Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Letting Go.

tom and boo on the rocking chairA few weeks ago I gave up. Surrendered. Let it all go. Threw a private tantrum. Held a pity party for one. Screamed silent rage.

What exactly brought me to this place? What triggered it? How did I go from, life is pretty good to life is fucking shit? Why did I switch stations? Which straw broke the camel’s back?

I don’t know.

I wasn’t exactly blindsided but I didn’t see the point tipping either. Nor the stubborn brick wall that refused to budge. I only knew that I was too tired and weary to figure out a way around it. Or through it. Over or under. The gloves were off. I threw in the towel.

I’m not talking about your garden-variety physical tiredness, the kind that takes well to sensible homespun cures. A long hot luxurious bath. Lazy afternoon nap in the sun. Curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. Or simply getting a good night’s sleep with nothing but candy-coated honeysuckle dreams.

I’m talking about a malaise that at times appears so dark and impenetrable. So suffocating yet seductive. Like a Dark Hero who feeds off the tiredness deep inside my soul. The relentlessness of daily life becomes intolerable. The path is overgrown with thickets and prickly thorns. Abandoned by my guide, I grope for a lifeline. I struggle to keep my head above water.

The dove does not appear with the olive leaf.

Little back story. Two things happened in my first year of University. I got pregnant. And I made a conscious decision to be a better person. Partly for my son’s sake, but mostly for mine. I wanted us to have a bigger life than the one Ma and The Old Man lived. This notion, along with a burning desire to prove that I wasn’t a total loser, fueled my passions. Colored my every move.

I was highly motivated. I became a triple, possibly quadruple, Type-A Person. I had much to prove. I was a driven woman on a mission to change everything about myself that I deemed unworthy. Nothing worse than that.

With this ambitious desire for self-improvement came a lifelong pursuit of all things spiritual. I not only walked away from Christ Lutheran Church but I kicked any form of Christianity to the curb. I didn’t walk away from God, just the institution of religion and all that it entailed.

I wanted a deeper, more authentic relationship with my higher power. I wanted something real and meaningful. Personal and gritty. Truthful. No holds barred. I also wanted to feel better.

I became a seeker. Not just of wisdom. But of peace and beauty and truth. And the cynosure, my everlasting muse, love.

Along the way, I discovered my personal gurus and motivational mentors. Everyone from pop-psychology writers to spiritual superstars. Philosophers to fiction writers. Kindergarteners to Doctorates. From famous television hosts to an intimate circle of girlfriends. Colleagues and classmates. Poets. Artists. Musicians. Healers and helpers. All wise, witty and wonderful.

I voraciously read the books. Listened to the audio tapes. Recited the positive affirmations. Attended the lectures. Filled countless pages with lists of things I was grateful for. Gave thanks for everything, and everyone, from Gandhi to Mother Goose. I kept careful watch over my thoughts. Fearful that any negativity might manifest some really bad juju.

Thoughts become things. We are the creators of our world.

I smiled serenely. Like Buddha. Bowed my head. Breathed in the good and let out the bad. Walked barefoot. Sat silently. Practiced yoga and meditation. Got in touch with my body, mind and spirit. I did the cha cha cha.

All these things helped.

But there are times when it is exhausting. Bloody hard work. Being good, and constantly striving to be better, possibly vying for sainthood even, is downright taxing. Every now again it makes me cranky. Just like the two-year old lying on the concrete floor in the middle of the frozen food aisle at Walmart, I throw one hell of a tantrum.

The fortunate thing these days, few witness the thrashing and kicking and wailing at the top of my lungs.

No. No. No. Life’s not fair, I whimper.

I don’t want to be good, better, best. I don’t give a shit about my higher self. I want to hang out in the Dark Side. Amongst the shadowy villains. Monsters and miserable men. Mess around with Lucifer and his gang.

I don’t want to play nice.

It’s at this humbling and spirit-siphoning dead end that I surrender all. Every last bit. I just let go. Hand over the reins to God, the universe, Mother Earth, my Guardian Angel Franny and her sister Zoe.

It usually takes about a week to release the sad, frightened, angry, resentful, jealous, lonely, toxic little child that sometimes grows insidiously within the grown-up me.

To finish this business, I don’t go anywhere exotic. I don’t check into a hotel under an assumed name and have an exorcism performed. No bed rest nor hospital stay is required.

I just stop. Listen to the quiet voice within. Cut myself some slack. Then let go.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Unfinished Business.

IMG_0676It was inevitable. Bound to happen. I’d reach a certain age and life stage.  Then bam. Smack. Thump. I’d start thinking about unfinished business.

Well here I am. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Right on track.

On the one hand I think, ‘Yay for me. Look at all I’ve done. Little Miss Smarty Pants.’  Then the grim reality sets in. The ugly truth. The road ahead is shorter than the road behind.  Then I think, ‘I’m just getting started. I haven’t done anything yet.  Shit.’

Age and stage notwithstanding, two things over the past year triggered this obsessive unfinished thinking.  E’s cancer diagnosis.  And a painting of Ma’s that I pulled out of storage.

Dealing with E’s cancer has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion.  I’ve felt a rainbow of emotions.  From fear to anger to sadness to joy.  And now gratitude.  This experience has reminded me of the fragile and fleeting nature of life.  How quick it all passes.  The cliche is true. Time flies.  Especially the older you get.  I can barely catch my breath on some days. I just want to scream, ‘slow down!’  I want to freeze frame the good stuff.  Fortunately, the older I get the more I realize it’s all good stuff.  Regardless of how it may appear on the surface.  I want to hold on tight.  Squeeze the life out of every last thing.

I’m overwhelmed at times by the immensity of this thing called life.  The fact that we’re here at all is utterly astonishing when you think about it.  Big bangs and creation debates aside, it’s mind blowing.

Then there’s the insignificance of my little life in the grand scheme of things. My humble place in this mysterious cosmic eternal universe.  We are all less than a blip on the radar of time.  Practically nothing.  Or perhaps not?  Why are we here anyway?  I don’t know.  But I want to know.  This, and the answers to about a million other philosophical and spiritual questions.  I’m a seeker.

I’m pretty sure that this pursuit will be the biggest business I’ll leave unfinished.

Then there’s Ma’s painting.  The unfinished one.  I found it in the attic at 204 after she died.  Vibrant yellow and orange color streaks across the canvas with etherial wisps and airy brushstrokes.  From a distance it looks finished.  A bit abstract for Ma’s typical style, but done. It’s only when you get up close that you see that it isn’t finished at all.  Not by a long stretch.  You can see that the yellow and orange were just the beginning.  The first few layers.  The background for the real painting.  Up close you can see the pencil marks where she had sketched in the foreground images.  The Sleeping Giant on the horizon.  Sail boats reflected in the water.  I don’t know for sure.  I only know that this painting was intended to be so much more than what was left behind.

Over the past year, I have spent time contemplating this painting.  I have struggled with the desire to finish it.  Complete this one little piece of her work here on earth.  But I won’t.  This is her unfinished business.  Not mine.  And quite frankly, none of my business.

But this painting is a gentle reminder of all the things that are my business to finish.  Truth is, I know I will go to my grave with tons of things left undone.  Not sure I’m okay with that.

Ironically, I love lists but I’m not a bucket list person.  At least not in the formal sense, with an actual physical list.  Like the one I make at work every day. I think I’m too lazy to sit down and compile such a thing.  Or maybe mine would be too long.  Endless.  From here to eternity.  It would take me forever.  When people talk about checking something off their bucket list, I’m perplexed.  Where do they find the time to both make the list and do all that shit on it?

Having said all that, I do have things I still want to do.  I also have things I wish I had done when I was younger.  These are the things that require a much more youthful body and brain.  C’est la vie.

So I focus on what I can still do.

Instead of attempting to accomplish, achieve, attain or actualize, I focus on what really matters.

When do I start?  Here.  This place.  This present moment.  As much as possible, I try to stay in the now.

What can I do right this minute to have a more meaningful life?  It doesn’t matter.  Meaning can be found in anything. And everything.  Doing the laundry.  Mowing the lawn.  Climbing a rock.  Soaring from the top of a mountain.  Lying on my back gazing at the sky. Kissing my love goodnight.  Holding the hand of the broken hearted.  Eating spaghetti. Writing a song. Running barefoot through the grass. Standing still.  The list is endless.  And very personal.  That’s the supreme beauty of it.

Who can I surround myself with?  Who are my people?  My tribe?  My dear ones?  They’re already here. Every last one of them.  And more will come.  Some will leave when our business together is done.

Where do I need to be to make a difference in the world?  Make it a better place than when I arrived?  Improve someone’s life, even in the smallest way?  Everywhere. Anywhere. People need help all over the place.  In my own home.  At work.  Down the road.  Across the street.  The country.  The ocean.  The earth.

How do I get it done? One baby step at a time. Occasional giant leaps.   Little tiptoes.  One foot in front of the other.  Maybe I’ll strap on a cape or sprout a pair of wings.  I don’t know.  I just know I’m going to die trying.

Why bother with all of this hullabaloo? Why not?  Just because.  That’s all I got.

I’ll take a crack at some dreams.  Hatch a few more schemes.  Make a new plan or two.  Write another story.  Wish upon a star.  Cause a ruckus.  Blow out a few more candles on the cake.  And keep going down the road.  For as long as I’ve got.

Will I die with some business left unfinished?  Most undoubtably so.  I am a work in progress, after all.

Just like Ma’s painting.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: My Best Friend Forever.

B at Boulevard Lake posing in bellbottoms.

B at Boulevard Lake posing in bellbottoms.

I have a best friend.  Ma always told me that if I had one really good friend in life, then I was truly blessed.  She was right.  And I do.  I was reminded of this on Saturday when a little package arrived just for me.

Little back story.  We met when we were both sixteen.  My recollections of our first meeting are hazy, veiled in layers of years. I think we were introduced at a party.  Why not?  We were teenage girls.  That initial contact put us into each other’s orb for life.

We might have met sooner, had we grown up in the same neighborhood.  The world is small in a small town but even smaller when you’re a little kid.  Now when I look back, there were many opportunities for us to have met before that night. The Old Man delivered bread to their house. Our neighborhoods weren’t that far apart.  We were both Finlanders.  But back then, I never wandered too far away from 204.

We had been going to the same high school for two years before the party and yet we had never crossed paths.  We were in different academic programs and travelled in different circles.  I was a band nerd and had trouble making eye contact.  She was one of the admin girls and painfully shy.

But once we were introduced that all changed.  Wham!  She’s in my universe and we’re bumping into each other everywhere.  Hallways. Gymnasium.  Cafeteria.  Washrooms.  Schoolyard.

We had a lot in common.

Soon we were walking home from school together. Sometimes we would stop at the corner before heading on our separate ways. These conversations that so absorbed us; it was impossible to let go. Other times she would come to my house for tea and the fresh-baked cookies Ma always had waiting for us.  Our discussions were large and deep for two teenage girls.

B and pregnant Boo on the shores of Lake Superior.

B and pregnant Boo on the shores of Lake Superior.

We explored everything.  No topic was off limits. We wondered and pondered.  Probed and mused.  Drilled down deep to places most young girls that age would never have contemplated.  The subject matter wasn’t always full of profundity however, nor was it terribly serious.  We were sixteen after all.  We talked about boys a lot.  She had a steady boyfriend.  I did not.  At times I lived vicariously through her romance.  It was fun.  And safer.

We were tender and sensitive.  Lovely and sweet.  Gentle and kind.  Creative and imaginative.  We both liked to write and sew and do crafty things.  We combed through teenage magazines and picked out fashions we loved.  One of our favorite haunts was the fabric department at Eaton’s.  She was a brilliant sewer.  I was accomplished enough but nowhere near as gifted as her.  She could have been a fashion designer.  That’s how good she was.

We were poets and Philosopher Princesses.  Our hearts were broken often.  Not just from love gone wrong.  But from all the pain, suffering and heartache we saw in the world. Everything touched our young fragile spirits.   We were emotional risk takers, willing to go out on a limb.  Fall.  Break.  And when we did, we helped each heal.

We laughed our faces off.  And cried until we were exhausted.  We ranted.  And raved.  We sang along to our favorite records.  And danced like wild girls in my small upstairs bedroom.

She taught me yoga and the power of meditation. Macrame and how to make the perfect square knot.  The fine art of stringing colorful beads into gorgeous necklaces. She gave me a slip from her mom’s African violet and taught me how to grow my first plant.

We hung out at local dives and smoked cigarettes and drank coffee until we were shaking from nerves rattled by too much caffeine and nicotine.  We wrestled with our own mortality.  Danced with our inner demons.  Contemplated what it was like on the other side of this life.  We were complex young women.  We were simple teenage girls.

B with my son having a tea party.

B with my son having a tea party.

We shared dreams.  Held secrets.  An unbreakable bond.  Sisters of the soul.  Best friends.  We got each other.  Really dug one another.  Like we were cut from the same cloth.  We were sisters from different mothers.

We marvel that this friendship of ours has endured decades.  We’ve gone from Teen Girl Warriors to Wise Crone Goddesses.  We can be apart for years, barely keep in touch, and reconnect in a heart beat. We’ve been through first loves, marriages and separations.  We’ve had children and watched them grow into beautiful adults. We’ve lost loves and discovered new ones in unexpected places. We’ve said goodbye to parents and stood at gravesides. We’ve been through a lot together and apart.  Yet one truth remains.  I’ve always known that no matter what, she had my back.  And I had hers.

Last week, she posted a note on my Facebook timeline.

“Did I receive the pkg?”

“I got a notification but didn’t know who it was from.  I was going to pick it up on Saturday,” I posted in response.

I love surprises.  On Saturday afternoon while E and I were running errands we stopped into the local grocery store, where the post office is tucked away in one corner.  I picked up the parcel, which was light and rattle-free.  Its weight and silence only added to its delicious mystery.  E picked up a couple of pints of ice cream that were on sale and headed to the checkout.  While he was waiting in line, I went outside.

B's original design vintage sundress inspired chef's apron.

B’s original design vintage sundress inspired chef’s apron.

Suddenly I was sixteen again.  I couldn’t wait to get home.  Standing next to the row of grocery carts, I thought to myself, I’ll just take the tape off.  But once the tape was removed, I couldn’t stop. It was like Pandora’s Box.  Too tempting.  Before E was through the checkout I had one end of the brown wrapper removed and was opening the box.

And there it was.  Wrapped in green tissue, sealed with gold stickers, and inscribed with five precious words, “made with love for Bonney.”  An original design by B.  Vintage sundress inspired chef’s apron.  Meticulously crafted with attention to every detail.  Sweet whimsical buttons in yellow red and blue set on tiny pink flowers.  Wonder-filled.

There isn’t a word for the delight I felt at that moment.

Once home, and in the privacy of my sacred writing space, I held up this beloved gift to take in its full magnificence.  It was like I was holding B in my arms.  Love was radiating from every thread.

Tucked in the pocket of the apron was her “go to” dessert.  Plum Clafoutis.  I will make this my “go to” dessert too.

Her final instruction to me on the pink post-it note included in the package, read simply. “Enjoy!”

And I will.  Oh yes I will.

Footnote: Last summer when I was back East for my brother’s wedding anniversary B and I had a glorious visit.  It was brief, just one afternoon but long enough to reconnect.  She took me out to see her beautiful garden.  Everything she touches blooms and blossoms abundantly. One flower in particular captured my attention. The Brown Eyed Susan.  In the package, with the apron, was an envelope with one last note from B.  It was filled with Brown Eyed Susan seeds from her garden.  “Scatter them in spring and let nature take its course,” she wrote.

Yes, my dear friend.