Apple of My Eye

This week’s theme is letting go.

When he started eating two to three apples a day, I figured it was time to take him to an orchard.

Earlier this week, I included this image of my 13 year old son picking apples in my post Autumn’s Promise. He is the youngest of my four sons, my baby, and I admit I’m rather attached to him. With three grown and two flown, I know full well how quickly time passes, and I find myself cherishing things that used to annoy me with my older boys.

Things like leaving his dirty socks all over the house and dirty dishes in his bedroom after being told not to eat in there. Catching him playing video games after the allotted time frame has passed. Waiting until the last minute to tell me he needs something critical for school. Forgetting to take out the garbage, forcing my husband to throw trash bags in the back of his truck and find a dumpster to illegally dump them in because our can is too full.

With my older sons, I used to be after them for such atrocities. My heart is just not in it to do so with my youngest. Now, I see the dirty socks and plates as evidence that a precious boy lives in our house. I know he won’t grow up to be a sociopath because he plays video games, and isn’t it typical of children to push the limits? I feign exasperation over the last minute requests because he does need to learn that advanced notice is important, but how blessed am I to have this boy who still needs me? The garbage thing is annoying, but I also secretly find it amusing how exasperated it makes my husband. Though perhaps he, too, is faking it.

He is the most independent of my sons, maybe because he is the only one I raised while also working full-time. Last year I traveled abroad extensively, both for work and pleasure, and returned to a boy who cooks his own meals, washes his own laundry, and cleans his own room. He even washes his own sheets and makes his bed. I didn’t ask him or teach him to do any of this.

I feel a tugging at my heart as I write this, and whenever I think of him being so independent. I know it’s healthy and what every parent should want for their child. Being older and having a busy career, it’s a blessing really. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if through his independence, he is slowly doing the letting go for me.

Excerpt from On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

Select “Watch this video on YouTube” for some happy, good feeling music…

And the apple of my eye…

Autumn’s Promise

This week’s theme is Letting Go.

Summer is my favorite season. In New England, where I live, summer is balmy heat with blasts of brutal humidity, the sun not setting until 9:00pm, lobster rolls, clambakes, glorious perennial gardens, live bands at local vineyards, and weekends at the beach – Newport, Watch Hill, Cape Cod, the Long Island Sound. Knowing that summer won’t last forever, that a long winter looms, makes the lazy, hazy days of summer all the more special.

Yet for all the joys of summer, it doesn’t tug at my heart the way autumn does.

There is a crispness to autumn in New England that is uniquely its own. The scents of fires flowing from chimneys, apples ripening in orchards, and change permeate the air. Leaves rustle underfoot during hikes, squirrels rush about burying nuts, and garlands of leaves mingle with ghosts on front porches.

But the best part of autumn is its promise of letting go.

Some people see spring as the season of new beginnings, but to me autumn is the fresh start. Leaves burst with vibrant colors before they fall and die off. There is beauty, a hope even, in this dying off that resonates with me. It feels like nostalgia, like making peace with the past, shedding what no longer serves to make room for something new. The leaves don’t cling desperately to the trees. They let go with grace at just the right time. We humans might do the same.

A long winter lies ahead, yet like the leaves, we mustn’t cling to these last days of autumn before cold isolation takes over. We must embrace them, savior each and every one, be present and mindful, and when the time is right, gracefully let go.

The Cabin on the Case

This week’s theme is stories.

The Cabin on the Case

When I was an undergraduate student, many moons ago, I took a Creative Fiction Writing course. One of our assigned books was Flash Fiction 72 Very Short Stories. In it was a story, Snapshot, Harvey Cedars: 1948, that has stayed with me through the years. Its central message resonated: Every picture tells a story, but it may not tell the whole story and it may not tell the truth.

In Snapshot, author Paul Lisicky describes a photograph of his parents at the beach when they are young. His mother is beautiful, “the best looking woman on the beach.” His father, “muscular, his stomach flat as a pan” has an arm around his wife. (179) The image seems to portray a happy couple, flush with promise for a wonderful life.

The author goes on to surmise, in hindsight, what his parents might have been thinking when the photo was taken. The story ends with: “Can she already hear the gun which my father will press into his forehead, twenty years away?” (180)

How could this story not stay with me? It is a total of three short paragraphs, but is packed with so much descriptive detail, emotion, and raw truth. I often think back to it when I scroll through social media, filled with photos of family outings, children, girls’ nights out, couples, weddings, anniversaries. What is the real story, the truth the photos aren’t telling?

I think of the stories and truths my own photos don’t tell.

I took the photo of the cabin on Case during a recent hike with my husband and 13 year old son. We came across it when we took a route we’d never taken before, at a popular hiking spot in my town called Case Mountain. My husband, a few years older than me and a native of our town, said that it used to be part of a campsite. He had forgotten about it and expressed sadness over its demise.

Later that day, I posted the photo with several others depicting the autumn foliage on Case Mountain. A Facebook friend commented: So many parties there, when a friend actually rented & lived in the cabin.

Really? I responded. Tell me more!

She wrote that in the 70s and 80s, groups would drive up the winding dirt path in cars. The cabin had vintage furnishings and even a calendar from at least 50 years before. There were bonfires and parties.

This was just a different time and place at the cabin on the case, she said.

As I read her words, the photo took on new life. Instead of a sad, lonely, decrepit shack, it was now alive with people, voices, music, parties, pure teenage mischief and joy. And within that new life, I wondered how many stories existed. How many first loves, broken hearts, drunken brawls, cutting words, drinking games, laughter, friendships made and lost, regrets?

We will never know. As Muriel Rukeyser said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” And like atoms, some stories exist without being seen, and some truths are never revealed.

A Dungeon of Stories

This week’s theme is stories.

Years ago when I was doing a yoga teacher training, we talked a lot about how we humans attach to our stories and how this might show up in our lives. Maybe your story is a traumatic childhood that makes it hard for you to trust or find peace. Maybe you grew up poor, your family in constant survival mode, and so you recreate survival scenarios in your current life or are driven to earn money at all costs.

Perhaps your story is that you’re not good enough, people don’t get you, you’re too fat, or you can’t catch a break. Or maybe your story is that you’re better than others, self-made, causing you to judge people who don’t live up to your standards or to disregard the role others have had in your success.

While I hope none of these possibilities is true for you, and that your stories are healthy and positive, if any area in your life is causing you or others pain, is holding you back from reaching your goals or knowing joy, you may want to examine your inner stories.

My own example is the story I told myself about money. The central theme was not enough. It reached a climax when my husband, who had earned good money for years, hit a slump. He started hopping from job to job, not making much money, propelling us ever closer toward financial disaster.

I reached a point where I was ready to divorce him because I couldn’t cope with the stress. At my wits end, I signed up for a course on Daily Om called A Year to Get Rich with Purpose. This is something I never would have done had I not felt desperate, believing it would be nonsense, too ashamed to admit that I needed help attracting financial stability and freedom in my life.

The course was nothing mind blowing, just daily quotes, inspirations, and commentary that encouraged reflection on my beliefs about money. I came to realize that my money issues started when my parents divorced when I was 8 years old. We went from living comfortably in a spacious home to a tiny one-bedroom condo, where I shared a room with my brother and my mother slept on a sofa bed in the living room. My father’s child support checks bounced often, causing my mother to incur overdraft fees on her checking account. These experiences shaped my life and my untold story became, I’m not enough, even my own father doesn’t think I’m worth the money.

Making the connection between these events and my current situation prompted a change in mindset. I started to see my husband not as an irresponsible enemy, but as a flawed person who needed help. I decided to try helping him instead of blaming him, to show love and do my best to see the good in him. I began to include in my daily prayers thanks to God for our healthy finances. I focused on viewing our situation as a temporary problem that could be solved instead of a permanent way of life.

The result was that, eventually, my husband found a stable, good paying job again. More importantly, around the same time, I was promoted at work and received a hefty pay raise. Through reflection, I realized that putting all the burden and responsibility for our finances on my husband was a cop out, and that I needed to empower myself financially, irrespective of him. Then my father sent me a check for $1,000 out of the blue, just because, and I knew my story had shifted.

I am not saying this course was a miracle, but it did help me to change my story from one of deprivation and not enough to one of feeling worthy and, yes, even entitled to financial blessings. I share it with you because I hope that you will do the soul searching needed to change any narrative in your life that may be holding you back from being your healthiest, happiest self.

May you climb out of the dungeon and into the light.