My story

9:36 AM

OK. It was probably unfair for me to tell you all about the importance of telling your stories without sharing a bit of mine. Fairly called and duly noted. So, without further ado:

My bracelet. We'll go around from left to right. The silver, oval-shaped beads are spacers--I'll explain those at the end. Just to warn you, this will be an obnoxiously long post. My apologies up front.

The first bead is blue and looks a lot like sea glass. It's for my hometown--the place I was born and where spent all but a year and a half of my childhood. It's a town on the NH seacoast--close to Maine, close to Massachusetts, right on the water. My childhood home was a little less than a mile from downtown, which meant as soon as I was old enough, I spent my weekends browsing shops, looking for cheap but tasty food, and pondering the mysteries that are the flocks of tourists that descended each and every summer. My hometown is a good, safe town--and by the time I was old enough to speak my own mind, I was tired of it. I felt it too small, too safe, too dull. And everything I did was with the aim of leaving.

The next bead looks like a cup, and it's for my family. My family loves to celebrate--and celebrations are always better with lots of food and friends--who often become family. And, as strangers are only friends we haven't met yet, the general guideline for family celebrations was always "the more, the merrier." For as long as I can remember, holidays have meant a full house of family, of colleagues, and of people with no place else to go. My Dad served over 20 years in the Air Force Band, and many of the young guys he worked with would find themselves alone at Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter--here they were stuck in Cow Hampshire while the rest of the clan was celebrating in Wyoming or California or Arkansas. Since no one should be alone when everyone else is having fun, they were always invited and often found themselves honorary members of our family. There were many years of Christmas cookie baking where my sister and I were sent off to watch a movie because the wine had flowed freely and the Angels were showing more than their wings.

Though I spent many years lamenting how tragically uncool my parents were, I've come to find that perhaps it was me that needed to update my thinking. The longer I work in residential schools (first a prep school and now a college), and the more I see lonely young people who just need a place, the more I want to be as my parents were and provide that open door--that place at the table. In fact a couple of years ago I heard of a young woman--a student of a friend of mine--whose mother had thrown her out about a week before Christmas. She literally had no place to go and would spend the holiday in her empty apartment. So, The Beloved and I went and got her and took her to my parents' house where we laid another plate at the table and found that Santa Claus had found their house and left gifts for this young woman under the tree.

Before we left for home, my mother took me aside and said, "Your father and I are so proud of you." This boggled my mind. I didn't do anything unusual--I did exactly what they would have done. Later, I realized that of all the lessons one learns, I had mastered the most important one in doing what I could to make another's day a little less lonely.

Because I'm creative, the next bead, shaped like a cross, is for my church family. Yeah-- C- for creativity there, Saisquoi. My relationship with the church has been a rocky one. But it's always been a part of my life and when I try and cut it out, it feels as though something is missing. I like the sense of community (most of the time); I love the liturgy and the music; and I love the structure it brings to my week. I don't like it when, as an institution, the church serves to belittle others, exclude them, or otherwise bring them down. In short, since I will occasionally get up on my high horse and tell you exactly what they're doing wrong (they generally refers to the Episcopal Church, USA or the Anglican Communion at large), I'll give my my thoughts in a nutshell: We are to see the face of God in each and every person we encounter. No exceptions. Face of God in George W. Bush. I never said it was easy--but, hey--"what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) So, I try.

The next bead didn't photograph so well, but it looks like an Asian coin. After I graduated from college, I lived and worked in Tokyo for a little less than a year and a half. It was an exciting adventure and I learned a lot about myself--mostly that I hated living in a city. It was dirty and smelly and too crowded. The stories you hear about being packed into trains--all true. I was molested on the train one morning on my way to work. And there was nothing I could do about it--the train was so full, I couldn't move, my Japanese was horrible, so I couldn't tell anyone, and even if I could--I didn't know who was doing it because I couldn't see. It was awful. I started to develop agoraphobia--which is not good when you need to leave the house to go to work.

There were some wonderful things, too. Tokyo was exciting. The ability to navigate a city while being completely illiterate and only knowing a handful of phrases was emboldening. And I met some marvelous people, some of whom I still communicate with today. All in all, I wouldn't undo it given the chance, but if I knew then what I know now, I'd do many things differently. Like....I wouldn't work 70+ hours a week. That's insane. And I would try to have a better support network. I lived with my family (Dad was stationed at Yokota AFB), but still felt very alone because I didn't have anyone my own age to play with. I'd like to go back with The Beloved--to work or to visit--but I don't know that I'd want to do it all on my own again.

This brings us to the next bead--which looks kind of like a face. It's a rather empty looking face and it marks my initial diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorder. Why do I want to remember that? Well, because in a way, it was almost a relief to have someone tell me it wasn't all in my head--that there was something really wrong in not wanting to leave the house and not being able to read anything that wasn't stamped with Oprah's seal of approval. My required meetings with the base therapist I'd rather forget (he was possibly the worst therapist ever), but it was a start to many years of really hard work in trying to sort out why I reacted to things in certain ways and how I could do things differently. If the saying is true that things are darkest just before the dawn, this was probably my darkest time. I'm very afraid of going there again, but at least the next time it won't be as great a mystery as it was back then.

The shiny green bead is The Beloved. I met him shortly after returning to the US from Japan. And, while there was a bit of a spark, I tried my best to stomp it out immediately. He wasn't what I was looking for. Fortunately, he was persistent, and, though it took a year, we eventually went on one unchaperoned outing together. Which led to another. And another. And so on. I tell him that he is my sun and moon and stars, to which he generally snorts derisively. But he brings a great deal of light and color to my life. I can't imagine my world without him in it.

Butterflies are a symbol of new life. Shortly after The Beloved and I were engaged, we had a few months when I thought I was pregnant. And I was horribly afraid. Now, we both want to have a family consisting of more than our cats, but that was a little sooner than we had hoped. When it turned out to be a false alarm, I thought long and hard about the things I needed to do to be ready for a baby. I needed to get my emotional house in order--I was afraid of the kind of mother I would be. So, in spite of my earlier failure in therapy, I found someone and was very straightforward regarding my dislike of my previous therapist and what I hoped to get out of it. The guy I worked with was a gift from God. He didn't let me skate by or get complacent and dug through all sorts of yucky things I had compartmentalized and not effectively dealt with. Like my train incident in Tokyo. Therapy was not fun. It was hard work. But at the end, I felt...well...maybe not whole, but a lot less broken. The butterfly goes with the empty face--it's the dawn after the darkness. It's knowing that we can, in fact, experience that new life--even though we may feel as though things will never improve.

The last bead is another piece of blue sea glass. I moved back to my hometown. The Beloved and I bought my grandparent's house, where I spent many an hour during my childhood. We live about a mile or so away from my parent's house--the house I grew up in. In my 30 year journey, I've found that life really goes in a circle. I'm looking forward to raising a family in this house that holds so many happy childhood memories. I'm sure my children will find the town frightfully dull and move away...and then hopefully, after living someplace else, they'll find it isn't so bad after all and move back to the area. I love having my family around me. The town has changed a little bit, but it's still home. It feels safe and secure like home and feels much like another member of my family. It's part of who I am and who I will be...and even if I do leave someday, a part of me will always belong right here.

The silver spacer beads serve to remind me of all the parts in between. The parts I didn't mention. The beads were the points I could think of at the time I made the bracelet. I could do this exercise again and make a very different piece of jewelry. Our lives are full of stories. Some of mine I'd rather forget....and others I hope are told the way I tell my grandparent's stories.

So now, dear friends, it's your turn. I look forward to hearing some of your stories. It is, after all, why I tune into your blogs :)

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