Sharin’ ‘Em

A while ago I stayed at a bed and breakfast which had the most amazing food and quilts. Not together mind you, but the food was some of the most delicious and simple food I’ve ever had and as for the quilt, well it was perfect in weight and comfort.

It was the kind of place that you want to share with someone, or maybe it was the experience that I wanted to share most of all with a certain someone.  At any rate it was a lovely visit that i know a certain person in my life would have enjoyed with me.

You see this person is an amazing friend, one I’ve unfortunately taken for granted at times, ignored at times and such.  She is one of the most incredible people I know.  When I told her about my diagnosis of lupus she went out and did her own research, not just to understand the illness, but also how to be involved in and incredibly supportive way.

The delicious food was something that I know she would have enjoyed and we would have had a wonderful time sharing and tasting things.  As for the quilt, well this lady makes the most amazing hand stitched quilts.  Anyone who receives any of her handy work (she does al types of amazing, creative things made with love) is truly lucky for they are made with love and that love simply wraps around you.

Without ever saying it, her support, her love and her positivity has always been open to me.  Sadly I’ve been too stubborn at times to receive or be open to her positiveness.  As I lack creative skills,I am unable to develop a quilt for her to let her know how important she has been in my journey in life with lupus.

What Need For Speed Taught Me

So I met a friend for coffee the other day. A friend I haven’t seen in a while. Life kind of got in the way of us getting together, well that and occasionally an ocean or two and a few thousand (give or take) miles. Now with this friend, let’s just say we clicked right away. I’m not sure how or why, but we just got each other from our first meeting. It was like we were always friends.

While we were having coffee, well technically she was having a tea latte of some type while I savored, or is that devoured, a coffee, we caught up on missing time. You know all the usual stuff, except her what’s new news was that her husband was dying. She didn’t lead up to it, didn’t soften the blow, just told me that he was dying and had a few months at best left.

Usually this is news you come up to in some what of a gentle fashion, or at least a slow lead up. But she felt there was no need for it. How she told me wasn’t going to change the fact he was dying. It wasn’t going to ease her pain or her loss either. She felt it as a raw open wound every moment of her life and she let her way of telling people be just as raw. It wasn’t mean. It wasn’t deliberate. It just simply was the way she said it.

She said that she learned that she had a need for speed these days, every second she spent on the road away from home was a second she’d have less with her husband. And yet, here she was, spending time away from him because life does go on doesn’t it? She found that with her desire for speed in getting back to him she also no longer considered things in the same light. A speed limit shifted from a hard fast rule to just something that was placed on a road. It didn’t’ take into account driver’s skill or the car’s performance. She also no longer worried about driving as fast.

Basically she was far more willing to take risks these days if it meant more time with him. And in having a higher tolerance and acceptance to taking risks, her frustration level with the slower, more cautious people was growing to the point of no return. And still she sat across from me, having a tea latter while she explained all of this to me. Her anger, her frustration, her despair all tumbled out and onto the table, along with a speeding ticket.

The ticket, she told me, didn’t really matter. Not in the big picture. She was certain there would be more of those as time became more valuable. She was positive there would be one for the drive to the airport for their final vacation. The type of vacation where only one person comes back in the same state as they left.

And then she would have a different need for speed. Speed would be important to get past those long and lonely hours. What she would be running to I wouldn’t be able guess. What she would be running away from? Herself and an empty house.

We visited far longer than I had thought we would and when I got home I looked at my four-footed companion in wonder. Marveling at her ability to simply live in the moment. Maybe if we figured this out the need for speeding would be less.

Holding It All

It’s funny how you never notice someone aging when you live with them most of the time. Its like suddenly one day, they have aged and you have no clue how that happened. It struck me today watching Beloved’s hand grasp the steering wheel. These are older hands, hands of a man who has experienced a great deal more distress and trauma than when I first met him.

Perhaps his hands also represent lessons learned through experiences and friendships. And they surely represent the journeys he has been on in that time.

He has a small scar, barely noticeable now, on his left thumb courtesy of a stubborn window that wouldn’t close, but gave way under pressure. I wonder, when people look at his thumb, do they notice the scar? Do they wonder how he got it or does it even matter to them.

His are hands of a man who hasn’t worked manual labor, which I’m sure some people notice when they look at his hands. He has been blessed and able to choose to make his work of the intellectual variety rather than manual. And his hand tell that tale in their softness and immaculate manicure.

It’s hard to believe that those were than hands that so tightly gripped mine when we heard the words “sorry, you have cancer”. Those hands were the ones that balled up into fists as he endured radiation and chemo. And those were the hands that slapped the desk with glee when he was told he was cancer-free now.

Those are the same hands, strong and sure, that can also be so gentle and unsure when it comes to dealing with my follies and health. Those are the hands that aren’t sure if they should touch me when I’m in pain, or try to soothe me when I rage at whatever it is that has my attention for the given moment.

Those hands have patted students on the back, clapped in celebration as students graduated and shook the hands of newly made PhDs. They’ve also held new born babies, and clasped the hands of the dying. They have held many a book and dropped many a tool.

And now, suddenly today, as I watched him drive the car, I realized that like the rest of him, his hands have grown a little older. A little different. Not that you would notice easily if you live with him all the time…but changed nonetheless.

Changed and yet the same. The hands that still reach for mine, as mine reach for his. The hands that hold me and are there for me are a little older, a little more experienced like the man they are attached to. Just as I’m sure mine have changed and altered over time and experience. Still we shall hold it and each other together with this changing hands of ours, hope and trust, faith and love that no matter what else comes our way we will somehow find a way to handle it.

Literally Pieces Of Cake

I started the day with the plan of making a cake.  Not just any cake, but a blood orange cake with blood orange cream and layers.  The recipe was rather long, a whole page with extremely detailed instructions.  There was also a warning about being careful if it was too humid out and such.  Okay so not just a long recipe, a bit challenging.  Okay so daunting is the right word.

But the whole day stretched endlessly in front of me and why not.  The cake was for a friend who had just started up a new business and was in need of a pick-me-up.  So yes bring on this daunting recipe.  I’m ready.  Or so I thought.

And then the daunting recipe was brought forth with ingredients and measuring implements.  It may have been the apron that started the process. Yes the apron.  The one I never wear.  Except today for some reason I felt the need to wear it.  That may have been the beginning of the great unravel.

Or perhaps it was when the first orange decided it didn’t want to be zested.  I mean it did  protest via squirting me on the eye when I set about to juicing it.  I should have taken all those signs into account and questioned if the cake would really do justice for my friend.

But that’s just not me.  I’m too determined or stubborn.  So I carried on making the cake.  I mixed and stirred and sifted and baked.  I whipped and spread and tried like crazy to make it all level.   Surely it’s okay if the cake looks homemade.  I mean we all know I’m not a professional baker.  It’s the thought and all that after all.

So it is a bit lopsided and the blood orange cream wasn’t spread perfectly.  But no big deal.  Nope the big deal wasn’t even all the dishes, amount of time or anything like that.  Driving the cake to my friend, not a big deal. Making the cake and delivering the cake are what you do for a friend after all. Dropping the cake on her floor?  Priceless.  In the wrong way.  Other than she had a few good laughs, the kind of laughs that make you cry.  But the thought and the heart-felt intent is there right?

Barring the Barre

A friend asked me to join her for a barre class.  It would be great fun, she said.  I would only have to do what I felt was within in limits, she said.  It’s mostly stretching, she said.  She lied.

When I was in ballet I hated working with the barre.  Hated it with all my little girl heart.  You see the barre was were the disciplined hard work, but boring work took place. I wanted to leap and bound across the floor.  The barre doesn’t let you leap and bound across the floor.  The barre is an anchor of sorts.

An anchor that is ideal for learning the foot positions and the dreaded plies.  And stretches that frankly made me wonder if I was supposed to be made of rubber.  Granted the barre is always where I learned to go en pointe.  And of course who wants to learn at the barre when it should be natural to stand on the tips of your toes and it really isn’t.  Natural that is.

So I knew all of this, I mean I had already tried a relationship with the barre before.  It wasn’t a good relationship.  But how could it be with me hating it and all it really wanted to do was support me?  So I decided to be a bit of an adult (I do this now and then) and go into the barre class with an open mind.

For the record I have closed my mind to the barre again.   Know, it isn’t the barre’s fault and it was still here for me.  But barre class is like the worst of ballet married to the barre and lots of squats and working with weights.  Not exactly fun.  And to top it off the instructor was someone who had taken her dance very seriously and couldn’t grasp why I wasn’t more flexible or had the unrestrained attack of the giggles more than once.  For the record the giggles were the thought that if we just dislocated our hips we’d get more stretch.  And frankly at this age, dislocating hips and factoring hips is something I’d rather not think about for soon enough it will be a serious threat.  I wonder if they offer barre exercises for those who remain seated?

Life With Lupus, It Doesn’t Have To Be a Sentence

Life without the possibility of parole.  A sentence that will out live you.  I cannot fathom living imprisoned for the rest of my life.  Nor can I fathom society giving up on me, writing me off as a waste.

I’ve never committed a crime, never been convicted or locked up. And yet I remember when my life felt as though I had been locked up with the key to release me lost forever.  It’s not uncommon to feel abandoned or lost when you receive a medical diagnosis.  When you are young and you receive the news that you have a chronic illness it can be devastating.  It came see as though you are placed in solitary confinement with no hope of getting out.

I was received a sentence of life without lupus.  What I didn’t realize back then is that a sentence of lupus is not a sentence of hopelessness.  It isn’t an end to life.  It may seem that way at first when the doctor provides you with the news.  And it’s okay to feel a little list at first.

But life with lupus isn’t all gloom.  It’s a chance to really consider what’s most important in your life.  It’s a chance to become part of an amazing community of people who are heroes.  You see having a chronic illness like lupus means that doing ordinary things may take extraordinary means or creative ways of making things work.  Sure you may be challenged, and sure there are times when it isn’t all roses, but you still have a life and it can still be full and good.

I try to think of my life with lupus as having a companion all the time.  A companion that requires compromise, insists I consider what’s really important in my life and which dreams I can’t to chase.  This companion of mine reminds me that every day people have to come up with creative ways, new ways, of doing ordinary things.  And is companion offers me a roller coaster ride of emotions, but not without providing me a great community of support.

No one goes through a chronic illness completely alone and if you can remember that, if you can just reach out to those who’ve navigated the winding path of living with lupus already, it’s easier.   Everything is easier when you aren’t in solitary, while you aren’t facing it alone.  And you aren’t alone!  I promise.  Reach out.

Forgiving and Second Chances

Who am I to judge another person’s transformation for authenticity?  Thankfully I don’t have to, unlike a few of my friends who make their living doing just that.

Both of them work in prisons as chaplains.  While they minister to the incarcerated they are asked to write letters to parole boards, for pardons, reduced sentence and such.  They don’t always write those letters or speak on behalf of the people.  However they say, if the change is an honest change, they will go to bat on behalf of the individual.

I distinctly recall, in one of the classes I took with my friends, that something like 80% of all people who are incarcerated claim to find religion or strengthen their beliefs while they are locked up.   I guess that it’s like the old saying that you don’t find atheists in foxholes during battles.

I do believe that these kinds of transformations can and do take place.  I’m grateful that I don’t have to figure out if the transformations are just for show or are the real thing.

One of my friends says he doesn’t worry too much about that, he looks at the evidence he sees and feels and listens to what his heart tells him.  Of course he also believes that actions show dedication, or lack there of, to the words that are read or spoken.

Both of my friends tells me that even when they go to bat for someone, they do so in a respectful way so as not to negate or diminish the crime/actions that led to the person being incarcerated.  They both believe in second chances, even third and point to the scriptures of how and why we must do this. As they point out, what makes one person better than another.  Human’s, according to scripture, are not perfect and as long as we learn and move in the right direction that’s all they can ask for; that’s all anyone can expect.

Scriptures are black and white, or whatever color the text is printed in!  Humans and our behaviours aren’t always black and white, we are bound to make mistakes as we go on our journeys.  We are fortunate to have people who understand that forgiveness doesn’t equate to approval of what we have done in the past.  Rather forgiveness and second chances are an opportunity to show what we have learned, apply the lessons to our lives and be better people.