If you are a writer, or would be writer, you must read this post. I share it with you because I identify with it strongly. I identify with it because it eloquently states my reason for writing. In my case, I began this personal journey blog as a form of self-expression and without any illusions that I would attract the masses. I wanted a platform to write and nothing more. I hasten to add that I appreciate and am blessed by each person who honors me by following this blog. However, as a born and raised New Orleanian would say, that’s lagniappe (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it means ‘an extra bonus.’). The bottom line is that I love to write, and if you do too, this post is for you.
I am taking an e-course titled “30 Days of Grace,” taught by artist and healer Alena Hennessy. In one of the lessons, she asked us to consider what the word ‘grace’ meant to us. When I initially read the lesson, I groaned thinking, “Yet another important question that I cannot answer!” To my surprise, I quickly realized that I knew the answer to the question, that I felt the answer to the question.
I’d never given the question much thought. Growing up, I was taught to define the word in one of three ways. First, as the prayer that we said before a meal, second, one’s way of handling themselves in various situations and third, one’s way of presenting themselves to those around them.
Yet, as I began writing, it occurred to me that the list of instances and things in which I see ‘grace’ is limitless. There is no set of definitions that can define the word ‘grace.’ Grace means different things to different people and though there may be some commonality, there is rarely a common agreement as to what the word engenders for each of us. In my case, I believe that ‘grace’ = life and all that comes with it.
Grace is the joy that I feel when I look into the faces of my children and grandchildren. Grace is the music of my wind chimes as a gentle breeze rushes through them. Grace is the scent of orange blossoms, jasmine, lavender and more. Grace is a candle-lit room as I sit still in meditation. Grace is prayer and thanksgiving. Grace is the beauty of my daughter as she labors to give birth to her first child. Grace is the love and devotion on my son-in-law’s face as he stands vigil to support my daughter through a long, difficult labor. Grace is being there as my grandson, eyes wide open, takes his first look at his new world. Grace is the sound of rain on a tin roof. Grace is the sound of my favorite songs. Grace is the feeling that propels me to dance and sing to those songs.
Grace is laughter. Grace is a smiling face. Grace is my husband. Grace is having my mother still with us. Grace is in spite of fibromyalgia, being able to get out of bed most mornings. Grace is the trusting look on the faces of my grandchildren as I look into their eyes. Grace is in the beauty of the night sky with its infinite stars, planets and galaxies, unhampered by city lights. Grace is the smell of freshly laundered clothes. Grace is a sense of accomplishment for a job well done.
Grace is a steaming cup of tea or coffee on a cold day. Grace is coming home after an extended trip away. Grace is a field of wild flowers swaying gently in the breeze. Grace is the birds who gather each morning at the feeder outside my bedroom window. Grace is a surprise call from a loved one. Grace is serendipity. Grace is the feel of the sun on my skin. Grace is having the exact amount of money to pay for a purchase. Grace is not looking, but finding that ‘perfect’ gift for a special person in my life. Grace is in the amazing art that my daughter creates. Grace is my son’s tireless determine to make a better life for himself and his family. Grace is in the strength to overcome horrible circumstances. Grace is in falling down, and picking one’s self up.
Grace is being there for someone in their time of need. Grace is saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it. Grace is forgiving, both others, but especially, yourself. Grace is the pleasure of friendship. Grace is going to the mailbox and finding a beautiful card or letter, sent to me, for no particular reason. Grace is helping those in need. Grace is paying it forward. Grace is hot water for an insanely long bubble bath. Grace is having the time to slow down and enjoy the moment. Grace is being alone without feeling lonely. Grace is being my own best friend. Grace is in spite of having three children by 21 years old, I persevered to graduate college and law school. Grace is a piece of ice cold watermelon or a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. Grace is the feel of settling beneath freshly laundered sheets. Grace is expressing my creativity. Grace is writing, painting and drawing. Grace is playing a game of jacks. Grace is playing bingo with my 7 year old g’daughter. Grace is the stillness and quiet of the early morning before the rest of the house wakes.. Grace is realizing that I can after years of believing I can’t. Grace is loving myself, just the way that I am. Grace is reading a good book. Grace is learning something new.
Grace is being grateful. Grace is saying ‘thank you.’ Grace is being a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Grace is the love that gripes my heart when I think of my little brother who died much too soon. Grace is saying ‘I love you.’ Grace is being told “I love you.” Grace is every morning that I wake to a new day. Grace is kindness and generosity. Grace is the faith that I have in God. Grace is food on the table, a roof over my head and clothes on my back. Grace is in the challenges that I face, in order to appreciate the grace around me. Grace is me and you. Grace is the special person, now a friend, who gifted me this class when we only knew one another through FB and not very well. Grace is in accepting things as they are and not as you want them to be.
I wrote and wrote for pages until I got tired and had to stop, but I could have written for hours. I understand now that grace is everywhere and a quality in everything that I do. Grace is in the faces that I see in stores and on the streets. Grace is in every encounter. Grace is the blessing of each of you that I ‘meet’ and connect with through this blog. In fact, grace is the opportunity to spend my time with you in this way. I feel blessed that I’ve had the chance to ponder this question as it has done for me what I intended in creating this blog, brought me closer to my true and graceful self, as well as an appreciation for all the beauty that surrounds me. As I said earlier, grace is — life.
Blessings and grace to you, Lydia
All Will Be Well, ~ Julian of Norwich
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” ~ Rumi
All Will Be Well, ~ Julian of Norwich
I am officially kicking off “Creative Writing Saturday.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write. Unfortunately, when I was much younger, I wrote a story and entered it in a writing contest. I was 10-12 years old. Not surprisingly, I lost, and I was heartbroken. It was then and there that I became convinced that I couldn’t write. In school, I excelled in English unless it involved creative writing or poetry. It was a constant struggle to complete the assignment and I did so begrudgingly. Even after I became a lawyer, and constantly wrote motions, briefs and the plethora of documents essential to the life of a trial lawyer, I held on to the belief that I couldn’t write creatively.
As I wrote in this blog post, for word for 20-14 is “courage.” At some point after that post, a good friend shared with me another word, “meraki,” and I immediately identified with it and adopted it as my own. Thus, both “courage” and “meraki” are my words for 20-14. “Courage” is defined by Dictionary.com as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficult, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” I also love the original definition of courage as written in this post that I mentioned. It means, “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart,” which calls for the courage to be vulnerable. “Meraki” means “the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into you work.” Both words are at play in this piece that I wrote. I’ve mustered the courage to face my fear of writing, and to place it out there for others to read, and by doing so my meraki shines through.
On “Creative Writing Saturday,” I will post poetry, essays or other creative writing that inspire or delight me. Most of the time, I will post the work of others, even that of my own beautiful, lovely, and talented daughter, but now and then, I will share creative writing of my own with you. I hope that you appreciate the creative writing as much as I do. Be forewarned. Although future posts will not be so long, this one is best undertaken when you have 10-15 minutes of free time. Blessings and thanks.
There it is again. The soft whispers riding on the gentle breeze. They beckon me, lure me. At first, the whispers are like puffs of smoke, amorphous, indecipherable. As I listen, one word becomes clear, “Come,” it calls.
As if hypnotized by some unseen entity, I begin walking in the direction of the voices. I am led to an overgrown path that, even though I’d travelled this way many times before, had remained hidden from me. And so, very curious, I walk onto a path that hadn’t seen passage for some time. The brush was so thick that without a machete or comparable blade the path would have been impassable. Yet, with each step, the brush simply dissipated, and I walk through, one foot in front of the other.
The whispers are now distinct and almost insistent. They hurry me along the path to an unknown destination. I walk with some urgency, hewing to the direction of the voices. After what seems like forever, the path ends in a space that is blanketed with fog. As I walk onward, the fog slowly evaporates so that I can see an expansive clearing.
The voices were most insistent, “Come, come,” it implored. Still uncertain, I walk forward as though I were a piece of metal drawn by a magnet. As I lumber across the clearing, I can see that it ends at the edge of a canyon that is about 30′ wide. Although the voices continue to whisper “come,” I stop because I can go no further. On the other side of the divide, I see that the clearing continues but fog impedes my view. I look at the wide divide, down at the steep cliffs and hear the melodic hum of rushing water. I look left and right, as far as the eye could see but there is nothing but more divide, with no way to cross to the other side. Besides, I think, who knows what awaits me across the divide.
In spite of the louder and more urgent pleadings of the voices, I turn around, intent upon returning to the path that brought me here, and back to my familiar path. As I walk back, a beautiful voice says, “Wait, we’ve been waiting for you.” Because it sounds nothing like the voices that I’d heard before, I turn towards the voice and for the first time, I see a beautiful woman about my age, standing on the other side of the divide. Although my first thoughts were where did she come from and why I had not seen her earlier, her demeanor and voice coaxed me back to her. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I know her. There was something about her eyes. Before I realize it myself, my feet carry me back toward the divide, where I stand directly in front of this being with the familiar, wise, and knowing eyes. I ask, “Waiting for me? What do you mean?” She turns with her hands out-spread and once again says, “We’ve been waiting for you.”
My eyes follow her out-stretched hand to a garden awash with flowers of every variety, color and hue. I watch as they are seemingly caressed by a soft breeze. I look around me and the clearing on which I stand is remarkable by any standard, with plush, green grass punctuated by hundreds, maybe thousands of multicolored wild flowers, kept flourished by scores of bees and butterflies that flutter about. The clearing is surrounded by towering trees, the varieties unknown to me, that seem to act as sentries surrounding the meadow. As I listen, I hear the tweet and sing-song conversations of birds, insects buzzing, animals rooting, all communicating in their own, but certain, way. The bird songs drown the sound of the rushing waters that I’d heard earlier. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t see or hear these things earlier. I look back to the woman who stands by waiting patiently, perhaps, waiting for me to understand.
Her out-stretched hands command my eyes to savor the other side. The garden in which she stands seems unreal. The flowers, birds, butterflies and the rest of nature’s gift are unspeakably beautiful, their colors more vibrant, and the sounds more melodic than any on this side. Even the sun shines brighter. My eyes dart from one place to another, so much so that I fell dizzy. In the distance I see a lake with water the perfect shade of turquoise. The trees are more substantial and towered so high in the sky that I couldn’t see their tops. I am so taken by the beauty of the place that I open and close my eyes several times fully expecting to awake from the sweetest of dreams. Each time, I open my eyes, the scene grows more and more inviting, more and more beautiful. This time, the woman says, “Come,” and I do so willingly. I would follow her anywhere.
I respond, “How? You see that there is nothing to bridge one side to the other. I cannot possibly come to you.” She smiles knowingly and nods her head ‘yes.’ By this time, I am frustrated and tired of playing this game, and I tell her so. She laughs and holds out her hand towards me. I want more than anything to take it, but like a tired, petulant child, I turn to walk away. As I do so, she says, “The bridge that you speak of is within you.”
I still didn’t understand, but her statement intrigued me so I turn around and walk back to where she stands. My questioning eyes, reveal all that I feel Inside, look into hers and waits. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I know her, but that is impossible. At the wave of her hand, two beautiful, wooden benches appear on either side, one facing the other. She signals for me to sit as she sits. I sit. She goes on to explain, “The whispers and voices have always been inside you. You see, one cannot hear until they are ready. Before today, you just were not ready to hear.” I listen but still do not understand, “Ready for what?” I ask. She considers me for what seemed to me an interminable period, but she finally smiles, nodded to herself and says, “Yes, my dear, I believe you are ready to hear.”
She begins, “This world, gesturing behind her, is one of your own creation. It lives in your soul, your inner home. This is a manifestation of that inner place.” I was too speechless to respond but I looked across the divide and I recognize, I can’t say from where, the rock garden, the many wind chimes, the many niches where I can hide from the world as I read or dream, the comfortable benches, the slowly swaying hammocks, fruit and nut trees galore, cutting flowers of every variety, a mammoth herb and vegetable garden with all of my favorites, my favorite bird, the hummingbird, scores of them in every magnificent colors, even ones that I’d never seen, flying freely, only pausing to drink of a flower or from one of the many feeders. The fragrances and sounds waft toward me, entrancing me even more. Then, my eyes light upon a huge labyrinth made of large stones, and in the distance, a lake with the turquoise-hued water. Immediately, I know that it is surrounded by a beach with comfortable seating and if desired, canopies for protection from the sun. There is everything that I imagine in my perfect paradise. Still unable to speak, I simply look at the woman with anticipation.
She continues, “In your world, you live, but not really. I begin to object, but ignoring me, she goes on. “You spend so much time running to and fro trying to meet the impossible demands that you place upon yourself. When you inevitably fail, you grow sad, guilty and angry with yourself, as if you have done something wrong. While you ride the treadmill of your life, you forget to notice the present moment with all of its beauty and magic. You forget to enjoy life for all of its joy, wonder and happiness.” I think about what she says, and I could say nothing, because I know that she is right. I think about that the way that I live my life can’t be the reason I am here! I can’t be serving my true purpose!
She begins again, “The real tragedy is the time that you waste dwelling in the past. Almost all of your thoughts are consumed by things that happened in the past, both things done to you, as well as things that you’ve done. You dredge up every mistake that you’ve made, every lapse of judgment, hurt, bad intention and more. The thing is that such thoughts, bring you nothing but suffering, self-doubt, pain and guilt. It’s a vicious loop. Yet, you persist.”
She goes on, “Meanwhile, your hopes and dreams lay fallow and untended to. In some cases, you’ve forgotten what they were and have given up dreaming — a vital part of your growth and transformation. Within our dreams lay the seeds of passion and hope that we can be and do more, that we are more. Without dreams, the impossible remain just that, because it is in our dreams that we find the will, determination and courage to say no to the impossible and yes to infinite possibilities.”
Stretching her hand behind her, she says, “In this world, your potential is limitless. You are not hampered by the past because you’ve learned from the experiences and realized that they, even those most undesirable, are an integral part to the whole that is you. You’ve forgiven others for the hurt and pain that they’ve caused you, but more importantly, you’ve completely forgiven yourself so you can move forward without the weight and the burden of past mistakes, for it weighs you down. Here, the past is where it should be, in the past. Similarly, you do not concern yourself with the future, because while doing so, you are pining away for a time that may never be, and missing the awe-inspiring beauty of the present moment. All that we have is the present moment and dwelling in the past or the future prevents us from the full and rich experience that it brings.”
“In this world, your dreams are merely precursors to the life that you wish to live. You might say that, here you have a ‘clean slate’ upon which you can etch your life’s dreams. I am referring to the life that you want and are meant to live, not one imposed upon you by society or others. If you choose to paint, you paint. If you choose to draw, you draw. Your dreams are no longer dreams, they are your reality. All of the things that languish on your ‘things to do before I die’ list become the things you do while you live. Like this huge, beautiful garden, your life is yours to create in your own fashion. Your outer life becomes an extension of your inner soul, your home, where your true self resides. It is yours for the taking, and the beauty of it all is that you take with you all that is precious to you. By choosing this world, you simply let go of all that does not serve your true self, be they people, jobs, relationships or whatever it may be. In your life remains those whom you love and who love you, and the things that bring you great joy and happiness. Actually, love is the foundation for this world, and all that ‘is love’ is vital here.”
Thoughts race through my head. How is this possible? There is little for me to say because for the first time in as long as I can remember, I see the truth. I spend so much time berating myself for past actions, and what I should have dones, that my life is at a standstill. My inner critic, always berating me and telling me that I can’t do anything, is in control. The present moment feels as unreal as a children’s fairy tale. I feel my life rushing by and I am helpless to join it. Listening to this woman, who so accurately reads my heart, gives me a sense of peace, hope and promise.
“But, I begin tentatively, how is it possible? I admit that you speak of me and my life as if you know me and all of my thoughts, dreams and desires. I’ve long grown weary of being trapped in a past where I feel powerless to repeat it over and over. It is true that as I stay stuck in the past, I await a future to free me from the very prison forged by the past. I also realize that the future is only a pipe dream and for me, an escape from the past. Still in my experience, the change that you speak of is easier said than done and simply considering it makes my inner critic rear its ugly head. And then, there is the problem of this divide which makes it impossible for me to cross over. So, I ask you again, how is this possible?”
She stands up and for a time, she quietly considers my question. And, for the second time she says, “The bridge that you speak of is within you,” but this time she elaborates, “It has been there all along. You see, your power and will are strong but unfortunate circumstances have created a wall of fear. As a protective mechanism, you’ve closed your heart to the yearnings and messages of your soul. The voices and whispers that brought you here, come from within, not without. For the first time in a long while, you’ve overcome some of your fears and your heart is free to receive messages from your soul, your true self, and faint though they were, you heard the calls which safely led you here.”
At first, I allowed my mind to take over and as usual, the critic stepped in and told me that this woman was crazy, that I was crazy to stand there and listen to her and that I should run away as quickly as my feet could carry me. I momentarily considered it, but then I hear soft whispers saying, “She speaks the truth,” and “Listen to your heart.” The words are filled with love, truth, and compassion, and I believe them. My heart tells me to listen and I do.
As she talks, she walks side to side, for the first time seeming uncertain, but she never once takes her eyes away from mine. She says, “Do you recall that I told you that this world is a creation of your own doing?” I nodded. “I suppose that you wonder how I know you, and your thoughts and feelings so well?” I nodded vigorously. “Well, she responded, I am but another creation of your true self, and my purpose is to explain and answer any questions that you have.” I stood up wide-eyed and disbelieving, while at the same time understanding why she is so familiar to me. It is the eyes — I was looking into my own eyes. Yet, unlike my own, hers were borne of wisdom, knowledge and strength. I stumble backward and fall back on to the bench, knowing full well that what she says is true.
I am stunned, but with a clarity that I’ve never known before. I’ve known for some time that my life had to change. I knew that the past still had too much sway upon me. More importantly, I knew that it was in the present moment that I’d know life with all of its mystery, surprise, joy, and yes, even laughter. It was there where I belong. I look across the divide and then an odd sensation began to overtake me. I felt the stirrings of courage awaken in me. It began at the pit of my stomach, and spreads outward, like the sun’s rays. As it spreads, it consumes all the anger, fear, doubt, judgment, guilt, and misgiving it encounters in my body. Soon, it covers my entire body and instinctively, I, too, knew that I was ready.
I turn to the beautiful woman who through it all stands silently beaming, and says, “I love you and I thank you for reminding me of my power, light, and mekati. I know exactly what I need to do and I am ready. Upon hearing these words, she smiled brightly, bowed ever so slightly and was gone.
As if acting on pure heart-felt feeling, I turned to face the “world” that I know i was leaving behind, and without hesitation said,
“I am no longer a prisoner of the past. I thank it for the lessons learned, but I let it go so that it has no hold over me or my life. I surrender all the suffering, pain, self-doubts, guilt, fears and anger that I’ve mistaken and accepted as parts of my life, because they are no longer a part of the true me. Whereas I sought the answers and validation outside of me, I realize that they have been with me all along. I will no longer be a bystander as my life passes me by. I will savor each moment and welcome whatever it brings. I banish my inner critic for it has led me astray for as long as I can recall. Last, but most important, I forgive, both myself and those that I feel have wronged me in any way. In doing so, I release the shackles of the past and open my arms to life in the here and now.”
With that said, I slowly turn my back on that world and toward my new inner home, certain of what I would see. Standing before me is a sturdy 40 ‘ long bricked pathway –a bridge to my life as it was always meant to be. It was obscured by the fear, confusion, self-doubt and lack of faith that I thought was mine to bear. As long as I held on to those negative thoughts, feelings and desires, there was no place for the life that I was to live. I laughed as a favorite poem of mine, Rumi’s poem “The Guest House,” came to mind.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each quest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Br grateful for whatever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond. ~ Jelaluddin Rumi
So once again, I walk, one foot in front of the other, and with each step thank all the fear, pain, sorrows and suffering that brought me here. I walk alone, sure of my path and with no need of the fervent whispers to lead me to my true home. As my inner me knows, my true path was within me all along. As I finally stepped on the other side, the path dissipates. It is no longer needed as I’d found my way home, and there is no going back.
Once again, joy and curiosity filled my being, and this time, I eagerly set out to explore the life that was always mine for the taking.
Warm blessings and love, Lydia
All Will Be Well. ~St. Julian of Norwich