Friday, January 26, 2018

truth really is not for cowards. that shit can hurt.

i have spent the last couple of years trying to figure out how to find freedom to be my whole self - a whole woman AND a whole human. in the early days of this, i happened across a line of poetry from walt whitman -“From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines.” - and it resonated profoundly. 

i found myself trying to break out of the restraints the culture, the church and my childhood built around me. my first steps were, in retrospect, appallingly selfish. my pendulum swung erratically the other way and i went from making choices in spite of what would be healthy or good for me to making them in spite of anyone else's wholeness or healthiness... regardless of how those people were impacted. It was the only way i could see forward toward finding a healthy Self. i have come to recognize that it is only the easiest, not the only, way. As it turns out, living like that (a) offered no actual wholeness or health and (b) quite the opposite, it damaged and hurt people i love. i so wish i had found a way to have more balance at the beginning. it's probably easy for you to imagine that i'm speaking primarily about my marriage - and while a more considered way of moving forward wouldn't have changed the outcome, it would have been, i think, significantly easier on all four of us. i know that my selfishness hurt my beloved daughters - can hardly bear to write that sentence. there were also friendships i lost in the midst of it that period of time. i deeply regret that. i am honestly ashamed of how self-focused i was.

I would have done well to have found the whole poem and let it's tone inform me.

 . . From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me . . .  

i did not move forward gently, or with pausing, contemplating, receiving. it's hard to look at the chaos my selfishness caused. i don't like to acknowledge that ugliness is in me. but i know that it's important to look at it. i know that if i can't see it, i will never be able to change it. admitting it exists really is the first step, i guess?

as i stutter-step along this path, when i am clearheaded and honest it seems that, at best, wholeness is a myth sold alongside perfect skin and easy relationships . Thankfully, it also seems that a more-whole self is not a myth. i am learning to recognize where self-care ends and selfishness begins. it is connected to the idea of an "us first" mentality mentioned in a previous post. i am not a truly healthy, more-whole self when i exclusively put myself first, although it includes that. what it really looks like, for me anyway, is taking a minute to recognize the complexity of humanity in all of it's messy forms and doing the best i can to enter into it, while still taking time to, "gently, but with undeniable will, divest myself of the holds that would hold me."

Saturday, January 13, 2018

the sexy part?

i am on day 17 of my trial budget. i am on day 6 of keeping track of my eating. (admittedly, back to day 0 not drinking on "school nights"). i ordered new glasses and went to the dmv. we made a menu plan, bought groceries, and ate at home all week. had my daughter and her boyfriend over for dinner. are catching up on  laundry (well, he is ... )

this is not the sexy part of adulting :) (is there a sexy part?) it's the real thing, though. life is made of our small moments. someone said once that you get the life you build, and i think that's both true and not true. i think it might be more accurate to say you build the person you will become. you can do all the hard work and make the best choices you can for a lifetime, and still have life utterly destroyed in a mudslide. that's not the life you built. but who you are, covered in mud, in the face of total loss - that is what you have been building for all of those years. we build our character in our choices.

i am fond of saying that being a human is hard, and that is certainly true! but being a human in relationships with other human beings is very hard work. but it's also where the good stuff is... i think it might be the sexy part of adulting. it is where you see the friends laughing over coffee, the tired couple at the end of a long day at work sitting on the couch hand in hand... the moments where you find the hospitality of an open door and an open heart. a moment, a word, an action is like a bullet. you can't take it back once it's left the barrel. one of the most critical parts of being a human, adulting if you will, is recognizing that and taking it seriously. life and death are given in a simple sentence.  in the struggle to be human we will find that forgiveness and affection and courage and beauty can be born ... if we let them be. But we can also bear hurt and loneliness and anger.

i've had occasion recently to think about who i am building myself to be. the moments happen whether or not we want them to - the opportunities to define ourselves are endless, you don't have to seek them out. i do think, though, that we have to be aware of them so that we can learn to be human together. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

portrait of a lady

the other night i was curled up in his lazy boy, reading my new henry rollins book (highly recommend, btw). he brought his drink to sit beside me on the couch,  and he was shaking his head in wonder.  "you look so good in that lazy boy. i wish i had my camera - i would take a picture of you right now."

i'm pretty sure i rolled my whole face at him, knowing that there was no way he was serious. was he even looking at me? i was Rachel Deconstructed.

"no really!" he protested. "look at you, all tucked in there." he proceeded to describe my evening attire... black floor length nightie, oversized maroon sweater and my christmas slippers (which have puff balls on the top of the toe). "you are exactly what a woman is. a lover and a college girl and vaguely mom-ish" (or some such trio, i confess i can't exactly remember, but it was perfect.) "i would love to capture this moment."

i don't know if i've ever felt more *seen*.

being truly seen is intoxicating because it's rare. we often look, but rarely see the human being across from us.  but to have someone really see you, to recognize you, and love all your parts...that's the stuff dreams are made of. mine, at least.

it's not just between lovers, either. we look at, but pass by, our co-workers. our friends. our parents and our children and bartenders. but these are whole human beings who deserve to be seen. who needs you to see them?

Monday, January 8, 2018

through a glass, darkly

i was married for 20 years. i grew up in the church, got married in the church and worked in and for the church for all of those years. now i am divorced. gosh, that sounds abrupt.

i don't (necessarily) blame the church, (and even if i did it would be the small "c" church, not the big "C" Church), but i am beginning to recognize that what it taught me about love and relationships wasn't always helpful. the graces of the second half of my life include, that from time to time, these unhelpful things show themselves in stark relief and i can start to shed them, or at least see them for what they are.

we were sitting on the deck, watching darkness fall and squirrels scamper,  and having one of the quiet, evening conversations people have in the dimness; when the day has wrung us out and the traffic stops and the only sounds come from the giant, leafy homes of God's creatures. you know... when it's like our filters aren't in place yet - a bit like being just on the sober side of drunk. sometimes we say things unintentionally that are more true that other things we say.

what he said was, "... and as long as we keep putting *us* first..." nothing earth shattering. nothing shocking or odd. but i was rattled as though someone had shaken me by the shoulders.

wait want me to put "us" first? not put "you" first? what i learned about love, about relationships, really about being human at all, was that you the imperative of love is to to put the needs of someone else above your own. "Love (with a capital "L") is an action word." personal need was always subjugated to "love" as a verb. what i absorbed was that if you're not suffering or giving something up, you are clearly not loving enough. Love is a fight to put yourself aside.

practically, it turns out that is a terrible idea, at least for me. the opposite of self-care isn't selfishness, it's self-harm. when i don't take care of myself because i am "putting your needs" above my own, eventually, i will wither and die.


what if in Love i put *us* first instead of *you*... and you put *us* first instead of *me*? what if the first question by which we measured our options wasn't "what's in it for me", but rather "what's in it for us?" how would that look different? maybe it would be the end of subtly competitive conversations about whose day was harder, so that as partners we could take care of each other with the quietness of tired people rather than demand all the care for ourselves. maybe it would look like you acknowledging that i really have had a shitty day, so you set aside drinks with a friend to make sandwiches and watch reruns.

i can't help but think that Love would be so much firmer if we were able to know and trust that our partners were considering not what was good for them, but what was good for us. respect and mutuality and genuine affection could flourish in that kind of love...and that's the kind of love i want. i want to learn to put us first... thanks, love, for telling me it was an option.

Friday, March 31, 2017


north carolina is my favorite place to leave in the spring. when you leave, if you squint, you can see the blur of faintest green in the trees...and 5 days later, there is a riot of green bursting out. around the lake in 80F today:

turtles stacked like dinner plates on a drying rack
red-headed woodpecker
male cardinal feeding his baby
white ducks
mallard ducks
white heron hunting
canadian geese
dozens of zebra butterflies
a bunny
squirrels galore

i will always be grateful to live here... the cold, small town prairie girl has become a woman with a warm & fat & happy heart... and life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

your music

the music of life is my daughter's voice over the phone, choking with sobs that she got into the competitive program she so desperately wanted. it's my dog's tail thumping against the edge of the couch and the tinkle of ice in my glass. it's the early spring leaves pushing their last fore-bearers to the ground in the warm, inky breeze. it's the literal music on my google home, the pop of texts from friends and the tap of my fingers on keys.

the music of my life is "c'mere" and "what episode are we on?" it's when you keep saturday nights free for my friendship (full of need), and in random afternoon sportsballs at the bar (where all of my questions are patiently answered) and we sip cranberry vodkas. i hear it when you say that i am loved, and that it matters that i exist. i hear it in boxes of kitchen utensils and it's in your voice and laugh when i finally get to see you face to face.

it's also in the chug of the photocopier broken by laughter, tears at my kitchen table, the videos of meg covering pink and sarah barrellis ... and even the videos of hank the bat hamster. god help me, it's even in the (cliched) birds outside my window in the morning.

here is what i am (slowly) re-learning. i cannot make the music of my life. *you* make the music of my life. i would love to say that i am a strong, independent woman - and maybe i even am - but without your drumbeat/horn line/thumping bass/tight harmonies my life is empty. i hope i make some music in your life, too, don't get me wrong.... just don't mistake my contentment for anything other than listening to the melodies you make in mine.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

the velveteen rabbit

i remember many years ago my mom telling me that she felt like she was "carrying around a bag of gold" all the time... by which she meant (i think) that all the experiences, wisdom, collected reading and thinking that she had done became a part of who she was that she was able to then share with others.

i think i might be carrying around a (small) bag of gold. admittedly, my life has drastically changed - some would say fallen apart - in the last 8 months, and so much of who i am is being discovered or redefined in new ways. but slowly the integration of who i was and i who i am seems possible. and for that i'm *so* relieved.

one of the things that i've begun to see is that my life has always been full of spiritual formation - reading, fasting, studying, teaching, praying, mediating - all for the sole purpose of believing (experiencing) that God actually loved me. but no matter how devoted i was, i never believed it. the more i tried to prove my worth, the less worthy i felt....the more God's love seemed mandatory instead of chosen...and mandatory love, like mandatory fun, is neither love, nor fun.

i couldn't live with the disparity anymore. i spent a year consciously telling God that he was mean, and i wasn't going to believe in him anymore, and how could he? i turned my back at every spiritual impulse. funnily, it didn't take me long to realize that i totally believed in God. his absence proved how real his presence had been. my life without him was so scary. i became willing to admit that God was real, but not that he loved me voluntarily.

then separation. fighting. trying. losing the battle. being ostracized from my church community. losing friends, losing dinner with my daughter every night... so much loss. no one chooses that much loss for fun, in case you were wondering. this was never in my plan.

but i was talking to my friend kim the other night, and i pulled some gold for her out of the bag i didn't know i was carrying around.  i realized all my formation wasn't lost. it's still there, but it's being redefined and restructured. after we talked for a bit, i was struck by the realization that i am more sure now, in my inarguable brokenness, that God loves me than i've been. i even believe that God *likes* me. which is contrary to everything i was taught for the first 40 years of my life. but i actually think it might be true. in the suddenness of the moment, i blurted out to kim, "i'm like the velveteen rabbit!"

the velveteen rabbit. worn. covered in disease. no longer good enough. it wasn't until that was the reality of the rabbit that he was able to become real. and it was because in that broken, worn and dirty state he was still *so* loved. the state he was in didn't matter... in fact he had been loved through all the things that had made him faded and torn and "worthless". and it was because of the immense love that had been poured into him for all those years that he became real.

*please* do not misunderstand me. i'm not saying that losing my marriage has made me real, or whole. it has not. it's been awful, if i'm honest. but i am saying that somehow, all of this hurt and dirt has allowed to begin to experience a love i have spent years longing for. now that i know i'm no longer able to prove myself worthy of anything, i have nothing left to prove. but i feel the flutter of life inside of me. God is making me real - not because of what and who and how i am, but regardless of what and who and how i am. because (weirdly) he likes me. how shocking is that? God *likes* me. that's much more shocking than if he just loved me. "God is love" means he loves everyone, but liking someone is a preference... a choice. i think i might be God's velveteen rabbit.