Shattered Visions

Sometimes it takes a girlfriend in order to have a really good shopping trip. It takes having someone who knows you very well either urging you forward on a contemplated splurge--or holding you back before you plunge ahead on one she knows you'll live to regret.

Such was the case last Wednesday, when my oldest childhood friend, Leslie, came to visit us from Philadelphia. Her goal was not to shop, but to see our son (who is battling leukemia)firsthand, and to lend both emotional and physical support as needed. As it just so happened that Nick had a built-in break in his chemo protocol, we had more time on our hands than we had previously anticipated. So we filled the days with long morning coffees, long lunches, and long walks. And--on the last day--more fun shopping than I'd had in a long time.

By the time we walked past the resident designer at the Lillian August Warehouse, we were both pretty much in shopping mode. Or at least she was. Part of her "Ridgefield ritual," she started getting geared up for her Lillian August experience while sipping her skinny chai latte at the Starbuck's next door. With shopping excursions there in years past yielding some amazing finds, a stop to the warehouse is always at the top of her list. And this year was no exception.

While she was waltzing around the place--it's expansive and set up with themed rooms (the Ralph Lauren equestrian look, the farmhouse style, the Shabby Chic thing, and a room filled with yummy Country French treasures)--I zoomed in on a trio of French apothecary jars. They weren't arranged all together; I spotted one jar in one room and the other two in another. But they were incredible. I'd had my eye out for some for a few years, ever since seeing a pair at a tony antiques shop a couple towns over. My pockets weren't deep enough then, and although they're still fairly shallow, they held a Mother's Day check which seemed to be burning the proverbial hole. Money was meeting imagination in a big way, and the momentum caused by this combination was on the verge of igniting a commercial explosion.

Leslie was busy lining stuff on the counters while I was carrying delicate apothecary jars from one end of the warehouse to the other. Being a visual person, I needed to see how they looked stacked up next to each other. Envisioning them filled with all sorts of wonderfulness--fruits or soaps or loofahs or shells or stones--they were now nestled quite comfortably in my brain, as well as anywhere from my dining room to my master bath to the newly renovated kitchen that is still a few years down the road. I only needed my girlfriend's ok, and I would be "there."

She was all over it. Loved the vision. Loved the look. Loved the lines. Loved the price.

Purchasing these things was an event. It required a quick trip to the bank around the corner (they were an unexpected find, and, even selling at warehouse prices, were still more expensive than what I would have hoped). It required George, the sensitive and thoughtful designer who had offered his help the minute we walked in the front door, to be in on the whole "where-are-they-going-and-what-are-you-putting-in-them conversation." It required the warehouse guy with the muscles to painstakingly bubble-wrap them and carry them to my car, strapping them in with more care than I routinely gave my four toddlers at launch time in the mini-van.

Leslie did her fair share there, too, purchasing a lamp and shade, as well as a handful of fabulous decorative accessories. We giggled to the car, which was by now filled with four huge boxes, strapped into the middle seat belts and edging out the gym equipment which ordinarily occupies my trunk space. It was off to the next stop, and the next and the next, before catching up with the kids at our favorite local diner for supper. Gosh. Shopping certainly works up one's appetite.

Too exhausted that night to un-bubble my new jars--as well as to imaginatively fill them, display them, and situate them--it wasn't until the next night that I had the physical and creative energy to do just that. I waited until the kids were out of the house and until I had gone through the stack of papers on my kitchen desk. Among bills and school stuff was a disturbing newspaper article and letter from a dear friend. It seems that a mutual friend of ours was going through a tough time, the alleged details of which made headline news in the city which each of us had at one point or another called home.

So by the time I started un-bubbling my jars, I was nearly emotionally distraught. As the first jar carried a layer of dust, I carried it to my kitchen sink and gave it a light rinse. Ditto for the second jar. Dried off, both were now safely standing on my dining room Welsh cupboard, looking absolutely gorgeous as they caught not only the light of my folk art chandelier, but the glow of the sterling silver displayed there as well. But the exuberance I enjoyed while purchasing them couldn't withstand the deeply-felt angst I experienced while un-wrapping, cleaning and situating them. With the largest jar saved for last, I un-bubbled it and carried it to my sink. But this one proved too large for the light water rinse undergone by the other two. For somehow, gently twirling it under the barely-running water, the tip of the jar touched the sink with just enough weight to send it shattering to smithereens.

This jar--no, this EXPERIENCE!--wasn't out of the heavily-bubbled cardboard box for three minutes before it was hopelessly destroyed in my kitchen sink. This jar--which forced my brain to develop brand new synapses as I imagined a dozen different decorative scenarios and my checking account to suffer brand new debits as I added up not one nor two but three different price tags--was now a jagged memory. Hundreds of tiny slivers of glass filled my double sink and my vision of this lovely apothecary jar adding design panache to my family' nest was completely and totally shattered. In a second.

I could only do what any highly educated, intelligent woman (in menopause) would do. I stood at my kitchen sink and cried--or perhaps I sobbed--for ten full minutes. Or maybe it was fifteen. Then Nick walked in the room, asked what had happened, and told me to get a life. First, I grabbed the nearest chocolate bar, which immediately made things a tad better. Then, I picked up the glass--bit by bit and cutting my fingers along the way--and collected it in the cardboard box which only a few minutes before held the apothecary jar of my dreams. Then I left the room to gather both my thoughts as well as some decent perspective.

My mind kept going back to my friend and his recent trouble. His vision was shattered, too. But unlike mine, which involved a mere material thing, his involved relationships. I have had shattered visions of material natures before. Plenty of times: I shifted my brand-spanking-new van into reverse in my garage, with the rear hatch door still opened, only to completely destroy it; I ruined a new Laura Ashley dress by inadvertently splashing Clorox onto it while doing laundry; brand new linens from France got ruined when I decided to use lilies in my centerpieces; the movers dragged a heavy piece of furniture across our newly hard-wooded floor only to leave a scratch stretching from one end of the room to the other. My list goes on and on.

But shattered visions strike marriages and friendships each and every day, only to yield oftentimes devastating consequences which often take years of counseling in order for any hopes of healing or restoration to take place.

It might take a girlfriend to have a really good shopping experience, but it sometimes takes a child suffering a serious illness, or a spouse enduring a gut-wrenching financial loss, or a neighbor proceeding through an agonizing divorce to expose a truly shattered vision. Shattered visions take all shapes and sizes and forms. Bereavement. Relocation. Injury. Divorce. My apothecary jar? A shattered vision, yes. But not the kind intended for heartache. We have each experienced shattered visions in relationships to one degree or another. Because we're fully human. Shattered visions are never easy to endure. If your week includes a minor mishap, a tiny disappointment, or a "fender bender" of sorts, count your blessings. If you are experiencing a shattered vision in a relationship, rest assured that you are not alone. It's all part of this difficult, painful excursion through life. It'll be woven into the fabric of your existence and will, one day, provide the lesson or the insight or the perspective which you'll need to fully become the person God is working in you to become.

I pray for healing. For picking up the broken pieces and forming something--in the end--which is wonderful and beautiful.

Carolina Fernandez earned an M.B.A. and worked at IBM and as a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch before coming home to work as a wife and mother of four. She totally re-invented herself along the way. Strong convictions were born about the role of the arts in child development; homeschooling for ten years provided fertile soil for devising creative parenting strategies. These are played out in ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies To Blast You Into Brilliance. It is available on Amazon.com, in bookstores everywhere, or by calling 888-476-2493. She writes extensively for a variety of parenting resources and teaches other moms via parenting classes and radio and TV interviews. Please visit http://www.rocketmom.com to subscribe to her free ezine and get a weekly shot of inspiration.

In The News:

How to Mend a Work Relationship  Harvard Business Review
Long-distance relationships at U.Va.  University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily
Past Relationships  CBS Pittsburgh

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