Lady by the River

Diversity is one of my favourite things about blogging. Different people, surprising people, interesting people, they all find a forum for their ideas. An unexpected email on a bright September day offered me the opportunity to be part of a project reflecting exactly this kind of beautiful diversity.

Would I be interested in writing something about perseverance or simply about overcoming a tough moment? Would I be willing to share a personal story on such a topic, Yvette wanted to know. (Many of you might already know Yvette Prior from our blogging community.) This is how it all started and nine authors from different countries, of different ages, with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds came together to write about one thing we all have in common – the need to overcome life’s hurdles.

Different as we all may be, we still have to find ways of coping with adversity – personalized ways, meant to suit our individual needs, abilities and character – and we did our best to share thoughts and experiences, hoping others may find them helpful. If nothing else, it is a good reminder that we are not alone. This is how Lady by the River came about, a book about perseverance and finding strength to move on towards (hopefully) the better days ahead.

We didn’t know what the others were going to share and to me, that was a good sign. We were talking a chance to be associated with people supporting ideas that might be contradictory to our own beliefs, but we were willing to accept them for who they were. Was I worried? Well… for a moment or two, I was. Yvette and I exchanged many emails and I started to feel the need to share a little fact about me. I was an atheist, I let her know, inquiring if that would be a problem. After all, many people rely on their respective faith to help them through difficult times and I knew Yvette was one of them. It may not be my way, but that doesn’t mean I have a problem with it. I was thrilled to see that we could find common ground exactly in our differences and what initially looked like a potential obstacle turned out to be one more reason to continue with this project.

The first rough draft brought a smile to my face and a sense of relief. Not only did I already know some of the authors, having read their blogs on various occasions, but our stories were indeed as different as I was hoping. Our voices, experiences and beliefs differ greatly, yet we share one common conviction: when we inevitably fall, it is up to us to find the strength to get up and keep moving, no matter how long we need to lie on the ground before we manage to do it. That strength may occasionally reside in the smallest of things, yet once we find it, we stand the chance to reach those pivotal moments of life. This is what we opened up about and shared with everybody.

Mark Bialczak shared about coping through divorce, death, and mounting setbacks. Mark shared his determination to stay anchored while humbly waiting for better opportunities. Mark also highlighted how timely companionship became part of his coping.

Mabel Kwong adeptly brought us along on her journey of self-discovery. She shared about how she has pushed on to pursue her writing passion while she also managed everyday responsibility, noting that we have “to stand up to live before we can sit down and create.”

Ana Linden highlighted societal masks, pain from putdowns, and reality acceptance as she shared about the past connecting with today. Ana’s sobering story reminds us that we don’t pick our bloodline, but we do pick our friends.

Jeffrey Simmons gave us a mix of prose and raw reflection about issues relating to race, faith, gender, and personal growth. Jeffrey shared culture rich contemplations and noted that his relationship with God filled his biggest void.

Mahesh Nair brought us along on his track “to get a hold of life” as he learned to let it be, live free, and accept others. Mahesh brought us picturesque places from his past, while sharing how he opened his mind to see humanity with a loving heart and learned what it means to let it be.

Chad Prior used fiction to illustrate that overcoming is successful with companionship, trust, and patience. He reminds us to at least try.

Sherri Matthews allowed us to travel continents with her as a mother, wife and writer while she found “fulfilment and contentment, despite our difficult circumstances.” Sherri has persevered over the years by enjoying small beauty and personal pleasures.

Kristen Rybandt shared about finding balance in an incongruent world, suggesting that humans often have a “perspective pendulum” and how she found that “gratitude is a wonderful tool for reshaping perspective.”

Yvette Prior shared self-care poems, which were written to the lady by the river, but also had messages for everyone. Using free verse poems, with thematic connections to some of the other chapters, she reminded us to neither accept apathy nor accept being done – because life has so much to offer.

The idea of this book was born from Yvette’s desire to offer support and perspective to someone dear to her, the lady by the river. But I believe it was the universality of the situation that appealed to all of us, motivating us to make an effort and tap into some difficult memories and life experiences. This is how I ended up contributing to the creation of a self-help book, or a wellness resource, as Yvette calls it. If at least one person finds some help and solace in our stories, I believe it was time well spent.

For bringing us together, Yvette, I thank you!

(If it piqued your interest, you can find Lady by the River on Amazon.)

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A Day at The Museum

WordPress Photo Challenge: What is your inspiration? What moves you? What is it that never fails to motivate you, to get you going, or make you happy? Show me your inspiration!

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“I paint what I see, sometimes like this, sometimes like that. I don’t brood about it, or experiment. If I have something to say, I say it the way I think I need to. There’s no transitional art. There are only good artists and not so good artists.”

Pablo Picasso

We found parking without an effort. That was the second ominous sign. The first one was the lack of the usual crowd in front of the doors. By the time we reached the imposing building, I was already sure it would be close. I had obviously perpetrated some kind of indecency to anger the Museum Gods and now they were refusing me the Prado… again.

I had been to Madrid before, but there hadn’t been enough time to visit the museum back then. This time, it would be different, I knew that – I would have plenty of time to do everything I wanted. But I was envisioning that visit to the Prado from the moment I started planning the trip. I could just see myself getting lost on the hallways, wondering from one gallery to another, unable to take in everything, but completely dizzy, floating because of that kind of experience which – instead of understanding it – you mostly feel exquisitely drowning your mind and spirit. That kind of place always makes me feel small – but small in the greatest way possible. I feel compelled to swallow some of my ego and pride. That avalanche of immortality and beauty makes me feel like a huge burden has been lifted, even if only for a brief period of time – if I am so wonderfully small, that can only mean that all my failures are absolutely insignificant, disguised by that comfortable blanket of anonymity.

I wanted to treat myself to that delicious sensation you get when opening a gift you just know is going to be wonderful. So I refused to look up the schedule – I knew it was a local holiday, but I greatly underestimated its importance. After all, I also knew the museum was open at the weekend and on most religious holidays, so they wouldn’t close it exactly that day… or would they? Well… all I can say is I wasn’t the only one naïve enough not to look it up in advance. All my anticipation turned into stifled frustration, I felt like stomping my feet and bitching and moaning about that great unfairness. I wanted my day at the museum; and once I set my mind on something, there’s no distracting me from it, not to mention that I can hardly perceive anything else as appealing. But a certain someone accompanying me had a head start on throwing his own tantrum, so at least one of us had to behave as an adult; sadly it was my turn that day. After all, it was too beautiful an afternoon to waste pouting. We came back a few days later and we finally managed to visit the elusive museum. There was even a very special treat in store for us, and although it was no longer a surprise, it was by no means less pleasant.

Travel as much as you can, see as much as you can; nobody will ever be able to take that away from you. That’s one of the not so many wise pieces of advice my mother gave me and it came to my mind that day, while staring thunderstruck at those Picasso’s the Prado was hosting temporarily. The entire experience proved to be overwhelming, as expected; the anticipation of getting to see some of Picasso’s paintings did nothing but enhance it.

I took my time to appreciate those moments. Nevertheless I was reluctant to leave.  The kid I once was, the one who didn’t dare to dream of seeing such treasures with her own eyes, was jumping up and down with joy. There are certain dreams – great and small alike – that we forget we had, simply because we buried them somewhere deep in our soul out of fear or uncertainty. Yet,  making them come true can be so surprisingly fulfilling…