I wrote in my journal a page and a half of the pain I am feeling and I wanted to get it to a better place, so tried a new exercise, one that just came to me.
If we're feeling dark, let's flip it over.
I asked myself: When is the first time I felt pleasure? And there came an outpouring of lots of memories that have nothing to do with my daughter's death and everything to do with my current questions - Who am I now? Who was I before? How can I reach back to that and pull it through?
My pleasures - the wonderful thing is that when I focus on them (feed the good wolf*) there are plenty, plenty, and they make my heart sing. I made a list (try this in troubled times, it feels very good, the best kind of medicine).
Hiking in the woods
Reading aloud to children
Digging in the dirt
Splashing in puddles
Jumping on beds
Really good hotels
My hair, long, long, long
The sun and the twilight
A job well done
So I will tell some small stories about my pleasures.
Art museums - when I was a kid, we traveled all over the world, barely setting foot in the U.S. til I was about 11 years old. My mother would take us to the great museums wherever we were, and one of those places was Italy. I saw the Sistine Chapel, beautiful sculptures, paintings, colors, form, line, oh museums became the place of my heart. My home away from home wherever I am.
Comic books - My sister and I had a stack of about 300 comic books - back in the day you could get them for about 25 cents each. My mother indulged us generously. They kept us busy for hours, not only reading, but also squishing silly putty to smoosh onto the images and then pull to stretch them out, causing much giggling.
Swimming - I always loved the feel of water against my skin, and when I was 10 I was able to secure my bronze and silver medals for swimming as a school activity in Britain. I wanted to go for my gold but you had to be older and they wouldn't let me. I would have gotten it. Part of the tests was diving off the verrry high dive which wasn't even a board, but a concrete platform, another part was treading water in your clothing with wellington boots on for five minutes, and of course, lap swimming. When I was 12 I swam a mile just to see if I could and I did.
Sunrise - When I was about 15 I lived in the unfinished attic of our house with nine windows across the back, overlooking the beautiful backyard, and windows at each end. The sun would rise orange and beautiful, and the first time I saw it I vowed to get up every day at sunrise just to enjoy it.
Hot coffee - Some of those sunrises were very cold, as there was little heat in the attic (but lots of privacy, which a teenager needs) and I would go down to the kitchen and make a pot of coffee in my parents' old-fashioned percolator. I would sit with my back against the radiator and my feet propped up on the kitchen counter while it perked away. Ah sweet anticipation.
Hiking in the woods and skinny dipping - There was a place called FlatRock in New Jersey where I hiked a lot with a close friend. It included huge boulders and waterfall pools where we could swim, with or without clothing. I always hiked barefoot.
Reading aloud to children - Oh there is nothing better. When my kids were small they didn't understand books and pages so there's a lot of scotch tape on some of the books we read while they were very young. Treasure now. Our very favorite was The Sky Jumps Into Your Shoes At Night.
Writing - I've always written - have kept a journal every day for over 40 years. The sad thing is that by the time anyone inherits this they might not know how to read it since they don't teach cursive anymore. Ugh.
Drawing - I started drawing when I was about 10 years old and my favorite subjects were people on planets. Each person had their own planet upon which they danced and they were color coordinated.
Sex - Well I was born for this - nice discovery, eh? I didn't have a good partner to enjoy it with until I was in my 30's. He taught me to play. And I am very blessed to have that lesson under my belt.
Climbing trees - Total pleasure - sap from the pines in my hair and on my skin, sitting under dappled sunshine with a good old trashy paperback, the tree limbs rocking in the wind. Nothing better.
Digging in the dirt - When I was about nine years old, my favorite place to play was in the bushes that ran across the front of our property in Wimbledon, England. I unearthed some red clay roof tiles and thought I'd found the way to China. Lots of good old antique bottles too.
Splashing in puddles - There's almost nothing better than celebrating the rain. It runs swiftly down past the curbs, making whirling eddies you can stomp in. Good wellies needed. Much fun.
Popping tar bubbles - In the hot New Jersey summers the tar on the roads would melt and if we were wearing flip flops sometimes they'd come right off your feet and you'd have to sqwootch them out of there. We loved popping the bubbles with the front of our flippies.
Jumping on beds - So far no one has been able to break me of this habit. When's the last time you did it? It's very silly and fun.
Really good hotels - Ah, there's nothing better than pure white bleached sheets, a balcony with a view, and room service. And extra pillows. I love a good hotel almost better than anything. Grew up in them, spent half my life in them. The little tiny jelly containers are the best. And the butter! All swirled and salty, mmmm.
Dancing - Music moves the soul as well as the feet and hips and everything else we can jiggle. Dancing is good at all times.
Singing - Yep, in the shower, in the car, in my studio while I'm working, singing is a wonderful thing. When I was a kid I would sing in the bathtub and I didn't know that the piping led to the other part of the house where we lived in London - and the landlord's family could hear it. They loved it - what I remember most about that bathroom was that there would always be a wooly, hairy big spider in the tub to get rid of first. Didn't deter me in the least.
My hair - long, long, long - When I was young my hair was like my mother's - aubern and full of golden highlights. It would shine in the sun like nobody's business. I am happy that it is turning a nice glowy silver - eat your fats girls, that's what makes your hair shine.
The sun and twilight - Twilight has always been my very favorite part of the day, that golden orange sunshine slanting across the trees and making long shadows. It's the time when the fairies start their dancing, and fireflies come out to join in the magic.
Painting - Ah, the fragrance of oil paints and turpentine. I spent many hours in my attic refuge feeling the smoothness of the brushstrokes painting my soul on canvas. Almost nothing better.
The moon - A beautiful constant in our lives - when we're apart from our loved ones we know they can see it too. The same moon. It dances across my bedroom windows, and I soak it up in sleepy gratification.
Tarot cards - Where would I be without them? My greatest teachers and comforters - my inspiration. Jamie Sams and David Carson. They've raised me.
Beading - My solace. My joy. One of the things I share with the world. My play and my work - I push myself to grow with my creations.
Music - When I was a kid living in New Jersey we got the New York radio stations, and there's nothing better. Allison Steel taking you through the night into Peter Pan land. Then graduated to albums, 8 tracks, smaller tapes, CDs, and streaming - how many times must we redo our music setup? Gotta have it. Especially really good jazz and beautiful acoustic guitar. I could go on and on. I'll let the music do that.
Meditation - Lots of lovely visions teaching me. Making me strong. Letting me see my essential self, which is very beautiful.
Sleeping - Dreams. Stories. Outlets. Guidance. Reflection. All good.
A job well done - Nothing makes me feel a whole lot better than when I'm soaring after the completion of some project, especially when it has involved the work of others dedicated towards the same goal.
Feed the good wolf*. Count your blessings and be aware of the things that bring you pleasure - seek them often to make your heart sing, even in the worst of times. I take my inspiration from the incredibly dedicated performers of Cirque du Soleil, who give their lives for their art.