The best gifts came without wrapping. It is for those, the rough jewels, that I am giving thanks, today

It looks like this. I meet people, here there and everywhere, and some of them stay to be a part of my life for a period of time; for a long time, or short, it doesn't really matter, as they are my fellows, and we accompany each other along a journey. These are the gift-carriers, the three kings bringing unintended consequences that were both unearned and undeserved.

The marriage that I thought that I would never recover from; those dream – collisions; the failures of courage, the poverty, bad judgments and equally bad behavior – those have been polished into burnished gold by sharing as well. I cried for so long and was so lost after divorce, having no idea who I was without my title of wife, my alienation from the church of my childhood that came as a result, my embracing of myself as a failed human; all those have been overcome with time and grace. Those fearsome, hard won lessons, they are the gold nuggets in the pile. For sure, if I had been an easier person, I would have known these things, and probably most of you already knew the lessons that I have had to screw up in order to learn. I did not learn much from the mistakes of others.

Amazingly, some women have let me into their own hearts, the magma chambers of their own deep recesses. In a real sense, I have been given a blessing through the fires that burn in my sisters lives as well as my own. I am richer for our shared knowledge of where the layers of ash and lava lie in a life and I have remembrance of what those layers look like to guide me when I cannot see beyond any one day. We know each other, and they help me to find the rainbow's end when I am spinning and lost. Today, when asked, I would tell people they not only can they make mistakes, they probably need to; and that there are lots of ways to live while learning how to glide in the afternoon wind's lofting breath.

And the child that I gave away at his birth; I a very young birth mother. I couldn't look at him. It wasn't permitted. In those days they did not encourage an attachment to an adoptable person, instead, whisking away his tiny person to be given in trust to another more capable, more qualified, lest the original one form an attachment. That seared my soul, but was locked away into the door labeled “do not enter”. I told my own self that it didn't matter. Made it invisible for a very long time, drawn down into the unseen realm where the dragons live.

What I feared would happen at any moment, at most moments in fact, was that I would die from the pain of getting through each event; not to mention the embarrassment, the shame, the senselessness, the humiliation, and the dreadful self-created victimization. The nights and days when I didn't think that I could make it into the light of the next dawning. Somehow, the new dawn always brought me hope, even when I didn't want hope to intrude on my sadness, and wouldn't permit that sunrise to snatch my loneliness back from the hopelessness of my fears.

I was a mess. And then, I began to break my own vow of silence, and spoke of the raw places within my soul, and I found another with a similarly scarred place. We shed our tears, and found one more compatriot, and again another, each with a place wounded and tattered; we shared in whispers the possibility of hope and forgiveness and healing. No lies permitted here, rather the imminence of living past self pity. Somewhere in the speaking one to another, the past became more a landscape marker, and less the defining feature of failure, and so we regained balance, joyfulness and personal dignity.

And so here I stand, much like a worn out toy, a bit bruised, and imperfect from it's life-work, with multiple wrinkles, age spots and occasional emotional splatters of incompleteness; here I stand. I am. I am a woman with purpose and meaning, partially because some women let me share with them, let me into their own beautiful spirits till we remembered together how to breathe and to laugh. They are me.

Others were the Doulas, the women who birthed my spirit, soothed my wounds, loved and hugged, and spoke of their woman's walk. Eventually I could locate the woman who lived inside of my own skin, and let her walk in her life shed of the heavy burden of times past.

As a youngster, I had the privilege, one that I bitterly resented at the time, of sitting at the kitchen table with women who would visit, while they chatted and gossiped with my mother, solving the problems of their worlds, sighing over the uncontrollable s. They taught me their ways, although I did not recognize those as gifts at the time; like a squirrel with a freshly fallen acorn, I buried my treasures for another day of need. They are me.

I am enriched with women friends from my young womanhood. That specific time capsule is filled with the memories of our days as teenagers and young hopeful adults, oh my how little we knew, and how little we knew about what we did not know. We all had actively involved parents who knew each of us in those days, and we were inspired by, encouraged by, feed by those elders, their solidarity, their faith and their presence. We are still, many of us, friends. I am them, our mothers, our fathers, equally as much.

Men, ah men, your power has tortured my more fluid days of song and dance. I have sold my birthrights for your appreciation, your approval, your affection, and after that sale, I had to locate myself somewhere; seeking my own acceptance, encouragement and nurturance in order to simply survive. I thought that men had it all; power, might and right, and I felt betrayed by that vision of the world's reality. But, oh so gradually, I have come to appreciate my fellows. Later in life, as I reluctantly began to see the difficulties that men must go through, I began to find in that newly sighted awareness some empathy, I could begin to see you as brothers, as fellow journeymen. I have sons. I remain thrilled with their generation of men. They attend to their families needs, are men who show up with masculine solidity; the best of those is my own left- brained other half, and my sons, remarkable brother in law, and son in law. Every one, fine as frogs hair, and every one as unique, one from another.

As I write this, I am peering with pleasure at a photo of my youngest male child, his wife and their new child, 1 hour since birth. Matthew Thomas, welcome to a family with a lot of guys for you to irritate, imitate, and with whom to find your place. Our males have a really solid presence in this family, My hope is that you might exceed your parents dreams.

I am fortunate that I have been able to accompany my other birthed children into adulthood, never sure which one of us would arrive first at that destination, but hoping that it would be me to reach maturity first, before senility could arrive. They all thrived, surviving their journeys as well, and grew into the people that they are, resilient and strongly independent, and somewhat apart from their mother, although kindly so. I could ask no more, although I would. I am them as well.

Thanks to you all for being as confused by this life as I have been, while still striving to find our places bumping alongside another. We are much like camels perhaps, utilitarian, oddly built and weak, but suitable for our purpose of living here on earth. We are strange to behold, with vulnerable skin, jutting ears, lumpy heads, peculiar positioning of bodily parts; we all know how unbelievably precious is our creation, how magnificent is the dawn, whenever it arrives.

In this community thing, in this morning of gratitude, I believe that the eye of the needle gets wider, to let the camels through.