18 Going on College

Baby 1When my son was born, my mom gave me a poem which I placed in a photo album that I carried in my purse. It held all my favorite photos of him during his “early days.” The first photo displayed was the very first picture of Jarod and me taken. The photo where I met him and held him for the very first time.

Eighteen years ago.

In preparing for his Graduation Party, I pulled out this little album, along with photos I’d set aside of him during the years before digital — you know, the days when you printed photos and duplicates and kept negatives? You might even say that Type AA me has been planning his Grad Party since he was born.

I’ve had fun looking back at the photos and pulling out artwork, stories, paper plate awards and items I’ve saved over the years. But, I keep returning to this poem.

IF I HAD MY CHILD TO RAISE OVER AGAIN

If I had my child to raise over again, 

I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less.

I’d do less correcting, and more connecting,

I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.

I would care to know less, and know to care more.

I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.

I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.

I’d run through more fields, and gaze at more stars.

I’d do more hugging, and less tugging.

I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.

I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.

I’d teach less about the love of power,

And more about the Power of Love.

                                                                                  — Diane Loomans 

grad-1.jpgLooking back on the 18 years of motherhood that took us to the “Grad Party,” I know there have been good moments, exceptional moments, challenging moments, fun moments, tearful moments, triumphant moments, devastating moments and thoughtful, reflective moments. And all of those moments have taken us right here.

I didn’t spend a lot of time finger painting, but I spent a lot of time with Jarod reading and playing at Barnes and Noble, traveling with him on his fire truck up and down streets and playing trash truck at the park. He helped me learn my Chicago choreography, dancing right in our driveway. And, we played together to draw and write his first story about Jack the Caveman. The Santa visits with Starbucks, Opera Theatre outings and Royal Oak Brewery dinners when dad went fishing were our playtime.

I know I did my share of correcting. All kids need boundaries and guidelines. But I like to think that it was the moments of Connecting “In The Park” during the “best two weeks of the summer” (his words) with Water Works, collaborating for the Community Awards, planning his first film showing at Emagine, rehearsing together in GPT’s Joseph and watching Bones side by side on the couch with “grapes” will stand out in his mind.

I worked from home for the first 10 years of his life, so a watch wasn’t needed much. But I watched him a lot. The 50 scrapbooks and stacks of photos will retain his story, whether he looks at them or not, and show how much I watched him with my heart and eyes.

Oh, I wanted to know what was going on in his life. Still do. But I know caring about him and his goals, dreams and hopes is more important than knowing every detail. He’s earned my trust and my respect on the path he’s chosen, my Thinker and Pretender, even during time he ventured off-road a bit in navigating his way. He’s writing his own story. I’m reading it. It’s suspenseful and comedic, and I’m fascinated.

We took a lot of hikes, especially in DC, Disney and Asheville. A lot of walks too. We flew kites on the beach and in the park. We jumped in the leaves and he danced on the stage at B & N, spending my birthday there at a Harry Potter book release party. It’s a night I will never forget. Pretending. Exploring. Experiencing.

We gazed at the stars, especially in Traverse City at the Pinestead Reef, his favorite vacation place in the world. I think he still gazes at the stars, though not with me as much as with other special people in his life. So, something about my showing him the power of the little moments stuck.

I still hug him. I tug a bit too, I’ll admit. I like to know what’s going on and where he is. But, he’s patient with me. This year’s Mother’s Day I worked with him and the special young woman in his life in the wee hours of the morning. He gave me this card … it told me how well he understands me and that losing my little boy isn’t easy for me. And it also told me that though change happens and little boys grow up, they still need and treasure their moms. That was a priceless message and brought tears to my eyes. So, a little tugging is okay as long as the hugs are more frequent.

Firm … well, I’m a bit like a brick wall at times. I believe in a firm hand, rules, honoring others, giving 100% and not phoning it in (“If you’re going to do it half-assed, don’t do it at all,” as my father-in-law said once) and mutual respect. But from the very beginning, I told Jarod he could be anything he wanted to be, if he worked hard enough. Anything was possible — is possible — for my Pretender. I was there for every play, every home swim meet and a few away ones, every soccer game (even in the pouring rain), every concert and film event. Every moment important to him, I was there. And, I’ve believed in him even in darker, more challenging times. You don’t Bury those. Those are part of what makes us. Every Mile Mattered, as Nicole Nordman sings. Every mile he’s gone through has brought him to the place he is now. The man he is today. And I love him for who he is today. If that isn’t affirmation, I don’t know what is. A firm hand with a gentle heart.

In terms of the house, well, I’ve definitely built self-esteem more. My kitchen craves a makeover and new counters. I pray my oven makes it through the party since the 7 and 8 on the electric keypad haven’t functioned in years. But, a job with flexible work hours, movie outings, vacations, cameras and film “stuff, suit and random clothes shopping — not to mention the Taco Bell lunches — are definitely the better investment.

As for the Power of Love, well, I’ve created 8 – 24″ x 36” photo boards (finding and printing over 500 photos in the process), gathered mementos and awards, sorted through drawers and closets seeking all the elements of his story so far, baked 3 batches of his favorite cookies (oatmeal scotchies with my secret ingredient) and prepped 14lbs of ground beef for the walking tacos. Plus, I have a surprise up my sleeve as well! My predominant love language is Acts of Service … so I’m pretty sure the Power of my Love is pretty clear. Over the years, I’ve shown it. I’ve acted it. I’ve spoken the words.

Oh, there are things I would do differently if I had to raise my child over again. I’d make some modifications and corrections. Select different words or make another choice for a few moments. I’m flawed and far, far from perfect. But, in looking at the man he is today, I’d say we did a pretty good job affirming and loving, playing and gazing, hugging and connecting.

Now he’s off to write his own story … This new chapter outside my walls is up to him. I pray the lessons, the faith and moments we’ve shared, and the examples and imperfections in my own life show him that it’s great to fly but that a few stumbles — as long as you get up and keep the Power of Love and Faith in your sites — will take you to the heights.

So, thanks Mom for the poem and to Diane Loomans for the good advice. I’ve raised my child with the Power of Love. Now, it’s up to him to take it from here …

                                                                                                                       — Jenni

 

 

 

the only thing Constant

I’ve held this post back for a month now. But, it’s been nagging at me. Reminding me that I should post it and get these words out of my busy, racing mind. That’s one of the reasons why I write, I guess. I have to. There are days I wake up and literally see words scrolling through my mind like the Dow Jones stock screen. They race by and repeat. Sometimes they get past before I can grab them and shape them into some clearer thought. Not sure why these particular words tell me their message is so important. But, they have a story to tell. And Writing is just part of who I am. Enough said. 

June 2017 — Today I watched my daughter’s heart break. And it was devastating.

She’s in Middle School now — known in my day as “Junior High” — the time when Drama truly begins.

A few days ago, we shopped for a dress she could wear to her school’s Spring Fling. She was so excited about this event and found her “dream dress.” It was sweet and lovely and she looked beautiful. We sent a photo to her two BFF’s moms so they could share it with their girls. Best Friend’s since kindergarten, they had made plans to hang out during the dance.

But last night that all changed. And what changed that? It’s middle school, can you guess?

A boy.

Both of her friends now have “dates” to hang out with, leaving my daughter on her own.

She was heart-broken. Her best-laid plans to hang out solely with her BFFs  — just like they used to do and have always done — shattered with a phone call. Oh, she was happy for her friends. She’s glad they are happy too. She doesn’t want them to “ship” her and find her a date. She’s not at that point yet. She just wants it to be like it’s always been.

But, the only thing constant in our lives is change.

Being honest here — Change sometimes just sucks. Especially when it comes to the people in our lives. People ebb and flow in our lives, moving in and out like the tide. Gracing us with their presence one minute and disappearing into the shadows the next. Sometimes they leave us or choose others instead and that hurts. No way around it. It just does.

The cause varies. People move away. They find other friends or choose activities that don’t resonate with you and move on. They are busy. They get different jobs. They develop other interests. Relationships grow apart at times. People pull away for one reason or another. Sometimes you understand; sometimes it’s a mystery. And sometimes, distance, choices or some situation simply end a friendship. Cuts it on the dotted line and removes the tether that connects you.

There are relationships that sputter or fade out for a bit, returning rejuvenated later. Others are strong enough to weather the struggle, distance or infrequent face to face time. I personally have friends and family in other cities who I’m as close to today — if not closer — than when we were next door to (or in the same house as) each other. Thanks to “social media,” relationships can reconnect even after years pass! Heck, Facebook has enabled me to find friends from Cooks Corners, TJ Junior High and VHS and renew old friendships. But some run their course and the light dims or goes out.

Doesn’t matter. The future is unclear. Right now, my daughter hurts. Change hurts sometimes. It’s uncomfortable. It shakes things up. I don’t always like it. I’m a sensitive, sentimental spirit. As curious and adventurous as I am, I settle in and develop deep bonds with those I care for … as does my daughter. We are fierce friends and would defend those we love with swords blazing. We feel deeply. And we bleed when hurt.

But relationships can change over time … over seconds. Our needs, goals and hopes evolve as we do.  Change comes into our lives no matter how we may resist it.

Reminds me of this Flavia Quote …

flavia

But sometimes even footprint leavers have a time limit in your life — a limited number of pages of dialogue before their scene eventually plays out and they make a grand or quiet exit. They touch you, change you, revive you, encourage you, or influence you in a way that alters your mental, physical, spiritual or emotional state. And then they fade to black. La, the end. It’s not good or bad. It’s just what it is.

As I listened to her talk, I couldn’t help but recall moments like hers in my own life. Flashes like movies played in my mind of horrible days at Cooks Corners, TJ and VHS — even instances more recent. I remember times when my life encountered Change despite all my wishes that it would remain status quo. And my heart broke for her as it did when I first felt the pangs of Change rupture relationships in my life.

It’s not always bad. Change can usher in wonderful things. But, in its initial disruptive moments, all you feel is confusion and loss.

So, as I held my sobbing daughter, I didn’t tell her everything would be okay. I didn’t tell her to calm down. Yes, things were changing and different. So, I just told her to Breathe and Be Strong. That it might not be easy, but to take one moment at a time. To be true to herself. To love her friends and enjoy what they did share — not what they could not.

The only thing constant in our lives is Change. Whether we like it or not.

                                                                                                                                          — Jenni

 

Note to readers: My daughter and her friends have a solid friendship. They worked past this blip. Oh, the boys are still around. There are disruptions and disagreements. New energies that come along and they learn to deal with in their way.  But, because — bottom line — they care so deeply for each other and choose to keep their connection strong, I think they will weather the storm. Time will tell. But I have faith.

Let Freedom Ring

The Battle of Yorktown. 1781. The first of many “final” battles to secure freedom for the people on these shores.

But — on this July 4, 2017 — what IS Freedom? What does it mean? What does it promise?

Janis Joplin wailed that “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose …” Well, I guess the option of feelin’ good with Bobbie Maggie is a perk of freedom. But I’m not sure that an attitude like that truly makes us free.  I guess if you’re “free,” you might choose to look at it as void of all responsibilities, commitments and rules. That is a very appealing definition. You Sail through life, unencumbered … free to do what you want when you want no matter the consequence.

But wait … If you’re free, what does consequence have to do with it? What does that imply about Freedom?

Les Représentans du peuple se rendront à leur destination, investis de la plus haute confiance et de pouvoirs illimités. Ils vont déployer un grand caractère. Ils doivent envisager qu’une grande responsabilité est la suite inséparable d’un grand pouvoir. Ce sera à leur énergie, à leur courage, et sur-tout à leur prudence, qu’ils devront leur succès et leur gloire. – Voltaire

In other words …

The people’s representatives will reach their destination, invested with the highest confidence and unlimited power. They will show great character. They must consider that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power. To their energy, to their courage, and above all to their prudence, they shall owe their success and their glory.

Consequences come with Freedom. Freedom presents us with Great Power. And, with Great Power comes Great Responsibility. Therefore, if Voltaire — and Lord Melbourne, Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Marvel Comic’s Uncle Ben who also spoke those words — are to be believed, you can’t truly be Free without honoring your responsiblity to others.

Freedom is a double edged sword, clearly illustrated by the history of America as we interfere (or assist) globally and even within our borders. We are Free to write, gather and speak as we choose. To march, unitedly declaring our rights and frustrations. To remove historical monuments when they offend some or their interpreted intent does not appeal to all. To hang flags — or not. To worship — or not. To love. Well, relatively these days depending on the state. But the heart wants what the heart wants, so we love.

But Freedom is not a hall pass. Freedom doesn’t mean we can do what we choose with impunity.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. – Nelson Mandela

But what does that mean? If we’re free, can’t we roll with it, baby? Nope. Yes, there exists in our nature an almost animalistic Need to be free … to do what we want as we want when we want with whomever we want. Isn’t that the very base meaning of the word? Again I ask … how does Freedom connect to Consequence?

Recent Presidents — both Republican and Democrat — can offer thought …

The anchor in our world today is freedom, holding us steady in times of change, a symbol of Hope to the world. – George W. Bush, State of the Union 1990

and

Because we are free, we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere.          – Jimmy Carter, Inaugural Address 1977

Yes, there exists in us a desire to be completely Free — to shed our burdens and obligations and separate from those around us to Fly. I know my kids crave that kind of freedom. Come and go. Live and let live. Explore and Experience. But that is a two-dimensional definition of the word. The self-oriented one. The one that seems to offer all the fun but truly is shallow, hollow and ultimately unfulfilling.

There are two freedoms. One where we can do what we like and one where we are free to do as we ought. (Charles Kingsley) Sure, freedom offers us as Americans the opportunity to dress, worship, speak, assemble, vote, bear arms and write as we please. Heck it gives you the option to read or not read my words. But there ARE still limits. Lawlessness, self-indulgence to the point of destruction, carelessness with those in our sphere, shooting those who we don’t like or disagree with … well you CAN behave that way. But those acts of “free will” bring about heady, legal consequences. Pretty sure Alexander Hamilton and friends would tell you that while the Declaration of Independence advocated life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness it also demanded responsibility. Responsibility for me to myself — and to those who walk near, beside me or even down the street a few blocks or states from me.

Freedom offers great power. And yes, Uncle Ben, with Great Power does come Great Responsibility. We do our best with that. Freedom doesn’t mean do what you want and what you please all the time. Freedom brings opportunity AND Checks and Balances.

Freedom … we keep using that word in our country, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Alex, TJ, George … so many of our leaders knew the Battle of Yorktown wasn’t the end of the war. It was the beginning of our ongoing struggle to maintain and secure true Freedom. To honor that Great Power with Great Responsibility with or without the slick Spidey suit and web-shooting power.

Let Freedom Ring!

 — Jenni

 

nothing to say

I haven’t written much lately.

That’s not exactly true. I scribble words in my journal, using either a super sharp poke your eye out pencil or a Uniball .5 micro blue pen. But my journals accept words I don’t publish. Just rambling thoughts, musings, frustrations, hopes, desires, annoyances, dreams, fears, etc.

Here in “the Corner,” I try for deeper thoughts. I try to Create something that might make my readers, followers, friends or people who just stumble upon my writing … Think. I seek to offer a message that might have value to someone. Might resonate or inspire.

Lately, I haven’t felt very inspirational. I haven’t had any lightning bolt ideas that I felt were share-worthy. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed in my own personal life. I’ve gone through some ups and downs. Losses. Changes. Difficult moments. Oh there have been joys and exciting happenings too — a color-coded calendar of pretty cool stuff happening to me and around me, along with my family. I have events to plan and projects to do. Lists to complete. And I’m doing workouts and yoga classes that are really awesome yet don’t seem to get my abs to behave quite as well as they did before 50.

Anyway, I have “Stuff.” And sometimes the Stuff gets in the way of my writing.

But last night at yoga as I did that Boat to Low Boat pose until I was pretty sure death was near, I accepted that the “Stuff” that makes me crazy, stressed, happy, sad, frustrated, hopeful, angry, out of breath, depressed and excited is the REAL stuff that life is made of.

It’s not all Unicorns and Rainbows, people.

No matter what appearance I may present, I am a Hot Mess. We all are, really. We all have “Stuff” and my “Stuff” tries to block my visits to the Corner. It says to me, your words are not worthy. Keep them to yourself. It tries to hold me back.

But life is about curiosity even though you might fall down the rabbit hole and finding joy and laughter as the rain pounds down against your skin. It’s about jumping in puddles made by that rainstorm and being happy in that moment. It’s defined as much by how you work through the darkness or the restlessness or the change or the unkindness or the loss as by your smile when the living is easy. Be honest. Those times when you are blissful and grounded or when you’ve got it all together and feel balanced and at peace are rare and fleeting. Oh, like Maria, you get to that top of that mountain and spin around. But then something throws you and you’re right back fighting dragons — or Nazis and seven unruly kids.

But that’s another story.

Anyway, I’m coming to terms with the fact that Life isn’t about Keeping It Together. Cause you can’t. Life is about enjoying moments and nuances within the Crazy, Stressful, Busy, Uncomfortable or Difficult. Personal satisfaction and peace come from breathing and knowing that no matter how long it may seem you reside in the darkness, there is Light all around. You just have to open your eyes and see the beauty in the midst of the thorns.

See, It’s kinda like a Rose. A Rose is extraordinary. It starts small and then opens up into a full bloom with dainty, soft blossoms. But when you reach out and touch it, you may be pricked by a thorn. That thorn doesn’t make it any less beautiful. It just makes it Real.

So, I guess I had something to say after all. My Block that kept me out of the Corner was my own fear of allowing myself to become vulnerable and real. To admit I’m a Hot Mess. To say, at times I’m sad, lonely and depressed. At times, I just don’t have it together. But if I can’t say it in The Corner, where else can I say it?

It may not be profound. But though it’s hard, I’m gonna keep doing the Low Boat to High Boat yoga pose in an effort to train my abs. And I’m gonna continue to be busy to my corners and find joy as I dance in the rain.

I may never find smooth sailing out there. But I’m gonna accept, grow and sparkle in spite of and because of what I find — good and challenging — as I ride out the waves.

— Jenni

 

 

Oh the places you’ll go …

I’m re-reading one of my favorite books. The name doesn’t truly matter.  I believe reading is very personal and that a book invites us on adventure unique for each of us. How I experience a book and how you might experience the same one, well, that might be different. When we read, we let go of control and allow words to shape, create images and color our surroundings. How we experience a book is dependent on our personality, circumstances and where we are emotionally when we crack it open. I’ve re-read enough books to know that you can have a completely different experience another time through.

Now, I don’t re-read many books. I have too many new ones on my list! But there are a few that captivate me … that draw me in and keep me connected to them no matter how many books I read in the between times.

I received notification from Goodreads, the site I log my reads, want to reads and books read, that the final book in the installment would be released this week. I recalled how much I enjoyed the first two books last summer, sitting outside on my patio, savoring the pages as I soaked in some rays. These books had been discovered on a fluke. I’d been browsing the new release shelves at my local library when the title drew my attention.

I have to admit that I’m shallow when it comes to my media. An intriguing cover and catchy title are perfect bait.

Anyway … with a new release imminent, I decided to return to this well-loved tale. This time through, though, I wanted to own the Trilogy. And, as I’ve run out of shelf space and am trying to avoid additional clutter, I opted to download them onto my Nook. Thus my adventure in Prythian began anew.

rosesIt’s funny. I remember fundamentals. I know where the story is heading and how it will end. But I find myself reading between the lines now. Looking for signs of things to come in book two and beyond. I see the characters differently when I re-read them. I cast them in my mind and watch the story unfold. Books are my own mental movies. Of course, I know things at this point I didn’t know the first time through. Yet, I’m still fascinated. I”m still drawn in as I delve into the characters, their relationships, their stories and their adventures. Perhaps I even project myself into the character of Feyre.

Why, you may wonder, re-read a book? You know how it will go. You know how it will end. Where then is the draw? Wouldn’t it be better to find something new and journey somewhere else?

I guess a good book is like a favorite vacation spot. You travel there again and again. But when you arrive, your pulse rate slows and you find ease and a sense of bliss. You can’t wait to get there. You walk the well-known beach and discover a view you missed before. Or, you simply find pleasure in re-tracing the path you’ve gone so many times and gazing at the view of the bay which you’ve seen year after year but still can’t get enough of.

For years, my family has traveled to Traverse City in August. We’ve stayed on the East Bay. We’ve unpacked our luggage in the same — or much similar — hotel room.  We’ve shopped at Bayside Market for seafood and this wonderful cherry chicken salad. We’ve journeyed by car — and boat — along the peninsula to see the same incredible views. We’ve enjoyed Thai Food, pizza and cheese, crackers & wine at our umbrella covered picnic table. Over the years, we’ve built sandcastles, played beach volleyball and walked a familiar trek morning after morning … year after year. As an “early riser, ” I’ve watched the sun ascend over the horizon with coffee in my hand … and for a time kids on my lap.  We’ve embarked on sunset cruises or jaunted out to Elk Rapids by boat. We’ve floated on many inflated plastic “oasis” and sipped everything from water to sodas, beers, and tropical cocktails — relying on a cabana boy (or girl) to keep us stocked so we didn’t need to climb off our floating paradise.

A favorite book can be like that. It’s a friend. It’s a vacation spot. It’s a loved one … someone or someplace you revisit over and over and over again even though you know the ending. It’s a place you genuinely like to go where you can relax, unwind, let go, and enjoy every time you travel there.

When I unpack in that Traverse City hotel room, I know that seven days hence I will repack my bags. Another year will go by before I return — perhaps more. The kids will be different … older. I will be too. It is never the same, this favorite vacation spot by the bay. Each year, despite the repeats, something is different. Yet, I find joy every single time.

I guess it’s the same as that book … I know where the tale is headed. I know there will be struggles and celebrations, love and loss. But how I experience it and the pleasure I find reading it, that is new every time I crack it open.

Oh the places I go, without a ticket, car or passport. A favorite book is a friend or a special place that I can’t wait to return to … even though I know what happens on that final page …

                                                                                                                              — Jenni

Scattered Notes*

A few years ago — okay, it’s actually a couple decades ago by now  — a friend of mine wrote a play. And, in the summer of 1994, we set out to stage it.

It was a special summer, filled with lengthy conversations over boombas of Bud Light at our favorite watering hole Rumors. Besides typical twentysomething stuff, we discussed and analyzed the characters he had written, intent on creating truth on stage.

My character (Kate) was a little like me. She was the oldest in the family, tightly wound — a little intense, a little uptight, in control. She had a Franklin Planner and excellent organizational skills! Okay, a lot like me. But in the play, she was faced with things she didn’t know how to handle with a checklist. Change. Revelations. Loss.

I remember spending lengthy hours studying the script, striving to create honesty in the character of Kate. I delved deep. It was fun, exciting and challenging to originate a role … but there was one particular moment that was extremely difficult for me. At the end of the play, Kate had to dance. It was symbolic of letting go … of unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, love and embracing life as it was, not how she wanted to force it to be. She — I — had to stand alone in the spotlight and dance.

There I was during rehearsals with my three friends … amazing actors who slightly intimidated me with their own incredible talent and ease on stage. I stood alone in that final moment of the play. I wanted to do right by them and by my friend who wrote the piece and trusted me with this role. And to do right, I had to let go … to find something vulnerable inside myself and release it for them … and a bunch of strangers sitting out there in the darkness … to see.

It was one of the most difficult stage moments of my life.

Those who know me recognize me for a Type A personality — organizing, planning, controlling (in a good way) and managing lists and events are my thing. Allowing myself to open up and be vulnerable in front of others, well, that’s a lot harder.Give me lines, I’m good. Ask me to get raw on stage, that’s harder.

Vulnerability. It’s difficult, allowing others to see and know us for the good, the bad and the ugly. To share something others may not want or be ready to hear. It’s scary to take off the mask, allowing your true self, thoughts, hopes, desires, flaws, aspirations and feelings to be known by others. To uncover the cracks or struggles by opening your heart. To perhaps show that you don’t have it all together. To be vulnerable is to invite potential rejection and pain. On my yoga mat, it can mean I fall out of a pose — and everyone in the room sees or hears that. Off the mat, it can lead to hurt worse than hitting the floor.

Vulnerability means you speak your truth to someone you care for, owning your feelings, dreams and thoughts. You invite potential rejection when you do so and lose some friendships along the way — but you also open the doors to possibility. You make a film, investing your creativity and your self writing a script, casting it, mounting the production and spending hours editing. Perhaps it gets noticed … recognized … honored. Perhaps it’s not quite what you’d planned or thought it might be. You write a play, but no one shows up to audition yet somehow you stage it and learn amazing things about yourself anyway. You start your own business or publish a blog. You put yourself out there and see what happens.

When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you invite in the consequences, discoveries and joys — the good and the difficult — the remarkable and the intense.

Three years ago, encouraged by two friends, I started My Own Little Corner by Jenni. Like the song from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, in my own little corner I can be whatever I want to be — say whatever I want to say and dream my dreams.

But I took my words out of “the corner,” dusting them off and offering them to readers I knew and readers I didn’t. I made myself vulnerable. And, as a result, I grew. I made new discoveries. In my life, I’ve chosen to explore passions and at times experienced the devastating pain of rejection and indifference. I guess, though, the point is if you don’t put yourself out there and allow yourself to be vulnerable, you’ll never know what is possible. You’ll never be free.

SNYou have to allow the Scattered Notes of your heart to play … let go … and dance.

I learned it that summer with Eileen, Paul and Matthew. I learn it over and over again as I open myself up … not knowing what will come. I make discoveries when I open my heart and get vulnerable. Even when I fall down. And, I can’t bring myself to regret those choices.

Kate taught me that. The possibilities that come when you stand in the spotlight, open your heart and your arms … and dance.

— Jenni

*dedicated to Matthew T. Troyer … happy birthday.

 

Silence, Betrayal & Forgiveness

The Thursday of Holy Week is the darkest day of the year for me. It symbolizes isolation and abandonment. It epitomizes betrayal …

In high school, I performed in the musical Godspell, an upbeat staging of the Book of Matthew dramatizing parables with clever dialogue and integrated music. The most powerful scene for me was The Last Supper when the cast wiped off our decorative face paint, revealing our true selves. It was then that the character of Jesus stated that one of us would betray him. Of course, we all denied it.

Next came the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus went to pray, begging his Father to remove the pain and suffering he knew was coming. He took us, his friends, along for support. He needed us to share the darkness with him. But we fell asleep, awakening to the slamming of the door. Then, Judas marched down the aisle, kissed Jesus on the cheek, and betrayed him to the Roman guards.

During the discordant music following, we … the friends who had shared years of good times together … we who ate, drank, talked and hung out together … we who only moments before declared we would never deny or abandon him … scattered.

Silence and Betrayal.

I wonder what Jesus felt right then, watching his friends bail on him moments after they promised they’d never betray him.  I wonder sometimes if Jesus’ friends had just been honest with him – and themselves — about their fears, would that have changed the dynamic? Would their honesty have offered Jesus comfort when he was imprisoned and they were gone?

What if when he passed them the chalice and suggested betrayal was in the air they had said to him: “Ya know, Jesus, I like you and truly care about you. But I’m not sure I can handle all this right now. I enjoy hanging out. But it’s getting a little intense and I need to step back.”

Or did they even know in that moment an unforeseen element would shake their relationship to the very core and fragment it? Was it a shock to them too?

It’s this Silence in the dark and the Betrayal that hits me hardest. They fell away without warning. They left him to walk the Via Dolorosa all by himself without so much as a word to someone they had only seconds, hours and weeks before professed to care for deeply. They cut him off and ran. Jesus knew it was coming, sure. But that didn’t make the denial and rejection easier.

I imagine Jesus there, knowing he’s on his own. God is silent. Judas sells him out. Peter denies knowing him and their friendship not once but three times. Every one of his other friends flees, leaving him with memories of words spoken and empty declarations of love. He stands before a hostile crowd, completely alone and — I think — sad too. All that time invested in relationships and all the adventures shared, only to watch those he loved most walk away without a word. Ouch!

Silence and Betrayal.

Yet … despite it all, he forgave them. He knew in his heart they loved and cared about him. Jesus was an expert on subtext! He knew their fears and doubts — the things they struggled with. But he walked the road with them as friends anyway, knowing eventually how it all would end. He loved them still.

Silence and Betrayal. It makes today the Hardest Day of the year for me.

forgieBut in Godspell, I was the Day by Day girl. And, in the scene prior to my song, I learned that we must each “each forgive our brothers, from our hearts.” So even in the darkest of darks 2000 years after that awful betrayal (and 35 years after my final performance of Godspell), Forgiveness is there, more powerful than hate and anger, offering healing.

I’m not alone when I say I’ve felt the sting of denial, silence and betrayal myself. There are friends I’d thought cared deeply about me but rejected and hurt me. I’m no saint, but I can choose to follow the example Jesus set. No matter what happens on my own personal Via Dolorosa — and no matter if people who I cared for hurt, deny or abandon me — I can choose to Forgive.

I still wonder if it would have been just a tinge gentler on Jesus if his friends had talked to him before they left. He would have understood. He would have loved them anyway and accepted their choice. But they didn’t. And I can’t help but think that betrayal cut as deeply as the nails in his hands and feet …

Maundy Thursday is about Betrayal. But Love and Forgiveness didn’t wait until the brightness of Easter Sunday. They are never delayed when truly hoped for. They were there in the darkness of Gethsemane when his friends fled. And they are still here today.

Hallelujah.