Truth

I can’t type.  I spell out each word as if I am back in high school, learning where my fingers go on the keys.  (I learned on a real typewriter, not a keyboard.  Whoa.)  Sometimes I detach my mind from typing, to see if the words will come out of my fingers.  They never do.  It’s gobbledy-gook.  A real mess.

I begin every essay, every poem, every new thought or idea with a black Pilot pen scratching across a blank sheet of paper.  Notebook paper, journal page, notepad, sticky note, receipt.  My mind is focused completely where the pen hits the page.  The thoughts flow freely and effortlessly.  Not perfectly.  Editing is always necessary.  But the truth of a feeling is only fully realized for me when I commit it to paper.  And I don’t have to think about how to spell anything.

Conversely, when I am writing something that doesn’t feel true or right, my pen sticks and grabs the paper.  It drags.  Like an extension of my body, my brain, and my heart, there is hesitation.  A tension.  A pregnant pause in which the real Truth is revealed, not the hoped-for truth, which is really a wish.

I can speak a lie into being.  “Sure.  That’s fine.  Not a problem.  I would love to.”  Those untruths have been conditioned into me since I was a little girl.  But ask me to write out my true response, and the pen simply will not lie.  I trust it.  I pay attention to it.  It surprises me- often.

Every January for the past fifteen years, I forego a New Year’s Resolution in favor of a word or mantra to guide me.  Something I would like to focus on, improve on, or a quality I want to add to my life.  In past years I have used “Focus + Finish,” “No More Sarcasm,” and “Quality over Quantity.”  This past January I chose the word “Truth.”  Seems simple enough.  We all think we know The Truth, are living Our Truth.  But The Truth often lies hidden.  It can be too ugly to acknowledge, too painful to bring to light.

I realized I had not known The Truth on the morning of November 9, 2016, the morning after our presidential election.  I woke up to a reality that I could not comprehend and for which I did not prepare.  I had had my head in the sand.  I had been living in a bubble.  A warm, comfortable bubble where everyone thought like me.  Believed in the same basic things as me.  Or at least that was the only truth I could understand.  I knew people had different beliefs, but I didn’t know, you know?

What has been revealed to me- rather, what I have sought out- is The Truth.  Of America, of my past, of life on this planet in this moment in history.  It feels like a Band-Aid has been ripped off and I am staring at a gaping, bloody, infected wound.  The wound of my country.  The wound of my heart.  Of injustice.  Of racism.  Of unabashed hatred.  It is so painful to see.  But I cannot look away.

In recognizing this Truth, I can see the alternate Truth as well.  The Truth of a group of Americans (almost 63 million strong) that feels undervalued, under-represented, overlooked.  Hard-working people.  People of faith.  People who are my friends and neighbors, not in a hokey, detached way, but really and truly.  People who share the same core values as me, but who embody them or act on them in different ways.  Values like love and generosity and commitment.  Ending suffering, promoting life.

This has been one of the most difficult years of my life.  (I probably say that at the end of every year!)  I didn’t know that by choosing the word Truth as my mantra, I would be choosing the words Pain, Hurt, Astonishment, and Disbelief as well.  I had to put on some awfully big girl panties to find The Truth this year.  But I also realized how liberating it is.  It takes a lot of mental energy (subconscious) to run, to hide, to cover up The Truth.  Ripping off that Band-Aid has led me to greater clarity and healing than I have ever known before.

After 11 months of commitment to Truth, here is what I have learned:

There is no Truth, only perception.

Belief can and does override facts, science, and data.

It all matters.  Everything you do or don’t do.  Say or don’t say.  It all adds up to a life.  So make it count.  Or don’t.  But don’t say it doesn’t matter.  It does.

Leaning into Truth feels a lot like standing too close to a bonfire.  But it will burn away artifice, ego, and insincerity- if you let it.

The not-knowing is okay too.  It feels scary and unsettling, but it is part of the path that leads to Truth.

Sharing your Truth makes you brave.  Listening to another’s Truth makes you braver.

The Truth really will set you free.

As this year winds down, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.  I have incorporated Truth into every area of my life.  I will not abandon this practice when the calendar flips over to the new year.  (I still try to avoid sarcasm.)  Rather, the search for Truth will become another filter I see through, another layer over how I interact with others and the world.

What are the Truths you have been burying?  What would it take for you to unearth them?  What could you lose?  What might you gain?

I am already thinking of my word for 2018.  I would love to pick one that evokes a little more ease and comfort.  I am thinking of Beauty, Devotion, Play… and Chocolate.  Chocolate would be a GREAT word to focus on for a year!

 

 

Field of Dreams

(Penned Saturday, October 14, 2017)

When I was fifteen years old, my parents went out one night to see a movie. They came back, gushing about Field of Dreams. I thought it was strange that they had chosen that movie. I only knew it as a baseball movie. My parents had never even liked or watched baseball.

I was probably in college when I watched Field of Dreams for the first time. It immediately became my favorite movie, and it has never lost its luster for me, even after 28 years. The thing about a favorite movie is that it stands the test of time. It speaks to the truest part of your soul, which is timeless and never-changing.

In my teens and twenties, the movie symbolized listening to that voice whispering in your head, and acting on it, even if it was a crazy idea. It meant following your dreams, no matter the cost. And make no mistake- there would be costs. I never did anything as crazy or as risky as building a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield. I married, had a family, and dived full-force into that life. I did what I had always wanted to do, but it wasn’t outside of any norms, either. I tried to do the right things, the reasonable things. I stumbled. I fell. I struggled. I carried on, living the life of family.

But still, I always connected with that part of the story. Listen to the voice; follow your dreams. Even if they’re far-fetched or down-right crazy.

I haven’t read the Bible. I don’t follow any scriptures or prescribe to any one doctrine or religion. But I was moved by the first whisper Kevin Costner/ Ray Kinsella heard in the cornfield.

If you build it

he will come

My truest understanding of God originated in this whispered line from the movie.

If you build it

he will come

To me, it means that if you work hard toward something you want, you will get the divine help of the universe, of God, of the Holy Spirit. First comes the work. The building of it. The toil. The hiccups. The frustrations that come with starting something new. But if you stick with it, keep at it, keep working toward what you want, God will step in. The right people will show up to help you. The way will be revealed. Things will start to click and work out. First the work, then God. This is my belief. I believe this with my whole heart. This is my prayer. It has never let me down. It has always held up to scrutiny. I have tried to challenge it, to turn it on its head. Never works. First the work, then God.

If you build it

he will come

I had this quote printed out and taped above my computer monitor for years. But whether it is printed doesn’t matter. It is etched on my heart and each passing year reinforces its truth.

If you build it

he will come

I had a rare night at home alone when I was in my early thirties. My husband and two small children were… I don’t even know where. It was October. I was feeling some kind of way. You know. Depleted. Hopeless. Helpless. I couldn’t have told you why. So I grabbed the thing that had always cheered me up, inspired me, helped me see the beauty in life again. Field of Dreams. I popped it into the DVD player and lay flat out on the sofa, not even caring that I was watching the movie sideways. I knew it by heart at that point. I just wanted to watch Kevin/ Ray do the crazy thing again and be rewarded for it. I needed to see that line of headlights snaking through the cornfields. He was going to build it and they were going to come. The payoff to all of his hard work. His dream coming true.

That’s a nice story right there.

But the movie played, and I was numb. And I barely took it all in. Until the part near the end where Ray’s dad steps out of the cornfield. Ray is watching from the bleachers. And he sees his dad. Really sees him as he never had before. Ray sees his dad as a young man, full of hope and promise. Before his dreams died.

Ray had never known that man. He knew a different, harder, damaged man as his father. But because of all of the work that Ray had done to build the baseball field, something his father also loved, he was able to connect with him in a loving way. He was able to forgive him.

I bawled my eyes out watching that scene. Before, that scene had just been a sweet game of catch between father and son before the hordes of visitors arrived. This time it hit me hard. So that’s what the movie had really been about all this time? A father and son who loved the same thing but couldn’t love each other.

If you build it

he will come

I had worked over that quote so much in my mind, trying to figure out what “he” symbolized. I knew that “he” wasn’t the White Sox. At one point, I thought “he” was “them”- the line of cars snaking through the cornfields. I had thought “he” was God, too. Turned out, “he” was just plain old “him,” his father. But he did come. He showed up. And in that moment, he was everything. And Ray forgave him. And he knew peace.

After that experience of seeing the movie in a new light, I doubled down on living out my favorite quote. My prayer. My belief system:

If you build it

he will come

I had not had a good relationship with my father for many years at that point. There were fights and tears and so much anguish on my part. But I thought that if I kept working on our relationship, trying to communicate, that eventually it would all work out. God would step in and fix it. Fix us.

If you build it

he will come

Over the next few years, I plowed the cornfields, laid out the perimeters, chalked the baselines. I planted the grass, erected the lights, and built the bleachers. It was going to be beautiful.

It never was. I built it, but he never came.

I closed the ball field five years ago. I was spent. I had done all I could do. I returned to it tentatively in different ways over the last five years, but the chalk lines had blown away. Weeds had choked out the grass. The bleachers had crumbled and the lights had burned out.

My dad died last Saturday.

I am waiting for my dad to walk out of the cornfield. I am waiting to see him in a different light. I know that forgiveness will come. I am waiting on my field of dreams. I’m waiting.

If you build it

he will come

I have always trusted that whisper. Please, God, let it still be true.

 

 

Unpacking

Home after a long journey to the other side of the world

I open my cases to the smells of another landscape

 

The dust from a faraway desert

remains suspended in my clothes

collects in the corners of my suitcase

 

Delicate packages, wrapped in craft paper,

rolled up in clothing

An attempt to bring that life

those experiences

back here

to the ones I love most

 

Little piles all over my bedroom

This one to wash

This one to put away

These mementos to consider-

Who were they for?

Why did I buy them?

Will the recipient get the same feeling from them as I did?

 

What is not evident in the explosion of clothing and gifts

are the stories

the laughter

the feeling of wholeheartedness

the love of my family

the real and true souvenirs of my travels

 

I try to incorporate them into conversation

weave them back into my regular life

bridge the two worlds in which my heart resides

Thoughts from August

The week before school starts is madness. The air is electric with heat, anxiety, that last plucked nerve, anticipation. There are snakes in the yard. Banana spiders spinning their webs across doorways. Crazy thunderstorms with destructive lightning and a cacophony of frogs and cicadas. Three tropical disturbances swirling out in the Atlantic. It all feels very precarious. Everything could be swept away in an instant.

The heat is oppressive, the Open Houses zoo-like, the lists endless. Oh, the lists! Every good thing from summer is now ending and we must be on a SCHEDULE. And we must be ORGANIZED. We have to submit to a CALENDAR to tell us where to be and when. We have to SIGN ALL THE THINGS. We have to at least make an effort to work out. I mean, now we have all this TIME.

The page on my wall calendar for August is colored green, and that means GO. Despite the colors changing as I rip off each month’s page, this will be our default mode until next summer, when we can stop again. The color for June? Red, of course. Those calendar designers knew what they were doing when they made their color choices.

The overburdened air sizzles and pops and does not let you out of its grip until the first-day-of-school picture is over and the kids are safely ensconced in their classrooms. And the madness continues well after the first day. With forms and forgotten lunch boxes and schedule changes and locker drama.

And what are you left with? The echoes of summer laughter and adventure. Score sheets from a hundred games of rummy around the kitchen table. Crumpled eclipse glasses. All of those unfinished summer art projects piled up on the dining room table. An unnamed ache around your heart. And that old anxiety around YOUR plans and YOUR schedule and YOUR to-do list.

Only one person asked me when my youngest entered kindergarten, “So, what will you do now that they’ll both be in school?” What will I do? It’s hard not to feel indignant at the question. Like I have been lying around for the past seven years, and these kids have up and raised themselves. What will I do? I will do the same thing I’ve been doing, just without a kid attached to me! Shopping. Cooking. Driving. Cleaning all the things. Planning. Managing. All the myriad little tasks that make up the colossal daily effort of mothering.

No one has asked me that question (outright) in seven years now, but the start of the school year begs for that question to be answered, among others:

What am I doing with my life?

Is it enough?

Where am I going?

How am I contributing?

Am I using my education?

Am I setting a good example?

Does being a full-time mom automatically make me a good one?

Who decides the answers to these questions anyway? And over what time frame?

I tell myself that there is no such thing as the Mommy Wars. But then the question is innocently asked, “What do you do?” and I immediately draw my weapon. Ready to go to battle over my decision to stay home. Yet, no one has ever challenged that decision. The Mommy Wars only wage within. What is the endgame here? Happy, healthy families. And there are as many versions of that as there are parents trying to create their own unique version of happy and healthy.

As agitated and as anxious as I still am about being a stay-at-home mom, I have to recognize some truths:

I have made my choice; picked my side. Let me carry on, wasting no more time on a war that is only with myself.

And there are no sides. Only mothers. Doing what they know is best for their families- and themselves.

 

I love to be home, focused only on my family.

And I ache to perform a job well and make money and feel useful.

 

I have more than enough to do to raise a happy, healthy family.

And I don’t have enough to do.

 

I am lacking in the gene called hustle.

And I spend every waking moment mothering.

 

I like to go against the grain. I hate crowds. I don’t want to be at Costco on a Saturday. Tuesday mornings are quiet, with no lines.

And I like to feel like I am a part of things, dipping my big toe into the stream of life. I love to belong.

 

I want an easy answer to the question from a stranger- “What do you do?”

And I relish the nuance and complexity of full-time motherhood.

 

I need quiet and rest and time to think things out. My knee-jerk reaction is almost always wrong. But if I can pause and reflect, the right answer, the good answer, the life-affirming answer always comes.

And I need structure and a schedule and deadlines and to-do lists in order to feel productive.

 

I don’t want to fit motherhood into the cracks of who I am.

And I don’t only want to be a mother.

 

I want to dive deep into the issues and challenges my family faces.

And I want to pretend we are a perfect family with no problems.

 

I have fifteen years of skin in the motherhood game and I’m no closer to answering those questions or solving these dichotomies.

I hate that.

And it’s what keeps me going.

Every time I think about how I want to contribute to this world, it always comes back to my family. These people are my friends. My tribe. My ride-or-dies. My family is my life’s work. For better or for worse, it will be my legacy. My oldest will be in college in three years. My youngest, three years after that. I have six years left to be their constant, their rock. This lovely life that my husband and I have helped create, with both kids under one roof, has a fast-approaching expiration date. I don’t want to miss any of it.

My family- it is all I ever wanted.

And I want so much more for myself.

Sometimes motherhood is too much.

And it is always enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Lapped

I look across the street and there she is on the opposite sidewalk

My future self

White hair tightly permed

Dressed for the day and all its happenings

Earrings

necklace

rings

But with the sporty walker

bright blue

I don’t know if this is her first outing of many today (her complex has a bus to take them to the grocery store) or if this is the first time she has felt like going out in weeks

The cool morning is a reprieve from the scorching sun both from days past and forecast ahead

We keep up a similar pace, but only for a few seconds

I try to catch her eye, share a greeting, but she is sunglass-covered eyes focused straight ahead

I take off on a slow jog and cross the street ahead of her

I fool myself into thinking I am ahead of her

The same way a runner on a track may look like they are ahead

But they are many laps behind

many, many laps behind

Spring Cleaning

Have you read this little book, the life-changing magic of tidying up?  A year ago, my book club was charged with reading this title, and I just. couldn’t. make. myself. read it.  No copies were available at the library, and, knowing a little about its premise of eliminating clutter, I felt it defeated the purpose of the book to purchase a copy and then have to “declutter” it later.  So I passed on it, and just asked a lot of questions of the girls who had read it to try to get the gist of it.  (Basically, take everything out from everywhere, one category at a time, throw anything out that doesn’t “spark joy” when you hold it in your hands, and put your measly little pile back, but in a very specific order and location and using a specific method, especially when it comes to clothes.)  Having moved three years earlier, I had done this with a vengeance.  I knew the rush of clearing out the old to make way for the new.  I didn’t think I needed this lesson.

Flash forward a year.  I’m at the library, I’ve just completed a Whole30 (this will be relevant, I promise), and nothing can be found from my to-read list on the card catalog until I get to this little gem:

(DANGIT!  THE PICTURE OF THE BOOK IS SUPPOSED TO GO HERE BUT I SUCK AT COMPUTERS SO THERE IS NO PICTURE.)

I search it out on the stacks and not only find it, but its companion tome, Spark Joy.  I believe in the wisdom of impeccable timing, and this felt like a sign that NOW was the right time for this book to come into my life.  “Goodie,” I think, “What do I have to lose?”

Two weeks later, I’ve read all about the KonMari Method, and let me tell you what I had to lose:

countless nights’ sleep,

hours daydreaming of this colossal purge I was going to embark on (clothes, books, papers, in that order, like a good girl),

and six sick days from the sheer exhaustion I contracted.

Exhaustion, not from actually doing the exercise, just from the thought of it!

So now I’m left wondering, is this woman insane or genius?  And I don’t say that lightly.  You might think that there are ways to adopt the “KonMari Method Lite” version.  You would be mistaken.  There are no nuances to her method.  You are either all in or you are wrong.

In some ways, there is a lot of appeal to this way of thinking.  In that, you don’t have to THINK about any of it.  You just have to feel.  And I mean, literally feel every item you own, and then feel how it makes you feel.  Then toss or put away.  Simple, right? This type of simple yes/no either/or keep/discard philosophy is appealing in a complex, complicated world that changes by the hour and that demands 4,863,242 decisions every. single. day.  Not to mention needing the flexibility to change your mind when a decision didn’t work out as planned.

Throwing away half your wardrobe seems simple in comparison.  Except it’s not.  The holiday dress that doesn’t “spark joy” on an eighty degree spring day will need to be replaced in seven months when it’s time to go to the office Christmas party.  If her method is supposed to be a means to curb consumerism, throwing out things that could come in handy later seems counterintuitive, not to mention wasteful.  Or maybe I’m missing the point.

Forgive me for being a little cranky.  Like I said, I just completed a Whole30, and I’m not quite sure what makes sense in my life anymore.  Everything you’ve read about Whole30 is true.  And false.  You really have to try it for yourself before you pass judgment on it.  I found an enormous benefit in trying it, and I’m also flailing in a post-Whole30 world where I can’t make a simple decision about what to eat.  Right now it is 4:00pm and I have had two cups of coffee with milk and sweetener (non-compliant) and several handfuls of blueberries (technically compliant, but a bowl of fruit does not a meal make).  But, I digress.  I think the point I am trying to make is that following a program, a movement, even a mentor’s or author’s plan for your life is like trying to hit the Easy Button on this game.  Eliminating even one of those 4, 863,242 decisions that we make every day diminishes our experience of this world.

I don’t believe you can declutter your life once and never have to do it again.  We are growing, changing human beings whose needs aren’t the same from year to year.  Why reinvent the wheel every time your pleasures come back around to something you threw away?  Our lives, while filled with stuff, are not made of stuff.  And I feel sorry for the people for whom that is true.  Our lives are experiences meant to be lived, not possessions to be managed.

While meditating this morning, I heard a voice as clear as day.  “You’re missing the adventure.”  By fighting what is, by trying to put a yoke on this life, I’m missing the joy and the heartbreak.  We are miracles in ecstatic motion.  We don’t follow a program and our lives aren’t predictable, and by tuning out of life, we hear only one note, not the entire symphony.

(That’s a lot of simile right there.  Maybe I should KonMari Method that paragraph?)

I’m a hypocrite though.  While I committed to Whole30 and therefore truly experienced what it meant to me, I haven’t done the same with the KonMari Method.  But I already feel like I’ve lost so much precious time this spring.  Time I could have spent writing, gardening, connecting with friends and family.  I don’t want to miss another minute.

I used to be that Tiger-Mother-KonMari-Method-always-trying-to-be-in-control wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend.  I didn’t like myself then, and this book pushed me dangerously close to that unhealthy territory.  Or maybe, by not actually doing The Method, I have missed the lesson entirely and I am my own worst nightmare- someone with an opinion on something that they have yet to try themselves.

Forgive me.

I blame Trump.

Can we KonMari Method him and his entire staff?  Now that’s a purge I can get behind 100%.

Why I March: Yoga, Basketball, Groceries

I am a serious introvert.  Professional level.  To honor myself, and to commit to some writing projects I had started, I promised myself at the new year:  I will only leave the house for my treasured yoga class, for taking my kids to basketball, and for groceries.  I was going to hole myself up in my study and make art and work on some house projects and not spend money and write, write, write.  I made this promise to myself.

Then I went out for coffee with a friend.  There was a funeral.  Took my daughter shopping.  My resolve was weakening.  Life happens.  And when you make a declaration to the universe, the universe will support you, but it will also throw obstacles in your way to challenge your convictions.  Stuff gets agitated.

Speaking of agitation.  The morning after the election, something in me broke.  The man who hurt women (me), verbally abused others (me), hated on people not like himself (me), and threatened the livelihood and security of immigrants to this country (me) was going to be our next president.  He was given legitimacy and I didn’t know if I belonged in this country anymore.  I cried like a baby.  I was so scared.  So heartbroken.  So disappointed.  My husband told me to get it together so as not to scare the kids.  He was right.  I am getting myself together like never before.  To support the causes and the people I believe in.  To help others.  To love others.

I initially didn’t want to go to the Women’s March on Washington.  What was the point?  Shouldn’t we be trying to resist his election?  So that’s where I focused my energy.  I resisted him as long as I could.  Until it was inevitable.  Also, don’t forget- Professional Introvert.  As the march grew closer, though, I started to get really agitated.  I knitted pink head wraps with hearts on them (something I’ve done for years) to give to my friends marching as a show of support and gratitude.  I knitted them fiercely and bravely and with love and I felt I was doing my part.  But when I found out my father-in-law was marching, a man who shows no outward signs of political activism, something in me clicked.  I don’t know what his particular reasons are for marching, but I felt incredibly honored and humbled just the same.  If he could make the trip, then so could I.  If I could find a last-minute bus ticket, I would go.  And I did and I am.  I started shaking and crying as soon as I committed.  And I am all over the place-  hopeful, excited, overwhelmed with gratitude, terrified.  But I am prepared- with love, with hope, with faith, courage, and strength.

When I told my daughter I was going to DC, she said, “Why?”  But she said it like a surprised 12-year-old:  “WhyyyyYYYYyyyyy?”

I am marching for her.  So that she will never be the victim of violence or abuse in any of its forms.

I am marching for her brother.  So he will see that women are strong and they stand up for themselves and they support each other.

I am marching for myself.  Because I am not going to place my own comfort above my ability to do good in this world.

I march for my husband, who only said, “If you want to go, you should go,” when I called to discuss it with him.

I march for my friends who can’t march with me.  Our circumstances are different.  I am grateful for the opportunity and I carry their names and their hearts with me.

I march for my neighbor.  My neighbor who put their Trump sign out on their lawn THE MORNING AFTER the election.  We are called to love our neighbor.  I am trying.  I march for them.

I am marching as one woman, and joining my voice with thousands of others into a beautiful symphony of love and hope.

I march for humanity.

In the wintertime, I feed the birds.  Their needs are so basic- fresh air, clean water, healthy food, safe shelter.  Life is pretty basic.  Have you secured that for yourself?  Good.  Now go help someone else get it.  Imagine if the entire world’s population’s BASIC human needs were met.  What all we could accomplish.  It is mind-blowing.

Beyond our basic human needs, we must learn to love ourselves before we can love one another.  Got that part down?  Good.  Now go help someone else.

We must promote social justice in all the corners of the world.  Have your rights been protected, promised, secured, and written into the fabric of this nation?  Good.  Now go help secure those same rights for every other single person who steps foot onto our soil or who has lived here for centuries without them.

All of my basic human needs are met.  I’m working on loving myself so I can love others.  Loving others, to me, looks like social justice work.  I have gotten my feet wet, and will continue to find opportunities to help.  I can honestly say that the only things I “need” above my basic human needs in this period of my life are yoga, basketball, and groceries.  I’m pretty lucky and I don’t take that for granted.

So that promise that I made to myself?  To only leave my house to secure what I needed?  Yoga, basketball, groceries?  I broke that promise. I have my boots.  They look like worn-out tennis shoes, but they’ll walk.

These are my reasons for marching.  Every person in DC and across the globe will be marching for their own reasons.  And they will be right.

We march for humanity.

 

 

 

Love Warrior (Oxymoron)

Beneath the shouting
I hear the stillness

The voices silenced
by fear
by anger
by hate

I see them
crouching
hiding
afraid

Eyes lowered to the ground
just getting along
No sudden movements
just getting by

And those of us
who don’t know these things directly
may no longer be silent

May no longer only say,
I am with you.

We must get our boots on.
And fight.