Do Not Wait…

I stumbled upon the following poem two Christmases ago. I saved it to a file, printed it out and tucked it into a real folder. All of this so as not to forget. I have spent far too much time waiting, holding back, making deals with myself, with time, with karma, fate, the gods, and God. Always along the lines of “If this, then I will allow myself that.” Born of self discipline and some measure of self-denial, it’s a hard habit to break. But I continue to make progress, joyfully, whole-heartedly, and unabashedly engaging in life, knowing that each breath and each moment is the special occasion.

And so this is my Christmas gift to you…

Christmas at Midlife

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.
I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task
I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.
I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.
I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.
I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.
I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.
I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.
I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.
I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.
I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

-Mary Anne Perrone

As posted in 2016 on wildwomansisterhood.com

A Light in the Darkness

“Why?”

Christmas 2016 was particularly difficult. We were weary and on the verge of despair. While we continued to hold out hope that “a change would come,” we were deeply dispirited. Hopelessness is a unique, quiet terror that sucks the spirit dry and we were beginning to feel it. That year, I climbed up to the attic, down to the basement, and out to the shed, repeating the practiced discipline of retrieving the holiday decorations in preparation for the season. To say that my heart wasn’t in it is a gross understatement. I railed at the gods, beseeched God, and wondered “Is this karma? Maybe my fate?” I screamed “THERE IS NOTHING MORE THAT I KNOW TO DO. then whispered thereisnothingmorethatIknowtodo.”

I sought an answer. Oh, we had pursued many, many pathways for solutions, none of which worked. I was beyond that. I was deep into the existential “Why?” The one word that persists after all others are exhausted.

That year, while I went through the motions of decorating our massive old country house/inn, played the seasonal music, and lit the candles, my spirit was depleted. I called my sister. Of course I called my sister. Many times. Just as many times, I said, “I think I need to cancel the family Christmas this year. I just don’t have it in me. I’m sorry. I just can’t.” All the while my eternal “Yes” was doing battle with my despair. I so wanted my “Yes” to prevail, in spite of everything.

“We can order pizza. It doesn’t matter. We will come. We will be there.”

I called my friend, collector, deep thinker, and utterly unique friend, Lynda.

“I will come. I will be there. With cookies.”

The circle of loving support grew. Everyone who possibly could, came to be there with us.

In the end, emboldened with love and the firecracker of hope it ignited, I didn’t order the pizza. I made the dishes I had made the previous 25 years for our family Christmas and we carried on. We put on our elf hats, sang The Twelve Days of Christmas, and rocked the Yankee Swap, a not-to-be-missed tradition, worthy of a post.

We carried on in spite of our despair.

We carried on because of our despair.

We carried on because as long as there is love, there is a light that can be rekindled.

If your 2019 Christmas is anything like my 2016 Christmas, know that I know. Your feelings are real and they are valid. Know also, that the simple act of reaching out from that rawness to those who love you no matter what may be all you need to keep that fire within lit. It doesn’t change the situation, provide a solution, or answer the eternal “Why?” but if it keeps your light alive, know this: you will carry on. Come what may.

December’s Unique Magic

A Brilliant Sky

Stark tree limbs, black lace fluttering against a magnificent orange sky. The contrast of stillness and force takes my breath away.

This angel has graced my life since 1992, when my sister gave it to me as a December wedding present. She has endured four moves over time and at some point, lost one of her wings. While we have attempted to reattach it numerous times, it simply won’t adhere. In truth, I prefer her this way, with one wing. She reminds me of our own strong, luminous, and yet-imperfect nature.

Speechless Magnificence

Enchantment is everywhere this season, but none is so moving as that which graces our own home.

Christmas “Gardening”

My faux greenery festooned with silk roses “converse” with my blooming houseplant.

Over the years, those dear to me have gifted many a peacock, my favorite bird.

Grace

This sweet angel face has been with my husband since his childhood. She is a reminder that we don’t have to carry with us every last sentimental item; sometimes one symbolic beauty will do…

Fanciful Cherub

One year, I bought this angel for my sister, my sister-in-law, and for myself. Every awesome woman can use a fanciful cherub in her life.

From my home to yours, Happy December and Merry Christmas!

“She Gather Me, Man”

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” — Toni Morrison, Beloved

The fun, frolic, and mischief of autumn transitions – just like that – to the reflective “gathering of gratitude” that is Thanksgiving. I love the contrast and look forward to the turning of the page that welcomes in the tradition of devoting a day, a week, a month…to giving thanks.

A month seems hardly enough when I consider the many people, things, experiences, insights, and moments for which I am grateful. Gratitude isn’t something I “do” and check off; it’s a chosen way of being that helps me to live my messy and complex human experience with more joy, and to reframe my life’s hard edges as acceptance acquired, patience learned, challenges met, and yes, wisdom gained.

Perhaps the very best thing about being-in-gratitude is that it’s there when I need it – a perpetual refueling station that turns my fragmented attention to what enriches and sustains me. I can go there at any time and in any moment when I am stuck in a “woulda-coulda-shoulda” an “if only,” or a yesterday that glimmered with potential but fizzled out.

I know that I am not alone in this.    

During this month of communal thanks-giving, I am thinking especially of the several, utterly unique women who are woven into the fabric of my life:

Those in the great beyond who grew and shaped me, and

Those who helped me to understand and to heal

Those in the here and now whose shoulders I lean on and from whose strength I carry forth

Those whose hands I count on when mine are simply not enough  

Those whose hearts open up a wide space for me when mine is seeking or sad, and

Those with whom I dance…and dance

You know who you are.  

We come to one another raw and real. From there we gather: we listen, hear, create, challenge, console and conjure…and from that newly-alive place, we carry on. And on, and on.

I am so grateful.

The literary tour de force, the late, beloved epitome of a wise woman, Toni Morrison, got it completely right. As women, we gather the pieces for and with each other, and then make meaning of them. Listen again:

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” — Toni Morrison, Beloved

It is good indeed, a blessing beyond measure.  A large measure of my thanks-giving.

In all the Right Order

November Style

Ready for Girls’ Night Out

In the Southeast, autumn eventually makes its presence known, typically in November. Thank you, thank you, Mama Earth! Time to transition the hearth and dress for a “Friday Fire Pit”Girls’ Night Out. This time, I’ve donned my Jill Sander chocolate brown sweater, my Marc Jacobs boots in the same color, and a couple of accessories that pull this outfit together, notably, a lace-embellished camisole that peeks out from the sweater and an awesome statement necklace found at a local consignment store.

An emerging painting

My husband’s work-in-progress, “Desert Rose,” makes a fitting backdrop as I strike a familiar pose. Look closely and you will see a younger me in a framed photo on the bookcase.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, chocolate brown is my go-to color.

I plan to wear this lively, retro-esque Tina Turk dress with the very same boots, along with my “all vintage” accessories: a gold Davis & White snake bracelet, buttery, canary-yellow gloves, a gifted peacock necklace, and gold dangly earrings. That’s Miss Noelle looking on.

For a dressier holiday party, you may find me in this look:

Same boots, same bracelet and earrings, but this time, with a gorgeous Antonio Melani satin dress that sports a necklace neckline that is to-die-for.

Style Notes

Who says that working off of one color needs to be boring or redundant? If you are traveling this holiday, or simply want to keep things simple, start with a specific base color (brown, black, gray, navy, blue, red…even purple. Oh how I love to work with purple!) and keep these tips in mind:

  • Select a pair of shoes or boots in your base color.
  • Add a sweater, dress, blouse or jacket in the same color. Then play with what you have to pull together the rest of your outfits.
  • Add jewelry accessories in either all gold or all silver and wear these with each outfit. You might throw in an outlier – such as the statement necklace I wore with the jeans- to mix things up just a bit.
  • Allow for some serendipity. The canary-yellow gloves were intended for the multi-color dress but work just as well with the other two outfit combinations.
  • Play with your lip color. Here I am wearing a deep, seasonal shade, “Dead Roses” by Anastasia. If it feels like “too much,” add a thin swipe of soft mauve from your summer collection on top to create a custom color.

Let It Be

The October Giddy. Maybe you know it. That particular delight we feel when the air turns crisp, the leaves sparkle with autumnal hues, and we finally get to rock our booties again. This fall, I was awestruck by the potato vine that kept going and going…the coleus purchased at 60% off late in the season that nonetheless came into its glory on my front porch, and the hearty heirloom pumpkins that I picked up at the supermarket. It was a snapshot of seasonal beauty that made my heart leap each time I looked.

October Vignette

Two nights of temps in the twenties changed all of that. My October Giddy faded with nature’s reminder that it was, after all, November. Almost everything was frozen or at least wilted beyond the pale. I grabbed my red wheelbarrow and faced reality.  

My little voice beckoned: When it comes to beauty, do not hold on too tightly. Remember to shift your lens. That’s when I grew amazed.

Berries for the Birds
Nature’s Miracle

Sometimes we hold on too tightly –

to people and our expectations of them

to careers and our dreams realized, spent, or unfulfilled

to the ideas and images of who we once were

to days and memories now past.

It is only when we release our grip on what was or coulda, shoulda been, that we can move forward to create again, and then again.

Put that into practice right here and right now, my little voice said. I fretted about the fact that it was far too early for Christmas decorations, uncertain about what to do with the void left by my now absent plants on the front porch. Work with what you have, she persisted.    

“Work with what you have.” Such a simple statement, applicable to everything we cling to, wanting it to remain just as it is, when, just like us, it cannot.

This season, as you stretch and adapt yourself like Gumby or Super Woman, remind yourself to work with what you have and to let it be. Let it be enough.

Self Care in the Season of Giving

Soar

My husband and I had the honor of meeting one very cool woman, Iyanla Van Zant, at the Omega Institute some time ago. Iyanla is truly an inspiration, not only for what she has overcome and accomplished – with a deck stacked very much against her- but for who she has intentionally become.

“Intentional Becoming” is a theme I will be writing about in 2020, a year “branded” for seeing ourselves with a razor-sharp focus that yields clarity, insight, strength, and compassion. To intentionally become one’s self – the one we were before we morphed and adapted, bought into the expectations, signed up for some version of the rat race, ran for shelter, put on the masks, the personas, and the armor to deal with it all – that’s the one I am talking about and hoping that wherever SHE is, she is listening. I hope that as you give thanks and give of yourself this season, you consider Iyanla’s wise words: “Self care must be a priority every single day…it is simply not possible to give from an empty cup.”

A priority, not an after-thought, and never, ever, something for which you apologize.

Doing so can be a challenge because we often think in “all or nothing” terms. Self care? That’s for people who have the time, money and support system in place to indulge themselves. All or nothing thinking is misguided because it defeats us based on a ridiculous absolute.  

Or maybe the challenge is even more basic, along the lines of There just isn’t enough time in the day. I know, I know, and while I am not disputing the time limitation, I’m not accepting it either. Here’s an idea to kick-start your self-care mindset: Start small. Really small. Need an example?  My morning walk is sacrosanct, a non-negotiable that keeps me sane, grounded, and fit. It usually consists of walking our neighborhood loop two times around.  But this morning, the November sky beckoned, and though I had lots to do, that beauty called to me. So Miss Noelle (my 14 year old mini poodle) and I did another 300 steps. A mere drop in the bucket, yes, but a Thank You God downpour in terms of self-care, of paying attention to my needs and wants.

In this season where we take particular joy in giving, make sure your cup isn’t empty. Remember the giver. Care for her.