My new sort-of routine is heading for the exotically-named and mundanely suburban Alhambra Hall, a public building set in a big lawn on Charleston harbor near my house, to watch the winter sunset. It’s not always spectacular, as on this day of moody gray clouds that remind me of a Japanese woodcut. I don’t make it on rainy days and I don’t make it on lazy days, but when I do show up, it pulls me into a 10-minute space of silence that is shivery and serene. The air is as crisp as a just-ironed, lightly-starched white shirt. Planes write soaring haiku paeans to the sky. The dog walkers are quietly convivial with each other while their companions cavort. I’m acutely aware of the contrast of being warmly bundled up while I breathe the chilled sauvignon-blanc air. A small delightful luxury that I have done nothing to deserve. When the sun starts to set, a golden light often sweet-talks the dormant russet marsh grass, and it seems to glow from within. And so do I.
Archive for January, 2015
When I was first divorced, two new friends invited me to dinner and played Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” for me. I was taking the first tentative steps into the world alone, and I’ll never forget the moment of illumination and clarity it precipitated. Suddenly I could see that the demolition of my marriage was also a chance to build a life that felt like home. Usually, I’m only able to recognize in hindsight crucial turning points in my life, those moments when I simultaneously mourn an ending and step toward a beginning. The ones that resemble epiphanies are rare for me, but I’m beginning to realize that I can take most any story I’ve created around my failures, losses or shortcomings and practice flipping it. Was that lover I parted ways with so tragically really the Fake Soul Mate Who Scarred Me For Life? Was it only a time of embarrassing foolishness, unanswered questions and lingering regret, or can I flip it and see the things I learned, mourn the powerful hurts we inflicted and be grateful for the moments of intense joy we shared in spite of the inevitable and damaging ending? It helps me to see that the stories I’ve created about my life and the people in it aren’t very accurate or useful. Any time I’m able to stop viewing my life through a narrow tunnel vision, it opens up a world of possibility I never imagined, like re-reading a book and suddenly discovering layers of meaning and multiple side plots. I guess we’re all unreliable narrators when it comes to our the tales we tell ourselves, and flipping the picture won’t necessarily reveal the “real” truth. But it can make our stories so much richer because everything that happens to us comes with a multitude of lessons and truths. In the process, we can meet ourselves anew, the strangers who have been walking side by side with us all this time just waiting for us to turn and embrace them.