Counting My Blessings
I just came away from lunch with my friend Altu (first photo is me and Altu in Egypt, December 2004). We have a regular Thursday sushi date, but had two weeks off for unavoidable reasons. It was such a joy to spend a few hours with her. There is nothing better than a few hours with another self-employed woman who loves and respects me.
Last night I spent a few hours with my friend Rae, who is my boss much of the time I am working (second photo is me, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Rae in Toronto, spring 2007). I’m not an employee, but it is her shop where I teach most often. She has been quite busy for about six weeks and we had not had the luxury of time together because of that. It was great to get that time again.
When I wrote the post about quiet, boring success, I thought again about the process I went through while knitting my self portrait. Brian brought me meals for two weeks so I would not have to take time to cook while I was working (fourth photo is me with Brian at New York Ukefest, 2006). Rae gave advice on the yarn I could use to succeed, and believed in me enough to offer a discount on the yarn (which was over $200 total even with a significant discount).
Ten or eleven days into the knitting, Altu convinced me that the work I had done, was actually looking like me… at a time when I almost gave up hope that I was doing the right thing. And Susan Hensel, every time I called her with progress, said “I am keeping a spot on the gallery wall for your piece. I believe it is a great idea and I look forward to seeing it.” (Third photo is me with Susan Hensel at the “Threads in Space” gallery opening reception, for which I knit the self-portrait; July 2006, Minneapolis, Minnesota.)
Without this team of four, I would not have made my goal. I give to people when I can, and they give back when the occasion requires it. I do not take this for granted.
I need no gold, no fancy things. I have a team… not just these four, though they made that one goal happen for me. My loved ones are my treasure.
How I Got Clear
My father died in 1973. I was 14 years old, he was 40. My brother’s first wife died suddenly at age 27, I was about 30 years old. I have had other losses, though these were the ones which really hit me and changed how I live my life.
It is interesting, often I click with new acquaintances out of the blue… and find out later that they, too, lost a parent when they were a teen. This happens with more regularity than statistics could predict. I believe that those of us who have experienced this sort of loss, approach life differently. I believe we don’t wait until tomorrow as much, and we really value those we love, in the here and now.
When I love someone, I tell them so. Even if they can’t say it back, I say it. I know that some cultures do not say these things out loud. I actually understand that acting with love is much more valuable and powerful than saying it in words, but I try to do both.
I have no expectations of words in return, I know how my loved ones feel about me by how they interact with me. But I know deep within my very cells, that when you say goodbye to someone, there is a small chance you won’t see them again. And I need to know I left things well.
We All May be Right in the End
Petty squabbles are just not worth it. Relationship is much more important than “Being Right.” I would say that many of my worst struggles in life were when I needed to “Be Right,” more than I needed to love and accept. (Accept that two people could disagree and still both have a different correctness to their beliefs, perhaps? That we could both be right and not believe the same thing? After all, isn’t there an old parable/story about several blind men describing an elephant, by only touching one part of the elephant?)
I did spend many years being loyal to people who were not loyal back. I was good and nurturing when those actions were not appreciated. As an adult, I have learned to water the gardens of those who water mine.
I found out, somehow, that I do not have to give more than the other party, to be equal to them. I don’t know how I started with that belief, but I no longer live that way. It took some very dark times to learn new behaviors, but obviously the work I did when I was that low, gave me a new life.
I have very few disagreements in my life these days. My life is very good, better than ever before. I am surrounded by people who treat me well. I do what I can to keep my heart, my feet and my words in such a place that I don’t create trouble or conflict where I go.
Sometimes I choose where I spend time and effort, based on my need for respect. Sometimes there can be conflict even with that respect, but those conflicts typically have ways they can be worked out. No, I don’t compromise my beliefs, but sometimes walking away or saying nothing is a stronger choice than trying to change the mind of someone whose mind is already set.
Today I am surrounded by people who love me, respect me, treat me well, deserve to be treated well in return. You know, we humans naturally spend life chasing stuff… it seems to be instinct, almost, and I am not immune to it. In the end, though, stuff is fun, stuff is nice, but stuff does not really matter. It really all comes down to relationship.
Or that’s what I believe.
(Wow, two philosophical posts in one week… are you still with me?)