I feel a sensation running just below my skin, a twitch of an itch, and my stomach is a touch uneasy, like a butterfly with wings upside-down. Don’t call the paramedics. These are just my flags—markers that I’m about to enter a vulnerable stage.
Vulnerability is my reluctant partner in development. I’ve come to understand the nuances and remain patient. I call this my tentative state, where a path doesn’t exist, there is no black or white, no right or wrong, in fact, there is only colorful desire.
Desire makes me smile. It’s a yearning that drives me to meet myself anew. It’s like the dogwood tree that only opens it’s flowers upward, reaching beyond. Or the magnolia that flowers with whites and pink even before the green leaves appear. Even the quaking aspen’s leaves return bottoms upward, so that the top branches remain bare, as the wind shakes its leaves. Desire hides behind the ever-faithful rhododendron that keeps its year- long greenery, fully dressed, unexposed as new growth buds.
Last week, I invited an acquaintance over for lunch. We’ve only known each other through writing and from other friends. I remember as a kid, knocking on doors in our new neighborhood, just as the moving vans left our driveway. I was five with my wise sister of six. She’d knock and when the door opened, I would look up with saucer sized brown eyes, “Do you have any kids here we can play with? It was easy back then to acquire playmates. Even if there were no kids in the house, the adults took us under their wings.
But now with patterns set, creating new lasting relationships takes time. I must be willing to reveal myself slowly and pay attention to the life of another. Real relationships create a bend, an opening where none existed before. You can’t rush laughter, listening, wonder.
Retiring from my restaurant of fourteen years, keeps me home in my paradise. I find myself content, yet still yearning. It’s that desire to establish another way that pushes me to seek out local writers, other groups than those I worked with in my business life. But I’m still the same person with the old resistance to driving at night or in unfamiliar areas. I find excuses to stay in my comfort zone, not willing to commit to a project, if I’m not willing to give it my all. I tip-toe, exploring Friends of the Central Skagit Library, the local writer groups.
My friend, vulnerability, reminds me that when I am ready, I’ll launch. Baby steps lead me to the library often. I bring home stacks of books based on whims. I read, I return weekly, getting to know the staff, finding my way.
I dip into the past, finding on Facebook, childhood friends from Pikesville, Maryland, my old neighborhood. Names jump out at me and I click the request. They all respond. I’m overwhelmed that they remember me from sixty years of absence. My awkward stages are what they knew. Because of this, it’s easy to connect. Vulnerability creates common ground, imperfections shared without expectations.
There in lies the key to all relationships—no expectations. Desire’s motivation stems from caring, a passion of discovery. Like the bare tree trunk growing towards the sky, rising without knowing if the leaves and flowers will come. Commitment only works if the caring overrides the stoppers.
My twitches manifest even as I read the stack of books by my night-table. I’m confused by stories written with no direction as in Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Three separate stories interlocked, and I failed to find the connection although my heart felt for each character. I left disappointed that I had failed as a reader to get the author’s message. In reading, How to Read Water Tristan Gooley, the subject fascinated me, but I lacked scientific abilities to grasp the complex concepts. I was more comfortable reading Everything Here Is Beautiful, by Mira T. Lee, and The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad, as I was grounded in the places and actions based on my own life and travels.
My discomfort didn’t keep me from finishing the books. I found lessons despite my reluctance. Examining why I cared about the books or failed to, gave insight into my readiness to open my mind, to think critically. The overriding commitment was to learn, not to master or like any one subject.
Being earnest is an attribute, but I’m reminded that forcing a situation, a change, or desire, puts the me first, and leaves out the connections. No matter how lofty the goal is, I can’t push a rock up a steep hill. And if the rock is important, then I need some help. Asking for help reveals my vulnerabilities. The joy follows when the task is shared, whether the rock arrives at the top of the hill or even if it slides back down.
I have muddled memories that don’t coincide necessarily with my childhood friends. The island Gail and I discovered and named with our initials BRAG (Bober, Rolnick, Abbe, Gail) wasn’t part of Gail’s memory, nor the long walks where a developer was building a shopping mall. But it was what I cherished and relayed to my children explaining my life as a kid. Gail’s fondness for me, she explained, was that I paid attention to her life.
I can remember back to kindergarten, when my teacher decided to have a picnic outside. She asked me to let her aid know. For some reason, I felt those butterflies flip-flopping inside. I knocked on every teachers’ door in the school and invited them to join us down by the pond. My teacher never reprimanded me, even as ten classes of little kids streamed down the hill. She thanked me for my passion, my willingness to share my joy.
I still feel the upside-down flutters of the butterfly. I’m patient. With no expectations, I smile at my desire, and rejoice when the tulips Jim planted last year, found a way to rise despite a harsh winter. Vibrant will—connects me to colorful desire. I’m committed to the journey. Yes, I’m vulnerable. Who knows what is next?
The Magic of Words
Thanks to Wordsmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: Noun: any of various birds having black plumage, an indentured laborer or slave, kidnapped from the South Pacific. Verb: to kidnap a person to work as an indentured slave, to engage in the slave trade.
ETYMOLOGY: From 1860’s to 1904 people from the South Pacific were kidnapped to mine guano in Peru and work in sugarcane and cotton plantations in Australia and Fiji, and elsewhere. Earliest documented use for the figurative sense, 1845
MEANING: Noun: the hottest period of summer, a period of stagnation, lethargy, inactivity, or decline
ETYMOLOGY: A translation of Latin, “dies caniculares” (puppy days), from Greek, “kunades hemarai” (dog days), so called because Sirius, the Dog Star, ruses and sets with the sun around this time of the year. The ancient Romans and Greeks considered this period unhealthy and unlucky. Earliest documented use, 1538
Although I studied the flights of all the birds to our feeders, it was the blackbirds, that seemed enslaved – led to a false sense of security, kidnaped and not willing to take seasonal flight. I worried that this would be the blackbird’s, dog days where their lethargy would cause their eventual decline.
Eyes that twinkle with lips that lift
Hands that hold as arms embrace
Oh, the joy of your gift
A heart with space
Over the years, I’ve distilled my giving down to two main causes: Health and education. Without either a person doesn’t thrive.
This month I’m recommending that we all take more walks, read more, and communicate. As I’ve written in this newsletter, I feel the butterflies and itch of vulnerability and change. There are so many concerns that it is crucial to move with an open heart and to dig deep in understanding.
Let me know your concerns, your recommendations. I’ll be working on my commitments and communications.
Mark your calendar, Wednesday, June 12th from 6PM to 8PM, Writing to Become an Author: The Art of Storytelling. For all levels of writers. Free at the Central Skagit Sedro Woolley Library: 802 Ball Street. 360-755-3985
I’ve past the last two weeks reading and revising the edits Ariel suggested for Founding Stones. Most intriguing were her comments which questioned if my words were “insensitive” to a particular population or culture. The essence of the book drills down to an individual’s core, and how attributes are common within us all. I dug deep into the word choice and other ways to describe the moments. I learned more about engrained sayings and stereotypes through the process. I’ll take another fresh pass next week, letting the changes I’ve made settle, before I review the book again.
When the cover designs arrive, I’ll let everyone know.
Inspiring thoughts from others, that move me to action. Here are two thoughts that caught my eye.
The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.
~ Robert M. Pirsig, author and philosopher. (1928-2017)
It isn’t the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
~ Charles Darwin, naturalist and author. (1809-1882)
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