People Punctuation ,-…;.?!

Have you ever noticed how you can look back over your life and see some people or events as commas, dashes, dot dot dots or semicolons and still others as periods, question marks or exclamation points?  When you read, it’s so easy to know which phrase you are perusing because at the end of each phrase you immediately get feedback in the form of comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we immediately knew which version of punctuation we were dealing with when we interact with people or experience life events?  If we could only recognize them for their punctuation, it would be so much easier to have a perfectly balanced reaction to the situation.

I rarely care for grammar (unless my paycheck is banking on it).  I know the rules.  I just enjoy writing with a bit more grit than rule conformity would permit.  Commas separate pieces that fit together, and can’t stand independently.  Dashes are a melodramatic symbol indicating a continuation (far less formal that your colon… I don’t really care for colons in my life).  Dot dot dots are continuations too, and the tones carry forward almost infinitely.  A semicolon is the symbol of a continuation that strings together seamlessly a before thought and an after thought which clearly should be coupled. Periods indicate wholeness.  Question marks, however, linger with uncertainty despite its finality.  And, exclamation marks infuse energy, commonly joy.  See, I know.  I just stew in the icky thought of conformity at times.

Retrospection makes people punctuation so easy.  It’s feels unfair that sentences can just end and immediately know their value.  I’ve got a best friend and godson who are undoubtably exclamation points, a college roommate who was a wry little question mark, a high school boyfriend who was merely a comma…  But, all that took years of perspective to know which one they were to me.

And still yet, punctuation can apply to life events too.  I once heard the story of a great writer on his deathbed.  The night before he passed, he woke and told his wife of this persistent dream of a semicolon glowing in the forefront of his mind’s eye.  How lovely. This writer knew in the moments before his death that he was about to string together his before and after seamlessly.  What peace it must have brought him to know which punctuation he was dealing with in this moment.  Had he the wisdom of his punctuations his whole life, or did he just figure them out towards the end of his life?

I’ve been struggling a lot in the last few weeks with deciding who and what has been a comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation in my life.  At times, I felt so certain that I had an exclamation point, only to be left with a question mark (and a frowny face too).  At other times, I was so caught up in myself that I felt certain I had arrived at a period, but it was merely a comma.  I know that none of the punctuations are bad, only indications of how things feel and connect.  Yet somehow, I still yearn for the wisdom to understand who was which.

So I guess, going forward, I can only hope to become more aware as I interact with people or experience life events…  Am I dealing with a comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation point?  Or, perhaps, you could make it simple and tell me. Do you hope to be a comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation point?

Happy Anniversary! Here’s to the Women Who Made Me Strong

Two years ago today.  Wow.  Two years.  Time does slip like sand, doesn’t it?  Two years ago, I walked into a musty office in the basement of the Old Clinic Building to report for the beginning of my career.  I tried to appear well-prepared and confident, but I’m pretty sure I was just scared shitless.  I was just a kid in high heals with some pseudo-fancy diploma and a big smile.  Two years can change a lot though.  Now I have snazzy offices and actual responsibilities, but most importantly, an amazing cohort of women to look up to.

 

Now, I know, I’m not always happy with my job.  It’s high-paced, political, stressful and sometimes just emotionally draining.  My job not only thicken my skin and taught me how to take one on the chin, but also taught me a lot about accepting a smile across the table and sometimes even an arm around my shoulder.  I have learned so much by watching the women around me.  So today, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I have to say Happy Anniversary to the women who made me strong.  

 

To Jackie, who radiates joy in the most pervasive and all-filling way.  When you’re around her, you can’t help but be brimming with sweetness (and not just because she offers candy with a smile at her desk).

 

To Alison, who taught me that sometimes you get to ride your bike to work in a skirt, especially if it gives you extra time to stop by Starbucks.  She also knows when to advise me to drink more and when I really just need to sleep.

 

To Malika, who juggles so many balls from family to work to moving to school, all while managing this wry smile.  I love that smile, especially when she tilts her head back to laugh.

 

To Marie, who shared her daughter’s art work with me.  A reminder of what really matters.  She also never fails to be happy for other’s successes, even when that means they are moving on with their lives.

 

To Shaina, who always finds something to compliment, even when I look like a hot mess, and feel even messier.

 

To Stacy, who makes people feel good when they are talking about money.  This is an incredible talent, that should never be underestimated.

 

To Alex, who has shown me how to live and how to treat people.  She embodies kindness and courage.  I know I can’t do her mentorship justice here, but she has undoubtably changed my life for the better.  She once bravely moved her family to Africa, consistently treats people with loving kindness and glows with pride over her 3 wonderful boys.  I hope my life can model that kind of bravery and love.

 

To Molly, who always seems to know when I need a hug or to sit in her comfy chair by the picture window to talk.  Molly really is wayyyy too cool for me, but she has never once acted like it.  This women has faced so much in the last year.  And while those stresses probably would have flattened me, she still seems to pass life’s good stuff around.

 

To Christina, her girls are beautiful, just like their mom.  Christina not only talks about positive change, but she sees that it comes true in her community.  I’m also infinitely grateful for our decorating rendezvous.

 

To Alice, the essence of strong yet gentle female leadership.  I admit, I still get tongue-tied and nervous around her.  She has this amazing presence about her, and is thoughtful and balanced (despite her statures, both career and height).

 

To both my retired Wanda’s.  You each have such amazing laughs.  They are soul filling, and I miss hearing them around the corner.  I just know you are both still filling the world with goodness, even in retirement. 

 

To Allie, who has moved on to other jobs, but is still one of the greatest friends a girl could ever ask for.  Love you to pieces.

 

There are too many good ‘uns to mention, and I do actually work with some pretty great men too.  But today, I want to say thanks to the women who have made me strong.  You’ve celebrated successes with me (like buying my first home) and stuck by me in the hard times (like having a horribly mean boyfriend).  You’ve taught me what I want my life to look like, and what it means to be a strong, beautiful, wonderful woman.  I’ll never be able to thank you for the joy you have brought me, but today, at least let me say, Happy Anniversary.

Pass the Glue (and Popsicle Sticks too)

Did you ever play jenga growing up?  You know.  The game with wooden blocks that you stack into a tower. Then you remove piece by piece, placing the removed blocks on the top of the tower until the whole tower collapses.  Well today, I played jenga with my life.

 

It started off fine.  My blocks were stacked, sturdy and strong.–  Okay, okay, I lie.  I started two blocks down because of working extra hours and having a stomach bug earlier this week, but despite the two blocks, I still felt like I was standing pretty tall and proud.  Then the day started.  And while no single event blew away my tower, by the end of the day, I was sure to feel the fall.

 

I got called into the toxic office for the day. One block down. Place the weight on top.

I quietly canceled a beloved event for a needy co-worker (canceled twice already). One block down. Place the weight on top.

I dredged up heartbreaks from my past. One block down. Place the weight on top.

I missed my yoga class. One block down. Place the weight on top.

I missed every single beat in a dance. One block down. Place the weight on top.

 

Frustrated with myself, I continued to miss steps all night, and that’s when I felt it.  I took a deep breath in, knowing that if I breathed- even slightly- my tower would collapse.  Sometimes you can hold your breath until you turn purple, but you’re already too off balance- you’re going to tumble.  So tonight, standing in front of dozens of people I barely knew, I felt the fall.  My face still shown its smile; my laugh still carried through the air.  Yet inside I felt the the fall of a girl too tired to stand strong a second longer.

 

I was recently given one of the most amazing gifts in my life.  The gift of joy, sprinkled with good conversation.  It came in the form of popsicle sticks and glue.  Did you know that with a little engineering and ingenuity you can build a bridge out of popsicle sticks that can hold the weight of an entire person!?!  You can.  All it took was gluing a few carefully measured and selected popsicle sticks together and arranging them into a magically appearing bridge.

 

I’ve spent a lot of my life passing on glue and popsicle sticks.  Too afraid to get stuck to the wrong people, only to end up with some of the worst people around.  Though I am warm towards others in need, when it comes to me, I can be a lot like the anti-glue…  not letting too many people too close, just incase… living in utter need of and fear of truly letting in a community to shape things and hold each other together for fear that they won’t measure up and won’t be selected carefully enough.  But what I learned from my friend who passed the glue and popsicles was the added strength in not going at it alone.  Perhaps if I had added some glue to my jenga day, I would not have felt the fall when the little weights started to pile on.

 

So somehow going forward when someone offers me popsicle sticks, I need to learn to smile and gratefully say, ‘Thank you, pass the glue’.  And I hope next time I offer you the glue, you’ll try it too.