in the shadows…

I’ve seen you there, lurking in the shadows.

You watch, detached yet eternally connected, and I’ll be honest- I don’t know how I feel about that.

I don’t recall ever saying that you had to hide, though to be fair, boundaries were crossed and I can see how you might interpret you should.

Life is hard, it gets complicated. You’ve seen your share, and God knows I’ve seen mine. In the early days, and for a hot minute, decades later, our circles intertwined. For the most part though, our gravities have existed in different atmospheres.

To be clear, when I dove into hell, to help pull you out, I professed a love to you that I did not understand. That love, carved in childhood, had been clothed in a lifetime of guilted layers. I bore responsibility for all things you, stepping daily in the boots of belief that I’d failed you. Those shoes were heavy and hard to walk in.

It took that hell-dive to finally come face to face with the truth that I was a kid. We were kids. We were each kids dealt bad, bad hands, and we did the best we could. Sometimes that looked amazing, and other times pretty damn terrible. All the same, I had not failed you. You had not been mine to fail.

We will always share this tether. We’ve seen first hand how incredibly beautiful and equally terrible this truth is.

I gave you so much more than I should have, in the end. I gave you too much of me, and far more than I was free to give.

I am changed, forever, from that choice.

Eventually it led to us changing too. Our tether.

And that’s ok.

I meant it, I will always love you. I don’t know how to put into words this bonded connection. I don’t know how to define something born out of tragedies and fragmented childhoods. Can it even be defined? Because every definition I understand, never quite fit.

When you resurfaced, after so much time, my naive imagination saw family barbecues and picture perfect adulthood friendship fit for evening tv viewing. Maybe that could have happened, but it didn’t.

We both saw the darkness that followed, instead.

When you resurfaced the last time, I pledged to save you. That vow came days after I’d sat in a bathtub, botching an attempt at taking my own life. I couldn’t save you, I didn’t even know how to save me, and I was about to learn that taking action born of deep-seeded loyalty could destroy me.

You will always be more family than family has been.

I get sad, for a minute or two, when I realize there can never be another resurface.

Do I miss you? yes.

Do I wonder how you are? If you’re safe? If you’re being smart? yes.

Do I grieve for the life you could have had, that you SHOULD have had, that I hope you’ll chase after, one day? yes.

Do I love you? of course. I have never hidden that. The very first deep conversation I had with my husband, when I was still a young girl, told him of you. Of this package deal, should you ever show up again. It was strange to anyone outside of our world, but to you and I this bond just made sense. It has always been so much a part of who we were. I saw that I was capable of being my best self when we were in each other’s lives. I also saw that the accompanying guilt was going to make me the worst version of myself too, and you were the person who knew how to strum those strings just so.

This tether, this tie- it’s there always. No matter what has happened, what has been done, or what has been said- it’s a forever sort of thing.

I wish you well, every day.

I just wanted you to know, in case you find your way here again one day, that I see you there, in the shadows. I wanted you to know that sometimes, at night, as I pray words of love and peace for those I care about- your name is a part of that too.

I forgive you.

I’m thankful for you.

~M

some form of something…

As a classic self-doubter with added combo bonus of overthinking, when I set out to learn about liturgies, last month, I was unprepared. Initially, writing a liturgy was a bit of a challenge that came about in my Mastermind group. While the other women talked about the books they’d read and their own experience with liturgies, I sat scribbling mental notes that looked a bit like Learn how to write a liturgy.

And so, I googled “how to write a liturgy.”

Then I scoured pinterest in search of the best, most straight forward liturgy how-to.

I kept my eyes peeled for some mystery webinar on the subject, which would inevitably pop up in my internet ads, as literally all things I search for do.

I had misconceived that I had to create some formal/fancy form or religious, old-fashioned poetry.

When I found no guidance, I began reaching out (subtly at first, and later full-on-begging) for ANYONE to tell me how this was to be done. I needed help…

But really, I didn’t.

I believed that I needed line by line instruction, and could list out a dozen (plus) reasons why I was not capable of such a task. (things like my lack of education, my disregard for traditional writing strategy and rules. Good grief, I hadn’t even known what a liturgy was before last month.)

My lovely friend sent me the book Every Moment Holy and, as I poured over the pages of beautifully crafted captures of often ordinary moments, I began to see myself in them.

In the cups of coffee.

In the moments of mundane uncertainty.

In vibrant sunsets as well as the eighth miserable day of Pennsylvania drizzle. Slowly, I began to understand this need that I have to operate on a level deeper than merely existing. I began to realize that this notion of liturgy could be my how.

I could chop vegetables for a stew, while being overwhelmed with the volume of pain I felt with each movement, because this body of mine lives in a constant state of such hardship… OR… I could choose to work through this place of intentional gratitude for my ability to make dinner at all, preparing the meal with love. I could choose to soak in the stillness of routine, coupled with the natural engaging of my senses, as I did the tasks before me. Suddenly, the basic chore of folding my husband’s t-shirts had become something so much deeper, and satisfying.

The truth is, I’m just me. Some super brilliant theologian could stumble upon these words and tell me I’ve got it all wrong. To this I may respond two ways… First, I may urge them to move along because everything here is not meant for them, and I feel complete peace in that. Second, while many may feel that my acts of doing the mundane in intentional and connected ways cannot be an act of worship, I kindly disagree.

Here’s what I know:

When my feet sink deep, into collapsing sand as the sea kisses its shore, I am my most authentic me. As the sound of waves crashing thunders throughout my very core, I am my most connected me. While the aroma of salt and life take over my senses, working together to form this entire experience, I am directly plugged into the very thing that fills me up. I believe this is God, and I begin operating on a wavelength so different than everyday life. For me, this is my truest form of worship. It does not need “praise hands” lifted high, or Chris Tomlin written lyrics sung from my lips.

When I am in a still, mossy wooded space, deep in the mountains, I am my most authentic me. With the morning, patches of fog littering the air, I am my most connected me. The gentle gurgle of a creek breathing life, somewhere nearby, can carry me straight into that same wavelength of centered connection.

The collection of these moments keep me going in the harder times, as I believe they are the moments when I was tapped into my Creator… In those times, I am made up up gratitude, love and serenity…

My reality, however, is that I cannot always take to the coastline or the mountaintop. What if I could choose some form of something in my daily moments along the way?

My life is not a liturgy. I am WAY too messed up for that. I am learning that my days however, can contain them…

(In the most synchronistic turn of events, I stumbled upon a 30 day instagram challenge, for the month of November, utilizing the hashtag #liturgyofthelittlethings. Already, just a few days in, this has been a centering practice during these days of anxiety and election overwhelm.)

October 26th, 2000

I was twenty-four years and seven months old, to the day.

The doctor who had saved me with a shot six long years before had been the one to tell me, with saucer wide eyes, that my uterus had been the biggest mangled mess he’d ever seen.

That poor piece of me had survived through so much brutality. I was sad that she was gone, but also relieved too.

My eighty-nine year old soul was tired…

The thought of never having to wonder if I was pregnant, or if I’d lose a baby again, was something only alive in my past.

Seven little babies who would never know me, my arms or the beautiful bits of this world, had become in that pocket of me. The excruciating loss of those seven little heartbeats would forever be the ugliest bits of this life, for me.

I had a scheduled procedure which led to an emergency hysterectomy. In the course of one day my body experienced the equivalence of a catastrophic train wreck in my endocrine system. As I lay, half drugged, in my hospital bed, the doctor tried explaining to depth of it all to me.

I could barely comprehend the reality that my uterus was gone, much less the information about my last ovary being taken too, the discovery of cancer cells, screenings for the rest of my life, or the hellish journey that lay ahead due to the sudden halt in my hormonal system.

My second day in the hospital resulted in the worst migraine I have ever known. While I screamed and throbbed, begging for help, the nurses had to restrain me because I had an abdomen full of sutures and staples that needed care. When I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t help my head pain, they expressed their matter-of-fact answers about this being what happens when a woman loses her ovaries before her body is ready.

I was warned nearly every time that a doctor or nurse visited my bedside, that I was at an incredibly high risk of breast cancer now. I was also being automatically put on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), which they cautioned would increase my odds of breast cancer significantly.

“It’s a little scary that you’re so young and you’ll take it for so long. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared for you.” one nurse muttered, one morning as she took my vitals and changed my bandages.

In so many ways it seemed like there was a community opinion that I were there as some consequential result of a horrible decision I’d made.

There had been so many hospitals, so many nurses and doctors, over those years. SO MUCH negative, so much pain, and so little compassion… When I was wheeled to the car, the day I was discharged, I was filled with relief at the closing of that horrible chapter.

It has been twenty long years since that day. Two decades of life and loss, love and light. So much time has passed, so many things forgotten, and yet…

And yet, I can travel back to those moments where my aching heart fragmented over and over again, in an instant. Trauma is like that.

I could be both the woman who had lost her babies, and the woman who flourished beyond those chapters of my life. It is possible to be both, because I am. Remembering the big, dark things, is as important as reminiscing about the brightly lit ones too. Life is a balance. Acknowledging the hard does not mean we won’t move on.

“Getting over” a horror, is not healthy. Let’s stop expecting that of grieving mothers. Those babies, though the other side of heaven now, are just as much a part of me, my story, my purpose and my every breath, as anyone’s babies are.

~~~

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I have shared my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Lessons in Summer…

And officially, August is behind us.

Back in the day there used to be a seasonal “What I Learned” blog link up, and even though those days are long gone, as I attempt to regain some sense of routine and productivity, I decided keeping track of “what I learned” this summer would be a healthy practice.

With the June-August block of time fittingly in our rear view mirror, I thought I would sit down and take some time to share those things with you.

to slow…

This Covid year had already given us a crash course in slowing, but as the world began to (sort of) reopen, and many people attempted to return to the way they remembered life, before the Pandemic, my summer took me deeper. This slowing, in the warm and muggy summer months felt more of my own doing.

Hammocks and afternoons reading on the porch became luxuries that I could embrace rather than just WISHING I could, because I was so busy all of the time.

Tall glasses of sun tea, and late dinners of grilled fish and vegetables became a standard that we could enjoy because we were present in those moments.

Slow=Present. Connected.

to substitute…

This summer we experienced the major malfunction of our fridge/freezer, costing us a lot of groceries. We can’t really afford to replace it, so we’ve had to be creative about how we place items in it. It’s been fun.

Simultaneously, our most used appliance died. THAT loss hurt. Thankfully we love the company and they replaced it, even out of warranty, though it did take 4 weeks to happen.

In the midst of that four week span of time, our actual oven died.

I say all of this to show that, in a time when we were not wanting to “run to the supermarket” continuously, and our means of meal making was challenging the very way we did things, we learned to substitute.

One silly example: I learned that though I love guacamole on so many things, the walmart brand of single serving guac is actually delicious, affordable and keeps longer than the larger ones I would usually by or make.

That is just one little example of the many ways we learned to adapt amidst the challenges. What we found, now that we are on the other side of that, is that sometimes it’s ok to take the “shortcut” and substitute. We don’t HAVE to make things harder to meet other people’s expectations.

to ask…

June kicked of as emotions were newly high over the murder of George Floyd. All over the internet there was activism, support, and black out challenges to support not only the Black Lives Matter movement, but to continue waking up the world re: the realities of systemic racism and injustice.

Inspired by the Share The Mic Now campaign (of which Glennon Doyle was a founder), I wanted to be involved in something that made a difference. After digging around, and watching others take to social media with similar campaigns focussed within their passion/career field, I was encouraged to launch a Share The Mic Now campaign for writers, and so I did.

At first it was TERRIFYING.

Growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, I was taught that colorblind is the response of a non-racist. To accept all skin colors, you have to be blind to them. I was taught you do not ask someone questions about their ethnicity. So even though amazingly courageous conversations were happening (finally) re: how absolutely WRONG that mentality is, it was still a part of my core. I felt SICK approaching other women and asking them to participate in something BECAUSE they are Black.

But I asked… And almost everyone did.

And then, four weeks later, we did it again.

And the experience CHANGED MY LIFE. The biggest way it did this is that it stripped away a wall and created very organic connection between women. Through those adventures I got to know some of the most beautiful and amazing fellow writers. I am so proud to call them peers, and grateful to consider many of them friends.

We have had some hard talks. I have learned (and am continuing to) so much. Connecting with other female authors is empowering and life breathing…

to continue…

Through that experience I learned something else too…

Early on, in June, when I was witnessing the online community ON FIRE over the injustice, while the real world burned too, I heard several prominent Black speakers say that the “support of white people is nice and needed” but that they couldn’t trust it, because they’d seen it before and it always faded when something else shiny and new came around.

I was shocked.

I had said I would read and listen and learn, and I was.

I had committed to placing myself in uncomfortable situations for change, and I was following through.

I didn’t ever remember seeing anything like this happen before so I truly believed this was the pivotal point when eyes (and hearts) would be opened. I wasn’t able to see things as so many Black Americans could, because I am white. This isn’t meant to be shaming, and yet, I began to see how so many react as though it is…

The more I learned, the more my vision fine tuned. I was (and still am) changing. There is no going back. It took a little while for me to realize the majority was not changing with me.

People went back to their normal lives, and the spotlight dimmed. It was subtle, but I woke up to this reality like a slap to the face, when a fellow believer verbally attacked me over a social media post. She told me I “was what was wrong with this country” because I believed this was a cause worth fighting for. That i needed to “shut up” and let people go on to their normal lives. The post in question had been someone else’s. I had shared it in a “story” suggesting it was, if nothing else, thought provoking.

Within a week I had women from the Collective Community pouring out very similar stories. We were all sick over A) the disgusting responses of people we had once considered “ours”, and B) so heartbroken because what we had seen was merely a fragment’s fragment of what generations of Black men, women and children have felt constantly. Sobering.

It’s so easy to be swept up in something meaningful, when the whole world is floating that current. When the bend comes, and we have to go it mostly alone, against the water’s strong push- it’s a whole other thing.

Continue. The best news, despite hurt and sadness, is that we find new people we can call “ours”, and those people are way more ours than the ones who came before.

to adapt…

With all of our slow, extra time, we were able to do some things we hadn’t had time to do before. One was finally putting in an outdoor movie space. We’d wanted to do this since we moved here in September of 2018. We had slowly acquired the items needed and even attempted it last summer. We couldn’t figure out how to do it well, plus we were so busy…

But this summer we did it, and it’s amazing! Neighbors love it. We’ve had friends over and they love it. Hands down, the highlight of our summer!

When our local theater opened, last week, we lucked into some passes. Pre-Covid, we were AVID movie goers. We love movies, loved the experience. It was just “our thing”. In fact, we were at the theater two days before they went on lockdown, because I was doing some presswork for a small release. Coronavirus was already a major topic, and we left that screening terrified we were about to die. In the small, packed theater we had fellow patrons coughing here and there, and the energy among us all was stiff and rigid. As the credits rolled, I remember thinking “I feel like this was emotional and I should be crying, but honestly I just want to get the hell out of here!”

With our free passes, we braved going back last friday afternoon. It was weird. We were actually the only two people there, and had no anxiety about anything. We just didn’t love it. It felt long and uncomfortable. We realized that, although going to the movies had been such a big part of our lives, we hadn’t really missed it. We each admitted that our home theater is so much more fun.

We were both surprised…

What about you? What did this summer teach you?

brink…

It was the September of my 20th year when the combination of feel and scent in the air took me back, ala’ movie montage moment, to so many Septembers past. High school Septembers, Jr. High autumn evenings. Flooding, internally, from one to the next.

When I was thirteen, I declared I would one day have a daughter and name her September. It turns out that I neither had a daughter, nor named a child (or pet) that. I do not regret this, just so we’re clear.

All in all, if we were keeping score, September probably shouldn’t be a favorably definitive month for me. It was when school years began, and growing up I was not a lover of school. September marked my first full month as a group home kid, when I was 12.

It carried me into my two definitive adolescent romances, which led, in different ways, to deeply broken hearts…

It also, in fairness, introduced me to my husband, when I was seventeen. That September nearly killed me, as I dealt with a health crisis of extreme proportions, which may (or may not- we will never know) have led to my inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Pretty much nothing, at all, was going remotely ok that September, but in walked Chw and I knew that the two of us would be married, so for that I will declare September 1993 a victory.

A year later, September would bring us full circle, to a horrific miscarriage.

Why it stands out to me that Septembers marked more loss than gain, I’ll never know. Sometimes my biggest gifts (I met each of the kids I loved like a mother loves, in Septembers. First, 2000 and then 2003.) Beautiful gifts, further falling in love and inevitable heartbreak.

Shattering.

Destroyed irreparably.

September…

Two of my three beloved dog besties were laid to rest in Septembers.

My husband left me for another woman in September. Though we reconciled two years later, that first September had us glued to the tv as planes hit the towers and we gained perspective unlike we’d ever had before.

SO MANY milestones of trauma mark the ninth calendar month, of the year.

And still… still, I find myself to be a lover of September. The autumn air ushers in this crisp scented magic, and I am here for it.

This year’s janky calendar had hoards of people unable to wait for summer, because summer would fix the world.

Then it didn’t.

And now, now people are chasing after pumpkins, and spice and new sweaters earlier than ever, with a misplaced faith in this next season bringing the reset needed to right the world.

I don’t know… Maybe it will. September has proven to be a magical and tricky beast. These Sept’s of past have been known to bring about some incredibly unexpected gifts- I’ll just caution us all to be weary.

Whatever these days actually hold, (and let’s be honest- it’s 2020, September could bring us ANYTHING!) I’m pretty certain we will arrive at the first of October scathed in someway.

For all of us, I hope it is a beautiful healing way… A restorative way.

I’m cautious, but also here for it. Despite the track record, I’m a September girl through and through…