With long, sure strides, Candie walked down the driveway to her parked car. She glanced at her watch as she slipped the car into gear. She was meeting her best friend, Vicki, at the small restaurant/sports bar down the street, for lunch.
Traffic was fairly decent for the lunch hour rush, in the small town of Elkhart, Indiana. Of course, she knew long-time residents complained about the traffic, but having grown up in the larger city of Toledo, Ohio, Candie knew the minor traffic snarls were just that -- minor.
She pulled her mid-size car into an empty spot, checked her lipstick one more time, and walked into the sports bar. She spotted her friend Vicki, just as the hostess approached. She smiled at the girl, pointing to her friend as she brushed past her. Vicki stood to give her friend a hug.
"Lady," Vicki said, "you are looking good! What's your secret?"
The wide smile on Candie's face seemed to make her glow, her eyes sparkling, changing her already attractive features into what could only be called radiant beauty.
"Well, Vicki," she said, "I guess maybe our mother's were right, all those years ago. It's all in the attitude, girlfriend!"
"Attitude, yeah, right," she said. "C'mon now, Candie, seriously. Since your divorce, you've done some major changing. Why, you're half the size you use to be, for starters, and you're just . . . I don't know, different! What's your secret? Tell me . . . ."
"Yes, I have changed, Vicki," she replied, "I've lost not just all that weight, but, more importantly, a lot of my old, negative ways."
Vicki stared at Candie, her left brow arched slightly, in concentration, as she listened.
"For years," Candie said, "I thought of myself, not as me, but simply -- an extension of Tom. True, that went against everything Mom had tried to teach me while I was growing up. But, it happened. I guess, I tried to model myself after that old Tammy Wynette song, 'Stand By Your Man,' too much . . . not that there's anything wrong with that, but, you have to be careful not to lose yourself, too."
Candie sipped her coffee, her brow furrowed, lost in thought.
Vicki studied her friend's features, waiting for her to continue. She remembered, just one year ago, the way Candie looked, her demeanor in public. Candie had changed, all right. Vicki had always thought Candie to be a strong, confidant woman, but now, it was as different as night and day.
"You know," Candie said, "my Mom had always said she thought forty would be the start of my best years, that my life would really start . . . I guess she really knew what she was talking about!"
"Yeah, but," Vicki said, "you even look younger! I mean, last year, to be honest, you looked . . . well, old! Now, I think you could pass for a 30-year-old, no problem."
Candie laughed softly, a soft blush tinting her cheeks.
"C'mon, Candie," Vicki said, "there has to be more to it then attitude! Attitude didn't make you lose over 100-pounds, or make you change the way you dress, or . . . ."
"Yes it did, Vicki," she said, "really. You know, I've been on so many diets over the years . . . the grapefruit diet, no carbohydrates diet, starvation diet . . . and yes, I did manage to drop a lot of weight. But, it never stayed off. You know that, you remember what I looked like."
Vicki nodded, listening quietly.
"I don't know Vicki," she said, "it's almost like, when I decided to leave Tom, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. When that weight was lifted, the rest just sort of melted away. I don't know how to explain it, truly, I don't, other than . . . I just knew there was more to life, then I had been living."
Candie sipped her coffee, glancing around the room, as she gathered her thoughts.
"Yes," she said, "I did some changes in my diet. Nothing really drastic, though. I simply began to eat healthier, more salads and fruits, less sugar and fried food. And I began studying herbs a bit, just trying to follow a more natural diet. I walk a lot now, too. Probably around a mile, every night."
Candie shrugged her shoulders, a small smile once again brightening her face.
"You know," she continued, "as the weight melted away and my face lightened from the haggard look it had, I could feel myself coming into myself finally. There's so much pressure on women today, to be model-thin, the perfect size-4 and all that. And when you're a not so perfect size-22, well, it can shatter your confidence!"
"Okay," Vicki said, "I can see that. But, you always seemed confidant and strong to me, even before you lost the weight."
Candie laughed softly. "Hmm," she said, "guess I'm a better actress then I thought!"
"And," Vicki continued, "why the name change? I mean, all these years, I've known you as Candice. It's hard, trying to remember to call you Candie, now!"
"Again," Candie replied, "I have to say, it's attitude. Candice is the old me, the one who was afraid to take charge of her life, to fully live life. Now, I'm willing to take chances, try new things . . . I'm growing, Vicki, in leaps and bounds."
She drew a deep breath, her eyes closed, before continuing. "My attitude change, is so much more then just the word 'attitude,' Vicki. It's my spiritual growth, my acknowledgment of my inner strength, my desire to become one, not only with myself, but the very Universe."
"Now wait a minute," Vicki said, "oneness with the universe? I don't understand that one, at all."
"Pardon me, Miss Universe," the waiter said with a grin, "but are you ready to order?"
Candie smiled, her features softening. "Hmm," she said, "think I'll have the house salad and a cappachino."
"Salad, huh," Vickie said, "sounds good. Make that two." The waiter smiled at the two women as he left to place their order.
"Yes Vicki," Candie continued, "the Universe. Learning that all things are connected, and have significance . . . the physical to the spiritual, the visible to the invisible. By consciously studying and trying to reconnect human life with Nature and Spirit, I'm learning that all forms of life -- from plants to rocks, animal to mankind, young and old -- can teach us something . . . if we care to listen, and learn."
"I don't think I follow you, Candie . . ." Vicki said, puzzlement wrinkling her forehead, as she chewed on her lower lip.
"Think about it this way, Vicki," Candie said, "Nature can teach us that all of life is sacred and essential, to all other life. Life -- and death -- has a way of balancing things, of giving and taking. A frog will zap its tongue out, eating a fly . . . then a snake will come along and swallow the frog, and then a hawk will swoop down and eat the snake. Now, think of that fly as an old way of life that you've changed, or 'killed,' by something you've learned. Somehow, by studying Nature, all of these life changes, little deaths and rebirths, don't seem very scary, do they? Most are seen as challenges or blessings, in one way or another . . . ."
Candie paused to take a sip of her cappachino.
"As we learn to accept and work with life's daily challenges, we can learn how to use Nature's life and death process to change certain aspects of our life, and create new -- and hopefully better -- ones. That's the magic of creation, Vicki . . . the magic of life. And, learning how to use these 'deaths' in our lives, as opportunities for positive rebirths, is truly magic."
Candie leaned forward, her green eyes sparkling with intensity.
"Take that one step further then, and think of birds, Vicki," she said. "Birds play an important role in our lives, through legends, folklore and mythology . . . in Norse mythology, the god Odin had two ravens as messengers, Hugin -- Thought -- and Munin -- Memory. And Native Americans called upon the Thunder Bird, a spirit creature of great creative power, to help them and give them strength. Now, consider this . . . because of their ability to fly, birds are our bridge between the conscious mind, and the unconscious."
Vicki frowned. "Now how do you figure that? You saying I have a crow in my brain?"
Candie laughed. "No, I'm not saying that at all," she said. "Okay, when you think of flight, what comes to mind? Flights of fantasy, aspiration, intuition, beauty . . . right?"
Vicki nodded slowly.
"Through flight," Candie said, "birds have stirred mankind's imagination . . . they are our ultimate symbol of extraordinariness. Watching a bird fly . . . doesn't it make you feel you can soar to new heights? Doesn't it make you feel your own, inner flight of creative magic, that, by using creativity, you can change your every day patterns into something far more superior?"
Vicki sat back, her frown deepening. Candie grinned.
"I'm losing you again," she said. "Okay, in simple terms, birds remind us we all can rise above our current circumstances by learning to use our own wings of creativity, inspiration and intuition. In other words, we control our own surroundings and life, through strength and self-mastery. We choose our individual life path, what we allow in our life. We are responsible, for ourselves. Understand?"
"Now wait a minute," Vicki said, "are you trying to tell me I chose to be laid off from work, last year . . . go into debt? I don't think so!"
"Well," Candie said, "actually, yes. Bear with me a second, Vicki. Think back to right before you were laid off. Remember how unhappy you were? I can remember you complaining about how trivial your job seemed to you . . . sure, it paid the bills, but it didn't give you any satisfaction in your life. Remember?"
Vicki slowly nodded. "Yeah," she said, "you're right. I had ideas to improve production at the plant, but no one would listen to me."
"That's right," Candie said, "and during the lay-off, while you worried about finances, what did you do? You looked for ways to improve your life, pay your bills, right?"
"Yes," Vicki answered, "I did. And I discovered that one-semester course I took, that helped me transfer into my new position at the plant. Now, my ideas are not only appreciated, but used."
Vicki's face lit up as she smiled widely. "So," she said, "you mean I changed my life just because I wanted something better for myself?"
"You got it, girlfriend!" Candie exclaimed. "It's all in your attitude."
Candie grinned, wondering if she should tell Vicki her thoughts on animal totems next, how she knew people could draw upon the natural energy and strength of their personal spirit guide, to learn about themselves and the invisible world.
I better save that one for later, she thought.
Author's Note : This story was written in 1999, to mark the first anniversary following the finalization of my divorce. Although it doesn't really pertain to the actual divorce, it does give a fair idea of where I was at, spiritually-speaking. It is a fictionalized version of a true account, between the author and a dear friend. I do hope you enjoy this story. *smiles* Shari Lyne
Wynette, T. & Sherrill, B. (1968). Stand by Your Man. Stand by Your Man [CD]. US: Epic Records.