Thursday, November 10, 2016

Catalog of Beauty - November 10, 2016

I need to write, but I am still dazed by this week's events. In addition to the election that didn't go as expected, there were abrupt changes at work and a migraine with which to contend. I am beyond weary.

Tonight I'm going to make an accounting of the good things I experienced. Even in the midst of chaos and difficulty, I have cultivated the ability to pay attention to the little things. The practice pays off - especially on days or weeks like this.

1. My daughter's requests for hugs

2. Long stem roses from ALDI for a bargain

3. Seth Meyers' monologue

4. Laughter with a co-worker

5. Deep breaths

6. Choosing to walk by my fountain even though it's closed for the winter. The broader beauty is recognizing that I no longer feel the need to avoid things that are painful or disappointing. The thought had crossed my mind to stop walking by the fountain during autumn and winter, but then I realized that I was avoiding the sad feelings I have missing the water. It's better to feel them and move on. Those feelings dissipate much more quickly when faced head on.

6. Gregory Alan Isakov's voice, music, and especially his lyrics.

7. Wind and sunshine
8. Smiling after the pain of a migraine.

9. Being told that I look like I'm in my LATE TWENTIES by my new Panera friend, Elizabeth.

10.  This epiphany: I have determined that the Trump presidency is going make me bolder, braver, and more loving. All the scary things I have faced in the past five years--my dad's illness, continuous job losses, staying afloat financially in spite of said job losses, my own health scares, divorce, and post-divorce life--have prepared me for this time. I am determined to be an ally for vulnerable people in this new world. One of the ways I plan to do that is to initiate contact with people who do not look like me in all their beautiful diversity. I want to create spaces of safety, inclusivity, and rest wherever I go, which leads to this exchange:

11. At Panera, I noticed a beautiful man who was wearing the heck out of a scarf around his neck. He had such flair, and I told him so. "I love your scarf," I said. He looked at me for a second and then smiled. "Thank you very much. I like your look too." I smiled back and sat in the table ahead of his. I am a proponent of Random Acts of Kindness. It felt so good to interact with this lovely stranger. As Glennon Doyle Melton says all the time, We Belong To Each Other, and this exchange made that phrase pulse with truth.

12. Imagining that my walk back to my office was a scene from a musical and dance-walking all the way back to work.

13. Picking up a handful of trash.

13. Vulnerability, authenticity, and presence in my friendships.

14. Playing volleyball with my friends and daughter at church and being less afraid of the ball. And being a better contributor to the team. Also not bruising my wrist when I served this evening.

15. Lemonade from Chik-fil-A.

16. Having the energy to write this list while snuggled warm and cozy under my covers in my bedroom that is now my sanctuary from the world. 

17. My electric kettle from a friend that makes my room feel like a hotel.

18. It's Friday-eve.

19. Not feeling so down this evening.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November First Observance

Whew. The past month has been something else. I feel the weight, weariness, and relief of having successfully completed another write31days blog challenge. Behind the scenes, I've also navigated numerous challenging interpersonal circumstances on top of the high-heel-wearing foot injury.

Today is the first day I haven't had a blog post topic planned in one month. I woke up shortly after five a.m., though, to re-read my essay submission for the Glamour Magazine essay contest. I checked the word count to make sure it still fell within the prescribed range and filled out the submission form. Then I pasted the essay into the online form, hit submit, and snuggled back under the covers.

As I fought the need to get out of bed and ready for work, I thought about the significance of November First, and how this is the 25th anniversary of that day.

I've written about this anniversary before, and I suspect I'll write about this day many more times in my life. Longing, sadness, and a dollop of adventure swirl together to make the day stand out in my heart's calendar. At forty-one, I can see more clearly what an important milestone it is. It's the first before-and-after marker of my young life.

To recap, I was a fifteen-year-old who was moving away from the only home she knew. I was leaving my friends and family. I was leaving ballet, tap, and jazz and the Nutcracker Ballet. I was leaving my neighborhood the character that loomed large in the story of my childhood.

The moving van was scheduled to come that day while I was at school. What I was not prepared for was learning that my quiet, stooped little grandpa passed away a few hours after the moving van pulled up to my house. Now I was leaving my beloved grandmother, a days' old widow, all alone.

I keep asking myself, "What does this remembrance mean for you this year?" My answer: it was the first time that I encountered numerous life stressors simultaneously, and that I walked through that difficult time with grace and courage as a teenager. It taught me about my strength as a young person and what I was made of. The forty-one-year-old me is proud of that young girl.

It also makes missing my grandmother and my best friend, Melissa, feel more palpable now than at any other time of the year. It takes me back to those days of saying goodbye, and then saying goodbye again, after our departure was pushed back for my grandfather's funeral. I have been friends with Melissa for 28 years. I am proud of the way we have stayed in touch across many, many miles. I love that we get to be mothers to our children at the same time.

I think of how proud my grandma would be of my writing pursuits. I have a cherished circle of super fans, but my grandmother would be the president of that club. She believed I was a writer before I did. She planted that seed in my DNA with her love of words, storytelling, and writing. Then she nurtured it with encouragement and endless conversation about it.

What I submitted to Glamour Magazine is the hardest, most truthful story I've written yet. It has primed the pump for other stories to come, and I know she would have read it and exhaled loudly. She would have placed her hand over her heart, and exclaimed, "Now THIS is going to give me something to think about for a little while, my little darling."

I appreciate that for just a few minutes in the process of writing about that sepia-toned time of life, I can conjure her as if she's in the room with me. That is the power of writing, and why I can't stop--even when I'm weary.

Handsome Wayne K. Steele, my paternal grandfather.

My grandmother, Maxine, is the woman on the right in the first row. My grandfather is in overalls behind her.

Wayne and Maxine with Steven, before my dad was born.