Tag Archives: change

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.

You Have Everything You Need

If you have a garden and a library. Cicero said that.

I was explaining to a friend the other day that feeling when it seems you run into a part of yourself that you haven’t seen in years. It is always a little strange at first, perhaps even off putting, like that familiar face in a grocery store that causes you to duck behind cereal boxes, intently reading the labels because there could be something life changing there. Other times, it’s as if serendipity has worked her magic and you stare in disbelief in hope, yet still with some angst, because we know how this ended last time. In this case, it was a little of both. This was the year of the rediscovery of the novel and memoir in a way that I have been swept up. After a four year grad school journey, the spined book and I have had our ups and down, never broken up, but definitely needed space. But, it has wooed me back.

Here is my 2014 book list that I will possibly (have) talk(ed) about in an obsessive way.

Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd
memoir : social justice, mental health
This is the best book I have read about CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children) and DMST (domestic minor sex trafficking). Please read.

Still: Notes on a Mid Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner
memoir : faith
Lauren is one of those writers that I would just like to drink whiskey with and talk about life.

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
memoir
I waited to read this book for too long. If you haven’t, you need to read it.

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
faith : theology
Grace. That is what this book is about. Grace and a call towards change. If you love OR hate the f-word, you might be surprised (in the best way) by how it’s handled.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
memoir
I got lost in the brilliance of the words and meaning and continue to threaten my roommate that I’m moving out to live in the woods. This is not a story about hiking; it’s a story about living.

If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher
memoir
She tells a tale of expectations, losing, and finding self and hope. I laughed out loud and cried an ocean. Incredibly beautiful and highly relatable if you have ever wanted to do something good for the world and love a good pop culture reference.
Preorder here.

My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman
faith : art
I bought this as a gift for friend and began reading before wrapping it (oh, don’t judge me; you’ve done it too). Thirty pages in, I bought two more copies for myself. If you are a writer, poet, artist, faith seeker, it will grip and tangle you.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
novel : relationships, cross-culture, race, mental health
This is my first read of Chimamanda’s books and I’m hooked. She is both funny and thoughtful and her storytelling draws you in.

Now I am working on next year’s list, though most of 2014’s books found me rather than the other way around. I’m also trying to keep a plant alive. We’ll see.

Real Christmas Trees

It’s December 27th. All our presents are still sitting under the tree. It’s a real tree; we switched a few years back from the towering style that came in pieces in a box. You had to spread each branch out intentionally filling in the gaps of evergreen, trying to hide the metallic core. I was the one each year designated to fill in those spaces. I don’t know if it was because I was actually talented in the art of fake spruce or if I was the only one who became obsessed by their placement, putting meaning into each bend as if it was art or salvation. I prefer real trees.

The siblings have now almost all rolled in from various states, nephews and nieces in tow, and I’m left again overwhelmed by it all. For the last few weeks, I’ve been sitting in the waiting. Holding onto it as if it was the season I’d been wanting all year long. And, perhaps some of the truth is that it has been what I’ve wanted all year long. It has given me permission to mourn, to speak into the night – hope for something different. This waiting is the tension I notice sitting in my stomach most days. I need joy to show up.

But, the second truth is that sometimes I’m not sure I’m ready for the waiting to end. I feel I am afraid I will be like that child on Christmas day that after strewing wrapping and strings and paper all around ends up sitting in it all, saying, “but is that all?” And, for that reason, I delay. As the expectation grows, I grow more anxious. Perhaps, we should just forget the whole thing. I am afraid of my own disappointment. What if after all of this, I am holding nothing?

So the real truth then is that any ending terrifies me. And, so I gather, all these things, these people, these places, and hold on for dear life. We build ourselves mansions with these parts that were never meant to be walls and furnishings.

I am learning, instead, that waiting is a letting go. Waiting is a wondering. It is participation in this life with all it’s heartaches and small victories. It is noticing what is here and now and then watching it go, feeling the joy and the pain. It takes all of you.

If you asked me to describe what I believe will happen at the end of all of this, I would probably fumble over my words. I know that because there are days when I have tried to explain the belief that seems built into my bones despite the doubt of my skin that tries to shake it. I never feel like I have really said much of anything; maybe it was a metaphor or a tenant that doesn’t really explain what faith is. I say that mostly out of my own frustration because the truth is that I would like it to be built much sturdier. I wish it felt like a wide, wire cable. If anything it’s more like a perennial that grows, seemingly dies, but is dormant, ready to come again when it feels like winter will never end.

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.

A Conversation Amongst Rabbits

A Story of a Velveteen Rabbit: What took place in the Woods. 

“Do you feel real?” the other rabbit asked.

“What does real feel like?” said the stuffed creature.

“Why, marvelous. Like an monarch tickling your nose or the wind scuffling along your ears. Like a million ants marching to a drumbeat you hear as you’re falling asleep.”

“I don’t feel anything any of those things.”

“Oh.”

“But, at night I lay awake and hear the boy breathing and sometimes he pulls me tightly into the crook of his arm and holds me. And, I stay there till the sun rises behind the blue blinds. Is that the same?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh. What can I do?”

“I don’t know. But, I think I’ve heard of this before. It’s called LOVE. And, if the stories are right, one day LOVE will make you real. But, you’ll have to give everything to get it.”

“But, I’m scared.”

“I know. You’ll have to trust. LOVE is powerful. It’s not safe, but being real never is.”

Traffic Lights

It started happening again. I started crying at stoplights. On off-ramps. When my car slows and you’re standing there with a sign about work or being a veteran or needing to get home. And, it takes everything in me not to get out of my car and do something. And, it takes everything in me not to shrink away, look everywhere but your eyes. And, sometimes I don’t. I focus on the light, changing. It always changes. The seconds are so slow.

I went through a period of time where I always had a granola bar tucked under the seat. I kept spare change cradled in the cup-holder, just to have something to give. I wanted to help. I went through a season after where I stood in self-righteousness that it would only feed the problem, not give any solutions. The system is the problem, I raged. When I was working in nonprofit sector, I felt like I could connect you to a resource. I felt like I had an option. We need relationship more than anything else and these days I am strung thin and wish I could give you more than this smile. 

Why does it always come back to what I can give? My entitlement squirms out even when I’m hoping to shake out the injustice in this world.

I’m a counseling grad student and trying to make it through the day hearing heart ache and lost dreams morning after morning. I’m not a saint. And, most days the only thing I have to hold onto is the hope that this great big God of ours is telling a long story. And, some days I do just want to sit at this red light, waiting for the change, and cry.

We all need to get home. I’m still wondering where mine is. As the leaves begin to break into reds and oranges, nostalgia  stirs this part of me that holds onto fall hikes, boots crunching on paths, flannel and laughter. I’ve begun to know the lines of this city, the ways the roads fall into each other, anticipate the traffic. It’s like this ongoing relationship where I both love and easily compare it to a past love, a one that has probably become a beautiful distortion of reality. Idealism has a way of doing that.

I get on twitter during my breaks. They’re talking about Ferguson again. In 140 characters, rage and injustice and hope. I hold my tongue and my heart. I write out sentences. Delete them. Write them out again. Sometimes I push “send.” I am easily consumed by the urge to blame, and I blame myself. I’m activated and once that happens it’s hard for me to make the next right decision, a decision that could actually do some good in my neighborhood. A decision that could call out the injustice and move towards peace. I want to invite others in rather than push them out. I’m still unsure what that looks like going forward. I’m still asking the questions. 

I’m putting those granola bars back in my car. Maybe I’ll buy an extra cup of coffee this morning. I may be small and unable to change the system today, but your dignity is worth more than that. It’s above any inadequacy I feel. You’re strong. I want to tell you that. Let’s both keep fighting. A red light’s not a lot for a conversation, and it’s enough for a smile.