30 days, 30 pages with writing on them. That's the deal.
If I hadn't dropped myself, perhaps I wouldn't be left with these million loose pieces and no idea what the picture is supposed to look like. I'm currently engaged in picking them up, inspecting the edges for something that looks familiar, trying them together, hoping to find a few that fit, things that will form borders or corners from which I can build.
This is what happens at some junctures in life. We are forced to begin the process of reinvention, and we don't always have a clear image of exactly what we're aiming to create. We lose parts, we gain parts, we become broken. However it happens, somehow the pieces we find ourselves with no longer fit together to form the thing we used to look like. So we begin the puzzle again.
In this particular personal transition, one thing I've noticed is that in my new box of pieces I suddenly find myself with a support group comprised of older friends. I'm hanging out mainly with people who are a good 20 years further down the road than I am. I'm not sure why, but I'm beginning to suspect they've been sent to help put Humpty together again, because they're not only older, but also wiser. They've already fallen off lots of walls, and somehow picked themselves up and gone on.
I'm trying to watch and learn.
I just spent an enjoyable weekend with one such dear friend. We've only recently become well acquainted, but already she's proving herself an indispensable piece of my new picture.
One of the things we did together was attend an art show, at which we both enjoyed the work of one artist in particular. My friend would truly have loved to take home one of the paintings, and had the perfect place in her home to hang it. But the work was out of her price range, and mine as well. As we were walking away, she stopped me, took my arm and explained that her mother had once taught her a valuable lesson about such things. There had been a pair of shoes she had desperately wanted as a girl, but the money was simply not in the family budget. Her mother had said, "There will always be beautiful things." She explained how that phrase had helped her many times when she'd had to cope with similar situations.
As if to illustrate the principle, I watched with pleasure as she found a perfect blue vase later in the day that, although it wasn't anything like the painting, she was extremely pleased to be able to add to her collection.
Those words struck me with some force. She was right, of course. In my own life, I've seen it time and again. There is forever something else coming along that I want just as much as whatever it is I think I can't live without. I need only wait. It's not always an exact replacement of course, but there's definitely no shortage of beautiful things in the world.
Life is nothing but a process of learning to let go, and she should know. She's recently lost her partner of many years, and even though such loss becomes quite likely when one reaches her stage of life, it doesn't make it any easier to accept or to bear. Her puzzle's been unfairly and undeniably dropped, once again reduced to something unrecognizable. But already I can see her beginning to pick through and examine the pieces, looking for clues, and doing it with tremendous grace. I'm determined to watch and learn.
Every day we're confronted with loss. We encounter things we'd like but can't have and things we used to have but no longer do. Even though we sometimes get our hands on what we want, we're allowed to keep nothing, really. Not even ourselves. Our lives are a journey of gradual personal diminishment. Each day that slips by is one we will never have back, and as they go they take a little of us with them.
Sometimes the worst ones take enormous chunks.
All we can do is keep reassembling the pieces with which we are left to create new versions of our picture. But sometimes the changes can be good. We're allowed to pick up new things as we go, wonderful things we never expected. They're not an exact replacement, of course, but they might fit with what we have in uncanny ways that work around or even fill our holes better than we ever imagined.
I'm going to try to remember those wise words in a larger context than the one in which she offered them. After all, in my life, she is a tangible illustration of her own principle, for which I'm grateful. Perhaps the idea can bring comfort to her as well, a gentle and hopeful nudge toward next steps, whenever she's ready to take them.
There's no hurry to do anything now though. Plenty of time to take stock and decide which parts to pick up and put back together, and which to let go to best allow the new picture to emerge. She may not see any way to make sense of the pieces she's been left with yet, but with time new pieces will surely continue to present themselves.
Good pieces, essential pieces, beautiful, unexpected pieces, because I can see her mother was right and it's absolutely true:
There will always be beautiful things.