A Pause

Dear Friends,

Due to unexpected new head trouble linked to an old brain injury I’m forced to take a break from writing/posting on this blog. I do hope it will be brief.

In the meantime please feel free to roam the site: there’s much to read and ponder.

Thank you for all your kindness and support.

Stay in love with life,

Maryse

I DARE YOU TO BE…

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Unerring. Excited.

Never entered that place before.

A step and then another.

Positively fine. No danger behind the door.

On these new grounds, we feel

Lavishly proud.

Off to take a new stand, we get bold.

Gone the people pleasers;

Erased the guilt and doubts.

Too bad for those who don’t get it.

Imperfect life; full of mystery and beauty.

Cycles; highs and lows;

All blend into a masterpiece of feelings.

Landing into our own minds and souls.

Letting everyone know that we say

Yes!

 

Hide no more.

Announce it clear and loud.

Perfect’s not necessary;

Polished is obsolete.

Youthful and brave, we dare to be:

 

 UNAPOLOGETICALLY HAPPY!

 

Are you ready to take the dare or do you have another one for me?

2010 © Maryse G. Copans

 

RIPPLES…INTERRUPTED.

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A few short weeks after singing the praises of the ‘happiness effect’ (see “The Third Question” on this blog) I find myself in a delicate position: I’m sitting in the mud, counting my losses. Some may argue that resting one’s behind in the slush is better than brewing it but from where I stand (or not) –sad and lonely- it makes little difference. Too many loved ones have passed on, my health has been compromised by a freak accident, and my mom’s rapid decline is forcing me to contemplate life as an orphan. My butt’s in the muck and it does not feel good. As my wet hands run over my tear streaked face I have no choice but to ask question number 4: does falling in the quicksand signal the end of the happiness ripple?

“The Frog and Toad Treasury” written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel is one of my children’s all time favorite collection of stories. Frog and Toad are a charming pair of friendly croakers. Toad is predictable and loving; he likes to sleep and worry. Frog is adventurous and caring; he enjoys a good splash in the pond and taking chances. In “A Lost Button”, Toad, while taking a stroll with his friend, notices that his favorite jacket is missing a button. Frog looks high and low for it. He finds many buttons in the woods but none of them are Toad’s. A disappointed and angry Toad shoves them all in his pocket and goes home. There on the floor lies the never wandering object of his upset. Feeling sorry for making his friend search the woods, Toad sews his collection of buttons on his jacket and offers it to Frog the next day. And the story reaches its merry conclusion: “Frog thought it was beautiful. He put it on and jumped for joy. None of the buttons fell off. Toad had sewed them on very well.”

Let’s not jump to conclusions: I haven’t been turned into a sobbing amphibian nor have I been cursed into a raging one. Toad and Frog’s case of the missing button, or rather, their parable of the multi buttoned coat, is leading me to the answer I’m seeking.

When we feel happy the world is an exciting place where walking in the woods is synonymous with fun and adventure. But sooner or later the unthinkable crosses ours minds and we worry. When it crosses our paths, we grieve. Our attention zeroes in on the missing piece: the litany of pain is loud and confusing. We want to reconnect with the joy that’s deserted us. As it keeps slipping through our fingers, the world starts shaking with the force of the quake.  Life becomes a blur of anger, emptiness, and grief.

There, on the floor, Toad saw his white, four-holed, big round, thick button”: happiness does not wander; like a button, it’s waiting to be picked up again and put to loving use. Joy wants to survive even in sorrow. The buttons of our lives are all different in color and impact and they’re not sorted in neat and convenient piles. They’re a string of unexpected and unchecked emotions asking to be found and acknowledged. When we take ownership of our feelings and allow them unfold as they may we collect the evidence to our resilience: we sew the buttons on our life travelers’ coats – very well. Ripples, interrupted? Yes. Happiness, terminated? No. Because true joy does not reside in the absence of pain or even in crawling out of the quicksand. It stems from our willingness to make use of all our buttons, familiar or new, and from our readiness to wear the beautiful jacket of our experiences with wonder. Whether we’re sitting in the mud or swimming in the pond.

2010 © Maryse G. Copans

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Labor of Love

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“You sound like an elephant! ”  That’s how I greeted my beloved husband at the end of a stressful workday in the city. I was resting in bed. I was also 8 ½ months pregnant. He hung his jacket in the closet, turned around to face me, and calmly replied: “You look like one.” And I did. After two months of bed rest I was more than ready to deliver. My own body from its burden of joy, and my family from my mood swings and grouchiness. Pregnancy never caught me at my best. My sister had four children and glowed from start to finish. I had two and did not ask for more. The red on my cheeks came from pushing my babies out. My eyes didn’t shine until I finally held them cocooned against my breast; until I allowed myself to relax in the immeasurable comfort of my love for them.

Four years after my father died, my siblings and I made the difficult decision to move our mother into a nursing home. Lifelong memories accompanied her, along with her favorite picture of my dad, a couple of paintings, and the desk where she kept our old childhood storybooks and toys. Looking to ease her transition and anxious to leave a part of me by her side (she’s in Belgium, I’m in New York), I decided to knit her a blanket. Thick and inviting; each stitch linking us across seasons and oceans. The project proved challenging and time consuming. I picked various shades of pink, cream, and gray, and chose a tricky pattern. I swore and grumbled many times as I undid my work to fix my beginner’s mistakes. I returned to Brussels a year later bearing the fruit of my efforts. It’s been sitting on my mom’s bed ever since, warming her feet and her heart.

My children grew out of diapers and got into rap music. My mother became frail and retreated to her secret world of sadness and confusion. Lost in my own bittersweet journey of growth and letting go I started to fear the emptiness that threatened to permeate my spirit. There was a place deep within calling for attention. It longed to be filled again with expectation and excitement, worry and frustration. It refused to send me into an early retirement frozen in old books and photographs. It wanted to vibrate with the many quivers of carrying new life to term. It wanted to be wrapped in the magic of giving the best of myself. It wanted to create.

So I started to write. The first poems trickled out of me on a chilly October morning. Nine months later, overwhelmed by the summer stampede of foreign thoughts and feelings, I panicked and went into hiding. But like the yarn patiently knitted into a throw, words lured me back to the page one short sentence at a time. They led me to distressed corners I did not recognize and to happy places I never visited. There were familiar faces and new voices I would never have chosen to listen to. I was writing. I AM writing. I’ve come to accept that my creative process is like an unplanned pregnancy:  I rebel against it. I welcome it. It annoys me. It frustrates me. It satisfies me. It’s the labor of love; a never-ending cycle of filling and emptying, of receiving and giving.  And when all is said and written, I know that each word has strengthened the ties that bind me to my true self. And I can rest in the heartfelt peace of my gratitude for them.  

 2010 © Maryse G. Copans