I weep at the sight of the casket. Friends and family pass by his body. Memories spoken. Words rip painfully into my chest. His bright smile, belly deep laugh, compassion for life. The glue of his family. A young life cut short by one last heroic feat. Six best friends, white gloved, gently lift the casket. I selfishly grieve as if it were my child, Admonishing myself. Another mother lost her child. Forever. Six young men buried their best friend. And then it occurs to me. My son lost a best friend. He would have been there, had he not taken a different direction.
The labyrinth outside my door calls me. To the untrained eye, perhaps it is just a scattering of rocks. But to me, it’s the place I go to meditate. Or sometimes, just to walk. It isn’t a traditional seven circuit labyrinth. It’s what fits in my yard. It doesn’t matter that it is only four circles with four turns. It serves its purpose.
On the first day of the shelter in place order I placed fourteen small stones at the entrance of the labyrinth, one to carry each day. I’d walk the first thing in the morning, pick up one stone, quietly observe the new day and all its twists and turns, and then place the stone into the center.
As we neared the end of our fourteen day quarantine, we learned it wasn’t over yet. The virus had run rampant and there was a new order. A month at least. I’d need a bigger pile of stones. And not just one for each day. If I were to maintain any sense of peace, I’d need to do a lot more journeys through this maze.
My days began with the daily walk. As time went on, whenever there was something I needed to ponder, or when I felt restless or angry or sad, I’d take my emotions to that peaceful place. Each time I picked up one small stone at the entrance. I’d feel the weight of the stone. The coolness or warmth. The shape.
And when I got to the center of the labyrinth, I placed that small stone on one of the larger rocks. Each day I started a new stack. At the end of the day I could look at those cairns and remember each walk, the thoughts that crossed my mind, the weight of each rock left behind and the lighter journey out. Sometimes there was only only one small pebble. On other days maybe five or six balanced precariously one on top of another. I began to realize, the taller the stack, the more balanced I felt.
There would be 83 towers in that center now if nature had let them be but not all towers are built on a strong foundation. Some are built with careful thought and practice, balanced with precision. They fall easily, blown over by a gentle wind. Others are sturdy stones, flat ones, the ones that are simple to stack. The mass of stones that have fallen, lie in rubble. That is not destruction. It is a reminder that I can build a dream but I’m not in charge of the outcome.
It’s all about balance.
Sometimes we need a little challenge to get back into the swing of writing. In December I placed a post-it note on my screen “Butt in Chair – Write.” That didn’t work. January would have been a good time for a writing resolution but I snubbed that idea right out of my radar. Instead, I figured one little 31 day challenge might just do the trick. Only 50 words a day based on a one word prompt. After 31 days we were supposed to have finished one story, chapter by chapter. Being the rebel that I am, I concluded it would be perfectly fine to just post a daily post featuring “Herman” and “Myrtle.” Here you have it, exactly 1,550 words. Ending in a cliff hanger, of course. Gotta have something to keep me going.
Follow me @mzbull on Instagram. And if you want to join the fun, sign up for the February challenge #1wordpromptchallenge
Warning: Sometimes it takes longer to write exactly 50 words than it does an entire story.
I don’t make resolutions. Why bother with a mission that gets broken in the first week? Instead, I opt for challenges. Some short term. Some long term.
I do choose a word for the year. Last year it was “clarity.” Did I gain clarity last year? Perhaps a tiny bit. I did finish the memoir. I didn’t publish it. Why? Because I still need a little more clarity. It’s a work in progress until I figure it out. I’ll carry that word into 2020.
And, I’ll add a new word. This year it is “compassion.” There I’ve said it. Now, as to what that means to me. I see it as letting go of some of the baggage of the past to make room for peace and understanding going forward. How else can one develop compassion? We’ll see how that goes.
Now about those challenges. I’m stuck.
I signed up for #1wordpromptchallenge on Instagram figuring I could do anything for one month. But that seems like such a long time. Maybe I’ll rethink that.
Commit30 seemed like a good option. That’s one day less than the 31 days of January Instagram commitment. Seemed doable. That is until I discovered that it means you commit to one thing for 30 days. Then you choose another commitment for the next 30 days. And so on. It’s never ending and I can’t think of more than two things I want to commit to: No sugar and No Spending. Notice, I said “want” not “plan.”
I could choose the Top 10 Favorites list series. Oh, but what would those lists incorporate? Would I have to tell my 10 deepest secrets? 10 fears? 10 sins? Now that is just plain scary.
The options to on and on and on. 7 Things to Do for Yourself in 2020, 30 Days of Joy, 40 Questions to Ask Yourself Each Year, Success Maps, 20 Goals in 2020, Daily Gratitude, Writing 20 Minutes a Day, Writing a #50wordstory every day, Habit Trackers, Affirmations, Mind Maps.
AHA… I have just had a brilliant thought. I was thinking all these challenges involve writing, blogging, journaling, or posting to social media. Those are all accountability challenges. In the end we only must be accountable to our own selves. So, in that case, I’m going to choose to do whatever pleases me on any given day. Today I stayed in bed until noon, created a vision board and ate waffles for brunch.
What’s your vision for 2020?
2019 wasn’t meant to be a winning year for NaNoWriMo. I signed up this year for one purpose – distraction. I didn’t want to face the fact that my writing mentor-neighbor-friend would die before Thanksgiving. She questioned my decision to sign up for this challenge, insisting that I was avoiding the publication of my memoir, the memoir that she had finished editing a couple of months ago. “Just publish the damn thing,” she said about the 9th of November. Instead, I went home and added more than 2400 words to the NaNoWriMo project.
Things turned for the worst the next day. My friend began to fail. Suddenly bedridden, she looked out her window at the autumn leaves. “Do you remember the story ‘The Last Leaf’ by O. Henry?” She asked. When I admitted I had no recollection, she offered a brief synopsis. I followed the gaze of her eyes to see only a handful of leaves on the branch outside her window and asked if she was watching for the last leaf to fall. She smiled and closed her eyes.
The next few visits were painfully silent as that one last leaf swayed in the wind. On the 21st day of November the final leaf drifted slowly to the earth as my friend took her last breath.
My takeaway here is not about not finishing the novel. It’s about making the right choices for each moment. Time is precious and I was blessed with the time to sit at my friend’s bedside during those final days. Sad as it is, she died with peace, grace and dignity – just the way she lived her life.