Sparkly gift is a timely and loving reminder

Last week, I got my sparkle back.

OK, technically, it was a pin that spelled out the word in shimmering rhinestones. But the symbolism behind it, and the way in which it was presented to me, were enough to convince me of brighter things to come.

Late last year, when my friend Sam was going through a hard time, she often lamented the loss of her sparkliness. And Sam, in my opinion, beyond her inimitable fashion chic, is the Queen of Sparkle. A dynamic woman with a warm sense of humor, a generous heart, refreshing candor and a snappy, inventive way with words that enlivens any conversation, she became a fast favorite when I met her at a gathering at my friend Karen’s house several years ago. In fact, both Karen and I were so instantly drawn to her sweet and sassy ebullience that we openly admitted to having a serious “girl crush” on her, a sentiment she reciprocated, which set the tone for the “girl crush dates” we’ve been having ever since.

Sam and I have shared many highs and lows over the years of our friendship, but through it all, she has maintained an ineffable radiance unobscured, to me, by even her most despairing moments. She boldly rejoiced in her special sparkle, a quality I found among her most endearing, so when she admitted to me many months ago that she no longer felt sparkly, my heart ached for the bleakness in her words. Floundering amid relationship woes, a perplexing cycle of health challenges and a demanding job that was depleting her emotional reserves, she was adrift in a life that seemed to belong to a woman she didn’t know.

Shortly after that exchange, when I stumbled across a funky pin that spelled out the word “sparkle,” I knew she had to have it. And so I gifted her with the pin as a reminder of the vibrant woman still dazzling beneath the mire of so many challenges, the one always bursting with big dreams and grand visions and wildly in love with her life.

In the last few months, that woman has been re-emerging, opening herself to new opportunities — including an amazing new job — trading in routine, enervating stress for deliberate acts of self-care and retrieving long-abandoned pleasures. Unbenownst to her, however, as I’d endeavored to be her champion through such a prolonged rough patch, my life had been running somewhat parallel to the one she’s now leaving behind.

Earlier this summer, I wrote of feeling an exhaustion that clung to my very bones, of a troubling inertia plaguing this perpetually over-committed doer. Beyond the sorrow of losing Lou, my mom’s longtime companion, in April, and worries about my dad’s failing health, after more than five years of filling my life with projects and goals and countless new ventures, I felt drained of energy and uninspired to take on anything else, despite the full plate of dreams awaiting my attention, the restless yearning to make something more of a life suddenly shrinking from its potential.

Like Sam, I, too, had lost my sparkle. Most days, I still feel stuck in a state of stagnancy, but when I stop to ponder my circumstances, simply putting one foot in front of the other seems the best that I can do. I have, on some level, made peace with this, allowed that this has been a difficult year which required surrendering my need to be constantly in the throes of activity, to be plotting the next big step in some fantastic master plan. But even knowing that the most industrious and visionary among us need time to recharge their batteries every now and then to gain a greater sense of clarity and purpose hasn’t made it easy to stand still.

I, too, am used to a more vivacious version of myself. Seemingly blessed with a boundless appetite for life, I’ve sometimes been disheartened to look back on a year that, while busy and fulfilling even with its hearbreak and challenges, boasts few new accomplishments or adventures of the transformative kind.

Which is why I was deeply touched when sharing as much with Sam and Karen last week at our holiday girl crush, Sam jumped off from her couch, insisting she had just the thing for me. “Close your eyes,” she instructed, as she dashed back to her bedroom. I dutifully obeyed, giggling at the excitement in her voice. When she returned to pin something to my sweater, I suspected what it would be before I opened my eyes, but seeing those words glittering up at me when I did almost brought me to tears.

“It’s your turn,” she said, with a hug. “This will help you find your sparkle.”

As another year comes to an end, I am certain she is right, for December seems to bring with it a brisk momentum, an element of magic and an atmosphere of hope. While reflecting on the past and all we did and wish we’d done, we for once approach the unknown with anticipation rather than fear. For with the fresh slate of 2012, we have yet another opportunity to swing wide for our dreams, to plant a few new ones and to open ourselves up to untold possibilities and promises wide as the sky.

Along the journey, we’ll have our friends, wayfarers in the trenches and empyreal fields, who in truth are the most luminous reflection of that sparkle that we never really lose, though its light may occasionally dim. But until the inevitable rekindling of that flame in my own life, I’ll hold onto my pin — and then pass it on to another woman as a beacon and reminder of the gift she is to this world.

– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times