All I Need to Know

{Cherry blossoms in Tokyo}

{Cherry blossoms in Tokyo}

The current scene at my kitchen table consists of a bowl of lemons, an empty wine glass, two dirty plates, a piece of bread, an open bag of parmesan cheese, a pepper shaker and three wadded up napkins. In all its mundane-ness, it is an arrangement made possible at this address, on this night, because this is the story of my family.

I realized years ago - after losing pretty much everything - that I was doomed to repeat the same destructive, crap-ass patterns over and over again if I didn't drastically shift my gears, my direction, my priorities. While I figured any work I was willing to do to move away from the negative patterns that had gotten me in such a state would take me somewhere - anywhere - towards a more positive place, I really had no idea what I was in for. I began to take steps I had never taken because I was hanging on to life by a thread, which ended up being the first steps I took to right now - to dirty dishes on a table made with reclaimed wood and a ceramic toothpick holder in the shape of a bird. I went from there to here; I stitched a journey I could never have predicted, foreseen or even hoped for with a thread made out of determination, humility and as much courage as I could muster.

I found my family because my life fell apart, and I had to face the truth that it had gone flying off a cliff with me in the driver's seat. I had built a good life - a business that was going gangbusters, a husband who adored me, a home in Santa Barbara and two playful cats. I had it all, some would say, but I hadn't figured out a lot of very basic stuff. I hadn't figured out that commitment is a daily choice and family is an ongoing series of opportunities to throw my ego out the window (and that I am best served by taking as many of those opportunities as possible.) I didn't have an understanding of how critical all my daily choices can be - how every small act of compromise, kindness and accommodation knits this family tighter together, and makes my heart more whole. I had so much to figure out when I felt like I was sitting on top of the world at the beginning of 2001, but in order to find my way to those truths, I had to crash and burn most everything before the end of that year was over.

I am working on a book about my family, and at the moment my greatest reward for pages and pages of writing is, well, a great big pile of pages and pages of writing - unorganized, uncategorized, unedited. I have a long way to go before I'm holding this book in my hands, and no clear idea of how to get there. All I know is that the path that guided me from the losses of long ago to this table - on this night, with this family - is bursting with beauty and richness. Filled with color and texture and dark, fertile soil, it is marigolds in India and tulips in Holland. It is the deep roots of the 300-year old oak tree in our front yard, and the smell of jasmine on summer nights. It is fields of lavender in Provence. It is Sakura in Tokyo in springtime.

It is my family, and it is worth writing about. For now, that's all I need to know.

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Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide