Cerebral. adj. 1. Of or relating to the brain or cerebrum. 2. Appealing to or requiring the use of the intellect; intellectual rather than emotional. (www.freeonlinedictionary.com)
My brain is on overdrive as the thoughts kindle within its folds. If an EEG (electroencephalography) was taken of mine, the synapses would light up like a Christmas tree. Some of these pathways in my cerebral cortex (the areas of thought, reasoning, sensation and emotion) have been dormant. But the beauty of our brain is its neuroplasticity; the ability to form new pathways and to re-ignite old ones for storage. People who suffer minor strokes have the ability to regain function of paralyzed limbs by the creation of these new pathways. Repetitive use of them help create long term storage of memories or motor function. Practice makes perfect.
Today I found myself at my piano trying to rekindle the fine motor pathways to move my fingers across the ivories. It is only during the holidays that I find myself at the bench replaying my favorite Christmas melodies. It brings me back to my childhood; to carolers coming to our door and the happy anticipation of Advent and Christmas. Although the sheet music sits before me my eyes look downward; my fingers flying across the keys in rote memory. It should not have been a surprise that my fingers did not move as I expected them to; the discordant notes amidst White Christmas. Looking at the notes on paper distracted me and after playing approximately ten minutes the muscles in my lower arm burned. I turned to the husband in disgust. I used to play this song in my sleep.
But what did I expect? I hadn’t practiced this tune in 12 months. And therein lay the answer to what has been swirling about in my mind for quite some time. My expectations are unrealistic.
I have been out-of-practice in various aspects of my life and recently have tried to discern what is missing. Discernment. Transparency. Simplicity. Hospitality. This week I have been working on hospitality; entertaining others and opening up my home. So many reasons prevent me from doing this. Time. Effort. Cost. I barely made time to maintain long term relationships, my minutes and days lost in busy-ness. As our family transitioned it was easier to close my doors, to fill my time with works with no real meaning. To fill gaps with minimal effort. With our family transition from active duty military to assuming a small business; cost became an insurmountable obstacle to entertain others. It was all we could do to feed ourselves. But in this hoarding we lost sight of what, truly, is important in this life and it has only taken me four years to realize this. Relationship. It is the glue that brings us joy. It is what marks us as higher cognitive human beings. This is our gift and we have the ability to choose what we do with it.
On Monday I stared at my December calendar, dismayed to realize it was quite full. But I made the conscious effort to clear space and decided to reconnect with friends I have not seen in quite some time. I took a deep breath as I began to coordinate; informing the hubs of my intentions while at work. The girlfriend I have known the longest was traveling over 400 miles to be in my neck-of-the-woods to visit the happiest place on Earth with her hubs and children. To my surprise another longtime girlfriend posted on my Facebook wall to meet; the last time together at her mother’s funeral three years prior. My Memorial Day 2014 plans are to camp at the campground her family brought me to at age 13. My third girlfriend, the local teacher, lives within 20 miles but our schedules never mesh with work schedules and kids.
I, then, began to text the girlfriends I rarely see to coordinate time to visit. With my limited time I vowed to make the most of it. There were plenty of items on my to-do list to take care of and I decided to finally create the space, hoping these women would grant me grace in my messy place. I chose to slow my pace. To touch base. Relationships. I am out of practice.
Suffering has no meaning in itself. Left to its own, it is a frustrating and bewildering burden. But given the context of relationship, suffering suddenly has meaning. (www.joniandfriends.org)
Amidst guffaws of laughter I contemplated the various walks of life that sat before me. We are not cookie-cutter women with perfect lives. The conversation swirled about as I checked in with my initial perceptions of what I thought these women were. All people have facades and my assumption is that they have it together; the perfect life. On Tuesday, after sitting with our salesman friend, I again questioned my niche and purpose. The hubs and I constantly assess our lives now, together, as we trudge forward in our messy days. My expectations are that as I grow older life would become easy; all of my questions of my youth would be answered. What I have experienced is that most of my questions become deeper, that disillusionment and disappointment have made me jaded.
Wisdom. 1a : accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge. b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight. c : good sense : judgment. d : generally accepted belief. 2 : a wise attitude, belief, or course of action. 3 : the teachings of the ancient wise men. (www.merriam-webster.com)
38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Luke 6:38 (NIV)
By choosing to re-engage with people and being hospitable the blessing has been returned twice-fold; literally. Wednesday evening I returned home after CCD to find unfamiliar Tupperware upon my kitchen counter. When I questioned the hubs of its presence he replied that a dear friend appeared in our doorway with dinner. It was an unexpected treat from this girlfriend with a heart of gold and I was humbled. It is she who has struggled, in recent years, as she transitions from married life to single mother. But her giving and hospitable nature is undeterred and the hubs and I stared at one another. She was our reminder. You do not need to have a big, beautiful and decorated Christmas home to invite others through your doors; into your life. All you need is the spirit of giving; with no expectation of receiving in return.
On Friday afternoon another unexpected call came from a girlfriend I rarely see. To the hubs and I’s surprise, dinner was delivered across our door stoop as she and her daughter joined us. I tried not to look at the cluttered kitchen counter, the dust on the blinds, my boys’ backpacks strewn across my floor. The mancave was abuzz of all things digital and electronic; heat emanating from the three bodies that occupy that space. But the sons emerged to watch Rise of the Guardians with the daughter; sounds of laughter gurgling from our family area.
The introverted, non-social hubs again stared across the space; marveling at the depth of conversation. Our preconceived notions of our friend’s life were based on appearance. She and her hubs, too, seek something meaningful; the more that constantly eludes us. We trick ourselves into thinking it means: wealth, worldliness or prestige. But it is something we can achieve every day without leaving the comforts of our space. In opening our minds and expanding our horizons we can choose to appreciate the opportunities before us. We assume and compare thinking these things give us happiness and success. But in constantly measuring our accomplishments against something or someone else; we set ourselves up for disaster. We will always fail.
It is in relationships that we find depth and all things cerebral. They are difficult to find but if you have them, cultivate them and accept them for what they are. In doing this you have everything to gain. Before I used to think I was lowering my expectations in what I desired. But I have since discovered that I made unrealistic ones. Why? Because it is easier to reject than to be the one rejected. I would not measure up. Opening my doors, my lines of communication and owning my thoughts have allowed me to find unbelievable depth. Several of my worldly girlfriends surprised me; searching for the elusive people to whom they would mesh. In my travels and paths I have tread I have searched for these same things. But I have finally arrived. These friends are already in my life. It is I who needs to open my doors to them; to accept them for who they are. I hope they will do the same. They can be flawed, as I am too. It is in this constant discovery, in real conversation, that we grow and discover who it is we are; to find our niche.
I am grateful.