Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Drifting grace

I wrote some time ago that you can never judge how a person’s life is, who a person is, by the trappings that surround her. A lovely waterfront home means nothing. A long marriage that appears happy and compatible signifies nothing. Gifts of expensive anything are a weak substitute of things for meaningful time with and attention from someone.

Many years ago I worked with a woman who said everyone has a story. As time went by and more life happened to me, I saw with crystal clarity the truth of it. There is no veneer that can accurately predict the glory or the ashes of the book of someone’s life.

I met a woman here the other day, a sister hiker, and we hit it off immediately. How does that happen? How does it happen that sometimes there’s an immediate connection with a stranger, before any conversation much more than hello takes place? I don’t know if there’s a scientific answer but I attribute it to grace - a sifting of grace dust that drifts on life’s current to the two of you just at the moment of meeting. I can count on one hand the number of times it’s happened to me and the rarity and pleasure of it makes me wish for it and value it all the more.

We met just as I was leaving a trail and she was beginning one and we talked for half an hour. I invited her for dinner the next night, she and I met for dinner last night, and we are hiking the Widforss Trail, a 10-miler, on Friday. Over these couple of meetings we’ve been telling our stories to each other and retelling the stories of women we admire as well. There’s a commonality, a pattern, a silver streak of strength that threads itself from one woman to the next. We leave failures, disappointments, loss, betrayal, or abdicated dreams behind us and soldier on, knowing that what we have now, the lives we are making for ourselves now, is what is important. The past is called the past for a reason. They’re gone and over with, those memories touched with anger or wistfulness, bitterness or bittersweetness – they’re behind us, but that doesn’t mean they never happened.

My friend went through a painful divorce 35 or so years ago, has long been happily remarried, and told me she still has dreams of her ex-husband. Oh my. I still have dreams of mine, not often and not ever pleasant, and wondered if they would ever stop. Now that I’ve heard her say she still has them I can let go of the anxiety I have about mine. As she said, she had a life before the one she’s living now, and there’s nothing she can do to make it disappear. It’s obvious, isn’t it, yet I thought I was such a special case that it made it different for me. Of course I’m not special and now, recognizing that I’m not the only one who is sometimes subliminally haunted, I feel lighter and freer. It reminds me of a Patti Scialfa song, Romeo, where she reminisces about someone from her past: “You’re a part of me forever, like a troublesome tattoo.” That’s exactly it. I can never get rid of that past life; all I can do is cover it up, not feel the need to pick it apart for all of its flaws, nor fret about the bad choice I made when I got it.

Thought of the day:

Taken in Metropolis, IL while visiting my sister last fall, just to show I don't take myself too seriously.

One day she remembered that the only person that could make her happy was herself. So she took back her power, reclaimed her place in the world, and shined like never before. 

– Anna Taylor, with thanks to another woman I greatly admire who has her own success story, for sending it to me, and who also told me that some of the people I would meet in my new life would give me valuable help. How right she was, and always is.