I’m sending new words out into the ether for the first time in many months. Many months.
What’s been happening with you, my friends? Everything and nothing is going on with me. I simply got lost for a long while, into the ordinariness of life. Family life, work life, friendship life, inner life, life life.
The urge to write left me ubruptly after I finished the non-fiction writing mastermind I was enrolled in from January to June. Honestly, I don’t know what happened. I thought maybe I was just done. I’d said everything that needed to be said. Or else it was simply a pause, a rest.
Looking for some writing inspiration this morning I picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. Right there in the first pages she states the thing I need to hear – “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear”.
I realize I have been living much of the time in fear mode lately. About what? Everything. Mostly my teenager. And this has distracted me from pouring myself into writing, from living in peace and joy. And most importantly, it has impacted how I’ve been relating to the teenager. It hasn’t been good.
I’ve had a few aha moments about this relationship over the past few days and why it’s so tricky. What it comes down to is I need to be more curious, less judgey, less full of my own expectations. Someone once said your kids will change from the happy, bouncy puppy of their pre-pubescent years into a skittering cat who doesn’t want to be pet or garnered with attention unless he chooses it.
We are in the muck of it now and people tell me this won’t last, it won’t be forever. Eventually the puppy will be back and the relationship will shift and heal. It’s hard to look that far into the future and so holding my gaze steadily on the present, I must look for more ways to be curious. I need to remind myself that everything is coming into my life for a reason, to teach me something, to help me grow.
And so I need to get back to writing, to myself, with courage and hope and love.
My body is tight with frustration, disappointment, worry. I stretch out from from fingers to toes, wiggling them away. They have to leave so joy and love and peace can fill their place, I am so tired of having this stuck inside me. What’s causing it is not the problem because I know that I only have sway over one person. Me.
There is a path out, I know, but cannot see it because it as though I have gone blind over time and just now realized it. I’m closing my eyes now, emptying my mind of thoughts, this is so hard to do. Quiet. Silence. Hope, where are you? I will stumble along, find purchase with each small step. Forward. Onward.
There have been many times over the last several weeks since I broke my leg that I’ve had to ask for help and I’ve realized how hard this continues to be for me. It is either something about my innate personality or it came from growing up in a big family where there were so many people with needs, I seemed to get lost in the shuffle. I was a particularly shy child who loved nothing more than to cling to my mother’s leg. Hated going to kindergarten and cried all day every day for weeks until I finally accepted it wasn’t going to change anything. But I was fully committed to not asking for help and it followed me to first grade where I found one friend to be my spokesperson. I would tell her what I needed and she would tell the teacher. You might not be surprised to hear this didn’t go over very well and it ended with me repeating first grade.
By the time my youngest and fifth sibling arrived, nine years after me, my mother was eager for me to become somewhat independent of her. I had made a couple of good friends but was fearful of adults and she thought if she had me call to make my own dental appointments, this would help. Aha! Maybe that’s why I have always hated the phone! Yes, I made my own dental appointments, but that was where it started. From there she made me join teams, signed me up for dance lessons, prodded me to ask teachers for help, and the summer after eighth grade she concocted a disasterous idea to sign me up to be a candy striper. These were all efforts to engage me in the world outside of my shyness where I preferred to hunker down with a book. My worlds were big, they were just fictional.
Tuesdays have not been good for me lately. A couple of Tuesdays ago we had a snowstorm to clean up and unfortunately, one of my very expensive hearing aid got lost in the snow. The next days were a flury of phone calls to see if I could get it replaced and who would pay. There were representatives from Cochlear, my insurance, my audiologist, back to insurance, back to Cochlear, making and canceling appointments with an ENT (I don’t currently have one!). There was a brief moment of joy when my insurance said they’d cover it but when the dust settled, it was determined we have to pay a hefty co-pay (a bit over two thousand). So much for the rainy day fund! Anyway, I learned not to put my hearing aids in my pocket during a snowstorm.
This morning in a moment of inspiration, as I was beginning my slog on the treadmill at 5:00 a.m., a fresh blanket of snow outside the window, I said to myself, suit up and go get your exercise outside. Surprise your husband by shoveling the walk, clearing the cars, get a start on the snow blowing. The idea built up and a half mile into my workout, I did just that. As I work out, I listen to an engrossing audiobook (Know My Name by Chanel Miller) and I don’t want to stop and so I figure I can continue to listen as I clear the snow.
Bundled up, I start on the sidewalk, continuing to listen to my book. I pause at a particularly good description of what the author is feeling in that moment. Then I move to the cars, clearing the snow bit by bit until the shape of them is visible, clean. Now the snow blower, a thing I have wrestled with in the past and have figured out through Google and YouTube videos, a hulk of a machine I have rarely used. The memory of how to work it is still somewhere within in me and I finally get it going, a sputter, a cough and then a constant heavy whir. I won’t be able to listen to my book after all.
Behind both ears are the devices that transmit the sound to my brain through bone conduction hearing aids held in place by titanium plates and the magnetic ends of the processors. No need for them now as I pluck them and pull open the battery doors to shut them down, fold them into my pockets along with the keys to our cars which I plan on moving as soon as I clear a path so I can complete the entire driveway. I continue on, marching up and down the driveway, clearing a path like magic. It’s a beautiful morning, still dark and nearly peaceful save the loud chugging of the machine in front of me. The exercise is good. My heartrate is raised, a thin film of sweat is developing beneath my clothes. My husband will be so surprised and happy when he sees what I’ve done!
Envy: A painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. ~Merriam Webster
We were getting a tour of a home in progress belonging to an acquaintance from school. Our kids were in class together and they were new to the neighborhood having moved from one beautiful home to another just months before. The first floor space was in disarray with couches pushed into a corner, other rooms were empty where work was still in progress. She invited me upstairs to take a look at the one room that had been completed, her closet. The closet where she stores her clothes and bags and shoes. I wondered how this could possibly be a feature to highlight in a house tour.
This morning as I was driving my son to school, along empty roads that used to be bustling with the morning rush of the workforce and yellow school buses, there was a burning desire in me to turn back the clocks to a year ago when things were “normal”.
He had been doing viritual school for two weeks and I think we were both a little cranky for it. Had he even left the house over these past several days? Had he worn anything but pajama bottoms and a t-shirt emblazoned with his school logo because his face was all that would show up on the Zoom grid beside his classmates? I felt so sad for him and all that is being missed this year. The activities and friendships. The gradual gaining of autonomy that comes with getting older – the new responsiblities and freedom. Yet here we are anchored together more than ever.
It is only in the car that I see the full faces of other people, closed in their own little bubble of safety where the virus cannot break the barrier. Our routines have changed. When we leave the house it is to work or grocery shop or do some other small errand that cannot be done via the internet, and always behind a mask. How often do you forget your mask these days? It is part of the routine.
I live life most fully inside our house, wandering freely from room to room able to take in long, deep breaths as I go. There are the things I have always done like laundry and cooking and ironing but it is now also my gym and entertainment and social life too. Movies on a small screen, books on a Kindle. Girl’s nights on a browser and virtual clinking glasses.
In those brief moments in the car, driving by other maskless people, it is almost as if we were back to normal. We could meet up at the corner Starbucks and catch up over coffee. We could shake hands or hug or just simply smile.
Living in hard times is nothing new. If you look back on history (and you need not go far), people have been presented with awful, horrific situations as bad or worse than what’s happening in modern day America, since the beginning of time. Floods, fires, pandemic, inequity, misogyny, racism, economic insecurity, climate change, partisan politics, to name a few. There are an abundance of examples of this in the Bible as well and on the morning after the news of another blow to 2020, the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I found myself looking to God for answers to my biggest, burning question: How can you send so much grief and angst to Your people in one year?!
Today is the day! It’s finally here. Although if it were a year ago, my sense of peace and serenity in this moment would be a little easier, not slightly clouded by a thought that something could go wrong. The first day of school.
Even as thoughts of possible COVID situations appear like unwanted wasps circling my head, I have been laser focused on this day for weeks, the day when one very important part of all our lives returns to some semblence of a different kind of normal. In-person school.
The pros and cons have been considered. The school plan studied, questioned and verified, giving weight to the decision to send our son back to school where he was a once thriving student who loved to learn. The year feels like the freshest start we have ever needed after months of home/online school, a dearth of activities to keep us occupied over the summer months, and spending altogether too much time together in close quarters.