Sh*t To Help You Show Up June 11, 2021
You Can't Keep A Fierce Woman Down
My Grandma Mary was a Southern woman in the classic style. She got up every morning at dawn to say her prayers and went to church every Sunday. She never left the house without her hair done, her nails painted, and her lipstick on. She wouldn’t say a bad word against anyone, but she could cut you to the quick with a good one if she felt it was needful. She loved people, sparkly things, rose body powder, a well-crafted outfit, and Harlequin romances. All my life, when she sent me letters or cards they were addressed to “Miss Asha Marie Confer”.
When I would get sent to her in the summertime as a kid it would often just be me and her— getting out early to beat the heat, riding all over Memphis on the public bus because she never learned to drive. In the most brutal heat of the middle of the day, we would lay in front of the fan on her nubbly bedspread— me in my flowered panties and her in her granny panties and Cross Your Heart bra— and she would tell me stories until the heat pulled me down into drowsy sleep.
I never knew my grandfather. He died 10 years before I was born of liver cirrhosis. Despite his being an unrepentant alcoholic and gambler who forced my grandma to scrape and scramble much of the time, she loved him fiercely and refused to remarry. Instead, she took control of her own life and embodied joy. She read voraciously and organized the neighborhood ladies to learn about and discuss world affairs. She traveled all over the world, went to art museums and on safaris. She collected friends everywhere she went. I think she could have charmed a snake out of its own skin.
She died nearly twenty years ago and I still miss her like a phantom limb. To feel like she is still with me in real-time, I planted a climbing rose in front of my house that I named after her. I would pad out every day to check on it during the blooming season and talk to her about how beautiful she was.
This morning I padded out and Mary, the rose bush, was gone. There was just a hole and a scattering of petals where a two-and-a-half-foot tall blooming, peach climbing rose had been just yesterday.
Someone had come in the night, dug her right up out of my yard, and stolen her away.
I swear, sometimes the Universe brutally smacks me upside the head with the things I need to remember.
When people wreak havoc on our lives— when they betray, violate, and hurt us— it feels personal. How could it not? But it never, ever is personal, despite anything they may say or do to suggest otherwise. They are working out their pain, attachment issues, stories, fear, or need to control things, and we are simply in the way. We may be close enough to be in the blast radius because of our own stories and issues, but we didn’t build their emotional bombs or light the fuse. We have to remember what our work is, which is our life and well-being, and stop taking responsibility for theirs.
Still, standing in the blast crater that was your life before everything exploded, surveying the damage, it can be easy to focus on what’s gone. It can take more than a minute to get past the shock and see what’s left still alive.
I realized after the initial wave of WTF?!?! rolled over me, leaving me stunned and gasping, that my rose thieves, in their rush to steal the heart of the bush, left the one strong climbing cane still attached to my porch. I don’t know jack about how to propagate roses, but I know I’ve spent all my life defiantly surviving other people’s damage. I can take a pile of garbage and make a beautiful, vibrant life grow right up out of the middle. Making a way out of no way is what I do.
So, I got online, watched a few videos on how to propagate roses, and headed out to collect supplies. Arriving home, first I had to take the cane down and turn it into a handful of cuttings. Their naked vulnerability got me all up in my feelings, like it was me just laying there in pieces on my porch.
I talked to my grandma continuously as I worked— cutting, watering, applying root food; if anyone taught me how to make a new life out of death, it was her. I asked for her to care for me and my rose babies, to watch over our potential, to help us send out new roots so that we can bloom and thrive again.
Sometimes the world cuts us down, my loves, through no fault of our own. But as long as there is breath in our bodies there is still life to be lived and nurtured through us. That is our sacred work.
We may have to learn things we never imagined we would need to know. We may have to slow way down and pay more careful attention to ourselves for a while, making sure we get nourishing food, plenty of water, and some extra protection from the elements. We may have to pray to our ancestors and ask for help from our friends, to hold vigil with us until we feel rooted and solid again.
But we will be rooted and solid again. We will bloom and thrive and wrap the world in our beauty. Damn if they can slay us completely. There is too much life in us for that.
We have reached nearly 300 subscribers! Welcome to all of you new folks, and thank you to everyone for supporting my work.
I’d love to get to 300 subscribers before the end of June. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that in the box below. Also, can you share this post, or one of your previous favorites, with someone in your networks and encourage them to subscribe? Or post a link on one of your social media channels with an endorsement? This is a grassroots, crowd-disbursed effort over here and I am grateful for your help. XO, Asha