selah, star child

The memory of exhausting  emotion and then throbbing, empty pain is all I have of you, little one. Elation, then suffocation. You were but a wisp of a thing, sliding on through from this world to some other. Stardust to stardust. (I read that this is true for all of us. 93% of our mass is stardust- matter changing form but unchanging in substance across space-time. It is infinitely more hopeful to think of you this way than as a clot of cells contracted out and washed down the toilet in a little basement apartment in toronto.)

Tonight I planted seeds for our little vegetable garden and marveled at the life and nourishment that will come from these tiny pods of possibility. When your life ended you were already much larger than they – the cheerful pregnancy websites say you were the size of a blueberry, with eye color and eye lids and internal organs. We were beginning to be tethered together by our placenta, if I could have held onto you. Oh, all that you could have been if I could have held onto you, dear one.

My inestimable star child. One day my body will be reduced to ashes, scattered or flushed or swept away into this world or some other. Some day, we will be as one. It is not so lonely when I think of this, you and I becoming soil for growing things, life-sustaining molecules ingested by wild creatures who, as Wendell Berry says, “Do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.” Wise ones.

Parenthood has given me fear that I did not expect. I do not fear for you, Selah. I trust you are more where you are than you could be here. This world could not hold you. But the longer it holds your brother and sister and father and I and all those we love, the more I grieve the end. There is a wild and terrifying man and many like him sowing seeds of fear and greed that are already taking root in irreversible ways. What is there to do but sow our own seeds of hope? Of life? Will you nurture them, Selah girl?

I feel the elephant weight of mother’s guilt confessing this, but sometimes I feel the relief of only two children. Even as I carry my grief, you are one less child to worry into the certainty treacherous future. In my lifetime or certainty Rowan and Evelyn’s, there will be water wars and major weather events disrupting growing seasons and floods and the death of marine life and more animals will become endangered before disappearing altogether. I feel powerless. But you are already doing wild life-sustaining work – the bits of star energy of your cells nourishing the ground or water or comprising the very cells of the creatures that struggle along on this beautiful, dying planet.

Thank you for your gift, Selah.

I carry you always in my heart.

You are life.

You are death.

You are neither life nor death, for you straddled the space between.

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You are stardust.

For more about Selah and our grieving journey, I’ve organized my writing about miscarriage here

 

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looking for the light

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It’s been almost three months since I last gathered up my thoughts and spilled them out in this space. I usually find peace in writing, but this exhausting and uncertain season has drained me of my words. Words used to engage with others about the political climate, the policy decisions, the ways they affect our neighbors. Words offered in an effort to seek understanding. Words shot off as snarky comments like a release valve, exhaling pressure and anxiety in quick bursts. I’m struggling for some elusive balance, an equilibrium with this new world where uncertainties are our constant companion and falsehoods, threats, and taunts are delivered to the public from our president via twitter each day.

There have been weeks where I have let myself be ruled by these concerns – spending hours watching press conferences and scavenging for the facts of the last 24 hours, giving myself over to all of the reactions and reactions to the reactions. I thought, at first, that being super informed would be the safest strategy. Nothing would get past me and I wouldn’t be taken for a fool or swept up in any #alternativefacts in my ignorance. But I can’t sustain the frantic pace of his tweeting fingers and the international fallout of his words. I am exhausted. Neglecting and intensely impatient with the kids. Overwhelmed by a world I felt increasingly hopeless about. The space between thoughtful engagement and getting caught up in the reality-tv-show of it all is impossibly small.

And in real life, we spent the last two weeks inconveniently camping on our living room floor. An enormous possum died above our bedroom, but because of some landlord politics and because we initially hoped it was just a small squirrel in a wall that would quickly decompose, we moved our bed and clothes out and the air purifiers in. It was two putrid weeks of chaos, tripping over everything, lots of petty arguments about laundry and piles and crumbs in our bed. Late nights and early mornings and too much toddler tv and a lengthy flu virus that turned the twins into miserable, needy little people. We finally called the landlord and said we just couldn’t take it anymore and things improved immensely when his critter guy found and bagged up the massive creature. At long last we moved back in last night.

As we reassembled our bedroom, put away all the piles of clothes, and swept the house clean of dust and diapers and everything else that had accumulated around our makeshift campsite, I felt a sense of calm returning. A feeling of place-ness. A grounding. I belong here. This is my space for rest. These are my books that inspire my work and capture my imagination and fuel my hope. Here is my pile of waiting-to-be-sewn christmas pajamas. There is the box of random crap we don’t have a place for. Everything as it should be. And is there anything as wonderful as the first night on clean sheets, everything tucked in and tidy?

I settled in, set my alarm, popped in my glamorous grind guard, turned off the light, and turned on a meditation. I know it speaks to the absurd pace and amount of sensory input we subject ourselves to, but this meditation is only 7 minutes long and yet it felt like a revelation of refreshment. It’s an apophatic reflection – considering notions of God and how they run up against the limitations of our language in expression and understanding.

“God is wise. God is not wise, for God is more than wise. God is not not wise.”

“God is a being. God is not a being. God is not not a being.”

It’s a relief to be able to pause and think only about these simple, challenging things – to confess my doubts and wonder at the limits of my understanding. It’s grounding to spend time at the edge of what I know. But this is not my natural impulse. Since the election, instead of looking to rest and reflection as a framework for more sustainably leaning into these bewildering realities, I have been fighting fighting fighting, trying desperately to resolve them. Last night it occurred to me that my bewilderment at the world is an invitation  to meditate on the things I cannot even find the words for, let alone resolve.

I think there is powerful resistance in resting. Considering. Contemplating. God knows there’s not enough contemplation in our government right now. Or, frankly, even in my own home.

So as the living room has been returned to the children, the puzzles and books and tiny potties back in their places, so my intentions will be returned to the things that matter. I will engage with the circus of my government and the needs of my own city in a way that is thoughtful and honors my limitations and the other callings in my life. And just as I re-set the house each evening, preparing for the new day, I will make space for a clearing of my head-space each night.

I share this because I know I’m not the only one struggling to find the balance. I see the strain in the faces around me, I hear it in the way our voices sound frayed as we strain for pleasantries, skirting around a weightier conversation we don’t have the energy for. We need to lament. To grieve the state of things. And then we need renewed courage to act. To be people on a mission of light and love.

This grounding comes in the smallest things. Reaching out to friends. Checking in on neighbors. Noticing the people and places in our communities we have gotten good at ignoring. Sharing a meal with someone we love. Making or listening to music that stirs our soul. Creating art. Bringing order to chaotic corners of our home. Playing with some silly kids. Meditating. Making garden plans. Baking bread. Reading a novel or a children’s story that captures our imagination. Being outdoors. Soaking in a hot tub. Exercising. Writing a note to a family member or friend.

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There are a million ways to reflect light into a place but we exude the bright, healing warmth when we enmesh our lives with those around us. It is not easy work. Not the lamenting or the creating or the life-sharing. But it is good. It is what we all need. More than twitter or livestreams or even protests. Before the action we need the thoughtful contemplation and grounding. Then we can spend ourselves for our neighbor, knowing that our souls are nourished and ready for good work of truth-telling and love.

Make space today for the meditation your heart craves. Bake your bread as an act of lament and resistance. Share it with those you gather at your table. Light a candle to remind you of the power a single flame possesses against even the most menacing darkness. Find joy together.

Be at peace, friends.

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If you are new to guided  meditations and unsure of where to start, here is another from The Liturgists.

a lament for after the election

 

I have a heart full of longings and heartache and passion for good work that must MUST be done. But lately, words fail me.

This week my pastor friend John asked me to write some prayers for our community to wrestle and weep through this Sunday. I love participating in our church this way, but I struggled to capture the intensity and urgency and shock of things revealed this week. Writing is usually my refuge, the space where my heart spills out faster than my fingers can type, making clearer sense of the swirling chaos in my mind. Not this week. Instead, I found myself staring at quotes and scripture and hymns and prayers of saints across time, cursor blinking back at me, unable to tie it all together. After a few days of halfhearted attempts I finally assembled something coherent but unsatisfying and walked away. The weariness of this week had robbed me of hope. Prayer especially felt foolish and useless in the face of such desperation and fear.

But then this morning when I stood at a podium before a gathering of people leaning into their grief and fears together, I was overcome with emotion. I was reading the not-good-enough words aloud and believing them, intensely. I felt what I haven’t felt in many years, the mystery of the presence of something supernatural. The force of Love. It was powerful and unexpected and beautiful.

I’m still lamenting. Weeping for the fear and the anger and the hurt in my community and in the communities around our country. There is work to be done. It must start with listening to the laments of others. But I will carry this small flame of hope with me. This flicker of belief that though things are not as they should be, they will not always be this way. This quote from Martin Luther King Jr, shared today by our pastor, is exactly my hope in these wearying weeks of power and domination.

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

And so we start with prayer.

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Emmanuel. God-with-us. We kneel before you, a people worn through with the weight of this week. And so together as your body we pray for our country and for president-elect Trump. We see in our own community both celebration and fear as we consider the future under his leadership. Will you grant him all the wisdom and restraint and grace he needs to lead our country in the way of peace? We pray you will convict him to speak against the acts of violence done in his name. We ask you to stir within his conscience the weight and consequences of his casual attitude towards racism, sexual assault, and bigotry of all kinds. We also pray for help to see these same sins in our own hearts.

Lord in your mercy.

All: Hear our prayers

(silent prayer)

We pray for the Church in the United States, part of the body of Christ on earth, that it may be a voice of peace, a light of love, working for unity and for justice. It is hard for us to pursue peace when anger and fear are close at hand. We ask that you will create in us hearts that long for understanding with those we disagree with most that we may be agents of reconciliation in this fractured world.

Lord, in your mercy

All: Hear our prayers

(Silent Prayer)

Holy creator and redeemer, would you show us our own complicity in injustice? Convict us for our indifference. Forgive us for when we have remained silent. Lord, help us to see that without unity and solidarity very little can be accomplished as we strive for racial harmony and economic justice. As your children, we are in this together.

Lord, in your mercy.

All: Hear our prayer.

(Silent prayer.)

God of love, open our eyes to see the suffering of all our sisters and brothers. God of justice, open our ears to hear those who cry out. God of healing, open our hearts to acknowledge and share our own pain and the pain of others. In the power of the Spirit, let us know the truth, and may the truth set us free from all bondage and blindness.

Things are topsy-turvey in your kingdom, God. The poor bear gifts of great worth, the dead rise, the meek inherit the earth. Teach us how to live in an upside-down world where we are called to welcome the outcast, prepare a feast for the ragged, and forgive those who offend us.

We look to you for hope in all these things. Thank you for hearing our prayers.

Amen.

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Painting as lament and as an act of hope this Wednesday morning. We took paintings to our neighbors and it was the perfect antidote to my fear. 

 

learning to lament [a liturgy]

I wake almost every morning around 4am, partly out of habit after two years with early rising children, partly because of a bladder that will never be the same after having two humans sitting on it for the better part of a year. I tip toe to the bathroom so I don’t wake the kids and then back to bed where I lie awake staring at the minutes ticking by toward morning. I almost always end up scrolling through facebook, checking on the news before the world wakes, trying to get out ahead of the latest tragedy. Maybe if I can read right now about the latest aid convoy to be bombed by my own country I won’t be so paralyzed by it when I wake up again in the morning. Maybe if I watch the latest video of police brutality now, I’ll have time to process it before I have to see it splashed across the news and playing on repeat on the radio all day. And so I squint against the bright screen and the tears slide silently to my pillow and of course, it doesn’t work. I end up having awful dreams about a dark and desperate planet, waking just as clueless about how to make my way forward as the day before.

In this struggle I have been thinking a lot about lament. It seems to be a practice largely missing from our culture. We generally like to avoid the unpleasant, and when we must face it we often barrel through to pointing fingers or slip into comfortable apathy before we can be too affected by the darkness around us. Neither response offers a sustainable rhythm; we lose a bit of ourselves every time we avoid or attack or ignore. Here is what we are missing: it is deeply human to muddle along together in this mess. Lamenting what is not right in the world is a first step towards becoming the kind of people who can work to build a better one.

In response to the weight of these past few weeks I wrote this liturgy of lament for our church to speak aloud together. I’d like to share it here in case you or your community are also struggling to find the words or space for mourning the brokenness around you.

We here in Lexington are struggling to understand the racial injustice that permeates so much of our culture and the structures that support our daily life. We are struggling to know our response to the refugee crisis, to the endless wars our nation is always entangled in. We are struggling to sort out our own family and community conflicts, to mend fences and heal broken hearts.

And so we lament together. We lean into the brokenness as a first step towards stepping into the light.

Together.

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(The congregation reads the bold portions.)

God of everywhere and eternity,

you make your home among us.

God who is in the somewhere beyond space and time,

You have made us and met us in the dust of our place and our time.

You who are I AM.

You have named us and called us your own.

God, we acknowledge you as Creator of all people of every race, language and way of life and together we cry out

Do not turn your face from our shadowed planet

You have seen our brokenness and redeemed us

Abide with us now

Today we are mourning the darkness.

Darkness which forces families from their homes and communities.

Darkness which points fingers and fuels fear of those unlike us.

Darkness which puts bombs on sidewalks and bullets into bodies.

How long must we wait for justice?

How long will violence capture the imagination of your creation?

How long will power be used to diminish rather than to lift up?

Grant us a vision for a reconciled world.

Help us to do the work that often seems impossible.

The work of listening.

The work of forgiving.

The work of rebuilding.

Help us to see each other as you see us: your sons and daughters loved into being and sustained by your parental care.

Keep watch over our hearts so that the evil of racism will find no home with us.

Direct our spirits to work for justice and peace so that all barriers to your grace which oppress our brothers and sisters will be removed.

 

To the Creator of all peoples, who loves each of us for our uniqueness, we offer our prayers of petition:

For an end to discrimination in all its forms, we pray,

Lord of equality, hear our prayer.

That each person may be respected and valued as a child of God, we pray,

Lord of life, hear our prayer.

That the Church may be a witness and a universal sign of unity among all peoples, we pray,

Lord of unity, hear our prayer.

That each of us may acknowledge our part in mistakes and sins of the past pertaining to discrimination and racism, we pray,

Lord of sinners, hear our prayer.

For a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation among peoples who share a history of mutual mistrust, hatred, or aggression, we pray,

Lord of the broken, hear our prayer.

That the victims of racial prejudice may forgive those who persecute them, and that their persecutors may have a change of heart, we pray,

Lord of the beat down, hear our prayer.

That the Church will continue to strive to make every element of human life correspond to the true dignity of the human person, we pray,

Lord of life, hear our prayer.

For those who have struggled for civil rights, economic justice and the elimination of discrimination based on race, we pray,

Lord of justice, hear our prayer.

For the conversion of the hearts and minds of those who allow another to influence their relationships and limit their openness, we pray,

Lord of softened hearts, hear our prayer.

That we may work to influence the attitudes of others by expressly rejecting racial stereotypes, slurs, and be affirming of the cultural contributions of every racial group in our world, we pray,

Lord of diverse nations, hear our prayer.

That we may make a personal commitment to abolish social structures which inhibit economic, educational and social advancement of the poor, we pray,

Lord over all governments and powers, hear our prayer.

That we may work for decent working conditions, adequate income, housing, education and health care for all people, we pray,

Lord of all in need, hear our prayer.

Amen.

(portions have been adapted from the Augustinians of the Midwest,www.midwestaugustinians.org/justpaxracepray.html)

toddler liturgies

I wish I could take you back with me to freshman year of college. Trinity is so beautiful in the fall. So collegiate. Maples catch fire around the neighborhood and across campus, carpeting the ground with leaves that seem to glow like embers. Like all freshmen, we walked in groups, talking too loud, trying to feel at home in our new space. I was nervous and homesick and also a little giddy with the freedom of being 1000 miles from home. I relished my newfound freedom to structure my days how I wanted but I missed family dinners and the bickering and banter and fighting over whose turn it was to load the dishwasher.

It wasn’t long before I found my own life rhythms, channeling my homesickness into new disciplines: regular meals and coffee breaks with friends and professors, dedicated time for personal reading and writing, [mostly] regular bedtimes, morning runs crunching through leaves around campus. Courses on monasticism piqued my interest in contemplative practices. I helped develop a short lived but (personally) formative intentional community on campus where my commitments to these new rhythms were tested by the equally important commitment to my new dorm-mates. Daily readings, chapel, postured prayer, yoga, and other individual and communal spiritual practices gave shape to my faith experience. College was a life-giving season, earnest and sincere and good.

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That season began almost 10 years ago. After college I found new, slightly less-robust but equally earnest rhythms with roommates amid the demands of work life, and then marriage offered both challenges and opportunities for learning about life together. Each season different but also it’s own kind of good. But now in this endless of blur of days called motherhood I am utterly at a loss for how to fold in these swirling questions about faith and life with the constant neediness of my children. I feel lost. My deconstruction phase started before they were born, around the time we lost their big sister. As I wrestled with the messier and more troubling parts of my faith, even the familiar comforts of those practices seemed suspect. Daily mothering has taken the fragments of what remained and worn them down to dust. There is no time or emotional space here for the deep reflecting or lamenting or wondering at the mysteries of faith. There is just an always-full sink of dishes and an always screaming child and another one who is biting or destroying or peeing on a library book. The mysteries are still swirling away, trying to take root and turn into good questions, but they are constantly sabotaged by small children who have no regard for the inner life of their bewildered mother.

The further I stumble along into adulthood (is there an age when you have to properly recognize yourself as an adult? does that happen in your 30s?) the more intensely aware and affected I am by the immense suffering in the world. I can’t seem to stop reading about it and I can’t figure out how to move forward in life with the images of bodies of mothers and their newborn babies uncovered in the aftermath of the latest round of attacks in Syria, or the footage from shaking cell phones showing more black men being shot dead in the street because their very existence in this world threatens the white construct of reality. I am drowning in the weight of it, sucked down into the depths by my own inaction. But what does a mediocre stay at home mom, one without a particular vocational avenue for justice work, one who struggles to meal plan or ever get the laundry folded and put away, one who zones out after 8pm with Netflix or more depressing news for company – what does she possibly have to offer the world?

So, when my spiritual-adviser-turned-professor suggested I take his class on spiritual formation, I jumped at the chance. Now that I’m a month in I am realizing how much I needed the push to examine the fundamentalism I was raised with and to figure out which spiritual practices I could reclaim as life-giving and responsive to my new (and somewhat fragile) faith. It still feels a bit foreign to pick up the same worn bible from my teenage years and thumb past verses and passages once used to justify scary and destructive theology. My glitter gel pen underlines are bold and everywhere- the notes of a passionate 16 year old who wore her certainty like a badge of honor. And so even though I think I’m finally done feeling angry and disillusioned with faith, even though I want to wonder again, I have struggled to find the beautiful and hopeful to lean into. Or so I thought.

My professor prefers to talk about spiritual disciplines as “Practices for Spiritual Attentiveness” (an effort to rid the shame so many of us feel when we think about our less than successful pursuits of intentional study or prayer or listening). Attentiveness is something we cultivate moment by moment, day by day. A way of patterning life so that we live into it more richly, more present to God and others. As he was listing characteristics of this practice last night I couldn’t help but see my little R&E staring back at me from the whiteboard:

Simply being present to each moment: Check.

Keenly noticing the natural world: Check.

Slowing down the pace of life to attend to these discoveries: Check.

Intensely focusing on particular concepts or events: Check.

Attention to the emotions of others: Check.

They wail, they giggle, they dawdle, they lavish love, and they weep over their transgressions. This work that they are doing is a vibrant life-liturgy. Wails of lament and proclamations of love and everything in between. As I figure out my own attentiveness, I think I probably need to start by taking a cue from theirs and celebrating what I do know and see and trust in this great trembling world. She might be coming apart at the seams but we are leaning in together, binding up the broken places. I am comforted to think that spiritual practice is the leaning in, not the calling out. Lamenting, wondering, laughing, wailing, hoping, pressing ever on until every drop of energy is spent and deep rest awaits. This is the liturgy of toddlers and I want it to be mine too.

(I feel so inspired I’m going to post a bible verse now and try not to feel too weird about it. I’m reading this passage and thinking of my kids being dragged into the middle of the room to show the adults what it means to have eyes to see the world as it will be. Pretty wild.)

Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. Matthew 18 2-4

 

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[After class last night we walked out to this brilliant display. The crispness of fall has finally set in and the colors seemed all the more brilliant for it. It occurred to me that sunsets are a sort of planetary liturgy- they inspire and conspire to draw our awe together. In spite of everything else. Because of everything else. A balm for our souls.]

 

summer: an update

Time for a little recap. As much as I have been itching for fall I can’t believe we’re already at the end of summer and gearing up for Drew’s semester and my…um. What is it called when you live full time with two toddlers and don’t get paid? Indentured servitude? Yeah. I’ll be doing that again.

With hopes of keeping the dreaded tunnel vision at bay, I’m working on a very low key curriculum/guide for our fall together. It’s just so easy to get stuck in surviving the day, and some days we are still so there with sickness or tantrums or general 2-year-old-itis. But more and more often I am craving some kind of routine and push to get moving and accomplish something (anything) before the post-nap crank hours of doom that end with dinner and a downward spiral to bedtime.

So I’m planning some fun weekly themes, a few field trips, lots of mornings at the Y (free childcare is the best gift in the whole world), ping ponging between the free storytimes around the city,  and lots of library books and movies to help us learn about the world beyond our little kentucky home. When I pull a few more things together I will write something up on it, I would love to do a sort of virtual toddler co-op/idea swap with anyone who is interested!

I’m also starting a class at a local seminary. I’ve been seeing this really wonderful man for some spiritual direction (which is like counseling specific to working through questions of faith) this summer and he’s invited me to take a class he’s teaching at a seminary just outside of Lexington. When he first suggested it I felt like I had been handed a golden ticket of opportunity, an invitation to a world I feel I’m always longing to be a part of. But now I too can enjoy a whole evening of thoughtful conversation with other adults every week, reading wonderful books about mysticism and spiritual formation, writing (!) and sharing our thoughts with one another. I am completely thrilled. I’m not an academic at heart the way Drew is, but I have missed the college experience of living in a community of people who were daily exposing themselves to new and challenging material, and looking for friends to process with. I’m hopeful about the community I will find this fall!

So clearly I am leaning towards good things this fall. But we have also had a really lovely summer. I had the opportunity to work for an agency here in Lexington where I was able to assist two clients as they got out into the community and worked towards new and challenging goals. It was really refreshing to have a new space and new relationships to offer myself to, but also a bit difficult to find the energy for another caregiving/support role and then come home and offer the same to my own family. I really enjoy this work but the added toll of caring for young children is not a great mix. I’ll be taking a break this fall while Drew ramps up with classes and teaching. (Hence the desperate need to replicate the sweet freedom I enjoyed this summer!)

We were able to see both of our families this summer. My parents came out in June for a week of fun and caring for the twins while I recovered from a minor surgery. Thanks to some hazy days of painkillers I don’t remember a whole lot of what happened that week but I do remember lots of excursions out where the children were perfect angels as we showed off our new favorite city. Near the end of their visit we traveled down for a family reunion with my Dad’s side of the family and then I sobbed (seriously) for the first 30 miles on the road back to Lexington. It’s just too much to think that our toddler babies won’t see Nani and Papi for another year +!

At the beginning of August we had a visit from Rob and Bonnie who treated us to a fun road trip (hotels with pools! The kids were in heaven!) and vacation in South Carolina where we learned the proper way to do beach life: with sparkling water in hand, relaxing under the umbrella while Oma and Grandpa keep up with the minions. It was wonderful in every way. The twins had the time of their lives splashing around and digging to their heart’s content in the sand and we all returned home feeling rejuvenated for the fall ahead. The perfect last hurrah of summer!

 

I now understand why people move back home when they have kids, it’s such a gift to be able to watch our kids and parents share time together (especially when it means we get to sneak away for a meal or full night of sleep!). I wish it was possible to pop over for a weekend with them during the rhythm of regular life. Special visits are certainly that, but I wish for more of the mundane shared together. Until that is possible, facetime fills the void and I am grateful.

The rest of summer was a haze of humidity and heat that had us seeking refuge in the kiddie pool and fountains downtown while Drew and I swapped childcare duties – me to work and him to study for comps or tutor or work late into the evening at the grocery store. Liz and Zach drove down for the 4th of July and despite lots of rain we had a wonderful time taking in the sights and sounds of downtown at a patriotic picnic and the farmers market. They even cheerfully accompanied us to see Dory, an event which may have provided several years of free birth control as they watched us whisper yell at/wrestle the twins for most of the movie. They are the sort of wonderful friends who will not only put up with another chaotic dinner but also do all the dishes while you bathe the children.  We are so glad they have found each other and excited to celebrate their marriage next month!

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Catherine flew down from Massachusetts last week, the first time we had seen each other since we were littles ourselves! Our parents put us in each other’s lives when we were not much older than R&E, and a few years ago it was our writing that brought us back into each other’s orbit. It was a treat to have her here, seamlessly folding herself into our chaos, offering her laughter and peace. I’m now more certain than ever that a 3:2 ratio (at a minimum) is what a pleasant home requires. Would anybody like to live in our basement and help us parent? Catherine set the bar quite high, but she could totally type up some pointers or something. I can compensate you with the deep satisfaction that comes from unexpected toddler arms around your neck, smooching your cheeks and giggling before they bound off to discover some new skill or belt out a few more letters of the alphabet. It’s a wild time of life.

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But here we are. The dawn of a new semester. Weeks of curriculum have been prepped. Tutoring sessions planned. As of last Friday, comps have been written and while we wait for the verdict a new rhythm has already taken hold. Drew is done with the grocery store and we are basking in the luxury of evenings together. Family dinners. Sharing the exhausting circus of the twins’ bedtime. Sitting in different rooms while we work on our laptops late into the night. Marital bliss you guys.

Wednesday brings the start of the new semester. Drew told me tonight he’s only taking 3 classes so it won’t be too much to also teach an additional four classes and tutor four students. Freaking superman. I am looking forward to the post-phd life when we have boring jobs and stale routines and a meager but stable income. The novelty!

 

cultivating light as we lament

Like everyone else, this past month has me living grief to grief, horror to horror. Fighting against the apathy and resignation that press in after news of yet another attack, another murder. Trying to find the balance between awareness and lament and embracing what is beautiful. Feeling guilty that it might be dishonoring to the victims of police brutality or rogue gunman or terrorists to continue to share joyful meals with friends and play in the kiddie pool and occasionally lose a day to netflix and the laundry pile.

I am horrified not only by the fresh violence we wake to each day but also by the unfolding cultural shift from apathy to fear. For some, this fear compels them to defend and justify police violence. Others use the massacres as a platform to build momentum against all Muslims, embracing racism and religious discrimination as the only means to a ‘safer society’. I’ve watched as the bizarre theological justifications for hatred and oppression roll in, voices from the christian community shouting about God’s sovereignty as if it were a war cry. And then there’s this supremely sobering week spent watching the RNC where every fear or failing experienced in america is pinned on black or brown folks who are stripped of their humanity and painted as animals – violent, amoral, predatory.

My heart is breaking over and over and over again, for what is happening to the world and for how it is revealing just what kind of people we are. What kind of person I am. And I feel paralyzed by the task before me: to raise children who know not just to love but to actively seek out the forgotten, the beat down, and listen to their stories. To lament and love. How do you teach these things to a child? I sit at the kitchen table watching as black men are shot point blank by the officers they are supposed to trust and respect and my children sit across from me trying to bite and smack each other, fighting over graham crackers and blueberries. And the more I watch and read the more volatile I become, stressed and afraid and sorely lacking in patience.

And so from this worn-through place, nerves frayed by the darkness of life and also by the guilt at my ‘grief fatigue’ as a privileged white woman in the most affluent nation in the world, I’ve been reflecting on the meeting place of beauty and lament. I believe there is power in naming victims and pushing against both overt and casual racism and injustice. I believe there is power in educating those who don’t understand, sharing what I have been taught when I did not understand. I believe there is power in weeping and mourning and leaning in with neighbors as we grieve. But it isn’t enough. Without the opportunity to cultivate beauty and reshape our world, we are stuck here in this dark shadowed place. And so I wonder, what can creativity as lament look like?

I’m reminded of this wonderful professor in college who led free yoga classes each week. We would pack the largest rooms on campus, our bleach-stained towels laid out end to end as we sought refuge from the stress of frenetic schedules and unending to-do lists. We longed for rest and rejuvenation, and as soon as we began she would encourage us to set an intention for our practice. She challenged us to choose a person in our lives for whom we can offer our practice of peace and strength. I know some people write off this side of yoga and mediation as new-agey and bogus, but there is something powerful in intentionally spending an hour thinking about someone else and what it means to offer them peace and strength. Sometimes I thought of friends who were struggling with hard situations and sometimes I thought of people who were making life hard for me or others, people I was struggling to make peace with. Either way, for one quiet hour each week I was oriented towards this radical, mystical kind of giving. I need more of that in my life in these dark days. Maybe you do too?

I’ll keep thinking about what it means for me to make space for lament-birthed-beauty, and I would love to hear how your creative impulses lead you to bring light and life into our shadowed spaces. Tonight I plan to do yoga, for my own centering and for those in my life I am struggling to understand and love. I will shove aside the dirty diapers and scattered toys and lay my mat down on top of the carpet of crumbs. I’ll light a few candles and try to let go of all that I cannot control and set my intention upon that which I can: loving others. Unconditionally.

summer nights and suicides

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We were outside tonight when it turned cool. A breeze pushed off the humidity while the sun filtered through the trees and the light danced around our patchy yard. I was weeding a bit in the garden, puzzling over my puny pepper plants and marveling at the discovery of a four inch green bean on a plant that’s not much taller. The kids were running around with their neighbor friend, all of them in diapers as they splashed in the kiddie pool and traded trikes and dragged tiny lawn chairs around the patio. We chatted with our neighbor and made plans for more landscaping in our shared yard and looked after each other’s children. It was a snapshot of the best summer has to offer: time for rest, cooling off, nurturing relationships, and coaxing life from the ground.

We came inside for dinner and Drew bathed the kids and then we all cuddled together in our great big bed. The smell of lavender and chamomile bubble bath on their skin and their wet hair and the weight of their bodies on mine as we snuggled down under sheets had me full to the brim with joy and peace at being in-this-beautiful-moment with them and their silliness and laughter. They smacked big kisses on our cheeks and lips and blew raspberries on our flabby bellies and begged for tickles and I ate up every moment.

And then, after we put them to bed I scrolled through facebook and came upon a sobering video (put out by buzzfeed, no less) about the culture of fear and violence we have grown up in, specifically through the mass shootings that have defined our childhood, adolescent and young adulthood. He makes a plea at the end not for shares or likes but for action, for millennials to reach out to political leaders and communicate our longing for a different country. One that moves beyond partisan talking points and towards actual flourishing.

And then before I could process all the feelings I have about that, I glanced down and saw the news about the suicide bombings in Istanbul. 36 dead. 140 or more wounded. And I’m overwhelmed with the rush of so many feelings (fear, guilt, anger, shock, apathy) before settling on heartbreak. Heartbreak for a world rife with violence. Heartbreak for families checking in for vacations and visits to family and ordinary business trips. People waiting to greet loved ones returning home. All of them now casualties in the wake of this hideous violence.

I think about my small life, safe and sheltered from the effects of coups or rebel armies or terrorist groups. There are no drone strikes or armies marching through my neighborhood. No suicide bombers at my grocery store or church or airport. It’s just me and my little family, playing in the yard, coaxing food from the earth mostly as a hobby (we have four well stocked grocery stores within two miles), bathing our kids in freaking organic bubble bath. It is at once everything I could hope for and also everything I am ashamed about. Why was I born in this country and not in Turkey or Afghanistan or Syria? Why am I not one of the refugees carrying her possessions and children on her back while I put as many miles as possible between myself and the terror-torn country I used to call home? Why am I not among those who must weigh the risk of death and the need to fill her pantry, feed her family? Why am I not a woman from a small Syrian village, forced into ‘marriage’ with an ISIS fighter?

I teeter on the edge of this fatalism, willing away the beauty before me because of the evil elsewhere, an elsewhere far far away from here. But no. In these dark days we must all claim the goodness wherever it can be found. When we meditate on what is love and joy and peace we can reorient our lives towards it and extend it to others. Even on the darkest of days.

Fear is cheap. Easy. And ultimately, fleeting. Hope is like a small flame against the darkness, a single candle lighting one and then another, each reaching out to spread light and then all of the sudden everything is illuminated and the faces of those who nurture the light are shining brightest of all.

Tonight, I weed my green and growing garden for you, Turkey. Tonight I spent time getting to know my neighbor a bit better and I have been changed by hearing her story of hard work and love of family and choosing to persevere through hard times. Tonight I am collecting my thoughts and writing them down rather than numbing them with tv or distracting myself with endless scrolling through posts on social media. These are small things, but I believe these smalls acts of human flourishing, of goodness, they will enable me to extend my flame to another. And maybe if we all reach out just a little bit further than we thought possible, we’ll light the darkest corners of this weary planet.

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Maybe you’ve seen this video circulating over the last few weeks. In it, former CIA agent Ammaryllis Fox reflects on her 10 years working on secret ops in the middle east. She makes a plain and powerful case for empathy – that if we want anything to change (really change) we have to find a way to listen to our enemy. To see their humanity. This feels like a really foolish thing to say on the heels of another terrorist attack. What terrorist deserves our empathy? But maybe it’s the kind of foolishness that dares to imagine something bigger than us vs them. Something beyond fear. A world of light.

It might sound like a silly optimism, this longing for a world where no person is so desperate or broken that they believe killing others is the only way to bring fullness of life. It sounds more than a bit childish. Incredibly naive.

But I think of my children and the world we are giving them and I can think of no greater ambition.

 

But the truth is that when you talk to people who are really fighting on the ground, on both sides, and ask them why they’re there, they answer with hopes for their children” – Amaryllis Fox

“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
– Wendell Berry The Peace of Wild Things

 

 

an introvert in the age of the internet. also, the apocalypse.

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

My friend Anna recently reviewed the novel Station Eleven and it piqued my interest. Granted, I’m a sucker for the post-apocalyptic anything, so I wasn’t surprised that I fell instantly in love and couldn’t put the book down for the next three days.

There’s something so raw and revealing about the genre. I love getting swept up in the intense mix of horror and romance, imagining of what will become of us. It’s all the more vivid when the story is set in places I have lived and loved. [Station Eleven begins in Toronto and winds down around the great lakes.] I try to imagine walking on the overgrown highways: tree branches tunneling overhead, wildflowers pressing right up through the cracks in the concrete. We haul our few possessions and our children in our bike trailer as we wander towards some vague sense of hope, looking for a place and people with whom we can begin again.

Just imagining this possible future puts an ache in my chest, thinking about the distance that separates us from our families. Would we ever see each other again? Then I feel a swell of hope when I consider what communities-becoming-family could accomplish together – all these years cultivating neighborhood gardens coming to fruition as people reclaim city parks and football fields and corporate lawns for crops that will sustain many families. I wonder, with a racing heart and lump in my throat, what kind of hate and fear might take over and turn neighbor against neighbor when we need each other most. I think grimly about this disorder and panic which is very real today all over the world, driving families to flee terrorists or prop governments my own country has set up; all these brave parents putting their lives in danger in the hope of offering their children the chance to live to adulthood. What a luxury to read a book about such horrors from the comfort of my very on-the-grid apartment, safe and sheltered and struggling to really picture the collapse of my community. [And I don’t know what it means to steward this gift, this wild privilege.]

Speaking of privilege: when I came across the paragraph above, the barest reminder that online is not everything or forever I was stopped still. Of course I know this is true. I can clearly remember the pre-computer area and the day I went with my family to buy our very first. I’ll never forget the dial up screeches and the black and green screens and the eventual advent of youtube and myspace and xanga and every social media outlet after. And yet, online social interactions have become such a integral part of my life that I feel a sense of loss when I consider a future without them. What will life be when I can’t facetime my mom 1200 miles away? How will we navigate home to Iowa for Christmas without our maps and messages conveying travel plans and apps to find cheap gas and fastest routes? (Assuming somehow travel by car is even possible in this future world.)

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No internet, no more crazy hilarious very loud family skype calls. One of the more serious losses to be sure. 
There’s a passage a few pages later where a scientist rigs up a bike to power a computer and they try to “find the internet”. That image makes all of this modern virtual life feel so small and useless. The whole of the internet, locked away on servers that can’t be accessed without electricity and satellites to transmit their content. There is no way I could resurrect such a thing, and yet it is so meaningful to me. It represents a home-space for my writing and for sharing life and wisdom and loss and dreams and passions with friends through emails and messages and social media, a collection ofwords and photos and videos to help us remember what it looked and felt like to be in these times and places. The more I think about this – the future scenario and also my current dependence on and participation in these technologies – it makes me wonder if I’m as present to my daily life as I am to these bits of me that are locked away in some warehouse of servers somewhere. And if they were to disappear, would I know myself and those around me without them? Would I have the skills for and commitment to reaching out and drawing in, deepening relationships without the medium of snl clips or funny memes or soliloqous blog posts?

And no, I’m not angling towards some kind of media fast, decrying the fleeting reality of online life and culture. It’s more that I’ve been swept up in a ‘what could be’ and now I’m simply struck by the vastness of what is and what I want it to be.

I want to make sure my online life and my tangible life are the same. That if I use the medium of blog or email or video to connect with a loved one – sharing highs and lows and encouragement alongside my own doubts and fears, then I am also doing that in real life. Weaving such honesty into the rhythm of my days, over meals and at the park or in my messy living room.

As an introvert, I feel like I was made for the age of the internet. Given a laptop and an empty evening I can explore ideas and cultures and questions by myself in the virtual company of others, leaning into their unique experiences and observations from the comfort of my couch. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by mothering I head to my moms of multiples facebook group (a sentence I always feel sheepish and adolescent saying aloud) where I can vent and laugh and share ideas or lessons learned and absorb all of that from everyone else.

I love those women, they are a safe and rich space for expressing our parenting triumphs and disasters. But I wonder if we would we be as candid and intentionally encouraging if we all lived around the corner from each other, barging into each other’s messy living rooms, filling sippy cups fished out of a sink of dirty dishes. I hope so. But the truth is that even though I want to embrace my neighbors and friends in my actual day to day life, I fear unannounced company and spend frantic hours before playdates restoring the house to some level of basic order. Spending time with another adult + multiple toddlers is wonderful and also spectacularly emotionally draining, the thought of trying to carry on a conversation while the dirty diapers and moldy pile of kitchen towels and a carpet of crud serves as ambiance is just too much for me. (Even though I live in that state 95% of the time.)

And so, contrary to the diatribes of every grouchy baby boomer who believes the internet to be nothing more than a new party-line: a space for gossip and humble-brags,  I think I am often the truer version of myself online. Perhaps because I posture myself a bit, but largely because online life happens at a pace I can engage with intentionally and thoughtfully. I can read about a friends’ horrible day or new challenge with her preschooler or absorb an intense news story and then think about it for a while before I respond with just exactly what I want to say.

The cynic might say this is filtering, only showing the most optimal version of myself. And I agree. Except. Except it doesn’t have to be the best. Just the honest. In the honest space between messages and emails and blog posts I have the time to filter through to the heart of my feelings and fears and desires. In this pause I can find words for what would otherwise go unspoken in the rapid pace of most conversations, even those that aren’t interrupted by little people in a state of constant need.

Of course, online life can be as compulsive and overwhelming as any real-life interaction. Anywhere that tired and insecure humans reside, wisdom and thoughtfulness are lacking and the oversimplification and ridicule of complex ideas are in abundance. So what then? Does it make a difference to press into these friendships?

I believe it does. I believe in the power of vulnerability to transform these dark and fractured spaces. I read one of Brene Brown’s books last fall and it was such a relief to learn that these deep desires for connection and honesty I’ve always felt make me the odd one out are truly beautiful gifts I can offer others. Her work has also helped me understand why so many people, even those I care for deeply, are so resistant to (what I see as) thoughtful, honest interactions. But I see now that when we are plagued by our own insecurities and fears we can’t step beyond our walls and masks. We rely on sharp comments, empty platitudes, and small talk to defend, deflect, and distract others from our true selves. Brene writes:

Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

This life lived out of worthiness, whether online or in my kitchen, is transformational. For me and for you. What I believe about myself will shape who my children are, both in the ways that I treat them directly and in how I model self-love and grace. Who I am for them today and in 5 years and when they have their first big screw up and when they find someone to love – my place and the reach of my voice and love in all of it will depend on how I offer my truest self to them today. Even (especially?) as two year olds. In this stage they are little sponges, absorbing every turn of phrase, latching onto every habit and norm. This frightens me. But it also fills me with hope.

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Things I need to remember: These people will likely be parents and spouses some day and also they are already neighbors and friends. 
Hope for a generation that values and invests in the humanity of others. (Something disturbingly lacking in our culture today, if Brock Turner  and Trump (and Ryan, and the rest of his republican cronies) are any indication.) Hope for a family culture that loves well, argues well, respects differences, honors vulnerability, leans into hard times, and trusts each other in our failings. Hope (and gratitude) for friends as family who desire these things too.

Of course, I’m not gunning for an apocalypse, but I’m captivated by these stories because they make the present so much more real. I read about the days leading up to the collapse of everything and wonder “Would they have lived differently if they had known?” These stories inspire me to lean in. To become more curious and to let that curiosity compel me to extend vulnerability into new spaces in my life. To live grounded in today but also leaning into the tomorrow that empowers and sustains, seeking out humanity wherever it can be found and elevating the expectations of honesty and kindness as we let down our guard and take the hands of those we find on the same journey.

Virtual or real, our longing to be known abides. May we lean into it with the quiet confidence and joy of the wholehearted.

 

summer intentions

We’ve been hanging on for weeks, caught in the chaos of the end of the semester and everything else – job offers that fall through and new jobs that suddenly spring up, health scares, trips to see friends, teething toddlers. “Just one more week,” we keep telling ourselves as we tuck into bed after midnight again and again. Just one more long weekend of furious paper writing and grading. Just one more week of night classes, one more week of solo bedtimes, one more week stuck at home, kids riding bikes back and forth and back again across our 20 feet of patio. Just. one. more.

And then suddenly, it has come. The last papers will be soon submitted and Drew is home again. It is sunny until nearly 9pm, long after we’ve finish dinner (together! a luxury we haven’t enjoyed in months!), washed the dishes and finished our other chores. I carried the garbage out at 8:42 tonight and marveled at the slow spread of orange and pink and crimson reaching up from the horizon. We have had friends over for dinner on a weeknight (!) and enjoyed slower mornings with time for walks around the neighborhood in the still-cool part of the day. It is everything we have been longing for and more than once a day we’re exhaling the long hard spring with proclamations of “This is so so good.”

But I am restless.

All the dreams and goals and projects that have been deferred for such a time as this now feel like a load of work and expectation and the fear of failing weighs. And so I sit around watching waste-of-time tv, folding endless piles of laundry, side-eyeing the pile of books that are supposed to inspire my writing.

Summer is a pause for us, a long inhale of fresh air between no-moment-to-spare semesters. Drew will be devouring the Philosophical cannon in preparation for comps this fall and we will both be working more hours than usual, but without the intensity of his class schedule we will have time together. Time for play and for rest. Time for making plans and for good work and for friends and visits from family. And still: the restlessness. It pulls me already ahead to August, looking at the fullness of life this fall. Why are we doing this? Will it pay off? Will our marriage survive three more years of this? Could there be anything else for us? Are we doing the right thing?

And so I need to set a purpose for this time. This “how did I get here/what do I want from this life” season. Something to anchor the days that are now split between toddlers and a new job. Something to help tie together all these fragments and questions. Something to breathe fresh perspective into the musty closed up closets of my creativity.

So: My hopes. Dreams. For this summer, at least. May a summer thoughtfully pursued (with a heaping measure of grace for all that does not go according to plan) perhaps launch me into more thoughtful and restorative life patterns for many seasons to come.

  • I began a new part time job this month and it feels like a turning point for nurturing new rhythms into our life. This summer Drew will spend more time at home with the kids and I will be out more, less responsible for every moment of their intense little lives. (praise be.) I want to do this job well. To be really present in the hours I spend working with, befriending, caring for some new friends who walk through life with different abilities than me, and just as present in the hours I have with Drew and the kids, re-working my habit of splitting my attention between mindless social media-ing on my phone or half-listening to a podcast or half-engaged with my family while keeping up a text conversation with someone else. I want to be there. I’m sad that this goal alone feels like such a challenge, but this is the first step. Wisdom about the unplugged life is welcome!
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UN. PLUGGED. This girl gets it.
  • I want to train for and run a 10k. My health issues have been conspiring all spring to derail every renewed commitment to my training plan, but I will not be deterred! (Thank you to the wonderful YMCA childcare workers for their saintly kindness to my screaming children, although I fear your high turnover rate and our increased use of the center may be related.)
  • I want to find ways to weave contemplative practices into my slower paced summer life. So obviously, deliberately screen-less time. More bread baking. Reading scripture and the reflections of mystics. Gardening. Meditation. Prayer.
  • I want to write about it. Maybe a book proposal: contemplative habits for parents of young children. (Except with a title that doesn’t sound like a poster presentation at an undergrad theology conference.) This idea feels wonderful and like it’s been a long time coming and also truly terrifying. I have no idea how one goes about proposing a book, or if anybody would want to read such a thing, or if I could actually write it! But other than that, I’m totally excited.
  • I want to get back into a regular habit of recording the small bits of my days. Journaling, just for me. What we did. Who we saw. What we fought about. What I longed for.
  • I want to create. I don’t know what – maybe curtains for our boring bedroom or some paint for the kitchen or we could finally print some photos and hang some of our 65 ikea picture frames. The bar is low but I am craving beauty and our home is severely lacking.
  • I want to garden. This is something I must do – we’ve invested so much in building the beds and buying seeds and dirt. But I want the daily work. The mud and earth and waiting and tending and weeding and the veggies. Feeding my family and our friends with the miracle fruit of our labors. The calm and quiet and mystery of calling forth life from the earth.

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  • I want to sleep. Lots of sleep. I need to stop staying up so late, trying to squeeze every last drop from the day – reading that one last article or finishing another episode or comparing 14 highly rated bike trailers on amazon. I want to settle into bed and feel my body relax the weight of the day before my consciousness fades. To be present even to my rest.
  • I want meals shared around our table. I want the extra chairs to become permanent fixtures because we’re opening up our home so many nights of the week.
  • I want to enjoy Lexington. The hard part about this will be curbing my impulse to throw up all my grievances on Drew when we finally have a spare Saturday to enjoy together. I’ve developed a terrible habit of holding our rest times hostage until we work through lingering conflicts and it ruins so many good family days. I want to learn to let go. To take the long view. To make it out to the farmers market, even if the laundry is scattered and the sink overflowing and the shoes are left muddy in the middle of the kitchen.
  • I want to work on my marriage again. These kids take and take and take all of my energy and desire to be with people. They take it all and it’s still not enough, and so I’m frazzled and short and disengaged with the man who is my best friend in all the world. We need time to rebuild and relearn each other. To celebrate surviving an insane first 5 years. To dream about the next 5 and 50.

 

I turn 27 tomorrow. I’ve never had hard edges on my dreams for the future – who I wanted to be or what I wanted to accomplish or where I wanted to live and share such a life. Parenthood has made those vague notions even fuzzier, I feel like I’m in danger of losing myself entirely if I don’t press into these longings and reach for the firm walls of the way forward. I hope that in a year or two or ten I will be able to look back and see the growth, even if it isn’t in the direction that I planned for or in pursuit of the dreams I’ve laid out. I just want to grow. To be more loving and patient and kind and gentle, a heart renewed and open and inviting.

I wish there were these hidden stores of wisdom somewhere, the secrets to holding all my hopes in balance with the realities of life, gracefully continuing on even when I fail myself and the ones I love. But, better than that: I imagine that such wisdom is scattered among all of you, my friends. Your unique experiences and passions and heartaches. We can light the way forward together.

Here’s to 27. May I love better this year than last. May I wait more patiently. May I respond more gently. May I magically transform into a person who stays on top of her laundry situation. May I adopt a slightly less canned/weirdly dramatic/repetitive writing style. May I acquire a faster metabolism. May there be a sequel to Station Eleven. Okay okay. I’ll save the rest of my birthday wishes for tomorrow.

Cheers to a wonderful restorative summer for all of us!

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Thank you to Kendra for these delicious almond sponge cakes!