Sunday, May 29, 2011

roses and Oprah

There's a rose in my garden that has no business being there.  It started out as an errant rose hip carried over by a fateful wind, or one of the neighbourhood dogs.  My landlords tried to pull it out when it first appeared but a couple of weeks later the rose was back.  I believe that tenacity should be rewarded so I started watering it secretly every time I got the hose out for my herb garden.

This morning I was out there again doing the first big weed out of the season and there's my rose, three times its size, full of promise and tangled around the base of it are several of the strawberries I'm sure I pulled out last summer when they staunchly refused to fruit.  I think the pair of them are laughing at me, but it's such a good joke I decided to join in.

As I sat there pulling weeds out from around the base of the rose and its rebellious friend I couldn't help but think how little it takes to encourage or destroy.  One twist of the wrist and there would be no rose in my garden, only a scar on the ground.  But a little water when I was out there anyway, not even a special trip and there will be glorious roses in a few weeks.  (And if I'm very lucky maybe even a few strawberries if the kids upstairs don't get to them first.)

It made me think about the people in my life and how we all have those moments when we are as vulnerable as the first shoots of a rose and a word spoken thoughtlessly is all it takes to snap us.  And yet, the opposite holds true as well.  Sometimes a little water, when you were already there anyway, is all it takes to let a dream take root.

I think that every gardener is a philosopher.  It's hard not to be when gardening lets you play at being God a little.  When the bulbs come back in the spring or the tomatoes finally turn red I sometimes think of that line from a movie when Jim Carrey calls out "I have brought forth life!!!" It's only pretend of course, we are not the life-bringers, not really.  I have yet to make my very own rose hip, or even a simple bean.  But we are life-bringers, we can be when it comes to the people placed around us.

I look at that rose now and it would not be so easy to get rid of these days.  Its roots are deep, it has a firm grip on the stairs leading up to the deck.  That rose had a champion, a friend just when it needed one.  I've been watching some of the last few Oprah shows and in one of them she talks about the importance of telling someone that you see them, that you hear them. She spoke of her fourth grade teacher who was the very first person who showed her that she had value.  There was a clip in one of the shows where Oprah had been trying to help someone and this other lady said "I needed you to say that you liked me and you never did."

And Oprah just shook her head and said, "No, I don't accept that.  I sat in the audience and gave you the stage I believed in you so much."

The next response was the one that so stayed with me.  She said, "I didn't even know what it was Oprah.  I couldn't see it, can you hear that? I didn't even recognize it."

I know that there are people in my life and there are people in yours too, who are so used to hearing the bad things, the ugly things that they can't even recognize the good things when they see them.  They don't even know what it is.  I don't know how to fix a person who's broken like that, but I do think that it can begin with something as simple as water.  It can begin with saying "I see you, I hear you."  I see things in you that are admirable and good, things to be celebrated and encouraged.

Oprah often talks about people not realizing their own power and I think that's true.  We can do more good than we know and more harm than we realize.  We are stronger than we know, and wiser (most of the time). We are capable of change and built for forgiveness.  And on the days when we are the little rose, unwanted and tugged on by an unfeeling hand, we are each of us, just as worthy of that water.

Monday, May 23, 2011

time enough

My birthday’s coming in a few days and for some reason it has me extra-thinky.  It’s not one of the big birthdays, not one of those ones that peer down at you ominously with zeros at the ends of them, but it’s caught me quit by surprise.  For some reason it feels old.

Old, the idea of “old” is something I fight against pretty vigilantly most of the time. I believe that time is a gift, that each birthday, each year afford to us, is like winning the lottery.  Time is a wishing star, the one thing that really, truly, can change our lives.  Eliot wrote that “only through time, time is conquered” and I believe that.  Yes, age comes with a few costs, but those are trades I would gladly make again for its benefits. 

It’s true that I will never be 21 again and I can’t go back and be one of those girls who gets married three weeks after graduation.   But I also won’t be that girl had no idea who she was.  I don’t stand in front of the mirror and wish I was someone else, instead I think, “Ok, I can work with this.”  At least most of the time.

There’s a book I found in Chapters a year or two ago that asked people to write their life story in just exactly six words.  The title, which was one person’s answer to this challenge is “Not quite what I was expecting” and that so perfectly fits where I find myself in the gloaming before the beginning of my 35th year.  I thought it would be different. 

If you had asked 18 year old me - well, maybe not her, she was still pretty fragile - if you’d asked 22 year old me where she thought I would be now she would have drawn a picture of someone who looks more like my Mom.  She would have known about the move to BC but would have no idea that I’d make my home here permanently.  She hadn’t met Kendra yet, she didn’t know that there was a whole west coast family waiting to welcome her.  She had no idea that she would love being Auntie Claire so very, very much.  She would never have guessed that a man she met once, for a couple of moments, would so profoundly change the way she saw herself.  She had not learned yet that you can borrow courage, and that that is so much better than a cup of sugar from a neighbour.

Just the other day I was offered something that would take me away for six months.  It would involve travel, which I love, and family, which I also love but it would also involve destroying most of the life I have built for myself here. It is very tempting, the idea of running away,  but I can’t shake the knowledge of what there would be, or rather wouldn’t be, to come back to.  And the more I think about it the more I realize that I wouldn’t trade this life – even when the offer is, quite literally, right in front of me.  That's a pretty enviable realization to come to. It's not a perfection situation but it's one worth fighting for, worth hanging on to.  (I wonder if there's a way to do a shorter version that might fit better, I'll need to give that some thought.)

I think the time might be ripe for an adventure, I can feel the wind shifting.  Maybe that’s what has me feeling the edges of this birthday so keenly.  I can hear a whisper, “it’s time, it’s time” but time for what I do not know yet.  All I do know is that I want to be here when it happens.   

*** (There should be a transition here, but I can't find it so imagine some instrumental music or the bird call they used for books on tape when we were kids you will know it is time to turn the page...***

When I pray for myself I tend to pray in pairs.  I ask God for wisdom and grace – wisdom to know what to do and the grace to do the right thing gently.  I also pray that He would help me not to shy away from the good things but also not to take too much.  There’s that line in “God Bless the Child” that says “You can help yourself, but don’t take too much” and for some reason I worry about that, that even if it’s being offered I shouldn’t really take all of it.  (Maybe that’s simply the ‘last piece of cake’ gene all women seem to have. Why is it that we worry about declaring things finished?)

There’s a beautiful song by Joshua Radin called “Today” that speaks to me.  He sings, “You saw right through me, there was no one else.  I sat beside you and became myself.” I sigh, audibly, every time I hear that line. It’s so very beautiful “I sat beside you and became myself” I love that it’s an act of becoming, not a gift.  The person in the song doesn’t confer “myself-ness” on the other, they simply sit there, stay with them, and in the safety of that moment, in the push against the chrysalis, the person steps into themselves, as if they were stepping out of their own shadow.

I don’t know what lies on the other side of this birthday.  I know that there is a new niece or nephew on the way.  I know that not long after my birthday I will finally, finally, get to meet Annika.  I know that there will be books and the first book club I have ever been a part of (good gracious, how did THAT take me almost 35 years??) I believe that there will be joy and I accept that there will be tears.  There may be blood.  And woven through it all will be the wishing star, if God permits.  The time to enjoy, to choose, to love, to weep. 

I read a quote the other day that refuses to leave me alone:

Every day of our lives we are on the verge of making those slight changes that would make all the difference Mignon McLaughlin

If there are things that need to change, and for most of us there are, we have the chance to do that every day.  There is so much hope in that.  Which ultimately means that there is hope in this soon to be birthday. Because it means that there’s still time. Time to do what? I don’t know yet.  Time enough to figure it all out.