photos by julie l elder
As I’m dismantling my life in California to move northward to Portland, Oregon, I’ve been noticing how my space speaks of me–for one thing, it says A LOT (not unlike my own mouth) and it reminds me who I am and who I want to be.
As my wall says, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Did you know that endorphins are released by laughter? Did you know that releasing endorphins will lessen pain? I’ve always found life a bit ridiculous and know that when I lose my sense of humor I’m in trouble. So laughing not only helps me cope with my fibromyalgia but with life. I’m no longer embarrassed by laughing out loud when I’m watching Modern Family or Big Bang Theory or Life In Pieces, in fact I relish it.
When I went away to college at Linfield in McMinnville, Oregon, I started sketching myself this way on letters home. (I can at this moment hear my mother saying from her grave in Nebraska, “Not enough letters home–“ Sigh. Yes, mother, I know.) If only I’d known what that “overweight” 17-year-old body would look like through the lens of this 65-year-old… But I still often feel like this same child, looking for where I fit, making fun of myself.
A list of “feeling” words. When I moved to Fremont 3 1/2 years ago, I began healing from years of false thinking and being shut down. I needed words for what was going on in me, but shockingly for one so generally wordy I didn’t have many! That’s one of the effects of trauma though–closing off emotionally. When emotions don’t seem safe to express they can become stripped down to “happy” and “sad”… and sad isn’t one you bring up. Who knew there were so many variations?
On my bulletin board these several things have resided: one of my favorite portraits done by a student of daughter Corinne, and a handmade heart pin I found at a thrift store by another “Julia”. Also my Post Office box number because in 3 1/2 years I never could remember it correctly. It’s closed now, thankfully, so I don’t even need to try to memorize it.
On the side of the bookcase by my desk has been a collection of my borrowed fam–the people who took me in on this leg of the journey. I’ve been fortunate to have those who have welcomed me all along these past five-plus years since I ran away from my #MarriageFromHeck, from Danville to Berkeley to Castro Valley to San Jose, then finally here to Fremont. In these 3 1/2 years I’ve been able to watch Carrie’s children grow from kiddos to young adults. (By the way, it’s way more entertaining to watch other people parent teenagers, thank you Jesus!)
Also on the bulletin board are these two reminders: the West Coast Christian Writers Conference put on by friends, and another of a special foster child who was part of a difficult but incredible time of providing emergency foster care for Alameda County. Below is a photo of a child who is always in my heart…she went from being our Baby Diamond when we took her in at 9 months old to our Diamond Girl as she grew into a toddler and then the 4-year-old we had back with us for several months. She will always hold a space in my heart. I think she would be about 25 now, and I hope she senses how much of our hearts she took with her when she left that second time.
I’ve grown to love birds more and more as a symbol of freedom. This beautiful decorative birdcage makes me happy, but it will never hold even a decorative bird inside it. Its door will always remain open to remind me that I have choices in this life of how to live, and the boundaries are mine to make.
Nope, life doesn’t have to be perfect, but I find the whole thing to be full of spectacular sunsets and flowers and deep and silly conversations. All those overlap to be w o n d e r f u l.
I’ve been a creative soul as long as I can remember, but I was so emotionally constipated in my fear and trapped mindset that I couldn’t create. I made this in the first moment I was able to be free, be the bird out of the cage, in years. It felt incredible.
This packing process, the folding up of this tent of “home” has reminded me of the process of life. I know it will reassemble itself in some new form or fashion in my next tent. What an excellent way to remind myself that the location is not the home, that in fact I carry my home with me, and can set up camp anywhere.
Even these representative objects I surround myself with aren’t required–it’s the person they show me and the person I want to grow into, that’s home.
I can see my growth and my character in these bits as I’m dismantling. A sometimes terrible sense of humor, a heart with a capacity to stretch and hold, an appreciation of people, lessons learned. It’s good to be reminded.
The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: What are three things you’d like people to know about you? What ways do you demonstrate them in your life and/or surroundings?