Moxie Section of Post and Courier, Friday, August 9, 2013




I always wanted a daughter named Hope. Being a future English teacher, I loved the symbolism of the word. But it was not meant to be. My first husband had a last name that started with an "H." He simply did not like the way the two "H's" sounded together. Thus the name Hope was gone as we awaited the birth of our first child.


Our wait was a bit different than most, since years of infertility led to the need to adopt. Far more than nine months passed, when we heard there might be a child for us if the biological parents did not change their mind. With cautious optimism, I scoured the What Do We Name the Baby Book. This time the name "Joy" leapt off the pages. The child just had to be a girl; the name was too perfect. Our prayers were answered.


Joy and joy filled our lives for a while, but it did not last. Joy's Father and I divorced, taking its toll on everyone. The Mother/Daughter relationship is complex under the best of circumstances. Estrangement happens to intact families. When an adoption is thrown into the mix, however, it is easy to say, "You are not my Mother." I heard them when Joy found her biological Mother.


A grief counselor told me it is harder to lose someone to life than to death. Many believe "Time heals." They are all correct. It has taken me twelve years to deal with losing Joy. Never in my wildest dreams would I believe resolution could be pulled out of a hat. I did it when I created The Hat Ladies.


If there is one word I hear repeatedly, it is the "joy" experienced by our members and the "joy" our community feels we bring to it. This joy became tangible when The Hat Ladies received The Community Catalyst Award sponsored by Charleston Magazine and The Coastal Community Foundation last November.


Few knew the irony the word "joy" held for me. In the beginning, hearing it brought a silent tear, for it touched the hole in my heart. Now it brings a smile, for I do have joy in my life. It is spelled with a small "j", but it is "joy," nonetheless. I am grateful; it allows me to focus on what I have, rather than on what I do not.


I would be disingenuous if I didn't admit that Mother's Days, birthdays, and holidays still hurt. On the other hand, I would be equally disingenuous if I didn't say my cup is more than half full and sometimes even runneth over. I did not reach this point at the drop of a hat. It took time, a long time, to understand I am living the life I was meant to live and maybe even help others, in the process.


There are times we may all feel like hanging up our hat. When we are ready to deal with them, those times can be reshaped, reinvented, and reinvested. I call the process "channeling." It takes those emotions you are struggling to ignore and channels them into positive actions: Move to a new location, form new relationships, contribute to new causes. Eventually you will understand and accept the fact that if you keep holding on, you will be dragged.


Finally fill those holes in your heart by looking to your childhood and rediscovering things you once loved. Envision what you did for hours, without anyone having to tell you to do it. Recall what excited you. Then reignite those passions in new ways.


Your new normal may be good enough, as good, or even a far, far better life than you have ever known before.  Finding hats in my girlfriend's attic when I was ten years old gave me something to hang my hat on, 45 years later.


It takes time for the pieces of the puzzle of our lives to come together. It takes time for us to recognize and embrace the picture they have painted. When we finally see it, we realize most answers were there all along. I once had to find Joy. Then I had to find joy again. I always had hope.


Archie Burkel, Top Hat of The Hat Ladies, proud wife of John Burkel, Author of The Joy of Hats, and motivational speaker.


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