The dental hygienist’s voice was lifeless, like a hound dog that hadn’t been to the woods for years, she spoke, but I could tell that she wasn’t living. She was just lying on the porch, so to speak. Watching the world go by. No excited chop at the tree, no bay on the trail on the ground. Just droopy eyes and saggy skin and an occasional lick of the lips.
I once knew a man who used to dream of sitting on the porch just watching the world go by. It was always fascinating to me that anyone would find that appealing. I guess there is always a time and a place for that type of inactivity, like after you’ve worked really hard and your body needs a reprieve or your soul needs time to take in nature’s grace to be replenished.
But this woman was not lying on the porch replenishing. No she was the hound dog that didn’t have a reason to bark anymore. Her nose for the delicious and mind awakening scents in life had retired. It was sad to me. I wondered what had killed her spirit. Had it been beaten out of her, or had she just forgotten to continue to grow it. Maybe she had avoided the porch all her life, never taking time to replenish her soul. Her smile may as well have been mounted on a stick to hold up on cue, for her eyes remained lifeless, even though the corners of her mouth went up. There was no dancing light, and any glint of youthful orneriness had left no trace.
My mind went back to years previous when I used to lie there, her hands working in my mouth, and she had many stories to tell. She discussed the football games at the high school, the drama of her daughter’s life, then it moved to grandchildren and custody battles. Her voice was full of excitement, anticipation and even anger and frustration. I was always amazed at all she divulged, as I lay there, her forced captive audience.
Then, it seems, it all just stopped. I had to wonder if she had realized that it wasn’t her life really. It was THEIR life. They weren’t in need of her mothering anymore. She couldn’t take credit for them, they had moved on, and she could not live vicariously through them. And more than anything, she realized her lack of control over it all. Her hand had been smacked time and again, as she had reached for that steering wheel, and now, she had chosen not to drive at all. Not even her own car.
She seemed stalled on life’s porch.
There are a lot of women like this, I have noticed. Their zest for living moves out with the children. I look at them and I understand! That could have been me. I was devastated, at first, by my lack of a role to play in life. As a child, my only dream had been to be a mother. As a mother, I had lived it and loved it. I gave up any other dreams for it. It became my purpose.
So needless to say, when it creeped out the door, suitcase in hand, and I followed it to the porch to say good-bye, I almost laid down there. My purpose gone, I could have easily become the dog on the porch. But I forced my nose to the wind. I let the scents take me to the woods. And I have found life and love inside of me. What a surprise to find that diamond in the center of this lump of coal! Me! I!! I am a loving woman with love inside, and it doesn’t even need a destination.
Last night, I awoke at 2:30 a.m. It wasn’t a good sign, as I felt it might continue on this way – and sitting behind my desk at work with no sleep is like some kind of inhumane torture. As I lay there, I remembered that I had just dreamed of my soul’s love. It had come to me, tall and handsome, and had picked me up like a child and held me preciously close to its heart. My heart. It was delicious like melted butter (I love butter!). As I returned to the Land of Nod, I decided I would just go there again. Go to those arms, and live there. The next three hours resulted in a mix of meditation and sleep, returning again and again to that loving feeling.
When I awoke with the radio in my ear, I found myself with a child’s giddiness in my belly. As the morning progressed, I kept laughing at things – things that might normally pass me by unnoticed – unappreciated.
As I arrived at work, I felt the smile on my face and actually wondered to myself what I had forgotten that I was absent-mindedly looking forward to.
Then I remembered those hands in my dream, so strong – and the embrace – not just comforting, but so alive and full of love! And then I knew. I wasn’t really excited about anything in particular. I didn’t know exactly where I was going. I was just feeling the love of my soul and happiness to be alive.
In my last writing, I mentioned the anticipation I always feel in the fall. And that’s what this is like, this soul’s love. It is a feeling of excitement with nothing to really attach it to. I believe it is the definition of “alive.”
I wonder sometimes how to pass this along to other women. How can I lead them off the porch and to this amazing place? To see so many women feeling like they’ve give up on life. I have no advice. Only to believe. Spend time in nature. Everyone wants a purpose in life, and I have been no exception. I have found aliveness in my quilting and my writing. But is that the answer? I can’t say for sure. I only know that it has kept me going back to that loving feeling. And though there were times I did lie on the porch, and sometimes, I return there. I have been lucky to be awakened by a falling leaf or a familiar breeze.
At other times, encouraging words from a wise shaman or an old sage led me from that porch. Another, a book fell into my lap that let me know I was not alone.
I hope that they see it when it arrives. Follow it into the woods. Into the arms of their soul. To the place of origination. That’s where it all begins – again and again.