What Do You Know?

I held some strong convictions when I was young. I just knew what I knew was true because, well, “when you know, you know,” right? But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. For most of us, we often miss the realization that we actually don’t know. Until we’re knocked loose from those dearly held certainties, that is, and not always gently.

Around age 28, life provided me plenty of jolts to rumble the foundation I’d built, one I was sure was rock solid. I’d left the Mormon church. And my marriage. The shockwaves were severe enough to send many of my beliefs toppling ass over teakettle and smashing to bits on the ground.

When you know, you know . . . until you don’t

As I sifted through the ruins, a quieter knowing whispered an invitation–to open up to possibilities I’d never contemplated before. The transition was painful. But the accompanying shift in perspective was ecstatically liberating, rendering me free to re-imagine my values. What did I know? And how? It is humbling, startling even, to consider that knowledge can be malleable, transforming as we ourselves metamorphose.

Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know,” echoing the Socratic paradox, “I know that I know nothing.”

A few years before she died, my mother wrote me an email. “I think the upshot for me is I am second guessing every decision I have ever made.” A sad confession I thought at the time. Now, I think perhaps a natural conclusion to reach at the end of a life. 

I know that I know nothing

This evening, I sat on my back patio writing. The sun shone brilliantly as it moved on its path toward the horizon. After a long and rainy mid-Missouri spring, the warmth caressed my skin like a promise, or maybe the memory of a promise. As tender as the breeze, hope softly, shyly re-emerged after lying dormant for so very long.

I’d been working all day on my memoir, Death, Rock Me Asleep, momentum carrying me finally, FINALLY! hurtling toward the finish, a place I could never quite see, but trusted would be there when I arrived. It’s close. Really close.

As I revised a passage in the last chapter describing the finite nature of Mom’s life, the words welled up from the screen with visceral meaning and, without warning, I began weeping. The sting of loss can still pierce so sharply and unexpectedly, it takes my breath away, no matter how the years go by.

But . . . mixed with grief was the euphoric thought of just how close this project is to completion. “I’m almost done. I’m almost done,” I chanted in my mind. And instantaneously, my neurotransmitters shot out another thought, “And it’s good! It’s good! It’s going to be good!” In this visionary moment I could clearly see the next steps in birthing my memoir.

Knowledge is malleable

All of this is great, but it’s not the greatest thing. No, the most stunning, magical thing is this: Immediately after these phrases chimed through my head–”I’m almost done, it’s going to be good!”–through my earbuds, from Pandora, I heard the opening notes of Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy. It’s my signature piece, the one I rehearsed and performed over and over as an adolescent pianist, obsessed and in love with playing. In other words, “my song.”

This isn’t the first case of Claire de Lune showing up. Many times since Mom died, the classical masterpiece served as a lyrical soundtrack. In public, at restaurants and bookstores and airports, in the car from XM radio, at home on Spotify or Pandora or a TV show. Always at perfectly poignant moments, always in unmistakable affirmation of my writing success.

I’m second guessing every decision I ever made

The last photo of me and Mom

As Truvy Jones, aka Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Through a fresh sob, I laughed out loud with incredulity. I looked around, as if I could catch sight of my mom.  

I feel deeply there’s more to us than these mere physical bodies, than this earthly plane. But sometimes I think, “How can we know for sure?” Yet, if I question life after death, my mother continues to dare me to not believe with her well-timed, insistent taps on the shoulder. 

And if she is working from the other side to help me bring my story to the world, there is no door she cannot open, no obstacle she can’t overcome. If she’s pulling strings and nudging the right people across my path, I have no doubt this book will not only be published, but make its way into the hands of readers who might not know what they don’t know. Yet.

Yeah. I’m going with that.


Filed under Aging, Enlightenment, Family, Grief, Hope, Memories, Motherhood

8 Responses to What Do You Know?

  1. This is so beautiful Lisa. Few teeter in the pools on “not knowingness”, and those of us who do, learn to tread lightly because the water can be murky and deep. Your beautiful words help me tread this territory, knowing that I am not alone. And that helps me keep going. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    I hope you keep getting those proverbial shoulder taps from your Momma as your book comes to fruition. And that you can feel the love you give to others so freely find its way back to you to love and support you on this magnificent journey.. ❤️

    • Tricia,

      What a gracious, beautiful comment full of affirmation and love! You are such a gift in my life–on multiple levels. A writer’s process–at least this writer–is not complete until the reader reads. Thank you for reading and thank you so much for expressing your impressions so eloquently. XO

  2. Stephanie Wightman

    Your writing is the kind writing that makes me want to stop everything I am doing and soak in every word. It is like a slow inhale and a slow exhale with a pile of life in the middle.

    • Awww, Stephanie, that is such a great compliment and I accept it with humility and gratitude. Your description–slow inhale and slow exhale with a pile of life in the middle–is profound in itself. Thank you for reading and commenting. XO

  3. Reading your (as always) exquisite words I almost felt I was sitting with you on a palm log in the Pushwalla Palms Oasis, diving so deep into so much. I can hardly wait to read the book (and my offer stands to be a beta reader!). Big hugs, beautiful friend.

    • Yes! Those hours on our hike passed so quickly, yet time seemed suspended. We slipped right into deep, joyful connection. I cherish you. Thank you for your kind words. I will definitely take you up on that offer. I’ll be in touch soon!

  4. Pamela May

    It’s going to be GREAT, and I can’t wait! Wonderful piece, Lees.

    • Thank you so much, Auntie. I’ve suffered a little from imposter syndrome or just the overall thought of “why would anyone care?” But as I’m empowered, I feel confidence rising that this could be something meaningful for others, too.

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