Summer Woman

Summer slows and I find I am finally slowing, too, refusing the miss out on these last twenty-something days.

I’m not the same. The winter woman was reborn, sprung to life, and fills all the crevices of this new skin.

I drink my iced coffee black now, and with a shot of espresso to keep up a youthful appearance.

I reapplied to nursing school in an act of finding my way–and I am hopeful.

I hit a goal I had never written down, and see the door of change offering its key to me.

I placed boundaries around my oldest and acknowledged I haven’t loved him perfectly, for those boundaries might have existed sooner.

I battled my daughters, but learned how to stay on the same team while doing so.

I’ve fallen in love with a man who holds space for me and I for him, thus breaking the chain of co-dependency.

I’ve claimed my own bedroom with windows facing east–sunrise over the river–it’s the smallest in the house and I feel at home.

I’ve received the pain of gossip and woke up to the truth that not everyone will know me, see me, or perceive me in the ways I hope. And I now guard my own words carefully.

I keep smaller, safer circles–going deeper within those friendships.

I’ve learned to receive a friend’s truthful observations without recoiling as though criticism; and I have grown because of their bravery and wisdom.

 

I’ve provided for kids,

Recognized bullying,

Acknowledged weaknesses,

and lived by strengths.

 

I’ve apologized,

broken patterns,

said goodbyes,

and embraced habits.

 

I’ve made peace with the fact that I don’t cook like I used to, and sometimes I don’t even miss it.

I’ve stepped into a church and returned–again and again; I’ve thanked Jesus for not abandoning me.

I let the old visions of my future crumble, and rearrange themselves in this kaleidoscope of life.

I look back at the woman I was for the last fifteen years of life and I thank her for her service–for the the way she loved her children, created a home, supported her spouse in his endeavors. I thank her for her mornings of coffee and her passion for women. I thank her for the dreams she set aside to serve others. I forgive her for her silence. I forgive her for her blindness. I forgive her for her inability to live longer than she did.

And as I lay her to rest, I hope to honor her by bringing the best parts forward into this new season, this new life, and may her voice echo every once in a while through the pen on the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Most Beautiful Story

I once was afraid I’d never become who I hoped to be, until I realized I already am her.

And if the next great American novel dies within me, not one word having been written because I’m too busy…

Loving

Cooking

Living

Raising

Providing

Summering and Wintering and Falling as I learn how to navigate this world…

Rubbing backs every night wishing you would fall, too. Asleep.

Washing dishes and socks and floors and hair

Working to pay for all that water used for all that washing

 

So afraid I’d die without making a good life, I waited for myself to be and do something different, something greater.

Illiterate.

Until one day I was taught to read the list above and see the makings of a good life.

And so there exists a quiet confidence knowing I have possessed my whole self this whole time, and all those accomplishments birthed in me simultaneously with my conception.

I already am who I hoped to be. When I die, I will have spent a life in love. And if that great American novel is buried alongside me beneath the hours of cooking and working and mothering and so.much.washing, then I have written the most beautiful story of all.

From the Notebook: The Shedding of You

Natalie Goldberg writes in her book, Writing Down the Bones, “There is no permanent truth you can corner in a poem that will satisfy you forever. Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They are a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture” (p. 42).

Here’s another moment from the archives of the last year.

 

 

I am more anxious that I thought

in the shedding of you. Pieces of old

skin remain, having grafted themselves

into the fabric of me:

 

I, too, filter moments through a critical lens first.

Somewhere in our journey together I started

caring about tidiness, delegating tasks like

a commander of troops, wide-eyed and eager

for a Saturday of fun–

next year after all these chores are done.

 

I struggle to trust me as well,

and am also afraid to let myself out of my sight.

Who knows what could happen?

I isolate before I connect—that’s your skin flipped inside out.

And I’m restless when completely alone.

Our skins did become one in some ways; the sacred

words were wise.

 

If I could have chosen which pieces of skin made themselves

at home in me, I would have chosen differently.

I would have kept your ability to chose just the right gift,

Your relentless commitment to figuring it out,

And your simplicity of faith.

 

Such beauty you possess. Like a storm on the

horizon, coming for me.

If I were stronger, I could have run toward rather than away from,

But the high winds of chaos and anger ripped me to shreds, peeling away my trust in you

like shingles from a roof.

 

And that’s how the shedding of you began,

In my struggle for peace, I was born into someone new.

 

Mostly.

 

Except for those few dangling pieces above.

From the Notebook: Is This Real?

The following are excerpts from my notebook over the last year of the separation and divorce. I found in my writing that I couldn’t give a lot of details as I didn’t know how to speak them and write them in clear statements. So poetry became the way I identified the soup–the concoction of ingredients that comprised the undoing of familiarity in our lives. All I can say is mental health issues–most especially those that remain undiagnosed and untreated–exacerbated by untreated brain injuries, are beasts of their own. Untamable by standard therapies, the snowball of destruction only gathers more weight while the core of behaviors remain unaddressed. Trying to heal while separating myself from someone who thought healing had already come was insanity. I wanted hold us both together, but felt as though I was an amputee and didn’t have any appendages with which to hold either of us.

 

Somewhere between Tuesday and Friday, my healing began.

Most unexpectedly.

Just Saturday I asked myself, is this real? Or is it another form of broken–a distortion of self, calling regression progress?

Maybe I made the breaking up–fabricated from my own desire to be free from you, to be free to me.

Maybe Monday was just fine, a little boring even, and I needed something to do, so I broke myself on you.

No, I think I hurt. I think I see pieces of myself strewn throughout the family photo albums. I can’t tell, because you’re always telling me otherwise, and all I can hear right now are your words drowning my own.

I am drowning, or at least I was on Monday.

Who will save me?

Can I save myself? I don’t think that’s how it’s done…

But then, somewhere between Tuesday and Friday I remembered that, many years ago–before the albums even–I was a swimmer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Notebook: The Unvows

We are a week from our final court date and I know I have to spend the next 7 days sitting with the many ways I’m feeling. It’s tempting to skip over the sadness, but I’m afraid that if I stifle the good memories, they’ll find me drowning in regret. And so this next week of writing has been slated to be an obituary of sorts, mourning the death of a marriage I thought would outlive us through legacy & my children… something I imagined would comprise my identity until death do us part…

Todays is the undoing of vows, which I understand by definition should not be undone, and yet here we are.

these are the hands that washed your feet as we spoke promises to each other in front of friends and family; that clung tightly to your shoulders, your back, as we made love. 

these are the hands that cooked meals, cradled babies, edited resumes, and applauded successes.

these are the hands that wrapped dishes, packed boxes, loaded uhauls, and decorated spaces until new places felt like home. 

these are the hands that fisted in frustration, and later toyed with your hair as we lay in bed and talked through all things. 

these are the hands that slammed doors and pulled pillows to my face to hold the sobs.

these are the hands that tried to heal your brain with the power of familiarity. 

these are the hands that ushered children into different rooms, that tugged at sleeves to get your attention, and that pointed to the very many places we were broken. 

and in a week, these are the hands that, with fingers interlaced, will hold me together as a judge grants the decree and makes me an amputee, as these hands just cannot any longer. 

these are the hands that will wave goodbye in the parking lot we entered married and exited divorced. 

these are the hands that will write through the pain until words no longer flow and tears no longer fall and the world is once again a gift I desperately want to receive–palms open.

From the Notebook: I Love You For Myself

I’m slowly starting to comb through some of the writing I’ve done during the last 8 months. It’s messy, but it’s real, and it’s a way for me to catalogue the undoing of life.

While the cycles of mental illness have broadened and we are repeating them less frequently–perhaps with days or even a week between–there was a time when we cycled on the hour, multiple times a day. And the intensity of it broke me. Perhaps another woman might have made sense of it all… But thus commences a writer’s perspective on the brutality of mental illness and the subsequent undoing of a marriage when illness goes untreated.

 

Let me hang earrings on the ears I have bombarded. 

Let me hang compliments on the heart I have diminished. 

Let me rub the feet I have shackled. 

Let me love the woman I need you to be–a woman who lives alongside me unaffected, unarmed.

Leave yourself behind and follow me. I know a better path to you.

Stop crying. Stop hurting. The past is the past. See me today! I am a new man; make the space for me I cannot make for you. 

Stop talking. Stop remembering. Your unforgiveness is evidence of your brokenness. I broke you? No, not me. The man I was yesterday–vile creature. I have caged him, too. 

Give me the kids. I can’t parent today.

Invite me home. I’m coming over and you can’t stop me.

I’m healed, you bitch.

You’re ruining our family. You deserve none of what I’ve done and I’m keeping the house, kicking you out on the streets so you can see how it feels.

I’m so sorry. Let me in. I love you for myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief Letter on the Divorce

“Being heard
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”― David Augsburger

I have been writing again over the last few months, learning to accept the new sound of my voice and the new rhythm of life. The rhythm has been brutal but the writing healing, and the more I’ve written privately, the more I’ve cherished the act of writing.

A little over a month ago, when it was announced online that I had filed for a divorce, I continued to write—in a notebook, tucked in bed—sorting through pain. Emails poured in from people I haven’t spoken with in ages, but who wanted me to know they cared. My everyday friends called and gave me some directives on how to protect my heart when private matters go public, and through all this I wrote to myself as I didn’t have the energy or grace to write back to others.

What I want to say is thank you to those who know me well enough they know my character and, while their hearts are broken for our family, they have stood quietly with me in my silence.

For all those we served in ministry, I am sorry I can’t sit with you over coffee and share, seeking your guidance and listening to your thoughts. For all those couples we counseled, I look back and hope I honored you by really listening and hearing–although I have my doubts. For all those who have read the book released last summer, that was a real journey and real healing, but it was only half the story. And I performed a great disservice by not sharing the whole.

What changed after the move? Nothing changed, but I was forced to wake up, and in my wakefulness I started speaking. What I had to say was off script and patterns of pretending were broken. The less I pretended, the more resistance I encountered. And like the beautiful quote above, not being heard is devastating. I’m a bit bruised on the inside.

So here we are in New England, hoping to somehow make it home. Personally, I’m working, parenting kids and learning new levels of grace as I swallow my words, which, for a writer, has been a miraculous feat of its own.

 

 

 

 

What It Feels Like to Lose One’s Voice

I’m lungs stilled after the final exhale,

the last child in a world of adults.

The wind in the winter with no leaves to rustle,

a cicada who emerged one year too late.

I’m daughter to a father who has only sons,

a mother whose dreams folded with Thursday’s laundry.

Could there be greater suffering than for a lover of words to lose her language?

Whisper to me once more and I’ll learn yours…

Waters

I stood in the sun and watched the river run by, mesmerized by its current, envious of the tree trunk leisurely catching a ride. Wait! Don’t leave me behind. And so I ran alongside the river running. Pacing my gait, imagining myself leaping from ice chunk to ice chunk, until I noticed the river had stopped. What a gentle giant to slow his flow–matching perfectly the rhythm of feet on pavement. Time stood still as we made our way toward the ocean.

Will you forever run with me, River, said I.

Isn’t that what we’re doing? Stride by stride.

 

I sat in the sun, on a rock, just above the ocean and let her take me back in time. For I who see rivers stand still also hear oceans plead, invitation after invitation, to get lost in her waters. Gentle, polite, ocean kissed my toes and bit my ankles. Impatient, an act of insurgency, ocean sprayed my face and hair. Out of time, she rumbled, moving earth beneath me, come lose yourself as when you were young, before it’s too late. 

I was unmoving.

Slapped by rejection, the tide turned, birthing more and more beach in its departure. Who else was so generous in the wake of refusal? Stirred by beauty, I run to her. Baptize me in love.

20170402_154813

20161227_161152

Standing Tall; Feeling Small

The best thing about being ticketed a window seat in the commercial section of a flight is the standing up at landing.

Even hunched over beneath the bulkhead, strangers’ bad breath mixing with my own, it feels so spacious. My upper back doesn’t even care that it’s concave; it’s so elated to be elevated. My forearms and elbows flap with joy–as they’re so over competing for an extra inch or two of armrest. Stand, breathe, stretch, flap. It’s a good life.

Sometimes my soul needs to stretch, too.

I don’t know how it happened, but when I was young, I ticketed my life with a commercial class window seat. At first the view was lovely. The space, though small, was ample enough. My legs didn’t mind the limitations, as they had no place they’d rather be. My soul felt fine letting someone else pilot the trip. It was a journey of great heights, after all, and who was I to complain about the course charted for me. I purchased the ticket; I was fine with the destination.

And then the layover happened. I’ve stood. I stretched. And it felt so good. I remembered how my body moved. I remembered what it felt like to walk and then run. Neither were as quick as flying, but flying kept the wind away from skin. I loved the wind.

Which person is more me? The person who has spent years huddled, or the person who gets off the plane? Which person is really going places?

There are moments, days, weeks, when I remember who I am. It comes so clearly and so vividly, I can’t deny the reacquaintance. It’s like a homecoming celebration; an open armed embrace. I’m convinced this time I’ll stick around. This time I’ll be strong enough to stay.

But the moment passes. And life calls. And people aren’t used to seeing me stand tall. It makes them more comfortable when I’m small.

And so I curl my legs back up. I slide back down into a connecting flight. And I wonder if she’ll be waiting for me again, or is this time terminal?

I don’t have the magic of making it last, but I do have the magic of building landmarks. Places of remembrance. Permanent markings that remind me of my ever-so-fleeting meeting.

I’m struggling to live my own life as me. But at least one of me will win the fight.