I was four, going alone to a birthday party for the first time. New dress, pleated hair with white ribbons, white tights and shiny shoes, I could hardly wait for the party to start. Half an hour later I was back home, went straight into my room and started to play with my building blocks. What happened? My parents were worried, they kept asking for some days,and I still did not answer.
Half a year later I was building with my blocks again, in another town, another house, living next to other people. Then I looked up at my mother and said quite calmly, “I did not get to play with her toys”. It took some seconds before anyone knew what I was referring to, they all had forgotten.
These days, I am getting closer to my answer on this year’s puzzling question: what did you do and why? So many people say that when they learn that I have had a serious illness and surgery this spring. I have made some polite and correct answers, as I am no longer four. I know though that only recently am I getting closer to understand my own reactions. I needed months to be able to reflect on and not only live through this troublesome times. I am still me, I act fast and think slow.
I have learned, again, that when in trouble I still return to my basic building blocks. I have come to see that what I do when a crisis looms is who I really are. These are the tools I have sharpened in good, untroubled, sunny days which gives me rest, joy and strength in stormy times.
So what did I do? The first night I went into a new bookstore, and came home with soothing titles and lovely stories. Strangely enough I did not start reading though, I just put them in the bag I planned to take to hospital.
I need reading like I need air.
Then I bought the most beautiful notebook, for the next weeks I made notes of every song I was reminded of, every Bible word I read that was special to me.
I need a comforting blanket of blessings, ready to wrap around my soul in the days I know will be hard.
It was still February, and I filled my window with spring flowers.
I was worried I would not see another spring, and knew I had to make one myself to believe in growth and new life.
I bought the loveliest blue and white China I know.I have wished for it since we got married 35 years ago, but always made myself think they were too expensive.
I know my heart leaps when I see something beautiful, I need to let my heart rejoice in every beauty given us in this world.
I sorted through all my fabrics, and made ready kits for all the ideas I have postponed.
I know I have to create something to be happy.
I sorted through and shredded the content of rows upon rows of binders.
I had to make room for new things to happen.
I saved all cards and greetings, and took photos of all the flowers my dear ones sent me.
I knew I needed to be reminded of the outpouring of love and comfort I was given.
I made orange marmalade and lemon curd. I made homemade bread.
I know how I truly relax when putting my feet up, sharing a meal with someone dear to me.
I stayed close to my husband, talking and wondering, sharing information, cherishing memories.
I tried to think of a letter to write to my children, and found one should never postpone saying how much we love each other. Everything else is just words.
This is who I am, these are the tools I am given and know how to use, and I did.
Why? When life was threatened, I did not need to do what I had not done, I needed to reassure myself that I have had a life filled with the grace of God, the love of my family and friends, the gift of beauty and the joy of creating.
I am healing, I have been given new possibilities. I am stronger and happier than ever. I know I did get to play after all.