Gratitude Practice

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My week, and subsequently my weekend, was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Anybody who has ever tried to run their own business, or who has to submit themselves to regular public scrutiny can probably relate pretty well to the way things went for me last week.

I had a few confidence shudders. A few squealing belts under my hood that wanted attention. Fortunately I have a pretty great support system. The mechanics of my life stepped in and told me what the trouble was, I listened to their expert advice, even if I didn’t want to pay what it cost in self-reflection. In the end, I chose the path of GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT.

After the tears and the fears started to wane enough to see a clear route, I stopped to reflect on gratitude. I see a therapist and she has me do this thing, which as it turns out is a pretty good thing – at least for me. That thing is writing down acknowledgments and gratitude. The acknowledgements are for the things I have done that day. Little pats on my back to myself, even for small things. Because face it, when you’re in a depression, or stressed and feel a bit like you’re failing – even small feats of organization, house-cleaning, or work can feel like mountains. And when you do big things you can sort of pat yourself on the back for, it helps lay a solid foundation for the direction you are headed. So–ALL GOOD STUFF!

The gratitude portion is just anything I am grateful for. It reminds me that no matter what I might be stressed about, or hurting from, or worried about, there is always something to be grateful for. Sometimes, on days that are rough, all I can manage is things like “easy access to telephones and email.” Among other little things that are actually quite important, like having enough food to eat and a roof over my head. Sometimes these things show up even on days that are a bonanza of good news, just because I remember a time when having those things was much harder.

Anyway, what I did was–instead of meditating on what didn’t go right–I meditated on what DID go right, or at least the parts of my day that were good. So here is what I posted on Facebook.

Good things that happened today – aka practicing gratitude:

-Will made me breakfast in bed. Then went out and got me pads and chocolate.
– Will and I got a little dressed up and looked pretty fly. Wore my new pendant Bridget made.
– Went to Baltimore, saw our friend Barry, had some of his spiced apple cider with caramel schnapps, got my fortune read, got some valuable feedback, enjoyed the Halloween decorations.
– Jade got to see two shows today thanks to Audrey. It makes my heart so happy when my friends are good to my babies
– The sky was amazing the whole way home from Baltimore.
– Stopped at Trader Joe’s and got some tasty food. An attractive woman with curly hair came up to me and flirted with me. She really digs my hair, and called me a silver fox and meowed at me. Lol
– We got home and my Hillary swag was here and I tried on my new shirt and it fit great and looks cute and Will complimented me several times. Kissed me and told me I’m cute.
– Amber sent me some sweet texts.
– Got a wonderful video from our granddaughter – who loves her little Halloween card we sent her.
– Will made me a Nasty Woman (see recipe further down my wall) – but used the cute highball glasses my sister gave me instead of a tumbler – which elevated the Nasty Womanness of the cocktail.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Love Letters – Epistles of Love and Longing in a Modern Age – 2

I am going to try and make the Love Letters thing on Fridays. I am going to write up a Sensual Sunday today, it will drop on Sunday, so come back and check it out!

It’s hard to figure out how much to share of something as personal as love letters. Things are out of context a bit. There is little clue as to how things between the texts and emails transpired, other than what is written.

One thing people might not realize is that I was married when I met Will. I embarked on a relationship with him two days after meeting him, with the knowledge and consent of my husband. Love is complicated, folks. Anyway, I will begin, as they say, at the beginning. Will emailed me and I emailed him back. Are these love letters? Maybe not. Not yet, anyway. But they are flirt letters. The beginning of a wonderful, and terrible, overwhelmingly beautiful and hurtful decade in my life. These letters are the cornerstone of a foundation he and I built together and holds us up today.

These are slightly abridged versions of the conversations, but mostly they are a copy and paste. Other than that, this is how it began. With words.

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From: William Hardy
Sent: Monday, July 15, 2002 2:43 PM
To: goddess@
Subject: Thanks for your address – I’m trying it out

Greetings, fair lady.

It was a real pleasure meeting you Saturday night. I’m looking forward to
seeing you again – before too long, I hope. Yes I thought about you quite a
bit that night. That was the most delicious kiss I’ve had in a looong time.

I’ve been to your site but couldn’t look at *all* of it because [redacted]. From what
I’ve seen (not much yet) I’m really struck by how strong your color sense
is. I wonder who some of your favorite artists are? Well, if you need a
model sometime, I’d be happy to work with you. I used to be good at
charcoal – I haven’t done any sketches since school, but I always enjoyed
working with live subjects. I’m hoping to get back into it, now that I have
all this “free time.” That, and learn to play violin, and write the great
American novel.

What, you don’t believe me?

More to come. Ciao fer now.

-Bill

P.S. Contact info:

[redacted]

********************************

TO: William Hardy
From: Heather Bartlett

Mon 7/15/2002 4:04 PM

Sub: Hi yourself 😉

William,

It was a pleasure making your acquaintance as well…glad I could help you out with [redacted]. You must have been awful tired for moving day.

I kept thinking that you reminded me of an actor that I’d seen in movies, but I particularly remembered him from Veronica’s Closet, so after poking around on a Veronica’s Closet Website I figured out that you, with the beard, remind me of Ron Silver, I’m sure you know who he is. What particularly struck me was your smile…I think that was what sealed it, he has a great smile and a great aura, like you.

Some parts of the night are very dreamlike, because I’d been drinking in spurts, shots of bourbon and stuff, but other parts are clear. I was never totally fall-down smashed though. I did get to swim in the pool sometime after midnight, and I think I shocked the hell out of two of the twenty-something frat fellas because I decided to go topless…[redacted]

Thanks for the offer to pose, I’m always looking for subjects, usually I photograph, because I can’t force the art. I get tense when I think about live models because I worry that the artistic ability won’t be there at that moment, and I’ll be wasting the model’s time (I don’t like inconveniencing folks) I can’t force it for some reason, so I keep photos for when the urge strikes me and I use them for inspiration. I have female friends offer to pose for me, so they can help me get used to working with live models, but schedules haven’t allowed that yet. I suppose I’d be less concerned about it if I’d gone to college art classes and gotten used to using live models. Usually I just REMEMBER a moment…and THAT inspires me, curves, shadow, a person’s aura, a feeling. I am particularly inspired by intimacy. I have creative ups and downs. I’m in a creative UP right now. It makes me more flirtatious, more energetic and gives me the ability to see beauty in so many things, it’s overwhelming sometimes.

I wished you would start up charcoal again, I’d love to pose for you if you ever got back into it. 🙂

My favorite artists are Klimt, VanGough, Matisse,
Amy Brown (fairies), and Heinz Guth http://www.gutart.rit.se/framehome/frame.html there are LOTS more but those are the first ones that come to my mind. Actually I have more flooding in, but you get the idea.

Tell me about the play you’re working on, and where it’s at and stuff. I remember that it was an original…what theatre do you do work at? I have a production meeting tonight for “All My Sons”, Sweetie and I are doing costumes and props…when Sweetie, John , Julianna and I work on a show they call us the “Dream Team”…heh. Isn’t that funny?

I also belong to a Shakespeare Club called Chamberlain’s Men, http://www.chamberlainsmen.org and we JUST finished Hamlet, I *think* we’re studying “Taming of the Shrew” next. One of MY all time favorites.

Anyhoo, I’ve babbled on a while…I’ll send future emails to your “Super Secret Personal Account”, I giggled when I saw that. You’re too funny. 🙂

I’ll see you sometime soon.

Hugs,

Heather

Juicy Peach

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“They had apples. Honeycrisp. Some other kind, too…I forget what–well, they’re all new apples.”

I smiled. “Thanks.” It was the closest I would get to the market that day. I love choosing my fruit and veggies from the farmers who grew them. The dried mud on a mound of small potatoes, flaking off around the little crate that contained them. The weight of a fat tomato in my hand. The smell of a bundle of herbs. Feeling like a Duchess as I peer at each package, choosing which would serve me best. But I wasn’t feeling my best that day, so he went alone. He delivered, though–Honeycrisp is my favorite. Pink Lady, second.

“I got some peaches, too.”

“Ohhhh.” I tiptoed to the kitchen to peer inside the bag. There they were, three perfect peaches.

I selected my favorite, though they all looked lovely. I turned around and let water run over it, washing the fuzzy skin gently. I gave her a little rub with the dishtowel on the counter, to dry her off. I put the fruit to my nose and inhaled, to my satisfaction it was delightfully fragrant. I bit into the fruit, grabbing  a paper towel to catch the juices. Sweet, wet, divine–the last taste of summer.

“This peach is perfect. Come have a bite.”

He poked his head into the hallway, peering at me standing near the sink. Eyebrows up, “Well, alright.”

I watched him take the four paces to me. His light brown hair in want of a trim. His green tee making his eyes more green than ever. His eyes are magic that way, pulling green, light brown, or hazel–depending on the shirt.

I held the peach up, about breast high. He stood in front of me for a beat and looked at the peach, put both of his hands around my hand, cupping it from beneath and raised the peach to his mouth. He looked me in the eye as he bit into the flesh, I was transfixed. Any words that had begun their journey to my mouth were halted in their tracks as I watched him take another bite, his eyes locked with mine. Juice running down our hands. I forgot the paper towel in my other hand. I forgot that I could look away, if I wanted to.

He released my hand, smiled and chewed, still looking me in the eyes. I felt a chain of electrical tingles run down my spine, then back up again. He made a sound that indicated the peach was, indeed, as perfect as reported. He then turned and walked back into the bedroom to sort books, and fold laundry. I enjoyed watching the back of him as he went. I stared at the space where he stood as I finished the peach in four bites, then made my way to the bedroom as well.

We’re Gonna Be Ok

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I’m a little surprised at my last two blog entries. It seems as though I’m still working through some of that old stuff. Maybe I am to some extent, but mostly it’s all background noise now. I care so much less about most of it than I ever did before. Maybe this is a way of filing it into the boxes it all belongs in.

I’ve gone back to regular journaling and I’m seeing an awesome therapist, so maybe that has contributed to busting a log jam?

I wonder what it is about writing about things that helps me so much? I suppose organizing thoughts is a big plus. I love lists, too. Makes you feel like you have some semblance of control in your life. Also, when I write something down that’s been swimming around in my head for a bit, it kind of lets it have a place to live when I don’t want it hanging out rent-free in my brain anymore. Sort of a detox.

I think that there can be the danger of meditating on the negative in journaling (and blogging). Every time we send something out there, there’s a good chance something is coming back – and I prefer the stuff coming back to be happy. It’s hard to be Miss. Positvity all the time, though.

Is it for validation? Am I writing this so somebody will validate me? Hmmm. Lots to consider. Maybe some validation would be nice. But more than that, I believe I speak out to the people who these topics will resonate with, so they don’t feel alone. Because no matter how good of a person you want to be, stuff bubbles up sometimes. You can’t be sweet and rise above it ALL THE TIME.

When people sleep with your man, or lie to you, or lie to you so they can sleep with your man (I’m beginning to see a theme here) – it can really be difficult to rise above it. To just say, “HEY, whatevs, you go and have fun, catcha on the flip side.” Then go on like it’s no big deal. At the VERY LEAST it’s nice to get an apology, or even some kind of explanation. A little bit of salve for the wounds. I don’t want to go around being pissed all the time, bleeding from my hurts. Who has the energy for that shit? So…what do you do? You decide whether you’re taking the high road, or the low road. Sometimes you actually climb down that stupid little berm FROM the high road TO the low road because you can’t help but run on that low road a bit, then you try hiking back up (don’t slip!) to the high road (don’t get snooty!) and be your better self.

And it isn’t just stuff that people have done to me that gets me to twisting inside and writing stuff down.  I need to work out the wrong stuff I’ve done that has hurt others. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m ALLOWED to talk about the bad stuff that I have endured, because I know I’ve fucked up a bunch of times, and there’s nothing I dislike more than a hypocrite (except maybe an MRA or a Westboro Baptist). I wish I could go back and fix all of the things I did that were wrong, but I can’t. (If you feel I owe you an apology – please write to me and we can talk about it!) And it doesn’t take the sting away from what’s been done to me. Maybe it makes me sit in the corner a bit longer with it, and when I come back out to talk about it, I’d better be ready to work on my own bad habits and trespasses. Right side up. Upside down.

Then there’s the bad stuff that happened to me that isn’t as bad as the bad stuff that’s happened to other people, so do I have the right to be hurt or upset? The answer is YES we do – we get to feel our hurts however small they may seem by comparison to others. Your hurts count. You count. But never forget to be grateful. That is so important!

So, now I’ve dusted some stuff up, and when I sit down to write journals and blogs this is the stuff that’s coming out. And I guess that’s fine – I must have needed it. Working it out. Process.

I used to use that old saying with my kids all the time, the one about life giving you lemons. Well, one day I said to my youngest (who was 20 by then), “Well, if life gives you lemons…” and she replied, “Well, life better give you some goddam sugar too, or your lemonade is going to taste like shit!” And so the child is correct. Fortunately I have lots of sugar. Good friends, good health, a generous lover, and great daughters. I’m fond of my sister, too. HI SISSY!

Anyway, if you need to work some stuff out, I definitely recommend journaling. Make your lists. Take stock. Redraw lines. Feel your hurts. Put some Windex. It will be ok. We’re going to be ok, you and me.

Freedom

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I sent you notes. Lovely little notes. You blushed. I did not think you would blush.

Your hand tucked the note to your inside jacket pocket, and you smiled. Sheepish. Adorable.

Your hands outstretched, I came to you.

You were young, so you were a bit awkward. I didn’t care. I let little things that should have been red flags that you would be a life-long liar, slip by like toy sailboats on a pond.

You always thought you knew more than me, and made sure I knew it. How did I not notice it then? How did I let it slip by, over and over and over. Toy sailboats.

We rode home in my old car–a hand-me-down from my parents. We talked for hours. I would eventually migrate to your lap, or we would end up on the curb, thighs touching, leaning warm onto each other.

You bought me flowers sometimes. I have photos for evidence, because you tried to make me believe it didn’t happen. You were a master at gaslighting, with the word “ridiculous” always at the ready to hack off another piece of my self-esteem.

You said you never loved me. But you did. You just can’t let her know that, because then she’d have to wonder if the little things you do now that make her feel loved, will some day be magically disappeared by the very person who made her believe they existed.

At least it doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s like recalling an old movie that you’ve seen dozens of times. Only you don’t really like the movie, and some people in the movie are saying you remember it wrong. I suppose we all take something to, and away, from things like that.

I remember when I was gutted. When it felt like I could never get to a place of indifference. And even if I did, it would be tragic.

It’s not tragic. It’s freeing.

 

The Choice You Make – Sensual Sunday

I don’t know if I would undo it if I could. Your shirts are here. And your toothbrush with the fancy nubby side. I actually folded socks today (not my specialty). They weren’t mine. That’s how you know I care.

When you lift your head and put your feet on the cold hard floor, I swoop in and grab your favorite pillow, hook my arm around it and pull it in tight. I watch your naked back bend forward, the valley of your spine is perfect and I reach out and run a finger down.

You wipe the sleep and look over your shoulder, peeking through a mop of messy hair.

“I wish you didn’t have to go.”

“Me too.”

It doesn’t matter who said which, because we trade off these sentences, depending on what day it is.

I don’t know what force on this earth got to decide what love is or how it manifests, but I know what it is for me. Love is in the Don McLean song that crackles out the same line every morning, “The auctioneer saaaaaaaaid, I’m not through yet…” from your alarm clock. Love is around the edges of your iris, where light brown gives way to hazel. Love is in scrambled eggs and toast next to the window, on a single plate with two forks.

“I like ketchup on mine, do you?”

And now, even after what happened, we’re still here and maybe a little less sorry about it than the two years that followed, because love can also be an opportunity to choose somebody every day. We keep making that choice. I can’t undo it, so I will take solace in this.

 

 

Summer 1981

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I miss waiting for “The Wizard of Oz” to come on once or twice a year. I miss the lead up to the end of the school year and the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster. I miss not understanding about bills and politics. I miss jump-rope and jacks and creeks with smooth stones. I miss that first kiss feeling, when you weren’t even sure how kissing worked. I miss grape soda and skinned knees, tire swings and climbing trees. I miss swimming all day for weeks in a row. I miss the coolness of a desert night, sitting in a concrete pipe with a friend talking about everything, after the rest of the neighborhood had gone to sleep.

The Heart Tapestry

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I don’t know what motivates other people to do things–or not to do them. Nor do I pretend to believe that all hearts work the same way. I’m not here to judge why or how somebody does or doesn’t respond to me. How somebody does or doesn’t connect to me. I put it out into the universe, and if a thread comes back and weaves into the tapestry of my life, it will be all the more rich and colorful. All the more complex and beautiful.

What I don’t really have time for at this point in my life are those who can’t be bothered to connect, or worse, pick at the tapestry, snagging, leaving tears and frayed ends. My life is full of wonderful, beautiful, talented, insightful, caring people. If I never made another friend for the rest of my life, many beautiful connections would remain and sustain me.

Why am I writing about this? I saw a Timehop that reminded me of this topic. I had had a couple of really big hurts in my life, starting with a teen pregnancy, but 2009-2011 were the worst by far. I was reminded of how hard it was to recover from that kind of damage. It reminded me how much I had turned in on myself – for almost three years. I decided I didn’t want or need any new friends. It felt to vulnerable to open up to that. I closed up. Put up a wall. That is something I had never done before. Sure, I had some short-term hurts that made me withdraw for a bit, but being an optimist at heart, I always bounced back pretty quickly. I felt the risk was worth the payoff of a connection and a friend – before.

For the new friendships I’ve formed–I’m glad I dismantled the wall a bit – brick by brick, leaving a small space for people who really wanted to squeeze through. For those who chose the other side of the wall, or who I walled out, our time has passed, I guess. For my part, I’ve always been as authentic as I could. And I trusted–until I couldn’t–for reasons.

I didn’t always respond or behave the way I wish I would have–but I’m human. I’ve hopefully learned and evolved over the time with each bump and boulder in my path. Whatever mistakes I made, you got me honestly, and my honesty, and the sincerest bits of my heart.