Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Invincible Summer

Just a little something I was working on...

It's the last day of July and summer is drifting into a haze, slowly disappearing into the distance, and I wonder what has become of me.

I used to be the girl who could fill pages and pages with words that meant something. They were about love and happiness and being alive.

And now I'm... what? Now I'm a shell of that girl, the girl I used to know but now, now I haven't the slightest idea who she is.

 Sometimes I catch glimpses of her, walking down the aisle in the supermarket or in the bathroom as she's combing her hair or brushing her teeth. She's lying on the couch, sometimes, and other times I catch brief glimpses of her walking down the street, the sunlight warm on her shoulders, or in passing behind the wheel of a car she pretends to know how to drive.

But mostly I don't know who she is, or where she went to after the walls crumbled in.

If I met her for coffee one evening in a Starbucks I'd like to ask her where she went. As she sips her latte with tired eyes I'd like to ask her who she is now. What happened to the beautiful girl who wrote pages and pages in notebooks and did things like cartwheel in the grass even though she knows she's not good at it and thumb through pictures in the magazines convinced she could be among them one day.

I think she would look at me, a sad smile on her lips. She would tell me she got tired of living in a battle field. There was a war raging on and staying cost her much more than leaving ever would. She would run her hands through her hair and tell me she was still there, undercover, waiting until it was safe to come out, until the war had all but ended.

It's hard to be happy and alive and write pages and pages about things like love when you're stuck in the middle of a war with dust decorating your face and the sounds of guns merging with the sounds of the flowers growing up in the warmth of the summer.

She would tell me that beauty couldn't coexist with the war, that eventually something would get over ruled. She would place her fingers around the cup and press it to her lips, closing her eyes and savoring the sweet, rich taste on her tongue and I would watch her with a wide eyed gaze, feeling a sense of familiarity, like this was home and where I was now I was just a traveler, a foreigner.

She would tell me that while she wouldn't stay gone forever right now the best thing was to sit tight, wait. There is a time for fighting, she would say, but there is also a time for waiting and you must be very wise to know which time is which.

She would lower her voice and tell me the news like she was telling me a secret "Soon the war will be over. Just wait, you'll see. Soon the war will end and I will be back for good, I promise. You just have to wait and eventually the sun will come out again and the death and destruction that has come since the enemy invaded will be gone. You have to believe that even though it is winter now there is an invincible summer. That invincible summer will not be beaten and it is within you and it is in that summer I will be. You just have to wait. And if you get impatient, like I know you're prone to do, just look inside and find that invincible summer and it is there I will be."

I look at her, this girl I used to know, and my hands shake and I want to ask her a million questions. I want to ask her how I am supposed to survive the war and how bad the devastation will get before it’s over and if I can go with her to the place where there is this invincible summer she speaks of.

As if reading my mind, this girl I used to know continues to speak, "I know you want to come but you can't right now. I don't know how long this war will last or how hard you will have to fight to stay alive but watch closely. When it's time to move from waiting to fighting you will know. You will know how to fight when it's time. The invincible summer, it is not a place. It is within you. And I, I have not left you. I am just waiting, lying low until the war ceases. I am not gone, do not worry. I am right here, whenever you need me. Just close your eyes and take a deep breath and find that invincible summer within you and it is there I will be." 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Making Room

Recently, I was asked to write a guest post for the blog of author Nancy Rue. Every time I am asked to do a guest post, I am honored, and this time was no exception. The topic I was asked to write on was forgiveness.
When I got the email asking me to write this piece, I was in a place where I needed to forgive myself. Not wanting to deal with the topic of forgiveness at all (and come face to face with my need for it) I put off the post for nearly a week. But the idea of forgiveness kept popping up. Someone would write a status about it on Facebook. On Pinterest there would be a quote about forgiveness. In a newsletter I subscribe to, in other blogs I read. I couldn't seem to escape the idea of forgiveness.
So I sat down with my computer one night, determined to write about forgiveness and get this thing off my plate. I'd dealt with forgiveness many times before, and I would just write about one of those experiences.
About halfway through my writing, I noticed a shift. I don't know if it was noticeable to anyone reading it, but I felt it.
I'm human. I am tragically flawed. I make mistakes, some I'd rather not own up to, wishing I could just sweep them under the rug and move on. And, being human, when I make some of those mistakes I beat myself up over them for days. As I was writing this, I began to observe the very tender balance between forgiveness and forgetting.
I read an article by one of my inspirations, Jennifer Pastiloff, the other day about forgetting. She raised the idea that we don't forget anything. Our memories, everything that has happened to us, is stored somewhere, unable to be forgotten, even if our mind is not consciously aware. In having this storage room of sorts, Jen says that we can let go of all the things we are holding on to that don't belong to us or no longer serve us, knowing that they are kept safe in this storage room and are not gone. This way there is more room to hold those good things in your arms, the love and the laughter and the sunny Saturday's at the lake.
This was in the forefront of my mind as I was writing the article about forgiveness. As I came face to face with my need to forgive myself.
So I made a mistake. a big one. If I hold on to this mistake, keeping it in my arms, pressed tight against my ribcage, I am taking up room I could use for holding close the people I love, or the memories I don't want to forget. Part of my fear is related to the quote that says if we all let go of our problems and saw what everyone else has we'd scoop up our own. I have this fear of letting go of my problems and letting people see them. I am learning that people won't always react like I think they will, and that really my problems aren't problems that are totally new to the human race. When I forgive myself, I can let go of everything that isn't mine that I've been holding onto- the pain and the blame and the hurt and the anger and the negative self talk. Those things don't serve me anyway.
Letting go doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean that it doesn't matter or that there's nothing wrong with what happened. It means I'm making more room for things that really matter, like the people I love and the memories I can wrap around myself like a blanket on a chilly day.
I'm not forgetting. I'm not throwing my heart and all it holds on the ground and stomping, letting the pieces fall where they will. It's all still there. It still belongs to me, the memories, the good and the bad. I'm just making room.

If you feel like reading the article I wrote on forgiveness, you can check it out here

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sea shells and The Girl On Fire

Maybe you don't have to be ok every minute of every day
In my exhausted state, I was trying to be profound tonight.
I was reminded by a friend of something I have said before which is "There is beauty in the breaking."
I told her from the middle of a breakdown it doesn't look so beautiful and she said maybe I just need to blink a few times.
I told her I thought that was profound, I just wasn't sure how yet. And then I started writing and this is what I came up with.
"It will get worse before it gets better but I promise you it will get better."
I'm waiting for the better.
I'm waiting for the day when I can say "My cousin is dead" and it doesn't hit me like a ton of bricks
I'm waiting for the day when I can look at the people who love me and not want to push them away
I'm waiting for the moments that I can savor, when I can look around and think "If this isn't happy, I don't know what is." I have a collection of these moments. I'm waiting for the day when I can find more to collect, like finding a pile of sea shells someone left on the sand.
I was watching this movie the other night and one of the main characters said this quote I wish I could remember exactly but it was something along the lines of "You are have such a cynical outlook on life for such a privileged person." And I don't know why but it was something about that quote that made me stop for a minute. Because it's right.
I was talking to a friend a while ago and I said that, while being burned, I'd rather be known as the girl on fire than the girl who burned in the blaze. And what I meant was that I wanted people to see beauty in the breakdown. I don't want to just burn slowly, I want to be on fire.
And on Monday of this week, I was sitting in the backyard, being loud and crazy and cartwheeling across the wet grass and pretending I was talking to someone and I was talking about what it meant to be alive. I said in this moment I feel alive. I feel like my soul is alive. But in those bad moments, I'm alive in those too. Those dark moments, they remind me I am alive. Even if what I am feeling is painful and heartbreaking, I am feeling something. I do not cease to exist because things are hard. I never stopped being alive.
And in writing all this, it made me wonder if perhaps my friend is right. So things are hard, and I feel broken. But never once have I stopped being alive. And even though I'm burning maybe it doesn't mean I'm turning to ash but I'm becoming the girl on fire, stronger for it. Maybe the only way through is to feel every heartbreaking, agonizing minute of it. No one gets to go through life without pain. and so I get more than my fair share. Even in the pain, I never stopped being alive. Even though I can look at myself and think how everything is a disaster, maybe it's a beautiful disaster. Maybe instead of burning alive, I'm the girl on fire.
I believe there is more than what my eyes are seeing.
And yes, despite going through a time where all I can seem to feel are the heartbreaking, agonizing moments of everything, I do believe still that there is beauty in the breaking.
I believe things will get better. Maybe they have to get worse before they get better but they will get better.
I believe that sometimes you can't wait for someone to save you, sometimes you have to save yourself. In the end you have to want to change, you have to want to be saved, you have to want to live. In the end there's no one else, only you and the sound of your heart. And you'll have to learn to listen to what it is saying.
And the sound of my heart? It's saying "Keep going. I promise you things will get better. And while you're waiting for the tides to change, keep looking for sea shells."
And so I will. I'll look for sea shells in this storm. And instead of burning I'll become the girl on fire.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I am holding myself together with patches. I patch the holes, trying to make more patches than leaks. It's a trying task and doesn't leave much time for writing. At least not much time for writing about anything people would want to hear. Maybe one day soon I'll get my words figured out and be able to write more than grocery lists and silly little stories and heartbreakingly honest journal entries. Maybe I'll figure out how to write what I think and put it here, or there, or get it out somewhere besides my own head. Until then, here's one of those silly little stories. If you read between the lines, maybe you'll get a glimpse into what I've been thinking about these days.

She wanted to write but all she knew how to write were love stories and grocery lists.
Life was spinning fast, like a globe being spun around and around in a pair of tiny, grubby hands, and everything was bright like the fourth of July and she was still trying to decide if it was a comforting glow or the worrisome blaze of a fire threatening to wreak havoc on the little life she had made for herself.
She constructed her life like a patch quilt, the kind her grandmother always used to make for her. She added pieces until she had what resembled a blanket but really was just a large square constructed of smaller squares, the stitches uneven and jagged. She collected these patches like girl scout badges. One for moving out on her own, another for getting a cat, a third for remembering to take out the garbage on Thursday nights. There was one for remembering to buy groceries every week so her fridge was not bare and empty, holding only melting ice cream, salsa and a loaf of bread. Patches were collected for calling mom on Sundays and paying bills on time and eating three meals a day. The patches she collected for falling in love and being in a committed relationship were prettier than just the plain patterns of everyday living. These patches were warm, with shades of oranges and reds and pinks. They were smooth, like satin and silk, and warm like flannel. These patches were lovingly stitched next to the patches earned for everyday chores and showing up to work on time.
Just as her grandmother was a quilter, she was a writer though she hadn't earned a writing patch in a long time. It seems the only things she could write about were the items she needed to get at the market that week - apples, milk, bread, Oreos, carrot sticks, toilet paper, eggs - and love stories about the grand tales of falling in, and then out of, love with a boy everyone says is made for you. It wasn't that she doubted he was a good man, a wonderful man. It was just that he had plans, big plans, plans that did not consist of living in a one bedroom apartment waitressing to pay the bills until her writing career finally went somewhere. No, his plans consisted of her becoming the perfect housewife as he pursued politics in the big city. She knew they wouldn't get anywhere, of course, at least not together. Sooner or later he would realize she could never be the kind of person he wanted her to be and he would leave, find someone better suited to his tastes. He would realize that sometimes she could barely earn the taking out the garbage patch or the one for paying the bills on time much less earn the patch for becoming a perfect trophy wife. Her counters were covered in crumbs and unopened mail and an unopened birthday package from her mother from three months ago. She couldn't even remember to put new toilet paper on the roll when the old one was used up and she still had an empty toilet paper tube sitting on the roll, waiting to be changed out with a new one. She only had one coffee mug and a bowl and she stole plastic cutlery from fast food restaurants.
She was a writer, a brilliant one, and yet all she could seem to write about was the food she needed to buy for the week - apples, milk, bread, Oreos, carrot sticks, toilet paper, eggs - and about a boy who would never love her the same way she loved him. For him it was only who she could become and for her it was different. She saw who he was. She wished he could see himself through her eyes, the way he looked first thing in the morning, with bleary eyes, not yet having had his coffee and before reading the paper. It was kind of tragic, if you stopped to think about it. She kept waiting for him to love her back the way she loved him and she also had this vague sense of knowing that it would never happen. He would never love her back. And writing about that was just writing the same sentence over and over again.
Please love me.
So instead she would write grocery lists and wait for fate to change things as fate always seems to have a way of doing and she would add patches to her life like the ones earned for taking out the trash on time and paying the bills and not forgetting to call her mother. She would wait until she found inspiration in words once again, when everything worth writing about didn't seem so sad and tragic. While waiting for her own art to take shape, she would become an artist like her grandmother, slowly quilting her life.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Present

Not too long ago I had a conversation with a friend and said that I have a tendency to edit my words a lot. In writing, you can edit, delete the bits that don't sound good, add pieces to make it more coherent. But very rarely do I write exactly what I think, no edits.
So, when I found 5 minute Friday's - where you write for 5 minutes, unedited, about the topic given, I thought I'd give it a try.
So here it is, my first ever five minute Friday. If you want, feel free to join in and give it a try.
Today her topic was present, so here we go...

I'm not really sure what to say about this word, which is how I knew this entry would start.
The word present reminds me of a gift under a tree, all wrapped up in paper and bows. But it also reminds me of something else. That place between the past and the future. The right now.
The present is the stormy clouds outside my window and the carpet under my bare feet. The present is my fingers clicking on the keyboards, being vulnerable and writing words without editing. This is the present.
The present is happening in this moment, and yes, it is a gift. It is something I could easily look over if I blinked in the wrong second. I could miss this wonderful gift of a moment I have been given.
I could miss the way eyes sparkle in the sunlight and fingertips touch as items are exchanged. I could miss the present, the gift. If I am so focused on the future, on this other place, this other reality I think I should be living in, I can miss the one right in front of me.
There is no reality, no present, other than the one I am in. And if I spend all my time wishing I was somewhere else, wishing for the past or the future, I can miss the time I have right in front of me.
Because the present is all I am guaranteed. The present is all I am given. And the present is a gift. It isn't wrapped up in pretty paper but it is tied together with beautiful things, things like sun beams and the way the light falls on sparkling eyes and the communion and the touch between two people.
This is the present I could miss if I looked away.
This is the present that is a gift.
This is my present, the life I am living right now, the reality I am a part of.

And... STOP!

So there it is, my first five minute Friday. Feel free to join in, I would love to know what you think about the present.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Live Loved

I was never not meant to be here...
There was never a chance that I wasn't going to be here in this moment, writing this blog post and watching baby birds learn how to fly and practicing yoga on the bedroom floor and not being on a plane headed halfway around the world. There was never a moment when I wasn't going to be here.

I woke up this morning, groaned, rolled over and slept for another hour. Because today, 10 months out from my Dysautonomia diagnosis and the day the people I love are getting on a plane and going to Africa without me, I knew I was going to need the extra sleep.
Scrolling through my news feed this morning, one message kept popping up, one thought kept dancing through everything I read.
Love where you are, love who you're with, love with heart and arms wide open. Love now because this is exactly where you are supposed to be and love even though your heart is broken and love from where you're at and you are loved. You are loved and you are here, in this moment, for a reason and you can't let them take your happy. You can't let them take it and stuff it in a suitcase rolled up beside cargo pants and canned meat because you need it here. You deserve to be happy. You are loved and you were never not meant to be here right now so let go. Let go of everything you've been holding on to and all these ideas you had of how you think life should go and breathe them all out and breathe in love.
That's what I read this morning. In my inbox and in blog posts and Facebook statuses, one word kept coming up. Love.
It's hung on my bedroom wall and yet so easily I forget that I am love. I am loved so deeply and I have the power to love the whole world. Inside of my blood stream and in my veins and muscle and bone I want there to be love. I want to feel it inside of me with every breath, breathing it in so in turn I can breathe it out into this world I live in, the place I am at right now.
Because that lady at the park, she deserves to know she is loved
And the librarian, she deserves to know she is loved
And the woman in her car in a parking lot with her head in her hands, she deserves to know she is loved
And those boys riding their bikes, and that mother trying to control her playful children and those construction workers in the noon day sun, they deserve to know they are loved.
You don't need to travel half way around the world to find people who need love. They are right in front of you, in stores and walking down the street and driving cars and sitting on corners and holding signs, they all deserve to know they are loved.
And when I breathe in love, when I let go of things I cannot control and accept that I was never meant to not be here and this is where I'm called and I am here for a reason, I have the potential to love the whole world. And you do too.
When we live like we are loved, something amazing happens.
The only life worth knowing is the one right in front of me.
The other lives, the places you wish you could be and the people you wish you could be with, don't let them take your happy. Don't let them keep you from living the one life you were given in the one place you were called and loving the people right in front of you.
Breathe in love and let it be enough. Breathe it in and let it ground you in the present, in where you are right now. Breathe in love and let it change you, let it manifest happiness because you were never supposed to be somewhere other than where you are right now. Breathe it in and breathe it back out into the world, because the people around you deserve to know they are loved.
Love where you are, right now.
You are here for a reason, and you were never supposed to be somewhere other than here. Maybe you don't know why yet, but maybe you aren't supposed to. Just go where you're needed and breathe love, letting it be your offering.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

And then it was time to let go...

And then it was time to let go
It should be the name of a season, or a day of the week, at the very least.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday, And then it was time to let go

This is what I've been thinking of these past few days.
And then it was time to let go
Time to let go of dreams that aren't happening for me right now
Time to let go of pieces of the past I've been holding on to a little too tightly
I don't know why I hold on to things so tightly, but if I had to guess I think it would have something to do with fear.
Fear that if I don't do this, if I don't go with them, if I don't chase down this dream and pursue it and manifest it RIGHT NOW then I'm not going to matter.
Fear that if I let go of the past then it won't matter and it will just fall forgotten along the shores of life.
Fear that if I stop being who I'm pretending to be and if I lay down my stories and my titles and these dreams that I had for myself since I was a little girl I won't matter anymore.
But that's the thing, even if I have nothing I matter. You matter. That little kid in Africa matters and that homeless man on the corner matters and we matter.
And its nothing I did or didn't do and its nothing I said or didn't say and its not because of which stories I held on to and which ones I let go of.
I matter. My being here matters. My story matters and my pain matters and my life matters.
And yours does too.
And then it was time to let go
You know its time because you feel it. You get tired of carrying around this thing that isn't yours to carry anymore. And, for me, I believed I mattered even if...
Even if I let go of the pieces of the past I've been hauling around behind me for far too long now.
Even if I choose to be here in this moment, accepting that this dream I once had isn't happening for me right now and that's ok and it's even ok if dreams change.

I get attached to things, to stories and to dreams and to people and things. With every step closer to letting go, I wonder if I'm making a mistake. Even if my arms are heavy and my arms are tired, I will hold on to this thing or this dream or this story or this pain or this whatever with white knuckles.
I'm afraid to let go because I'm afraid of the unknown.
I like predictable and comfortable and even if its painful I know what's coming. I'm not one to really enjoy surprises and curveballs and I like to be in control.
But that's the thing, I can stay in the comfortable and the predictable and the known but it is only in the different and unpredictable that my life will change.
Change takes place when I am ready to let go of what I know and walk full speed, face first in to the dark. That's faith.
And letting go requires a leap of faith. It requires trusting in life and in yourself and in a God who works everything out for your good and His glory.
And then it was time to let go
And I knew this because I could feel it. It was something deep inside of me, making me believe that even if I let go I mattered. It was knowing that change happens in the unpredictable, the things that rock my world, and it is trusting in a God who loves me and knows everything that is on my path. It's the feeling in my chest, the antsy-ness I get when I know it's time to move on.
I only have so much room in my arms to hold things. And I get to decide what I hold. And I choose people. I choose love and joy and hope.
And in order to make room for those things that I want, I need to let go of what no longer serves me.
The journey that wasn't meant for me to take yet
The story I've been holding on to for too long, letting it define me
And then it was time to let go