I do not want to write the words that I am about to write here. Every part of me wants to believe that I do not need to write them but the past few weeks have proven otherwise. And that’s okay.
I have fought a long, exhaustive, and heart-bruising battle with this over the past couple of months. And I think that I have, at last, resolved to accept what I need to do for myself right now as an act of self-care and love.
Before I go on, let me back up a bit here and lay down some foundation for you.
The past few months have not been easy for me. I have alluded to this here in previous posts but have had to respect the privacy that I know that I need by not delving deep into the details or discussing what’s been happening in my personal life in such a way that invites invasive questioning from others, judgement, speculation, pity, etc.
I had hope that after some time had passed I would be able to get back to regular blogging and sharing my life with my readers here but I would be expecting too much from myself if I did. I am going to expose a piece of my hurting heart to you by saying that right now I am weak and far more confused and broken than I can ever remember being in my adult life. I will be okay. Eventually. I know that. But at present, I need to take some time to heal and rebuild as I am going through a tremendously sad, scary, and hopeless-feeling “valley,” so to speak. There has been a major, traumatic loss in my life and without spelling out specifics (I’m not ready to and likely won’t be for a while to come) I need to step away from the blog and my freelance writing projects for a brief time to properly cope and recover.
I simply do not have the time, energy, drive, or inspiration to keep up a regular writing schedule right now and admitting this makes me sad. I love my readers and I love to write. Having to take time away due to personal strife was not something I could have foreseen at this time but it is what is necessary.
All of this said, I will be taking a break from the blog until further notice. I wish I could commit to a “return” date but even that seems like it may have the potential to add stress at a time when I truly can not bear one more ounce of it. This is not to say that maybe I won’t wake-up one morning with an insatiable urge to crank out a spontaneous post. That may happen. And I hope that it does. But for now, I have to take care of and love myself through this time in my life.
Rest assured, if you are familiar with my writing and the themes in much of my work and my own life story, than you know that I am a fighter. It takes a lot to break me. And I am no stranger to loss, pain, and the grief that follows. I have overcome before and I will overcome again. Resilience is in my blood. I will be back here soon. Promise.
Finally, thank you to all of my dearest friends and those of you who have reached out to encourage and show me love and compassion with more than just words. Your love and friendship are worth more to me than any amount of money or material thing. I am eternally thankful for the warriors in my life who have rushed in to surround and support me as I lay wounded. You are my tribe. And you know who you are.
Thank you for helping me to stay determined in life. That’s the kind of love that can keep a bleeding heart beating. And the kind of love we are all worthy of when our wings have been wounded and we can not find the strength to fly on our own as we used to.
Be well, dear readers.
I’ll be seeing you soon.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
It is Wednesday and we have rain. Sweet, melodious-sounding, cold, and desperately-needed rain.
Thank you, Jesus.
Southern California can be a strange place to live. I realize this when I notice how excited I get when the forecast calls for rain – a novelty of nature that I regrettably took for granted while living in Florida for fifteen years. For to me, there really is not much else that makes my heart feel a little more alive and warm with good feelings than a steady rain-shower on a sleepy weekday. To some people that may sound entirely stupid and weird. I mean…who likes rain and gray, gloomy days, and the way it feels to step outside and not know how you will stay dry?
This girl. This girl likes it.
And she’s not ashamed.
To appropriately take advantage of said rain, I treated myself to a fancy tea from the Coffee Bean down the street this afternoon and nursed it in my lap as I sat in my car to steal away some time to savor the quiet and survey the swirls of silvery storm clouds that swallowed up the mid-day sky. While I did this, I thought about how a lot of people always seem to be on-the-go. “On-the-go” as in – perpetually and hurriedly going somewhere – all of the time. Rarely does it seem like some people are not in a hurry to get going onto the next thing. And I get it. Life is fast-paced. It’s not easy to keep up. I struggle with it, too. Immensely. (Thanks, anxiety!) But I think it is worth it to simply sit and ask ourselves every now and then: where are we going? Where are we going in those moments? Are we thinking about every minute, hour, and part of each day that we rush through with reverence and awe and gratitude? Or with disdain and frustration and resentment for the other things (realized or imagined) that they are keeping us from?
The true answer is not the answer that I like. I am aware that my terrible, no-good, rotten, and most wretched of days would not be so bad if I learned to abide in the moment more. Abide in love and relationships and nature and the simple truth that I am here on earth as a living, breathing, loving, and vastly complex human with secrets and scars and silly stories from a childhood spent barefoot in a backyard in Florida. Because at this point in adulthood, I can’t say that I have learned much just yet but I have learned that how we savor the here and the now, the present moment that we inhabit, will not only affect the moment itself but how we look back upon and remember the moments in the future. Like how I can look back on my childhood and remember summers spent running through the cold hose water being spit out by the backyard sprinklers in the hot glow of July. And the way it felt to watch the sunset from one of the many tree-forts my brothers and I built with rusty nails and old wood. I remember those things with great gratitude and a mental clarity that I recognize exists because they were present in my spirit as a child…running barefoot through the thick blades of grass in a baby blue bathing suit – I was full of wonder and thankfulness because I had learned, as many children do, how to be content with very little and not worry so much about what will happen next.
May it be that I re-learn this now as an adult. Even when the moment scares me and I’m not sure about anything. Because if I can simply put one foot in front of the other, I don’t have to know where I am going. Just that I’m here right now – present and in place for whatever comes next, or whatever doesn’t.
Life is a lot more beautiful when we live it that way. Abiding in what is here right now. When we can learn to do this, I think we can find a peace about all of the other things and expectations of things to come that we will eventually realize maybe weren’t so important after all. And therein lies the freedom we deserve to enjoy. On this day, in this hour, and in this one preciously imperfect moment.
“How can one person be more real than any other? Well, some people do hide and others seek. Maybe those who are in hiding – escaping encounters, avoiding surprises, protecting their property, ignoring their fantasies, restricting their feelings, sitting out the pan-pipe hootchy-kootch of experience – maybe those people, people who won’t talk to rednecks, or if they’re rednecks won’t talk to intellectuals, people who’re afraid to get their shoes muddy or their noses wet, afraid to eat what they crave, afraid to drink Mexican water, afraid to bet a long shot to win, afraid to hitch-hike, jaywalk, honky-tonk, cogitate, osculate, levitate, rock it, bop it, sock it, or bark at the moon, maybe such people are simply inauthentic, and maybe the jackleg humanist who says differently is due to have his tongue fried on the hot slabs of liar’s Hell. Some folks hide, and some folks seek, and seeking, when it’s mindless, neurotic, desperate, or pusillanimous can be a form of hiding. But there are folks who want to know and aren’t afraid to look and won’t turn tail should they find it – and if they never do, they’ll have a good time anyway, because nothing, neither the terrible truth nor the absence of it, is going to cheat them out of one honest breath of the earth’s sweet gas.”
– Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker
This morning on the drive to work The Beatles song “Across The Universe” came on the radio as I scrambled to find my mascara at a red light. Most of the time I don’t pay much attention to the music on the radio. Particularly in the morning before I have been properly pumped with an ample and borderline lethal amount of caffeine when I have zero interest in much besides getting to work on time, food, and my necessary cup of hot java.
There was nothing special about this morning that made it any more unique than yesterday or the day before or the day before that. But as I sat in the driver’s seat fishing through the mess of cosmetics in my small silver make-up bag on my lap, something resonated with me about that particular moment that caused me to stop what I was doing and pay attention to the whole of what was happening around me. Not that there was much going on, per se, but it was just enough to jostle me out of my head for a brief reprieve from the typical slush of half-asleep, half-caffeinated thoughts mostly related to all that I have to do before lunchtime. I tucked away my make-up bag and turned up the radio, immediately remembering upon hearing the chorus a second time how much I adore this particular Beatles ballad:
Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe…
I’ve heard these lyrics plenty of times before. Across the universe is a classic Beatles beat. But the way I heard the harmony this morning felt different, new, and special. So I paid attention. I paid attention to the words and the way it felt to hear them as the sun finished it’s climb up into it’s place in the fresh blue of the early morning March sky. I paid attention to the way the cars ahead of and alongside me zig-zagged in and out of different lanes slowly as traffic crawled along in the morning rush. I paid attention to my reflection in my rear-view mirror and how sleepy my brown eyes appeared and how soft my hair felt from the new, slightly-more expensive conditioner I treated myself to a few days ago. I saw myself as an adult in that instant — a tired, hopeful, passionate, and entirely imperfect adult with a lot of love and a lot of mess inside her soul. An adult who is just trying to get this one life right without ruining it altogether. And an adult who isn’t sure about how much of her complicated past and mistakes and mishaps can or ever will be reconciled to her future, but who is holding out hope that it all somehow will be. Maybe that hope is nothing more than naive and the reality is that the things that have happened in the past that I wish I could erase or forget won’t ever make sense in the whole of my life. I can’t know for certain. But what I can know is that having assurance or confidence in how something may or may not happen in the future does nothing to help us appreciate and savor the present. Because our eyes are fixed on something that hasn’t come to or been given to us just yet. And we lose out on the now when we are constantly propelling ourselves towards the then.
The clusters of cars I caught myself coasting behind a few miles from my office picked up momentum as my mind wandered and my thoughts danced along with the words and melody of the song spilling through my car’s speakers.
Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe…
I wanted to stay in that moment for as long as I could. The smell of coffee wafting through the plastic lid of my cup up toward my nose, the reflection of my tired eyes, brown like pine-cones and alive with youth despite my exhaustion, and the simple serenity of a tender Beatles song serenading me before I entered the chaos of the workday — I wanted to bathe there in that. Nothing but the cool light of morning, warm coffee, and a beautiful song. There was nothing that could conquer me in this space — nothing that could cause me to see life as anything other than utterly and absolutely miraculous and magnificent. A life that is made up of nothing but small moments strung together — beauty and mess hung out on the clothes line to dry side by side, coexisting and calling upon us to pay more attention and to show more gratitude for the mundane even when the mundane feels like the very thing that might destroy us.
Whether we like it or not, life happens inside the mundane. And moments of connection with something larger than ourselves and moments of grace and goodness, too, all take place within the mundane. All of these things — spiritual connection or realization, grace, gratitude, and goodness, are what harbor love — the best kind of love, the kind of love that doesn’t run out of the room when things get tense and uncomfortable and the lights go off unexpectedly and we are left in the dark. The kind of love that is bigger and greater than the punches life throws at us and especially the ones we throw at ourselves when we have convinced our minds to believe we are not worth it.
It is odd that all of this came pouring over me this morning for no other reason than…the setting was right and my spirit, ripe.
By the time the song was over I was ten minutes early pulling into my parking space at work. I grabbed my coffee and climbed out of my car and was greeted with a brisk, earthy breeze that hinted of Spring as I pulled my sunglasses over my eyes to protect them from the bright yellow beams of cloudless morning light. There was nothing extraordinary about any of this except that I felt elevated and alive and grateful for how a Beatles song and soft hair and hot coffee on a chilly March morning can make adulthood a little more bearable. And feel a little bit more complete and whole and perfect, despite all of the signs that so often otherwise point to the opposite.
Here’s to more mornings such as this. And more importantly, here’s to this beautiful, connected, and complicated life and every tiny, tender moment that works together to make it so.
And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real—this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.
Today I stood behind a middle-aged woman in line at a Subway sandwich shop who wasn’t having a good day. I know this because she announced it to all patrons within earshot as well as the employees behind the counter.
“How are you today, miss?” A doe-eyed, young brunette with her hair pulled back in a tight bun atop her head asked.
“Oh, I’ve had better days…” the woman sighed before pointing at a pile of spinach leaves on display next to a mound of cucumber discs from behind the glass case of sandwich toppings.
“I’ll take spinach on it too, please,” she ordered.
“This whole month has been a struggle. There’s never enough time and never enough energy…and my mom is in the hospital for the second time this year,” the woman continued without a proper transition from her request for spinach to the subject of her personal life.
She looked at me and let out a chuckle in that sort-of-awkward way people do sometimes in public when they think you’re paying attention to them or want to have an open dialogue about the details of their life despite having no idea who you are.
I flashed a fake half-smile and looked down to punch in a text to a friend to avoid further awkwardness. But my body language did nothing to deter her from her next announcement:
“But you know what they say…when the going gets tough, the tough get going!”
I nodded and looked around to see nearly every set of eyes in the restaurant fixed in her direction. Once her sub was ready she took a phone call and walked out. I was mildly embarrassed for her. But then I wasn’t. Because my focus shifted from her lack of social tactfulness to the words she said with such mighty confidence:
…when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
I have heard this saying as many times as you probably have. It’s an easy expression to spout off or nod in confident agreement with. But as I drove back to my office with my toasted veggie sub today, I realized that it’s total bologna. At least for me.
If I wanted to I could have told the woman in front of me in line that I agree that this whole month has been a struggle and that my life has never seemed or felt as messy as it has lately and that I understand her plight because I’m mired in the muck of my own misery, too. But 1) over-sharing in restaurants isn’t my thing and 2) I don’t agree with the expression she blurted out. And this is why: sometimes the toughest and strongest among us can not keep going. Sometimes we need permission to be broken and weak and to ask for help when we can’t help ourselves. Sometimes being tough is not enough to keep going — because it is exclusively self-dependent. And self-dependence can only take you so far in life before self-dependence becomes self-destruction. We weren’t designed to do life alone, especially when it comes to the hard stuff like losing a job, relationship, family member, or any other valued part of our identity. We can be strong for ourselves, sure, but that strength will be exhausted in due time and being “tough” won’t come so easy to us when life keeps throwing punches long after we’ve been knocked down.
Even the most tough and brave people we know get wounded and feel scared and confused and hopeless at times. It’s okay to admit if that “tough” person is us. This admission liberates us from the impossible expectations that are often synonymous with being “tough.”
Knowing this and acting upon it reflects inner courage and resilience, not irreparable damage and failure, as I have so often thought. If we need help, love, support, or simply someone with an ear that is willing to listen when we yell, cry, and process painful emotions, we owe it to ourselves to ask. It’s a noble thing and a sign of self-respect to ask for the things that we need. Because sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough don’t know how to get going. Sometimes tough people get scared, confused, and hopelessly stuck in feeling that they are nothing more than their problems or personal deficiencies.
I’ve been there. I am there. And I am trying to get out. I’m trying to be the tough one who can get up and get going at tackling life back after being knocked down. But I have learned that some days I simply won’t be able to. Some days I will need help.
Something that helps me get through the tough times in life is looking to the stories of artistic icons and legends who overcame personal adversity to make their dreams come true.
At the recommendation of a dear friend, I recently discovered John Coltrane’s album “A Love Supreme” and I have listened to it in it’s entirety at least once every other day since. It’s not the music so much as it is the story behind the music that gets me. This album was born from the darkness of Coltrane’s spiritual and emotional turmoil and pain. It was inspired by the demons he fought in his quest to not give up and let heroin and booze take his life at a young age. It is his battle cry and his declaration of devotion to a “Love Supreme,” or, what he hoped and yearned for to reach in and pluck him out of the flames of his personal hell. For Coltrane, this love was a spiritual love found in the divinity of a Savior that could deliver him from his addiction and subsequent self-destruction. You can hear it in the way he romances his saxophone – breathing his heart-beat into the sound and infusing his aching soul into the melody to create music that will grip and grab you, and leave you breathless if listened with the proper sense of reverence. This plea and ode to a “Love Supreme” for Coltrane was how he kept himself going when he was down in the pit. It was how he channeled his talent and deep love for jazz music as a way to cope with the reality of his own depravity and despair. He gave his music permission to save him, because it was through his music that he was able to see, feel, and connect with God.
That, to me, is the definition of courage in the face of adversity. It is what it means to be “tough” when life gets messy and hard and all we can see is the blackness of the hole we’ve fallen into. We don’t always have to know the answers and exude strength and toughness on society’s terms. All we must do is recognize that maybe we need some help – whatever that help may be. For Coltrane, it was his music. For me, it is my words – the ability to write about my journey through my own mess while trying to make sense of and survive it at the same time. It’s no easy task. It’s a labor stained with tears and colored in the bruises and blood of defeat. But I have not given up. Not because I’m “tough,” but because I have admitted that I am weak and need something bigger, greater, and far more grand than my own strength to get through this time of life. I need to find my own “Love Supreme.” And like Coltrane, let that be the thing that saves me from myself when the going gets tough and I am just not capable of keeping up by my own strength.
We weren’t designed to endure tough times on our own. We were designed to ask for help when we need it. Because that’s what it looks like to be brave and have self-respect. Whether that help comes from a friend, community, or from behind a saxophone – whatever it may be that we, in our most wretched moments, would dare seek after to not only see us through the fire, but walk with us through it’s flames. When we have found that thing, I think we can say that we have found the kind of love worth clinging to and waiting on — our very own “Love Supreme.”
“Without trials and tribulation, there would be no hero. Without a hero, there would be no story. Without a story, there is no life as life is made up of vignettes of loving, learning and overcoming.”
― Gibson, Chrissy