My family was blessed to attend my mother’s retirement party last week. In an earlier post, I marveled at discovering another side of my now deceased father. Last week, thanks to the generosity of her coworkers, I was treated to a similar discovery with my mom.
I remember when my mom first went to work, back in the dark ages when I was in fifth grade. She’d stayed at home with me and my sister, serving as room mom, on the PTA, and as team mom for our various softball teams. I knew who she was back then–she was my mom–begrudging cook, housekeeper, laundress, dutiful wife, and shoulder to cry on. I remember being unhappy that she wouldn’t be home after school, but with little say in the matter, I was forced to adjust and get on with life.
When we paid our first visit to Mom at work, I got the shock of my life. She wasn’t just my mom anymore! She was an employee, a co-worker, and a friend to people I’d never met. Suddenly, the box I’d placed her in seemed bursting at the edges. I had to put her in a new box, this one bigger and not so familiar.
Then we moved to Georgia and Mom got another job. A different job. This time she had a desk and a lot more responsibility. She worked as long and hard as my father. Humm… The box was getting full again, but I was a teenager and didn’t take much notice. Sometimes I did, like when I had to make my own food, but otherwise, she was still Mom.
And so it went, different jobs, different desks, different coworkers. She just kept chugging along, working well past when my dad retired. Working past his death (thank God), and working until a milestone birthday when she finally called it quits. Well, not totally. She’s already arranged a part-time job so she doesn’t go stir crazy in her golden years.
Even though I’m an adult now with kids of my own, I was still surprised to hear the ways my mom has touched others at her retirement party. She stood in the center of all that attention, embarrassed, downplaying her accomplishments, and I sat there once again thinking, Who are you? But that’s the beauty of this thing called life. It changes, people change, and that’s okay. Sometimes, it’s better than okay. My mom is more than my mom–she’s her own person and she’s changing every day. Maybe someday she’ll retire again and I’ll have the opportunity to discover yet another side of her I never knew existed. Wouldn’t that be grand?
Over the July 4th holiday, my husband and I visited one of our favorite places on earth: St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most travelers go to St. Thomas instead, and maybe take a day trip or two to St. John by ferry. The views on those two islands are breathtakingly gorgeous, but St. Croix is quieter and less touristy. It feels more like…home.
Usually, we scuba dive on the North Shore of the island, where the seas are choppier, and you’re likely to see this:
Reef sharks are less common in the calmer waters off the island’s West Side, where we dove this trip. Although we didn’t see any sharks, we did spot some dolphins at the surface, including a mother and calf. We also saw lots of stingrays, eels, and turtles, including a hawksbill.
But cataloging the sea life doesn’t really capture why scuba diving is such an amazing experience.
Writers like me live in our heads. We’re continually pondering and plotting while driving our cars, standing in line at the grocery store, even mingling at parties.
Scuba diving forces you to live in the moment.
You have to be aware of your position in three-dimensional space—not just to the right and left, to the front and back, but also up and down. Otherwise, you can plow into another diver or worse, a wall of coral (which, besides being painful, also damages the reef).
You have to watch your gauges—depth, nitrogen level, air supply. You have to control your breathing, because that controls your depth. You have to keep an eye on your buddy, to make sure he’s okay.
For veteran divers like me, all this becomes second-nature, much like driving a car. But unlike driving a car, you never go on auto-pilot. With so much sensory stimulation, you’re constantly aware of your surroundings. Enjoying the pretty tropical fish. Maneuvering around the barrel sponges. Scanning for cool stuff.
When you become immersed in the underwater world—not just physically, but mentally as well—you experience a feeling I call scuba zen. You become one with the reef. You’re not just an outsider visiting, but a marine mammal in its natural habitat. With a flick of a fin and an inhale of breath, you work your way along the reef, checking crannies for lobsters, searching the broad expanse of sand for garden eels. You glide weightlessly through the water. The crackle of coral and the gurgle of bubbles fill your ears.
For that hour or so of bottom time, the reef is your whole world. There are no deadlines, no worries, no responsibilities (well, okay, you have to make sure your equipment doesn’t fail and your buddy doesn’t drown, but usually that’s not a problem). You have no choice but to experience the world in all its color. To come face to face with wild creatures on their terms. You’re acutely aware of how small and vulnerable you are in that vast sea—but that’s okay, because you’re part of the sea. And if you’re lucky, that feeling stays with you once you’re back on land.
Humans don’t own the earth. We’re of the earth. We owe it to future generations to be good stewards. We also owe it to ourselves to be aware of the beauty of this planet God gave us. It’s magnificent. Among all the deadlines and worries and responsibilities, we should take a little time each day to experience that zen with the world around us. To live in the moment. To notice the little things. To be aware of our breath as the sweet air of life enters and leaves our bodies.
In this always connected world of ours, it’s good to disconnect from our devices once in a while so we can reconnect with nature. It soothes our minds and nourishes our souls. We all need some of that in our lives.
What do you do to relax? Do you have a favorite hobby that helps you lose yourself and forget your troubles?
I had lunch yesterday with a friend, one I met a million years ago when he hired me for a position at an Atlanta nonprofit. He moved on from the job and I soon followed, but our friendship remained. We’ve met for lunch or cocktails a few times a year ever since.
About six years ago, during one of our get-togethers, he told me about a screen play he’d just written. Apparently, it was a long-time dream of his to see one of his stories on the big screen, and he’d reached a now-or-never age and place in his life, so he took a million classes, read a million books, and went for it. This was around the time I was coming out of the closet about my own writing habit, so we bonded about our struggles and insecurities and the long, hard road we had both just embarked on.
He was one of the first people I told when I signed my contract with Harlequin MIRA, and now it looks likely there will be a film premier in his near future. Our bi-annual luncheon turned into an impromptu celebration.
More than six years it took us to get here, which unless you’re on the receiving end of a six-year-long string of rejections may not seem like a long time, but as the recipient of that six-year-long string of rejections let me tell you, it is. A really, really, REALLY long time.
Every writer gets rejections, and we console ourselves by saying that every rejection brings us one step closer to a ‘yes’. Just because it’s true and logical doesn’t make it any easier to hear when you’re buried under six years’ worth of rejection letters, but if I’d had any inkling that my friend and I would end up here, at a lunchtime table toasting to book launch parties and red carpets appearances, I would have been a lot less devastated whenever one of those rejections popped into my inbox.
But yeah, six years later and we’re finally legit. We’ve finally reached the end of the long, hard road.
But as I told my friend at lunch, this is really only the beginning.
I picked it out myself. Arranged and rearranged. Hung the drapes. Fluffed the pillows. I’ve scented it with lavender (see if you can tell). Coffee’s stocked. Everything is situated just so. It’s pretty comfy and it suits me well.
Won’t you swing by my new personal blog? I love having guests!