Tag Archiv: friends

Not alone

compliments of Kenia from morguefile.com

compliments of Kenia from morguefile.com

We are not alone. None of us are. We’re stumbling in the dark trying to figure out how to be it or do it. Hold on to it or let go of it. Sometimes we don’t even know what it is –  except we’re sure that everyone else does.

Voices whisper that there is no one like us. No one would understand. We are lonely and afraid to be ourselves. We live expecting someone to come through the door and tell us we’re not doing it right.

If it’s not we, at least it’s me. My childhood was soaked through with confusion. Life was a puzzle with the box missing and it was never clear which picture we were trying to assemble. I prayed, went to the library often, and wished I knew who to talk to.

As far as I could tell, talking wasn’t what people did. It took years for me to understand that this was because most people assume that they are alone. That they believe their feelings of inadequacy (and all the proofs thereof)  are unique to them alone. Life was, I discovered, a great deal of pretending. Performance and appearance are some of our world’s most sacred values.

I’ve made some new friends who don’t have it all together. They don’t try to hide their struggles. No one has any energy or interest in pretense. My friends are giving me something that I want and without meaning to, I find myself studying them, trying to understand it.

This caught my eye in a paragraph from writer, Heather King talking about what we have to give each other. We have, she says, “our wounds, our holy longing, our groping in the dark.”

What we have to give each other is the truth that we are not alone.  Despair and shame assail, but against the sharing of “our wounds and holy longing,” they are rendered mute by the voice of love.

It’s like we live in ditches, sitting up to our armpits in mud with the garbage of every car that’s gone by squishing up against us. We can see neck and shoulders of the person across the road. We’re equipped with a washcloth, a voice, and a curling iron. Standard etiquette is to keep your face clean, your hair curled, and make frequent reference to the sunshine or the birds.

One day the unthinkable happens. The woman across the way stands up from her stretch of supposedly manicured lawn. The ear rings you’ve admired from afar are the last nice thing about her. Not only is she muddy, she only has one leg. A diaper and a squashed coke can are stuck in the mud on her.

Relief floods you. Tears wash down your face. You are not alone.

In your ditch, there might be diapers and coke cans. In mine, there is a winter’s worth of dog poop, some very frustrated dreams, uninvited levels of emotion over little things, a lot of uncertainty, some recurring unhealed mess that is completely fine until the days it isn’t (which really ticks me off unless it makes me cry), shame, self doubt, and an abiding loneliness. My bounce backer function is also behaving rather erratically these days.

We are not alone. This is the truth that we have to offer each other. These are the words of our gift until the final word which is love.

Jr. prophets and teachers

compliments of morguefile.com by dave

compliments of morguefile.com by dave

A week ago I was on a very well planned vacation. I knew everything about who, what and when. There were lists of options and lists of set itineraries. I knew it so well I stopped looking at it.

And then my brain missed an entire day. The plan was to leave Georgia at 6:00am sharp on Thursday morning. Somewhere in there I started saying, “Thursday is our last day.” This despite weeks of excited planning about meeting a friend along our route on that same Thursday. It was 7:15am Thursday when I realized that I had invited my aunt and her family out for the day to a home in which we no longer had accommodations. 7:15 when I realized that there was no physical way to meet my friend by  1:00. We weren’t packed. No one had eaten.

I felt sick. This does not happen to me. Except it was. My aunt was looking forward to another day with us. The much anticipated hours with my very dear friend were being cut down to very little. There was no way of fixing it with either of them.

We drove to my aunt’s home. She met me dressed to the nines in preparation for our visit. I explained the situation and apologized. “It’s alright,” she said. But it wasn’t alright. We visited there for an hour. I wiped my eyes and tried to hold it together. We said goodbye and got on the road. I set to crying in earnest. My husband could not get past the idea that eating a sausage egg Mcmuffin was the answer. I ate it and he felt better.

There was no way to undo anything. Now we were late. For more than 7 hours we were late. I am not wired that well for ongoing failure. I’m big on making things up to people but there wasn’t any way to make it up. Until 5:30pm we were not there yet.

It should be called a good day. Although shorter than intended, the visits with both my aunt and my friend were deeply meaningful. I was still muttering about my massive failures getting ready for bed when my oldest daughter began singing softly.

Everyone makes mistakes oh yes they do . . .

It’s a song Girl two brought it home from school a few years ago. Turns out it’s from Sesame Street:

               Everyone makes mistakes oh yes they do

               Your sister and your brother and your dad and mother too

               Big people small people matter of fact all people

               Everyone makes mistakes so why can’t you?

 

At home a few days later, I was telling the story of Michelle’s most awful disaster. “My aunt, my friend, the kids, they all forgave me, but it was awful . . .”

Which is when a freckled eavesdropper marched over to the sink where I was going dishes and tapped me on the arm.

“You know what I noticed,” said my youngest daughter on her tip toes so only I would hear her. She is missing her two middle teeth at the top. “Everybody else forgave you but you didn’t forgive yourself.”

She turned on her heel quickly and walked away, armed folded across her chest the way she does when she is sure that she is right.

 

Chicken coops and sunshine

Really, I promise we will fix up the outside of the coop this summer (and paint it)

The first two of many brave chickens. (And really, face lift for outside of the coop is  coming…)

I received the following in an e-mail this week:

You worry too much, woman. You call YOURSELF a square peg. No one else does. We love you dearly. Know that. Believe that. The burden you place on yourself is far harder to carry. Far. Harder.

Considering how completely together I have it, there is probably a sense of shock that someone would feel the need to say this to me. Or not.

I read the e-mail. Cocked my head (kind of like a chicken) and read it again. Huh. I read it one more time and then started folding laundry so I could think. I called my husband.

. . . I got this kind of weird e-mail. Now I’m walking around with this crazy thought in my head. Like what if I’m not a failure? Maybe I’m not even failing. Maybe the book taking so much longer than I ever thought doesn’t mean anything other than long sagas are frustrating and things take time even when you don’t want them to. Maybe I’m not doing anything wrong.  Maybe this is just the way it is. Maybe everything is ok and I can just keep plugging away at things when I can and not worry about the rest. I mean, is that crazy? Seriously, what if I’m not a failure?

He didn’t think I was a failure. I said goodbye and put on my snow clothes. The chickens love the outside but they don’t like standing on two feet of snow. I shoveled some paths and space in the outside part of their coop. They didn’t come running so I stole some hay from the cows, made a dry place to stand, and lined it with food scraps.

Somebody had invited me out into the sunshine. The chickens were the only ones home I could think to pay it forward to. Invitation complete, I watched for a minute and enjoyed with them the way it feels when you’re stuck in a coop for so long all winter that you forget about the way out and then someone points to the door, calls from the outside and beckons. You cock your head to the side, let it bob around a bit to show you don’t take risk lightly, tip toe back and forth a few times, then bob out into the fresh air and sunshine to look around. Breathe. Smile. It’s not so bad out there.

 

Dear Reader,

Having been so graciously invited myself, I pray that similar invitations will be extended your way. Beginning now or sooner, may a path be shoveled through your two feet of snow, your coop entrance cleared, and enough hay put down to make your feet happy. In answer to your courageous head bobbing from your very wiggly neck, may the sun rise each day and the treats at your toes be as pleasing as rotted fruit or discarded vegetable scraps.

Yours in the Journey –

Michelle

People gawking to see why something's different. Par for the course.

People gawking to see why the chickens are daring to opt for fresh air.

All Souls Day Again

Inspired by All Saints and All Souls, I am working on a piece about death, but it’s not quite ready. When I made attempts to talk about death last year, a former student of mine from Mexico wrote me afterwards. I found his brief response to my writing more profound than what I’d written. The video he shared took me by surprise. First I wasn’t sure I liked it, then I almost cried. Since tears are one of my shyest friends, when they come round I take notice, say thank you, and give their inspirations a big thumbs up.

From my wise now adult friend . . .

Your blog made me remember how we forget that death is not suffering, it is part of us, and we corrupt the meaning. I found this video about the tradition in Mexico!    

 

 

 

Birthday Party

fall 2014 133

Girl one is different kind of bird than I am. Consequently, I admire her but am frequently at a loss as to exactly what to do with her. Maybe because her dreamy artistic self is sometimes lost to me in translation, I worry that others will pass her by. Her love of beauty and her need to create come standard equipped with a lot of distraction and a fair bit of stubborn. Following the crowd has never occurred to her. On the other hand, not quite knowing how to be a part of it, bothers her quite a bit.

She made recess fun for herself for a few years by creating her own school, appointing herself principal, and recruiting younger students to attend. This year her institution dissolved. Half the time she is cheery about friends. The other half, she thinks nobody likes her. I coach from the sidelines with limited success. Holding on to an idea not her own for more than ten seconds is not a strong suit.

I look for ways to get involved, but modern life complicates things. There are no other children who bike to our house, or vice versa. Kids get together by adult arrangement only, and therefore not very often.

Somehow in my mind, the answer to all of my worries became the birthday party this past Saturday.

Modest party goals were: fun, inexpensive, and child feels loved, not just by me but by all her friends. Conversely, the friends should feel loved, have fun, and leave wanting to come back. While providing good wholesome fun in the spirit of yester yore, avoid needless excess, needless waste or nutritional suicide.

So yes, I was a little anxious going into my daughter’s party. The bad weather plan was for the each girl to pick a kind of cake and make it. They played. It rained. I made the birthday cake. They played dress up and put on silly fashion shows. I called Girl one after an hour and asked if she wanted to skip the cakes and just keep playing. I heard, “keep playing,” and the sound of feet running back to join the others. I made some cupcakes for the girls to take home. They giggled and ran around and played. They made hats and purses out of old newspaper. After three hours they had satisfied every single one of my criteria for a party. I did nothing but listen from the kitchen, admire fashion displays and wonder why I worry so much. Or how in the world I ever thought it was up to me anyway.

 

Concessions

My favorite but not the top vote getter

My favorite (I’m crazy about trees and wind) but not the top vote getter

 

I am not a picture person. I don’t naturally reach for a picture or ask to see pictures of other people’s children. Most of all, I am uncomfortable with pictures of myself. I have grown up enough not to hide when people take pictures of a group. (Maturity aided by hurt feelings of more than one event where I spent time wondering why no one included me in any of the pictures only to realize that someone had been me.) Despite growth, I have been reluctant to post a picture and my minor forays into electronic communication never include a tidy little avatar, real or sketched.

Read the words, I want to yell. Who cares about a picture? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to only know my voice? Pick whatever height, weight, skin, hair, face that pleases your imagination. I’ve told you I’m a woman, are imaginations so challenged of late that the rest fails to be adequately filled in as it suits?

Sometimes I like to see the picture of an author at the back of the book, sometimes I think it ruins it and I would have rather kept them exactly as I had them in my mind. Apparently, my views are not widely shared. A picture is not requested but required to even submit some other writing that I’ve done. Sigh. Procrastinate. Wonder if failed imaginations will rejoice if I have myself photographed in my lucky writing shirt, a blue plaid flannel? Somehow I know this is a bad idea.

I beg my friend to meet me at a nature sanctuary near her house with a camera. At least outside I don’t have to figure out what to wear. We spend exactly 5 minutes at the photo shoot. Me with navy coat and red hood showing, Me with just navy coat, Me with just sweatshirt. Despite cold fingers, my friend graciously offers to shoot more. I pretend to look around for another location for 3 more minutes and then pronounce the shoot finished. I can’t take any more of the pressure. Enough bending out where it feels a little dizzy. Time to get back down on the ground.

But which picture to pick? Requests for advice from six friends yielded almost as many responses. Luckily, many told me their second choice so I could at least manage a quorum. Final decision narrowed it to three. I’m sending one for my submission, using one for social media, and using the other for the About Me page.

This picture taking business has me thinking of my mother.  She would have known exactly what she wanted for a picture and been content doing it for ages. She has no doubt come  to peace with the fact that I never will. But she’s probably happy that I at least gave it a shot.