Tag Archives: acceptance

I lose things.

I am continuing to learn how to identify grief as it comes, both in the small and simple and in the large and untethered. Growing up, there were not words used to describe the cold chill and aching that comes with loss. I only knew that losing became numbness.

When I was in middle school I would wake up crying because somehow in the night I had cut off the circulation in my arms. I would startle to a lack of feeling in my hands and terror would set in. I had no idea what was going on and my lack of understanding scared me to the point that I became panicked. But, once I began to poke and prod, the tingling would begin, a painful process of blood moving back life back into numbness. At times, the tingling felt excrutiating. Still it was the only way to regain the movement.

Our bodies know the way to heal themselves, but our minds fight it. 

Grief does not play favorites. She visits each of us, and if we ignore her, her cold presence begins to chill us without us noticing, slowing our connection till we can’t feel at all. Her visits vary in length and if we are present with her and ourselves, we begin to notice that her story is valuable. She is telling us what matters to us. She tells us of our deep caring and deep strength. 

I feel her most in the aching of my arms even now. I fight her in the heaviness of thoughts that are attempting to repeat the past with a different ending. I sit with her in salty tears as I wait for her friend Acceptance to arrive with the comfort of ginger tea, the last sip of honey a balm for my hoarse and tired throat.

I am learning my place in the world is not to prevent loss, but to attend to love.

When I try to keep the pain from coming, I only keep myself from noticing the love that is present with me now. Even amidst the pain. When you’re used to the cold, the warmth feels strange, and may even create discomfort. Notice the tingling and anxiety; take another step. Keep going; it’s the way home to yourself.

Crawling Home

At the end of December, I found myself sketching sofas. I was sitting with friends, a crowded room, laughing and planning the year to come. We do this every year, gather together bringing this past year’s joy and hurts, victories and failures, scraping our plates for the last taste of what we have been given, savoring gratitude. Then, we speak into existence our hopes and goals for the dawn that will rise as the new year unfolds, our best intentions and ideals. Or at least that is what I like to imagine it as. As I looked at the blank page in front of me, I slowly started carving out the white for deep lines and folds of penciled fabric. They felt comforting as if I was creating something safe to hold me, a nest that I wasn’t ready yet to leave.

It’s the middle of March and that couch has absorbed a lot of tears. A salty mess of uncertainty, fear, hope, and sadness. In less than two months, I will graduate. I have already accepted a job that I never thought possible. As that looms, I have tried to imagine what will be next. I look back on those short months before when I wrote these things. The future, well it’s terrifying. Funny how something with so much wonderful potential also leaks of so much possible hurt. And, because I am afraid, I practice devastation. I rehearse it as if then I will have some power over the pain. 

I watched a TED talk the other day by Elizabeth Gilbert about this continuum we exist in. She supposed that perhaps both success and failure are the same in the way we experience their powerful sense of altering self. The potential or realization of either throws our balance off. The resilient continuously relocate their center. They crawl their way back to what they love.  Today, I sit again on this sofa, my bones weary from the constant back and forth of miles in my mind and emotions. There are still so many unanswered questions. Today, I crawl back to this sacred space surrounded by pages and prayers. I write my way back to this center. There is a red tulip on the counter that is begging to open. And, the sunlight is coming in, cautiously, through open blinds. My laundry is rolling around in the dryer, humming to the tune of consistency. It is the sound of coming home again.

Save Yourself

This is what burnout looks like: bare feet.

It was during my last summer directing children’s programs; we had a field trip scheduled. Field trips were one of the students’ favorite activities, and at times, incredibly tiring for staff. The reality is that driving vans full of excited, loud children to a location full of other excited, loud children, can require a lot of patience and vigilance. Not to mention the goal of not swapping kids with any other groups along the way. This field trip was one though that my staff was thrilled about because we were going to Lego Land. They had actually been looking forward to it for weeks.

I remember the phone call with our partner who gave us the tickets right beforehand. “Remember to make sure the children have socks,” she said.

This was important because that was something many of these kids might not have on their own, or even if they did, the probability of them forgetting them was pretty high. During winter months, we usually had at least one child every day whom we had to chase down the road because they had left their coat lying lonely on the gym floor. But, these were the summer months in Georgia and heat was everywhere, as if the pavement was a slow cooking frying pan. The kids would all be wearing sandals or cheap flip flips that would probably break a few weeks in from the wear and tear of quick dodgeball turns.

She told me this need for socks the day of at 8 am. The kids were leaving at 9 am. I had every intention of having socks from our clothing closet. I remember thinking, “Yes, of course, this is important.” And, then I hung up the phone and there was a knock at my door and crisis after crisis walked in. I couldn’t breathe again till after 11. The next call I received was from our staff member at Lego Land asking me where I had put the socks on the bus. They had looked everywhere.

This was when my appearance of put-together, making-it-work, oh-yeah-I-can-do-it-all shattered. It was that small moment when I pictured 48 bare feet hanging off a bench watching others play and there was nothing I could do about it now.

If I sat down (and I did then) and did a step by step analysis of how it all broke down, I would have had to back up weeks ago, even months to when I started believing the mis-truth that “I’m doing just fine. This is just the way it has to be.” Because the reality was that I was making it work and it was also entirely unsustainable. I had built a building that was trying to meet everyone else’s needs, but not my own. And, I was even failing at that. There were so many other stories that were out of my control that last year. Stories of heartbreak and neglect and hopelessness. There were also other stories of laughter. I tried to pay attention to those. The sad ones I buried in deep pockets that grew heavier and heavier till it became harder and harder to move.

But, when I think of that summer, these intense emotions specifically about bare feet come up. Even writing this now brings feelings of familiar shame because who falls apart over socks? Well, it’s because it wasn’t the socks. Maybe you already saw that. It was the shame all along. This is something that’s difficult for those of us who look life in the face and have decided that they should be more than human. The ones who empty as if by doing so they can save others without first accepting their own pain and needs. And, that shame is why we keep silent as if we should be able to handle it. We will be affected. We will fall down. That is the full truth.

None of us are meant to live in burning buildings. Not me. And, not you. Save yourself first. Those that go back in will leave by certain miracles and because they continue to assess their own need. Take the time to recognize the pain you hold. Do the humble and valuable work of knowing your weakness. And, if you do choose to accept the risk to fight for lives, be sure you can ask others for help; you will need someone to remind you again to save your own life and that your wounds are holy. They have always been that way.

Tend to the Wilderness Inside of You

Somehow in my never ending visits to the library as a child, stacks and stacks of books, I never read Where the Wild Things Are. When the movie came out when I was in college and the general population oohed and ahhed over their many memories of childhood bedtime stories, I felt left out. I even felt in some ways frustrated with my mother for never steering me towards the wonder of the world of Maurice Sendak. How could she have not included this literary masterpiece in my childhood education? I decided to fix that, so I found a copy and read it myself for the first time as a 22 year old. Children’s books read as an adult can be profoundly meaningful. Again, I felt small and swept up into a world both so otherly and so familiar. A good children’s book will do that. It’s the simple truth. What I love about the book is this entrance into an inner world of imagination that is in essence a wilderness. It is here Max comes face to face with himself and his beliefs and even his own wildness.

I currently live in a place that is mostly concrete. Concrete and steel and some graffiti art that a visionary has used to echo beauty in a place where people mostly look up rather than exactly where they are. I love art for that reason. It stops you. Arrests you. Makes you consider what is here rather than where you’re headed. Sometimes this city feels so tamed. The traffic, the people passing on the street, the bustle like ants in a never-ending maze, repeating the same tunnels all contained. A predictable chaos. Everyone with their lattes and schedule and striving. This is how I feel on days when I feel trapped. Trapped by the day to day. Limited by the steel and by time and by my own body.

There is an inner wilderness with which I have begun to be forced to come face to face. There are so many days where engaging it seems overwhelming, and I have chosen rather to flow with the norms and to numb the disconnection I feel. I’ve begun to recognize that when I start to feel closed in, something inside of me grows unsettled. There is a fear and a pain that begins to bang and clang against imaginary walls, desperate to escape.  I’m slowly finding these edges of myself, the cliffs that pushing past will leave me falling, bruised from the impact of the ways I try to manage my pain.  The admission that my internal world is not the same as what the external is showing is complicated. It’s gnawingly frustrating, even a little shaming, this feeling of not fitting, overwhelming my own skin, afraid it will all spill out and hurt those around me. I push it down and look for an escape. I want to start again, unfamiliar and anonymous, where what is around me is startling and new and strange and distracting.

The last four years of my life have kept me, held me, in this city with these people and I am thankful. Over and over, when my eyes have looked for an exit, my feet have been held by a commitment to the process of this vocation. Instead of journeying out, I have been asked and continue to be asked to march into the wildness of my own heart and to accept it’s chaos and beauty. Its limits and its possibility. Its sin and redemption. It’s all there if I will only look. I will choose that journey. How else will I believe it for anyone else?

Jabberwocky

I sat on the bar stool on Sunday, warming my hands from the chill that’s crept into November. After minutes of small talk of which I never can quite maintain, my friend looked at me and said, “Ok, tell me, why did you cut your hair? I know you too well to realize it was more than just a haircut.”

Last week, I sat on the bathroom floor and cut lock after lock of browns and golds, after nearly two years of basic trims. Minutes later, I felt lighter, as if I had won some victory, and at the same time an extreme sense of loss.

I’m trying to live with this lady called Change. Some days she’s a seeming tyrant, pulling me along; I’m scuffing my toes as I shuffle, cursing each stone that trips me up. I lag behind like a kid being dragged to the dentist. Other days, she’s a storyteller. Her sweet words clutch my heart till I can’t sit still. I swat her hand away and I run past her, ahead to what she’s promised, leaving her in the dust. She calls after me but I’m too far gone to care. I’m impatient with possibility.

I was talking on the phone to my dad the other afternoon, on the drive between work and school, my thumbs drumming the steering wheel to songs I consistently play on repeat. I don’t have many of these phone conversations and I felt grateful to have a few minutes to hear about his day to day. As we were chatting, I asked a question that felt unexpected, even to myself, “Did I talk a lot as a kid?” He laughed. “We couldn’t keep you quiet. We called you Jabberwocky.”

I went back and reread the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll and had one of those “What were my parents thinking” moments. In my head I had remembered it being sort of dark. The story is terrifying. Calling your child a monster that gets slain in the middle of the night could be traumatizing, or at the least get you weird looks from anyone who knows the poem.

Some days I don’t know if I’m the monster or the girl. Maybe it speaks to my obsession with the dark and trying to figure it all out, trying to slay whatever voices I can. Slay the insecurity. Slay the struggles that always seem to be one step behind, that foot on the creaking board, that weight I expect to overtake me. Slay those parts of me that I deem unworthy or unattractive or any word that describes that fear of being noticed and then passed by with whispered voices.

I cut my hair and yell, “I’m different. Don’t you see. I’m not that thing you thought and rejected.” I look around at the marbled sink and feel the cold, tiled floor and realize it’s just me. I’m talking to myself.

Once upon a time you thought you’d never cut your hair on the bathroom floor again. I don’t know how the story ends, or if I’ll find myself here again. History tends to repeat itself. I’m learning to accept with compassion that we’re all still becoming. Maybe a part of that means beginning to tolerate the discomfort of this middle space, letting go of my battle with Change and her wild ways. And, maybe it also means, on days like this, embracing my humanity and taking a moment to laugh at the hair on the floor and fact that it’s going to take awhile to grow out again. And, that’s okay. That’s okay.

Go On, Girl

I don’t know.

How often have I said those words, spilling them just to fill the silence. I say them in finality and to end the long lines of questioning.

There are two ways of hiding: Saying you know when you don’t. Saying you don’t know when you do. The first is much easier to spot. I put on a show. I play the part of great and amazing and, dare I say, perfect. And, all I feel is emptiness. Perhaps if I smile long enough, you won’t see the fear that fills my lungs, threatening to strangle me. Perhaps if I keep you entranced, you’ll never catch me, and I’ll never have to see myself.

The second is more difficult. The second is proclaiming defeat and playing small. It is a seeming inability to cope. I say I don’t know where to turn, who to trust, what to say, what to feel. I refuse to know because knowing could bring action. Action could bring failure. And, failure could leave me broken. It’s easier to sink in to my fragility and pain because they are familiar. It’s easier to let you decide for me what to say or do or be. I won’t be hurt if I never let you see me, so I just won’t show up. 

I saw Gone Girl last night.

The last few weeks of life have been so full of transition. My body typically has a way of telling me something is changing. Sometimes my body tells the truth when my mind refuses to accept it. Every morning my eyes have opened at 5 am. Not by conscious choice. I look at the clock. I close my eyes again. I turn over. And over. Till 7 am pulls the sun through the window and I start the day.

Last night I left the theater, head foggy, words caught in twisted thoughts, knotted from life and a plot that felt detached from any human emotion. I tried to find words that spoke of the disturbing truths of the movie and couldn’t. In it, a girl, that both pretends to be more than her insecurity and feels like she’s losing, essentially “kills” herself to get it back. I walked out with crushed compassion and fear. That was what it was about, wasn’t it? Fear and control, and ultimately hiding. There was no vulnerability and hope in the struggle. It was all self-preservation. And, self-preservation leaves us disconnected.

We are so afraid to be known and so terrified to be lost. And, in the end, it ends up being all about a shell of something we’re so afraid will crack. Can I make you want me? Can I push you away so you never will? Both leave us never truly seeing the other in our realness. In our humanness. We’re gone. We were never there. 

Acceptance.

This word rings and stings. It feels like giving up and giving in. Maybe it’s an end to hiding. Maybe it’s the choice sit down for a minute and realize we’re cracked and we’re beautiful. We can see the world as it is. We can see ourselves. And, the words will come. It’s an every day sort of thing. I have to choose to keep my hands open. 

Go on, girl.