Nashville or Bust

The trip that started a longer journey

I Am Woman (and Man)

Today is 11.11. A Sunday. Veteran’s Day. None of this is lost on me.

It is also the day after a tremendous weekend of story, song, discovery and reflection. And with that, in the quiet of the pre-dawn (my favorite time of day) I was inspired to pull a book off the shelf and find something I knew I had read once before, and had to read again. Within a span of several pages, it all came together and then came apart…leaving strands of stories to weave anew. I’ll get to that in a moment. First a little backstory…

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As perhaps a result of life’s passages and milestones, I’ve been making some profound strides of late to get to know me. Ah, a complicated task, especially when said me is Gemini. Two sides. Too easy to get distracted when the introspection gets tough. But something that I need to do–perhaps more than ever. Knowing  this was to be the year I turned 50, I had literally danced into 2018 with the intention to “discover and journey with my authentic self” and “age gracefully.” Like a power anthem I said, “I’m gonna do this!” but yeah… before January morphed into February, I got lost in other expectations. But is anything ever really lost?

Which brings me back to trying to figure out who I am. What I am. And yes, the proverbial, what it all means.

A few weeks ago, I was once again at the church where Jane’s celebration of life took place. The Church of the Redeemer, an Episcopalian house of community, prayer and song, is a place that has become very special to my in-laws, but I never felt compelled to attend, even as I experimented with spiritual wanderings. Through their presence and participation, Bill and Jane deepened friendships with others who, as things do, became an extended part of the Killen family. So, it was no surprise that upon the passing of Red McNeill, the husband of Jane’s dear friend, Les, Dave, Kris and I joined with Bill to celebrate Red. A tangent here, but so important to the whole story, the date of Red’s service was October 6–our wedding anniversary. (Hold that thought! It will mean something in a moment.)

As we were leaving the sanctuary, I spied a poster. It was an invitation to participate in an eight-week, exploratory series using Daring Greatly by Dr. Brené Brown as the focus. And that’s when the little nudge happened. Discovery of Brené (through a friend, always through friend, right?) helped me restore confidence in myself after a traumatic job loss in 2017. Feeling fragile and full of questions in 2018, I took this random 11″ x 18″ piece of paper with a name and book title emblazoned all over as divine intervention. Within a church. That I never really had any ties to, yet held something for me in it’s corners. Bam!

This isn’t easy work, but I’ve been open and welcome to the challenge. Through these sessions, one of the activities we’ve been working through is the exploration and identification of our own personal values. One of our goals (a.k.a. homework) is to be able to articulate these values and use them as guide posts for living a more whole-hearted life. Easier said than done. From a list of 90+ words, we were told to distill to 10…then five…then maybe three, before getting to your crux– two. Two words. That’s hard. I love words. And I’m a Gemini. Shouldn’t I get four? During my first attempt, I got the list narrowed to 36. I quickly tired to whittle it down in class in order to say I was done. However, I wasn’t really settled and after some inspirational moments this weekend, I decided to backtrack and try again. This is what it looked like yesterday afternoon:

 

 

While I played with these words, putting them in buckets and developing potential story lines, I realized there was a word missing. And, of course, it was a word I wanted. But, before committing to it, I needed to reach back to the source of where I first truly became invested and baffled by it. Enter the book and my pre-dawn reading. And then the picture that fell out from between its pages. A question and answer all in one.

 

So, backstory to backstory and something I’ve shared before, this book was given to me by a high-school friend, A.J., who now lives in Australia. A.J. and I didn’t really become friends until our senior year, and as life has it, we wandered in different directions, only to be reconnected through Facebook. When Dave was first diagnosed with cancer in 2010, A.J. spied one of my posts and sent this book to me, along with a copy of the Woody Allen movie, What’s Up Doc? Intrigued by the note he sent with the book, I read a few chapters while Dave was in chemo. But truth be told, by title alone, I really didn’t want the book to be seen. I was too worried it would freak Dave and the kids out. So I set it aside. When Dave was diagnosed with cancer: the sequel in 2015, I quietly pulled this book out of the closet and carried it around. I read a bit more and underlined some things. The chapter I needed today was the one that perplexed me the most and caused me to retire the book for a second time. It’s also where I randomly stashed this picture as a bookmark. Why? I have no earthly idea…

This is the only picture that I have of Dave’s grandmother, Nellie (on the left) and my grandmother, Max (on the right) together. It was taken in my parents home over 18 years ago when Grandma Max came out from California for a visit. Jane and my Mom decided to get us all together for a lovely lunch and visit. The only other time these two women were together in the same place was at our wedding a scant decade prior. Two very different women from two very different places. Similar to my Mom and Jane.

When this picture slipped out and I picked it up, I saw something in it that I had never seen before. Smack dab in-between Grammy Great and Great-Gram Max, is a picture of Brandon (our first son) on the day he was born. And with that, all of this came together. You see, the word I was wrangling with and the word I’m realizing is at the center of me is interdependence. I cannot exist without. We all are a part of everything. And, to really understand interdependence, you need to get a grasp on impermanence, which is the reason why A.J. sent me that book.

These two women, the paternal grandmothers, and their shared great-grandson were a glimmer to everything that is inside of me and everything that I will be a part of. And all of that comes to being through change. I could really thread this back far but I’ll pick it up with my parent’s decision to start a business when I was 12, which moved us to a different county, which eventually put me in a high school that didn’t always bring me joy but helped me understand that sometimes it is the people you meet on the fringe that have the most impact. Through my “tortured” high school experience (aren’t they all?), the only thing I wanted to do post-graduation was run away from anything and everything that was California…which put me on the East Coast into another campus situation that wasn’t good for me…and as what seemed like an irrational response to a face-down moment, I got the wild hair to change my perspective and transfer to a school in Boston. A twist of fate brought me to Dave’s apartment and an eventual degree led me to a laundry list of advertising agency experience that eventually kicked me in the teeth. Somewhere in there, Dave and I bought a house in Fort Thomas, which led me to friendships of my own, that threaded into other friendships and the share of a book. That book brought me to a poster in a church–that I would have never been in had I not been married on October 6–to a jumble of words on paper, to something I have always known but am just now starting to discover.

We are but ash. Dust. Particles of all the other cosmic dust that has swirled around and will always be. I am everything and empty. I am Woman and Man and stardust, moonlight and sunshine. I am. And this is now something I can write down on my homework sheet today. ~ Jacqui

 

P.S.– this caught my eye as I worked through this entry…

 

 

November 11, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Baby Thoughts

Earlier today, Dave and I had to run down to the credit union to sign some papers. While waiting in the lobby, I noticed a man in his late 20s/early 30s seated near by. I assumed that he was next in line to speak to a manager so I really didn’t think about it too much.

Moments later, a woman about his same age with a baby came out of the back area. It didn’t take but a few moments to realize this was a sweet little family and the woman actually worked at the credit union. Dad had brought their baby girl down so that mom could nurse her in the back room and spend a little of her break with their daughter.

As mom handed dad the baby and they chatted about their evening plans, dad bounced said baby, gently patting and rubbing her back in that very instinctual, “I-now-have-a-baby-in-my-arms-and-I-must-protect-sway-and-pat” sort of way. While the murmur of conversation continued, their sweet babe looked at me over her dad’s shoulder. We locked eyes and, catching my smile, she smiled back at me–fist in mouth, head to the side, cheeks gauzy, eyes big and dreamy.

She looked down, and looked up again before we both looked away. Smiling.

It was at in that second I thought of how wonderful it must be to have a total stranger look at you with admiration and joy, seeing nothing but the light inside of you.

I then thought, what if we were to have that same sort of exchange with everyone we encounter? What if we were to gaze with eyes full of humanity and acknowledgement instead of looking away or worse, not seeing at all? What if we were to take a split second to simply recognize that inside each of us there rests a potential?

As we grow, we make choices. Not all of them are good. But not all of them are bad, either. What if we were to project a bit more grace and encouragement and really hope for the best in one another, people we know and strangers in kind? What if we tried?

As I sat there in the credit union I thought, perhaps, there is something to that. ~ Jacqui

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment