A Gem of a Moment

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”

– Etty Hillesum

Tell me about the most important moment in your day, a moment that really mattered.

Comments

  1. Fran Stekoll says

    The most important moment in my day is waking up and realizing how fortunate I am to have it. Even though many trials and tribulations are bombarding my life, I am blessed to be able to walk, talk, smile, pray, think, and just function. I count my blessings each morning . There’s so much to live for every day. I appreciate life knowing it will be taken away. I have a lifetime of laughing, loving, living. It’s mine for the taking, rewarded by giving.

  2. Hazel says

    The most important moment in my day is any time that I realize NOTHING HURTS, that one split second when I sit very still and get in just the right position; take a shallow breath, and say to myself: “yes, I remember what that feels like!” I plead to Her, “Please don’t let anything bother me or require me to move for a little while longer because it feels so good.” Then, invariably, one of my two little terriers jumps in my lap and begins smothering me with kisses and it is game on.

    • says

      Hazel, I’m about to go work out at the gym–something I’m trying for the first time in my life. And reading your post makes me so appreciative of the fact that I have that option–that my body still can do what it does. Your post reminded me to be grateful and how it is the smallest things, in the right context, that are the most important.

      • Nancy Qualls says

        Absolutely Laura! Treasure every movement without pain. I am, mostly, bedbound and I have had dreams about running (I used to do a mile per day). Hazel, those kisses are as good as a pain pill at times. I miss my Sheltie.

        • Hazel says

          Nancy,
          I have also dreamed of being able to run. I will share with you a poem I wrote about walking.

          FLOORS

          I dream of bare wood floors,
          waxed, where gleam runs
          with the grain as I stride across it.
          Where bright rugs are scattered
          for decorative effect,
          but they pose an uneven path
          for these unsteady legs
          told long ago they would never stride again.

          Stride?
          No, they sort of waddle
          across carpet,
          on pile with many twists,
          nylon and wool,
          plush thick foam beneath
          placed on plywood
          puts “cush” in my step.
          No pain in hips puts a smile
          on these lips and many trips I make
          from room to room before
          hurts consume my energy,
          momentum slacks, and I
          am driven back into my chair.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Hazel, your post reminds me of so much. I can breathe that moment of pleading. I do in my way and in my circumstances. I embrace endorphins for that extra bit of pain-relieving in the day time, and at night I succumb to sleep, which hopefully comes quickly and is uninterrupted by more pain. However, you also remind me to be thankful for every moment and to use them to their fullest. Take care.

  3. Cathy Hall Stengel says

    There is that moment between the darkness and the dawn. It’s right there between behind and not yet, over and to come, too late and right on time. It’s when possible is wide awake and impossible has not yet risen. It is a space of grace when I can do anything and discouragement be damned. The place where wonderful washing tears come~and I forgot not to cry. It is perfect possibility, awakening, arousing, alive.

    • Barbara Keller says

      I remember that moment, that place, when I can still zip around cleaning and sewing and planting things, and tired isn’t even in the picture. thanks for reminding me.

      • Dianne Brown says

        Cathy, how wonderfully said. It reminds me of words from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem:
        “Between the dark and the daylight,
        When the light is beginning to lower,
        Comes a pause in the day’s occupations
        This known as the Children’s Hour.” (Same title.)

        It is said that unless we become as children . . .

  4. Beverly Boyd says

    I wish when I first awake in the morning I have such lovely and delicious thoughts as Fran, Hazed and Cathy. Unfortunately, I am often awakened by someone walking on the floor in the kitchen above my bedroom, only a few hours after the last person walked around up there. I’m sorry to say, my first thoughts are definitely NOT ones of gratitude! I know they are trying to be careful but even quietly walking in socks doesn’t keep the aged floor from creaking and jerking me awake with a shot of adrenaline careening through my body. Enough of that!
    There have been many moments in the days of my life that really mattered. They often involved another person: a sweet moment with a child or someone I love, or a time when an inspired communication is made. Often the moment passes without recognition of how life changing it is until a later time, but it is not forgotten. Sometimes it is accompanied by a hallucinated voice or vision. Several have been surprising and funny like the one I want to share.
    In the early 1970”s I was an active member of Sweet Adelines, a women’s barbershop singing organization. One of the top directors in the country at the time had devised a number of teaching techniques that addressed the particular needs of the barbershop harmony style. I was fortunate to live in the same area for a few years and to attend her workshops.
    A young woman was the assistant director of her chapter’s chorus and of course there were times when she filled in as director. She pranced about acting like hot stuff in her mini skirts and shiny boots, waved her hands, and the well-trained chorus sounded enviably great. Her general attitude of superiority was enough to make the rest of us, myself included, dislike her… an understatement!
    In the beginning of one workshop for directors, the leader started off with a few of the “encounter” games popular at the time to help the participants communicate and get to know each other better. One game involved two equal circles, one inside of the other. As the music played the circles moved in opposite directions and when the music stopped, the instructions were to take the hand of the person beside you in the other circle and say something nice to them.
    So who was the first person I met? The young assistant director of course! I could not think of a single nice thing to say, but, not wanting to be unkind, I stalled, using the “drop the handkerchief trick”. As I bent slowly down to pick it up I fervently prayed for help to think of something nice to say. As I came up, she was looking down at me and smiling broadly. Her head had morphed into the shape of a horse’s head; her smiling lips were drawn back to show absurdly large, beautifully spaced, perfectly white teeth. (Mr. Ed. Eat your heart out!) It was such a surprising sight I found myself quite sincerely gushing, “You have beautiful teeth!” She smiled happily and then took her turn saying something nice to me.
    The instruction at the start of the next game was to pick a partner. She made a beeline across the circle to me. I realized that she must have chosen me because she felt safer with me than others in the room. How sad!
    We never became friends and I never really liked her, but after what we shared in that second game I had a appreciation and compassion for her. I no longer participated in the unkind talk about her and sometimes took the time to help others understand the insecurity that led her to behave in the way we found so unpleasant.

  5. Barbara Keller says

    The Important Moment

    Every day that I have to leave the house looms huge and scary in front of me. Maybe because of age, health that hovers just above poor, and three knee surgeries in the last year. When I get home at the end of the day I email the three women I count on for prayer (on my out days,) and say “I made it, I survived.” It seems overly dramatic even to me, but that’s the way it is.

    Late yesterday afternoon I was away from home, working on an article in Ensenada. I started for home at 6:15 which felt like 10 to me. The night was very dark, and the fog was very thick, and the 30 miles of road in front of me were very windy and trecherous..

    The important moment was when I sat in the parking lot and said “God, you drive, please. Keep your hands on the wheel, and don’t let me drive over the cliff. Not tonight, please. Get me home safe. Thank you.”

    Most of the way home I had a pilot car, the driver in front of me, who found the road and I just followed him, praying, too, that he didn’t drive off the road with me following behind like a sheep.

    The lights of my own little town nestled in the valley below the fog were so welcoming. I made it. One more time.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      I’m glad you made it home, too! I followed a pilot fish through the tulle fog in the central Valley right off the I-5 and into Turlock. We ended up spending the night in an amazing motel called “Divine Gardens”. With a name like that, I could have believed that it had magically materialized and never really existed! (It does).
      For years my husband wanted to go plan our trip to spend another night there. but it was too close to home!

      • Barbara Keller says

        sorry it took me so long to reply. Thanks. I love your story. Divine Gardens! For some reasons it makes me want to cry. What wonderful provision.

  6. Jim Dowling says

    Magic Moment…

    “Oh, and another thing. Willow. She’s got mild autism. Can be a handful,” the teacher told me. “In the morning, she’s got an aid who follows her and that helps a lot.” I asked what she meant by “handful.” Well, she blurts out whatever’s on her mind and that draws the attention of the other kids, and she gets upset – expect some tears. Keeping her on task will be a challenge. So, don’t worry about it, do your best. Willow is a good kid. Coming along. You should have seen her last year.

    That pretty much sums up all I knew about Willow the first day I stepped into her 2nd grade class as the substitute. Actually, the first time I’d ever subbed for kids that young, period. I had just taken “early retirement” from 16 years of teaching high school. As someone who shied away from having his own children, I wasn’t overly familiar, or very prepared to instruct this particular age group. But, I was anxious to give it a try. My wife taught elementary, loved it…why not me?

    The bell rang. Thirty children funneled through the door and clamored for seats. Eyes brimming with curiosity stared in wonder, up at the new substitute. I savored a tenuous and fleeting period of calm, now but a pleasant memory. I was immediately initiated into a world of boundless energy and ‘happy’ noise…think pachinko balls on caffeine. Good thing I wasn’t being ‘observed’ that day. By afternoon, I was finally getting my “sea legs” and had attained a semblance of order. We were actually tackling most of the work the teacher had hoped I would complete.

    Back to Willow. She was one of those students. As I had my hands full most of the morning, I noticed only a few things. We had only brief eye contact once when I called her name. Her attention quickly returned to arranging the brightly colored plastic shapes on her desk. She seemed entranced. I didn’t know, or really care where she got the colorful objects. When I got close to her desk, I said, “That’s beautiful.” No response. She seemed happy enough. Let it be.

    It was after lunch and during was one of those assignments where you fill in a blank with a word and hopefully the sentence makes some sense. Most of the class jumped on it with enthusiasm. Pencils scribbled away and I felt good. Back in the saddle. Then I heard a loud groan. Willow had her head down, forehead sunk in one palm, hair cascading through her fingers, hiding most of her face. A pencil dangled useless in her other hand. I approached her desk and bent down. Her face was contorted, scrunched up, like someone in the throes of an excruciating migraine. “I don’t get it,” she moaned loud enough to get us all to stop and look. “I can’t do this. I can’t,” she moaned over and over. The class looked at me knowingly as if to say, “Oh, by the way Mr. Substitute, meet Willow.” I walked quickly around and came up behind her desk, not at all confident this was a good strategy. I rested one hand on the back of her chair, leaned down and carefully removed the pencil from her right hand. A few inches from her ear I calmly said, “Here, let me show you.” The moaning ceased, but I couldn’t tell if she was listening. The class was quiet and amazingly respectful so I stayed put. Explaining the assignment, I proceeded to do a couple more sentences on her paper as if she was watching. Willow’s hand fell from her forehead. She turned slowly in her seat to face me. There was an intensity in that gaze. Absolute concentration. Speechless, I drew back to give her space. Her eyes bored into mine momentarily and then began to travel about my face. The expression gradually morphed from concentration to one of awe. The situation, its total silence, well I guess it was too much for me. I went back to talking as the little girl’s eyes explored my face. “On the next sentence…,” I’m not even sure what was coming out of my mouth. As I spoke, Willow’s hand came up and lightly touched my chin. I didn’t move. I just didn’t. She carefully patted my cheek, first on one side, then the other. Voila! it dawned on me. It’s the beard! She’s fascinated by my beard. The class was as riveted as I. For a good ten more seconds Willow’s hand gently touched, felt, examined my beard as if it was some rare, exotic fabric. It seemed only accidental when her eyes finally chanced on mine and she pulled her hand away. Something clicked. Willow was back in the ‘here and now’ – engaged. She and I worked on the next sentence together before I returned to my place at the front of the classroom.

    I’m no psychologist, but I’d say that moment was a momentous one for both me and a young girl. A chance connection whose real and lasting value is hard to define – probably doesn’t need to be. That was two years ago. Today Willow, the fourth grader, is my primary source of “flying hugs.” It usually happens when I’m subbing for another class at that school. She’ll come galloping out of nowhere and give me a big hug. I now know she’s got a “hound dog” at home that she is very fond of. So, I’ll ask, “How’s that dog doing?” “Great,” she says with a big smile, and then she’s off and running.

    Not bad for an autistic kid. She has come a long way.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Jim,
      I love your story about Willow and that long breath-holding moment when you were so present with her, probably something that didn’t happen frequently in her life. What a precious connection and how nice that you are sometimes still around her to receive flying hugs!

    • Jan says

      Beautiful story. As a retired teacher of young children, I want to say how precious this story was to read, how important that moment was in Willow’s life. Thanks for sharing.

    • Laura Davis says

      Jim, as always, i was right there in the moment with this wonderful story about a special moment of serendipity. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. Nancy Qualls says

    Over the years I have learned that the way one starts the day sets the tone for its entirety. Although most strive for that extra minute of sleep. Monks arise early to begin their day with chanting and prayer. Television shows of my childhood, like Donna Reed and the like of that era, portrayed families having a casual (full) breakfast. In these scenarios we see their days beginning serenely.

    I, too, experienced great serenity when, recovering from an injury, I woke in the predawn hour, on the living room couch where my husband had made me very comfortable. A friend gifted me a large crock, McIntosch Apple candle and not wanting to turn the lights on so early I lit the candle. The soft, golden light was so soothing. From that morning on I rise early to light a candle, cuddle with my sheltie, listen to some music or just listen to myself. This time has become precious and joyous for me…my days start out serene and lovely.

    I hope all who read this will try it, learn to nuture your soul,

    • Ilana says

      Isn’t it amazing what we can learn by accident? I will accept your invitation. Perhaps not by specifically lighting a candle but indeed by finding my own way to “Learn to nurture my soul.”

    • Laura Davis says

      I agree…those first moments are precious. I love when I have time to slip into a bath or to read in bed. Starting the day with relaxation sets the tone for a whole different day.

  8. Dianne Brown says

    The most important moment of this particular day happened a few hours after I had written (for a book group assignment) the seven things that give me joy that I haven’t done or experienced in a while. The top of my list was belly laughing–deep, hilarious, gut wrenching belly laughing.
    I volunteer on Tuesdays at our Spiritual Center, and I do the Sunday bulletins and the order of service. I was not there last Tuesday and I was reading what had been written for that service. I came upon the words: “hukfan experience.” “What does “hukfan” mean? I asked Lorie. I thought perhaps it was some elevated metaphysical term that I had not yet come across. Lorie came over to see what I was referring to, and said, “That should read “human experience.”
    Talk about the queen mother of typos . . . we laughed and laughed and laughed. I hugged my sides and laughed some more. I then realized that I was enjoying the number one item on my list of what gave me joy. Also, I have a wonderful new word in my lexicon: “hukfan.” Think of the possibilities–the doorways that this single word could open for one daring enough to wield the sword of absurdity.

  9. Jan says

    The Picnic

    Some mornings are better than others. This morning was exceptional. I awoke a little later than normal. I hadn’t intended to sleep in but it sure felt good. It was the second day of dreary skies. Cold. Almost spring.

    I pulled up the shades that faced the backyard. Birds pecked busily everywhere now that the snow had receded. Dead plants, withered by winter winds and ice lined the banks of the creek bed below. Clumps of tall brown grass formed hillocks good for jumping across this creek. Boulders emerged from their blankets of winter white, a perfect place for ducks to climb out of the chilly water. Thanks to some beavers that had moved in last fall, a pond had formed behind their newly built dam and had become a playground for water birds. So I quickly scanned for ducks, geese, and herons. Most impressive to me are the herons who stand like statues in the icy water with never a shiver.

    Then I saw something else. I knew that shape. Oval body, curved beak. Could it be? I grabbed the binoculars, frantically adjusting them to morning eyes, orienting them to one of the big boulders. There it sat, white feathered head, earth brown body, yellow-gold talons grasping for balance on the rock, curved beak of the same color, opening and closing as if scolding something nearby. I thought I had caught sight of a bald eagle flying by yesterday. Now, here it was, almost in my back yard! I stood at my window, taking in all the details of this magnificent bird when my eyes sensed a disturbance to the left.

    Swinging the binoculars in that direction, I saw a mass of wings flapping wildly. Could it be two birds, or three? When things settled down, there stood an even larger bird–a golden eagle. Now, on the rock stood two bald eagles looking intently at the Golden. Held tightly in it dark talons, a long salmon hung limply. Not about to give up its breakfast, the huge bird took off, dragging the fish with it, fighting to rise above the rocks and grasses of the creek bed. Then the balds followed in the wild hope that their competitor would drop breakfast into their territory.

    As for me, I stood in awe at the window, heart wide open, feeling privileged to live in this beautiful spot where nature puts on such a show. I wanted to call someone, to share this moment but instead I ate breakfast. It was only 8 a.m.

      • Jan says

        Thanks. It was just a part of a story of what happened that day, out my window. I live in Northern CA in the Sierra right on a stream that flows into a lake. It is a beautiful place called Clear Creek.

    • Nancy Collins says

      What joy to watch such beauty, such magnificence. It makes me happy just to read this. Thank God for all his creatures …and putting the binoculars close by.

  10. Jennifer Ire says

    My moment occurred while I was living on Kauai. A friend had gifted me with a couple plants on which monarch butterflies laid their eggs, and the plants were doing well. I love monarchs and have had very sweet memories of being with them, and so I was happy when I noticed lots of butterflies around and much laying activities on the plants. I was also in the conflict of loving the possibilities that there would be monarchs born on the place and the sorrow of watching the plants being devoured. I was also hoping that I would get to witness the birth of a monarch.
    The morning came when I was on time to witness the emergence of monarch butterflies. That was the most important morning of my life to date. I had been like a nervous father checking to see what was happening and then I saw the sign. With excitement and joy I sat close enough to witness the slow, delicate, graceful and powerful process that unfolded before my eyes. The stages, transitions, pace of change, the movement out into the world, the time spent drying its wings, taking the first flight. I did not know that in the process the butterfly actually peed, until I saw it let go of a spurt of water, before it began to dry out its wings. There was one sometimes two butterflies close by while the drying was happening, that waited with the newborn for its first flight.
    I felt like I was in the presence of something incredibly sacred. I felt that I was being gifted with a precious experience. Everything else in my world dissipated in the time I spent there, everything else felt irrelevant. I became lost in the moment and have not forgotten it.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Jennifer, I don’t know if you will see this reply as late as it is. This certainly was a “gem of a Moment” and you did such a beautiful job of taking me there to share it.

  11. Eve says

    Today my most important moment was when I took the time to lay down with my son. As he was being laid down for his long nightly slumber, he uttered these words- “Mom will you lay down with me?” Oh how I love to hear his precious request! How could I refuse such a beautiful gift? Yeah- I am really tired & I feel like I haven’t had a moment for myself since Sunday’s rest passed, but as I laid down next to him I felt my heart heal a little more in that moment. So many years of not having an emotional connection to my parents has put some wear & tear on my heart. Battered & bruised it remains, but as I become the Mommie that I always wished for, I can feel my pain releasing. I can now begin to accept that I had to have the life that I lived in order to be the person that I am today. As I held him in my arms & kissed him tenderly, my heart began to forgive my parents even more. I am ever thankful for what God is doing in my heart in those moments…
    Remaining ever grateful——
    Eve

    • Terry Gibson says

      Eve, I wrote a response to this and then scrapped it for some reason. Just wanted to say how awesome it was to experience it with you through words. Reminds me of how sweet life can be sometimes. Having my 2 1/2 yr. Old great nephew on my lap. I remember wrapping my hand over his tiny knee; I could see Steve in his face and it was a wondrous feeling to me.

      • Eve says

        It is such a beautiful gift from God to have these experiences & memories. The next day at work, I had a heartmath class. It involved focusing on your heart, breathing in & out of that area, then bringing your mind to a caring moment. I was able to bring myself immediately back to this moment instantly. I was the guinea pig on a machine that could measure my electromagnetic field while doing this. It showed that I was able to calm my energy instantly with this memory. Very powerful…

  12. Ilana says

    Laura- Taking you up on your invitation to post whatever comes out. Even though, to me, it is one of the ugliest things I’ve ever written. -Sorry. And Thank you. IM

    The, Currently Elusive, Perfect Moment

    The perfect moment is the moment when I know that everything is going to be okay. It’s the moment when I have hope for the future. At that moment I am a survivor. Yes, I was abused. Yes, I was raped, molested, tormented and no one seemed to care but I have survived and I will one day come out of the life where incest plays such an important role in my world. The perfect moment is when I can look at all I have accomplished this past year and be proud of myself. That perfect moment comes and goes. I will enjoy it when I see it again but that moment is not right now.

    Right now it is the furthest thing from me. Right now, my chest is squeezing in the agony of being different, of being a freak. I’m not speaking to my parents. I hate my brothers, both of them. I hate myself. I am ugly, trash. I am dirty, pointless and a waste of space. I wish I could curl up in my bed and cry until I fall asleep. I would except for two things. The children need me to serve them dinner and I lost the ability to cry almost a year ago. I hate that too. I want so badly to cry until I fade away completely but I do not have the power to shed a single tear.

    Here, trapped like this, all I want to do is shut out my family and cut the skin from my arms. I try to force myself to see that other moment when everything is okay. But I can’t do it. THAT moment has abandoned me. That moment is gone…

    …I’m so tired of being different. I’m so tired of being ugly and unacceptable. I’m so tired of being dirty. I’m so tired of being broken.

    I’m sorry I don’t have a proper response to the prompt this week. For the first time in over a year, I haven’t had the time and energy to sit down, breathe in the prompt and watch something beautiful come out. For the first time all I can think is ‘I wish I had already done it this week.’

    But my time has run out. I’m scared. I’m tired and I’m alone. Not because no one cares but because I will not let them. Because I am pushing them away; even as I secretly wish they would force their way through my defenses.

    It’s not hopeless. It’s not over. This pain will ebb like it has in the past and again that one precious, amazing moment will come again. Everything will be okay. I will have joy. I will have hope. I will have peace. Just not at this particular moment.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, Unfortunately, I’ve been sick and away from here. Tonight, I found this post and I’m glad I did. Your words reminded me of how cutthroat I used to be when it came to myself; I couldn’t find an inbetween. When I despised myself, I loathed every single cell in my body and there was no end to the harm I was obsessed with doing to myself. I still feel those things, as you do. All I know is what I have lived and I hope you don’t see this as a platitude. It is the absolute truth: It does lessen–the intensity. For me, I found the time I was in that bad place slowly decreased, while I enjoyed more good time and space. Hope things feel better really soon. I know you’ll have all those good things!

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Terry. For valuing my post and for answering it. Thank you for your support. I will come back this week, stronger than before. :) IM

        • Terry Gibson says

          I always value your posts, Ilana, and will always respond when I can. Please don’t push away those who care about you, really care, not want you to be someone they want you to be. I know that healing more deeply is possible. What do you say we all Keep On together, as the sisters we really are? ;)

    • says

      Dear One, I’m so sorry you are suffering like this. I know this suffering; unfortunately many of us do. And when we’re in the throes of it, it is all we can see. But it will not last forever. Every time you learn to bear this pain and live anyway, you win. For me, at times I felt this way, the words, “the best revenge is living well,” would reverberate through my head and they helped me take one more breath and push forward one more moment. Your words “But my time has run out. I’m scared. I’m tired and I’m alone. Not because no one cares but because I will not let them. Because I am pushing them away; even as I secretly wish they would force their way through my defenses,” were so poignant to me because I remember years of feeling that way. But I don’t feel that way anymore. Maybe a tiny bit of it, in rare moments, because I’m human and we all carry our vulnerabilities, but nothing like it used to be. You will get through this. Thank you for sharing yourself so vulnerably with us. You are a beautiful soul, Ilana, and nothing anyone did to you, can take that away from you.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Laura. I needed that. REALLY needed to hear that I was still acceptable, that I had not abused the privileged of sharing here, posted garbage that no one wanted to read. I’m in a tough spot right now. Must face the old ghosts to banish them. But I will find my way out and with all the support I find here as well as other places in my life, it will not be as difficult as it feels. Thank you for still accepting me.
        sIMz

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Thank you for posting so bravely and openly. You have a strong voice and your words are just as valuable as anybody else’s. Thank you for being brave enough to dig deeply and reveal what is real to you, to reveal what is hardest and so painful. As a culture and a community, we need all our voices and yours is such an important one (especially in a world where people feel such pressure to hide what is real and what is difficult.)
      Thank you for trusting yourself and for trusting the prompt and where it led and for trusting this community to put it out there. I hope you find what you need and maybe also what you want. Thank you so much for your strong words…

  13. Hazel says

    Ilana,
    Everyone is broken in some way. You will probably never know how they are broken because we/they all put on our smiles and go on with our masks in place. At the bottom of a deep depression I remember writing: “Everything is broken and I am all out of glue.” I looked a long time at the line up of bottles of pills, then heard the front door open as my husband came home. I quickly put the pills back into the cupboard, put on a smile, and when he kissed me I cuddled close feeling his big heart beating and I knew I was going to be okay. Sometimes we just have to find our own bottom and then begin to climb out of our hole to experience the sunshine of love around us as we struggle to become “better than we were,” leaving our worn out baggage at the bottom of that well.

    • Ilana says

      That’s the rub, though, so to speak. Isn’t it? Everyone else looks so put together, so whole and healthy. As I fight to hide my own pain, and assume I’m failing miserably, someone else might think I’ve got it all together. If only we could be honest with each other, as you’ve had the courage to do. Maybe we wouldn’t be so lonely. It’s a thought, anyway. Thanks for sharing and responding to my post. IM

  14. sherrie belville says

    Each day I take my first cup of coffee back to my bedroom and sit quietly, in the dark with the stillness of the morning. These are the moments that matter. This is the time that I allow myself to be free with my thoughts. I reflect, pray, wonder, contemplate, dream, plan, center myself. I immerse myself in the silence creating an openness and awareness until I am ready to actively take my place in the world.

    • says

      Sherrie, so glad you showed up here! And I love what you wrote. I know my life would be much better if I stopped and took that kind of time before the world crashed in! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Sherrie, I feel calmed and centered just reading this. If my ‘special’ time is at the beginning of the day, it looks much like what you describe. Thanks.

  15. Terry Gibson says

    I don’t allow myself this kind of moment–not very often, that is. I keep myself too busy in my brain to do so. However, I made a commitment to take better care of myself for my future and that means making this a part of every single day.

    “I’m gonna put you in my pocket, okay?” M. said to me at 7 pm tonight. She’d just got off work at the art supply store and didn’t have her bluetooth with her.

    I put the phone on speaker. “K. I’m here, don’t worry. Scream if you need help.”

    Having my partner on the phone from the moment she leaves work is an extremely important part of Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Knowing she’s safe as she walks from Granville Island out to her bus stop, even crossing under a bridge in the dark, relaxes me to some degree; when she’s on the bus, I’m much better, of course. But, it’s still not what makes me the most blissful.

    That moment would normally happen just before I fall asleep. I put earplugs in to block out traffic and snores (although I won’t name the snorer, M. ; ), sip on a freshly-brewed cup of tea, have my journal (the book) on my lap or leaning on my night table, and write. It’s then that I ‘check in’ with myself, not easily done as my ‘grounded me’ is about four layers harder to reach after my work day. It’s very hard to just ‘turn off’ but that’s what I need to do.

    When I write, I reflect on how I did that day. Facing fears, other challenges, and keeping my spirits up. This isn’t a rigorous taking-to-task, sort of thing. I see and feel what the day was really about for me. How the events of the day led me or dragged me, depending on my willingness or energy.

    Sometimes, I am terrified to fall asleep at night. I’m either scared I’ll have one of my awful nightmares or that I’ll die in my sleep. The former is survivable though gut-wrenching. The latter is unbearable because I won’t get to tell or show some people know how much I care for them.

    If the writing helped, I’ll be calm. I’ll remember that I’m a good person, equal to others (not below), not deserving of harm, ridicule, or violence, and that I did my absolute best that day. I acted with integrity, conscience, and love. I’ll keep in mind that I can’t be perfect — once a need, given my self-hatred — and will feel like I’m flying with that burden lifted. I will pray that I am granted another day to strive toward being a better person, friend, partner, worker, reader, writer, student, and supporter of all that I believe and will come to care about. I pray that everyone is safe, warm, and not in distress, and if they are troubled, that help is close at hand.

    • says

      Terry, I was most struck by this paragraph: “Sometimes, I am terrified to fall asleep at night. I’m either scared I’ll have one of my awful nightmares or that I’ll die in my sleep. The former is survivable though gut-wrenching. The latter is unbearable because I won’t get to tell or show some people know how much I care for them.” There’s only one solution: Tell them. Do it. Do it today. Do it tomorrow. Tell them. And I’ll start by telling you: Your words matter. Your honest expression matters. You matter. There, I told you. Now you do it. And don’t stop. Tell people what they mean to you.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thank you Laura. Your words matter too. They’re often like an emotional vitamin to me, with extra iron to put some rose in my cheeks and life in my pale Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost face. No makeup needed anymore, although I never wear it. ;)

    • Ilana says

      So beautiful Terry- Reading this and imagining you settling down for the night, valuing yourself, valuing those in your world, gave me peace. I was a little out of sorts, gross understatement I know, when I posted my response. How amazing that your response is one that brings me peace. Thank you.
      IM

      PS. I also enjoyed hearing about you “walking” M home from work. It was very sweet. :)

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Ilana! I appreciate it. No worries about anything, ok? I am glad this gave you peace; it did with me too, in that it reminded me how important that bit of time is.

  16. Andrea Jones says

    Almost every day that my now 15 year old twins have gone to school, I’ve stopped, waited for traffic, and turned right at this corner. Sometimes we were all wide-awake, chatting, laughing and planning the day. Sometimes we were all sleepy, and perhaps at least one of us was a bit grumpy, so the ride was quiet. Sometimes we were late and I was rushed–silently cursing traffic under my breath. Usually we had plenty of time but my car’s cruise control was reflected within my mental remote control.

    This morning was different. No cruise control, no remote control, happy and calm morning chatter, and all of a sudden time slowed. We silently glided past Thomi’s as the restaurant’s name sake washed the outside windows. Her blonde hair swinging in rhythm to the hand holding the paper towel while balancing the blue spray bottle. The old man across the street untangled his schnauzer, Fritz, from his leash. The gutters swirled with recently blown leaves and the city work crew set up cones for a morning project.

    Two-hundred feet of Sutter Creek’s beautiful main street that was suddenly, inexplicably, captured in an almost-frozen moment. Every flower larger and brighter, every noise softened. A moment slow enough to catch my breath, hold it, and remind me how blessed we were to turn right almost every morning at THIS corner filled with THESE people in THIS world.

    • says

      Andrea, I enjoyed sharing this moment with you! I’m not sure how many others will read it since this is a past post, but I sure loved being there on that main street with you.

        • Ilana says

          Andrea- This piece meant a lot to me because I have had that experience of just appreciating the place and people in my life at one particular moment. I am embarrassed and saddened at how unable to do it when I responded to this particular prompt. I was just in too much pain that week. You said it was “nice to be back” Did you go just by “Andrea” before and do you recognize me as someone you’ve responded to before? If so then I’ve missed you and been looking for your writing. If not then I’ll start looking for your writing now. I really enjoyed this piece. Thank you, IM

          • Andrea Jones says

            Hello Dear Ilana – yes, that was me before. I too am happy to be reading your posts again. I have been doing a bit of writing off-site and gathering myself and my goals for the new year. I am randomly perusing previous posts and hope to write more in the near future.

    • Debbie says

      Andrea – it is such a gift when the ordinary becomes extraordinary! I enjoyed how you captured and shared that with us! I, too, am glad to see your posts on this blog again!

  17. aborium says

    My best moments as a kid were spent chasing butterflies and every time they flap their beautiful wings to fly, those were moments in time you treasure for the rest of your life. Things that go amissing on your way to becoming an economic man in pursuit of an elusive economic dream. That childhood innocence was once lost and now found wanting.

    • says

      Aborium, welcome to the Roadmap Blog. You touch on the losses so many of us experience as we leave the innocence of childhood behind. Sometimes I think that child still lives in us–we just have to look.

  18. Lee Xanthippe says

    I am looking for a good prompt. I am always looking for a good prompt. I am not sure whether I will feel good about a prompt when I read it and feel it, but I know that I am prompted when I am prompted and I am prompted when my eyes flash upon the name: Etty Hillesum.

    Interruption #1: I am not sure if I will be doing this right, answering this prompt right and while I know that right and wrong are in the eyes or ears of the beholder, I also know that while people try to give you prompts to open you up, make you free, make you trust yourself and follow your train of thought or wobbly bicycle of thought, people do not always want you to and sometimes there are the subtle signs, the silences (although one can not always be sure what silences mean) or the subtle remarks of disapproval.

    I do not care. I do not care. I care too much. I do not care. How is that for a mantra? Perhaps it will look bettter written in verse, not prose. I continue. I evade no longer. I shed my coat of “one” and “you” and get back to “me” and “I”. Also I have written, “Interruption #1” and I am wondering if there will be a need for interruption number two. I just went number one, but I am not sure if I will have to go number two. Now I am just being silly.

    The only throne I have sat on these last 5 minutes or so has been this flat yellow pillow on the flattish swivel chair in front of this computer screen—the microsoft—small, soft—page on the screen coveing the body of Superman flying towards me, flying into the back of the microsoft page of words. I press my index finger on the brown grey top of the page, pull it down to reveal Superman’s right fist aiming at the back of the page, but his fist is not a fist of anger, but a fist of power of maybe even a fist of posing.

    Superman’s fist will not punch throw the back of my paperless page at all, his fist will not even tap the back of my page. Perhaps the soft small hair on the back front of Superman’s knuckles will merely brush the back of my page, like the bare tips of deer fur just whisping the side of my tent. Etty, am I avoiding talking about you. Take it slow or is it slowly. Paint the scene.

    I am in the class entitled, “The Art of Visionary Women.” I am always looking for something new, for something unusual. Maybe it is the late ’80’s or possibly, probably early ‘90’s. I remember the teacher was good and I think her last name started with an “M” or maybe—oh, no, I remember, her name was Mary Giles I think and I think I took a history class from her as well or am I mixing names, maybe I am mixing names, either way, I took this class and later, the teacher died, so many of my teachers died—it seems like too many teachers given that I am only in my 40’s, but some were older and some were not, they just died or more likely died of the things people die of, the things I do not want to name only because I feel they may derail me and I fear I am already gettting derailed.

    I don’t think fear is the right word, rather I know I am already derailed, but I also know that my rail is being created as I write—like I have a whole crew with me reading my mind, laying track before I get there, exploding the mountains out of my way or building around. I hear that there is an ant that protects itself be exploding in order to attack its enemy. An ant hand granade? I am not sure how protective it is to explode.

    Okay, Etty, I am getting there and now I am wondering at all my train metaphors and now thinking of you and trains. Trains mean something different to Jewish people. Trains will never mean the same thing to Jewish people as to everyone else. Maybe there are many groups for whom trains will never just be trains. What do Indians and Sikhs and Muslims in India think of trains?

    So anyway, I was in this class and I remember making sculptures and paintings and I also remember listening to Hidegarde of Bingen before it seemd like anyone knew her and I remember perhaps learning of Teresa of Avila in this class and reading Etty Hillesum’s book, her writings, “An Interrupted Life.” I think I may have been the only Jewish person in the class—it was a small class in an upstairs room full of light and it seems like we sat and walked around a lot, but I read the book and it made me angry.

    I read the quote in this prompt and it is about breathing and taking time and finding the space between breaths or at least that is what I remember and this seems all fine and good and there was something else in that three line quote…Oh, I just re-read it, “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”

    I wonder what the context is of Etty’s quote. It has been many years since I read the book and not sure how accurately I remember it, but I do remember she was attracted to a guy and maybe had an affair and I remember she was Jewish and what drove me crazy is that she seemed to accept her fate, she went to one concentrations camp or other and died there. She went almost willingly, almost like a Catholic, I want to say, but I’m not sure what I mean by that exactly. She went because she knew of thought she could be of use there.
    Etty Hillesum’s words and attitude made me angry. I wanted her to fight. I wanted her to join the underground. I wanted her if necessary to die fighting. I wanted her to rage, rage, against the dying of the light or however that goes. I wanted her to fight this fate that she seemed to accept. Her words made me hot. I cannot remember what seemed visionary about her. Etty did not seem visionary to me. I thought she was brave to write her story, to write it honestly. I do not remember how her story came to light, who saved her words, who preserved them.

    Interruption #2: I remember this prompt is about telling the most important moment of my day and does this have anything to do with that? Will I be banished from this group of strangers that I do not even know and will that hurt me? Is there a word limit and have I passed it? Can you give a Jewish writer a word limit? A time limit yes, but a word limit, no. Just stop me when you are done reading.
    I could BS and say that this is the most important moment of my day, but I don’t think it is, perhaps I should take the space between the two breaths or the five minutes not in prayer but in reflection [although that sounds too much like prayer to me] on what was the most important moment of my day.
    Images come to me…
    First image: toward the end of leading an exercise class, I invite people to literally reach out from where they are (most are seated, many are older) and shake someone’s hand. I take a warm hand, a cooler hand, I take in his blue eyes that connect to a hand, then her brown eyes, her opening smile, her hand gripping mine gripping hers. I forget the time of day and even though it is 1:15pm, I say, “Good morning” to her before I catch myself.

    Image Two:
    In the morning, a man who likes his coffee black and has some trouble talking sometimes, comes in and gently puts his arm around me, like good family. There is something about the mutual trust shown by people touching you and you welcoming their side hug. Although this is not really two acts, giving and receiving, this is one connection built on years of trust and comfort. I always think that someone who can drink their coffee black has some sort of toughness I will never have, but what I feel is softness.

    Image Three:
    On the couch across the room, Ross laughs. Ross pulls off his big headphones to tell me what is happening on the Mary Tyler Moore Show—“They’ve all gotten food poisoning and Murray says, ‘It feels like I’ve swallowed a hot mitten.’ ”

    Why did the “Art of Visionary Women” woman pick the Etty Hillesum book? I look up the Hillesum book on Amazon [What if there were Amazons to stop the Holocaust? So much wishful thinking after the fact, the facts.]
    I recognize the pale cover—white with pastel, is there a barely-there drawing of Etty? Maybe I wanted her to be MORE there. Maybe I did not want her to be THERE (in the Holocaust) at all. I recognize the cover. I also note that two people have reviewed the book. One giving Etty 5 stars, the other giving Etty 1 Star. So it has come to this—your writing survives the Holocaust just to be 5- or 1-starred by the masses. Is this what they would call gauche? Or gouche? Or am I using that word totally wrongly?

    But, maybe I am just as guilty for ignoring the five star review and going straight to the one star, but what I want to know is that, did that reviewer have the same response I did? Did he too want her to put up her dukes, somehow throw punches, fight for her life and for others’ lives, smuggle what she could, try for a visa, fly to Shanghai, blow up a train, or at least a bridge, do SOMething. But perhaps she did do something, just not the something I wanted her to do, not that self-preserving something, not the life-preserving something, but perhaps she did do this in her own way.

    Image Four:
    I am on Sojouner Farm with Jan and Joe Johnson. It is the day that Paul the Butcher is coming to slaughter the sheep, to butcher the sheep. The sheep are treated well until this time, lots of land, lots of food, lots of space and freedom, really way better than any commercial lamb plant (is that the right word?) I can imagine and yet it still seems so wrong because they are being butchered for what reason? Now I am aware that I am talking about animals and it has this Holocaust resonance and this seems all sort of wrong and I don’t think I know yet even the point I am trying to make, but what I wanted to say was that on this butchering morning. Joe separates the wild woolly sheep from the more tame less woolly sheep. The wild ones are to be slaughtered and they know or it seems they know and they run from Joe, and Joe calls them “stupid sheep” but they seem smart to me.

    I guess my point is, I wanted Etty to be like the wild sheep, to run from the farmer, to run from the butcher. I guess even sheep, I learned, or at least wild sheep are not very much like the figurative sheep. Like sheep to the slaughter? No, those sheep knew. Those sheep ran. I want to say, “Run Etty Hillesum, Run!” I know there are different kinds of heros or heroines, but I wanted Etty to be the clear hero. I wanted Etty to save the day, not realize that her day and others’ days were up and take on the role of Mother Teresa at a dying person’s bedside.

    I don’t know where to go from here. I want to tie it up neatly into a little bundle. I cannot change the past. I cannot make Etty change her past. Etty left her words, left her mark, she made people’s lives better. That seems like good things. I guess I cannot pray that people have fire in the gut who do not seem to, or rather, maybe people have fire in the gut for different things. I guess I wanted her to spit that hot mitten out and live.

    What is my hot mitten and what do I need to spit out to live?

    Lee Xanthippe 12.28.12 10:40pm

    • says

      Lee, welcome to the Roadmap Blog! I really enjoyed the risks you took in your first post…I hope you keep coming back. Just want you to know you may not get any (many) responses to this post because people usually don’t go back to the posts from prior weeks…so try this weeks or the next post that comes out on Tuesday. I look forward to reading more of your words…Laura

      • Lee Xanthippe says

        Thank you and I realize I am late to this prompt, but/and I was prompted. I really appreciate your prompts–you seem to come up with ones that are rich and striking–from the ones I have seen an facebook. I appreciate it!

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