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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Should we bake a cake or bring a shovel?


This has been kind of a strange week. It began with 3 nights of restless dreams where my friend who passed away 7 years ago showed up, night after night, helping me remove garish floral wallpaper in one of the muddled dreams. On the afternoon of the 3rd day, the controller at work invited me up to eat ice cream, explaining that a salesman had been wooing her with treats of caramel, apple pie and now, 9 pints of ice cream. I found myself at work later than expected that day and so I decided to peek in on the ice cream options. I opened the freezer and found myself facing containers of the very brand my friend enjoyed prior to her passing. Huh.

Aside from that, it was a fairly uneventful week for me which left me wanting to write while wondering what to write about. I was almost envious of my friend who had dropped a weight on her face because that right there is some serious grist for the writing mill. Almost. Tragedy + time = comedy. Sometimes, life happens to you and other times, you bear witness as it happens to others. This week, I was a watcher. A witness as life happened on life's terms to friends.

  • A friend closing in on 90-days of sobriety.

  • New love.

  • Love ending - a couple announcing the demise of their marriage.

  • People moving forward on their path of grief. Each at their own pace, in their own time and way.

  • A couple having come together, then apart, coming back together.

  • A celebration for a little guy turning 2.

  • Hurt feelings aired.

In her novel, Start Where You Are, A Guide for Compassionate Living, Pema Chodron wrote, “Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both……The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh simply states, “No mud, no lotus.”

It’s easy to bear witness to the glorious - - a happy birthday celebration for a two year old or a person stitching together sobriety one miraculous day at a time. We rally for the glorious and celebrate it. The wretched is hard and messy and necessary to appreciate the glorious. It’s easier to participate in when it’s not directly happening to you. Easier, but still hard. And yet, a privilege to bear witness to people being real.

My bulleted list above - - each of these takes hope and great courage. Hope and courage to bring a child into the this dizzyingly fucked up world. Courage to feel every single one of these goddamn, blessed feelings without alcohol. Courage to love again after loss. Courage to move forward separately or after the loss of a loved one or with someone who betrayed you. Courage to admit when some one has hurt you - - admitting it to them, to yourself, to others. But when you do, they can be there for you. They can ask, as our friend Chantal does, "Should I bake a cake?" to celebrate or to absolve. Or, "Should I bring a shovel?" to bury the person who hurt you. They can then do either, or something entirely different, or nothing at all except to bear witness and hold you up.

When I was in high school, I was introduced to the musical, Into the Woods. It touched me then and continues to do so all these years later as I gather life experiences similar to Little Red Riding Hood tucking treasures in her basket for granny's house. A few years ago, Andrea and I saw Into the Woods in NYC and it didn't disappoint. I'd been a little reluctant to see it - - concerned it somehow wouldn't live up to my memories and expectations. As I sat in the darkened theater, Cinderella sang No One is Alone to Little Red Riding Hood, tears silently slid from my eyes and down my face.

...Still, you're not alone.

No one is alone. Truly. No one is alone. Sometimes people leave you. Halfway through the wood. Others may deceive you. You decide whats good. You decide alone. But no one is alone.


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