For a full 3 weeks, I felt almost debilitated. I was depressed, lethargic, and miserable. I had nausea, night sweats, and diarrhea. Some days I literally had to talk myself through putting pants on, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep going.
Are you asking yourself what I mean by “talking myself through putting pants on?” Here’s an example of how I shuffled through my days:
What’s the next right thing?
Putting on pants. I have to get some pants and put them on.
My pants are on. What’s the next right thing?
I need to get my purse. Okay, I have my purse.
What’s the next right thing? I need to find my kids.
Where are my kids?
That’s what happens when a person suddenly stops drinking after her body becomes accustomed to metabolizing a bottle of…
As a youngster, I became enthralled with collecting rocks. Someone started talking about arrowheads and geodes at 4-H and the search for these magical stones became an obsession. The very idea that these physical objects contained hundreds or thousands of years of secrets and usefulness in others’ hands was thrilling. I don’t think I ever found either type of rock but the searching, collecting, exploring and handling of all the other rocks I found gave me hours of great joy and my parents some well-deserved quiet.
One Christmas, my Grandmother gave me a rock polishing kit. I could take the rough, raw, basic rocks and immerse them in a capsule with a cleaning solution and after alot of time rolling around, they would come out sparkling, fresh and soft to the touch. It was okay but I much preferred the paper grocery bag full of dusty, mossy, grassy rocks I had been gathering. They were so much more interesting.
It wasn’t until about 5 years later, when adolescence hit and our family moved from our small town to the city that I realized people were like the polished stones. Life was just one big plate of perfectly shining rocks and it was frustrating to me that I would have to work at seeing everything back in its original, perfect state – raw, bumpy, earthy, rugged rocks.
Fortunately, the disillusionment did not last. I realized I could make my life a grand rock collecting adventure and that some of the shiny stones were fun to have around.
On my fortieth birthday, my five-year-old son spent the entire afternoon in our yard searching for “heart-shaped rocks” which he proudly delivered from filthy, chubby hands with this speech, “You gotta get old sometime, Mom!”. I kept them above my sink until a few of them fell into the garbage disposal and ground it to a halt. I was thrilled he understood natural beauty in the rocks and his aging Momma, and this reassured me his character was set.
It is now eleven years past my fortieth birthday. I still have a few of those heart-shaped rocks curated especially for me. They serve as gentle reminders of my purpose in life and the kind of person I want to be and others I choose to spend time with:
Kind – If I had to pick one single trait over everything, of course it would be kindness. Time and time again, practicing kindhearted gentleness brings greater joy and openness. Judgement divides and narrows everything immediately: hearts, feelings, opportunities, experiences and most of all, love.
Patient – Yes, patience is a practice that does not come easily when we are young. At 51, I am a pretty patient person, and I am getting better at ignoring the “productivity culture”. If all you accomplish in one single day is reassuring people of your love and confidence in them, that is enough for me. I have a hard time being with “productive people” for long – they are boring.
Resourceful – You can have the IQ of a genius but still not be able to figure out how to manage simple challenges. More specifically, I am more excited about finding simple ways to handle life that reap positive benefits for the broader world than explaining why that might be a waste of time. To me, being resourceful is an inclusive approach to living and just being smart can be so selfish.
Creative – There is a time and place to be linear and logical (e.g., when applying for FAFSA support for your college-bound senior!) and the rest of life should be interesting and fun. I am not concerned anymore about “making sense” to others, I just need to validate creative energy by using it, damn the judgers! Creative people spend more time enjoying taking risks than calculating failures. That’s why I like them.
Simple – I would rather spend the day with a Humanitarian focused on addressing fundamental needs than talking to the most educated, well-traveled person. I am so happy that my journey has opened my eyes to this basic truth and fortunate to have daily opportunities to practice simplicity. As I am learning, simplicity encompasses more than just getting rid of physical and mental clutter – it is a spiritual practice that helps one focus on being fully present in the now. When all you have is now, you tend to appreciate it and make better choices.
So back to the rocks and their wisdom: I love holding a rock and thinking about where it has been, for how long, what it is made of, the stories it “knows.” It is like holding the Universe and all its mysteries inside your palm and exchanging energy. To me, the unpolished rocks embody all the basic truths about living a good life. They inspire me to live and put my best (but simplest) self forward. I like rocks, yes I do.
“Rocks and minerals: the oldest storytellers.” A.D. Posey
Oh, Girlfriends! How would a woman survive life without them? They come to our aid before we even know we need to be rescued. They understand our innermost feelings and needs in the deepest way. They refrain from judgment. Like Momma Bear protecting her cub, a great girlfriend will work wonders in your life and expect nothing in return.
I reach for my Mom’s handmade quilts every single day of my life for comfort. Tattered and ragged, sometimes I drag my favorite one like Linus, as if the quilt could make me invincible. Magical powers sewn into every square, crafted and pieced together by my Mother’s hands with abundant love and the greatest of hopes for a life well lived. I literally can cover myself in her protection any time I want. The girlfriends who have sustained me through life’s toughest challenges are exactly like my favorite quilts.
In this picture, I am in the most miserable physical pain you could imagine. I had been laboring for over 2 days with my first child and was waiting the last few hours before heading to the hospital to begin the terrifying birthing process. I am sitting on a heating pad because I have lovely back labor. And draped across my knees is the “Cotton Boll” quilt my Mom made for me more than twenty years ago. “Don’t machine wash this,” she cautioned. “It will fall apart.” Nope. This thing might as well be made of kryptonite. Virtually indestructible. Just like my ties to my girlfriends, one in particular, my Pammy.
Pam took this picture of me when she delivered a beautiful Wendy’s lunch of french fries and a Frosty. She had had her daughter the year before, I had been her “birth coach.” I did not even know I needed her to check on me that day, my mind was swirling with nesting details and anxiety about the future. I am sure we laughed about the indignity of the last day pregnant – I was hobbling around, grunting and moaning in my hugeness. Pam’s presence was comforting, though, and nothing really needed to be said. There was history between us (at the time we had been friends over 10 years, thinking we knew everything about life, love, family and careers!).
We both moved away from Kansas City for many years and hardly stayed in touch, but fate reunited us a few years ago, and we have both returned HOME: to Kansas City and our friendship. I can look at her and imagine what she is thinking and we both erupt in raucous laughter! We have the comfort of each other’s company and support and a very long history of experience together to sustain us. Friendship is, indeed, a joyous thing. As a woman grows older, the comfort of a close girlfriend is one of the greatest treasures she can have. Nobody knows us better or would go farther to show us who we are when we are lost. And midlife, I am discovering, is a bit of a “curious wonderland” where one can get very lost, indeed. I am finishing the intensive Mom phase and looking ahead to the second act (actually, it has begun, I am just in denial). Pam helps me laugh away the embarrassment of my arthritic hips and knees when I try to get up gracefully from a restaurant chair. She will be there with me, locked arm in arm, for the second act, and there will be laughter, joy and comfort. And I am one grateful woman of a certain age!