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No, it is not Cotton. 🙂

Weaving The Fabric of Your Life

Weave the fabric of your life carefully. 

You hold in your hands the strands you have chosen

to use in weaving the fabric of your life.

It may be that you think some threads are more beautiful than others. 
And there may be others you think are muted and dull.  

But do not be fooled.
All of them are necessary.

If you are careful and treat each strand
with the knowledge that the finished composition
can only be one of beauty when all are woven together seamlessly,

then you will be able to look back on the fabric of your life 
and see that,
though it is surely flawed,
it was woven with
love and care –
making it the beautiful manifestation of your
heart’s desire.

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That small feeling

of being a small person

In a very big world.

(I am not complete)

That rush of excitement

When confronted with the possibility

That you are not so small anymore.

(I am as whole as I can be)

That sinking dread of fear

When you contemplate

Your abilities and measure them out.

(I wish I were more)

That leaden feeling of commitment

When you pull yourself up and

Decide to be limitless.

(I am standing in my way)

That surging of inadequacy

When you see someone doing

When all you are is being.

(I am ideas without substance)

That blissful realization

That no one knows or can see

Any of it.

(I am the only one who knows)

That sobering responsibility

Of knowledge only you have

And you alone are your own judge.

(I am the only one who can redeem me)

I heard the door open and turned my back to it.  The cold draft from the hall swept through the room and I nestled even deeper into the covers.  I was annoyed at being disturbed from my slumber and eager to get back to the timeless oblivion of sleep. 

Her footsteps were light and quiet, but they irritated me all the more.  I wanted her to leave me alone.  But I knew she wouldn’t.  She never did. 

“Get out.” I said.

“No.  I am not going anywhere.”

I didn’t answer.  Mainly because I knew she was telling the truth – she would sit here and wait indefinitely, damn her – but also because I hoped she’d not disturbed me so much that I couldn’t go back into that dream world and lose myself again.  

No such luck.  She came over to the bed and sat down carefully on the edge. 

God damn her.  She was going to pull me out of this nothingness and back into life. 

All the sudden I was furious. Anger surged through me though I tried to ignore it and stay in my cocoon.  But I could hear her breathe and the sound of it infuriated me.

Why can’t she just leave me alone and mind her own business? I thought.  I feel better now than I did.  What is it about her that messes everything up? Why won’t she just LET ME BE???

Of course, I knew the answer.  It was her job.  She could no more leave me alone than I could stop breathing.  She would wait and wait and wait.  And when she could not wait anymore, she would do it anyway. 

I concentrated on my breathing trying to stave off my anger – and extend my hibernation.  And then I felt her hand stroke my hair.

DON’T TOUCH ME

Yet, even as I snarled at her, I knew I wanted to grab her and hold her tight.

She stood up and backed away carefully, her hands in the air as if I’d pulled a gun on her. I really did not know why I put her through this whole rigmarole.  We’d done this before… many times.  But this was a process and it had to be followed. She understood that better than I. 

All I felt was raw emotion and pain. The other had worked me over good. I did not know how long I had been hibernating this time.  There was really no way to know.  Time does not exist in this part of the mind. 

“Why don’t you leave me alone, you meddling BITCH??”

And with that the dam of internalized venom over flowed and spewed out of me in a turbulent, vitriolic vomit.

I struggled to my feet as rage kidnapped all my senses.  I could feel it pouring in hot tears from my eyes, hear it ringing in my ears, taste its bitterness and smell the stink of sweat and fear radiating off me. Yet I seemed blinded, or at least unable to comprehend the little I could see, as I stumbled around the room.

I fell into the desk and wiped all my beautiful research onto the floor and stomped it. 

I cursed myself and, eventually, God for my existence.

All the while she watched.  Tears ran down her face, but no sound escaped her lips.  She allowed me the release unmolested and without judgment.

And then, after the rage had hollowed me out and left me trembling, I fell to my knees and began my confession.

Only then did she come to me.  She knelt next to me and stroked my hair.  I grabbed her around the waist and held on with everything that was in me as the sins and guilt tumbled from my lips into her lap. 

She had heard it all before, I knew.  But this was a process.  One I had to go through over and over and over, apparently. 

When I was done, she rose in front of me, seeming to drift out of my grasp effortlessly, and pulled me up with her.  She led me over to the couch, sat me down and produced a basin and cloth from nowhere.  As she bathed my face, neck, shoulders and hands, the last remnants of rage, pain and sorrow eased and then left me.  My head that had been pounding stilled; my throat, sore from curses, healed; and my eyes, burning and swelling with hot pain, cooled and abated. 

“Now.  That is over.” She said.  “Better?” And I smiled.

I looked over and saw my desk had been restored.  My research carefully stacked again, just as I had left it before, I was sure.  The entire area was clean and ready for me – as if by magic.

“Why?” I asked.  She simply shrugged in response. 

There really was no need for her to tell me. I knew everything she knew. 

Just as I needed the other’s torment, I needed her healing.  Maybe one day I would reach a point where the other did not come.  Maybe one day I would not need either of them.  But for now I did. 

The other is gone – at least for now.  Only you can decide if and when she comes back.  Maybe she won’t.  I do not know.  What I do know is that you have to come out now.  You cannot hide in there forever waiting for time to take the reigns out of your hands. Then it will be too late and you will bear the blame for it.  And from what I have seen and heard from you, you don’t need any more guilt.  You have enough as it is, don’t you think?”

She kissed my cheek and all of the guilt, fear, blame and doubt blinked out of me.  All of the sudden, I did not know how I felt. 

I just was – and it was wonderful.

She went to the door but turned to me as she opened it. 

“I have told you this before.  I am telling you now.  And I will tell you again if you need me to – you are forgiven.”

And with a slight wisp, she was gone.

I sat at the desk with all my research around me.  My fingers itched and my mind raced.

I had carved out a bit of time and was looking to use it to my best advantage. I wanted to do something I could be proud of.  Mentally I checked in with all the outside forces that could pull me away from my task.  Everything was in order – or as much in order as was necessary  – and I took a deep breath. 

I was safe. I was happy. I had made it.

The bed behind me beckoned a bit, trying to coerce me back to its warm obliviousness, but I was only slightly tempted and refocused myself. 

I didn’t have a clue where to begin, but I was about to find out where the beginning was. It was right here.  This is how it started.  And I smiled, inspired by that knowledge.

My moment of excited contentment was as brief as it was satisfying.

A stirring in the corner caught my attention at the very last second.  My stomach clenched and dropped immediately. 

“Dammit! I had been so very close this time,” was the only thought I had time for before I heard the laugh I already knew was coming. It was cruel and heartless… and familiar.

“Hmmmmm… Just what exactly do you think you are doing?” she asked.

I didn’t answer.  I was not allowed to speak.

She stood up in the corner.  She was much taller and stronger than me.  She was much more beautiful, as well… but in a leering, jeering way.  I had a hard time looking up at her.  She was terrifying. She spoke only truth, but her eyes flashed with sinister intent.  She knew her job and she was good at it. 

“Remember!” she said.

Oh, I did. I never forgot. Not really. I had just been doing a decent job of ignoring it all lately. 

“Getting a bit big for those britches, aren’t we? Starting to believe some of those lies you tell others? Starting to think you have something worthwhile to say?? Forgetting is what you are doing.  We both know I am always right and no one else matters. Here, darling, let’s remember exactly who and what you are, shall we?”

Her contempt was palpable – and, oh, so bitter to taste.  I felt I would choke on it.

My faced burned with humiliation and embarrassment. I bowed my head, but pleading and explaining would be useless… not that I wouldn’t try before it was over, though.  I sank to the floor in a puddle of self-loathing.

She smiled a beautiful, horrible smile and, at her bidding, the memories play out in front of me, each more painful than the last. 

She was at my side forcing my attention… taunting and crooning… her voice almost sweet: 

That is what you are really like (screaming and drama)… That is what your true character is (lying and cheating)…. That is just how smart you are (failing and losing).” She said, following along with the ghostlike images playing before me.  “This is why you cannot forget (mother).  This is how well you manage (daughter). You cannot ever hide it (the ER). You stink of it (the men).  I am always watching (the psych ward).  I will always be here to remind you (countless therapists). There is no escape (the jail cell).”

I suppose she believes she is doing me a favor by keeping me in check. And if you could see the failures, sins and wrongs she shows, you may very well agree with her.  Certainly I do by the time she is done.  She gives proof to validate every doubt and fear I have ever had. 

And, as always, she reminds me that only she knows me.  And if there ever were anyone else who really knew me they would see me the same way she does – pathetic, stupid, manipulative, unworthy. There is nothing I can do about it.  There is no running from it and no redemption is possible.  She will always be there to judge and punish. 

Ah, she is enjoying herself now and there is no stopping her.

Any feeble attempts to defend myself or protest her harshness are immediately slapped down.  There is no defense.  Haven’t I learned anything from her?  It doesn’t matter what others have done or if they have done worse.  My crimes are not to be weighed against anything outside or against anyone else’s.  Others are not her concern.  No repentance matters and no absolution will be given.  Atonement is impossible and she revels in my damnation.

Once she is sure I am stripped down and firmly back in my place, she loses some of her edge.  A bit of spite is replaced by pity. She almost seems to care about me. A part of me thinks this is worse, but most of me doesn’t give a damn anymore. 

Just let it be done and over. I look longingly at the bed in the corner, my earlier excitement and contentment utterly forgotten.  I will do as she says and forget my ambitions. I knew I would as soon as I heard the slightest sound from her.  They were silly anyway and easily abandoned again. 

Finally, after what seems like forever, I am allowed to take what she gives me and crawl into the bed.  I am too tired to cry.  I am too empty to feel.

Her work complete, she whispers a final warning and promise, strokes my hair and retires out of my consciousness as I happily sink into glorious oblivion.

Her grin fades like the Cheshire cat’s, but even in my unsettled sleep I know she is there waiting… and I shiver. She will be back.  It is the one thing I am sure of.; it is the one thing I know…then, blissfully, there is nothing else.

You know why it seems like a fairy tale when you hear a real life story that moves you?

Because you are not seeing all the in-between bits that got a person to where they are. 

You are simply reading an account of the major events without having to live through the time and little details that seemed eternal to the person actually living it. 

In this time of instant gratification (something that is not likely to change any time soon, if technology is any indication), we are used to hearing the story in an hour tv show, a 200 page book or a 20 minute conversation. 

But the events we are listening to actually took place over years, sometimes decades. 

It is only with that distance that we get the opportunity to look at someone’s own personal story as inspirational or moving. However, I can guarantee that the person who lived every minute and second of the story does not have the same fairy tale perspective.  And they didn’t know everything would turn out ok in the end.  As a matter of fact, unless they are dead, the story has not even ended yet.  There is still time to lose it all – or gain it, as the case may be.

No Fairy Godmother swoops in and fixes everything in an instant. You have to do it yourself, one day – or minute – at a time.

We all know that JK Rowling has literally gone from rags to riches.  We know she is a wonderfully talented author whose work has been both critically acclaimed and read worldwide by a range of readers from critics and literary types to families and children. 

What we don’t always think about is that she got the idea for HP in 1990 and, while writing the first book married, had a child and divorced, eventually being forced on to welfare as a single mother before the first manuscript was finished in 1995. 

I am pretty sure she had no clue she would be a billionaire by March of 2011.  

While I read biographical information in a few minutes, this rags-to-riches story played out over a decade of hardship for her.  One I am pretty sure held many sleepless nights of mental torture wondering how she was going to get through the next day, much less the next decade. 

Stephen King (my most favorite writer) almost lost it all – or maybe never would have even had it.  He threw Carrie in the trash after writing it in the laundry room while he was an English teacher. His wife dug it out and got him to finish it (and we all thank her for that).  He also does not remember even writing The Shining because he was every bit as strung out as Jack Torrance (his character) was.  That just about cost him his family.  Yet now he is seen as the epitome of a successful writer. 

These are only fairy tales of the rich, lucky and successful now because we don’t see the days of rejections and living paycheck to paycheck. We don’t see the minutes, hours, days, weeks and years or waiting and working and hoping. To us – and only us, the audience – this seems to have happened over night.

And this is true of all kinds of successful people (not just writers) from Lance Armstrong to Warren Buffett.

Seeing only the end result makes you wonder, “Why can’t that kind of thing happen to me?”

What we often don’t consider is that, just maybe, it is. It may be happening to you right now.

On Alabama/US Highway 231, you can traverse the entire state north to south.  But when you hit a stretch of road in the southeast corner of the state between the small college town on Troy (home of the Troy Trojans) and the town of Ozark, you are near a very special place.

Aunt Maug and Uncle Hubbert’s farm. 

The farm is located just outside of Brundidge, Alabama, which bills itself as “Alabama’s Own Antique City.” And that, I suppose, is one way of putting it.  

Once you get south of Brundidge on 231, you have to start looking for the turn.  It is practically hidden.  And the road you are looking for is not paved with asphalt, but concrete slabs.  About halfway down that concrete slab paved road is a sign that says Tennille with an arrow pointing down Shiver Road.

Shiver, as in Hubbert and Maug Shiver, my mother’s sister and her husband.

It is fitting that the road is now named after them, but when I was growing up it was simply Route 2, Brundidge.  And my Uncle Hubbert was the mailman for the area. 

You go almost exactly a mile down Route 2/Shiver Road and as you come around at curve you can look down a hill and see the farm.  The gray house had changed a bit since I was a child, but it is certainly recognizable – as is the small house across the street where Uncle Hubbert was born in 1928. During the 1980s it was Aunt Maug’s shop where she designed flower arrangements and had a wedding planning business. 

Uncle Hubbert worked full time delivering mail, but he also ran a fully functioning farm. At one time or another he raised horses, chickens and pigs.  He also had fields of soy beans, corn and no telling what else I don’t know about during my childhood. Uncle Hubbert is one of the two hardest working and most respectable men I know.

I could not begin to count the nights I have spent there.  As a matter of fact, up until my brother was born when I was 4, Santa Claus only came to the farm.  I don’t even think he knew where our house on East Collins Street in Dothan was.

At one point or another, my mother and all of her sisters called the farm home.  Before I was born my grandmother’s house was moved from Tennille (a now dead town my mother’s family moved out of – with the exception of my grandfather who is buried there in a lost graveyard behind the kudzu covered ruin of a church) to the farm and still stands on an acre of land next to my aunt and uncle’s house, even though my grandmother – who would have been 101 on April 2nd – has been dead over a decade now.

I barely remember the pigs or my older cousin’s horses.

But I can remember reaching under chickens for eggs and bringing them back to the house for breakfast.

I wish I could tell you all about it. 

About Suzi the Suzuki motorcycle Daddy and Uncle Hubbert used to ride us cousins on – along with the smaller less impressive, but still fun to ride, Yamaha.  We used to go down the dirt road and stop and pick blackberries still warm from the sun for a snack. 

About the tractor that was built sometime in the 1940s, but Uncle Hubbert assures me still runs like a champ.  I cannot imagine how many miles Uncle Hubbert has logged on her – I have a few miles under my belt as well.

About the stars you can see from the yard on a clear night. 

About my grandmother’s flower beds (when she was alive), sassy as ever and could grow anything – with a dip of snuff in her lip. 

About Roadey the donkey that once literally kicked Uncle Hubbert in the ass – and then got a kick back. 

Jumping hay bales with my cousins. 

Skipper and Gigi – the untamable horses.

Fire ants!

Fishing with a cane pole with my grandmother an cousins. 

Simon the Siamese cat who we thought would live forever.  And, for a cat, he just about did.

Fish frys on Saturdays.

Cutting down Christmas trees. 

Sleepovers at my grandmother’s with my cousins.

Stickers in the yard.  (I learned to always wear shoes.  Grown ups did not like it when you got stuck and they had to come rescue you when you ran out of bald patches of ground to walk on between the houses.)

Climbing trees. 

Fighting and playing and running like mad with the closest things to sisters I have ever had – my cousins.

No matter how far any of us have roamed we have all come back to Aunt Maug and Uncle Hubbert’s at one time or another and basked in the memories of our childhood. 

I think it is getting time for a trip home.

I remember:

The first time I felt you move.

The first time I saw you.

Crying the first time I was left totally alone with you and I realized it was my job to keep you safe and alive.  I was scared to death. I still am.

Sleeping with you and nursing you as a baby.

Taking you to Ft. Rucker ER in the middle of the night with croup.

What a beautiful baby girl you were – literally.  Everyone knew it – all they had to do was look at you.  And then you would smile and cackle and they really loved you.

That your first word was “light.”

Singing “Five Sleepyheads” every single night for 4 years straight. Reading One Fish, Two Fish every night for at least 2 years.  And I still am able to recite The Cat and the Hat for Ezra now because of you. 

Moving into our first apartment together at Fieldcrest in Dothan.  For the first time you had a yard to play in and we spent hours at the pool playing. For the first time I was a single mother.  For the first time I had my own apartment – with you. 

The night you fell into that pool upside down with a swim ring on (because you didn’t listen to me and stay off the deep end ladder) and had to be pulled out by your ankle.  And I put you right back into the shallow end before you had a chance to be scared.

Your wide, scared eyes from your car seat the time I hydroplaned and wrecked on the way to take you to daycare.  You never made a peep while the car was spinning, when we hit the tree (a very small one with the back bumper, thank goodness) or even after I got you out.  You didn’t know what to think, so you just took it in stride and trusted me.  You were 1.

The first time you ever flew. You were 2.

The first wedding you were in.  You were 2.

The time you cut your hair while I napped on the couch.  You were 4. I still have the hair – dated.

The second wedding you were in.  You were 4.

When you broke your tooth at Aunt Maug’s and how cute you looked when you smiled with that chipped front tooth. 

Being the tooth fairy.

You dressing up in Monna’s clothes for a tea-party at First Presbyterian preschool – complete with hat and pearls. I have pictures.

When you broke your ankle in kindergarten. Twice.  I still have both casts.

Taking you to Disney World, Epcot and Universal Studios for you 5th birthday.

Field day, relay races and “We Are The Champions” in Miss Stevens’ class.

The third wedding you were in.  You were 8.

Reading Harry Potter to you… and then you reading them to me.

Going to the Peanut Festival and the beach every year with April, Jess and Tim.

Your sprinkler birthday party in our front yard.

Your first prize winning photograph.

The poem about America you had published.

Taking you and Anesia to tour the USS Alabama – and watching a live news broadcast.

Going to Dauphin Island just the two of us on Saturdays. Stopping at the farmer’s market stand on the way home.

Going to Orange Beach just the two of us.  We walked along the beach and you caught hermit crabs with the other kids at night.

Mardi Gras in Mobile. I still have a jar full of our coolest beads.

That you used to ride your bike everywhere, and I let you – as long as you had the walkie talkie and stayed within its range.

All the hermit crabs you had. Well, most of them. And the other pets – Miles, Snidge… the good ones.

The second time you flew.  You were 12.

Your 13th birthday party in our back yard… with the unbreakable piñata and shaving cream fight.

How well read and articulate you are.

Your art.

Your photography.

Your writing.

I know how smart you are. 

I know how strong willed and defiant you are. 

I know how talented you are. 

I know how much potential you have.

 I know how good you are.

I know because I made you and raised you.  For good or bad.  For both of us.

But I need you to know these things as well. 

I need you to know that, at 20, your life is really just beginning.  It may not seem like it, but it is.  I know this because I have lived your lifetime with you.  I remember it all. And I know exactly how long it takes for 20 years to pass.

As your mother, I need to know you are making the most of it.  It will go by so fast and I don’t want you to take it for granted.  You still have plenty of time.  If you take advantage of it. 

Don’t short change yourself, Greta.  Please.