These past few weeks have been a reckoning of sorts. I’ve gotten away from the work place for some much needed navel-gazing. I’ve lived with the impact of my recent renovation dance, the shedding of many of my material and emotional possessions. I’ve begun entertaining again, not on the scale that I used to, but on a smaller canvas. Through the course of several intimate dinners for three or four of us, I’ve had the opportunity to relish the physical household commodities that I’ve retained. These objects speak to who I am and where I’ve come from. Every plate that I’ve kept, even the imperfectly chipped white daily set which I use most frequently remind me of the 34 years of life with my husband and son. The crystal wine glasses that was handed down from my Dad and wife #2, the beautiful blue handblown water glasses that were a wedding present from a former boss. The gorgeous flower vase that brims with colorful blossoms atop my dining table. The small hors d’oeuvres plates that say “cheers” in 6 languages which were a gift from our dear friend Jason Wingreen. I use these objects with gratitude for the bounty of my life. I’ve been fashioning these small feasts with love, with a celebration of these friendships in mind. My guests have dutifully oohed and aahed over the startling transformation of my refashioned home, which reflects the transformation of my creative and emotional mind space as well. And if you are saying “where’s my invitation, Els?” I urge you to reach out but know that I’m slowly but surely working my way in no codified or organized fashion to reach you and invite you to dine.

As I’ve been shedding many belongings, what’s returned to me has been the appreciation for what a new finish with an updated perspective can do to an old heirloom. I had a bureau and an old bed which I recently passed along to some friends. Here’s what they looked like before:

So do not despair of your casting off of material possessions – they can have rich, promising, and refinished lives in the hands of loving recipients.

It’s been a gradual reopening, and I’ve accepted a few invitations back, each time prodding myself from the comfort of my new cocoon, from the well worn creases of my residual grief, the terrifying “what if” of going to new places where “I won’t know anyone.” I don’t know about you, but I can think of about six “good” reasons I can turn down any invitation.

  • I have to get up early the next morning.
  • I should use the time working on my syllabi/crocheting/reading/puzzling/fill-in-the-blank.
  • I’m fatter than I’ve ever been in my life
  • I haven’t worn real shoes in over 18 months and my feet swell up in them.
  • I’ve become dull-witted due to isolation and lack of cultural nutrients and come off as an unpolished half wit.
  • What if there are people there who aren’t vaccinated and I get sick?

I’m sure together we could come up with about 15 “even better” reasons to stay sitting unmasked at home in the center of our couches surfing through old episodes of Virgin River. That show is my guilty pleasure – they’ve just dumped Season 3 if you are a secret Virgin River fan. But instead, for the most part, I’ve gotten up and walked out the door and said yes.

Speaking of bereaved women leaving their old lives behind and going to the most beautiful place on the planet where they meet a cute, relatively unattached bartender in the local joint and fall head over heals in love, (oh, were we, Els?) I watched (okay, re-watched) the 2017 movie Our Souls At Night, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda as a couple of grieving neighbors who seek an unexpected solution for their loneliness. This viewing came right on the heels of reading Luis Alfaro’s funny and a little too close to home essay Miss Lonelyhearts. The last line of Luis’ essay made me guffaw out loud.

I settle into my Ford hybrid, and say to myself out loud, “Whatever you do, just don’t start talking to yourself.”

Luis Alfaro, Miss Lonely Hearts Essay 7-8-21 Facebook

This morning, I looked across the tablecloth to where my husband had sat with me since we moved into our downtown condo in May 2008, and crossed around the table to push his chair unsettled by my dinner guests last night back into the table, and said aloud, “Well, Jimmie, what do you think of what I’ve done with the place?” His lack of response indicates not as my saboteurs would want me to think, “How could you strip our apartment clean of what we made together?” or “You seem to have spent a lot of money to erase me.” No, instead, I heard his tacit approval, imagined his responding “You’ve done a great thing here, and the space will prepare you for the next chapter of your life” (though he undoubtedly would have avoided the cliche of next chapter) and “I see the potential here and have really enjoyed the dinners you’ve been having. I’m so glad I didn’t have to live through the process. You know how I would have hated that.”

I do know indeed. At the risk of an onslaught of friend requests from handsome, fictitious silver fox military men on FaceBook, there is so much more that I know and carry in my heart. But all of us are cracking open our hearts again to new life and new potential in the post pandemic universe.

Just as old furniture can have a promising future, so too is it possible for damaged human heirlooms to have rich, promising, new lives in the hands of loving recipients. We are allowing ourselves to be refashioned, refinished, revitalized by what this new world can be. Oh, and I’ll see you out there in the world, far from our creased couches, as we practice our baby steps together. We’ll be the ones talking to ourselves.

6 thoughts

  1. Given our weekly (and cherished) walks around the Hollywood Reservoir, I can wholeheartedly attest to the fact that you are neither dull-witted nor an unpolished halfwit. Really.

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