When I was six, my mother passed away from cancer. My father loved my mother deeply and was a broken man when she slipped from this life. He wandered, halfheartedly, from one relationship to another; feeling he needed to find another person to mother his children. He finally met the woman who would eventually become my stepmother. She had seven children of her own and, I suppose, he assumed that she would be a good mother.
I grew up with a stepmother who never failed to tell me daily that I was stupid, ugly and a piece of trash that I would never amount to anything in life. She took every opportunity to demean me in front of family, neighbors and complete strangers. People were told what an awful child I was…how difficult it was to deal with me and what a burden she had taken on. I was always being warned that she would send me away to a home for bad children and I believed that. I was only a child after all.
She would whisper things to me that only I could hear…how she knew every move I made and every thing I said to others. She warned me that people would not believe what I told them and that they would only come back to her and tell her what I said anyway. She told everyone that I was a liar and that I made up stories. Her whispers burned shame deep into my skin into my soul. They became the echoes in the night…ghosts that haunted me. My nights became a fearful place filled with the recurring dream from being raped by a babysitter at the age of 5 and my stepmother’s voice whispering I was trash, ugly…worthless.
If there were fights or arguments with her other children, I was the one to blame. She would find things to scream at my father about me…to beat and humiliate me for. I would be punished for weeks on end…sent to my room…not allowed to play with others or my siblings. She isolated me as much as she could from anything that I could possibly enjoy. When she found out that I loved to read, during the long hours spent alone in punishment, I was further restricted from reading anything apart from school books. Whatever brought joy to my life was eventually taken away as part of my “punishments”.
At first, I spent hours creating stories in my head…where my real mother came and rescued me. As time progressed and I grew older I just wanted to disappear…to die. I desperately wanted the pain to stop. I became fearful, mistrusting and ashamed of myself. School was very painful…I was ostracized and the labels that were seared into my soul by my stepmother were burned deeper by the cruel bullying of my peers. I felt worthless.
When I became an adult, I thought it would all just go away. I vowed that I would never let anyone treat me like that again. I became wild, defiant and head strong. I experimented with everything life brought my way. My 20s were a roller coaster of angst and hedonistic recklessness. There were incredible moments of achievement and even deeper moments of pain. I lost the only person who I ever truly felt loved by…my father. Regardless of how much I tried to drive them from my life…fear, mistrust and shame were ever present and now my anchor was gone.
In my 30s I moved to California and found a respite from my ghosts. I was blessed to meet and work for some amazing people associated with Chicken Soup for the Soul. Through these individuals and the other amazing people I met, while living in California, I was able to forgive my stepmother and release us both from the anger prison I had held her in. I thought I would now be able to move on and all would be well. The ghosts started drifting back in…the whispering echoes not far behind. Fear somehow found me again and took up residence so I moved; hoping this time it would not follow me.
When I journeyed back to the east coast, I returned feeling defeated…as though I had failed yet again. I settled on the coast of Maine and unpacked my things…only to find fear and all those labels had journeyed back with me…stowaways in my life. I tried to drown my ghosts in alcohol…that didn’t work.
Then I found the internet and, for a time, used that to escape the whispers of worthlessness through engaging in vacuous, anonymous encounters. I created a persona that portrayed only a small part of my personality, I hid behind it; I even created a website to bolster the false power I felt with this identity. It didn’t take long to wake up to the tenuous false sense of worth I had from “connecting” with others in a virtual setting. I dropped most of the socnets I subscribed to and retreated back into my safe seclusion. The ghosts and whispers returned.
I have made so many poor decisions in my life…decisions that have led to where I am now. So many things are broken and I don’t know how or even if I can fix them, but they are my sole responsibility. My nights are filled with threadbare sleep full of my ghosts and whispers…I wake up exhausted, defeated…feeling worthless.
A lifetime spent feeling worthless has shaped me from the inside out. I live a secluded life and when I do meet others, I work hard to distract them from seeing my worthlessness. I do what ever it takes to make people smile, to laugh to not notice the ragged edges around my crumbling life…it leaves me empty and spent.
I am not writing this for pity and I care not what you may think of me…it couldn’t possibly be any worse than feeling worthless. I am writing this because I have a voice inside me that I have not always honored, respected…listened to. I am writing this because I once wrote about my love of words and the power I feel they hold.
I am writing this because I hope that no one, not another child, not another human being should ever be told they are worthless.
Before you utter another careless word that writes on the soul of a child of another human being…take a breath and think about what you say because a million positive affirmations can never erase one word….worthless.
I have had a lifelong love affair with words…they whirl about me…sometimes liquid…sometimes vaporous; always connected deeply within. There is no question where this love affair started; this immeasurable gift that unlocks doors, breaks down barriers, brings structure, poetry and shape to this life I choose to lead. This affair germinated, took root and bloomed in the beginning of one of the darkest periods of my young years. Without this constant, I cannot imagine what choices I would have made that would have changed the road I have traveled. And yet there are times when I turn my back on this love, grow silent, pensive; refuse to use my words to expand and flourish. Today I honor this blessing by taking time to thank the person responsible for bringing the magic and power of words into my consciousness.
I was six, my mother lay in the hospital struggling to stay alive each day to battle Uterine Cancer; so that she could come home to her “babies”. My father worked in a factory, up at 3 am, travel an hour to work, work a ten hour shift and then straight to the hospital to be by his wife, his beloved’s, side. He spent every spare moment with her, his 26 year old heart breaking as he watched her wasting away. His mind torn with thoughts of what would happen to their little girls…their little family, once her vitality was no longer there to balance his. He thanked god everyday that he had his own sisters who, without a word, filled in the widening gap in his little girl’s lives. Each sister took turns taking my sister and I in or coming to our home and making sure we were fed, went to school and were loved.
My aunts were amazing, each one so different, each one beautiful, talented, loving, crazy, vivacious and a blessing. In the limited understanding of my six year old mind, I understood that mommy was away but I knew nothing of hospitals or death. I had only been allowed to wave to her from the parking lot at the hospital; children under 13 were not allowed to visit, even when it was a parent that was dying. So my sister and I were given to the loving hands of my aunts to be cared for and it fell on them to maintain a balance for us; it also fell on them to gently prepare us for the day when it had to be said “mommy has gone to heaven”.
I had one aunt who lived down in Westerly, it was a bit further away than my other aunts, so it was always a treat to be able to spend time with her. My aunt Barbara was an RN, incredibly intelligent, articulate, full of life, creative, loving and attentive. She was married and, though she was unable to have children of her own, she had been blessed with adopting one of my other aunt’s daughters. Her life revolved around her husband and child, but she always found room for me. I vividly recall what it was like when she would pick me up and take me to her home. I’d walk through the door and take in every inch of space…the colors…the sounds…the scents…it all brought such a sense of happiness to my young self. I wanted to stay there forever and never leave.
I remember that she didn’t just read to me; she would make it an outing. We’d go to the library or book store and she would take me through the entire place; she opened up my small world to the incredible wonders that lie beyond the cover. We’d take our treasures home and snuggle in to read stories and poetry; words that unlocked our minds, our imaginations and let us soar. She was also an amazingly gifted writer and I felt blessed to be one of the few people she would allow to read ALL of her breathtaking prose. I discovered a place I would forever turn to in both happy and sad moments; a place that would always be home…in words.
My aunt Barbara changed my world at a very critical time and continued to nourish my new found love with gifts of books that I treasure to this day. She blessed me with a love of poetry and all things Robert Frost, and introduced me to conscious thought with Leo Buscaglia. We spent hours combing the beach, collecting shells, exploring driftwood and bringing our bits and pieces home to create little works of driftwood art. She showed me how to cut out the bottom of a milk carton, fill it with dirt, and plant it with toothpick flowers; so that she could take it to my mother in the hospital.
Time was not kind to my aunt, her marriage fell apart, the divorce was brutal, her daughter ran away from home and she lost her nursing license because she was self medicating an undiagnosed Bi-Polar disorder. For a brief time it appeared things would be alright for her, she moved to California, took up tennis, connected with her sister, who lived out there, re-focused on her writing and found a sort of balance for her life. Unfortunately, her disorder slowly claimed more of her life and her beautiful mind. Her medications had horrible side effects and she became a walking ghost, her affect was flat and lifeless, she no longer spoke coherently and her writing became silent….her words were gone.
Aunt Barbara passed on a few years ago, but she has never been far from my mind or heart. Her legacy, her gift, her blessing of words lives on in me. It is a blessing that forever changed the course of one life and that is immeasurable. Every word I write, every word I speak, every word I learn and every word I pass on is my thank you to her; so I am mindful to try to choose those words well.
Namaste Aunt Barbara.
I was going to post something to wrap up the amazing year I had in 2009, but time slipped by and it just never happened. So here I am, enrolled in another class, working toward a Doctorate in Psychology. I don’t normally post my papers in my blog because they are filled with technical jargon and are meant for sharing in an academic environment. The class I am enrolled in at the moment is a composition course, which gives me a wonderful opportunity to practice and enhance both my technical and creative writing skills.
The first paper was to be a narrative essay on “The Best Day of My Life”; which gave me pause as I don’t quantify my days as “Best” or “Worst”. Each day for me is a blessing, a meditation…filled with opportunities for life lessons. Many of my “Best” days have come from heartache, challenge, and very difficult circumstances. My growth comes not from the easy days, but from facing the tough challenges and from facing myself each day; embracing my beautifully flawed life. So though I really bristled at having to pick a “Best Day of My Life”; I managed to root around the many incredible life experiences Ive had and pinpoint one to highlight. Hope you enjoy and may your 2010 be filled with courage, love, friends, family and many blessings.
The Best Day of My Life
I have been blessed with so many best days of my life; even the most profoundly sad or painful ones have been best days because they left me with beautiful life lessons. It is difficult to qualify only one day as my best, but the day I met Her Majesty the Queen of The United Kingdom was one of the best and most amazing days of my life.
It was March of 1998 and I had sold all of my possessions and hopped on a plane with the high spirit of an impending adventure to backpack Europe. My first stop was an extended stay with a friend who lived on a sheep farm in Wales. Through this friend I met so many wonderful, warm, witty people and was able to immerse myself in the culture and charm of the Welsh countryside; I even drove a car on the opposite side of the road!
About a month into my stay, my host and her friends approached me with an incredible offer. One of the women was a County Clerk in a local district, and had received an invitation to meet Her Majesty at the opening festivities for the recreational pool in Wrexham, Clwyd. The ladies had collaborated and decided that the “Yank” should be the one to attend the opening and meet Her Majesty. I was just floored and it took me a few minutes, before my head stopped reeling, to answer YES! I could not believe I was going to meet Her Majesty!
The plan was for me to take the invitation and present it for admission under the guise of being Mrs. Morris, the county clerk. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this adventure had some obvious hurdles to overcome in order for it to be successful. First, I was a “Yank” and had a “Yank” accent, we solved this by deciding I’d have laryngitis and anyone engaging me in conversation would be met with a soft raspy apology for not being able to speak. Second, I did not possess a picture identification stating I was Mrs. Morris; I was assured it would not be needed, but it left a queasy feeling in my stomach.
The day arrived and I drove to the pool, my head was dizzy, my knees were trembling, and I thought for sure I was not going to be able to go through with the plan. I approached the door and with a shaking hand gave the invitation to the greeter. She smiled and greeted me as Mrs. Morris; my hand flew to my throat and I rasped out an apology for not being able to speak. It WORKED…the greeter led me to my seat and left to make a cup of tea for my ailing throat. I could not believe I was actually in the door and waiting to meet Her Royal Highness!
The ceremonies commenced, we all stood as Her Majesty and Prince Philip were ushered into the pool area; she greeted the children presented to her audience and then gave her royal blessing to open the pool. Her Majesty looked so beautiful in a day suit of light blue, and a lovely matching hat and gloves; she truly bore a serene countenance. The day progressed with several swim meets, between the local children, that had been arranged for Her Majesty to enjoy. I could not take my gaze from Her Royal Highness and felt like I needed to be pinched by someone, to know that I was only minutes away from meeting her.
The ceremonies were ending and the group of people I’d been sitting with were directed to the pool area and assembled into a line to be presented to Her Royal Highness. I was once again a bundle of nerves, my skin was flushed with heat, my heart was racing, my hands shaking and I thought for certain I was about to faint. Her Royal Highness approached and all I could see was the most lovely serene smile, her skin was soft and luminescent; her eyes a sparkling blue. Her aide introduced me as Mrs. Morris, with my accompanying title, and Her Majesty extended her hand to me; I somehow remembered to curtsey as I softly grasped her gloved hand. She greeted me with a warm smile and I rasped out a quick “Your Majesty” as she closed her hand in mine. It was over in mere seconds but I felt like time had stood still and the moment had lasted forever.
I will never forget the experience, each moment, each feeling, the colors, and scents… her face. Most of all, I shall never forget the people who arranged the adventure and the woman who sacrificed her opportunity so a “Yank” could meet Her Majesty. The day was made one of my best because of the spirit and heart behind the gestures of a handful of people from the Welsh countryside.
I have been thinking about writing this post for about two months now and had almost decided not to…a conversation today, with a dear friend, changed that. We were discussing not hiding things from those we are involved with; more specifically about also seeing others. I encouraged my friend to take more reflection on his decision, not to be upfront, as his way to avoid hurting the other person. I told him that I’d made that very same choice and, in the end, understood how it had damaging consequences for all involved.
One of the things I’d learned from my personal experience, in deciding not to be authentic and upfront, is I had dishonored myself and the other people involved. I took away choice…my choice to freely see more than one person and their choice to decide whether to stay or move on. In saying he was afraid to hurt their feelings, he was actually misguidedly assuming false responsibility for another person’s feelings and not really being respectful of the mutual relationship agreement.
I believe we need always conduct ourselves in a mindful, respectful, honest manner and how the other person chooses to conduct themselves, once given the information, is up to them. It gets really tiresome and sad to hear people go on and on blaming another person for how bad they feel or the state of their relationship; it always takes two people to either ruin or uplift and grow a relationship. Only ONE person is responsible for your emotions….YOU.
Which leads me to the actual reason for this post…I recently became involved with a married man. Now, I fully realize this is the point where some will shut me down, stick a label on me and pass moral judgment. I say… I wish you well and move along. Save your moralizing for someone who cares because I don’t; I have my own moral compass and am quite comfortable with it. I am a single woman free to love whomever I choose. His choice to step outside of his relationship was his, and ultimately his responsibility…not mine.
It started out as a friendship on a social network…we’d been friends for about 8 months but had never really interacted…then one day I playfully posted that I had a new iPhone and would add people who privately posted their numbers to me…he was the first to respond. I was actually kind of shocked and he commented that he was also…that he didn’t normally do this sort of thing.
We texted, talked and had phone sex…just really enjoying getting to know more about each other with no plans to meet. I was in the process of getting ready to move, as fate would have it, to the same state he resided in. I didn’t tell him at first because I wasn’t certain I wanted to take it beyond the virtual world; eventually I told him where I was moving and he said we should try to meet. In all fairness, we did agree to meet only as friends, but I still didn’t think I would go through with it.
As the time drew closer, we discovered I’d be less than an hour from his town and that we would definitely meet, but that we would still just meet as friends. That didn’t happen, we slept together immediately and enjoyed each other tremendously. We discovered the connection we shared virtually and over the phone was even nicer in person. He was very easy going, intelligent and our conversations were always pure pleasure.
Over the three months we were together we shared a lot of laughter, playfulness, peaceful moments, exciting sex, and this continuing amazing conversation…we talked about anything and everything. He slowly opened up to me about how sad he was about the status of his marriage, his living conditions, and how helpless he felt to change either. He always maintained he loved his wife deeply but that she had checked out of the marriage and life in general; he wanted so much to have back what they’d once shared, but it seemed nothing he did could get her out of her funk. I want to say here, that, despite what I just wrote, he NEVER blamed her solely for the state of their marriage and their living conditions…he always took responsibility for being a factor in what their life had become and his MANY shortcomings.
We grew very close and maintained a very easy open communication channel with each other…we spent many hours in chat, on the phone, and at least twice a week with each other. One day he told me he was falling in love with me and I admitted that my feelings were developing along the same path. We had a very frank discussion about sharing these feelings in context to his situation and from the very first I maintained that, where his marriage was concerned, the choices and decisions were his. I always re-enforced that if he felt he needed to focus on his marriage then that is what needed to be done. The most important thing I told him was that I refused to have a small love…I’d had many small loves in my life and I would not do that again.
In the past, I’d thought I’d loved big, wide and deep…when actually I’d acted small, petty, suspicious, jealous, insecure, needy and greedy in my love and I refuse to go there again…period. Jealousy is a hard mistress that demands much and gives nothing in return…she is needy…greedy…suspicious and always ends up sucking the life out of everything she touches.
I always blamed my jealousy on the other person…it WAS, after all, their fault for my insecurity; they were invariably unfaithful which was reason and proof positive to validate my jealousy. What I failed to understand was I owned the fear that bore the jealousy, not them and not the people they were being unfaithful with. Their actions were theirs and though they may not have been stellar…I still had the choice and responsibility of my own participation, or failure to fully participate, in the relationship.
Even my hurt and feelings of betrayal were mine…a bitter pill to be sure…but mine just the same…putting those feelings on the other person and making it their responsibility was wrong and just as damaging, if not more, than their infidelity. They had their responsibility, to be upfront and honest with me, which was usually never the case. Even here I had to truthfully, brutally ask myself…would I have acted differently if they had?
Eventually he chose to go back to his wife and try to work on his marriage, and I did as I said I would, I honored his decision. No big scenes, no rampages of jealousy, no clinging on with that “undying love” death grip…I move on.
I move on knowing I shared this beautiful moment in time with someone and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I move on with the memories of deep intimacy and exceptional tenderness with a most lovely soul…who held a mirror and reflected the beauty of my own soul back to me…who truly accepted me here and now…who never failed to show how deeply loved I was.
Most of all…I move on at peace with the knowledge that I honored myself and the relationship by having no small love…
Hi dad…as you know, today is Father’s Day…just wanted to finally put all I hold in my heart for you down in black and white. I know it’s been over 24 years since I last saw you and not a day goes by that I don’t think on that. Not a day goes by that I don’t recall some bit of something that reminds me of you.
I suppose I could sit here and recount how my life has evolved in the years since we last saw one another…but I’m certain you already know. Perhaps I could fill this page with volumes of childhood anecdotes relaying just how wonderful a Father you were…and how very much you’ve influenced my life…then again, you already know this as well.
Just how do I put into words the more intangible gifts you’ve blessed me with…how do I describe your amazing spirit…how you always carried a ready easy smile for everyone…your passion and compassion for others…always sincere, deep and heartfelt. I may not ever recall the myriad of toys or trinkets, that I’m certain I begged you for, but I will never forget your spirit. You touched so many lives through your countless acts of simple kindness and humanity…no matter how little we had, you always made room for others who had less. Today it is the fiber of who I am to always make room for one more…thank you.
For a man who left school in the ninth grade, you were one of the most intelligent grounded people I’ve ever known, and yet you fostered my creative soul. I can only imagine what work it was to balance trying to instill a sense of responsibility without crushing my incredibly free spirit…but you did. Thanks to you I still have that sense of adventure…of all things possible…I still dream big beautiful dreams…all with a sense of purpose and direction.
You experienced so much overwhelming pain in your life…losing your young wife at 26…leaving you with two small girls. It was up to you to explain to us that mommy wasn’t coming back, and then you had to pick up the shattered pieces and move on. I saw that loss never quite left you…and changed who you were on a very deep level…but you never stopped loving or seeking. Through you, I learned what a truly deep love is…and that, even when that love is taken away, you don’t close your heart off…you pick up…move on…and continue to live your life full of love. They say that women choose men who are like their Fathers…and I couldn’t be happier or more proud to say that I am with someone just like you.
So today, while others journey to see and celebrate their dads, I just wanted to let you know, what I never had the chance to tell you while you were here on earth…and to say thank you for raising a beautiful adult…and thank God for blessing me with you for a Father.
Happy Father’s Day Daddy…
The Rules are simple:
Step #1 – Link to the person who tagged you.
Pfffffffffffftttttttttt this is a HUGE pleasure…and an honor that she tagged me…so thank you Not a Mean Girl! (clicky on her name for the link!…you will love her blog!)
Step #2 – Write Five Fun/Interesting Facts about your self
5 INTERESTING AND FUN FACTS ABOUT JUSTENE:
1. I have saved two lives…both from drowning…the first was a six year old girl who got caught in one of those plastic inflatable doughnut things with the leg holes in them… when it turned over, leaving her immersed upside down in the pool. The second was an adult male friend of mine that I took to the ocean…he could only passably swim (I found out after the fact) and had NEVER swam in an Ocean before…he got caught in a riptide and swept off shore…I had to get him back in and through the riptide while he thrashed about the entire time. Oh and did I mention he was 6’3″ and I am 5’2″…thank god I am a VERY strong swimmer!
2. I used to impersonate Marilyn Monroe…it started out as a Halloween dare…and soooo many people loved it…they kept asking me to do her for contests and such. I kept winning and ended up impersonating her for about 3 years…yes I have pics HERE
3. The most fun job I ever had was working as a Balloon Delivery Clown….I got to dress up as a Clown…Honey Bear or various other Characters and go sing songs and deliver balloons to a WIDE variety of people…IT WAS A BLAST!!!! Two things I learned…LOTS of kids DON’T like Clowns…and business men will tip you ANYTHING if you promise to only leave the balloons and NOT sing! hahahaha FAT CHANCE! I ALWAYS opted to sing…hey that’s what I was being paid for! *grin*
4. I have had two life long dreams…the first is to someday own a B&B…I have had the good fortune of running two and know in my heart of hearts it will happen and it is what I should be doing…it speaks to every aspect of my personality and my soul. Dream two is to someday sing Jazz and Blues in small venues. I have a beautiful voice and have won awards for singing…performed on stage and in competitions…but my ultimate dream is to sing in small clubs and coffee houses….I don’t even care if I get paid…I just want to sing!
5. I once facilitated the funding for a Habitat for Humanity House. I was watching the Oprah show one day and she posted the locations for a bunch of Habitat Houses her Angel Network was looking to have funded.At the time, I happened to be working for people who were in a position to be able to fund the house…so I made the connections and the house was built!
*Big Sigh* That was NOT easy but it WAS fun!
Step #3 – Tag Six Other People and link to their blogs. Then let them know you’ve tagged them by twittering/Plurking them or leaving a comment on their blog.
Here are my six People and their Blogs! (click on their names for the links to their blogs or go to my blog roll)
1. It is an absolute pleasure to link this first person Soren …his blog, without fail, informs and many times challenges me to look and strive beyond what is…to what could be.
2. Wow another favorite…this woman has a beautiful soul and she shares it so eloquently in her own words. Thank you Isis
3. This blog is a wonderful fun read…well worth the skip on over to say hello to Jeffrey
4. I love reading this blog…it’s written by a really wonderful person…who just happens to kick ass! Yeah I said it! So thank you for all your great posts Devyl Gyrl keep em coming!
5. This blog is bent more toward the technical side of life…and doesn’t begin to reveal the AMAZING woman behind the blog…my fondest wish is that she start another more personal life blog…if she does…WATCH out world! She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever known…drop by and say hi to Twila Marie
6. This blog is the beautiful journey of a woman who is a slave…leave your pre-conceived notions aside and read!!! It’s an amazing journey…thank you for sharing it with us Aislinn
Noise…a barrier for listening
talk…intangible to action
thought …an elusive stream…ever present…ever flowing
Alone I mute external noise
Alone I silence speech
Alone I let the river flow on…
listening to my soul
asking questions of my life
the river rises from deep within and floods my senses
coursing rivulets of thought over the planes of my cheeks
soaking my skin
I hold my breath like a dam
my hand goes to my eyes
trying to force the river of thought back
it flows on through my fingers…
the dam breaks
my hands softly meet in supplication
I bow my head to them
I pray for a peaceful journey
This is a tough one to write…so many thoughts floating around as to where I should or could go with this….and yet here it is.
We have this customer at our store…she’s a right pain-in-the-ass! She’s likely in her sixties and I guess can’t get around much on her own legs…so she uses one of our “mart carts”…you’ve seen them…little powered scooters with a basket up front for groceries etc. That’s all well-and-good but she also insists on bringing in her two yapping little beasts…a yorkie and a pomeranian. All these two dogs do is yap yap yap from the minute they get in the store till they leave…well come to think of it…she doesn’t shut up either! She doesn’t shut up…but her attitude is one of superiority…like she owns the world and you in it.
She shows up daily and hangs around for hours…riding that damned scooter up and down the isles…and picking out stuff that she only ends up leaving behind at the register…as though she’d ultimately used her superior judgment and deemed those items not to her standards. GROAN! A lot of the items we have to “claims”…because she puts them in the cart with those damn dogs and the law says we have to.
There’s a collective moan when she comes into the store…we’re all plain tired of her coming in and pushing her proverbial weight around and breaking rules and policy…in general wreaking havoc! She’s become a regular topic in the lunch room…well her and those damn dogs…and no-one wants to really “cash” her out…since she’s so difficult.
Well yesterday was no different than any other day at our store…except AFTER we closed! I had ended my shift right at closing…lucky not to have to stay the extra half hour and zone all the shit people carelessly toss about when they’re in the store…so I headed to the shopping lot next store to hit the grocery store…only to discover they were closed….arrgghh. I trek back up the incline to our store to meet the person who said they’d give me a ride…but by now I’m locked out of the store and must wait on the bench outside for said ride….so I decide to call a taxi to get home.
While waiting for the taxi…I notice a few stragglers pull up and try to get into the store…not knowing we close at 9 on Sundays…we have small talk then they leave. Then this mint green van pulls up…and I instantly know who it is…earlier in the day I’d been informed that “she” had been living in our parking lot for a month or so in that van.
I sat in mute observation as she descended from the van…a heavy older woman…with flowing waist length gray hair. She pauses for a few moments…outside the vehicle door…to run her hands through her long hair and catch the cooler air in it. She adjusts her rumpled clothing and leans in to scoop up her companion…the yorkie…then closes the door and gingerly makes her way across the parking lot to our entrance. It’s a silent traverse filled with the weight of her life’s journey. This is a human who’s story I do not know…yet I see the anguish of where she is right now. She’s aging and her limbs do not support her as they used to…and all she has left in the world are her two dogs and her mint green van. This night I read the pain…solitude and anguish in her movements…her body. My heart and soul melt.
This woman is no longer that pain-in-the-ass customer no one wants to wait on…she is a homeless human being…adjusting to yet another journey in life…even at this later stage. The veil of judgment drops and I’m blessed with seeing beyond the limitations of the expanse of a register. The tetonic plates of my paradigm shift with the realization of this person..this human being’s experience.
Perhaps it’s because I was homeless not too long ago…that I feel this connection…or perhaps it’s just because I’m also human. Either way…my heart and soul connect to this solitary figure…and return changed. She is no longer that pain-in-the-ass with the yapping dogs, that spends hours in the store…only to buy a few paltry items. Her star was illuminated this evening…gifting me with the light of her journey….and I am blessed.
Those dogs are her life companions…she is literally fighting for her dignity..so if she casts a bit of superior attitude our way…well HELL we can handle that!
Each person that comes into your life brings something…something deeper than the facade of what they’ve learned to present. Though it’s not UP to us to dig past that facade…it is always to our benefit that we do. The verdant soil is always worth cultivating.
So the next time you’re in line and chatting up a “cashier” and she’s super friendly and perhaps even a bit flirty…take a moment…she may be me. I’m not friendly because I HAVE to be…I’m friendly because I choose to be…and I like engaging people beyond the facade…getting to touch who they genuinely are.
This woman is a tough cookie…a hard shell (understandibly) but I promise this…the next time she comes through my line…she will be treated with respect and reverence..as all should be…nothing else matters…dignity is but one of the few things she maintains…and it is not up to me to dismantle that.
Her gift to me is…reminding me that even difficult customers have lovely life lessons to share.
I have been most fortunate over the years to have met some truly wonderful souls…many of them children. If you pay attention children will teach you more about yourself, and this world, than you could possibly dream of teaching them.
Each of us is born a clean slate…over the years… it is what and who we encounter in life…that writes on that slate…altering how we present ourselves to this world. However…we are also born with our own unique spirit…that goes far in determining how we process what comes our way…filter it…and return it to the world in our own voice.
As adults we accumulate much flotsam and jetsam…often clogging up how we filter things and causing us to not be quite as curious and open as our younger selves…leaving one to miss out on much of what naturally brought joy to our lives as children. This is where children teach us important life lessons…such as staying curious and being joyful.
Today I encountered one of the most enchanting little souls . He was all of year at most…hanging about his brother’s hip…his brother’s arm wrapped about his waist as he helped his mother bag her things with his other hand. Here is this child surfing about the backof his brother’s hip, all gangly arms and legs, just taking in the world from his own little vantage point. At first I thought what caught my eye was how his brother just sort of loosely held him about his hip and how the child just seemed to be content to hang out there…going with the flow…getting a bit tossed around as his brother occasionally shifted his weight. Something just kept drawing me to him and at one point he was just close enough to another shopper that he could reach out and just graze the corner of her purse…his face erupted in pure JOY…his mouth opened as if the biggest belly laugh would come tumbling out…all for being able to reach out and touch this woman’s purse. The most incredible thing was that he didn’t break out in huge unabashed giggles…it was a silent soulful joy…all his…pure pleasure.
My heart lurched…I was taken in and could not stop watching this little joyful soul and…for a few brief moments…get lost in his enchantment. I caught his eye and again he tossed his head back and opened his mouth to those big fat silent belly laughs…causing me to smile and giggle with his infectious joy.
When the family was finally finished and ready to go…I just had to stop his mother and tell her what I had observed…her face broke out in a knowing grin…and she said he was the most easy going baby she’d ever known. I’d opened the flood gates…his older brothers couldn’t stop telling me how amazing their little brother was! They told me how he got the unusual tiny bruise on the bridge of his nose…one of them had accidentally hit him with their fishing pole. The whole family simultaneously said “and all he did was look at us and break out in giggles”. The way they said it showed the gift this child brought to his family and to this world…they were as enchanted and filled with wonder as I. It was so obvious this child changed the dynamics of his little family with his pure joyful spirit. The force of that spirit was so captivating that he not only affected his immediate family but also others such as myself.
This small child , with this enchanting gift, reminded me how lovely it is to to stay open and welcome these moments into our lives everyday. He blew away the fog about my brain engaging my synapsis…sending signals to my own spirit…an invitation to JOY.
sand softly relents
to my thought filled tread
one soul yielding to another
High moon cradled
in the trailing vapor
of a warm summer day
caressing my skin
memories of fingertips
tracing lazy love patterns
distant sound of ships
calling to one another
voices in the dark
catching the breath
of the vast expanse
one gaze mirroring the other
air laden with
the brine of
a solitary shadow