“There is no later. This is later.” ~ Cormac McCarthy

 

 Old Red Barn (December 2009) by L. Liwag©

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~ Buddha

Not going to write about Haiti tonight. It’s too emotional, and three posts in a row are enough, for now. Like my friend Maureen at White Orchid, my mind has been on the past lately, although I am not certain as to why. Well, the genesis began with a contact on Facebook from a person with whom I used to work at the Museum. From there, though, my mind has been traveling down different paths, and I have been dreaming of different people, so I thought that I would make tonight’s post about some of those people, not all of whom I would like to see again.  

For various reasons, I will not identify these individuals by name.  

“You never really know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

Frozen Stepping Stones by L Liwag©

First there was the gay man who I used to love. I knew that he was gay, but that did not stop me from loving him, from thinking that we could be together in one of those strange but true platonic relationships based on friendship and mutual respect. When I first met him, I thought that he was funny, talented, and kind. It was only later that I realized that yes, he was funny when he was high. He was talented at making people believe that he was what he was not, and he had a vicious cruel streak that spared no one.  

Why would I spend time with someone like that? I asked my therapist the same thing. She said, and I agree, that my marriage to my ex was so strained by the point at which this man entered my life that I was starved for attention, and my gay friend certainly gave me that. He took me to dinner, bought me things, even gave me a job when I needed one. But what I did not realize then but realize now was that there was a cost for everything.  

Yes, my marriage was already in trouble when I met this person. My ex and I were spending more and more time apart and with our separate groups of friends, but I know that spending time with this person did not help an already-strained situation. In the end, I finally broke with this person when he revealed his nasty true self by involving my mother in a situation over which I had no control.  

When Corey and I got married, I wanted to use my friend as my caterer. I gave him a $1,000 cash deposit. Our wedding was small, and we wanted to keep it intimate, so the catering was pretty straightforward. One thing that I did not count on was that when Corey and I went away for our honeymoon, my employer’s payroll company direct-deposited my check into my savings account. As a result, the checks that I wrote to the caterer, florist, and someone else (cannot remember who), all bounced.  

This was not my fault. I had no way of knowing that my money had been deposited into my savings account as I was out of the country. When we returned from our honeymoon, I walked into a firestorm. This person, my supposed friend and one-time companion, had been calling my mother, telling her horrible things about me. The worst part was that she believed him (of course). I haven’t seen him since my wedding, and as far as I’m concerned, hell can have a raging ice storm before I would give him the time of day.  

Is that gracious of me? No. But I have a long memory, and some things should not be forgiven.  

“It takes your enemy and your friend, working together to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Winter Stilllife by L. Liwag©

Then there was the friend who was a friend but then she wasn’t. I know that most of you have had this kind of person in your life. To be honest, I have found that when it comes to other women, in most cases my relationships tend to be more complicated than say my friendships with men, and this particular relationship was incredibly complicated. This female friend and I grew very close from working together on so many projects. We spent time together outside of the office, and she became very involved in my life.  

But it was a taxing relationship. To her credit, she was going through a bump in her life, learning more about herself and her own marriage, but it caused her to be needy, and I tried to help fill that need. Let me pause here to say that this is precisely how I get into trouble in almost all of my female friendships: by trying to be there for them to the point that I begin to lose myself or to have my judgment clouded.  

Anyway, the thing was that she talked about me to other people, and I knew this. She also never hesitated to let me know what other people were saying about me. It bothered me, of course, but my response was passive aggressive: Do nothing but be hard to get along with. Another thing about this person was that she was extremely judgmental and did not hold back with her pronouncements. Granted, I was pretty judgmental myself back then, so that part of our personalities probably meshed well.  

Our relationship didn’t exactly die; it frittered away. We stopped working together on projects, and what had brought us together no longer served as an adhesive. My relief at not having her in my life is a sad reflection on my own state of mind at the time. Instead of working on the relationship, I just let it go. When I think back on my state of mind at the time, it was precarious at best. It was just before I made the final decision to end my first marriage, a long, painful process that had only one possible outcome. The truth is that it was just too hard to be around some of the people from my past. What that says about me I don’t know.  

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him, his own.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Bird Feeder in the Snow by L. Liwag©

And then there is another woman from the same time period with whom I became friends. What I remember the most about this woman was her grace. She was (probably still is) intelligent, articulate, and calm. Oh, she could get riled, but in the face of some pretty nasty situations, she always held her own.  

What I remember most about our relationship is that she truly nurtured me, and we respected one another. She told me that I was talented, and she gave me a forum in which to express my talents. People like that drop into our lives seldom, but how they affect our lives stays forever.  

As with most people, we drifted apart more from circumstance than anything else. Our jobs took us into different places, and she moved out of the area. I have since learned that during the time that we have been apart she has been very productive. I wouldn’t expect anything less from her.  

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

I’m not exactly sure what made me make that little trip through the past. I believe that it was Lee Iacocca who said that when you die, if you have five good friends, you’ve had a good life (or something similar).  I agree.  

People come and go throughout our lives. Some things are constant, and some people are constant. Some friendships last a year, while others last a lifetime. The length of the friendship does not determine the quality. What makes the friendship valuable, worth the time that you have invested, is if when you think of that friend, a smile crosses your lips and your heart feels a sense of peace. Otherwise, what was the point? I only know that “in my life, I’ve loved them all.”  

More later. Peace.  

(More pictures from our December trip to Ohio in the blizzard)  

The incomparable, divine Bette Midler singing “In My Life”  

   

  

   

                                                                                                                                   

Lyrics to Lennon & McCarthy’s “In My Life”  

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all
  

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more  

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more

Advertisements

Pensif, Pensare, Pensive

ophelia-toledo-museum-of-art-hughes

Ophelia, Arthur Hughes, 1865

Late Night Thoughts

Where do you go when the night has been too long and unkind? Who takes your hand when you reach out in the darkness? Who will be there when you awaken after your dreams have taken you to places you never wanted to venture? Are these questions for you then?

Who will come for me when I call? Have I expended all of my chances to beckon unto me those who once may have attended unto me but are lost to me forever? I will not turn my head in shame this time, I promise. No more consolation prizes.

My eyes grow so weary: My soul has forgotten grace. The soul should never be without grace, the heart without memory and time. Memory then, is what saves us, what brings us back from the edge, what supplants those who chose to leave and those who are taken with things left undone. My father is in the night sky, the summer storms, the bold flashes of light just beyond the horizon. My daughter is in the mountains, the moss-covered hillocks and crevices, the natural running springs and waterfalls. My grief is invisible to all but me, a constant flame in my heart.

Doubts do not disappear when the stars reveal themselves. They are only cloaked temporarily in the sounds of dew on grass and moonbeams. At dawn, the dream ends the same. Truth, after all, is bitter root, mandrake, and hemlock. Only the hardiest of fools will take truth as a mistress—fools and children who have yet to forswear everything for a lie, and those who are lost already.

I will not treat you unkindly if you promise to love me. The heartache we will share together. I will follow you, yet do not desert me alone in the dark or in places unrevealed. Shadows can consume me and leave me concealed in desolate alleys, waiting for the moon’s pale light to illuminate the path home.

Shall we ponder tomorrow, you and I? Will we believe that we can stay here forever, on this carousel, the golden ring continually eluding our grasp as haunting pipe music plays in the background, and our painted horses, frozen in place, more like us than we care to see? My love, will you remember me? Will you come for me at journey’s end?

So who then shall hear your thoughts in the darkest heart of the night? Who will clasp your hand when you reach out for comfort? When you confess all that has caused you doubt and fear, where will you find comfort? Where will I? In the sounds in the night, after all?

Grace in Small Things #42

beautiful-waterfalls-paradise

Goodbye to Grace

It’s getting harder to write these entries, so I don’t know that I’ll be able to fulfill the commitment that I made. I find this disappointing because I want to keep my commitments, but what I am finding is that I am only writing GIST entries and not writing other entries, and that is not the purpose of my blog. The purpose of my blog is to expand my writing, to write about different things, and not all of those are positive. I have appreciated this chance to try to look at more positive things in life, and I truly appreciate the concept of grace as I have written about it many times before, but I find this format too limiting.

When something becomes an obligation and ceases to be an insightful exercise, then I believe that it is probably not contributing to my creative well-being. So this will be my final GIST for a while. I may return to the concept occasionally, but more than likely it will probably be a spontaneous, one-time post.

1. Beautiful cards. I love to receive cards that show that the card-giver has really thought about the event and my personality. Corey has become a master at accomplishing this with the cards that he gives me. They are always so beautiful visually, and then he finds cards that have sentiments that are reflections of how he feels. Alexis has inherited the card gene. She loves to buy cards for people, and she is great at it.

2. Toasted bagels with fresh butter. I don’t eat these very often, but when I do, they are sumptuous.

3. Pedicures are a wonderful way to relax. I haven’t had one in a long time because they are a luxury item, but a good pedicure can restore your whole spirit.

4. I love water in all its forms—the ocean, the bay, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, swimming pools. I am a water baby, an Aquarius. I don’t swim all that well as I don’t have a lot of endurance, but I love the feel of water on my body.

1026536church-bells-in-greece-posters1

5. I love the sound of church bells. Whether they are just souding out one tone, or summoning people to church, the sound of the bells touches a deep place inside of me. I think that it’s because when I was a child in London, I heard so many church bells in towers with real change ringing, and I became so used to the sound. Now, there is only one Catholic church nearby that chimes its bells. But the sound of bells gives me a wonderful sense of peace.

That’s all for my Grace in Small Things. Peace.

“Amazing Grace”

Sunday Dinner

“I Once Was Lost”

When I was a little girl, I mean really little girl, about 8, my Aunt Ronnie used to have one of those electric chord organs in her back bedroom. My Aunt Ronnie is my mother’s oldest sister and has pretty much served as my surrogate grandmother on my mother’s side. My mother was the youngest of 12 children, and Aunt Ronnie was the oldest, so there is a big age span between them, which is why I have always viewed her as my surrogate grandmother, that and the fact that she is the grandmother to all of my second cousins who are my age.

I should probably be explaining this better, so let me regress a little. When we came back to the states after being in England, we settled in Norfolk for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones was that several members of my mother’s family live in Great Bridge, which at that time, was still a pretty rural place in Chesapeake. Every Sunday, my mom and I would drive to Aunt Ronnie’s house for Sunday dinner, and I would spend the afternoon playing with my second cousins, which was a wonderful thing for me because as an only child, I wasn’t used to playing with family members my own age.

Those Sunday dinners deserve some space all their own. My Aunt Ronnie and whoever happened to be in the kitchen helping would turn out these incredible meals: roast chickens, chicken and dumplings (home made dumplings), pot roast, but the main course was always accompanied by southern style green beans, home made biscuits, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some kind of homemade dessert, like banana pudding or an apple pie. None of it was frozen. Nothing out of a can.biscuits

I remember my first dinner—It was my first taste of southern sweet tea. I drank it down in one big gulp. Everyone looked at me as if I were some kind of weirdo, which, of course, I wasn’t. I just had never had anything as wonderful as sweet tea. Those were also the days of the kids’ table and the big table. We had great times at the kids’ table . . . until the adults remembered to look in on us. But, as usual, I digress.

My first cousins, Aunt Ronnie’s three daughters, were mostly my Mom’s age. Those Sundays were some of the best times of my childhood. Before them, I knew nothing about running wild through fall leaves, playing tag, playing hide and seek, finding toads, having sticker ball fights, getting bruises from climbing tall trees, swinging on tire swings, all of the fun things that normal children do.

In England, I had friends, and we went to the park, but it wasn’t with the same wild abandon that I had with my cousins. It was the difference between being in a city and having to be watched and being in what was still relatively untouched country neighborhoods with few cars coming down the streets. We could play in the streets, and every once in a while, one of the grown ups might yell out the front door to get a location on us, and we could hear from ten houses down. The windows were open. Everyone knew who we were. We could run through everyone’s yards, and no one really cared.

Of all of my cousins, I was probably the one who was the most scared to do things, not because I was a girlie girl, but because I didn’t know how to do a lot of the things that seemed to come second nature to them, and I knew that they would laugh at me. For example, they never could get me on a minibike. But I was one of the best at climbing trees. I wasn’t afraid to climb anything. Stick ball. Nope. I pretty much sucked at connecting any kind of bat at any kind of ball (I had bad eyes but wouldn’t admit it for years). I tried a couple of times, but decided that I liked rolling sticker balls in the mud and then playing war with them until we were cold, wet, and filthy.

“How Sweet the Sound”

Sometimes, my mom and I would go to my Aunt Ronnie’s house during the week, and none of my cousins would be around, and then it would be totally different. It would just be Mom and Aunt Ronnie sitting around drinking coffee, and I would have to amuse myself however I could. That’s when I discovered the small electric organ in the back bedroom. I think that these organs were probably popular during the 60’s. Some were small enough to sit on desks, and others were on stands. This one was on a stand, and I think that it had 18 keys on it. There were a few chords on the left. Very simplistic.

At that time, I hadn’t begun formal piano lessons. I was playing instruments by ear only. I picked out some rudimentary tunes: “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells.” And then I found an old hymnal, and I taught myself a couple of hymns, “The Old Rugged Cross,” and “Amazing Grace.” Now, in all of the times I was in the back room playing with the organ, no one ever bothered me. They just drank their coffee, and once in a while said something about how nicely I was playing. But when I played “Amazing Grace,” I knew right away that I had done something, but I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad.

My mother came into the bedroom with this strange look on her face. I had been playing and trying to sing the words as I was singing. She asked me very quietly to stop. Of course, I wanted to know why. The only thing that she would tell me was that Aunt Ronnie didn’t like to hear that song. So I stopped, but being a child, the next chance that I got, I played “Amazing Grace” again. This time, the reaction was much stronger. My mother came stomping back to the bedroom and turned off the organ and gave me one of those looks. I got up and started reading my book, and that was that.

I never played the organ again at her house other than the occasional Christmas carol, and that was much later when the cousins were older, and by then, we were sneaking bourbon, beer, and wine into the back room. The organ was just something to play to irritate the adults with more noise. I never found out why the hymn upset my aunt so much other than a quick explanation that it reminded Aunt Ronnie of something sad.

“And Grace Will Lead Me Home”

Personally, I have always loved “Amazing Grace,” and I decided years ago that when I die, it’s one of the few things that I want played at my memorial service—on the bagpipes, of course. Because, if nothing else is true, I believe in grace, perhaps not in the most traditional sense, but grace nevertheless. And I believe that even though the child in me could not understand how a song could elicit such painful memories in my aunt, something led me to that particular song in that hymnal.

amazing-grace-phlox
Amazing Grace Phlox

And more than once in my life, I have been brought back to the lines “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me.” They have come out of nowhere, when I have least anticipated it, at times when I have most needed it. As always, my spirituality is very personal and private to me and therefore, I am not willing to say more about it, nor do I believe that this is the forum in which to do so.

But mulling over Thanksgiving dinner brought back fond memories of those really wonderful Sunday dinners with my family in a time and place long gone. Those streets are unrecognizable now. Everyone has moved on to different places. My aunt wouldn’t know me if she saw me. The tragedies of Alzheimer’s. I have third and fourth cousins who I have never seen since we stopped going to the family Christmas gatherings long ago. But it’s nice to revisit these memory sand castles that we have tucked away in long-term niches gathering dust in grey matter, if for no other reason than to know that we still can.

Enough for now. More later. Peace.