Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sundays Are the Worst Day

"Sundays are the worst day," my father told me one day, talking about his occasional

There is something about Sundays. I feel it myself sometimes, a melancholy that I can't quite figure out.

Make it a habit on Sundays to reach out to those you love, those who live alone or on the edge. Those living with physical or mental illness, caretakers, the grief-stricken. Those who spend Sunday anticipating Monday--the Sunday jitters, my husband calls the feeling. Those whose lives are pretty full during the week but Sunday stretches too long. Or too short.

Go ahead.  Make that call.  Send that email. Today. Sunday.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Beginning, Middle, End, Part 3: The Middle

In between the beginning and the end, there was a week at Wildacres in the North Carolina mountains.

This was my third time staying there, and I'm a fan for life. I wrote stories and letters, meditated, napped, ate three meals a day prepared by others, walked in the woods, read, laughed, met new people, heard beautiful music and words. Sometimes I sat on the back porch of my dorm and rocked and did nothing. 

In the middle of the week, we had just finished breakfast when the sun disappeared and a huge storm came up. The dining hall, where I was, is mostly glass, and the storm raged against the windows and blew doors open. One woman came rushing back into the hall, alarmed by the strength of the storm and thankful that she had been able to get back inside safely.  As I walked around the grounds afterward, I realized that there was a lot of damage: downed trees, upturned and damaged rocking chairs, broken glass where pictures had been blown off the walls.

The fact that we were all okay at the end of the morning was a blessing, part of the security, ease, and trust that pervades Wildacres. We have no locks on our doors and all the buildings are open twenty-four hours a day. Every building at Wildacres is a sort of sanctuary.

I am thankful for my time there, an in-between respite from what came before and what will follow.  We (women especially) don't give ourselves this gift often enough: guilt free self-love in a place where we are taken care of and feel safe. 

I am filled with gratitude to the people who built this retreat center with foresight, and to Mike and Kathy who maintain and manage this place where we can find shelter from the storms.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Beginning, Middle, End, Part 2: The Beginning

Two weeks before the End, there was a beginning: my daughter's marriage.

It was a poignant occasion with all of our family there. One niece came from Australia! It was the first time we'd all been together since, well, since I don't know when.We got to know the groom's family too and they are the most wonderful people.

We Potters, as my brother said one time, "always have to do things a little differently." That particular time he was referring to our purchase of a turquoise VW van, but the wedding ceremony in a small New York city park was no exception.  There were no bouquets, no white frothy wedding dress with satin shoes, no bridesmaids or groomsmen, no fancy reception with wedding cake. The flowers were attached to a park structure with the rubber bands they came in. The champagne was put on an old wooden park table, the glasses on the trays meant for the ice tubs. It wasn't a fancy setting but it had everything we needed: the bride, the groom, friends and family, and sunshine.

The ceremony  itself was simple but meaningful.  My daughter, never at a loss for words, admitted that she was nervous, but her hand-written vows were funny and heartfelt. The groom put his written vows back in his pocket and looked her in the eye and said such sweet words that we were all moved.

When my daughter was christened, my mother gave her a lace cap to be worn on that day and used on her wedding day.  Since my daughter didn't have pockets in her un-wedding dress, the groom carried it in his pocket.  It was a sweet reminder of all our loved ones who were no longer with us.

After the ceremony, we all walked a few blocks to a restaurant where we ate creative and delicious food, drank champagne, laughed and cried as we toasted the newlyweds, delighted in being two families happily joined together. The restaurant desserts were divine, and consolation for the lack of a cake!!

As part of the ceremony, the two mothers spoke.  Here is what I said to the couple:

You all know that I believe in the power of words. Here are some times when words really matter in a marriage.

The first is today, when the two of you look at each other and say the words that will join you in marriage. You say them in front of witnesses, people who have always loved you and supported you and will continue to do so.

A second is when you disagree with each other.  Words that you say during conflict can actually bring you closer if spoken with compassion. When working things out, look at each other, speaking and listening through the same eyes of the love you are using today. Your words can be “I’m sorry, I’ll try to do better, I forgive you, I’m willing to find a solution for us.”

A third is during times of sadness or grief.  No one can understand another’s sorrow, but you can listen with your heart, say words like, “It’s okay to cry, I’m here for you, I loved her too, You have my support for as long as you need it.”

A fourth is broader, more constant, and that is in your every day expression of love for each other. It’s waking up and saying Good Morning, taking the time to share the successes and challenges of your busy day. It is a meal together where you look up and enjoy each other’s company.  Your words can be, “I admire you, I care about that, You look so beautiful/handsome, Thank you for listening/telling me that, I love you.”

Use your words wisely during your marriage. Mete them out with thoughtfulness.  Be kind to one another. I love you both and know that your life will be full of the kind of words that will strengthen your marriage.

I know that my daughter and son-in-law are off to a great start, joined in marriage with the approval of all of us who love them. 

It was a beautiful beginning.