Finding My Way…

Just now, I was driving home. Weaving my way through familiar, but snow-chilled roads, darkened because of the late hour. The air outside is heavy on this January night, as if it had been holding its breath until Christmas, and had exhaled almost all of its light two weeks ago. It is quiet. The kind of quiet that makes usually unnoticed sounds loudly reverberate, until even car tires going smoothly over pavement seem to disrupt nature.

I was alone in my minivan, which is relatively rare. It feels like wearing a dress five sizes too big, out in public. This is just me, right now, but I am so much more, I want to say. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I fill each of these seats, almost daily, with people that mean the very most to me. But just now, as I was driving, they were home, snuggled safely in the beds that I make. Wrapped up, like joyful burritos, in the warmth of  clean blankets. Their freshly washed hair, splaying over pillows that I have purchased from one of millions of trips to Target or Costco.

I am more than I look like, right now, alone. Even if I don’t look it. Even if I forget it.

My stomach growled its protest as I continued driving past a still-open Mexican restaurant. What is it about tamales that make them always sound so good? I wondered, but kept driving.

The temperature seemed to descend quickly, black ice formed patterns on well-travelled roads.  Just after the swelling gray, otherworldly cathedral, a sprawling, taupe hospital rose in front of me. Hundreds of lives hung in the balance inside. Isn’t this place sacred, too? This ever revolving door to eternity, where first and last breaths are taken, where prayers are answered, and hopes are forsaken. Isn’t this space filled with life and death? This building where waxed floors gleam, and blood spills too freely, where boring means that another heart will awaken, and forever will have to wait, just a while longer.

I have been there, have spent so many nights, looking out of those impersonal rooms, through the waist to ceiling windows. Sometimes looking up, begging, other times looking down, thanking. All five of my babies have used their voice for the first time in the sanctuary of those hallowed walls. Bright lights, metal, and sterile cotton have born witness to there being a reason that my own heart keeps beating. I have sung and swayed, lost in this something that is so much bigger than my ability, this nurturing of humans that will one day call me Mommy. My rough hands, always too large, have been baptized by the wonder of faces so new to this earth, and have softened, impossibly, into instruments both gentle and sure, as if this was not their first time touching glory.

I have been changed, more inside those walls, than inside of any church.

Still, tonight, I feel lucky to keep driving by.

The skyline twinkles, a million man-made stars, fighting off darkness, 100 watts at a time. I pause at a light, that is only directing me, then make my way swiftly through the lonely intersection. Within moments, I find myself at our house. It is a place I too often want to escape, or take for granted. But now I find, it is everything I need, and where I want to be. The view may be lacking, but I’m grateful for what I can clearly see. Tonight, this old home that seems like it doesn’t have a prayer, feels like heaven to me.

 

Meeting You…

“It’s not fair,” she said. “We don’t say it’s not fair, sweet girl,” I responded, “we say I’m happy for you.” “No fair, no fair,” she tried again. So then, did I. Turning her little head to the side, she seemed to drink in my words, or maybe sip them a little, deciding if she would keep them in or spit them out.

“I’m happy to you.” She finally said. And I laughed, yes, yes, I’m happy for you. “No,” she said, “I’m happy to you.”

And just like that, she has me thinking. She is two and a half. She has dark hair and eyes, but the air around her is filled with light. Sometimes I swear that she sparkles. She is the baby that I thought would undo me. And yet, I find that she builds me, builds our family, into what we should be.

I’m happy to you. It’s so simple, but true. Isn’t that the way happiness is? I’ve talked about it before, how and why we practice saying that we are happy for others, even when they get what we think we wanted. But this time, I find that she is the one teaching. This little dimpled beauty is leading me.

Doesn’t it require action on my part, to truly share in someone else’s happiness? Don’t I have to allow myself to move, or at least shift my heart, from burdensome jealousy to emancipating joy? It does not come naturally to me. I still find myself stomping inside, petulant toddler that I can be, angry at all the unfairness (I think) I see.

I say it often. I try to rejoice with others, and most of the time, I actually mean it. I am so happy for you. But maybe it’s time I do something about it. Maybe it’s time I meet you there and truly share your experience with you. Don’t worry, I won’t suddenly start inviting myself to your houses for celebratory dinners. I promise.

It’s just that, maybe there’s more. Maybe we can all be happier, together. And not just happier, but less alone in our grieving.

Maybe it’s late, and it’s been a long week, for reasons I couldn’t possibly have foreseen.

But, I still think she is onto something. This little wonder has taught me so much about life. She has held my heart in suspension, since the day I met her. I love her more than I thought I had left in me to love. And I think I had better heed when truth speaks.

There is so much that I don’t know. Big picture speaking, I have maybe a corner of a corner that I can clearly see.  It’s a corner filled with orange sunsets and azure skies, where right and wrong war, and the truth refuses to back down or hide. It’s a place of rejoicing, of laughter and singing, but also a place that knows too much about grieving. I have seen kindness, in it’s resplendent robes, but I have also seen children’s eyes fill with terror when they hear the name of their mother’s boyfriend spoken.

I can see in my corner so much good in the world, and it keeps me going, when the bad tries to cover it with it’s dark, muddy waters. I have witnessed grace, and longed to be a part of her story. I have seen sure things fade, but also, so, much, beauty.

I don’t know what you know, or how things look from your corner. But maybe meeting in the middle is the only way we will find both the rest of the picture, and each other.

With Thanks…an open letter to the woman who likes my husband, and isn’t me.

The truth is, that no matter what I am about to say, I cannot control you. I cannot make you stop acting inappropriately towards my husband. I cannot force you to be kind, or gracious, or respectable. I cannot change what I see in your eyes every time I catch you staring at him, or the way that you lean your whole body towards him as you make a point to talk to him every chance you get.

I have seen you try to hug him, or casually touch his arm during conversation. I have watched as you smile and wave at him; and now, I have watched as you joined activities that he is involved in, that I am not.

And, I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for showing me how much I have to lose. Thank you for reminding me how much I want to be with my husband. Thank you, for walking away every time I have tried to engage you in conversation. Thank you for shooting unkind looks my direction when I was talking on the stage. Your lack of support made it really difficult for me to share the truth about how my last year went, and harder for me to be so honest about the areas that I have been so much less than ideal. But really, it just made me fight through my own baggage and get where I want to be, in the light.

I admit freely that I wasn’t always so grateful for your presence. From the first time I met you, I saw it. The something is darker than you are pretending, oh  you like my husband even though you know he’s married and we have babies, vibe. It’s not my favorite. And to be honest, my thoughts towards you weren’t very biblical. Except, didn’t Jesus braid a whip and use it, because I could have gotten behind that idea….

Oh, just kidding. Kind of.

The thing is, you have perfect timing. The last year was a perfect storm of my husband and myself coming unglued and back together. It was not our best year. Or, maybe it was. Because if there is one thing that I have been learning over the last year and a half, it’s that I want to live in the light.

My truths are not always pretty. My life is loud and messy, and overflowing with mistakes. But it’s mine. I own it. I take  responsibility for all of it. For the good and the bad, for the things that I want shouted from the rooftops, and also for the things that show up on my hips. For the bitterness that I am finally learning to let go- there is no one else to blame. For the anger and resentments- I admit that I, alone, stored those hurts in dark corners of my heart.

For so long, I tried to look and act how I thought I should. I wanted to be accepted and admired, if not loved. I told only my funniest stories and hid my tears, and tried to clumsily find my way around, in a life that I was building in the dark.

But the truth is freeing, and I don’t look good in chains. Once I started telling my story, I haven’t been able to close my mind to the truth. I like the light. I like the way it feels to walk uprightly and feel the sunshine stepping inside, honored guest, into my soul.

I’m not going to let this situation go any differently. I am bringing you out into the light, with me.

My husband and I have been talking for days. We have tried to use our words as a flashlight, to illuminate everything, and make sure that there is nothing to hide. Not just with you, because what we have is so much bigger than you, or us.

I cannot control anything you, or anyone else, do. But I have chosen to forgive you. I choose to be soft and not let my heart grow hard. I refuse to be bitter, or angry, or react out of hurt. I won’t say mean things, or join in your glaring. I will just live my life, to the best of my ability. I won’t turn my head, but I won’t turn over my heart.

If it weren’t you, it would be another. Trust me when I say that there have been others. The difference now, is inside of me.

I mean it when I say I’m grateful for everything you have shown us. I wish you health and joy.I hope that life gives you only good things, especially ones that aren’t already married to me.

 

Striking Midnight

They say that whatever you are doing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, is how you will be spending the next year.

While I am not sure who exactly “they” are, I have been following this adage for years. It has given me permission to make sure that I am doing what really matters to me at the end of every year, and at the beginning of each new one.

Once, that meant calling the fiancé that I had broken things off with, and meeting up with him on December 31st, when I hadn’t spoken to him in just over 100 days. Two midnights have passed, with me, on the couch, too angry and proud to walk up the stairs and put an end to the fighting with the man I married. Other  years, midnight has found me, tired, bleary, and trying with all of my heart to calm a crying baby, still surprised by how much you can love another human.

Interspersed years, and subsequent years, have been filled with friends, parties, fireworks, great conversations interrupted just for a moment to kiss, and children’s eyes filled with wonder. Wonder, that they have actually stayed awake to see not only a new day, but a new year, and that somehow their mother has decided it would be fine for them to make marching band equipment from her new Rachael Ray pots and pans.

Midnight has found me, noisy, and quiet, resolute in my wrongdoing, but also in doing what is right. Its arrival has been counted down, anticipated, and once, slept through, as it quietly tiptoed past.

Just as they said, the years that followed have been filled to their brim with laughter and tears, kissing and dancing, and trying to calm unseen hurts and late night fears. Our lives have echoed loudly with joy, unexpectedly, over and over again. There have been hugs and hand holding, a dizzying amount of potty-training, and love. Always love.

This year, I had just finished watching Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, with my sister on Netflix. My children were all sleeping safely in bed. I had ten minutes after the movie to brush my teeth and run up the stairs, where I woke my husband for our new year’s kiss. We started the year by saying what matters, that we love each other, that we are committed to each other, that there is no other, and other things that are just for us.

I fell asleep thinking about the movie, and also about clean slates. I’m so grateful for a new year. I need a fresh start. I don’t know about you, but so much of last year was hard. This fall, well, it felt like one. And I must have scraped my knees, because I have been standing for a long time, and I still feel a little weak.

But yesterday,  was magical. It was a day of cuddling and rest. We ate great food and spent time together. We laughed, and just enjoyed this life that we have chosen. We embraced each other, and shared our hopes for the year ahead. There were no surgeries or sickness, no homework or stress, just my family, together. It was, absolutely, without question, the best.

I know that this year will have its own ups and downs. I know that I won’t have all of the answers to the questions that will be asked. But I know that there will be mercy and grace, just waiting to catch me, like netting under a flying trapeze. I know that there is hope, and that most people are good. The sun will shine again, the air will warm. I’m going to do my best this year, and let other people’s bests be enough. So far, I couldn’t ask for this year to be off to a better start.

I don’t do New Year Resolutions, but I do have a wish. May each midnight find you, where you want to be. May your truth shine like a clear morning, with what you want to see. May your family be healthy, and may all that you do, accomplish only good things, then come back to you. May this year find, your hope has come back again, and may we all be smiling, when it comes to an end.