Monday, January 2, 2017

Fragile Creatures

This is the cover on the new journal my daughter, Jessica,
painted and gave me for Christmas. 

I've been pondering this quote ever since I read it in "The Book of Joy".  Why is it from being fragile that we are able to discover the possibility of true joy? According to the dictionary I used, fragile is defined as "delicate and vulnerable; flimsy or insubstantial; easily destroyed." It's easy to picture an object fitting that description, however, uncomfortable to apply those words to myself.

My Dad died unexpectedly January 11, 2015.  Shortly after, my sister and I packed up all his worldly possessions and moved them to my garage.  I had thought I would go through them soon, planning to give any good clothing to a homeless shelter in town. The boxes went from the middle of the garage, to being shelved inconspicuously in an area I couldn't see, but knew they were there. I couldn't make myself open the boxes, despite knowing warm pants, jackets and sweaters would be appreciated by those less fortunate. For nearly two years, "go through Dad's boxes" was on my to-do list. Vulnerable and easily destroyed, I steered clear of jobs that might trigger emotional upheaval.

Yesterday the boxes filled with my Dad's clothing and personal belongings called to me.  I had lots of other tasks I would rather work on, but the call was persistent. I hauled them down from the shelves, sorted and laundered all articles of clothing, lovingly folded and packed them back into boxes. Partway through dryer load number two of four,  I dumped the clothes basket onto our bed for folding, went to start the next load and returned to discover Pepper, my rescue kitty named for my dad, had nuzzled herself in amongst my dad's clothes.
That look says, "Let me be!"
Pepper somehow knew that the man who wore these clothes was a good guy. Even after laundering, my dad's scent was still there; we both knew it. I let her be for a little while.

Later, my husband and I lugged four huge boxes up the stairs at Share House, passing several individuals smoking and hanging around outside the facility for homeless men. The gentleman inside thanked us for thinking of them, grateful for the donation. As we returned to the car, tears welled up and trickled down my cheeks.  I know my Dad would have been happy to share his clothes with these men, and I felt joyful that I followed my heart, and honored my Dad in this way.

Allowing myself to be fragile isn't one of my strong suits.  I don't like being considered weak or delicate.  Yet, I'm learning that what I want or think I want isn't necessarily what is best for me or for those I love.  Some of the things I cherish the most, are the most fragile.  Life is fragile - it can be extinguished with the slightest sigh, the tiniest breath. The most delicate shells I've found on the beach are the most precious to me. My tiny, fragile granddaughter is a priceless treasure.
Christmas Eve with baby Scarlett

My grandson Arik, holding great-granddaughter, Jailee
Not long ago, I cracked my husband's favorite mug.  The girls gave it to him on Father's Day, at least 20 years ago.
Very faded and hard to see, I know, but trust me on this:
Kailyn is wearing her classic sneer; Jess her "Hmmp" face

The back really hasn't faded much!

It didn't appear to be fragile, and when I accidently knocked it against the edge of the sink, I didn't see any signs of breakage and thought it was fine.  The next morning, I filled it with his morning drink of hot water and a teaspoon of honey, and set it next to him on the side table. Within a matter of minutes he realized the honey water had seeped out and was running off the table.  We both had to look carefully in order to find the faintest hairline crack.   It is possible the reader is wondering, "Ok, what possible joy did you discover with that situation??"

I was very unhappy with myself, to put it mildly. If my husband would have broken my favorite mug, accidentally or not, I would have found zero joy in the situation.  Likely, I would have had a mad on for awhile, until he felt good and guilty.

The joy I found, despite being one who can have their serenity destroyed in the blink of an eye, was in my husband's response. He didn't rant or rave, call me derogatory names, or berate me in any possible way.  He just accepted what happened as the accident that it was. Period. Sad but no accusations.  He sympathized with me on the loss of the cup as a vessel to hold his favorite morning beverage. So, no I didn't become giddy with joy.  I did feel a deep sense of gratitude for my partner of nearly thirty years.

Joy - a feeling of great pleasure and happiness - is still new enough to me that I find myself seeking it in the everydayness of my life. In the little things, such as when I only wake up to pee once or twice a night. Or the freshness of the morning air when I take a walk. When I crawl into a warm bed because my husband turned on the electric blanket. Enjoy that first cup of coffee. When Pepper insists on sitting in my lap while I'm trying to type. When family gathering plans are rerouted due to weather from my brother's big house, to my small one and 41 relatives show up. When my daughter-in-law brings me the plaster handprint of my son from Kindergarten. When my daughter Kailyn gives me zig-zag blades for my rotary cutter for my birthday, not knowing I got her the exact same thing for Christmas.

I went on a "Joy Quest" in December, and found joy more often than not, everywhere I went.  I believe it is in the recognition and acceptance that I am a fragile creature that I have discovered the possibility of great joy.

Jess, who listens and is so creative, painted this board for my birthday.  


  1. A lovely meditation on our fragility and strength, too. I love that picture of your with your sweet baby Scarlett. You are so blessed, Sandi, and I am blessed that you are in my life. Thank you for continuing to write these posts and sharing them with me. :-)

  2. I love this post, starting with the title. I love, too, that it has its roots in that book. I can feel your growth in these words, your light and gratitude. And joy. I appreciate your recognition that joy and sadness can, and often do, exist in the same breath. The picture of Pepper made me laugh - that attitude - so not fragile, yet cats are physically among the most fragile creatures. All through this I thought of the Louise Penny phrase (from her Inspector Gamache stories): Surprised by joy.


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