This Butterfly’s Life

Hello Firefans, and Happy Mother’s Day

How are all of you?

It has been a busy, interesting and slightly difficult few months for all of us. We haven’t visited and shared here as much as we would have liked. But I promise you, Lori, Natalie and myself are still here, writing, learning, growing and we all have plenty of things to share.

In fact, when I awoke this morning, I was moved to share something with you. I’ve been feeling a blog post coming on, and waiting for the right insight or epiphany. What do you know? It arrived promptly at 6:00am on Mother’s Day. Like many times before, I sleepily pulled myself out of bed, feeling both blessed and irritated with my desire and ability to bring things out of my head and into the world through writing.

This spring my daughters and I ordered a butterfly hatching kit, similar to this one. Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced this strange and beautiful act of nature, and as each stage has progressed, I’ve been blanketed by a series of quiet, yet profound understandings about a variety of things in my life.

It soon occurred to me that watching these butterflies was so much more than teaching my girls about nature. As a writer of course metaphorical comparisons were falling out of my mind left and right. The growth, the change, the descent and the rising into something new. The periods of stillness and the fluttering and failing and falling and learning. I knew there was something, some bigger message I needed to share about what was happening, and many ways I might relate our butterfly experience. But unsure of specifics I decided to simply enjoy our experience and wait for the Muse to bring me the rest.

And then this morning I just knew.

But then, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Our journey started with the five baby caterpillars, about the size of my fingernail that arrived in a small, self sustaining jar full of food. We watched the caterpillars eat as if they were going to double their size, and then saw them triple in size in just a few days. We learned that caterpillars produce a strange silk webbing that later helps them climb to a safe place to hang in their cocoons. During one particularly grotesque stage, the caterpillars started losing giant, odd shaped chunks of themselves inside the jar. This phenomenon bothered me so deeply and at levels I did not wish to explore, I simply had to not look at them for awhile.

The kidschrysalis had no problem seeing the left-behind chunks, however and one rainy evening my littlest came pattering in excitedly to exclaim that two of the caterpillars had began making their chrysalides. Soon enough, all but one of the five had climbed to the paper covering underneath the lid and had began the (amazingly fast- did you know it takes less than a day?) process of creating the shelter in which she would become a different being entirely. The chrysalides were mostly brown, but interestingly flecked with spots of gold.

A few days later, the first butterfly had emerged. We gathered around to see her. She was about the size of a quarter and clung to the side of the netting with her wings tightly closed. As sunlight came in the window and warmed the room, she revealed the lovely, intricate pattern of black, white and vivid orange on her wings. Slowly over the next few days, the other three butterflies climbed out of their stillness and into their new being.

They were awkward at first, trying to walk around with their new heavy wings, fluttering and falling onto the bottom of the net, landing on the fruit slices, hungry but unsure what to do. They’d flip around for awhile and then have long periods of quiet stillness, their wings tightly closed. They learned quickly, by trial and a lot of lucky mistakes to flutter from side to side of the cage and use their long proboscis to draw nectar and sugar water from the fruit.

Meanwhile the littlest caterpillar, after many days of climbing up and down inside the jar, (as if she just wasn’t quite sure about the whole thing) finally climbed to the bottom of the lid and made herself the tiniest of chrysalides. We gave her a day and moved her into the net with her large, butterfly graduate friends.

In the days that followed we fed the butterflies small slices of fresh fruit and sugar water from a tiny syringe. We had to keep them warm and protect them from danger (i.e., our two cats who were more than a little curious about their arrival.) When we were at home I’d carry the butterflies from room to room with us. I felt a little silly, but it didn’t seem a bother or burden because we were all constantly, quietly drawn to watching them.

butterflyToday, the four butterflies have grown to a wingspan of about 5 inches across- nearly triple (again) their original size. They can fly from one side of the netting to the other, they flick their proboscis readily out to eat as soon as we put the fruit inside the cage, and they have learned to spread their wings wide when in sunlight to absorb heat.

They are ready to fly free.

The weather in our area has pushed the overnight temperatures down into the thirties, and we aren’t supposed to let them go unless the temps stay around 50 and up, so we get to feed, protect and observe them for a few more days. I thought, The day we let them go, I will know what it is I’m supposed to write about. I’ll do it then.

But then I awoke this morning and something occurred to me:

We are butterflies.

We all start out pretty much self-sustained. As adults, we think we know what life is about. We work and eat and travel and do the things we think we are supposed to do. And then something in us changes. We are suddenly hungry for more. We want change.

But, in order to change, we must leave behind giant chunks of ourselves, the ways and the things and the people we were, in search of something better. For some it’s career or money or comfort or approval, for others its things that aren’t so easily given up, like addiction, or bad relationships, or guilt. We have to let those go and it isn’t a pretty process. But we do it anyway.

Some strange primeval instinct in us says we must do it or choose not to survive. And some of us don’t survive.

Our tiniest caterpillar, forever still inside her chrysalis, did not survive. For whatever reasons, she never emerged. She was overcome by the transformation, it was too much for her.

No one ever said a butterfly’s life was easy after all. And some of our friends, the ones whom we place the most hope inside of, are lost to us.

For those of us that find strength to move on, there is unknowing. There is a profound period of stillness, solitude, darkness, internal reflection. And there is waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. And wondering. So much wondering.

But then one day, when it seems the stillness and dark will never retreat, the warmth of the sun beckons. It illuminates things we think we’d like to see, to know. Soon, we can’t stay inside one minute longer and we push forward, climb out into the world to explore ourselves as a creature of an entirely different kind.

We feel different, bigger, more powerful, more real. And we are STARVING. We want to soak up the world and everything in it with this newfound energy. We stumble forward on long, newborn legs into a familiar, yet altered new universe. We don’t know exactly how to do the things we are driven to do, but we do them anyway, awkwardly hoping we happen upon the right way.

And soon, so much sooner than we ever thought possible we are soaring across the landscapes of our lives. It’s as if we were born to fly. Yes, we were in facbutterfly is freet born to fly.

We have wings.

And you know the most beautiful part?

The wings were within us all along.

 

Thanks for reading

~C

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Just Wait

Do you ever get stuck in the middle of writing something? Pressed for time, stressed, frustrated and wish you could just summon the muse and order up an idea?

The following is kind of a follow up to a piece of flash fiction I wrote awhile back, Conversations With a Muse. This post spurred a train of thought that led to many things, but mostly the idea of what it would be like to have a muse to chat with, and after writing that one I had some distinct ideas about what mine would be like.

A few days ago I got stuck writing a critical turning point of my book, so I started thinking about what my muse would say if I tried to order up an idea. It went something like this…

***

“What good is hopen window snowaving a muse if inspiration is only ever random?” I wonder out loud, staring at the snow-capped row of houses in the distance. I’ve been sitting at my desk, not writing for an hour. The wintry air coming through the half-open window has turned my fingers to ice (I often write with the window open, even in winter. I have a theory that stale air leads to stale thoughts) and now typing at the keyboard is literally, physically painful.

I’m stuck in a critical scene of the book I’m working on. I know something crucial happens at this point, my main character sees a ghost- or something akin to a ghost, and those are the only details I know for certain. I seem to be missing the serendipitous knowing of details that will make the scene flow into the story. I’ve been listening to ethereal violin music and reading Poe and chapters from ghost stories all morning, no luck. It’s obvious this solution is not currently firing somewhere in the synapses inside my brain.

I need a muse.

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” a musical voice says, seeming to come from above and below and behind. “You don’t just call us up, order up an idea and that’s it. If that’s what you want go ask a human.”

“Christopher, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you only showed up at night. Where are you anyway?”

“I show up when I want to show up. I’m seen when I want to be seen.”

“Yeah,” I huff. “I know. But since you’re here maybe you could give it a whirl.”

“I’m not an accountant. You don’t just call me up, I provide the service you want and then we both go on our way.” I can’t see him but I can hear that his words are soaked in a smirk.

“Why not?”

“Well, if you want to get technical, if we…do business like humans do, you’d have to pay me. And believe me honey, you couldn’t afford it.”

“Yes, you’re very valuable. Also hilarious.” I try to mirror his sarcasm but mine only comes out half as effective. “So…if you can’t help me why are you here?”

“Listen. Art is born of inspiration. And inspiration can’t become art unless it’s pure.”

“Wait. What? What does that even mean?”

“Gaaahh, you humans can be so thick. Alright because I know there’s talent in that head of yours…somewhere, I’ll spell it out.” He clears his throat. “If you don’t have the answer yet, it’s for a reason.”

“But— I only have so much time to write. I have kids, remember?”

“Just be quiet. For an hour. For a day. A week even. Just be still and patient and wait. And hey, here’s something innovative: Listen.

“That’s it? That’s your answer? Just wait?”

“That’s it. Brilliant, no?”

The voice fades to a whisper and the room is quiet again. The only sound is the swooshing of an occasional car maneuvering the slush-soaked road behind my house. I sigh, close my laptop, climb into bed and close my eyes.

And I wait.

All the Things I Couldn’t See – Part Two

After my friend moved away I was forced to move on and grow up. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, from being around him, I was changed. I had developed a new openness toward accepting others, and my sense of humor had been tinged with his particular brand of sarcasm that people were drawn to.

I became more confident in myself, made new friends (including my best friend and co-founder of this group Lori,) stayed out too late as teenagers do, and even started hanging out with a boy, (that boy I was pining for way back at the beginning of this story) that I had always been afraid to talk to.

Lori is my best friend and closest confidante to this day. I eventually married the boy I was afraid to talk to.And my friend from the beginning of the story took his own life.

The same afternoon I tossed my high-school memories into the sky with my graduation cap, I heard the words that have never stopped resonating.

“He’s gone. They think it was suicide.”

I remember that second, in hearing those words, I didn’t know how to speak. I had to think how to keep breathing past the pain swelling up in my throat. The why and how and where of what happened were details unknown, things that I grasped at for any possible explanation. I didn’t find them.

What I did find were ghosts disguised as memories, shadows of conversations between my friend and I. When I thought about the things we talked about when we were together, I could think of maybe a thousand times he’d spoke of this very thing, and my thinking surely he hadn’t meant that. Or he had meant it, and I had chosen not to hear. Those ghosts of words ripped at me like claws shredding through a silk sheet.

I cried through my entire graduation, on through the graduation party in the gym and everyone thought it was because I was sad and sentimental over my high-school years. I never told anyone the real reason for my tears that day until I typed this sentence just now.

In the weeks following a trickle of information made its way back to me. I learned that my friend had lost his scholarship and moved to northern California, where he became involved with a group of squatters, gay drifters who were synonymous with break-ins and drug abuse. A few weeks later I heard that my friend had overdosed on a combination of cocaine and barbiturates. When they found him he was so unrecognizable it took them three days to figure out who he was.  He died strung out, alone and unknown.

It felt like a bad dream. It wasn’t possible. The person I knew was loved and beloved, he was light and confident and intelligent and funny and happy. I tried to imagine the events that had led him to his end, and I found I just didn’t want to.

I hated myself for not forgiving him, for not answering his letter. I hated him for taking his own life. I hated a world full of judgement that forces people into hiding from their true selves and God for knowing and allowing it all to happen.

My friend lived and died in a time and place where tolerance for different lifestyles was virtually non-existent. I listened quietly as people’s words floated around me about his choices, about it being inevitable because he was left to his own devices. My stomach churned as they shook their heads, condescending thoughts dripping out of their mouths. He should have never… His parents should have…It’s really no surprise…

I hated those words and those people with my whole, young heart. And yet, outwardly I agreed with them. I clung to the beliefs of the people inside my very narrow world who were piously confident and shrewd about what happened. In my heart I wanted to scream out that no-one had the right to judge someone they had never even considered worthy of knowing. But instead I forced myself into believing the lies. It was the only coping mechanism I knew, and it was the virtual turning out of a light.

Not long after I turned out that light, I closed a door. I tossed the notebook with the book I had half-written into the trash.

Yes, it is possible to forget another person.  You can force someone out of human consciousness. But they are never actually gone.

For nearly twenty-five years I was living with shattered pieces, shards of him and love and hate inside my heart. I did forget my friend. I thought it was the only way for me to exist. But he wasn’t really gone. He just showed up in other ways, other places I couldn’t see.

When I came together with this little group of friends to start writing again, all the things he gave me, all the things I couldn’t see before came trickling slowly into awareness. Around my 36th birthday, I started writing fiction for the first time in over 20 years. It was a revelation. It felt like truth, reincarnated. I, for the life of me couldn’t figure out why I had ever stopped doing it.

One day I wrote something off the cuff and it was about him, only I didn’t know it.  It was completely random and unintentional, so much so that I didn’t even recognize it was anything other than a piece of fiction. It took someone who knew nothing about me or him or anything that had happened in the past to see a distinct pain between the lines.

A light turned on.Once it was brought to my attention, the realization that it was him and why I wrote it came to me in small, quiet happenings, like a series of opening doors. I found traces of him in the most random of places:

In my odd, eclectic taste in music.

In the nicknames I’ve given the people I adore the most.

In my ability to use sarcasm as a healing device, to mask disappointment and pain.

In my innate desire to reject anything that the majority considers quality, trustable, popular, or truth.

In passages I’ve written that seem to have come from a voice inside my own head that wasn’t my own.

In the way that new ideas spill out into my dreams, urging me to use them for some Greater Purpose.

To be perfectly honest, once the memory came back into my peripheral, once I realized I had never actually moved on, it hurt like hell. I had uncovered a well of love and hate and guilt and regret so deep, I felt haunted by it. I felt consumed.

Last summer I ripped out my heart time and again as I relived and tried to capture all the memories of him- good and bad- in writing. I typed out scenes with my eyes closed and then deleted them. I slammed my laptop closed. I laughed and I smiled and I sighed and I cried.

I started to question everything, all my likes and dislikes, all the decisions I’d made, everything I thought I was defined by before. It’s a funny thing, bringing up a repressed memory. It forces you to question things you had never considered about yourself, to evaluate your worth.

I had never let myself experience that kind of pain, and something I couldn’t fully explain. It was searing and deep and it ached in my heart even as I went on about my normal life. But at the same time it brought a quiet clarity; the slow demolition of ancient brick walls. One, solid brick at a time, I pushed the old beliefs away, and slowly I began to see the truth.

What happened between us, the hate and the pain and the love that caused me to force him out of my heart had nothing to do with the way he chose to live his life. Not when he was alive and we were friends, not the day I hated him for leaving, not the day I found out about his death. I was young and sensitive and naïve, and I pushed him out of my heart for nothing but self-preservation.

Nothing that happened between us, love or hate or pain or regret, would ever be more important than the gifts he gave me.

It was obvious I had lived with a half-closed-heart for way too long.

I had no choice but to forgive both of us.

***

At the point I started writing this post, though I knew I wanted to put it out into the blogosphere as a sort of virtual release, I was unsure how to conclude it. This morning I was talking with Lori via text. She was telling me about a physical therapy appointment for the back pain she’d been enduring for months. I said:

“I’m praying it works for you. Being in constant pain can definitely siphon one’s ability to stay in the light.”

I read my own words and the realization hit me like a brick. Pain has its place, it has merit in the way we move through our lives, it brings understanding and sympathy. It even empowers us to act with new motivation. But at some point we have to let it go and move into the light.

Today I’m officially letting go.

This has been a long road, and this post has been a long story, and for that I both apologize and thank you for staying with me. Every word written here is for one purpose: To urge you (and me) to take all the chances we’re afraid to take.

Please, if you are reading now and there is something on your mind and your heart that you know, you KNOW you need to do, to change, or to start, or to stop, or forgive, or to say:

Stop reading now, this second, walk away and go do it.

 Life is too short to live confined by pain and regret.

Today, start being the you the world has asked you to be.

Till Next Time,

~C

To My Wonderwall,

I am grateful every single day for the light you helped me to find, and the way it continues to shine.

 I’m sorry I never said goodbye the way you deserved. I accepted you for you, always and completely. I’m sorry I never said those words out loud. I’m sorry with every ounce of my being for the way I tried to forget you.

 I forgive you for leaving the way you did.  And I forgive myself for all the things I couldn’t see.

~C

All the Things I Couldn’t See – Part One

Have you ever tried to forget someone? Really, truly forget another human being?

Not the crush that wouldn’t return your calls or the clueless boss that fired you.  I don’t even mean the first person you kissed or the one that got away. No, I mean someone who was a part of you in your formative state, someone who played such a critical role in you becoming You that forgetting them meant ripping a little piece of flesh from around your heart and swallowing it hole, in order that you might exist without them.

I’ve done it twice. I’m here to tell you that you can. And also that it isn’t actually possible.

During my early high school years, like many of my peers I was awkward, shy and afraid of everyone else’s opinions. I spent my days reading books, practicing my flute, dreaming about a boy I didn’t have the guts to talk to, and trying to write poetry about feeling virtually invisible. Yeah, I was the very definition of a geek. If you were reading the first chapter of a novel, you’d be rolling your eyes about now. Type cast, to a T.

At the very peak of my introverted teenage angst, for reasons I may never understand, I inadvertently formed a friendship with an older, popular boy from another school. He was gregarious and effervescent and kind and sarcastic. We spent weekend afternoons watching Kids in The Hall, blasting Radiohead and Erasure and Jesus Jones in his car and laughing Dr. Pepper through our noses. I did something I had never done before and showed him some of my writing. He was the first person to tell me that I was born to be a writer, and a light turned on.

I started writing a book, despite knowing I was young and innocent and ignorant to the free world. He was the one person who made me believe I could do it in spite of those things.

I’d like to stop here and say that my feelings for him never went beyond friendship. But I can’t. I fell hard, not only because he was handsome and charismatic, but because he loved me even when I didn’t. (Again, a likely plot device.) I was the stereotypical lonely teenage girl. He was a beautiful boy who accepted me without hesitation. He loved me even when I had zits and cheap knockoff jeans and a messy ponytail. He saw things in and about me and my future that I had never imagined for myself.

But here’s where the plot becomes atypical. The predictable teenage drama did not play out. He didn’t end up as the catalyst for my first-ever broken heart because I wanted things out of us that he didn’t. None of these scenarios happened, none of them were ever possible. Because he was gay.

We were teenagers in the early 1990’s, in Northern Utah. Not exactly a time or place sympathetic to people who had different ideas about what “normal” should be. I was torn between the values I’d been raised to believe as truths and the opinions of my peers and the deep, in-the-soul kind of love I had for this boy.

Still, my knowing this about him added another layer to our mutual understanding. There was no threat of a relationship to alter our friendship. For a time, I was the only person in his life who he openly admitted his truth to. And though it broke my heart a little bit, I recovered, and because of his trusting me with his true self, I was unafraid to show the real me too. He was the only person I admitted to that I wanted to write. Not news articles, not essays. Books. Books about romance and mystery and magic and hope. He was a source of all of those things for me, at a time when inspiration was not so easy to come by.

 During my freshman and sophomore years of high school, when I wasn’t at school, I hung out with him almost exclusively. People would ask if we were dating, his family even, and I would just shrug and say I didn’t know. I did know. I knew I was a solution for him as much as he was for me. He wasn’t straight and I wasn’t gay and none of that mattered. The only important thing was that we understood one another at a time in both our lives when no-one else seemed to.

There was a song that peaked in popularity during that time that still rings true when I think about him. I am not sure how many times those lyrics blasted through the car window without my knowing how ironic they would become.

I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do
About you now

I say maybe
You’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all
You’re my Wonderwall

My friend was nearing graduation when he told me he was going to attend a university in California on scholarship.  I begged him not to go, and I was so surprised when he got mad at me. He said my spending time with him was a substitution. He said I loved him too much, more than he loved me. He said that what we had wasn’t real.

I cried. He hugged me but said nothing, and then he walked away. In the days after that I told myself I hated him for using me as his “cover,” and I hated myself for having let him in. I was young and stupid, and a small, very naïve part of me was still hoping he’d change his mind and we would end up together. Admitting that I felt this way, 20 plus years later feels like pressing a knife into an old, self-inflicted scar.

He moved on and away and I never forgave him. He sent me one letter, telling me about California, how strange and different the culture was and how he hoped I kept writing my book, but the words I wanted to read were not there. I’m sorry.

We never talked again.  I forced him out of conscious mind and heart for the first time when I threw the letter away and made the decision to never look back.

More tomorrow,

~Cindy

Beltane

bonfire

This has been a long time in coming. We’ve promised, several times, to let you know what it was that we have learned this summer. We’ve all been so busy applying what we’ve learned that we haven’t actually had time to write about it on the blog. (Although, there has been PLENTY of writing about it.)

Our lessons came in a few, somewhat insane, highly symbolic, events.

By the end of winter, all of us had become aware of significant doubt, pain, and regrets that we each felt within our hearts. It was a difficult winter for each of us in different ways. Our desolation and heartache were keeping us from becoming who we needed to be. We had lost ourselves somewhere in the past. All of us could see it in the others, but somehow missed it in ourselves.

Natalie came to us with the notion of Beltane (Pronounced: BEY-al-TIN-ah). It’s a Celtic holiday which celebrates the coming of summer and new growth. We didn’t need the growth of crops, however, we needed to expand our souls. We needed to let the things from the past fall away, and to encourage our spirits to move on to the next part of who we were to become.

We formed a plan. In the weeks leading up to Beltane, we each thought about what we wanted most in life. We were to gather pictures of the things we wanted most and put them in a vision board, the desires of our inner selves made manifest in photos.

Our vision boards became a topic of discussion every time we were together. It wasn’t unusual to hear, “Ooo! I want to put that on mine!” Nor, was it unusual for us to stalk people, houses, and things, snap pictures, and find a place for it on our vision board. The beauty of this exercise was that we were limited only by our imaginations. (With a group of writers, imagination is abundant.)

Traditionally, there would be a bonfire at a Beltane. We decided that we would write down those things which we needed to let go, past injuries, regrets, unhealthy desires and we would throw the list into the fire. We wanted to begin letting go of the negativity in our lives by watching it go up in smoke – literally.

It was all wonderfully planned.

However, something was missing.

We needed to do something symbolic to remind ourselves to let our dreams grow, to pay attention to the whisperings of our souls. My Aunt, who is in tune with our little group even though she lives in Wales, suggested that we plant our vision board in a pot and let it nourish a plant. Our dreams would feed the plant just as they feed us. As we tended to the life of the plant, we would be reminded to tend to our dreams, keeping them alive as well.

The day of our celebration came.

We lit a small fire and watched the flames ripple upward. We sat is silence. Each of us took a moment to reflect and release the sadness and suffering that had been plaguing us for decades. When we were ready, we tossed our list of troubles into the fire, watching the light catch hold of the the list. The paper blazed brightly, then turned to black ash, the fire easily dissolving our problems in its power.

Something similar happened in our souls as we watched them burn. It was as if a fire was rekindled in our own hearts. One that could envelope and destroy agony, defeat, and sorrow and empower us to LIVE.

It’s strange how one action, when done in the right moment, with the right people, can instil you with ancient knowledge, knowledge that has always been there waiting for you to see it.

We sat in silence for a few moments, lost in the freedom of purging such darkness from within ourselves.

One of us asked whether the others wanted to share our dreams. A discussion, which has never quite ended, began that night. We discussed our desires, and the things we felt that we were supposed to accomplish in this life. There were tears, encouragement and beauty as we began to realize all that we wanted lay at our fingertips. We came to understand that we were born to succeed.

The light began to die down and it came time to plant young, fresh, lavender with our vision boards. The soil seemed to clean our hearts as we gently tucked our vision in among the roots.

We departed in the enchantment that only comes in a May evening.

In the months since, we have continued to believe in ourselves. Something happened that night, an openness that was not there before. We know where we are going, we have faith in each other and in ourselves.

This was the beginning of the Summer of Magic. We have had to renew our commitment to our dreams. Occasionally had to readjust our lives to get back in line with what we want. But that night, among fire, soil and the beauty that is May, we gave ourselves over to what we could become.

There is power in letting go.

There is magic.

There is freedom.

There is love.

There is completeness.

MagicColor4

Top Ten Tuesday: Candles

candle-light

I have a young friend who is struggling. She is severely depressed and experiencing extreme loneliness.

I have been where she is.

I know the pain.

There are two great lies about depression. One is told by Depression herself; that it will never end.

As bad as that is, the other lie is just as damaging, although at first glance it doesn’t seem like it. We are lead to believe that depression is just temporary and if you change your circumstances it will get better.

The first lie causes hopelessness. When you’re wading through it, it doesn’t seem as though it will ever end. Life loses all of its reason, flavor and beauty. It seems like an endless dark cave with no hope of ever seeing the light again.

The second lie, that it is temporary, leaves room for hope. The danger is that it is often a false hope. True, real, deep depression is not temporary. It can last for years enduring the voices of those around you telling you, “Come on! It will get better!” is annoying and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. Because it can last; it can last for a very long time. People will try to change. They will change their living arrangements, marriages, jobs and anything else, but the depression stays.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Depression can last, but if you hang on, even in the darkness, there are bright moments. There are even bright days, months, and years when depression sleeps and you awaken to light and joy.

I believe that a person can live with depression, and I believe that it you can make it a good life. Part of the secret, for me, has been the choice to notice and reflect on beauty, goodness and hope. I cling to those things. I take them out of my memory and examine them again and again. They become a candle in the darkness, lighting the way for just a moment.

And so, my dear young friend, I give you the top ten beautiful things I’ve seen this week. I hope that maybe, just maybe, my words can penetrate the darkness around you and give you a glimpse of the other side.

10. It was a dank, dark, stormy day. The steel clouds hung in the sky threatening to rain. I looked at the clock on my dash and pushed the pedal down to the floor. I was late…again. The freeway seemed to stretch on forever. I came to the top of a hill. Suddenly, a narrow slit opened in the clouds and golden light poured into the valley making homes, streets and treetops gleam like part of a heavenly city set into earthly life.

9. My hair stuck to the back of my neck and sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades. It had been over a year since I had been hiking. My legs burned, and my lungs greedily sucked air into my body. I rounded a corner and peeked down a narrow path. Water! I scraped my way down to a fresh spring shooting out the side of a stony hill. I put my hands into the crystal water and washed the sweat from my face. Drinking in the nectar of life, I let it cool me to my very soul.

8. A woman, hands shaking, stood in the wings watching the play unfold. Her part was fast approaching. “I can’t do this,” her voice wavered. “What have I gotten myself into?”

Her cue echoed across the stage.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight discovering, for the first time, that she was capable of more than she knew.

7. An infant’s sleepy eyes drift to the face of his mother as she cuddles close to him on a large, cool bed. He gives her a peaceful grin and drifts into slumber, knowing that he will be safe, warm and loved as he sleeps.

6. Clouds sweep up the face of a rocky mountain on a cool autumn morning. Gray light settles in the valley, slightly shadowing the brilliant colors of fall. I smile, sip my lavender tea and sink back into my favorite novel.

5. The sun sets on an industrial building. Individuals for the next shift park their cars and are slowly swallowed up into the vast structure. Their faces are blank, and their steps slow. The stream of people finally ends and all is quiet once more.

Suddenly, an SUV comes screaming into the parking lot and stops just feet from the entrance. A woman leaps from the passenger side. All the windows come down and small faces appear with puckered lips. She walks around the vehicle reaching to kiss each child. She smiles, shouts, “I love you!” and runs through the door.

4. A dog sprawls across the floor. A small, feverish little girl leans into her softness as the child watches her favorite show on television, feeling the warmth of her fur between her fingers. They both drift into and out of sleep; each needing nothing but the company of the other.

3. A group of woman sit around a table at the coffee shop. They laugh until their faces hurt and tears stream down their cheeks. Each of them came to the meeting feeling lonely and weak. Each of them leave knowing that they are connected to each other in ways they don’t understand. Each renewed with strength.

2. A young girl stacks blocks between herself and her younger brother. She waits, holding her breath. He swings his arm and blocks go flying and bounce across the floor. Peals of laughter ring through the room as she gathers the blocks again.

1. Whispered prayers and silent hopes are answered every day. Miracles are present in the beating of our hearts, the friendships that we forge, the peace that we find in spite of our emotional challenges, the coming of autumn, warmth of spring, kindness at Christmas, good chocolate, warm beds, red roses, pumpkin pie, and emails from friends.

This is what Depression tries to hide from us, the beauty of everyday life.

We are children of a loving and giving God.

The Universe is ours to see it as we will.

This is what experience has taught me: There is a way through. There is hope for brighter days if we choose to hold to those moments which bring us joy. Yes, they can be short and distant, but holding on to them gives us hope and reminds us that there is light in the world.

These become our candles, tiny points of light, to get us through the deepest blackness of depression.

Your writing prompt for today is to write in 100 words or less about one of your candles. Write about something that you’ve found beautiful this week.

Moxie Monday: Boundaries

boundaries

I remember my first introduction to the word boundaries. I was in Kindergarten and there were boundaries to the playground, an invisible line I wasn’t supposed to cross. It was meant to keep us safe, to guide us toward where we needed to be. I quickly learned to follow the rules.

When my husband was in the Navy, boundaries were only crossed with a card which I was required to carry. There were checkpoints, rules and regulations. I got used to these types of boundaries as well.

But there is one type of boundaries which I never got used to, those which I put in place myself. Personal boundaries. For reasons which we don’t discuss I never did create personal boundaries. I allowed myself to be walked on by just about everyone I knew. I ignored myself and I allowed myself to be ignored. My feelings, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and needs were put second to everyone and everything else. I was not safe; there were no checkpoints.

As I’ve become acquainted with other creative types, I have noticed that many people discount, what should be, their personal boundaries. They become people pleasers; they change their life to fit around the lives of those around them. That doesn’t work for ANYONE. It makes us depressed. It stifles the growth of others. We BECOME a lie. We do NOT fulfill our purpose. We are stunted.

My advice is this week’s writing exercise.

Make a list of your personal boundaries. Decide now what type of life you want to live.

Let me give you a start:

1. I deserve to be spoken to with respect.

2. I deserve to have my voice heard.

3. My feelings and opinions are valid.

4. I can trust myself to form my own opinions, and find truth.

5. I am worth self-care.

These are just a few, but it’s a start.

How about you? Have you set your boundaries? Where will you start?