I’m watching the world wake up outside my kitchen window. Blue skies, sunshine and brave little birds toddle across the lush green carpet of lawn spread wide between two fence lines. They feed from the springtime worms nestled in the earth just below the surface, and I think here in Washington State this may be as close to Ireland as I’ll ever get.
Coffee in hand I step over the threshold of my back door to saunter around the beauty of this scene. Only to be reminded as sharp air hits me with the coolness of an ice cream sundae - swiping my breath away - that all we view through a window is not necessarily real.
Shivering, I think of how often we are fooled by a visual - especially on social media. It seems there we are lost in the middle, caught up in a web of distorted images that deteriorate our ability to remember what we once knew.
Truth, now, is more often what we feel intuitively than what we hear or see. I recall a time when it was both; those days seem long gone. Technology in all of its glory has slowly divided lines of information, history - even genuine relationship.
Blurring society like a watercolor out of control.
I know this is a hard time to sail solo from the shore of social media safety. It's not the kind of "different" that's trendy in these times where tethering oneself to a group is an even stronger identity than ever before. But knowing who you are and what you stand for is something my father talked about long before it became a line in the famous 1990 country song by Aaron Tippin.
"You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything."
As an adult I have never been much for clubs, organizations or teams. In my youth I wanted to fit in, and became as many do, a follower. Rebelling at those words which asked me to choose; causing me discomfort.
But the years grew me older and a hair wiser with every road I walked. And squiggly as they were, here I sit with you in this moment our world faces today, knowing that learning to stand was all about being rooted for "such a time as this."
On that note, I turn back to grab my jacket - a bridge to the seasons which hover between - moving forward as spring awakens my neighborhood in 2021. I wonder if it will be any different than spring 2020 where the real pandemic (to me) was the explosion of opinions on every subject imaginable?
Suddenly everyone was an expert, and truth evolved in the most divisive way ever, into what we each decided to make it. Until tomorrow - when we change our minds, again.
I cannot boast that claim. For I am in no means an expert. So, when I write just know I write for me and what I’ve lived.
Easily exhausted by the world these days, I mainly stand on the sidelines wondering where all the views tumbling about me are going to fall and shaking my head at how we got here, so very far from one another. No truth at all.
But then again, I have lived long enough to know it is not about finding answers. There, I only find more questions. And the only truth I really know is that I was never made for this world anyway - long term. So, I write.
If the noise is so great you find yourself drowning in the din too, know that I welcome your presence today as I take this moment to walk away from all that is trying to steal my focus, and replace what has been needed to survive and thrive though all of time; the deep space of humanity's bond through hands-on love and friendship.
Despite our differences and across all borders, this time in history where we have hidden our feelings (good or bad) behind a text, screen or doctored our lives to be the best version possible of whatever is trending; where we accept all the substitutions handed us for human touch - is the great sadness of disconnection (for me) generations have ever faced.
So, I walk away from Zoom and my Android. Facebook and Instagram icons. Likes and Emojis. Hearts. Masks.
I walk away to the pond beyond my home.
And If you care to come, to lay it all down, I can tell you about a woman who entered my life from a side street - the path less traveled - long before Facebook. Long before there was a virtual world that could be clicked on or off without regard. I can tell you about my friend, Gloria.
She showed me (not knowing what was to come) how the truest forms of connection could never be found on any social platform, where no one is immune from falling into judgements or comparison traps. Although there are surely exceptions - she showed me you cannot truly know somebody through a window, any more than they can truly know you.
I think about this now as I pass the many windows built into the homes surrounding me. And I do not know if I can possibly convey the treasures found when one is true faced with another, away from the comfort of our world's virtual window.
But for what it’s worth, I’ll try.
With the strength of a lioness and the softness of a lamb she wore her skin wrapped up in layered chapters of pure gentleness, sprinkled with spice and wisdom so ingrained I could hear it in her laughter; between stories of circumstances which defined her strength and stance.
She never gave over who she was or what she stood for to a world who could take you down, if not rooted. Because she was.
Through a few thoughtfully chosen words she expressed her losses in life and how, although not part of the plan, one can rise like a phoenix from the ashes to a deeper understanding of resilience, perseverance and their connection to greater grace and compassion for others, if you allow them to shape you.
After a while, I almost felt I had lived them, too. And somehow it grounded how I saw myself, my future and people in general.
Before social media was ever woven into the fabric of our lives one learned to stand and see truth in action by walking physically with others. And no, you weren't immune from getting hurt then (or now) and yes, it's still a longer road to trust.
But when you are "truly woke" I believe you'll find it is real. And I can't imagine anything mattering more than experiencing that.
There's a surge of voices waving across our nation today - like a banner - embracing and encouraging us to stay caught up in the grind of political, religious and cultural points that cover every aspect of this land.
It is a raping of our human bond to listen and believe the lie of hate. For there will always, always be more love - despite our differences - and we should be living and loving one another as if we are on borrowed time.
Because the biggest truth of all is that we are.
I don’t think it was a coincidence Gloria and I met before Facebook was born, so my identity was never wrapped up in the need of personal online approval, trust and belief in fact checkers or following the trail to the latest news article wanting to shake up my brain.
Most days I'm simply watching - observing from the margins - and it almost feels like a challenged competition that I said "no" to long ago.
I may not be popular or understood. I may not be the kind of "different" that society has deemed "cool" But I'm okay with that. Because at almost 60 I still hear my dad’s words - the ones I basically rolled my eyes at? And I still hold onto every moment I've spent with Gloria who came to me at a time when people standing face to face or looking another in the eye over a cup of coffee - listening - was what we had.
And it was enough to water the roots my father gave.
Hands on relationships slowly coat our deepest parts like sweet honey - creating an awareness of truth that sticks to our soul in the most private, intimate and spiritual way possible, until we find we're standing strong.
There were twenty-six years between Gloria and me when we met in 1998. With the passage of time those numbers simply faded away. I was younger, the recipient of her story paid forward, and twenty-three years later I still know there will never be enough days to thank her for the part she has played in my wholeness; how all of her pieces through the decades somehow found their place within mine, illuminating parts of me I didn't know were shelved.
The first time she shared - you know those first intimate words told to a stranger? They were held carefully and came out in broken pieces that her heart seemed to be able to gather together like an achingly beautiful poem by Maya Angelo, delivered to my being, almost aging me forward.
I knew then I was listening to important information and soaked my bones with the spirit of each word.
Over the years she would take me on many journeys back in time to those pivotal points that change us, for better or worse.
I traveled with her because I knew that she knew, what I did not.
Once I stood with her at the water’s edge. It was the early 1960’s and her memory whispered of rescue crews dredging muddy liquid in the heat of a day; searching for bodies of two little children, her babies.
I didn’t know what to say, so I took my tears and painted their faces upon canvas, for both our hearts.
There were two more children at home and one in her belly. There would be more to lose, more to come and throughout those years there was hardly a moment for a woman to cry.
Another night and I found myself in the backseat of a car filled with ominous sadness. I suppose her husband was driving but I never saw him in the darkness. I was too busy watching her young mothers face, torn, as she held onto the baby boy her doctor said should go away.
He said life would just be easier.
They pulled up to that building full of strangers set to take him, but she couldn’t let go of the blanket cradled firm against her bosom. And that little boy was brought home, right into the middle of a big, loud family who surrounded him with healing love and music.
He lived and died there, forever young. Happy.
I cried at the wonder of it all. At this ability to feel joy, despite loss, to the fullest - all her years.
I marveled at how she wore everything that happened to her like a cloak of many colors and ‘became” through the strange, painful resiliency of this life we each live. How the threaded moments of anybody’s direction always stop at a crossroad where choice awaits reaction, and how well she chose.
Her stories taught me that knowing who I am would only come through the default of living honest. There was a strange freedom in sharing, listening, empathizing and being willing to let somebody see and feel my own scars, and I wonder who I would be today if she had not given me her time?
The world has changed and I don't want you to misunderstand my words. I do embrace the beauty of social media which has connected me to people I would never have met any other way, and the wonder of it all.
You have enriched my life. You know who you are.
But for me the essence of my world shall always be the deepness of a walk in the sunshine with you, the holding of your hand and the raising of a glass in celebration just because we are alive, across my kitchen table.
The raw path of life where we take the foundation of our story and build upon simple, powerful, personal encounters that some may deem insignificant are the moments a bond of strength is created within ourselves and another that cannot be totally fulfilled through a computer screen.
And I know if you were sitting with Gloria today, filtering through your questions - searching for answers amongst a million internet opinions - she would lean in and quietly tell you to close the voices on your laptop.
She would say you're more than enough, and it’s only the simple things that matter after all. Like being present in another’s life so that one day you find you are strong and standing with them at the water’s edge - releasing your seasons over to the dawn of a new day because the time has arrived to pay it forward.
On June 6th she turns 86 - which also happens to be my anniversary. I love that. For I was married under a strong oak tree in California long after she came quietly crying into a Michigan summer that would show her the future of whipping winds across the Midwest, teaching her how to stand within the small quiet stature of her creation.
I guess we were both busy being rooted when we didn't know.
Our worlds collided in all the beauty of a relationship that could talk for hours on end about books and good food, hardships and joys, hopes and dreams.
Glasses of vino in hand. Feet propped on colorful pillows by the fireplace during a stormy winter night or under the shade of tree boughs hanging like leafy umbrellas overhead on the hottest summer day - lifting spoonful's of ice cream covered in plump blackberries to our lips.
I can still see her head thrown back, sounds of laughter ringing out. Laced in delight that we were spending our afternoon in a kind of simplicity where we did not need more.
Listening to her was like a balm to my soul.
These are the moments that make us. When we purpose to walk with others off-screen - breathing in their fragrance, memorizing the shape of their face, the move of their body. It is here through another's story you are given a life-line to lay down all of social media’s comparisons and trends, making room for a heart that stands for something greater so you do not fall.
In a world that quickens to mold you it's the strongest form of bravery I know.
Gloria moved away several years ago and I miss her presence every day. She is a soaring spirit that still speaks the quiet dignity of truth she would never change for anything or anybody. With strength that appears soft, but underlying is big as the wind, she opened my soul to planting and nurturing the winding valleys of my own life.
I am forever better.
Before the world started asking if she was more, she already knew she was. I’ll never tire of her voice, for she taught me to hear my own.
Thank you for taking the time to read about this beautiful woman and how she showed me that relationships are the fiber of our lives. How they shed light on who we are and how to stand in a world that can blow you sideways if your roots are weak.
Social media is beautiful when we can decipher what to keep and what to let go. Meanwhile, I hope you will also make time at the table of life for relationships you can reach out and touch.
Thank you for joining me today! I am so happy to have you along on this writing journey with me:)
Salud! from Suzanna's World