This afternoon, out with a friend, we watched from a nearby window, snow falling down steadily. It was quite 'fluffy' and fell in bunches of flakes and at times the sun broke through but it continued to snow for quite a while. We wondered aloud if it would 'stick'. We got lost in conversation for several hours as we tend to do and didn't give it another thought, until she excused herself and I asked people at the next table who'd just arrived, if it did indeed stick and they assured me it hadn't but it was quite a squall wasn't it and I had to agree. Looking back, it was really lovely. Here, and then gone.
My friend and I said our goodbyes and we hugged and 'I love you'd' at our cars and I waved as I passed her pulling into the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru hoping that she'd get her mint hot chocolate as she'd planned. She had a long drive home.
I had a short drive and passed the homes and businesses of several friends, noting the lights and signs of life in what often feels to me, a native city girl, a very remote isolated area, at least this time of year, off-season for 'summer people' and made it to the security gate and was astonished to see several inches of snow on the ground. It was less than three miles away but then again, as one of my friends reminds me, mountains and elevation can make a very big difference. The accumulation crunched in the driveway as I pulled in and I thanked the universe that I'd decided on sneakers rather than the flats I intended to wear. Nice way to destroy brand new gold linen shows that were such a good deal too.
The snow was soft and light and no problem to walk around the house and up the stairs. I saw deer tracks in it and realized that one had walked right up to the deck and always see that as a sign of my sister, and said, as I usually do, 'Hey Boo', and walked inside and stomped on the mat and said hello and goodnight to my grandmother and offered my leftovers to my dad and told him a little story about some adorable girls at the restaurant and I felt good. Really good. It had been a while.
When I'm low I reach out to my friends and sometimes it's for an ear to bend, a hug and embrace, and various and sundry opinions I can consider to help fill in blanks and sometimes, more often than not, I seek out friends who aren't doing so hot themselves and show them some love. We are all damaged, just in different degrees.
I often say, 'Your happy is my happy' and it's true. Their sadness is mine too, but I like and believe in the adage that when sharing with friends, our joy is doubled and our grief is divided.
Thinking on this, I thought about the conversation during dinner and and it reminded me of another friend, who lives in another state who I am determined to meet and although we have never met, I love with all my heart because her own is solid gold. She is sassy and spicy and sexy and reminds me of everything so good about 'southern hospitality' and generosity and, like me, she isn't perfect and doesn't pretend to be. In fact, both of us would probably qualify more as horrible warnings than shining examples, but still, we manage to sparkle.
We had planned to visit for a bit of a spell when Spooky Oats and I were planning The Road Trip and besides my heart breaking about all that, my heart broke because those friends we conspired with were disappointed too and I felt guilty that I'd let them down. One said, (always sensible) 'You know, you could come yourself....', and I knew that but I couldn't wrap my mind around an epic road trip WITHOUT Spooky Oats so the seed of that idea needed some time to take root but it did, I think mainly because my own heart is quite fertile soil.
Ever broken, there's always room for growth and rebuilding, and with that I decided to open a road trip savings account. I would not give up on the idea, just some of the details needed adjustment and I mentioned this to my friend while we enjoyed our pasta. I chattered on about these friends I'd never met and the snow outside reminded me of something about Babygirl, and I began to tell her how Babygirl works with FEMA when the tornadoes blow through her area, even when she's grieving for those she lost in those disasters, and how she makes sure everyone even now is fed, with sometimes the most simple ingredients and her descriptions of meals make my mouth water and I want nothing more than to pick okra in her garden and eat fried porkchops in her mama's kitchen and say yes, ma'am and no, sir and just relax and I know I could and would so Babygirl had to had to HAD TO be a priority and my friend agreed, of course. Babygirl knows about storms.
I've seen her heart break. I could hear it beat and shatter clear across several states and she's felt mine as well. She posts specific and meaningful song links on my FB wall in our secret coded language that we dance around without actually speaking and sends me love notes when she's not feeling so shy. Although I might be considered a wordsmith by some, her own words render me speechless and I'm honored by her attention and affection. She teaches me lessons about storms.
My friend sitting before me, as we then ate dessert, talked about our own trials and tribulations (which are legion) and it hit me, like a bolt of lightening and I sat up straight and said, I know why this happened. There have been so many blanks that I've felt like I've been losing my mind and despite reassurances that my reaction is normal and it will all pass, I've been stuck. Unlike the snow.
I've learned through the last ten years how to survive, only survive, (forget flourish) and that wasn't living. I wasn't nurtured, and barely got any sunlight and it was a wonder I made it through the cracks but I did and I began to rebuild after the storm, just as Babygirl does, literally, for her friends and loved ones. I've learned over and over again how to regroup and organize (often pitiably) and stand, after the snow and rain and thunder and lightening and winds died down, and nurtured and nourished and got my own sunlight, but this time was different, this lesson.
I needed to weather it while IN the midst of the storm and part of reaching that point was first making it through the aftermath. Not just picking up pieces and rebuilding but holding on and believing in myself and that I'd make it and I WOULD flourish and none of it was in vain, not one moment. Not one tear, not one disappointment, not one bewildered sleepless night, not even all the real physical pain that turned out to be a result of real emotional pain.
There could be no regrets because all of it led to now. I am the best me I've ever been (battered and bruised but still standing) and that person from before is a barely discernible shadow. There is enough of her to remember and relate to and to also forgive and love and tell someone else, if I'm lucky, 'I was you', 'I am you', 'I know your pain' and we could both learn from it and they could pass that on and that could be my legacy or at least part of it and what is more gratifying than something like giving hope, compassion and love--it's inside us, as if they live and breathe and lead us out of the darkness and into the light. They give us the possibility of joy because we have known suffering.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, ' I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.'
The storm will pass. So will that one. And that one. Another one will come after, that's pretty much guaranteed, and sometimes, they come in punishing waves, like my past ten years. Sometimes they come and go, without a trace, or we find traces in the most unexpected places, that catch us by surprise, like when we're falling in love and are really really scared because we remember the last storm and are afraid to face it, or when we're sick, or feel abandoned or unwanted or unloved or when we lose absolutely everything and think there's nothing after but there is something after. There always is. The storms make us stronger, stronger than we ever imagined. And with it comes a blessing, if we take heed, like Babygirl, to help out those whose own storms hit hard. It IS a blessing because we see clearly who we were, and who we are now and we do have a future, in spite of any storm.