In the aftermath of the power outage, though, a small light: the chance to pick up the book I've been trying to read for the past month, the chance to actually sit down and read, not skim, not glance, not hastily run over with my eyes so I can jump off to the next thing, but to read.
It was a glorious 15 minutes.
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. It's the story of a girl who has lost her husband in a tragic car accident, who cannot rid herself of the pain of the past, who lives as a ghost today because her heart lies in the yesterdays of her life. And in a planned, yet rash, decision, she decides to move to the South of France to rehabilitate her mother's childhood home. While there, she discovers the act of "amming".
Everyone has a different story. Some are tragic, some are perfect, some are normal, some are fun and nice, some are sad and despairing. But even though we all come at life from different angles, we also all have a commonality: we all have a past.
My past, while not tragic by any stretch of the imagination, also includes parts of my life that I wish were also a part of my present--so I'm not always "amming", sometimes I'm "was-ing". Meaning I'm physically in the present but not always emotionally able to deal with what life has handed me.
I see my grandma-my beloved, adored grandma--slowly fading, becoming a woman I don't know, as she explains who the people in the picture--me and my daughter--are to my husband. It's a part of life I don't want to accept. I often wonder what life would be like if my mom were still alive. Would she take care of my grandma? Would we be friends? Would she still be married to my dad? Would she love my kids more than life itself? Would she take them on fun dates to the mall and the park? Would she want to do those things? Would I know the joy of having to split a holiday like Thanksgiving between families? Or of one huge family gathering, full of people who love spending time together?
I know what it's like to have a family splintered by anger and bitterness and death, to have a grandma who can't be a grandma anymore, to not be--not the, but a--priority in a family member's life, to want to live in what I used to know because what I used to know felt safe and protected and treasured. Not perfect. But cherished. So sometimes I find myself wishing for a past that simply doesn't exist anymore. "Was-ing". Not "amming".
I wonder...if I moved to the South of France to rehabilitate an old stone home that had been in my family for generations, would I shed the weight of what I'm longing for but can no longer have? Would I have the ability to simply live in the present without being bogged down by the past? Would I enjoy life in the South of France more than I can enjoy life here?
"Amming" is a state of mind, not an address. So whether I'm looking at the Mont Blanc in the French Alps or the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, "amming" can happen. Sometimes I live life in such a blur, moving quickly from one thing to the next, because I'm afraid of landing on any one thing for fear of fear itself; the realization that time continues its march onward, that I cannot change anyone but myself, that my grandmother is old and dementia has stolen her good judgement and her appreciation for social faux pas, that my sister does not live next door like we planned when we were eight, that my father has remarried and has a new life, that my mother will not be making an encore appearance on earth. C'est comme ca--it is a fact of life.
It is also a fact of life that life for me doesn't have to end with me playing the part of a ghost, mentally wishing for the past when the future is bright and clear.
For I know the plans I have for you,
declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future.
I don't always wish for the past--sometimes life gets too busy for that. And I don't always live wishing for days gone by when my mom was alive and my family of origin was intact. Sometimes it's just as simple as wishing that the clothes I wore at age 29 still fit at age 37.
But when my family--the beautiful family my husband and I have created--is right in front of my face and the body I have--the body that still runs and is strong and vibrant and alive, if not a few pounds heavier--when these are the right-here, right-now, "was-ing" is naive and senseless, because there is so much life in the am, not the was, not the I used to be, but in the I am, the now--the present.