself hunting down the pieces of an outfit from the thousands of separates on Polyvore.com–and did, in fact, put together an outfit I would don in a heartbeat if it weren’t stuck to my screen. Laughing sheepishly at myself the whole time, and experiencing nostalgic flashbacks to the mix-and-match “Fashion Plates” toy with which I spent hours of childhood time.
Of course, I still haven’t made headway on the clothing question which brought me here in the first place, and I had one way or another, in my search for blouses and patterns, and my subsequent imaginary fashion-plate play, managed to stall for several hours in which I was meant to be writing several articles. Which left me yawning and trying to write at three in the morning to meet my deadline. (Though of course it wouldn’t have been THREE in the morning if I had not also had to change the clock forward.)
The irony in all this? The five articles from which I had been procrastinating all that time, I had accepted only with a fair bit of whining and protest because of their topic–which I adamantly and insistently characterized as an issue of which I have no knowledge and in which I have no interest in and which I didn’t even want to research. The big, bad topic which I’d stalled for hours to avoid touching? FASHION DESIGN.
Ha! Okay, okay, I give! I spent my spring-forward hour proving myself wrong about my own interests. Time to spring toward forward-thinking with a more open mind, yes?
While I’m still stalling, I’d like to add an introduction to a challenge across which I stumbled yesterday: the 2012 Water Dragon Sunday Post hosted by Jakesprinter. His is a graphic-design blog, and the Sunday challenge involves a weekly assigned theme, for which topic each challenge-participant is meant to post a photo representing their own interpretation. Today’s Sunday topic (which, in a fascinating sample of synchronicity, I didn’t look up until after my little fashion foray) is DESIGN.
So here it is, my Sunday photographic composition,compiled when I was fiddling with the online fashion gizmo:
And if anyone knows anyone who might have a pattern for collar-conversion, I’d love to be put in touch!
It’s Imbolc, a fire feast and a day that belongs to Brigid, Celtic goddess of fires, of home and hearth and healing, of smithcraft and wordcraft. (Or–for those more comfortable with a different version of her–Saint Bridget, patroness of those same things, as she has also been known since the Catholics co-opted her some centuries back…) Imbolc celebrates the lambing, the new life of spring after the dark of winter, the coming of Light.
It’s a celebration of beginnings, of cleaning house both literally and figuratively, of lighting the dark corners and praying for continued blessings in the upcoming year. At this time last year, my husband Keoni and I had only just collected our 30-day Sobriety chips after our awful alcoholic relapse, and it was a time of intense spiritual house-cleaning.
Despite my Irish roots, last year was the first that I took Imbolc to heart, right down to the symbolic broom Keoni made for me from the dried lily-stalks in our yard, and the string of turquoise prayer-beads he strung for me, not in ‘catholic’ decades, but in thirteens…. (That’s a number signifying transition, resurrection, and ascension or enlightenment; and a gemstone esteemed in ancient cultures around the world for its putative healing properties… And which, on a more humorous note, matches my entire closet…) .
I think it was good ol’ Groucho Marx, whose humor sometimes hid his wisdom, who said:
Blessed are the Cracked, for they shall let in the Light.
We had quite thoroughly cracked ourselves… And so… It has been a year of Light. With its darknesses too, as my writing the other day no doubt illustrated. But there’s the Light shining through, too–in the prayers and virtual hugs and uplifting comments that all of you sent my way in response to that post. My deepest, heartfelt thanks!
And–to highlight some darkness–in all fairness I have to observe that, although I don’t believe the ex-husband’s behavior (especially in front of the kids) was in any way excusable, his underlying mistrust of me is not unfounded. If I thought he’d pretty well ridden his “High Horse” to death when I was 22 months sober–well, I handed him a brand new horse when I drank again. Trust might heal with time, but I don’t have the right to expect it from anyone.
One of the many people whose trust I had train-wrecked was my sister… We each only have one sister, she and I–but I had been allowing myself the illusion that she wasn’t interested in having hers anymore, and I had been determinedly withdrawing for a good while now… But, in the spirit of spiritual house-cleaning, that’s one of the functions of the A.A. Ninth Step of “making Amends” to those we’ve hurt. And this week I fumbled my way into the beginning of the Amends process with my sister.
I say “fumbled” because (since we’re shining lights into dark corners here, I must be honest) I began by behaving very badly, and unloading a resentment of mine–which (I quickly realized in reading her thoughtful response) was a ridiculous thing to do when I hadn’t yet stepped up to my own damaging drinking behaviors that so severely impacted her. With the wise guidance of my Sponsor (the “Jiminy Cricket” conscience who sits on my shoulder and suggests I get my head out of my ass when my head is getting ahead of my Recovery) and some heartfelt prayer, and the open heart of a sister who, in fact, doesn’t wish to be rid of me, that bad beginning actually drop-kicked me into an overdue beginning at Amends.
Making Amends is not a matter of apologizing. As my Sponsor says, people have been hearing “I’m sorry” from us drunks too many times to make it a meaningful statement. Rather, it’s an accounting of the harms we’ve caused someone, followed by the question: “What can I do to make this right?” So today I’m in possession of a treasured answer to that question, and today is a life with my Sister in it once again. Talk about the Light shining through the Cracked Places of a Soul!
The prayer hand-written on the fly-leaf of my battered A.A. Book–the prayer I usually use when those prayer-beads are in hand–is one that was written to Brigid, although it could certainly be directed to a Higher Power in any form…
Make me strong in spirit,
courageous in action,
gentle at heart.
Help me act in wisdom,
conquer fear and doubt,
discover the hidden gifts within me,
meet others with compassion,
be a source of healing energy,
and greet each day with Hope and Joy.
So on that note…. Here’s wishing you a Blessed Imbolc, or Happy Candelmas, or Merry Groundhog Day, or… simply a day of Blessings and Light.