July 22, 2017
Let’s see. I have not wished you happy Memorial Day, Happy Summer Solstice, Happy Ramadan, Happy Fourth of July or Happy celebration of Saint Thomas (I had to throw that one in the list… he was the doubter, most likely the ‘pain in the derriere-type disciple. you know the type always asking questions and needing proof, lots and lots of proof.) Hmm. No comment on any of the aforementioned except that on a tangent, please check out the painting by Caravaggio, ‘The Incredulity of Saint Thomas’.
But I can wish you happy summer and not be late in my sentiments. Despite marketing ploys pushing the school preparations earlier and earlier, we have yet to reach the midpoint of ‘summer proper’. The heavy rains fed the forest as I have never seen with the most ample spectrum of green. Spruce green has been blued from the abundant washes of the sky. Forest ferns plump their feathers in emerald plume blankets. The oaks and maples adorn themselves in their finest greenest of green tuxedos that they themselves forgot were stored away for such a summer.
Not a touch of red or yellow. Green. Mother Earth herself has served up a special recipe salad upon which our eyes may feast.
In this abundance I have found myself at a very daunting phase of life. Sounds a bit like hooey, yes? It is hooey. Nonsense, to put it gently. But it is my hooey and my own unique way and path and I am going to learn my lessons if it takes me the rest of my life to do so although I pray everyday that that is not the case because I have other things to do and I would really like to evolve as a human being, keep educating myself and I have goals plus i would really like to have some fun and mischief in such pursuits with meaning. There. If I am going to do one run-on horrible sentence denying that I was ever a Language Arts teacher, I might as well make it a very very good run-on sentence.
Seriously though, in this daunting phase of my life, I am really not so daunted except that the life I am making for myself, the life I need and desire is far different than I ever imagined. There are no magic doors to go from yesterday to today, from heartbreak to nirvana. I paused for months, exhausted at the years of turmoil. Until I realized I needed to change. Then I got tired again. And more life happened.
And then I finally did grab the hands of those women I had been…
I own two buildings. The Esther building has taught me realities of property ownership – some lessons I like, some I do not, but all of the lessons were desperately needed. I am – unfortunately and fortunately learning this summer about the legal system, small claims court and state statutes (Chapter 704 ‘Landlord and Tenant’ in the Wisconsin state statutes). That part of this summer still unfolds to a story best left for another day.
The Matthias Building is its own source of magic. Such romanticizing would probably not be recommended in business school, but it is sure required for the long haul of renovating the building from ‘saving it’ from demolition to opening the doors to the public as a business. The process seems now like the most natural in the world to me. Slowly and deliberately I pay attention to the building and to what it, me and my business are becoming. I always thought it would be faster as it seems to be for so many. I imagined going from near-demolition to grand opening in a matter of months. That was three years ago in my imagination and in my early plans.
I do not know what I would have done, had the path gone faster. I am grateful for the agonizing slow deliberation of ‘becoming’. There are moments to savor. There are the sweetest little routines – my kissing of the support beams each day and my dreams of flipping off light switches in the future.
About those lessons.
Alone on Main Street I peeled the protective sheets off the brand new four by eight foot windows. I liked to think of the process as nearly ceremonial as the smashing of champagne bottles on a ship’s bow during launch. Fifty to sixty-three windows, the count dependent upon if you are a contractor who is looking at openings in the brick or window manufacturer who considered the number of framed units.
I savored the removal of the film unsure why the world always seemed to hurry through celebratory moments or what I would consider modern feats of construction. These windows were installed in a ninety year old building in below zero December wind chills under deadline. They are, New York Saks Fifth Avenue type windows, they truly are. I would have kept the protection on the windows had it not been for the urging of the manufacturer that to keep the film on the windows any longer might make the eventual removal more difficult.
So I peeled. And through the days which followed, I was joined by people who thought the same of peeling of plastic. And that the peeling was joyously worth their time. And they helped me. They gave me their time.
Back to my story of this particular day.
I was removing the plastic protective sheeting a brand new window on a colder than normal summer day when he walked over to me. In a small town people know one another or so they think. Mostly we ‘know of each other’. He is a nameless individual to me although I know him by sight and rarely if ever do three consecutive days pass when i do not see him. I had heard he is someone to be wary of, but I discard those notions with no proof of my own and especially because I am very well aware of rumors about me although I have never heard exactly what they are.
So when a man and especially this man crosses the street aiming toward my direction, I took notice. He complimented me on my work, on my building and how wonderful it looks. He congratulated me on saving the building. For the second time in as many weeks I replied with words I had not used in as many years.
“The building saved me.”
We spoke a bit longer, not stretching that unspoken etiquette of conversation length among strangers nor violating any boundaries of tradition between man and woman. In fact he was oddly cool with even cooler of parting wisdom. “You must guard against fear. Against doubt. Against wondering.” I know I squinted my eyes in disbelief. He caught the expression. “You must stay focused on your dream. Wondering will not help you focus. You must not fear. You must not doubt.”
I stood there in disbelief, unguarded and undisguised in the nakedness of this new truth. (A bit of sudden uncomfortable revelation on Main Street, if you know what I mean.) I stood stunned with plastic wrap in my hands. Although he seemed as curious about me as I him, he did not wait for any responses I may have had for his inquiries of my plans for the building. No, he had come to deliver that message. In his satisfaction he strode off, determination in his wave and backward glance.
In the weeks since I have twisted with my own breaking that addiction to wondering. I had wondered what a new relationship would be like. What would it be like, to have someone desire to hold my hand? I would wonder at the why’s. What have I faced the times I have faced?
Sound goofy, but if the horrifying experiences were not enough I found that I was using the posing of questions and my curiosity not solely for increasing my understanding. No, I was lying. I had been using the continual conversation to search and rescue my past so much so that I could block out my present. I nifty little mind trick, if I say so myself. I could torture myself over and over with the past and the wishes and dreams which were its fruits so that I would not have to think or especially, I would not have to let go. I would not have to let go of pieces of myself chained and locked by the misdeeds of others in a time, place and reason of their own choices.
I was confronted with a new opportunity for faith. I gave up wondering and wishing. I replaced them with action. I replaced that agony with effort to give myself a patience and silence I have never known of myself to my own self. And I battled it every day to finally arrive at a day when I can once again write.
(Please insert long, drawn out ‘ahhhh’ here.)
About me, woman.
Now that is a bit of caveman title. Oh well.
Many years ago I smoked cigarettes. Loved it. Not proud of that fact but it’s true. The passing of my father five years ago hit me hard. I resorted not to cigarettes but to the polite substitute in nicotine lozenges. More expensive in the short term but fairly acceptable socially as long as I did not run out of them. I had a little addiction problem going on.
Finally my sense of economics and disgust in myself pushed me to give them up. I felt the removal of the lozenges was a fitting physical manifestation of the removal of wondering and wishing. The whole process caused a replacement of wondering with action and a replacement of nicotine with gum and lollipops. I was exhausted with uncertainty and an extra twenty-five pounds. Daily I struggled with myself, weaning myself from habits of comfort. But if a fight was necessary than a fight – even with myself – it was. I could feel my body relaxing without the constant zap of succumbing to the wave of chemical addiction. Still, my muscles and brain need to stimulate themselves without it for the first time in five years.
I have written daily almost my entire life, but never had I so frequently as my life from 2011 to 2016. I wrote in conversations with people I had hoped to talk to, to people I had imagined and to people I had hoped would care enough to listen. The only person I found to whom I was not honest was myself.
I look at those daily entries. No, that is not true. There are some yet which I cannot yet read. With caution I have begun writing the story of Es, the undertaking of my bucket list item: the writing of a novel. I began with a simple narrative weeks ago after writing in my head. As a treat I started one of the character developments only to fixate so much on her name I have changed it a half dozen times. I write. I wrote. I declare it all awful.
And then I start again. I have learned to love the process of recycling effort and learning. (That’s a fancy schmancy way of saying I fail a lot but I do not give up!)
Swimming in the Rain.
All I wanted to do was swim. I had worked over ten hours. Twice this summer I did not even care enough about a swim suit. Shorts and t-shirt. River.
In the rain.
In the sunset.
I remembered how much I loved to swim.
Thank you continuing the journey with me. I do not know why but I have become accustomed to my own process of retrograde. I have found little comfort in the process which is comparable to the drawing back of the bow. The drawback feels like failure yet it is never failure.
Smiling I say….
Love to you.
The brick dandelion,