Recently, I was sitting on the rooftop of my friend’s downtown loft. Seven lovely ladies surrounded me **smile** I affectionately call them my “downtown girls” as nearly all of us live downtown or so close that I call it downtown adjacent. We get together often.
We were heavy in conversation when one of the girls muttered an unflattering comment about herself. We all looked quizzically at her wondering from where and why these self-berating words appeared. It was baffling. Everyone around me is gorgeous. Strong. Generous. Independent. Loving. Intelligent. Supportive. Driven. Humble. So of course it was a surprise to hear such negativity – besides the fact whatever she said (which I cannot remember for the life of me) was so untrue??
Without missing a beat, one of my friends said, “Ok. We are going to go around and each name one thing we LIKE about ourselves.” She glared around as to insist rather than request and we all nodded in agreement. I quickly chimed in, “Noooo, I think we need to say TWO things!!” while giving the same authoritative look as my friend. She smiled approvingly and everyone agreed again. Looking around the circle of girls I could see excitement on the faces of a few, confusion on others and down-right fear on several which I read as, “Holy crap… what am I going to say!”
Slowly, we made our way around our sweet circle. Each taking our time and saying two things great and wonderful about ourselves. Each comment brought a proud tear to my eye. What a wonderful group of ladies. I’m so blessed to call each of them friends. When it was my turn I smiled and rattled off something and then, “And, I’m thankful for my positivity” and as I glanced around to see several nods of agreement I continue, “which is a daily struggle for me. It does not come naturally. Not in any way shape or form.” Looking around again, I see waves of shock and awe in my friends faces. One said, “No way! You’re the most positive person I’ve ever met!” Another says, “Are you kidding me? Seriously? It is a struggle? I would have NEVER guessed.” And then I hear, “OMG, your positivity seems so natural.”
Well, I guess I’ve been working at “finding silver linings” since 1997. Ever since a little yellow post-it note glared up at me with a challenge. At the time, it seemed like a small feat, but over the years I’ve realized it is more of a struggle than I ever imagined. Let me take you back to the day I found that elusive yellow post-it note with its inspiring scribble…
As one could imagine, my life has had its necessary ebbs and flows. As all lives do. I’ve certainly evolved over my nearly four decades on this earth. My most evolutionary time was the nearly 12 months I lived with my grandmother. See, I became deathly ill while a junior in college. My long days of school with a full course load, working full-time, attending to extra-curricular scholarly activities necessary to beef up my post-graduation resume (student government, sorority, political clubs, etc.), and of course my nearly 24-hour partying ways finally caught up with me. Burning the candle at both ends was an understatement. I was sick. Very. Sick.
After nearly a full year of all this illness-mess, my doc confirmed that I had mono. Rest, rest, rest was my prescription. Soon the semester drew to a close and I decided to go back to Indiana to live with my grandma. During that time I learned so much about her. My grandpa had passed while I was a senior in high school, so grandma had lived alone for several years. I vividly remember her opening up to me. Telling stories about how controlling my grandfather was with her and their family.
My grandma was a stay-at-home mom to four children whom she had in succession. One right after another. Poor girl was pregnant for nearly five years. Straight. Oh. My. Haaaaa!! She told me once shortly after marriage they were nearly in a car accident and she screamed in fear. My grandpa looked over and glared at her while saying, “Never raise your voice again!” And from what I could tell… she never did. Wow. This was only one of many treacherous events my grandma experienced at the hands of my grandfather. Sadly.
Grandma would tell me all kinds of stories. I was intrigued. Of course, I never saw that side of my grandfather. I think people change around their grandkids. Soften. Spoil. You know? Anyway, I reminisce back to my grandfather’s funeral and remember my granny’s sadness, but I also noticed she was different. Lighter. Calm, airy, serene. Was she in shock? Was she numb? I was too young at 17 to really make heads or tails of it all. But then when I was nearly 24 and returning home to live with her it all made sense as I listened to her stories.
One day she came out of her room dressed in a pretty sleeveless top covered with a polyester jacket paired with matching pants – a “pant suit” as she called them. She always dressed up with gorgeous jewels and in bright, pretty colors. She smiled and said, “Your grandpa never let me wear pants!” Wow. Granny always had on a skirt or dress. How did I never notice? Her eyes sparkled with her new found independence. She loved pants. OMG, she had to wait until her 70’s to wear what she wanted to wear? Oh. My. The thought of such a limited life halted me in my tracks. Poor granny.
Here are a few pics of little me with Granny… she was always wearing a skirt!!
I found myself in her bedroom one day, marveling at all of her jewelry and I noticed a small yellow post-it note taped to the bottom right-hand corner of her large mirror above her dresser. It looked tattered and aged. The handwriting was comforting and familiar.
With all the letters, cards and correspondence from my granny over my lifetime I would recognize her handwriting from a mile away. Never waste one day of your life… living it in anger! Dumbfounded. Shaking my head. I was in disbelief. How in the hell was this delicate woman not entirely pissed. Seriously? Mad. For all the limitations wielded upon her throughout her life???
Granny could be angry. She could be sad. She could be… the long list of emotions raced through my mind. But she CHOSE to be happy. How? Where did she get the strength? The perseverance? Even in telling me her stories, she was very matter of fact. No trace of heartache on her face or sadness in her tone of voice. In that moment a thought ran across my mind, “If she could go through hell and back. Then. Of course. I can choose happiness too, right?” So from that day on I decided to forge through life positive and optimistic. Each day I wake I choose happy. Positive. Optimistic. Some days are certainly more difficult than others. Ha!
Granny left this earth Dec. 18, 2003. Sigh.
Each time I remember the year I lived with her and how she nursed me back to health – not only physically, but mentally and emotionally too – a warmth washes over me, my eyes glisten with appreciation and a smile appears in my heart!! The time spent with her certainly shaped the woman I am today and I will FOREVER be indebted to Marion Claire N-R. If I can help one other person in this world the way my Granny help me, then I’ve lived one hell of a fulfilling life. Indeed.
© Renae Rossman and Candy Coated Reality™