Joy Is So Yellow
I've been puttering away for a little while now at my new address in the blogosphere. Come for a visit, won't you? You can find me at:
Joy Is So Yellow
I live in a part of the world that, while boasting of some pretty warmish wintertime temperatures, is rain soaked, to put it mildly. The gray, the incessant gray, seeps into our pores and into our wollens here. The perpetual damp begins to wear on one after five months of living in it. For me though, it’s more than that. It’s the gray and the oppressive darkness of the gray sky. It saps me of my energy and of my good and industrious intentions and of my normally quite positive perspective. This year, I purposed to up my Vitamin D intake and I’ve found that while it does make a difference, it doesn’t change the color of the sky. It’s still gray and it continues to dump gobsmacking amounts of bone-chilling rain from its gloomy depths. Vitamin D, though it’s claims are lofty, isn’t quite up to the task of counteracting all that.
But as I do every Spring that I live here, I remember again why I stay. The sun shines and when it does, I can’t think of anything more beautiful. My stretch of ancient forest begins to green and the fat birds come out again. I hear them when I wake and their warbles make me think of blue sky. Rays of sun stretch out over my tousled bedding and as I lie there with my eyes still closed, it occurs to me that everything is good and true. Spring is here at long last.
I listened recently to our pastor speak about his own marriage and of how, once he put the time aside to spend some extended time with his wife, he was reminded anew of why it was that he married her.
It got me to thinking about my own marriage - with all its attendant ups and downs. It occured to me as I reflected that if I were to isolate the 'secret' to our marriage's relative success, I'd have to say it is the focussing on of one anothers' best qualities. This is not to say, most emphatically, that the JoyBoy and I aren't absolutely pock-marked with unpleasantness, for we are. Most notably. However, I always find I'm most happy within my marriage when I look (and then continue to look) at JoyBoy's beautiful qualities. And there are countless, I might add. Conversely, I'm never more unhappy living life alongside him than when I'm looking at his failings and dwelling there, in that looking. I'm a wiser woman when I laugh at his ceaseless loving teasings than when I wonder why it is he doesn't tidy our yard more regularly. It's more fun to think of his constant (and by that, I do mean constant) good nature than to feel ticked that he's left his clothes all about (again). There's so much about him to respect and love and admire. Why would I rain on our shared parade by looking at his relatively few failings?
At some point in the life of a blogger, the question arises: Why? What's the point of all of this, anyway? Isn't this a colossal effort for nothing, really?
For me, the answer has ebbed and flowed to become something altogether different over time. I started at first to invest into that component of myself who is a writer. My husband had been reading a book that said, essentially, that what separates the good from the best in life (in whatever field of endeavor) was about 10,000 hours of practise. I determined then to begin my 10,000 hours and so Joy Is So Yellow was born.
I found that - like most things in life - there is a steep learning curve to be climbed. I go through periods of hating my blog and seriously considering shutting the whole thing down. There have been times when it felt a lot more like work and smacked far less of joy. In those early days, I was loathe to hit the 'publish live' button because I felt I could never be sure the post was quite perfect. Now, I begin to grasp that though these posts are far from that evasive, idyllic state, the perfection part isn't the point. For me, what blogging has mostly done is to help me come to define myself inside my own head as a writer. Writers write, right? And how on earth does one ever cast off the mantle of unpublished without these long, dry early days? I see that I'm wise not to resent these days but instead, to view them as an investment into the Self I hope to grow into being.
I've grown to love the little community that gathers around me here. I'm touched and humbled by the fact that these (for the most part) mysterious people continue to read. The fact that what I've got to say somehow means something to anyone other than my egocentric old self is surprising and lovely and bolstering.
P.S. Can you believe the audacity of me, putting a picture of Jane Austin up to accompany this entry? Me and Jane - we're pretty tight.
Ah, you thought I meant Justin Bieber, didn't you? Actually, I'm referring to someone even cooler than that. It's the JoyBoy. And he's away on a business trip.
I am struck again by the colorlessness of our lives when he's gone from them. No one plays the guitar (though really, someone *else* is supposed to be practising, though I don't have the heart to enforce it, energy-sapped single parent I now am).
No one else surfs the internet for motorcycles, yelling out every now and then for the rest of us to come look at the most recent cool one he's just found, enthusiasm spilling out all over the place. He NEEDS for us all to see each one, loving it as he does.
He is one of those people from whom more than the average allotment of life spews forth. We all love to be around him. So much that is yellow and funny and warm emanates from this boy. We can't wait for him to come home.
"You can't change the whole thing, but all you can do is what's in front of you. Write one poem, grow one flower. Bring something of beauty into the world, and become more beautiful by the act."
W.S. Merwin, Poet Laureate
Look at what I'm hoping to get soon! It's a pergola, for those of you not in the construction know. I take the bold liberty of posting some pictures of the one belonging to my dear old friend, hoping that she's fine with her picture being sent out to all of cyberland. Or at least my little corner of it. I love it and can't wait to have one of my very own. And so the ball rolleth... I'll keep you posted.
I don't know that I've felt so sad, consistently before, at any other life stage. The sadness is not for naught though, and it feels stretching. I can feel myself slowly growing into a better person because of it, which encourages me and makes me know that the blue is valuable because it shows the yellow to be all the more yellow on those days where the sun shines. Today, again, I spent the morning at the senior's home. Today it felt as though my heart broke. The sadness there is sometimes nearly palpable.
I was at the end of my shift and was sort of numb already, because of all the sadness I'd encountered in the drab little rooms. I held beautiful little ladies in my arms today as they sobbed with dignity. The word lady was sadly pluralized today. Before this place, I'd never known up close what it looks like to wish for death. So many of these lovely old people aren't negative, they aren't cranky, but some of them are just depleted of any wish to continue on.
At the very best of times, I don't have an overflowing emotional reservoir to draw from in the support of devastated people not able to continue on alone anymore. To say that I'm not a shining example of EQ is an understatement. I focus on task more than on people. I can do happy, but there's very little else in my emotional repertoire.
And so as I made my way to the front door after having signed out in the volunteer book, I felt like a dishrag that someone had wrung out - and ruthlessly at that. As I walked along the corridor, a dear little lady with pink-rimmed eyes came to her doorway. I know now that she was looking for some human contact. I mustered some cheer and asked her how she was. She bowed her frail little head and said How am I? The Lord took my best friend away from me yesterday. Her shoulders seemed too tiny to bear such a burden and I felt that familiar ache in the back of my throat and even tears sprung to my eyes. I looked over her shoulder and saw her husband's empty bed, stripped bare to the mattress. The sight of it was harsh even to me, and I had hardly known the man. The unthinkable had become real; he'd died and left her. We walked into her room together, united just for a moment in shared grief, hers gapeing and monstrously large, mine amateur but growing as I touched her frail arm. I hugged her for a long time, and gathered what remnants of self-control I had left about me as I did. She told me over in various different ways how she wasn't sure how she'd go on now that he was gone. I knew that she would, though. She had the obvious markings of a survivor. She'd been a single missionary in India for a large chunk of her adult life and had only met Seth later on in life.
As she talked about him, I could see that she was one of the few who truly counted her days with him as blessed. She cherished him but didn't wax on dramatically about it. Her love - her quietly deep love - for him was enough in and of itself and she clearly didn't feel the need to dramatize about it, or about her loss of a life's partner. The dignity of it - and of her - made me feel stabs of shame for all of my own repeated displays of silliness through life. She was beautiful, truly beautiful, in that moment and when it's my turn, I want to be just like her.
I wonder what it's like to wake in the morning one day, to look over at one's husband - a many decade's old friendship - and to see him lying there lifeless and gone from this earthly place. Sadie asked me to pray that God would give her courage this week and it strikes me that she's not the only one who needs it. Please pray for this dear lady if you are one who does.
I'm learning what life is like, living with an older child. My Anabel is very nearly 14. I learn as I make my way through parenting a teenager that they sometimes take it upon themselves to take and then put pictures like this of you up on social networking sites:
She doesn't mind that you're eating. She thinks it's hilarious, for all that.
You don't want to make a stink about it though, for at all cost, you know you must model wholeness to her. You mustn't come across as *insecure* of all things. In fact, you think it's fantastic that she's chosen this picture to show her 230 friends on Facebook. Look how whole you are, posting it here on your own blog! That's how little you mind these things. Now where is that picture she snapped of her Daddy peeing which she took using the dually helpful reflections of two separate mirrors? Her thoughts on that? He's the one who left the door open. It's not *my* fault!
I'm learning that many of the things I imagined I required from my growing children are idealistic at best and ridiculously, squashably unattainable at worst. I expected that I'd need to patiently explain things to them only once. They'd then nod with an otherworldly wisdom and move on from there, bettered little creatures, never again to struggle with this same issue.
I imagined that they'd smell of roses and sunshine. And only perhaps other flower species, varying from child to child, because in my mind, I magnanimously allowed for individual differences.
I dreamed that they would excel at everything they put their hands to, for I knew in my heart that they would be unusually gifted children, cut not of ordinary cloth, but of shinier, more ethereal stuff.
I knew that they would be fairy-tale children, leaving harmonious relationships and bubblegummy peace in their wakes. So when I learned that my glimmering Thumbelina had been teasing her friend about her dependency upon Goodnights at the ripe old age of 10, I very nearly couldn't believe it. In fact, I may not have, were it not for the fact that the Mama to the little girl in question very lovingly, very gently, told me all about it. She wasn't the kind of Mama who seeks to bring shame to other mothers so that she can feel better about her own parenting repertoire, but was a gentle, lovely, laughing One who told me in such a way so as to spare my maternal dignity because she knew that I wanted - nay needed - to know. How else was I to help my little girl out of the place which found her delighting in the shame of someone else? My Thumbelina seemed a little less glittery on that day. But she became more substantial, too and less vaporous and more mine.
My Pinocchios, too, become more real the farther through life they go. Or at least their Mother begins to see them for who they really are, which is flesh-and-blood children who need loves and cuddles and no more maternal blind eyes cast their way, glossing over imperfections, imagining them to be faultless. The fruitless hope that if maybe I squeeze my eyes closed tightly enough, then maybe their weaknesses might just be rendered nonexistent is just that: fruitless. It's naive and it's hollow. And it precludes real relationship with these real little people. It makes them think that maybe they should default to lying to me, their doting, exacting mother, so as not to burst her hot air balloon propelling her through her land of make-believe. That land is a lonely one, though the glitter floats everywhere.
So now as I love them, I try to do so with my eyes open wide. I remind myself (for it does not come naturally to me, as I am inclined toward being pridefully perfectionistic) to be open about my own failings so as to set the stage for a child-like version of just that same thing: an open sharing of failings. I want for them to know that they can share all of themselves with me and know in their bones that I will always love them. And I will love them all the more because they are not imaginary figments of my fairy-tale imagination. They get dirt underneath their very tangible fingernails and they tattle and they work themselves up into dramatic fits, satisfying only to themselves in the very middle of that moment. They exaggerate. They stay up late, sometimes, past their bedtimes. I sometimes find granola bar wrappers under their beds, stashed clandestinely. They try to leave quickly on their bike rides without helmets, before I can see their bare heads and I love them so much. Bare-headed, dirty-fingernailed, wonderful little people.