There truly is no telling when inspiration will strike. For me, as July just started creeping in, it was on board a 220 heading back to Seattle. I can officially call it a trend now. Whenever I am flying, all those dormant thoughts and considerations are pulled to the top; demanding proper notice. And it is not conversation that I want. I long for clean lines on a page, or the familiar click of my keyboard. (Secretly, I wish it was more the clank and clutter of my typewriter. But TSA would have a field day with that.)
Heading west from Chicago Midway, I sat there in an aisle seat thinking about age and memory. I think that ageing is miraculous because it makes us all collectors of people and things that, thanks to our amazing cognitive skill, link themselves to memory. When I catch a glimpse of my tattoos (a moon and baker’s dozen of stars across my upper back) I always recall how I felt the day that I got them. I felt brave and independent, but I had support all around me.
Like all the stars in the sky.
Most of you can relate to this, but if you still need proof, think of your senses. Your mother’s cooking, your grandfather’s aftershave, or the combination of the outdoors and a specific bottle of wine. The sight of the label makes you smile all alone in the grocery store, and even though the memories sometimes hurt, the power that we have as humans to transport ourselves back in time…
In that way, we are never really separated from anyone.
It is the greatest trick that I have ever learned.
As most of you know, I have been in the home stretch of a deployment with my soldier. Since very early March we have each learned the survival skills necessary to make it through months of rare and scattered conversations over very dodgy phone lines. The time difference is a fascinating 11.5 hours between here and Afghanistan, and obviously there were weeks that we could not match our schedules.
So, to survive the time and reconnect with myself, I planned a trip for the last half of the month of May. I had work waiting for me in Denver, and then I would continue east to Chicago and for the first time really take a look around. I have driven through the windy city twice before, but this would be my first official visit. While there, I would also have the pleasure of watching a very dear friend of mine graduate from Rosalind Franklin Medical school of Chicago.
Lindsey Ann Long is a stunning woman of extreme intelligence. She has also been my best friend since 8th grade. Although small in frame, her warmth is consuming. And if you could weigh her heart it would read in quadruple digits. I love her more than chocolate. But mostly, I love the way that she can always some how help me see myself in a new way.
A kind and more forgiving way.
And then, while sitting in the Civic Opera house with ‘Pomp & Circumstance’ playing all around me, I allowed myself to pull apart the dense damn that had been blocking some very pushy emotions; holding them back for fear of drowning. I remembered the day that we met, (I wandered into the wrong gym class. A new girl in a new school, a couple hundred miles away from Texas.) The day we separated after high school because we had been accepted to separate colleges (to me it felt like the severing of skin), and now here we were all these years later and not a beat had been skipped. It got me thinking though. What is it about me that attaches so deeply? That feels so passionately locked into a moment? Inevitably, in this fast world, is it a weakness or a gift?
A few years ago I read a quote by Tom Robbins that said:
“I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in everything, nothing is sacred.”
I loved it. What a very clear call for balance.
(The funny part is, I had always remembered it as being “I love nothing, everything is sacred, I love everything, nothing is sacred.”)
See that’s the thing with memory. It is subjective and personal, and usually… wrong.
There are certain parts of ourselves however, that we simply cannot change. We cannot change our family or our skin. We cannot force ourselves to see farther than we do at one time, and we cannot against all effort, stop being who we are. We can say for a time that we are not that. We can even lie for so long that we believe it to be true, but in my opinion we share just as much nature as we do nurture. The key, I think, is to respect the fundamentals.
I am a lover. I love the earth and all it’s simple textiles.
I love music and travel, and when I am driving long distances I sometime imagine myself a tour bus.
I see now that my passion gives me power.
It lets me show a child what their parents looked like at their age. I have seen them, in that moment, transform. He see’s a completely new person in his father and in my imagination that change creates new pathways for the child. Hopefully, they will be courage’s enough to keep exploring. Because the truth is, our parent’s growth is tandem to our own and the lead is always changing. There is never a moment when they are not capable of surprising you.
A few days before my departure I sat with a girlfriend at the breakfast table, our plates nearly cleaned. I said that I loved getting older because no matter what, it meant improvement.
“Improvement for me means joy, and the word choice is important. Joy is different from happiness, which is actually pretty easy to achieve. If you have a good attitude and a little perspective, happiness is always there. It can lay low, of course, but if you just look around you’ll see it is blended into the scenery. Birds fly around with it, the sky sometimes let’s it fall, joy however is a little more difficult to spot. It is usually a gift, given when you didn’t know you needed some, and it has this familiar but far away smell. Like childhood. Joy is stronger and lasts for a shorter time.“
She laughed when I said all this, and gave me an adoring smile.
“Oh Rea, I just love you.”
And right there, joy joined us at the breakfast table.
Regardless of our age, we are all getting older, everyday. You can argue that as our bodies and minds are developing, that we are gaining, but we are losing too. Along with dexterity (and ah! elasticity) we are losing the ability to love openly.
We feel silly, or embarrassed by strong emotion. We just grow out of falling. I wonder if it is because we are so much further up?
People usually confuse this tragedy with maturing. So we make fun of people who are uninhibited, and we think we know better about the way some one else should be living. And the sort of lame thing about it is that some of us are right. Some people are frustratingly careless about their choices, and some strangers are rude for no reason. Some children do need more discipline and the younger generations will always be out of touch. Even though if you really stop and look, nothing ever really changes. (Good one big guy, good one…)
The problem is that our focus on those things only personifies them, and then the only thing getting drowned out is the light. With out light (and love is that if nothing else) we are incapable of seeing where we are headed. It is a substance that can be directed anywhere you want it to go, allowing it to enhance things already present. When you really love someone you allow them the pleasure of being just what they are, and forgiving the naturally dark parts. You do this because you remember that you yourself have them. You also know their story, their particular struggles and weaknesses, and with patience and understanding you just love them through it. Because you know that really is the only thing.
That’s what the Beatles meant, that is what God is made of (regardless of which one you believe in), and that is what I’m selling here.
Because there are not many living things out there that ever flourished in environments of darkness & containment.
I am setting up the camera now…
Everyone get together.
I am also happy to announce that my sweet heart finally made it home. I want to thank all our friends and family for their support during the deployment. We are blessed.
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