Valentine's Day. Happy hearts abound everywhere. But not everything is hearts and flowers. For some, Valentine's is a mixed blessing. Like for one friend who met his partner on this day twenty years ago AND for whom this is the last of the "firsts" following the loss of that same partner. I know at least three people who are experiencing the same "first".
And then their are those who, like myself, know he or she is loved, in some cases, by many folk, but who have not had a romantic sort of love in many years. In fact, there are those who may never have experienced that type of love. And even still, there are those loving folks I know who celebrate their singleness. Free to do whatever they want, whenever they want and not feeling obliged to ask anyone how their day was when they come home.
Me, I have love in my life. I have friends and family with whom I share life and history. I have my little animal companions who love me...and I them...unconditionally. There are many types of love. And I guess that is what Valentine's Day has evolved into...a celebration of all kinds of love.
And that is a good thing in many ways. But it does give one pause to remember those who might not be feeling the love today. Hearts and flowers are nice. But the genuine sharing, caring and concern that comes with being in communion with others is what Love is all about.
Leonid Afremov spoke to me. Well, not in person, but through this painting. There's a new Facebook challenge going around. It asks that we take a break from the political outrage (justified as it is!) and go to places of beauty and inspiration. When I received the challenge from my friend, Marlene, I typed "modern art" into Google. It brought back this image above which truly woke me up!
I love color. I never really realized how much until I began painting the interior of my house a couple years ago. I went (for me) wild with color. Golden living room, red dining room, tangerine guest room, etc. I love color. And now when I see paintings like this in such brilliant hues, something inside cries out, "Paint!"
This particular pallette knife oil painting on canvass spoke to me. Autumn in Michigan was always one of my favorite times of year. The brilliant maples, birch and other trees donning their gay apparel in one last seasonal hurrah always cheered me. And a walk in the rain, the air fresh with newly washed landscapes warmed me even on the chilliest day.
I love the brilliant hues in this work. I checked out his website and it seems Afremov is prolific. Some might say it is not "great art", but I would then wonder who's to say? It certainly spoke to me this morning on this grey, rainy Southern California morning. I really want to visit that park bench on the path. There I would think deep thoughts and ponder the meaning of life. In vivid technicolor, as it should be.
It always seems to me when someone dies or when a relationship ends or something you thought you treasured so much just disappears that you wonder if you did enough. Did you call frequently enough? Did you visit often enough? Did you let them know we loved them...enough? Did you keep things you loved safe enough?
And then I wonder just what is enough?
I am not sure I know what enough really is. It's just something you know. You know in your heart if you did all you could to let someone know you cared. You know if you made time to pay your respects, or paid attention when they spoke. You just know that enough was really enough...or not.
I always have believed that if you find yourself asking these questions above or ones like them, then maybe it wasn't enough. I also believe that you know. You always know. You know long before its too late. And you make choices. Maybe excuses. Maybe you rationalize and justify and even get a little angry. But you always know.
My advice is that you listen to that voice, the one only you can hear. The voice that tells you that you need to pay attention...before its too late. Pick up the phone. Visit. Give that hug you long to give. Smile. Send flowers. Reach out, as the song goes, reach out and touch, someone's hand, make this world a better place, and you can.
Thinking of another song that has been in the air lately, it's true. Love is all around, no need to waste it. You can never tell, why don't you take it. And that is probably my best advice...love. It might hurt sometimes, but, ultimately, not loving sucks. And if you do love, let people know. It is after all, what makes the world go 'round.
Many of you might recall hearing me talk about my friend in Newport Beach whom I lovingly referred to as Crisis Bettie. This was because of her work on the San Bernardino Suicide and Crisis Line, but in any crisis, Bettie could be counted on. No matter what, Bettie kept her head on straight and her grip on the wheel.
Well, on Sunday I received an email from my dear friend Bettie's daughter-in-law, DJ, that Bettie, age 98, after many years on dialysis, and in steadily declining health, decided to take herself off the blood washing procedure and let nature take its course. It was startling news, but not a huge surprise.
Bettie was always very pragmatic as when she gave up driving after a few "close calls". Bettie had a good sense of timing, and Bettie was a realist. Many times in the 40 years I knew her, we talked about "quality of life" issues, and what we wanted should the time come when the pain of living outweighed the joys. Would we have the courage to pull our own life-line? Bettie did. I can only hope I will do the same.
Bettie came to that crossroad Sunday and met it head on. Two days after making The Decision, Bettie left us. I was a life, an amazing journey, and it ended today. A good life well lived. A life that touched so many, probably more than even Bettie knew.
I can only feel sorry for myself because she is gone. But that's on me. I will miss our good laughs at the existential madness of life here on earth. And I will miss being silly and giggling about the most trivial of life's trials. Bettie and I could talk about anything and did.
They don't make 'em like Bettie any more. I met Bettie while in college in the 70s when I volunteered on the San Bernardino Suicide and Crisis Intervention Hotline. Bettie was one of the founders of the line and one of its best volunteer counselors. We worked together for ten years doing training and manning the line at all sorts of crazy hours. Its impossible to guess how many troubled souls were brought back from the "ledge" by her kind, active listening, comforting way.
I can only say I was blessed to have known her and called her my friend. She taught me more about being a friend than I could ever recount. As the pastor of my church often says at the conclusion of memorial services, "Well done faithful servant." Hands folded. Godspeed.
I was getting ready to get on with my day. Dogs fed, walked, settled. Myself fed, showered, ready. I have things to do and people to meet and the day is just rushing by. The time, I suddenly thought to myself, is now. Now. That's all there is. And that thought brought me back to where I want to be: present.
Yes, each moment is like the proverbial snowflake: unique unto itself, piling up with all the other unique snowflakes and eventually, no matter how it tries to resist, melting away. That is what each moment does. It melts away into the ground or air or wherever melting moments go and eventually you have a lifetime of moments that have melted into a lifetime of memories.
Wow. All this in a flash in my mind's eye. So I thought I needed to sit down and write this blog. Capture the moment as it were. And so I have done it. Quickly, before it melted, totally away and I resumed the activities of daily living. But this time, trying to stay present, in the moment, in the now. It ain't easy. But its worth a try.
Take a moment, now, and watch this Youtube video of melting snowflakes.