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Resurrection Day, 2016

 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commoms

 

I wanted a flashy day with loud music, confetti, and line dancing but God said No. Resurrection is a process.

I wanted a forgettable day with daffodils, blinding sunbeams, and enough perspiration bleeding through my t-shirt to prove that Winter had come to an end. God provided a pale day and a chastening spirit which chilled the bones of the beeches and chattered the ghosts which clung to their outstretched arms.

I zipped my jacket and kept hiking. Hints of redbud pink rewarded my perseverance.

Today I sit behind my desk and discover that I have one delicious hour more than I had expected. I have forgotten my utensils and, in the privacy of my office, peel and eat a sweet potato like an ice cream cone while typing these words with sticky fingers. Ideas rattle in my own skull, crowding one another and asking for safe passage onto paper. I choose to bring this one to Life:

God has provided another perfect day.

Mad Hatter

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

Sept 26, 2015

Mad Hatter

I am anxious. I am irritable. I have too much time between clients and too much time to think.

Isn’t this what I wanted? To think? To think about writing? To contemplate my enjoyment, which has become tinged with fear, and may be tipping into dread? I love writing for you. Yes, YOU. I also feel frightened and exposed. My perfectionism is a stitch in my side. And the demands of blogging etiquette stretch my introversion to desperation even while I enjoy your writing, and I lap up the comments you send my way.

I have a few moments, and so I continue the waiting I began earlier this week. I talk to God some. Mostly, I listen. I need to learn what comes next. I am both wonderfully strong and entirely dependent.

I purposed—and I think I still do–to finish my blog threads Family Rules and The Story of Hanna. I had written most of my material before the idea of a blog had even crossed my mind, and I have spent the months since February polishing and supplementing the pieces through which I have experienced freedom from suffering and greater self knowledge. During this therapeutic process, I became aware of a desire to try my voice in the hearing of others. I started this blog. All of this felt God-led.

Now the realization of my goal is within sight. What lies ahead?

I am known for fleeting passion. I gardened with fervor for a few seasons and then dropped it cold. My husband Henry and I worry about the appearance of the flower beds I started but do not maintain. Are the neighbors pissed? I crocheted my fingers to the bone last year, and now I can hardly stand the sight of yarn. Early in our marriage, I cooked everything but pasta from scratch. Then it was couponing for a few years. Before I started blogging, I was addicted to Bones reruns and Bejeweled Blitz. You see my pattern?

I have had to review, at many junctures, which parts of me are ME and which are merely hats which have caught my fancy. I have a list of ME parts. I keep it to remind me of who I am when I am in danger of becoming confused. Without it, I don’t think I would like myself very much, and I think I would have a hard time looking God in the eye. God’s pleasure in me is my guiding principle, or at least I want it to be. Not because of fear. No. Because I have experienced the goodness of God and can’t unknow it.

Here are some ME parts:

My relationship with my husband.

My relationship with my children.

My relationship with God.

My counseling career.

There are others as well, but these suffice for now. I am committed to the maintenance of these parts even on days when Henry and I argue, my daughters spill nail polish on the rug, God seems remote, and work straight up sucks. I will attend, fight for, defend, and nurture these parts even during times when my love is a discipline scant on warm feelings.

Writing might be a hat. I can’t tell. If so, it is one which I have worn with enjoyment. I might wear it for a while longer. Or I might put it in my closet and wait to see if it comes back into fashion. Then again, maybe writing is meant to become a part of ME. If this is the case, I will need to learn how to make a more permanent place for it within this anxious and chaotic woman. God can show me how to do this—and I will submit to this molding–but I don’t believe I can do it on my own. Perhaps writing will occupy some role which I haven’t even considered. I will have to wait and see.

And so I have entered a process of discernment.

Which, at times, requires me to lie in my bed with the covers over my head.

So that when I have become fully divested, I will do whatever God asks or permits.

Because following God is not a hat.

Petunia

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

I wrote this in Fall, 2013, while slogging through my therapeutic writing about the infamous Summer of 2012 and its aftermath.

My brain is fully of heavy thoughts, and it is time to take a break.

I thought it would only be fair to devote a page to Petunia, a crucial but heretofore overlooked player in that summer’s drama. Who the heck is Petunia, you ask? Why my old pink laptop, of course!

I am writing on her at this very moment!

Incredibly, she is still alive. She still boots but her disk drive is broken. Her backup service has inexplicably failed. Several of her programs have mutinied and refuse to run. I have repaired her frayed cord twice—once with blue painter’s tape and now with purple duct tape. (She says the latter is much cooler.) She peppers me with countless error messages each day but I can see that she is trying to hang on for my sake, and I appreciate her for it.

Though Petunia should be past menopause by now, she still overheats and shuts herself down about every 30 minutes. But take heart! I am close to perfecting the solution. As I write this, she is propped up on my daughter’s pink and green polka-dotted eraser (It should come as no surprise that she is please with my choice.) and a packet of wooden chopsticks I found in the utensil drawer. She is being ventilated by a fan sitting on my big yellow Langenscheidt dictionary, which is in turn sitting on the white plastic Ikea chair across the kitchen table from me. It is October, and I’m getting a wee bit chilly….

I could use a cup of coffee but then I’d have to unplug something.

I am not making this up.

This is part of The Story of Hanna. For the previous installment, click here. For the next installment, click here.

Creative Blogger Award, Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me, and I Am a Shameless Cheater

I

I “borrowed” this from this blogger. I hope that is ok. If not, please let me know and I will take it down. You see, I AM really a cheater!

I stole this one from another blog. Sue me. No, no! Don't! Just ask me to remove it.

I stole this one from another blog. Sue me.
No, no! Don’t! Just ask me to remove it.

I want to thank my peers for the attention they have given to my blog this week! I both love and hate you.

I am ever so stoked about the kind words and the traffic on my site. At the same time, I think the excitement is making me a bit weird. I’m an introvert who needs a lot of solitude in order to be worth knowing. All those pings and dings rocked my world until I started to become overstimulated.

I realized I was in trouble when I woke up last night to use the bathroom and interrupted myself in the middle of a dream about a conspiracy by Canadian pennies to ruin the U.S. economy.

They were sneaking over the border unnoticed the way ants reconnoiter a kitchen. The idea was for the scouts to infiltrate and for all the other pennies to follow in a steady trail until Canadian pennies spilled out of every unsuspecting purse and gummed up every vending machine, thereby causing the U.S. financial system to collapse.

What might be even more concerning is the fact that I was so worried I would forget this dream that I grabbed the only writing implement handy (my kohl pencil) and jotted a short note on the only available surface (my dental floss container). To tell the whole truth, I wanted to write on the mirror, but my husband Henry would have noticed for sure and questioned my sanity.

I had to write it twice. I was so tired the first attempt came out looking like

I had to write it twice. I was so tired that my first attempt came out looking like “Prunies,” and I was afraid I would wake up the next morning with no idea what that meant.

Because of my limited bandwidth, I have decided 1. to respond to both of these nominations in one post, 2. take a break from accepting awards and nominations, and 3. save time by making up my own rules so that I don’t have to quit my day job to work on my blog. (I am grossly exaggerating for effect. Did you like it? I really have only 85 followers.)

Without further delay….

Many thanks to Mogromo for nominating me for the Creative Blogger Award. If you are reading this, I hope you will visit her blog! She’s not just another pretty face. Mogromo will take you on a tour of Frankfurt, complete with quality photos and personal observations. It’s the next best thing to being there. You will be in good hands as she enjoys researching her subjects and sharing her learning. Mogromo’s blog also assuages some of my homesickness for a city I love but have not been able to visit since 2004. I am pretty sure she will be taking us to Amsterdam at some point (Mogromo, is this so?), so don’t miss the adventure!

The award calls for 5 random facts about me. Here they are–except they are actually three truths and two lies. Can you spot the lies? Make your guess and I will answer in a couple of days. (as of 8/11/15, answers are at the bottom)

  1. I wear glasses.
  2. I wear Birkenstocks.
  3. I wear decals on my nails.
  4. I wear out a lot of can openers (strong hands!)
  5. I wear a bikini.

Here are the original rules:

* Display the Creative Blogger Award logo on your blog.
* Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify all nominees via their social media/blogs.
* Thank and post the link of the blog that nominated you.
* Share 5 random facts about yourself to your readers.
* Pass these rules on to them.

I nominate the following blogs/bloggers for this award. They may choose to follow the rules. Or not!

  1. Moylom Enterprises (a single mother and a woman of faith who also blogs for self therapy)
  2. Erich Michaels  (interesting and sometimes disturbing stories)
  3. Melanie Griffin (very authentic writing on spirituality, grief, social issues, and more)
  4. These Wings are Made to Fly (a newly-minted au pair from Europe heads off to her first job in Dallas)
  5. Shirley’s Heaven (the daughter of a mentally ill mother writes memoir pieces mixed with everyday reflections)

I would also like to thank Bumbi’s Mom for nominating me for the Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me Challenge. I’m just getting to know her blog, in which she shares amusing parenting stories and some helpful tips. I hope you will pop over and have a look. Ahhh, I remember those sweet and sticky days of young children….I suspect the next time I have those experiences will be with grandchildren. (Note to my daughters: No rush, ok?)

Here are the rules she provided:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you and answer their 10 questions.
  • Add the badge to your post.
  • Write your own 10 questions and tag 10 bloggers to do the same.

Again, I’m going to cheat and just answer her even numbered questions. You’ll be annoyed in short order because a one-word answer feels too limiting.

2. Favorite genre of music? My tastes are eclectic. For example, I like baroque music, some classical, The B52s, The Pretenders, bhangra, some Christian worship songs. I try different things just because I’m curious. Even if I’m not a total fan, I like to know what’s out there. I have told you that I am easily overstimulated. Since I work full time and live in a lively household, I often prefer silence when it is an option.

4. First concert you ever went to? I went to many classical music concerts as a child, but I don’t think that is what Bumbi’s Mom meant. I think my first concert as a teen was Amy Grant.

6. If you could have any job in the world, what would you want to do? I’m doing it: Wife, Mother, Therapist. I hope one day to have an essay or a short something published–at least once–so I can add Writer 🙂

8. Mountains or beach? If I can’t be back on the shores of Madeline Island prior to the 1990’s, then it would have to be the mountains.

10. Train, plane, or automobile? First choice: my own two feet. Second would be train. Third would be plane. Fourth would be automobile. I life in an area of the country vying for the title of Worst Traffic Nightmare, so I’d love to spend fewer hours behind the wheel of my car.

I hereby nominate the following bloggers to answer 10 questions (or however many they would like) if they choose to participate.

  1. Elan Mudrow (a mysterious! poet)
  2. Sober Living in Med City (honest pieces about recovery)
  3. Pint Size Fiction (short stories reminiscent of Dr. Who or The Twilight Zone)
  4. Lynette Davis at Memoir Notes (an information hub for all things related to memoir writing, plus great pieces on Black history)
  5. Nicholas Rossis (a welcoming author who is quick to support his fellow writers and who posts publishing tips, book reviews, and more)

Here are the questions:

  1. What drink are you most likely to order when going out?
  2. What is your favorite writing spot?
  3. What books are next to your bed?
  4. What is in your purse/pockets right now?
  5. Where did you go on your last road trip?
  6. If you could turn back time, what mistake would you avoid?
  7. What made you laugh today?
  8. Which movie would you like to live inside for a week (if you knew you’d make it out alive)?
  9. What question would you ask God if you were face to face?
  10. If I were meeting you for lunch for the first time, what description would you give me so I would recognize you?

Thanks for reading! I’ll talk to you soon!

Answers to Three Truths and Two Lies:
1. True: I do wear glasses.
2. True: I wear green paisley Birkenstocks.
3. False: I do not wear nail decals. I rarely even file or paint my nails. Clipper are fine with me. I am clearly missing some sort of womanly gene in the area of grooming.
4. True: I break can openers by squeezing them too hard.
5. False: NO. I do not wear a bikini. Do you know how much therapy people would need if I did that??!!

How?

Photo credit here.

Photo credit here.

How do I continue this story?

When Hanna and her husband Niko headed back to Germany after their ill-fated visit, there was silence. Ok, Hanna did let us know they had arrived safely and that they would be in touch. The message was curt. I wasn’t terribly surprised.

It was clear from the outset that we had considerable work ahead of us. I had actually shown my best friend the door. That is a euphemism. After a month of hell, I had more or less pushed her through it.

Those weeks in the summer of 2011 were the most stressful I had ever experienced. Within a few days of their arrival, the shower drains began clogging with hair. We were all—literally—losing it. But our friendship was so deep and so wide. We had a commitment and history most married couples would envy. As horrible as the month had been, I rested in the belief that after we licked our wounds and got some rest, sanity would return. We would talk things through to resolution.

I was wrong.

I waited to hear from Hanna, figuring she needed some down time. I knew I did.

After a while, I sent some chatty emails. I got no response. Then I sent letters. And more letters. Too many letters.

First my tone was optimistic: “Whew, that was rough, wasn’t it? I look forward to talking when you are rested.” Then the protective numbness began to crumble.

I made rational appeals. I begged. I pointed the finger, too. I followed up with conciliatory tomes. Nothing. All the while, I believed—then convinced myself to keep believing–that after all our years “for better,” our little marriage would undoubtedly survive “for worse.” It took 5 months for the Dear John letter to arrive. It was not gentle.

I had no recourse. Hanna had cut me off at the knees. She let me know she had not read anything I had sent. She pronounced us dead without trying to see matters through my eyes.

I had no recourse, so I began to write. I needed some outlet, if only my creaky old laptop, through which to vent my regret, anger, despair. I really needed Hanna but she wouldn’t have me.

Hanna and I used to process everything together with our one big brain. She was the right hemisphere, and I was the left. Or visa versa. I was inconsolable. My husband was incredible but he had a lot of thinking to do himself. My other friends were great. Still, there is a limit to how much one can unload, even to the most loving of friends, day after day; week after week; month after month. I was clinically depressed.

Tapping the bones of this story into Petunia, my decrepit but faithful pink Dell, was therapy. She gave me the voice I needed. If you’ve been reading my blog, you may understand the desperation I can feel when I am unheard*.

It’s been a few years since things blew up, and I think I’ve worked through the experience thoroughly enough to share it.

Here is my concern: What if I discover, in stirring up and fleshing out the story, that the embers are not as cold as I believe? I could end up with a flash fire. I have worked through all the predictable stages of grief, but feelings have their own logic and are rarely processed to completion. I know better than to believe they will remain quiet after a firm jab with the old poker. Yes, that concerns me.

I don’t hold out much hope that I will hear from Hanna again but I can’t know that. I still think of her often and consider her and Niko friends dear to my heart. I still love her so much. She never did tell her family anything, and I have occasional contact with her parents. I’ve known her brother Torsten since he was about 5, and he is a good friend, a brother. Maybe, just maybe….

I want to write as though she will read these words. I must do it this way or not at all.

This is a tall order, and I hope I am up to the task.

This is the second installment in The Story of Hanna. Click here for the third installment.

*This post and this post deal with not feeling heard.

Rule # 16: Sing When You Feel Like Crying

Photo credit here.

Photo credit here.

My father taught me to sing as a cure for a disturbing condition–a condition disturbing to him.

I’m surprised that I never developed a distaste for singing. On the contrary! I have loved to sing since I was tiny. I sang songs when- and wherever I felt the urge. And I contentedly tried out funny noises just to hear how they sounded. One day, while riding home in the back seat of our station wagon and looking out the window, I caught myself vocalizing and felt sudden shame. I looked around furtively to see if anybody had observed me–whew!–and I made a mad grab for a fig leaf. The seeds of adolescent self consciousness had been sown but singing remained joyous.

After that day in the car, I generally sang in private or with others. As a second grader, I loved to sit on my carport alone and sing from those little booklets used by carolers. I didn’t understand that music gave me direct access to my feelings and helped me to process. I just knew it felt good. Yes, it helped me to process them during periods when I was either too young or too lacking in insight to consciously address my inner state.

I was never a great singer, and at this point in my life, those muscles are shot. My singing voice is growing croaky from disuse. I could make the effort and revive it but these days I am more likely to write. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the sense that the gift of song was delivered in secret to help preserve and protect me. The idea makes me smile. A friend I didn’t know had filled my cup with chocolate milk while my head was turned. A friend I hadn’t yet met had draped a fluffy quit across my sleeping frame.

I sang in choirs as a child and adolescent. As an adult, I did a longish stint as a vocalist in a band. The feeling in my body—both the sound and the vibration—brought deep, visceral comfort. The eerie moments when surrounding voices interlocked with mine to create a perfect Summ* achieved a temporary rapture for which words could not suffice. I had to close my eyes and disappear into it.

My father never liked it when I cried. I’m going to go as far as to say he didn’t tolerate it. He never said outright that it was a bad thing but that is the message I received.

When I was upset and tried to speak to him through my tears, he would say, “Stop whining. I can’t understand you while you are crying.” His attempts to manage me made me cry harder to be heard, and this made matters worse. To have a voice, I had to give up my voice.

My father approached crying as though it were an inconvenient medical condition, such as hiccups, or a pathology in need of treatment. It was disconnected from its origins rather than treated as a symptom of a larger problem. It certainly had nothing to do with him. He decided to help me get over it anyway.

My father shared his tried-and-true cure. He declared with medical certainty that it was physically impossible to sing and cry at the same time. I believed him, and I believe he believed himself. The cure for crying was to sing. It just now occurs to me to ask how he had learned this remedy and what had necessitated it.

So I sang. And now I write.

This post is part of Family Rules. For the prior post in the series, click here. For the next post, click here.

*I had to use this German word, which means humming or droning because the sound of word will make you feel what I am saying. Summen recalls the sound of bees happily at work in the wisteria arbor above your head. Say the s like a z and the u like the u in the English word put. Say it out loud. Emphasize the first syllable and feel the zzzzzzz. Listen to it here

Thinking in Pictures

Thinking in Pictures

The subway hums me tiredly into the city
At first it refuses
I know to bribe the turnstile for the magic words
OPEN SESAME
The doors grudge open

A fresh bird splat
A drying froth of tubercular sputum
The foamy casing of the spittle bug
All this and more performed in the thick Plexiglas window
By the unknowing artist and his stealthy Zippo

Green as sick and left for dead after a long drunk
Broken glass on a trash-strewn hill
Cries out as rocks must
Murmurating brilliance at the strike of a glancing beam
Spring is too young to cover this nakedness

Clamors for love and validation
Crowd the breath out of every surface
Spray-painted, etched, burned, gouged
Whatever it takes
To starve at our eyes

See me
Love me
Tell me I Am

We present with words

Are we so different?

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