The pastor at the Easter service I attended spoke clearly and smiled at me from behind his podium. A dog licked my ankle from somewhere under the pew, The Gen raced his cars next to me and hid his eyes when I sang, "He Lives!" (my fav Easter song) to him.
Then, we sat.
The pastor began his sermon. He is small, this guy, and he has a cane. Retired. Salt and pepper hair. He's the kind of guy that can look at you and you know he's smiling at you - even if he's not. His eyes - they're kind.
From his pulpit, he talked about Jesus. He talked about how he suffered and then he spoke the line that has been banging around my head for a few days now ...
"We've all walked through a dark, dark night." He was telling the story we all know. He was telling the story of The Rising.
And at the time ... at the time, I was busy making sure my child didn't eat any. more. chocolate. The pastor spoke those words and my eyes snapped to his. And he wasn't looking at me. He was looking out at the congregation. And you know how sermons go, right? Sometimes, some people pay attention. Sometimes, some people act interested.
There were three dogs walking around. The front door to the church was accidentally left open and I could hear the cars going by. The kids to my right were on phones and the lady behind me kept calling random things out (none of which happened to be amen).
But I heard the words.
We've all walked through a dark, dark night.
Like a deck of cards, memories flipped through. What was my darkest night? Where was I? What was I doing? I'm thirty-four-years-old. Have I experienced it yet? Or, as we get older, do the dark nights shift ... does our top three list change?
Have I walked through it? Have I taken the deep breaths, felt the chill on my skin, heard the howling wind, and clutched at everything - anything that wasn't moving? What did it look like?
But the bigger question? The question that has dogged me for days?
Why can't I remember? Why can't I pin it down?
I mean - there have been some hikes. Brutal hikes.
I opened a glovebox one afternoon and out tumbled Valentine's Day cards from another woman's kids.
I called my brother one afternoon and by the grace of God, my counselor of a sister-in-law answered instead. I spoke the divorce word out loud and she listened.
I was in labor for 24 hours and they were not good hours.
I laid next to a man in the dark one night, as he whispered that he wasn't over The One That Came Before. That he was trying. That he could see the light at the end of the long tunnel, but he wasn't there yet.
There was third grade when mom had breast cancer, and there was tenth grade when mom and dad divorced, and there was eleventh grade when my brother left for a far away college.
There was cancer in my beautiful cousin. Cancer in my loving grandmother. Cancer in my kind step-mom.
There was the time I wrecked my car at a car wash, the time the phone bill was like $400 or something because of Miss Cleo, the psychic, and there was the time Duchess, our family dog, died out in the woods by herself.
There have been other things, too. Small things, maybe. But still ... things:
Junior high track.
An emergency visit because of an errant gallbladder, and I was too sick to remember to wear underwear.
Being picked last every single day of my life in gym.
Just ... not being picked at all.
Life ebbs and flows and all of the cliches are true. There are mountains and valleys and there are hard days and there are beautiful days.
The thing I realized, though? I finally figured it all out. I was on a flight back home from my momma's house and The Gen was curled up and asleep in the seat next to me in a way that he won't be able to do next year at this time, and it came to me:
The shiny, shiny light.
The sparkly kind.
The blinding kind.
The kind that you have to put your hand up in front of your eyes because it actually hurts your retinas or corneas or whatever.
The light on the other side helps you forget the pain of the dark, dark days.
So when the Pastor Whose Name I Don't Even Know looked out to his flock and solemnly proclaimed that yes, we have all lived through dark, dark days, I nodded my head at him.
It was an automatic response.
Because, of course we have.
Deafeningly quiet, these nights seem infinite in length. There's no handrail, no lighted path, not even a freaking map.
But, but, but.
The sun will always rise in the morning.
And with it?
Comes the light.
Do we forget the dark, dark days? Never. Do we forget the conversations, do we forget the events, or do we forget how the scars on the insides of our ribs came to be?
Those notches ... those scars spell out some kind of mantra. Some kind of chant.
There was a rising, they say.
There ... in that one breath of space ... was a rising.
I'm just back for another super quick installment of Tuesday Tapas.
To the point.
Here are the things that I adore this week:
1) Caitlyn Siehl ... Her book is on my bedside table. What drew me first to her was the line, "I am not a place for cowards," and I sort of thought to myself ... yes. Yes I like her already.
Here's the link to her Tumblr account: Passing Through
2) MercyMe's new song. Ohhhh, it's good. So, so good.
3) And because I can't help myself --
I have two articles coming out on Her View From Home in the next two weeks. Getting up early is doing good things for me. Except on Friday. For some reason, I just can't make myself get up early on Friday morning.
If you're still looking for all the things:
- Mumford and Sons sing Amazing Grace and it's terrible, but I love it.
- I made The Boyfriend listen to S-Town and I think he actually maybe hates me for it.
That's all. :)
Charge at the week, kids.
Every year I make my kids read The Great Gatsby.
Mostly because I love it.
Kinda because I have kids that still talk to me about it - even years later.
And sorta because I love Fitzgerald and Hemingway and the 20s and whatever.
There's a line in the movie that I always show the kids at the end. And it's not the new movie with Leonardo, but the older one with the guy in it from 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Anyway. Daisy - the woman Gatsby has been chasing the whole book (for the last five years) says to him, "Oh, you want too much!"
Gatsby wants Daisy to look at her husband and tell him she never loved him. Gatsby wants her to look at her husband and say, "No mas. I'm leaving you for another man." (The other man here is Gats himself, btw.)
And she can't. She just can't bring herself to do it.
She's like every other woman in the history of ever and she just. can't. with his bullshit.
He's railroading her. Pressuring her. And she collapses. Says that he just wants too much of her. And Gatsby, the poor guy, can't understand why, in fact, it's all just "too much".
It's the way she says it. It's the way that it's wrenched from her heart. It's the way that she throws it out of her mouth like the curveball that it is. She's telling him no. She's telling him just ... no. It's a heroic line ... from a not so heroic character. She finally takes a stand after being shoved around throughout the entire novel.
A few days ago, I texted BFF Betsy that, sometimes, women just love too much. We have an over abundance. Too much. We tend to smother. To dole out all of the things. We don't know how to play it cool ... how to rein it in. Hand-written notes, apologies, it's okays, and every single piece of our hearts. Giving all of us.
Until we just collapse under the pressure of it all and just -
It's too much.
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (cliche, I know):
If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog's money, my dog's time--everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.
Because that's how we roll, you know.
Because, I've decided, that's all we want.
Women, the tricky, tricky, tricksters, have it all figured out. They give what they want to receive. They give all of themselves. Their time. Their effort. Their money. Their hearts. All of it. In return, all they want is the same thing.
This idea of surrendering all you have seems kinda simple.
Until you get burned. Brutally seared. Scarred. Catapulted into some kind of charred land that you've never seen before - one that is too hot, unfamiliar. A place that crumbles under your touch.
Until someone sees all you can give, and they put their hands up anyway. Until they call uncle.
Until you've walked next to someone and they just decide to turn around and go back home.
Until they decide that you are not their home.
The thing about girls is that we believe that people mean what they say because WE mean what we say. And that, my darlings, is not how life works.
Instead, we often find ourselves in these impossible situations like Gatsby and Daisy. A woman stuck between two impossibilities. Between staying ... or not. A woman trying to decide who, if any of them, are the best fit.
And the joke of it all? Neither man is worthy. One is a lying, looney-tunes bootlegger and the other is her husband - cheating on her with a different married woman. Such a tangled web, this book.
But it shouts from every page - that this ... this love thing ... it isn't easy. I mean, every page is basically a big, shouty warning to just freaking step back. At the end of the book, the narrator moves back home to his mom and dad's house for goodness sake. The poor boy is traumatized after watching it all go down.
For the record, Gatsby winds up dead. Killed by Daisy's husband's mistress's husband. Right?
And Daisy? She stays with her cheating husband.
Because it is just a book, you know.
Just a book with a really friggin good reminder:
Be with someone that wants too much from you.
Be with them because they gladly hand it all right back to you.
Tapas: Small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar.
I'm starting a new series around here. A Tuesday kinda series.
And since I love, love, love tapas ... I've decided to call it just that. Tuesday Tapas. It's got a ring to it or something.
Served at a bar.
I feel like tapas and I are BFFs.
Mk - so the premise is super easy. Sometimes I feel like I write myself into a corner here - all serious and nothing else. Soooooo. Two little things. Every Tuesday that I love or find super interesting. Or mildly interesting. Or funny. Small things.
... Kinda like tapas.
1) Neil Hilborn. While I was elbow deep in assigning my seniors 5,000 assignments for the end of the school year because I NEED TO TEACH THEM ALL THE THINGS BEFORE MAY ... I came across Neil Hilborn. And holy shiz, you guys.
I'm still new to the whole slam poetry genre/movement, but he is courage personified. Like he stands there and just -
This is one of my favorites.
2. Have you heard of the poet Amy Turn Sharp? She's amazing. Sharpies and true words - two of my favorite things, you guys. She is good. So good.
That's it! Don't you love Tuesday Tapas?
Me, too, dang it. Me, too.
I've been making my seniors write, write, write. And since April is National Poetry Month, four of their remaining assignments are poems.
I know they love me.
As a "mentor text" (fancy teacher word for "example"), I chose one of their assignments and wrote one of my own in class today. [It's really kind of terrifying to hook your computer up to the big screen and churn out an idea while the kids are watching/not watching/praying it's all over soon so they can graduate.]
It's based off off of a poem found in the New Yorker and comes from THIS prompt. You should write one, too. Scribble it down on a piece of paper next to you. Tell a story about something you will one day love about yourself. Mine happens to be wrinkles. :)
Someday I’ll Love Becky
My momma gave me eye cream when I was 14.
Said to slather it on my skin.
Said it would prevent the wrinkles setting in.
So I did.
I slathered in on.
For fifteen years,
it nourished my skin.
But the wrinkles still came.
A frown line between my eyebrows,
and wrinkles that stretched from my eyes –
sort of like small spider legs
And then came the parenthesis around my lips.
Like an added epitaph on a one-day tombstone.
(This girl laughed.)
And then I had a little boy and suddenly,
the wrinkles and
the eye cream didn’t matter.
the wrinkles were more like a story.
A story that he was a part of.
A story that he practically created.
When I think about the thing
that I’ll maybe one day love,
I think it must be the wrinkles.
Because how could you hate --
how could you really hate
(and I do mean anything)
that was created by living
When you laugh in the wrong place, or
when you ask for too much.
When you don't cook well, or
when you tell the same story more than twice.
When you let your roots grow too long, or
when you forget to get your eyebrows waxed.
When you throw your kleenex on the floor, or
when you refuse to eat any kind of leftover.
When some months, your jeans are too tight, and
when you press snooze 18 times in the morning.
When you can't pick a place for dinner, or
when you're ambivalent about exercise.
When you go to bed sweaty, and
when you go to bed with dishes in the sink.
When you can't stay up past 11, and
when you don't really want to.
They're all the things that don't really matter, but
when you clump them all together ...
They become A List. And
when the measuring starts ...
The unraveling begins.
It feels like June. Warm on your face and the days are long and you have a sense of peace.
No where to go.
No where to be.
Holy minutes moving past.
It feels like your favorite dress. Indigo. It ties in the back and it hugs your hips.
You dance in it.
You sway in it.
Free and barefoot and a laugh calling out from your lips.
It feels like home, with a foundation that doesn’t have cracks and windows that don’t let in the cold.
Solid and purposeful.
Warm and true.
Always there at the end of the day.
It feels like running a race and your legs are tired and your sweat pours down your pink cheeks.
Euphoric and hard.
Victorious and necessary.
It feels like every old argument about how it can never be real has died a quick, ashy death in your throat.
And that ash nourishes your beating heart.
And the thump, thump, thump of your still beating heart calls to you -
Yes. It is real.
It feels like the moment you stepped into your new school in sixth grade.
New shiny shoes and hopeful brown eyes.
Your belly full of I don’t knows and your mouth full of hellos.
Resolute and surprisingly powerful strides.
It feels like the first time you got it right in every single thing all rolled into one.
The first job you loved.
The first car you bought.
The first algebra assignment you didn’t flunk.
It feels like the sunsets in college when you were drunk on cheap booze.
Your friends were there.
The night air was warm on your skin.
All of that liberty, and faith, and virgin space still open in your heart was still there.
It feels warm. Sort of like your mother’s palm on your cheek, and sort of like your dad’s laugh.
But not quite.
More like his smile from across the room.
Or his warm fingers on your back.
It feels like clean sheets or the first snow or the way the world hopes when the crocuses start to bloom.
The pool when you were five.
The best happy hour drink after a long week.
The cool side of the pillow.
It feels like everyone that you love the most singing you happy birthday at the same time.
Their smiles shining brighter than the candles.
Their harmony lost somewhere between the sweet vanilla frosting and the chocolate
An embarrassed, charmed smile calling out from your lips.
It feels like all of that, but so much more.
When you find someone whose hand fits in yours.
Whose step matches yours.
Whose broken pieces fit into your broken pieces.
Like some kind of child’s puzzle.
Like some kind of story you read over and over.
Like some kind of key and lock combination that you didn’t even know existed.
You will beg for it to not end.
You will beg for just one more second
even though there are thousands of seconds in front of you
you will still watch the horizon for the end -
for some other shoe to drop and
then you can say …
I saw it coming.
But I couldn’t look away.
Because of the soft breath on my neck
Because of the way his warm skin felt on my weary cheek
And because of the way he whispered he loved me in the dark.
It feels like the fireworks on the Fourth and the first pumpkin patch visit in October and the big, colored Christmas lights in December, and the first roar of spring in March.
It feels like your daddy’s approval and your momma’s raised eyebrows.
It feels like the tombstone shining in the sun of every last lover before him.
You will call it love, but really …
It is so much more.
I can go weeks without feeling the urge to write anything.
And when I say urge, I mean a pulsing, beating, yell that bangs around in my head. Sentences and phrases that shift around and I can see them. They're white block letters and they bounce off of each other - kinda like some Microsoft screensaver from 1998.
There's a gurgle. Something happens.
Maybe it's a good song.
Maybe it's a quiet night at home.
Maybe it's the afternoon after the last bell rings for class, and my pen is just perfect.
And the words come out. Tumbling. Forming before I even know what's happening. I rarely edit, I hardly ever change my word choice.
Once it's out.
Once I've written it down and typed it out --
That's what I've got to say.
It's an exorcism on some kind of basic level. Once the words are out, I exhale. And the words swimming through my brain tissue stop for just a second.
And then I hear a beautiful, softly spoken poem with a cadence that flicks goosebumps all over my arms.
Or I read a line from a book that has an odd juxtaposition.
Maybe I see a kid on the street hiding behind the tree covered in crusty snow, wearing her mom's old primary colored snow suit ... armed. Loaded down with perfectly formed snowballs that her dad probably showed her how to make in one of those memories that she'll think back on fondly when she's a grandmother.
Waiting for her brother to walk innocently down the sidewalk.
Waiting for the moment to jump from hiding, screaming a hallelujah-time-to-meet-your-maker thing, pelting the poor brother, and then running. For dear life. Because Brother Pay Back is a whole different sort of come to Jesus.
Or I see my own kid standing in the living room and spin on his toes, falling hard to the floor, and laughing a laugh that is still so young. Still so new. He's still trying on the different sounds - trying to pluck out the one that best suits him.
My mom asks me sometimes where I get The Writing Thing from and I look at her like she's crazy. Between the way that my dad tells stories with his hands and his eyes and his big heart and the way that she loves everything so damn hard - well. The gurgling of the words that are tied to human emotion -- how can I even begin to stop something that is in my bones?
Given to me by both of them.
My brother has this look that he gets when he's listening. It's half mom and half dad and sometimes I think no one ever sees it but me. He purses his lips like mom and he considers with his eyes like dad. When he laughs, he looks down like dad, but shakes his shoulders like mom.
The Maori people of New Zealand preach that you're your momma on the front and your daddy in the back and they're melded together to make you.
I'm calling that a fabric. Woven. My hands have always been meant to hold a pencil and my brother's hands have always been meant to help his neighbor.
So when I think about this writing thing.
This how I find my rhythm thing.
This gurgling, excising of words thing.
I think about the fabric that I carry deep in my starred composition. When Jesus said we were meant to move mountains, he really meant that we needed to pick up a shovel.
And my shovel is blue on some days, and others it's green. Ink splattering across the page and staining my palm. My fingers.
The words edge out through my closed off throat and a mountain shifts. A tectonic plate moves across my chest and I can breathe.
I can breathe.
I can breathe.
I can breathe.
When I write, when I flip open a yellow lined notebook or my Macbook, something happens. It's visceral. And I'm not very good at explaining it and I'm a writer and do you know how frustrating that is?
My mom was at the state capitol today in California. "Talking with senators," she said. So casually. She is a damn boss. Tenacious and smart and so funny. But she leads and people follow her.
My dad coaches all of my little brother's teams. I mean, he's an engineer, but ... He was just back from Australia on Saturday morning after 35 hours of travel and he still went to t-ball practice. Because in his bones -- in his soul -- he is a teacher.
My brother. Myyyy big brother. He has been drawing airplanes on sketchpads, napkins, sticky notes ... for as long as I can remember. And now - I mean ... I'm not 100% sure because he works for the National Reconnaissance Office in D.C., but I'm pretty sure he's legitimately designing things.
It's a rhythm.
Mine started on the white steps of our front porch on the farm. A journal with kittens on the front. Pink. With hearts. I wrote about the sun over the trees. Eloquently, I'm sure.
But I wrote with a rhythm.
A rhythm that I'm only just now starting to understand.
Here's to finding yours.
Finding what is laced through your bones.
Just beyond what you can see.
Here's to chasing after that.
Naomi was a widow in the bible. Her husband and her sons died.
Naomi was bereft. The verse specifically uses that word.
Anyway, she was a widow and her children were gone, but she had two daughters-in-law. One was named Ruth.
Some of my most favorite lines in scripture come from Ruth. Naomi tries to tell her daughters-in-law to go on without her. To return to their own homes. Leave her be - in her hurt, in her great sadness. She tried to push them away.
They wept together.
And then Ruth.
My favorite champion Ruth.
She stood in front of her mother-in-law and she said nope. Not today, kid. In some of the most poignant, fierce words, she says, "Don't make me leave you. Wherever you're going, I'm going. Wherever you're living, I'm going to live there, too. Your people will be my people - my tribe. We're going to love the same Jesus, and when you die, well. I'm gonna to die, too."
And so she stayed. Loyal. Firm. Resolved. Unwavering. And Naomi? She believed her.
Bestie Betsy and I - when things are bad ... when life is rough and one of us is in some kind of deep, deep dark place ... we check in with these verses.
Where you go, I go.
Where you live, I'll live.
Your people, they're my people.
It's a hush. A quiet. A warm outstretched hand and a head nod. It's an, "I know it sucks right now, but the good is coming," in a way that each of us seem to understand.
It's a call to the other that we're not alone. Never alone.
You know, I'm not really a relationship expert. I suppose one failed marriage doesn't exactly give you street cred when it comes to telling people how to do it right.
Just ... but.
When I think about more.
When I think about people doing life ... permanently ... forever ... with someone else, I think of Ruth.
Someone that will always bat on your team even if you suck at baseball and don't know what RBI stands for.
Someone that will help you with the hard decisions, that will help you hang the pictures straight, and will help you get over your hurts.
Someone that will be in the same room with you and thirty other people, but will always ... always ... be searching for you.
Someone who hits their knees hard for you - someone that joins you on the floor.
Someone that keeps your secrets safe in their chest. Someone that encourages you, pushes you, makes you want to do better.
Someone that won't leave when it sucks the most. Someone that just ... stays.
Someone that says that you're enough ... worth it.
Worth the more.
Today ... I'm celebrating Ruth. Ruth and her brave heart.
It's almost March.
It's almost March and there are 1,000 things that I haven't told my seniors that I wish I could. If I could - if there weren't expectations, scholarships, objectives, standards, tests ... I would stop. Hold my hands up in front of class, circle their desks, and we would talk.
I would tell them things like travel.
I would tell them things like separate your laundry even if you think you don't have to.
I'd teach them to apologize. How to look at someone else in the eye, how to apologize, and how to not sneak in a tiny little but on the end. I'd teach them to rest in the quiet after they speak their I'm sorry, and I'd teach them how to absorb the consequences of the hurt they caused.
I'd teach them to not stop in the middle of doorways. In the middle of aisles. In the middle of the escalator.
I'd teach them to never stop in the middle.
I would have them take their phones out of their pockets, out of their backpacks, and we'd take a hard look at social media. We'd talk about what is appropriate to shove out into the world. We'd talk about how that stuff never goes away and we'd talk about the value in an argument online. We'd talk about how wars of words in print never really go away.
I would look at every single one of them and I'd tell them that they will know the heartbreak of loss -- if they haven't already yet experienced it. One day, they'll lose someone dear. We would talk about grace. We would talk about how it will harden the leather of their chest wall -- we would talk about the practice of love. Practicing love. The only way to loosen the leather. To loosen the hurt.
I would tell them that some days they're going to feel like they're drowning. No matter how much they think they have it together. No matter how accomplished they think they are. How smart. How tenacious. One day will come and they will be overwhelmed. I'd teach them about how to make a long list of things they can do. And I'd teach them to start with the smallest task. And then move on to the next.
I'd tell them that climbing out of it starts with baby steps.
If we had the time - if we only had the time. I'd tell them it's okay to be scared. To not know what their next step is. I'd tell them that there is bravery in fear.
Over and over and over, I'd tell them that I'm proud of the people they are becoming.
And I'd tell them that the becoming --
The rising and the opening and the walking out --
I'd tell them that it's all been my joy.
I'd tell them a hundred things. Don't mix cleaning chemicals in a small bathroom. Find a friend in college with a washing machine in their apartment, and never pay for the dorm washers. I'd preach to them to always have a DD. I'd tell them to not wear pajamas to class because it's tacky and lazy. I'd teach them how to set a table, how to greet a potential employer, and I'd teach them how to respond when that potential employer just doesn't hire them.
And I'd tell them over and over again that one small failure isn't their definition.
The rhythm of their life is not defined by someone saying no to them.
The rhythm of their life is defined by the drum they bang.
The song they sing.
The anthem they write.
I'd tell them to make it a good one. To sing it loud. To teach their friends the words. Because sometimes we forget the words ... and when that happens ... their friends can sing them back.
I'd tell them to be still sometimes. To stand in their backyards and listen. To stand in the middle of campus to listen. To take deep breaths. To look at the person that is talking and actually receive the words.
I'd tell them to write the thank you notes. Send the thank you notes. To practice gratitude. Every single day.
I'd tell them to give.
Give their time.
Give and give and give until it helps.
If we just had a little more time. I'd beg them - plead with them - to stop dragging their feet. I'd tell them that the dream they've got in their chests ... the dream that knocks incessantly around in their bellies ... I'd tell them to chase it. To not go with the masses, to not go with their friends, to not go with expectation.
I'd tell them to charge.
Keep going to the dentist. Shut up with the snark. Keep your heads down. Work hard.
Work hard every day.
I'd tell them everything that I've ever learned in the twenty years since high school.
I'd tell them to label their luggage, to not worry so much, and ...
A thousand things, I'd tell them.
Run the show, I'd whisper to them. Run.
I'd tell them to run and to not stop until their lungs are burning, their eyes are clear, and they are proud.
And I'd tell them I've been their biggest cheerleader all along.
If only ... If only there were just a few more seconds of time to tell them all.
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences.