“…The Courage to Start All Over Again”

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been tackling a lifetime of family photos. There are picture puddles all over my living room floor and stacks on and around my dining room table. There are albums that I’ve started and others that are yet to be decided upon. This is truly an intense immersion and not for the faint of heart. It invokes time travel and then grounding back into present time.

These photos commemorate a thirty-year marriage that finally ended in a divorce. They take me through all the stages of my two daughters’ growth–the birthdays, holidays, graduations, sports, scouts, family gatherings, siblings, the feasts I prepared…and then, the remembrance of the dearly beloved departures. These moments in time preserved in photos. And when I see them, I remember the stories that surrounded them. The mother-in-law who held tightly onto her son, my husband and her jealousy that seeped into our relationship. The father-in-law who always had to assert his macho superiority. The ex-husband who danced between his anger and sentimentality. The adorable daughters discovering themselves and the world. My dear siblings, there were nine of us, and our highly dysfunctional parents. And photos of me, young, pretty, na├»ve , trying to find my way through the chaos of the past and the then present.

There are times that I’m judgmental of myself–were there things that I could have done differently? Were there choices I could have made that would have improved the quality of my life and those closest to me? Yes, there are some regrets. But didn’t I do the best that I could with what I knew? I see how I can fall headfirst into that Pandora’s box of photos and spiral down with that undertow of regret. And then, don’t forget the generational trauma that has been added to the mix. Truly, there’s always that which is bigger than the small picture frame through which I’m viewing my life. There’s always a vaster landscape. I’m not alone on this wild journey. We all have our boxes and albums of family photos, and today there are the digital ones.

It seems like human frailty, vulnerability, happenstance and more are part of the whole. They are right beside courage, victory, endurance, determination, love. In life we co-exist with everything both inside of us and outside of us. There’s so much we don’t know about the soul’s journey. So much.

Recently, I listened to an interview with a young woman who had lots of struggles in her early life. She had been full of self-blame and there was early trauma involved. It touched me when I heard her say that she had cultivated a way of sending a beam of love to those hurting places within herself. Beaming love to those memories, losses and old trauma. I think that’s a good practice.

With all of that said and all that goes unsaid, I turn to the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” And I want to add, bring reverence to your whole experience, make it sacred.

To the Places I’ve Never Been

Clutter has a way of reproducing itself it seems. Today, I ventured into the garage to continue clearing out things that I no longer need or want. I chose one plastic bin and brought it into the house. It is the bin with maps of places that I’d like to go and places where I’ve been. And it’s more than that, isn’t it. There is nostalgia for places that are no longer there–cafes, restaurants, motels, shops, etc.–the many places that were closed permanently due to the Covid virus. There is the remembrance of people I encountered along the way. There are memories of trips I took with someone, although mostly I explored alone.

I decided to make a stack of maps of places that I’d like to go. Bucket list items? There were a few stray papers that I had no trouble tossing. Then, there were the maps of places that I probably won’t visit. A rather big stack…the discarded dream trips. I’m going to package them and leave them on the newspaper stand outside of the post office. Someone is going to find them useful. I suppose I could wait and see if any of my friends might want some of them. No, at the end of the day, I want to feel like I let something go.

Within this bin, there is a surprise or two. I find a letter from an old acquaintance. It is wrapped around a pencil eraser, an emery board and artist’s blending stumps. This was given to me years before I seriously began making art. Reading the letter, I am brought back to a moment in time that I barely remember. His letter begins “Thank you for a delightful lunch in McCloud.” Apparently, I went out to lunch with this man, a gentle soul, sweet and tender. He was an enthusiastic student of life. If I remember correctly, he studied the Bhagavad Gita or some very intense and lengthy text. He delved into the deeper meanings of things and he was joyful. His name was Michael.

I had also tucked in a book published in 1999 “the Y2K Survival Guide and Cookbook,” because we wondered if 2000 was the end of the world (as we knew it)… I’m going to keep it, because, well, what do I know of the future. I found an ad for Stewart Mineral Springs. This was one of the places I relished visiting when I moved to Mt. Shasta. It was without a doubt one of heaven’s gifts to the earth. My sister, Kathryn, visited Stewart’s Springs years before I moved here. She said she felt like the Goddess herself (she was a Goddess). Draped in a flowing white sheet, descending into the Parks Creek pool, she felt transformed. Years later, I followed suit and dipped into the icy pool. It was truly a baptism of sorts surrounded by the abundant nature of this sacred site. It is now privately owned and inaccessible. A loss to the community and others.

And then there’s the article I saved on Blazing Gendered Trails, written in 1996 about groups of women gathering in the rustic outdoors to get in touch with nature…and themselves. Also, a newspaper clipping on Staying in Paris for under $90 by choosing your lodging in a less posh arrondissement. There is a whole newspaper section devoted to a Pilgrimage to the Island of Women, Isla Mujeres, a village off the Yucatan Coast. Waiting in line somewhere, I met a woman and we got to talking. By the time we reached the head of the line, she had written down her contact information and invited me to her retreat place, Gypsy’s by the Sea in Todos Santos…I wonder if she’s still there. Sifting through these articles, I am transported. Imagination is a great vehicle sometimes.

At the bottom of the bin, there is a message to me written in bold red letters:
JUST…
HAVE FUN
LAUGH
LEARN
BE YOURSELF
RELAX
TRUST GOD

…AND YOU’LL HAVE A GREAT TIME!

That sounds like good advice on living life.