Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No convenient time for downers


By JOELLEN COLLINS

The following words from "Gone With the Wind," a work I don't particularly adore, apply to some recent events in my life: "Death and taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them." It is true that there are few times that fit perfectly into our plans for the big occasions of life, but we deal with them as they come.

When I lived in Thailand, I savored the combination of sweet and spicy, tangy and mellow flavors. What a joy to have raw papaya at lunch and dip the pieces in a salt-spice combo to discover new taste combinations, like the new blends of the sweet and sour in life's happenings.

Thus it is strange to me that I experienced new emotions and realities as I forded through a few weeks this summer filled with an intense combination of joy and sadness I had not anticipated.

Usually one feels prepared for the exigencies of challenges that can be presented at any time, and I have lived through them before. This early July, however, there were ups and downs that left me alternately exhilarated, exhausted, thrilled and filled with trepidation, almost all at once.

After the Fourth of July I was involved in finishing one of my favorite activities, teaching a summer school class of second-trimester athletes, and my daughter and her family arrived to stay for a few days. What joy, though a bit conflicted with family and teaching responsibilities. Still, I felt very blessed, and so I planned a couple of days off to work on an applique project when the week was over. As I relaxed into a good book, I thought I had loads of time to finish the job.

I would label that week as an intense upper.

The next week, as I thought I would settle into a routine of time with my doggie and working on the fabric art, I was hit with a downer. Without going into unnecessary and extremely personal details, I had some sad family news: My brother's wife committed suicide. Without discussing the ramifications of her choice or the misery that propelled it or the alienation that for years my brother and I had experienced, let me say that this is a very sad story. It hit me hard; she was a precious human being. As I get older, I receive sad news almost every week, and one has to reluctantly grapple with the beliefs and attitudes one has about end-of-life realities.

So, a downer and the concomitant feelings of guilt and failure and family disconnections.

An upper followed: a visit from a good friend who stayed at my place and the healthy laughter that ensued (though I didn't work on my fabric commission as much as I should). That Friday, I treated myself to the most delightful evening with R.L. Rowsey at my beloved Company of Fools.

Then another downer. One of my best friends suffered a series of injuries from a huge fall off her precious horse into a rocky river bed, and I agreed to help her recover after a few days in the hospital.

The upper: She is better and with family now. The downer: If I had finished my relaxed efforts to complete the fabric project earlier, I wouldn't have been such a last-minute Lily and much less stressed.

Then a final upper and a combo of both: The recipient of the fabric piece was most understanding about my need to polish some fine details and, once again, I basked in the consideration of others.

The combo: I attended a most beautiful event at a friend's home. We gathered to celebrate the joyous life of a woman who passed away several months ago. On what was predicted to be a stiflingly hot day, there were clouds touching the mountains; it was verdant and restorative to feel her once again in her home and gardens among her family and friends. The afternoon epitomized the beauty and comfort one can strive to experience even in the midst of grief. My friend would have loved the day.

I have gained two perceptions from these past few weeks. First, a reminder that I should not procrastinate in the name of enjoying the moment, whether for work or expressing affection. Second, I must try as hard as possible to anticipate sudden change, to go with the flow and function within its sometimes tumultuous torrents.

Up or down, I'm glad to be here.




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