December My Lovely

Oh, it’s everything, I think. To pin point exactly what it is that has me wrapped around December’s finger, is to lose the magic with which it dances onto the stage just prior to the last curtain call. It is not a perfect month. No. There are things; things and ideas and implications seeking to ruin December’s jubilant mood and benevolent spirit. Hurry, greed, good intentions leading to debt, guilt, and overcommitment. We fill December, packing her with too much, and like a suitcase that simply won’t hold another thing, she is left panting, bloated, and exhausted. And so are we. Unless we treat her well. Embrace her, but don’t suffocate her. Share her, but don’t exploit her. Embellish her, but don’t vandalize her. She is meant to shine, but her light is extinguishable. If we place too many burdens upon her back, she will break her knees, crumple and fall.

When I was younger, in my early twenties, just married, and very determined, December was my way of proving to myself that nothing had changed. That, although I was grown and working fifty hours a week, and my husband was coming home exhausted every night after a full day of school and work, we could still make December the way I remembered her. Do everything. So I turned her into a non-stop parade, marching through her floats made of nostalgia and memory, determined to make her sing for me the way she used to. And when it wasn’t the same – when the parties and decorating and hot coco and baking and wrapping and church services and Christmas movies and trips to the mall didn’t bring back the joy and excitement, I cried. I cried to my husband, poor dear. Mostly I meant well. I simply wanted the carefree, magical season I’d had for all those years. I wanted that moment, etched perfectly on my mind, to remain intact, frozen, untouchable, forever. I wanted the dream.

It’s a hard time for a person, that age between child and adult. We don’t know yet who we are and how to be. We know we are us, the person we’ve been for the last such-and-such amount of years and also the person we’re growing up to be, but we’re a little confused. We’re conflicted. How much do we carry over? Traditions are like a garden we’ve spent years cultivating. But when we move, we don’t know how many plants, flowers, and veggies to take with us and which ones we should probably leave behind where they’ll be more comfortable. The blending of old and new is a delicate process which takes years to perfect. I wish someone would have told me that.

For years I continued to beat the heck out of poor December, determined I must be doing it wrong, so I should add something else. . . . Thank God our brains don’t stop developing until 25. It was around that time I figured it out. It wasn’t more. It was less. It was also being present. Not buying them or receiving them, but being. Little by little my blasted determination weakened, loosing its fist around a choked December. I apologized. I told her I was sorry for mistreating her, for trying to take what she meant to me as a whimsical little girl and make her mean the same thing to me as a soulful woman. She forgave me. Today we’re best friends. True, I only see her once a year, but we make the most of it. Or rather, the least of it. Oh, you know what I mean. I pick and choose my favorite things. And when I’m there, I’m there. All of me. I don’t allow a part of myself to go wandering off, thinking it might be nice if we drove out to the harbor to watch the boat parade. No. Right now, right here, this is where we are. On the couch, holding hands, looking at that gorgeous tree. That’s enough. It’s plenty.

Still, I adore Christmas music, White Chocolate Peppermint Mochas, the lights, and especially the smell of smoking firewood lingering in the air. There are other things, too, subtle and easy to miss if you’re not looking for them: less reluctant smiles from strangers, lightness of foot, and something unmistakably positive in the air, something hopeful whispering through the leaves.

I hope you’re enjoying December. I am. Here are few of our favorite moments this month. The ones that aren’t pictures, however, those were great, too.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Totem

Cards & Fudge

Wintry fun

candy cane lane

Candy Cane Lane

Bella, the sweet and protective

Atti, the playful and curious

Decorating

My love

An Effort Well Worth It

This morning I opened my inbox, and a post from “A Winsome Journey” was there to greet me. Maybe you know Jess? Like myself, she’s an animal lover, and not just your run-of-the-mill animal lover; I’m talking llamas, chickens, goats, lambs — you name it, she probably owns one. It’s a regular barnyard fiesta o’er yonder. Jess is very generous with her photos, capturing heart-melting shots and humorous expressions stamped across her furry family’s faces. This morning, however, the post was solely dedicated to her sweet dogs, Seamus, Finnegan, and Lexi. Go on over and have a read. It’s short and sure to brighten your day.

http://awinsomejourney.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/the-constant-factor/

So there I was reading her post, all misty-eyed, when I realized my own sweet furry baby, light of my life, sparkle in my eye, was sleeping not more than a couple feet from me, all coiled up like a teeny-tiny snail. And there was this instant rush to my heart; you know, like when you enter a drug-store and that overhead fan blasts you in the face with warm air — like that, but in a good way.

I must admit that, Continue reading

Surprise Me

It’s been said that “Life is an adventure.” I would agree with this statement, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that the word “adventure” is not synonymous with the words party or celebration. I think many of us — myself included — associate adventure with “a good time.” We need look no further than “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to know this is not always the case.

Off the top of my head I can name at least a dozen experiences I would consider adventures, though not pleasant ones; things I tried once, endured, and will never do again. That’s the idea, though: you can’t be sure you won’t enjoy something until you’ve tried it. I can say with full assurance that oysters, outdoor camping, stilletos (or any abnormally high-heels, for that matter), cities bearing extreme temperatures, prune juice, attending tourist attractions during peak-season, traveling long distances on small boats, that stuff you put on pizza to give it an extra “kick,” experimental skin-care regiments, and outdoor concerts where they permit smoking, are all things I will never do again.

To some degree, an adventure is an activity or process whereby you are not certain of the outcome. Either it will be positive or negative; seldom will you have an ambivalent adventure. That is, unless, you consider trying out a new wattage of lightbulb an adventure; which, in that case, I am not judging you . . . well, maybe I am a little.

😉

Some adventures are not within our control, however; you’re along for the ride whether you want to be or not, so buckle up.

Many of you will know I’ve been away for some time. This is because the last month of my life has been, to date, the most portentous adventure I have ever had. (I should mention now that I am doing much, much better presently, and where the physical issues are concerned, I am finding tremendous relief.) Over the course of what has felt like eons, never have I felt more abandoned, terrified, frustrated, isolated, despondent, frail, and grief-stricken. Paradoxically, never have I felt more loved (Michael Olsen, my heart beats your name), more cared for (Friends, both internet and tangibly based, your prayers, texts, e-mails, and comments softened sickness’ axe), more reliant upon a strength not my own (Father, I am yours, wholly and entirely), and strong. Yes, strong.

Because I survived.

At 30 years of age, I can say with a hundred precent certainty that it is true: whatever does not kill you will in fact make you stronger. Had I been given the option to forgo this growing opportunity, I would have steadfastly declined. Martyrdom isn’t really my thing.

Though I saw many doctors, not one of them could tell me what was going on. Could be this, could be that, this might be related, or it might not, and on and on. One thing they did agree on: get some sleep and try to relax. Hmm, alrighty then. Lovely advice; however, do you know what does not help one suffering from anxiety related insomnia relax? Multiple physicians expressing, explicitly, that it is imperative that you relax. A little counterintuitive, if you ask me.

I gave it a shot, though.

I read — thank you, Diana Gabaldon; once more you saved me from resorting to terrible literature — and I drank lots and lots of Sleepytime tea, with honey. An addict of anything sweet, I began to look forward to that part with great alacrity. And, after a while, lavender candle undulating beside me, I would begin to relax. Once I thought myself drowsy enough to nod off, I would make my way over to the bed and . . . . . . .

wait.

And there I continued to wait for some time. Usually I saw dawn’s arms stretch through my window before my eyelids shut for any length of time. My mind can be a wondrous place to frolic and play, to invent and explore; it can also be a prison. Many a night I lie awake wondering if tonight would be the night the Lord would take me home; shaking and shuddering with such vigor my bones ached and I dare not cry for fear of disrupting the fitfully slumbering beast named anxiety. This was my fear: that I might die. It grabbed me by throat with three spindly fingers, and squeeeeezed.

After a few weeks of this I realized that the only thing more frightening than actually dying, is spending large quantities of time contemplating when it will happen and how. In my bathroom was a whole drawer full of bottles, offering a reprieve from these thoughts; things that would numb it, numb me. But there was only one cure.

Complete surrender.

Just look at that sun! He made that!

Looking at this picture led me to consider something: we, the human race, we only needed not to burn or freeze to death, you see? A device, a source, a functioning constituent capable of rendering our survival, that’s all. It didn’t need to be a healing power, curing jaundice and imparting vitamin D on its rays. It certainly didn’t need to be pretty; turn the sky into a living, breathing painting each morning and evening. It didn’t need to consort with the breeze either, where together their union soothes our bones pliable, drenches our skin in warmth, prickles our skin, all to send a rush of shivers down our back. Wherever your feelings may lie on the sun’s derivation, you can’t tell me that when you look at it, whether it’s peeking over a mountaintop or melting into the horizon, or even simply glowing radiantly behind a curtain of diaphanous clouds, you don’t feel something stir and saunter deep within you; a visceral reaction.

This picture, it is me surrendering. It was taken last week while on a hike with my sweet husband. I wasn’t feeling wonderful, but I wasn’t feeling horrible either, and so we made the best of it. You see, I’ve decided that symptoms aside, if I can stand, walk, and talk, then I am going to do everything I normally do. I am going to exercise, I am going to go out to dinner, I am going to eat popcorn in bed. I may not be able to make myself unafraid, but I can choose how I will respond to that fear. I choose to live. So long as I am alive, I am going to live. And I do this by surrendering. I suspect I’ll have to do it quite a few more times. Millions, perhaps. The things that change who you are, good and bad — they don’t happen overnight. Where this road is leading me, I do not yet know, but therein lie the adventure, yes?

So, here I am. Surprise me.

Hoping you are well,

~ Cara

Sunday Played Her Best

Tossing and turning isn’t so good unless you’re a pancake or a sunflower.

And even church is subject to a schedule. So with that

a change of plans was in order, because I wasn’t about to let time get away with another easy cantrip.

Foggy ears and ringing eyes, I would see twice as well, hear sounds amusing and unsung.

It took a moment or seventeen, but I first caught her tune on the whir of the washing machine.

Ah-rhum-rhum-rhum Ah-rhum-ahrum-ahrum Ah-rhum-rhum-rhum.

Vibrations danced on my bones, turning them a way I hadn’t thought of in a while but should have.

They remembered

the highlights, but had forgotten the whole story, whittled it down to something gauzy and fair, and just a little smug.

A break in the motion brought my heart up fast: LhulRooKlunk.

A tremor, a tremble, a trombone — that’s where I felt her next: in the mustache

of the man playing brass crowns, and Little Walter’s sensational cup. Play, Walter, play

and take me on a journey of blues and jazz, and all that punchy pizazz. I could never be as cool as you, but my toes don’t know that, so we won’t tell ’em.

I smiled at them; them like children who haven’t any idea their clothes are on inside out.

And backward.

The telephone rang: R-rwaaring-R-rwaaring-R-rawaaring.

. . . . . and I really was surprised to find her there. She sang for a little while

until she finally tired of being ignored. Then she talked to that Voice, but I stopped listening after that because she had already hung up.

I couldn’t blame her.

Swish, swish, swish–plink! He stood over that club, determined as beets

to make air soar and grass stick. Air was in some mood today and rerouted his plans; to Tibet, I think.

He smiled about it.

And of all the sounds I heard, all of Sunday’s finest playing in my ear,

it was your smile, sweet dear, majestic man, that I longed most to hear.