December 17th, 2016
Once upon a time, an unsettled version of me sat on a park bench. Between sobs, I tried, without success, to explain to my kind friend who sat next to me the state of my heart. We couldn’t arrive at an answer or any peace, so she simply let me cry.
The way I remember it, a middle-aged lady strolling with a much older woman approached us. The middle-aged lady’s face looked both eager and pained, in that particular way that people have when they are about to ask for directions. I selfishly willed her to GO AWAY. I remember thinking from her perspective, sarcastically, like: “You know who looks like they might know the way? The inconsolable woman on that bench there. Yes, she’s clearly not in the middle of anything intense. We should definitely ask her!”
Despite every fibre in my being willing the two of them to let me be dramatic and think the world was ending IN PEACE, they came right up to us. The middle-aged woman spoke with a thick Spanish accent, but her English was good.
She did not ask me for the way to anywhere.
What she said instead was this:
“My mother and I were out for walk and she noticed you have tears. Lots. So she say strongly to me: we must go to her. Now she has something to tell to you.”
The middle-aged lady stepped aside, as though parting an imaginary curtain, to reveal her mother. This elderly woman was likely dressed in normal grandmotherly fashion, however, my memory has her in layers of rags – but with a regal air, like some wise old gypsy queen.
She proceeded to speak to me in Spanish, a language I have a fair understanding of thanks to a dedicated high school Spanish teacher; a Dirty-Dancing-style vacation romance with Miguel, the Activity Coordinator from a family trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico (mostly, we made out in Spanish); and my solo month-long journey hiking the Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain.
This woman gazed at me with eyes that pierced straight through to all the parts of me I thought I kept nice and hidden, thankyouverymuch. She spoke in a voice with a rasp that sounded like a pestle grinding spice against a mortar, but her message was clear and magically defied all language barriers.
“I cannot stand to see you so upset when what you are crying over is not reality. You are sad about the unreal. You simply think it is real, which is why you feel it so. Remember, thoughts are not proof. “
She pointed a long, bony finger at my hair, gesticulating and sneaking a sideways glance at her daughter, nudging her to make sure I got the proper translation of ‘elastic’. She mimed taking out my messy bun, shaking down my hair, and sliding my elastic onto my wrist. She looked at me to make sure I understood and I sat there with my hair cascading haphazardly from my undone bun; my newly-adorned wrist held out uncertainly before me; my soul completely captivated.
She said to follow her lead and then held up her own wrist, pulling out an imaginary elastic far enough that we all winced when she ‘let go’ of it, all four of us recoiling at the imaginary snap on tender skin.
“When you think of things that have you feeling this way, you need to be readjusted to reality. You take your hair elastic and snap it on your wrist, each time, to remind you: ‘wake up! This is not real!’ You tell your brain this way that you recognize you are once again caught in a trap and the snap is what lets you out of this trap. This is very simple. I can tell you are the kind who overcomplicates things.”
Listening to her it was as though I were wearing a babelfish that also spoke Soul.
I later found out that this conversation happened on none other than Pentecost Sunday, which, if you’re unfamiliar, includes a celebration of unity despite language barriers:
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language (Acts 2:1–6, KJV).
She then looked at me with a gaze of such human-to-fellow-human love that I cried even harder after she left, but it was a different cry.
The cry of connection, of prayers answered in the most mysterious and serendipitous of ways, like from a fairy tale but this was real life. The cry of being seen, and of the humbling acknowledgement that my previous despair was a fabrication. I was crying for the lie of it.
Although I often forget to snap the figurative elastic when old thoughts and stories attempt (or succeed) at re-play, I have never forgotten that shared moment or the feeling of truth it elicited. A Course in Miracles calls it a “holy instant,” and that’s what we shared.
My memories of this fairy-grandmother, as I like to call her, immediately sprang to mind when I saw the beautiful reminder bracelets that Marlissa, owner of Mai Lin Jewelry, makes. She crafts them intentionally, beautifully, with a spirit infused in each that reminds the wearer to think or feel something specific when they wear it, like the old ‘string on your finger’ technique. For this reason, and for their exquisite and delicate craftsmanship, I thought they were the ideal fit to include in our Self Care Starter Kits for the fall retreat. The ones featured in our kits were woven around a card that included Joseph Campbell’s short but potent phrase: Follow Your Bliss.
In the case of Marlissa, her whole company is the proof that she is following hers. She encourages others to remember what’s important while also looking mighty stylish.
Her brand and her product are about so much more than the mere adornment of wrists – the whole spirit of Marlissa & Mai Lin Jewelry is about going after your dreams, even if all you’ve got to start is a string and a prayer.
If you’re in need of your own ‘beautiful reminder,’ or want to give a meaningful gift to a friend, check out the multitude of customizable options available via her online shop, local store listings or go visit her in her lovely studio here in Toronto. In the meantime, here are some gorgeous shots by Sara Monika Photography of the lovelies featured at our fall retreat.