“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ”When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
…The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Tonight I will turn off my porch light for the first time in a week. Tim is not ever coming home to his family.
Tonight we weep. Family, friends, neighbours, strangers.
It’s Mothers’ Day. As I write this Kate is playing the same two notes on the piano over and over again. I love her. Jack is recovering from the devastation he experienced this morning when he realized the croissants Greg made for our breakfast didn’t have chocolate in them. I love him. Greg is trying to tune his guitar in the midst of it all. I love him. I’ve snuck off to the bedroom because honestly, the noise is a bit much. (Ooh! We’ve added a third note to the melody.)
But I won’t stay here long. Because the best parts of my life are in that room. Joining the cacophony is what brings the joy to this journey.
In case you are wondering, the piano playing ended very suddenly just now followed by a little patter of feet and the declaration of “I have to go poo-poo!’ could be heard by even our neighbours I suspect.
Happy Mothers’ Day!
It was a dark morning yesterday. You may have noticed. I opened my agenda yesterday morning to see that I had pencilled in a visit to Stella. Stella is an 84 year old woman I visit every week or two. She’s a firecracker though her body perpetually lets her down and she is confined to a wheelchair. She lives in a beautiful seniors’ residence with her bird, Sir Percy. Yesterday morning, I did not want to visit Stella. That’s the truth. But even more than that, I couldn’t face the sound of disappointment in her voice if I called to cancel my visit. So I went.
There’s much I could tell about Stella. She is an amazing woman and I hope one day to share more of her story but for now suffice it to say that every day of her 84 years has been filled to the brim with life – all its joys and sorrows and victories and losses. Oh, and she gave birth to seven children. That detail sheds a fair amount of light on who Stella is.
Yesterday morning I went to visit Stella with a heavy heart. It isn’t hard to visit Stella. She has a bit of a rebellious streak and so her stories usually involve some sort of mischief – either her own or someone’s she admires! Sometimes Stella seems sad when I visit. This morning she wasn’t sad. But this morning she wanted to talk about something sad. She wanted to tell me about the death of her son. It’s a very hard story that also involves the death of her three-month old grandson. And yet she plodded on, stopping only when she’d told the whole thing through.
We sat there for a quiet moment (there aren’t often quiet moments when you’re with Stella!), each lost in our own thoughts. And then she spoke, with a strong voice: all you can do is carry on. You just have to carry on. That’s how life works.
I know that in some contexts that might sound trite or unsympathetic but knowing Stella the way I do and being in that moment I felt like I’d been given a little stone of truth. Something I could hold onto in the midst of a moment that feels unreal and too heavy. Something that felt both like the deepest truth and the most practical advice I’d ever received. You just have to carry on. In the alignment of events called life, I’ve just finished reading a book called Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton. It’s no deep philosophy tome but it is full of those little stones of truth: we can do hard things and we belong to each other for example. One of the more poignant ideas that Glennon suggests is the idea that we can’t always know how the story will turn out but we can choose to do the next right thing, whatever that is, whatever the next thing is, no matter how foggy or uncertain the future may be. No matter how dark the valley is. No matter how thick the mud you stand in. Sometimes all we can do is the next thing. Sometimes trying to see beyond the next thing is too much. All you can do is carry on.
Stella is many things. At the top of the list is a sage.
May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground, carry on.
Carry On by Fun.
I’m angry this morning. I’m sad and devastated and so far beyond discouraged there aren’t words. I’m weepy and chippy and sit-on-the-kitchen-floor broken.
Today, the world is overwhelming in its sadness and unfairness. I don’t know if it’s just the process of aging, or if it’s part of becoming a parent, or if it’s the hours and hours of counselling I worked through, but my sensitivity to the pain and brokenness in the world around me has increased a thousand fold over the last few years. And there are days like this when the weight of that pain is more than I can carry.
Sharlene is waiting for her Tim to come home. More than a thousand textile workers in Bangladesh will never go home again. Three Cleveland women and one child are trying to figure out how to go and be at home after years of forced imprisonment and assault. Every 17 minutes a Canadian woman is raped – 80% of these happen in their own homes. People who have shared my home are hurt and sick and lost in dark places. About 200,000 Canadians don’t have homes at all.
Swearing at the asshole who drove like a maniac through my son’s school parking lot this morning didn’t make it all better, but it did help to release some of the anger. Maybe writing and acknowledging the anger can act the same way? Because I know that these dark days have to be endured. And I also know that light will find its way into these days. It’s the cycle that shapes our lives.
And please, if you see anything that might help Tim get home to his family, pass it on.