My muse finally reappeared this month. She was wearing a red, tailored suit with tennis shoes and holding a cigarette between her fingers in the exact same way my Grandma Bernie always did. Her smile and forthrightness broke down any excuses and her warm encouragement melted away my cowardliness. She let me know in no uncertain terms that I must start writing again. Then a day later, an offhanded comment to a friend, was returned to me with a question—and my thoughts have been moving towards my fingers ever since.
What began as a chat room on Facebook in the dead of winter, quickly moved to a ladies luncheon and then a long overdue high school reunion. This summer, with my sister as my security blanket, I made my way home to Kentucky to reminisce and reunite with people I had not seen in over 35 years. It was a wonderful two days of renewing acquaintances and catching up with friends who had made my five years of living in the Bluegrass state memorable—and recent years on Facebook addicting. As I was leaving, I made the remark, “If we could only know then, what we know now”—it seemed like an intelligent thing to say for no particular reason. And my friend, Randy, shot back, “and if you did, what would you have done differently?” Busted!! A very long airline ride home and a lot of weeding in my garden and I am still thinking of an answer.
I know I would have worn less polyester and purchased contact lens five years sooner! I would have spent more time in the art room (did we even have an art room) and less time in the home ec department! I would have listened to Mrs. Stoehr, when she told me to compete in the broadcast journalism category at the State Speech Competition. (And been more grateful to her when she signed me up-without my permission!) I would have embraced those friends who would lead such very short lives after we graduated and tell them how much their friendship had meant to a displaced girl from Phoenix. Most important, I would realize then that life would have a great leveling effect on all of us. I wouldn’t have had to worry who was in the “in” group or who was sitting with the “cool kids.” Together, as the great class of “78, we would face it all– school, kids, death, divorce, jobs, illness, drugs, alcohol, success, failure, money, poverty, happiness and pain. And then we would come out on the other side, slightly heavier and greyer, but much more kind and humble. (I wouldn’t have told them over lunch what they would be up against though—or that John Travolta would go from being Danny Zuko to a middle-aged mom in Hairspray!) And oh the things I could share, if I had one more day in World Civ with Mrs. Simmerman standing at the chalkboard in her cheery voice asking, “What’s New!” I wish I could have known then, what I know so well now, that encouraging and building someone else never diminishes or takes away from my own self-worth. I could have then walked the halls of Boyd County high school with a little more confidence and a lot more smiles.
As I swept and pondered, watered flowers and contemplated, I wondered how I would answer the same question about my entire life. If I was to know then, what I know now what would I do differently? ….besides wearing a lot more sunscreen! I would understand that all of life’s experiences make us who we are and teach us to love a little deeper– so I guess I would still just go with them. But, with a little more knowledge I could fear less and trust more. I would follow my kid’s advice and worry less and chill more! I would certainly dance more, sing more, create more, write more and let go of the unimportant and unfulfilling. I would trust my own intuitions a whole lot more and other’s opinions quite a bit less. I would judge my neighbors less harshly (except for the one down the street) and refuse to let others define me. I would be much more concerned with nourishing my soul today and have less anxiety about the temperature of where it might land tomorrow. And, if I knew then what I know now … on cold, snowy days, I would let my father-in-law sit in the house, at my kitchen table and smoke a cigarette and drink a cup of coffee with me, instead of standing in the garage without me—who knows, maybe if I had, my muse would have shown up a lot sooner!!