Monday, June 29, 2015

When the mountains speak love

If my life is measured by summers, it is most definitely measured in these long, hot days running wild in the mountains on our annual summer trip to Miette.
Every time we roll up that windy mountain road, it feels a little bit more like coming home. The days are long, the mountains tall, the coffee strong, the time spent together as a family valuable and by the time I collapse into bed at the end of the day I am thoroughly exhausted.
There's always time for one more quick swim, one more hike, one more conversation.
Perhaps that's what I love most about these trips. It feels like there is always more.
Out there, nothing is lacking. There is never not enough. Even as we drive, I can feel the layers of heaviness surrounding my heart just melt away until we pull up to our little mountain kingdom and I am eye to eye, toe to toe with my real, honest self.
There's something about the truth that doesn't hide from me here.
This year we packed up the van and drove to our little mountain town. And even just sitting in the passenger seat of the boyfriend's truck with my bags packed and anticipation swirling around in the air, my heart almost burst at the thought of being surrounded by all the people I love so dearly for a whole weekend.
Sometimes, I think, this qualifies as magic.
There were mornings where all of us crammed into a tiny cabin to eat breakfast, still pajama clad and sleepy eyed. There were afternoons spent wading in the river, wandering through Jasper, swatting mosquitoes and hiking up to the old pool (which I still think is one of my favourite places on earth, and feels to me so much like poetry). There was kissing, and staying up late, jumping into the cold pool until all limbs were numb only to retreat back to the warm pool and sigh over the tingling feeling in hands and feet, stories were told and many rounds of catch played and over and over again I fell in love the way you fall asleep, slowly and then all at once.
I cried, because sometimes you can't hide from the truth. I collapsed from exhaustion. I let the mountain air and the sunshine heal my soul once again, and let it all remind me who I am.
I am so incredibly grateful for my family, and the memories we make in this place. I'm grateful that this year family stretched to include more of the people I love so much. I'm grateful for the life lessons learned around the breakfast table and over coffee and while sitting around with my people.
When I got my tattoo (a mountain) it symbolized a lot of things.
It was in memory of my cousin, an avid snowmobiler. His favourite place was in the mountains, and it was on this little mountain near Jasper that I have some of the best memories of our family.
It's because I feel most at home in the mountains, and to me they represent freedom and strength.
And it's because of that verse in Matthew that talks about having faith to move mountains.
As I spent this weekend loving, and telling the truth and healing my soul, my faith was also restored in some small way. My faith, not only in God, but in goodness and love and family and people, in the world and in myself.
If I could bottle up some of that magic I feel during our family trips to that mountain, I would. I would put it on a necklace and carry it with me every day.
We arrived home today, and I have new dreams tangled in my hair, fresh ideas stirring in my head and a wild, radical love taking root in my heart once again. I am so grateful for all of this.

"God is in the mountains. Impassible, immovable, jagged giants, separating the celestial from the terrestrial with eternal, diagonal certainty. As if silently monitoring the beating heart of the Creator from the universe's perfect birth. Stood in the thin air and the awe, one inhales God, involuntarily acknowledging that we are but fragments of a whole, a higher thing. The mountains remind me of my place, as a servant to truth and wonder. Yes, God is in the mountains. Perhaps the pulpit too and even in the piety of an atheist's sigh.  I don't know, but I feel him in the mountains."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

On summer and love

It's June and I'm tired of being brave.

I started measuring my life in summers about 3 years ago.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I craved pleasure. I did anything I thought would make me happy. Which included making some very bad decisions, and getting involved with things and people I shouldn't have. Funny enough I don't regret any of those things. They didn't make me happy but they made me stronger. They were the gateway to discovering what I really needed to get happy.
Last summer, the one sandwiched between my last year of high school and my first year of college, I learned how to pray. It sounds funny because I've spent my whole life going to church, but I realized last summer that means I've spent my whole life fitting into other people's rituals. I saw people that prayed and read their Bibles and had these great spiritual encounters and that was it for them, and I thought that I should fit into that mold, but every time I tried it felt less like finding grace and more like guilt and it got to the point where I wondered if God even existed. I looked into other religions, and actually found some pretty interesting things. I encountered God for the first time in a coffee shop. I made more mistakes, had even more breakthroughs, and created rituals and prayers that made me feel closer to God, instead of what everybody else thought I should do. I guess in a way I kind of redefined what spirituality and Christianity and God meant to me. It's still sort of out of the box, and unconventional, but I'm happier now than I was.
This summer, well this summer is still writing itself on my heart, but it's shaping up to be about love. I fell in love in January, which in and of itself was a huge adventure. In April love traveled to a different city, and it became phone calls and text messages. Now it's June and love is back but not really, and it's taking on a new form all together. The walls of love are being redefined as I must redefine what it means to be a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a friend, a girlfriend and a survivor.  Relationships sure have a way of pulling at my heart, and sometimes it feels like pieces of my heart are no longer inside me but out there with the people I love and I can't seem to get all my heart in the same place. This summer has been a lot of time spent hunched over a notebook, or a keyboard, or anything I can get my hands on really trying to redefine what love means to me, the people I love and how love changes me.
Summer, though, always has a way of changing me, of breaking open my heart and forcing me to examine life and think about the hard things.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the wedding of one of my friends this past Saturday. He married a beautiful girl, and I don't like to admit it but I cried at their wedding, because there are few things I find more beautiful than 2 people in love.
I remember the first time he told me about her, and how even then I think I knew because something in the way he talked about her was different.
There are a few things I've always been: independent, and emotional. I've spent a long time trying to make peace with these things.
I have a hard time confessing that I need people, maybe because part of me is convinced I still don't.
So a few days ago, when I confessed in a conversation with someone I love for the first time that maybe I need you I started to cry.
I've been trying to do more honest, real things lately. It's hard and heartbreaking and sometimes means crying at inopportune moments and having weird emotional reactions to just about everything. Something they never told me in school was that loving people is hard. It's not just hard because everyone you love holds a piece of your heart and its all just out there but because it's not always easy to choose to love people, or to allow them access to the ugliest parts of you and looking at their ugliest bits and trying to put them together to make something beautiful.
But even before I started dating, I always said I wanted love to be crazy and real or not at all. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that because that's literally what love is for me right now. It's crazy and real and messy and its full of fighting and crying and then loving and making up and it's close and it's far away and sometimes I wonder how my heart can stretch so far.
Sometimes, I guess, love looks a lot like saying "Maybe I need you."
A few nights ago I got to spend the evening with 2 lovely little girls. We painted pictures and told stories and talked about our dreams and laughed and it felt like I was spending time with old friends rather than 2 kids who had been placed in my care.
The whole night felt like magic, and I may have been guilty of wanting to keep them up past their bedtime so we could keep painting pictures and eating cereal and telling stories.
After they had gone to bed, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote about love.
Around the house were these little quotes, cut out and framed and oh so beautiful, and I couldn't help but notice as I marveled that many of them spoke of love.
Love, I decided, is something that must be insisted upon. Sometimes you have to put reminders in every room of the house, reminders to love well and that all of this heart opening is worth it because love is beautiful.
They always say love is a small word with big meanings but I never understood that until recently. Maybe I still don't understand it.
There's a canvas print hanging beside my bed with a quote from Gandhi. It says "Where there is love, there is life."
Love is hard, and there are moments when I feel it requires more of me than I have to give.
Love is also beautiful, breathtaking and life giving. Loving makes me brave, makes me strong, and sometimes it feels like the one thing I'm good at.
I sent him this message before he left for the week, the day after our conversation that included the words "Maybe I need you."
I said "I'm not good at a lot of things, and there are a lot of things someone else could do better than me, but one thing no one else can do is love you like I do."
And sometimes love makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Because why do I get to love and be loved this much?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Becoming Whole

Recently I was given the amazing opportunity to write for this little literary publication called the Feminist Wire.
It's my first published piece outside of a blog, and the staff there were amazing to work with.
The piece I shared on the wire is part of a bigger collection of things I'm writing: most of them messy and unedited, raw and real. It's a collection of essays on love, and addiction, depression and motherhood and what it means to be human.
It started out as a running journal, a way to keep track of my thoughts while my boyfriend was gone and I was lonely because he jokingly said before he left that while he was gone I should write a book.
So I did.
And now my little creative project is over 100 pages long and still being added to, and houses some of my favorite pieces I've ever written.
I was honored that the Wire was willing to host this tiny piece of my heart. I know it is in great hands, and I am so proud to share it.

“A doctor once told me I feel too much. I said, so does God. that’s why you can see the grand canyon from the moon.”

Sunday, June 7, 2015

It Takes a Village

I've heard it said at baby dedications and during conversations about parenting.
It takes a village to raise a child.
But I never realized how true that was until recently.
This past little while has been a trying one for me. My heart was broken in one fowl swoop, in shattering seconds I never expected.
And the past week has been about trying to pick up the pieces. It's meant a lot of private writings, reflections, crying, mind numbing Netflix marathons when I couldn't think anymore, and sometimes brokenly worshipping.
My prayers have often sounded a whole lot like Dear God, I don't understand. I'm broken. I can't do this. Help me.
A few years ago an amazing friend and mentor of mine told me that when words fail to simply pray Jesus, and I don't think she knows how much those small words of wisdom have meant to me in these last few years, especially in the times when it feels like my heart is breaking and I have no words.
I watch relationships change and my own heart is weathering it's own personal storm and what I know about love is changing.
I sat in church this morning, coffee in hand, and it felt like the words were being whispered over my dry, barren heart:
Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest
And I don't know which part of that sounds better - the invitation for the weary and burdened or the promise of rest.
What I know about love is changing, yes, but I realized something else this morning.
Love is everywhere. It surrounds me, exists on every corner, and maybe it doesn't look the same as it once did but maybe it doesn't have to. Is it enough to believe in love at all?
This morning as I sat and listened and cried and prayed and held and worshipped, I thought about the love that surrounds me.
I never really understood the saying that it takes a village to raise a child but I do now. I'm not necessarily a child anymore, in the throes of learning how to read and write, but I see that it does take a village to raise up a person.
Without the love, support, tenderness and care extended to me by so many I am convinced I would still be down. It's easier to lay on the ground, to not make an effort to get up, to let defeat win one more time. What a good community does is they extend their hands, reaching down, pulling you up, proclaiming a strong "No" over your desire for defeat.
Their love, found on every corner, gives me strength to believe in love again. It points me back to the ultimate source of love.
And I am so grateful.
For the ones who step in, and step up, I am so grateful for you.
It truly does take a village, and I am so lucky to have you in mine.