December 10, 2017
When I am really lucky, I get to write while my son writes. He, his homework. Me, writing or accounting. Today for me, it is writing. I have recovered from my Thanksgiving overdose in which I ate the entire bowl of leftover stuffing and an equal overdose of pie baking which lasted for an entire week.
Some of the best work I can do for my business is really in the taking care of myself. And oh my have I been learning! So, in the lessons of my extreme pie baking marathon from Thanksgiving to Advent, I also came face to face with reality.
It was the painful realization that what had mattered to me a year ago had only been important to me. I have had a few of those experiences – when the day, the hour of an ‘anniversary’ comes along. I had waited for a sign of a moment to share in the reverie of both the experience of a year ago and for the time which had passed since in an awareness as the aging of that epic harvest of wine.
My answer came in the painful silence of baking pies and a year’s passing which makes no sense to anyone else. To me, both held…well, held me. But is that not life?
I do realize that I draw the last drops of meaning out of these nothing moments and I know I am overly sensitive but these events caused me to remember the vow to myself about how I wanted to live. In the baking of pies and in the once hopeful memory of a year ago, I remembered my lessons of “twenty-five thousand times”.
In ten days I baked two pumpkin pies, two pecan pies, two cherry pies, one blueberry pies, one peach pie, and the finale dutch apple pie with the finest homemade pie crust you have ever tasted. I was in baking nirvana.
My mother’s recipe, touched up by me:
2/3 cup lard
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sparkling water, ice cold.
Enough for two pie crusts. Combine flour and salt. Cut mixture with the lard until you get a pebble looking mixture. Add tablespoons of water one at a time (that is the official wording…it always ends up being four tablespoons.) I think the crust is better with the sparkling water.
We had walked past the beginning excitement of new direction with its energy barely being contained, yet we had not arrived at that point of tiring, a soreness of the mind in which one numbs all senses in order to make progress, one simple step after another. Our journey had felt as though the path, once obscured, now reached up to our feet to guide us. We never hurried, we never stopped. We kept walking. I had been unsure if I had ever experienced quite a journey.
The path had been simple with stones flattened by time, laid in perfect succession for us, the travelers. Es had remained focused on the path ahead of her. I had seen her, rarely looking to the horizon either left or right of us. I had never seen her alarmed nor her gaze to catch anything to steer her interest away from the stones which lie directly in her feet’s course.
“This isn’t right,” she had turned to me. “This isn’t right.” For the first time we had stopped. My heart had started to sink. I had felt a heaviness in my limbs that I had not felt since we escaped the Shadow Beast attack. But I had known she would not hide what she meant nor would she sugarcoat it.
I had braced myself and the heaviness of what I was about to hear; my mind locking down its own protection to what I already knew was coming.
“We need to go back. I was wrong. I need to go back to the beast, to the shadows.”
“No, Es, no. What would you hope to accomplish? Why do you need to go back?” And I had to add with all superiority and with equal amounts of silly, phony authoritarianism, “Don’t you remember what they did to you? Don’t you remember?”
“Going back is the mistake. Going back is wrong.”
There. I had given my vote and opinion in declaration to the winds. Es would consider my words but I had known nothing would counter her intuition.
“Why would you go back?” I asked with expectation of an answer of philosophy.
Es turned to me with total comfort and conclusion, “I don’t know. All I know is that this, this is wrong and I need to go back.”
I had not meant to groan – at least aloud – and if she had heard it, Es had made no mention.
We had begun, to climb, the retracing, the agonizing reversal of our path. Where the path’s stones had risen to hold our feet, they now teetered as our feet had landed upon them. Where the path once had sloped indistinctly with unnoticeable tips and slants, it had then seemed tiring and wearing upon our legs and our spirits. Our energy had dipped. Es had checked on me. This reverse journey had shown to be difficult for us both.
All the distance, all the positive energy of the path since we had left the Shadow Beast in the field of flowers, we had returned it as an insult to the energy it had given us. By returning, we had destroyed this relationship with our path. We had not realized, but we destroyed our energy.
The beast had been recognizable from the hill. Among the flowers of the field, its dark body stumbled, turning and twisting just as we had left it. Es was committed to her dream, to an image held in her mind, to the promise of the dream and a mission only she could feel.
“I don’t really know.”
“Please, Es. Please, Es. No.” But even before I could finish those five short words, she had descended to the hill’s foot. I had followed her to the edge. Es shook in fear as she took her first step in the field of flowers. I would not go any further into the field with her, but stood again on the edge as I had when she had escaped the first time.
Her mission emboldened her with a resolute happiness of responsibility and duty, in a way I would have never understood. I had watched. Her presence had become apparent to the beast. Its movements stopped. The air was void of bird songs, but had held the wind which brushed the flowers in announcement of Es’s arrival.
Es had paused. She was close to the beast, standing less than an automobile length away. She had known that the beast acknowledged her.
Es had stretched out her hand to the beast. I had imagined being by her side. I had imagined what it would have been like, to feel bravery while shaking uncontrollably. I had imagined what it must be like to have been that stubborn. Her expectation of the beast had been clear. And although she, with the naivety of simple right and wrong and her own blind egotism, had seen no alternate outcome, she stood.
And the wind kept brushing the flowers.
The beast had moved almost to what had looked like an assessment of Es. She had smiled at it, then had held out both her hands. Later she would tell me that she had seen the beast moving closer to her under the brushing of the flowers. She had noticed the darkness now camouflaged under the soft petals of field flowers. She had stood, waiting. The beast, she would recall, had twisted among and back toward itself, folding inward. It had reached out to her, under those petals, but her feet did not move. By this time, the beginning, the head of the shadow beast, was only the point in which darkness overlapped the sky. It had folded back again, among and into itself.
I had watched with mild alarm, an orange level alert if you will, as the shadows had folded over and over upon themselves in a beast of beasts and a shadow of shadows. At the time I never had thought that perhaps Es would have joined the beast. She backed away from the shadows, it caught up in itself. It began to move again, shifting, sliding and folding its large body bending the flowers as it rearranged the shadows under the petals. It never really moved any distance. It never traveled further although that fact took us a long time of observation to realize. The beast itself had been an ominous companion of ours.
Es had stepped with me up the hill. “Can we just sit for a bit to watch them? she asked me sadly.
My agreement had come in our shared silence. “It was at that moment I had known once again, how wrong I was.”
“As I had stood with my hands outstretched, as I saw my hands outlined with the dark body of shadows, my skin, I wondered what I was doing. And then I realized I was wrong. Again. Again I was wrong.”
“I did not feel gentle. I had stood there, holding my hand out. I had thought of retracing our steps. I destroyed a path that had risen up for our feet. The trip to return had not been gentle. And that is a contradiction. As I stood watching the shadows fold back among itself I realized I had made a mistake. Either of egotism or self-righteousness, I made a mistake. I was wrong to return.”
“I had felt….like a trespasser to both the shadow beast and the field of flowers.”
“I had had a dream. I had dreamed that someone called to me for an adventure, for fun. I dreamed of the perfect fun.” Es smiling as though the dream’s memory were a reality only meant for her mind to play with and distant enough for her to never experience. Her skin may never wear that adventure, but her soul would. Her spirit recognized it.
“I had dreamed of the perfect fun, of someone reaching out to me to pull me up. Instead of taking the hand of adventure, I had turned. With the permission and invitation of adventure, I had turned to pull them. I had scooped them, the smallest ones. I had been strong enough to grab their hands to share my adventure.”
“I had then turned to the shadow beast. And in my dream I had found a strength I did not know I had. I turned to the shadow beast and held out my hand. I had helped them. They had only needed my hand.”
After all she had been through and after she had wished for so long to have the hand of adventure, to have the hand of fun and life extend to her, a reciprocation of her life’s karma, as she had her whole life without any extension back to her, she chose not to take the hand of life but to pass the others to it.
“In the dream I made sure they were all safe. And adventure..” Es grew silent, her voice breaking a bit. “Adventure pulled me too. Adventure’s hand extended to me, had rejoiced in me, and held me fast.”
“I had watched the others, the small ones and the beast. I watched them smile. I saw the beast smile. In the dream, I had fallen asleep in the arms of adventure.”
Ah, but such is the life of a dream and its dreamer.
Sometime ago I estimated it took me two years worth of forty times per day or twenty five thousand times before I became proficient. That is what my work now has taught me. Twenty five thousand times it taught me.
I love creating my life. I love the challenges of entrepreneurship, motherhood and womanhood – of life! Some of the best lessons I have ever had have come from my current job. I remember starting again in the insurance field after an almost two decade absence and in a role I have never had, in an environment I have never known. I always hear how a person should never give up on their dreams. Then the motivational speaker swipes ahead to the examples of Walt Disney, Edison and Oprah – all memorable, all geniuses, and all – well, huge!
No doubt they are inspiring but sometimes those examples leap too far. I’m no Edison. I’m no Oprah or Disney. I’m just me.
But I did have inspiration. I have worked at my current job for a hair longer than two years. In that time, I have grown due to my job. I had figured along the way that my progress was due to doing the same exact function every work day, for at least forty times per day for two years.
That, my lovelies, calculates to twenty five thousand.
These past weeks I began to apply the lesson for myself. Why just be staggered by a large number? Why not do something for myself with it? I began to apply my “twenty five thousand” standard to my business, to everything. Writers block? Write five hundred words and I would bet you will want to write a thousand.
Have a huge mess to clean up? Um, do something about it every day. Might take two times two years, but you will never know unless you try.
Feel like giving up? Ok. After twenty five thousand times. Then you can.
The only task I have not found which fits this model is fixing a toilet seat. I finally replaced the toilet seat. It is not a hard job but there was something symbolic about it which interfered with getting it done. But its done now. It may be one toilet seat, but how many times have I worked through a building problem only to realize the answer was there all along.
And, it may be one toilet seat but I believe I have worked through thousands of screws, thousands of toy assemblies and countless little projects. (Including a birdfeeder that my feathered friends still dislike. Hmm…..)
Es looked at me. “I realized I no longer need to destroy myself. I had realized I do not need to violate my own gentleness and my own vow. I remembered that I did not need to trespass my own life of peace and my own vows.”
For the first time Es reached out to me.
“Please, would you help me get up?”
Love and Blessings! Happy Advent!
Lots and Loads of Love and a kiss to boot,