I picked up my cell phone just now to text a friend. Then I remembered, she’s gone . . . two weeks already. It’s the fifth time I’ve done that. An idea sparked a laugh, made me think of her, made me want to share a chuckle.
That’s how it was for 28 years, since long before cell phones.
But that’s the thing about the love we have for friends, for family, the way we want to share it, the way we continue to share it . . . even after they’ve gone.
Aside from my mom, Jeannie read more of my writing than anyone. Always supportive. Always reminding me that this thing I love, this thing that is part of who I am, is important. That I need to share my voice. That I owe it to myself, and to others.
Of course, she always added that she’d love to see more happy poems, more happy scenes. She didn’t hesitate to ask, “when are you going to write a poem about love?”
And I would remind her, that is how I try to live my life – full of laughter, of love, of positive thoughts. With my writing, though, that’s me exploring the darkness, the underneath. Trying, at the very least, to understand. To throw light upon it for others to explore.
“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
Since I was fourteen, I have cherished each new day. I have awakened with a profound appreciation for having another chance at life. That doesn’t mean I haven’t screwed things up. Doesn’t mean I haven’t wasted time, that I didn’t spend a few years completely oblivious as to what I would do with my one wild and precious life, that I didn’t experience the paradox of gratitude for a new day despite feeling as though I (and, thus, my life) was utterly worthless.
I shake my head thinking back on that time. I can still feel the hollowness that had filled me back then whenever I do.
It’s difficult to imagine loving life, clinging to it as much as I have since I was a young boy (terrified of death, holding onto each moment), and still disregarding its importance, its preciousness at the very same time. But I did, for a brief period of my life. Fortunately, it was a brief period.
With the passing of my very close friend, I have found myself experiencing a mix of emotions the past two weeks, a flux from sadness to joy, from fear to determination. But then I think about her request for a happy poem and I realize that she was a poem . . . that the way she lived her life . . . was a poem . . . about family and friendship, about savoring time together, about laughter and happiness, but mostly about love.
I want to be such a poem! To live a life that says what words cannot . . . to be love!
In some ways Jeannie reminds me of my dad’s mom, the way she was the person around whom we all gathered. The one who brought us together. The flame to which we were all drawn.
In the years since she passed, we have all flitted away on our own separate journeys. But I know Jeannie would be the first to remind me that it’s really on us to stay connected, to make time for the people who matter. She said that very thing to me several times.
It’s certainly easy to get wrapped up in work, or in the chaos going on right now around us, to feel a need to pull back into ourselves and hide there, or to simply keep ourselves distracted enough to forget the importance of getting together with loved ones, of cherishing moments spent with them.
I started this post two weeks ago, but couldn’t get myself to finish. Now, here we are, today, and the world seems so much different than it did a month ago. For the loss of her. Yes! And for other reasons as well.
Since Jeannie’s death, a lot has happened in the world. I have never written a political post, nor will I today. But I see so many friends experiencing so many powerful emotions – fear, grief, shock, anguish, disbelief, horror, disgust, anger, sorrow, helplessness, hopelessness . . .
I believe it’s important for all of us to give ourselves permission to feel whatever we feel, to honor that genuine response, but to also remember regardless of whether or not this was an election year, regardless of who won or who lost or who did not even run, regardless of the history of the world up until this very moment, in the end, it has always been on us to determine what we do next, how we are going to carry ourselves, and how we are going to treat others.
As it is when it comes to reaching out to friends, to staying connected with loved ones, so it is with our showing our true character, each of us individually, and collectively.
“Never doubt that you can change history. You already have.” – Marge Piercy
There is no excuse for the way some people have acted throughout the recent elections, nor how they continue to act. Of course, unconscionable behavior and treatment of others has been going on long before and separate from the elections.
Hate has been perpetrated time and again. Lately, I have seen the phrase “Love trumps hate” everywhere. It is not, however, just a play on words. It’s a truth.
But only if we make it one!
Regardless of who is in charge, regardless of who our family and friends are, in the end, the only way we change that sort of abhorrent thinking and behavior is by taking it upon ourselves to be, as Ghandi encouraged us to be, “the change we wish to see in the world.”
Yes, there may be more obstacles than before. But perhaps the universe is shaking us by the shoulders, waking us up, letting us know that in order for the world to be better, we cannot rely on those at the top to make it that way. It is on us to be better.
It is up to us to love our family and friends, and to show compassion and kindness to everyone. Those who deserve it and those who do not. I think of Jeannie every day. Of her laugh which was so contagious. But mostly I think of her heart. Of the boundless love she showed to everyone. I always admired her for that, yet perhaps today I am even more inspired for that sort of character, that sort of genuine human decency and love is the way each of us needs to act.
Regardless of there being an election or not, regardless of who won and who did not, it has always been on us to do the right thing. To make the change, by being the change.
When the world grows darkest, we must ourselves become the light.
Here are a few quotes to consider, whether it’s about what the country is experiencing at the moment, or it’s about slowing down and making time to be present with the people who have our hearts:
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa
“In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.” – Buddha
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama
Namaste, Y’all! I send my light out to the light in you.