Joy in the Morning – A Valentine to Myself

“It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
~Mary Oliver

I rise early on this rainy morning, excited about the book I’m editing, excited about the essay I’m writing. There is joy in the morning. This often happens for me as a morning person. Classical piano music plays as a light rain falls on this Thursday morning. A day before Valentine’s day, I think of a new gentle friend I’ve met and how nice it would be to share a cup of coffee with her in the beautiful morning of classical piano music. Along with thinking of sharing a cup of coffee with a beautiful woman, my mind also considers a question asked by a different beautiful new friend. Here is the scenario she presents:

You meet someone and there is instant attraction. There’s no denying the connection, vibe and energy between you. You go out a few times and things are great. There’s also no denying where this is heading.

You want to be upfront and honest, so you decide to sit down and have one of ‘those conversations’ with her. You say, ‘this is my stuff’…  What is it you’re saying to her?

~Audrey Negron

At first, I didn’t know how to answer it AT ALL. During the day, I found myself pondering the question and how I would honestly respond. This morning as I washed dishes, the question turned over in my mind again and again. I thought of the pain when my ex-wife asked me to leave

because I was disabled, and she couldn’t deal with it. How does one come back from that? Being called “disabled” and having my physical ability limited was not my choice. How does one outline that to a new person especially when we know that aging and its natural course doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be better with time?

 

Then, my mind hears the piano music again and I remember the letter sent to me complaining about how much time and energy I spent on music; that I performed outside of the house and taught lessons, directed choirs. I’ve been a musician all of my life. At a young age, I

Me playing guitar.

knew that the life of a professional performer was not the life for me although somewhere in my training, I became a performer. The life of the professional performer required too many sacrifices of self: how one dressed, presented sexuality, no time at all for loved ones. The life of a professional performer was one that would take too much from my soul. As a result, I chose the life of a professional choir director and teacher.

When my ex sent that letter, I could NOT believe it. I asked her why she even got into a relationship with me if she did not want me to share my music? Later she apologized, but those types of things cannot be unsaid. That was an attack on my soul. I say an attack on my soul because I cannot imagine a life without music. So, what would I say to a new person if there was mutual interest? What would I say about that? That my first love was music? And, would that be true?

I ask if that is the truth because I don’t know which came first, my love of G-d or my love of music. In truth, they are somehow tied together for me. As I typed that last sentence, one of my favorite pieces of piano music plays, Debussy’s “Suite bergamasque, L. 75-3 Clair de lune. The pianist is Lang Lang.

My first thought is of my sister. This was a piece she was assigned when we took piano. Then, as the piano piece proceeds, I feel the flowing of our Carolina streams and see sunlight dappling the water. It causes worship to rise in my heart. Not worship of my sister or the pianist or the composer, but whatever entity brings that music into being, I want to know THAT ONE! That being who causes poetry, music, and sisters to be formed, I want to know and give thanks to that ONE.

Morning at Church of the Holy Cross, Valle Crucis, NC.

Therefore, my next confession is that I am religious. I tried on the “spiritual but not religious” cloak and it was well, weird. I felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes and not my own hiking books. The truth is that I’m both spiritual AND religious. Each day is a day of searching for what it means to live an artistic and sacred life. Many cannot deal with that and I understand. At this point in life, I know I also cannot compromise that part of me any more than I can compromise being a musician or lesbian. There are some things you just know are TRUE about your life.

Those truths may or may not work for another. This is the beauty of life, self-discovery. You be free to be you and I can be free to be me. Alexis Ffrench plays “Bluebird” as I type about the freedom to be.

I’m not one to be caged. When you meet me, the first thing that usually starts is short jokes. LOL, I’m okay with that. Sometimes though, people think that because my physical being is small that they can put me in a box, but my soul will not be contained. Don’t expect me to be anything other than who I am.

In truth, I’m a poet, peacemaker, healer, but when someone puts me in a box, I will fight, and I can fight because I come from a family of warriors. I’ve also discovered and must admit that I may suffer fools a bit in public, but not for long. At 58, I admit being tired of the nonsense. My goal is to be a peaceful warrior, but my choice would be not to fight at all. If I had my way, each day would be spent with art, music, poetry, children, and friends. Yet, politics happen, hunger is daily, and dishes must be washed. The mundane can be beautiful too when those in charge are not power-hungry.

Though this essay is about responding to my new friend’s question, it is also a Valentine of some sort. I’m unsure what type of Valentine because the day itself has never been a good one for me. Yet, I want to love a special someone again I suppose. No, I know I do, because I love to love and care for another. Time and again the lesson that I keep learning is that first, I must learn to send a Valentine to myself. That is the hardest thing of all. We all must learn to love and accept our own flaws before we can truly love another. As I ponder Audrey’s question, I know the task is essential. Especially now, when all I know for sure is that I can offer is love, a song, kindness, and joy in the morning.

from “A Wave” by John Ashbery

When the Sun Went Down
To have been loved once by someone—surely
There is a permanent good in that,
Even if we don’t know all the circumstances
Or it happened too long ago to make any difference.
Like almost too much sunlight or an abundance of sweet-
sticky,
caramelized things—who can tell you it’s wrong?
which of the others on your team could darken the passive
Melody that runs on, that has been running since the world
began?
Yet, to be strapped to one‘s mindset, which seems
As enormous as a plain. to have to be told
That its horizons are comically confining,
And all the sorrow wells from there, like the slanting
Plume of a waterspout: doesn’t it supplant knowledge
at the different forms of love, reducing them
To a white indifferent prism, a roofless love standing open
To the elements? And some see in this a paradigm of how it
rises
slowly to the indifferent heavens, all that pale glamour?

French Translation by Michael T. Bee
… de “A Wave” de John Ashbery c’est une chronique de haibun. de nombreuses émotions complexes à la fois
comme l’adolescence ou tomber amoureux

Quand le soleil s’est couché
Avoir été aimé une fois par une femme – sûrement
Il y a un bien permanent là-dedans,
Même si nous ne connaissons pas toutes les circonstances
Ou c’est arrivé il y a trop longtemps pour faire la différence.
Comme presque trop de soleil ou une abondance de sucreries
gluant,
des choses caramélisées – qui peut vous dire que c’est faux?
lequel des autres membres de votre équipe pourrait assombrir le passif
Une mélodie qui continue, qui court depuis le monde
a commencé?
Pourtant, pour être attaché à son état d’esprit, ce qui semble
Aussi énorme qu’une plaine. devoir être dit
Que ses horizons se bornent comiquement,
Et tout le chagrin jaillit de là, comme l’inclinaison
Panache d’une trombe: ne supplante-t-elle pas la connaissance
aux différentes formes d’amour, en les réduisant
À un prisme blanc et indifférent, un amour inexorable debout
Aux éléments? Et certains voient en cela un paradigme de la façon dont il
monte
lentement vers les cieux indifférents, tout ce pâle glamour?

 

Beautiful Piano Music for your soul (playing this morning)

At Last (Solo Piano Version) Alexis Ffrench

Underwater Dream Eluvium

Keyboard Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056: Harpsichord Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056: Largo Hae Won Chang & Johann Sebastian Bach

Chopin: Nocturne No.2 In E Flat, Op.9 No.2 Daniel Barenboim & Frédéric Chopin

Olivia Belli – Max Richter: Departure (Lullaby from “The Leftovers”)

 

 

 

 

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Reclaiming Love on Valentine’s Day

Reminders of love.

Tomorrow is the day we all hope to celebrate love. Valentine’s Day for the divorcee, however, turns into another “bah-humbug”. I’ve heard grumbling that the holiday is probably one developed by Hallmark in order to sell more gifts. In truth, the celebration day of Saint Valentine is older than any U.S. trademark. Celebrated since 496, the Romans came up with the holiday in mid-February.

Any time we celebrate love, it should be good right? I know that as a romantic person, I’ve always wanted Valentine’s Day to be special for my beloved even if I was broke. The day isn’t always a good one because life doesn’t stop just because we want to celebrate love. Star-crossed lovers and mismatched couples can find the day frustrating as well.

Though I begin to move out of the depression caused by my divorce, I am extremely suspicious about romance now. In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, I found myself wanting to skip over the date completely or delete all social media accounts for that day, so I didn’t have to look at other sappy proclamations of love. What is wrong with this picture? The truth is, I believe in the power of love.

As a result, I decided last week that somehow, I was going to “reclaim” the day of love in a way that is meaningful to me. I’m not the only person to have been divorced recently? I know I can’t be the only person who dreads the holiday either. How could I reclaim the day? I started with the kid’s Valentine’s Day cards available at Dollar General.

I found some with a message I could stomach that hopefully wouldn’t scare the recipients of those I wanted to share with. Where the card had the “To and From” I simply added To: you, From: me. Creativity gave me an idea to write a positive note on a few. On others, I like the message of the card itself say what needed to be said. My hope was that as I share them, at the very least they will give the inner child of each human a smile.

Going to church this past Sunday I meant to take my cards with me. The wonderful people at Holy Cross Episcopal have brought much healing into my life after the divorce. My dog, Birdie, always rides with me to church though she stays in the Fiat. I was so busy making sure she would be warm enough that I forgot the cards. Didn’t remember them in fact until a friend at church, Bruce, stepped up to hand me a frame wrapped up in a baggie. He knows I’m a lesbian, so I knew that he wasn’t giving me a valentine in the sense that men often do for women. When I arrived home, I opened to read this wonderful message as a powerful reminder:

Love doesn’t make the world go round, it makes the ride worthwhile.

It was as though Bruce had listened to my prayer. Or perhaps God put a bug in Bruce’s ears that I needed to be reminded of the value of love. Love has been the most important aspect of all my life, vocation, and music. After all these years of a beautiful life, why would I give up totally on love now?

There’s no reason, of course, other than grief. The stages of grief take however long they take. The longer a person has been in a relationship, the longer the grief may take. In my case, I thought we were happily married so it’s taking longer to get to a point of being interested in others. That doesn’t mean I need to harden my heart to love, however. Love at its very best is working for the well-being of another and I can do that even while I grieve.

Another way to celebrate Valentine’s Day after a divorce, separation, or death is to be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect great joy. Spend the day with your favorite book, person, or dog (or cat or bird). Take yourself out for dinner to a place you always wanted to go but your ex didn’t want to go and try. Treat yourself gently and kindly because grief is a strange process and though there are many ways of looking at the stages of grief, no one knows what you need but you.

If the day still fills you with dread or misery, I encourage you to talk to a priest, pastor, or counselor who will listen to you and be kind. Many are caught up in difficult relationships. Some may be abusive and if so, a support system needs to be built. Life’s tragedies and trials can also throw kinks into otherwise good and healthy relationships. With love and gentleness, you can find your way back to a love that reminds you of the goodness of life.

________________

How to Know if You Are Stuck
Signs of a Healthy Relationship
Getting out of an abusive relationship?
Lesbian Relationships & Abuse

 

 

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