26 years, 5 months, and 7 days. I have been to the Statue of Liberty twice in my life. Maureen went once. The last time I went was with her. On both my trips across the water, in the ferry, I was nervous. On July 4th weekend of 1989, I was nervous because I had an engagement ring in my pocket, love in my heart, and a simple proposal bouncing around in my head.
Today, I felt the same rush as I did in that summer of 1989. It was as if I had been transported back in time. However, this time my nervousness ebbed from a different place. I was a bit scared of the unexpected emotions that would rush over me as I walked Liberty Island and came back to the grassy spot below the pedestal where I had popped the question. Not unexpectedly, the emotions did surge as I sat there and listened to our songs, The Meeting by Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe, and Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads. The tears of joy and sadness flowed through my eyes but came from a deeper, more intense, more spiritual place from within me. They came from the same place within me where Maureen still lives. Death can not unyoke our love. We have always been connected by more than a ring.
However, the symbolism of the ring is powerful, its connection back in and on itself, forever flowing, never ending, never starting, never stopping. Santiago’s journey from Paul Coehlo’s, The Alchemist, is a lot like that. My dear friend and Katelyn’s 2nd grade teacher from a few years back, Jimmy Agnew, reminded me of that over espresso flights yesterday morning in Austin before I headed to the airport. For in the Alchemist, Santiago takes a long journey through Africa to Egypt to find his treasure, only to discover it was back in Spain, where he had started years earlier. My journey to Lady Liberty was a lot like that today. My treasure has always been right where I left it. It is the love of my life, my Maureen, and our 3 kids that flowed from that love, Taylor, Kyla, and Katelyn. My ring of life circled back on itself this morning.
Early this past summer, I wrote Survivorship Is Not a Phase | Part 2. In that post, I talked about how I would take down my shield more often. I am about to do that now in an intensely vulnerable way. I also wrote in that post of my survivor’s guilt, and it wasn’t until this morning the full implications of that guilt became real to me. There are two parts to the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: morning pages and the artist date, a date that you do alone, time for just you. We are not just supposed to work but to play. I have only missed one morning of morning pages since August. As Jimmy reminded me yesterday over espresso, I still hadn’t gone on even one artist date. I hadn’t played. As I did morning pages today, it hit me. I haven’t played, because I am still carrying not just love, but guilt.
My sweetie, my Maureen, is not here. Like 2 soldiers in a foxhole, why did I come out alive? Who am I to play? Quietly, though, as I walked around Liberty Island for the 2nd time in my life, Maureen opened my eyes and my heart. The process started last Thursday over dinner in Dallas. As we sat at Cafe Momentum, the symbolism was not lost on me. Things were indeed in motion. Just before we sat for dinner, our son, Taylor, called. He had just received a $10,000 commitment to the Habitat build he is spearheading in his mom’s honor. My meetings the next day in Dallas had that same feeling of motion, of momentum.
Then, this Monday, at Modo Yoga, our instructor spoke to an intention for our practice, our flow. She wanted us to dwell on the idea of play in each of our poses. Maureen is never subtle. Quiet, yes. Subtle, nope. She still knows me better than anyone. She knows how to speak to me. She knows the best ways to have me listen. “Play Gary. play.” Then, as I walked from JFK to the AirTrain after landing in New York yesterday, she whacked me with one of those BFOs as we called them, a blinding flash of the obvious. The AirTrain was wrapped in pictures labeled Incredible India. Yup. You just can’t make this stuff up. My trip to India in March 2016 with A Fresh Chapter is about play (this is a trip I did not ultimately make. It wasn’t the right time for the kids. For our family. However, the funds I had started to raise went to another traveler, a survivor.) Will there be mission work? Yes. Will there be volunteering? Yes. But, Maureen was making it quite clear to me that I had to change my perspective to one of play. I need more artist dates. Keep the love. Drop the guilt. This was and is her gift to me.
And, this is where the ring, the circle gets even tighter, fused, like our love. For Modo Yoga comes from the word, Moksha. Liberation. And, today, on Liberty Island, Maureen opened my heart for a 2nd time to the most powerful liberating force in the world, love. It is time to go play.