Friday, February 20, 2015

Good day

It has been a year today, since I wrote What I Want.  I was about half way through the day and still in my pajamas when I realized it.  

I don't think I want to say much about it, other than to say I am reeling a bit, today, about how much changes in one year's time, and also, how little.

I looked for jobs.  I made myself two warm meals.  I researched new graduate school programs, full of ideas after another employment ministry class at church this week.  I worked out, even though I regretted it afterwards, given that I called into work today with a back that was spasming.  I watched some Dexter, I read a book, I did an Italian lesson.  Lastly I took a hot bath, in which I sipped on a glass of red wine; after nearly three months of not being advised not to drink, it was the most delicious treat.

It was a good day.  And I am grateful for every good day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Making space for gratitude

I received a book from a friend about a month ago called The Chemistry of Joy.  It was written by a local psychiatrist on the combining of Western, Ayurvedic, and Buddhist modalities in the treatment of depression, a subject of great professional and personal interest to me.  I highly, highly recommend it if not only for a new perspective, but more so because I've been using it.

I am waking no later than 0730 on my days off, earlier of course on work days.  This is harder than you imagine for a lifelong night owl who worked 12-hour overnights for 9 years!  I am not napping during the day unless truly, truly necessary.  I am the only Ayurvedic composition type (kapha) for which caffeine is sometimes considered beneficial, praise God, so I am allowing myself my coffee, but no more than an occasional second serving and nothing after the noon hour. I am eating smaller and later breakfasts if at all, which has always felt better to me, but which I avoided because I thought it was a bad habit, and again, leaving out most sugar and most dairy.  I was already beginning to return to my weight, cardio, and yoga routines, slowly and very carefully regaining the strength I am accustomed to.  Combined with the neurologist's prescription help for sleep and pain, life is finally starting to feel better.

That's where this begins.  Six months is a perfectly acceptable amount of time to allow for grieving, and I can see now that's what I've been doing: grieving the loss of another hope, one that I thought came straight from God, and from the loss of a connection I deeply, deeply enjoyed.  I have remembered, finally, that what I need is compassion for my myself, for walking through disappointment again as best as I could.

I am making space, now, for gratitude.  And when I'm not (because at times I'm certainly not) I am remembering to actively choose it as best I can.  Book or no book, I just couldn't get there before.  And I could say that I mean my arm: the chance to rest and reset after an injury.  I could say that I mean another NO for graduate school: another year without the crazy juggling of time and money, another year to consider alternate careers.  Those would both be true.  But for the most part, I'm referring to my heart for relationship:  I am grateful to have made a statement to the universe of what I hoped for.  It took years to articulate such a thing, much less share it with anyone other than my closest friends.  I am grateful that my sharing was met by someone with interest and a desire to connect.  I am grateful for hope and excitement, short-lived as it was.  I'm also grateful that post doesn't exist anymore, so that I can't pick it apart, trying to elicit what I said that invited this or gave a wrong impression of me.

I am grateful to have finally had the experience of connecting with a male soul I felt was like mine - so very, very rare.  Someone with whom I felt so comfortable being just me.  And I may be wrong about that likeness, or it may have been merely one-sided - I don't know.  But my gut felt it, and for a couple months, I was certain of it.  I didn't expect to ever feel that with a man, and can't yet imagine that I will again.  I didn't know that it could exist for me, and now I know that it can.

I am grateful for the experience of learning that touch, after so long, is important and meaningful to me.  Time is still my primary love language, but I'd never been touched gently and intentionally before, and certainly not with affection.  Our time of knowing each other is a far off memory now, and marred deeply by the knowledge of how easily a man can move on, but what I want to remember is feeling treasured and wanted.  I felt beautiful in a man's presence.  I didn't know that could exist for me either.

Having Dexter cuddle up to me, being a mother's touch to Jillian, hugging Kim goodbye, even my monthly massage - touch feels different now.  I am awake to it at last, and though that makes living without it so much more painful, I value it so much more.

I still needed to give myself a tearful, resentful moment in the bathroom this morning when a coworker arrived with her newborn, before I could be a part of her joyful moment from the edge of the crowd.  It still feels foolish and even frightening to think of trusting a man again - any man.  I can't say I see myself partnering any more; my window is closing for certain things, and I'd be more of a fool not to see it.  I don't know what to pray for, if this experience is all God had for me, but I don't want to regret it anymore.  I just want to be happy that for one night in nearly a decade, I got to know what hope and connection with a man feel like, and I was really, really happy.

#touch #chubbylittlelegs #snugglytoddler

Friday, January 23, 2015

Parole per Nadia

I learned a few minutes ago that a woman I tended to think of as my very own Italian nonna passed away in Rome last night.

When I walked into her home for the first time, having never met me, she threw her hands up exclaiming, "Ah, Amahnda, Amahnda! Benvenuto a mia casa!" She clasped my face in her hands and kissed me on both cheeks saying, "Che bella, che bella!" Regarding Sharon and I as we stood beside each other in all our Scandinavian statuesque-ness, she proclaimed, "Si guarda come sorelle!" ("You look like sisters!")

She was 88 years old then, in 2007, but she ventured out by foot in Rome's bustling downtown to gather up the accoutrements for each of our incredible meals.  I have yet to taste a melanzana parmigiana as incredible as the one she made us, crushing the tomatoes with her aged, tired hands in a rotary-like machine the likes of which I've never seen again.  I still order eggplant parmesan whenever I see it on a menu, hoping for it to be as good as hers. (No luck yet.  Boo.)  She was THRILLED that I was happy to eat all the things and stay to finish the vino; I remember my face being squeezed in pleasure each time I'd accept a second helping: "Mangia, mangia!"  (Yes, the Italians - at least my Italians - really do say that.)

I remember your amused smile that first time we stood in the kitchen; you had asked me about the basilico in the finestra and I kept looking out the window at the many church domes saying, "Si, si, capisco. I see them."  At least I thought I understood, until you walked over, took my hand, placed it on the basil plant in the window and said, "Basilic-o."  As it began to dawn on me, you pointed out the window to the church and said, "Basilic-a."  I felt so foolish and said in embarrassment, "Mi dispiace, Nadia, non parlo bene l'italiano, solo spagnolo," and you shrugged, saying, "Va bene, Amahnda. Si prova!" (It's ok, Amanda.  You are trying!")

Then there was the night we sent Roberto and Sharon out for a night to themselves, and you, myself, and Jillian played a game of trying to learn body parts in the different languages (we really needed a break from Jillian's Little Mermaid movie).  I threw in the Spanish words for fun and screwed everybody up.  Three generations of giggling girls, trying to pronounce strange new words, eating popcorn.  Such a great memory.

You washed my laundry whenever we'd leave.  Surely my own mother has folded my undergarments once or twice in my lifetime, but for sure no one ever ironed them until you. I remember trying to find the Italian words to tell you, "My goodness, you don't have to do that!", finally asking Roberto to please tell you for me.  He did so, but explained to me that this was how guests were treated in your mind and that you were unlikely to be dissuaded. (He was correct.)

I didn't have to be fluent in Italian to understand your stories or instructions: how your legs hurt sometimes, which dish or ingredient to hand you in the kitchen, how happy you were to finally have your family there in Italy with you.  How you had been a professional seamstress and run your own fashion boutique, where your Enzo came in to buy neckties one day and you fell in love immediately.  Such stories traverse language, and I remember Sharon and I wiping our eyes at the dinner table as you spoke of how much you missed him, somehow understanding each and every word.

Oh, my Nadia.  On my first trip outside the borders of my own country, I could not have wished for a more gracious and generous hostess.  Both then and in the several times since when I saw you in America, I always admired you. You were always dressed to the nines: hair, makeup, and jewelry, ever the fashionista.  My goodness, you flew by yourself, repeatedly and in your nineties, to a country where you didn't speak the language.  (Although there was that one time you answered me in English when I couldn't understand - busted!)  How worried you were for Sharon while she fought, and how badly you felt that you couldn't be here to help.  You met the great love of your life and "gave to the light" your only child on the cusp of your forties.  In recent years, your story gave me much needed hope.  

On the day I was to fly home, you were gone all morning, arriving home just in time to see me off. You handed me two packages of your favorite Italian caffè saying, "Un regalo, da me, per ti."  You hugged me hard and I embraced you tightly in return, and you didn't let go as you drew away, looked me in the eyes and said, "Ti ricorda di me," and then, in hard fought English, using your pointer finger to drive your words home, "You. Remember. Me."

Sempre mi ricorderò di te, Nadia.  Il mio cuore è così triste che ci hai lasciato, ed era la mia grande fortuna di conoscerti.

At Il Gallo Matto for Festa della Nonna
An evening walk, and gelato con panna
Christmas 2010
November 2013

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Loneliness Walks With Me

A friend sent me a link the other day about surviving singleness, and through a link in that article I came to this one, written by the same author.  All I can say is, YES, and I have to put it here because it touched me so deeply. 

Note—I am sure I do not hold a monopoly on understanding loneliness, all I am an expert on is my version.

I understand the loneliness of losing my father as a child and wanting him to be there, to mitigate the arguments between me and my mother, to be calm and strong and safe. I understand the loneliness of having a mother who was emotionally unavailable, so close I could touch her, but not really there for anyone outside of herself. I also feel the loneliness of losing my mother and loving her completely, despite her not-so-motherliness.
I understand the loneliness of being an introvert, of not quite understanding what the other kids seemed to instinctively know—how to connect, how to just be with their peers. I understand the loneliness of spending every lunch break in the school library. I remember the loneliness of somehow, luckily, making a friend, only to have them taken away by another girl, to be their best friend instead of mine. I understand the loneliness of nervously saying completely the wrong thing, brashly, rudely, gratingly. I understand the loneliness of sitting by myself, of not having a lab partner, a project group, a sports team.
I understand the loneliness of being loved and being left. I know the exquisite pain of being told, “I love you, but it is not enough.”
I am intimately acquainted with the loneliness of loving someone so much you have to let them go, because that is what they want, and you want them to be happy.
I understand the loneliness that is heartbreak and I understand the loneliness that is the aftermath of heartbreak—the yearning to return to the warmth and love that you once knew, but is now not available.
I understand the loneliness of lying beside someone when you love them far more than they love you. I understand the loneliness of lying beside someone when they love you far more than you love them. I recognize the loneliness after telling someone you don’t want to be with them, even when you really don’t want to be with them. The torturous loneliness of still being at least a tiny bit in love with one ex or more probably two.
I also know the loneliness of watching other families. Of seeing wives and husbands greet each other at the end of the day, of seeing children rush to show their parents a new discovery. I live with the loneliness of being a favorite sister and aunt but still not really belonging to anyone. I soak in the loneliness of not being anyone’s someone.
And there is more—I live the loneliness of solo travel, of living by myself, of dining for one. Oh yes, I understand all my forms of loneliness. The loneliness that greets me in the morning, that which shines with the sun or falls with the rain. The loneliness that goes in my grocery bag, the loneliness that buys my ticket for one. The loneliness that hops into bed with me at night.
This is the counterpoint to living in Love. Because it is actually my loneliness, among other things, that pushes me to live in love and it is the love that allows me to feel, appreciate and rise above the loneliness.
Kahlil Gibran said, “The greater that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” It is because I honor loneliness, and sorrow, and grief, and rage and all those other so-called negative emotions that I have such a capacity for love, and joy, and gratitude and forgiveness.
And so I live with my lonelinesses, allowing them to flavor my moments, allowing them to push me to live with the most intensity as possible. For better of for worse.
~ Tui Anderson
(original article: