From now on I want to live
only by grace.
~Susan Mitchell, from her poem "Blackbirds"
It's snowing right now, a fine white dust of dancing spirals. I'm cleaning house, something I seldom do, and I'm listening to Spotify, a playlist I call "For Me." First up: Adele singing "Make You Feel My Love." I was sweeping the floor, listening to the lyrics, and thinking about how so much music is about giving up the self for the benefit of another. I love country music, which is built on a she-done-me-wrong tradition. If we listen to a lot of music, how do we not incorporate those messages into our beliefs about love?
I woke up this morning thinking about what it means to feel alive, and I drifted in and out of sleep while my cat, Jazz, marched all over the bed - and me - telling me to get up. I'm feeling particularly alive these days, waking up in ways that have nothing to do with dreaming sleep and everything to do with knowing my stories and revising them to reflect who I am now.
I'm learning something about stories that goes like this: We all have stories, of course, and we tell our stories to people in various ways. In my experience, the stories change over the years, not because I'm revising the what-happened or the what-happened-next but because I am revising myself. So take a song like Adele's "Make You Feel My Love" and imagine that, instead of this being a song about what she would sacrifice for another, this is a song about loving your own sweet self. Wow! Same words but entirely different meaning.
Do you remember the first Sister Act movie when the nuns sing "I Will Follow Him"? Would you ever have imagined that song to be about a commitment to God? I get goosebumps when I hear it, tears spring up, and I'm not even a Christian. When this song came out in 1963, I was in love with a boy named Johnny, and I would sing that song with all the fervor of a 17-year-old in love, believing that loving Johnny would be all I needed for the rest of my life. A year later I was in love with someone else, and the Beatles were my love soundtrack.
So today as I was sweeping the floors and wiping down the kitchen counters, I picked up the thread of my morning thoughts, what our stories mean about how we feel about our lives, what it means to be alive, and here's what I came to: I want to feel so fully alive and be so fully engaged in my own life that no matter how the events of my life unfold, I can find the beauty and the joy of every bit of it - sad or scared, grieving or on a steep learning curve.
My friend Lin has a grand-niece about 4 years old, and Lin told me this story about Daphne Mae: Daphne is learning to ride a bike. She climbs on, starts to peddle, and she says aloud to herself, "Don't worry, Daphne Mae, I've got your back."
Is it that simple? I don't know. But when I'm feeling scared now, I will say to myself, "Don't worry, Verna Jeanne. I've got your back." I really want to be there for me. I want to follow me, no matter where I go.