Within the last 6 years I collected 150 pennies from random change. I took them to the bank and was told to roll them up. I organized them in 3 neat rolls; 50 pennies each. And for my gold (copper) wealth of 150 pennies I received a dollar bill and two quarters. Pure mathematics, but the wealth somehow felt degraded. The same is true about the stories I collected within this time. Organized in words, they will be no more than a few pages of manuscript, or a patch of digital text. They might appear quite flat; just a collection of sentences; few quotation marks, some commas, several hyphens and periods. In fact, they are an abundance of cognitive and bonding wealth, and everyday inspiration; heroic stories, heartbreaking stories, comforting stories, unbelievable stories, all sort of stories that came my way and I became a part of by participating in them, listening to them, or just watching them unfold.
This one goes for the stories of women. I weave myself into each and every women’s story that I’ve witnessed, or that has been shared with me. I live it, I breathe it, I grieve it, rejoice in it. After a while of this self-begotten exile in the Antipodes of all possible sorts, I have started attracting those stories. Being an expat in the Antipodes gives you an advantage of a perfect listener. It also gives you an advantage of meeting people in between; in a space that is foreign, and is home to nobody, as if you were meeting nowhere, at no time. Here, beyond space and time, at a place that does not exist, where everything and everyone is in transition, the stories come revealed, and they come as they are. They open up, and they’re being shared beautifully, shamelessly, proudly, entirely, beyond fear of judgement.
The stories of the women that I salute are always about bigger things; about love, about growth, always about doing better, being more. Each story is so rich, and so complex, I can’t do them justice in a small piece of writing, so I’m saluting to small parts of the big picture, which is always a story of personal triumph, a story of overcoming, a story of struggle and genuine effort that gets rewarded.
Here’s to the story of the incredible I. We used to work together as English teachers in Warsaw, years ago. Then she quit, and soon started quite a spectacular career in business. After I had left Poland, I still kept following the news of her success through social media and occasional messaging. This woman has been a thriving winner, and she deserves every bit of it; beautiful, smart, hardworking. And it was not until years after I had left when I found out, that already at the time when we were working together (I was in my mid twenties, just got my Master’s degree, it was, like, my second job ever, I didn’t know anything about anything) she had already been through beating heroin addiction. Her strength, passion and success have continued to amaze and inspire me. And when I got older, and became capable of imagining (although I never will entirely) what she must have been through, what it must have felt like, going through that struggle, when your very life is at stake, a struggle that most people would find impossible to win, I started cheering her success with my whole heart. Here’s to you, I.!
Here’s to the story of the beautiful J. The beautiful and strong J, who lost her beloved mother to a long-term sickness, not long ago, and has not ceased to be the most loving, energetic, fun and comforting friend to me and everyone she knows, and an amazing super mom, to her new baby boy. She’s gone through this suffering and loss, and has remained unchanged; positive-thinking, strong, giving and loving. Here’s to you, J.!
Here’s to the story of the super-woman M.; an unbelievably talented artist and a beautiful woman. She, also, achieved the impossible. We met in NY, shortly before her beloved mom was diagnosed with a rare disease, that within a very short time confined her to bed for years. What did my M. do? She did not lose hope, she did not give up on her mom, or her own plans, dreams, her own future, and life. She achieved the impossible; has been helping her mom continuously, stayed with her as much as she has been able to, and at the same time pursued her dream, wrote plays in Paris, played in theaters in Poland and New York, found time to be with her family, and take care of her love. Many times sleepless and penniless, she has not stepped back once. She’s lived each and every day of her life to the fullest, even more than before, became more fearless, more liberated, unapologetic, more loving, appreciative, more beautiful, more fulfilled and happier. Here’s to you, M.!
It is January 23, 2016. New York is covered in snow.
I turn to all of you. To I., to J., to M. I turn to my number one A. who is the smartest, funniest woman I know, who understood, when I missed two most important days of her life (her wedding, and her mom’s farewell), who I can laugh with, talk politics, talk absurd of nowadays, talk the ever-dreamy visions of our (still) future lives, and just talk ourselves. I turn to AZ. who did everything I’ve ever heard anyone ever do for the man she loves. I turn to KJ. who is my partner in crime, soul-searching fellow and a spirit laugher, that can laugh with me at the darkest faces of heartbreak ever discovered by mankind. I turn to my mom, who has done everything I’ve ever seen or experienced anyone do for her mom, her man, and me.
I’m a diligent student. I’m learning a lesson from each and every one of you.
I’m going through my exercise in loss with you.
Don’t let anyone tell you ‘you can’t do this’, ‘it’s broken’, ‘it’s over’, ‘it’s done’, ‘you can’t help it’, ‘you can’t fix it’, ‘you can’t’.
Don’t let anyone say ‘this is where you will live. this is where you’re going to sleep. this is what you should do. this is who you’re going to kiss.’
We all have our demons.
The resources to deal are sustainable and free.