When willing…

On Fridays Kate, over at Five Minute Friday, hosts a fun writing prompt and link up. Over the summer I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t been great about joining in, but I’m back to day. (ready and… Willing! ha!)

Basically, we free write for five minutes, using the prompt… And here, I go-

Last night my husband and I were driving home when we nearly hit a dog. Reluctantly, at my insistence, my husband pulled the car over and I jumped out. The beautiful, and obviously very brave, German Shepherd came straight to me. He was so sweet, and also traveling with an adorable Pit Bull friend. They were both so loving, and one had a limp. They’d come running from the parking lot of an animal hospital, so my first thought was that this was all somehow connected.

There were people to call, weren’t there?

Hours later, as it turns out, there were not.

Thanks to a trusting stranger, we met in the dead of night, we followed a (cold) digital trail and eventually found the owner. Success! (despite a frustrated and tired husband, who easily could have just gone home without stopping, and was pretty determined that these sweet boys living their best lives, in our back seat, would not be sleeping over.)

This morning, my husband was putting gas in his car on the way to work, (something we were going to do last night, just before I decided to play Snow White, and rescue all of the animals) when a woman frantically approached him begging for money, for gas, because she was stranded. We seldom carry cash, so he decided instead to put $10 worth of fuel, in her car. Once their interaction was done, he witnessed her hit up several other people for cigarettes and cash, before he drove off to work, feeling like a fool.

Sometimes stepping up is hard, and ALWAYS stepping up will require sacrifice. Whether it’s money, time or a missed opportunity, something will be lost in exchange for the effort. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they were deserving. (the dogs were! The dogs were so sweet and I wanted to keep them forever, but I wanted to keep my husband more!) What matters is that we were willing to do it at all…

What did you believe?

What were the beliefs you shaped, as you celebrated birthdays inching closer and closer to forty? Are you still on that journey, dreading those four decades of candles? Does that dread stem from reasons you possibly don’t really understand?

Growing up in America, I experienced the message of 40’s wickedness coming at me from many angles. Media, film, print, and the women I knew who crossed that threshold before me. At some point, around 32, I began to hear women whispering revolt to these society driven ideas, sharing about how their lives began at 40, or were simply better at 40. I allowed a fragment of hope, but also, I noticed these thoughts came after the dreaded age, and perhaps this was spoken within the context of “those lies we tell ourselves”.

My truth is that this past March I turned 43.

Three years ago, when I turned 40, I had- HANDS DOWN- the very worst birthday imaginable. (for anyone keeping score, it’s true- I’m prone to “bad” birthdays) This years celebratory event reminded me that life’s circumstances, as well as the actions of other people, aren’t really the things which should be defining our lives. The past few years have absolutely been among the most hurtful and challenging that I have known. That the fact though, life happens… Yours, mine, bad seasons, beautiful seasons and a whole gaggle of mediocre in-betweens. I’ve been frank, but the question remains: Is life better in my 40s?

It is.

Obviously there is no magical age which stops all of the out-of-our-control elements. It isn’t that I’m “living my best life” now, but it is true that I AM DIFFERENT. I care more, (and more intentionally) about the important things. I don’t care about the toxicity, the drama or the elements that simply aren’t worth my energy any longer…

Stemming from a brief social media exchange about this very topic, I invited my new friend Ritu to be a guest on The Collective Podcast. You guys, this lady is PURE light- and not because, now that she’s 40, she has it all figured out… She’s just lovely, and her life of experience (good and bad, just exactly like the rest of us!) has led her to this beautiful point in life. She’s working on a novel, that I personally can’t wait for, but her poetry book Poetic RITUals is available now! Come listen to Episode 40, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe!

Are you heading to 40, and worried? Are you past that point, and different?

With a cherry on top…

Last week, in a post, I mentioned living at the fake ocean. A few people emailed, either chastising or seeking clarification. It’s funny because the people in our everyday lives know that I have called this sweet little cottage home my fake ocean beach house since we moved here last fall. Sure, the technical term for that would be LAKE HOUSE. I know, I know…

Back in the early days of marriage with Chw, we would play this fun little game where we’d go on and on about how we’d spend our lotto winnings. Of course, we didn’t really play the lottery because we were young and poor. Even so, we’d dream up all of the things we’d buy, the donations we’d make, the people we’d “take care of”, and the places we would go.

Being young and a little dumb, I said all of the right things that I imagined I was supposed to say like- A greenhouse, I’d build a greenhouse… (Why in the world would I want a greenhouse?) That novelty eventually wore off, as did a lot of the other sillier things I was so sure I’d want. (No, I don’t want a butler, unless it’s Carson, and he’s not real so no- no butler thank you!)

Eventually the conversations faded, but before they did, I grew into my heart. A beach house… I would buy a simple, cozy beach house. Also, I wanted a cherry tree, high to the sky and filled to the brim with cherries… Even though the lottery day dreaming had mostly gone to rest with our youth, these two things remained front and center as my biggest “someday” dreams.

When we learned of our move to the coast of Lake Erie, my husband joked that he’d finally fill-filled my dream of a beach house. Hardy-Har-Har, and actually the joke was on him because though we can see the great lake from our home, we aren’t actually ON the lake. If you’ve been to a great lake then you understand how it can be seen as a “fake ocean”. It looks close, but it’s just not the same. It was a fun little, ironic joke, for awhile.

An added bonus to our new little home was the giant cherry tree in our back yard, though to keep with the theme of “close but not quite the same” was that due to a neighbors garage blocking the sun, the giant tree only produces fruit about 2+ stories in the air. Instead of an abundance of the beautify cherries, we had rotten, partially squirrel eaten ones raining down when the winds kicked up. It is the perfect anecdote to the old warning of Be careful what you wish for, but mostly both things really make me smile. Are they what I always imagined? No. The humor of the realities though, feel perfectly in sync with this season in our lives. The tree is gorgeous, the lake is simply stunning (even in the dead of winter) and I am grateful.

Someday, a real beach house, preferably on the Pacific ocean. Someday, a huge, unobstructed cherry tree- but today, today this is home and I know I am exactly where I am meant to be.

 

What’s in a name…

It has been a hot minute since I’ve participated in a FMF writing prompt, but when the mind finds itself wide awake at 2:30 a.m. on a Friday, I have to guess it really wants to… (You can join in and link up here, or just check out the other writers who are participating!)

There are relationships in our lives where, to the other person, we often become less of an individual and more merely a title of how they feel to call us. No longer do our identities belong to those pieces of life which make us. Instead we grow, within their heads, to the villainous character they desperately need for us to be, validating their own inadequacies.

We all have the possibility of such construction, no one is except from the label creations or the being created non-consensually. Suddenly, beyond a beating heart, a mind and a flawed human being, we simply become the whatever.

This insult.

The bitch.

The whore.

The parent.

The wife.

The bad guy.

the liar.

The one.

The blame.

The name…

Often we fail to comprehend the damage we can cause by giving name to a negative thought regarding someone. To anyone really, including ourselves. Negative thoughts happen, we’re human- it’s life… But once we allow ourselves to give birth to reducing an entire person into a neatly labeled, ugly little box, things change. Toxicity sets in and decay is inevitable. Perceptions change, our ability to dwell in reality changes. We change…

Sometimes life is hard. (most times, actually) There are days we wake up ready to run the race, face the music, suit up for the fight of it- other times we don’t. These are the moments we are most at risk of ourselves, these are the times when we need to embrace the courage to process through a moment, through a thought, through a feeling and then be completely honest with ourselves. Avoid the naming, avoid the box. While it’s easy to embrace the name-game today because it balms our spirit for a moment- the grave reality is far darker, later on.

It is so much harder to undo something that never had to be done.

Melt…

We recently heard the history of St. Valentine and honestly, I feel like this is the ultimate romantic story. How has this not inspired a major motion picture? How is this NOT a story I had heard, ever, in the history of all Valentine’s days, school parties, etc???

I have never been much of a Valentine’s Day lover. I see it as one of those marks towards the top of the long list that represents all of the things we use to tell us we aren’t good enough, are not truly loved, and design completely unrealistic expectations around. This aspect of reality has grown so much with the rise of social media, the idealization of grand gestures, and the obsession with mimicking the entertainment industry.

This is sounding more soapbox than I am intending…

Here’s the thing though, my husband doesn’t believe that he is capable of romance. He is confined by the restrictions of finances, opportunity, and all of the other real life things that prove how attainable a movie life is. I look back at his childhood and cannot fathom where this shaping of “romance” originated, but for twenty-five years the majority of what I hear is that he’s sorry he isn’t more romantic, or sorry that he can’t do more. The truth is, I have never been that girl who longed for the big Hollywood style romance. There are certain fresh flowers I love, and I’ll take being surprised by them any day, (or let’s be real, I’ll buy them myself too!) Beyond that though, the traditional sense of “romantic gestures” isn’t one I identify with. Don’t bring me chocolates, or candy of any kind… BUT, an occasional fancy cupcake might be nice.

My poor husband has never been able to grasp the personalization of an authentic romantic gesture. He has done them countless times, but would never “hashtag” them as romantic. Instead he’s waiting for the hand in hand stroll beside the Eiffel tower at sunset to see himself as romantic, while I’m over here kind of like “Meh, Paris…” Ha!

I wanted to share a few things here, that make up some of the most REAL romantic things I’ve ever heard of- and they happen to be things this man has done for me… (It isn’t for bragging purposes as much as to illustrate the very idea of a “romantic gesture” is personal. What gets my heart melting isn’t likely what works for you.)

  • We were young and stupid. We got engaged, and then broke up. Even then, before Youtube and flash mob proposals, he felt far too much pressure about the importance of that moment. He tried too hard, cloaked in too much pessimism about his abilities, that though I said yes- (I helped pick out the ring, so it was pretty much a formality anyway) the proposal itself was not the basis of a great story. As I mentioned though, we broke up… And then we found ourselves sitting in a pew of the church that I had grown up knowing I would one day get married in, and he held my hand. Then, he let go of my hand to draw my ring on the back of a “connection” card, and wrote a simple “check yes or no” beneath it. MELT…
  • Not long after we were married, drowning in medical debt (yep, I was a big contributor to the awesome stuff like debt, hospital stays and a solid string of health issues, pretty much from the get go.) he irrationally enlisted in the Air Force. The recruiter painted it as the best solution, (it was not) and so he jumped. This was pre-9/11, when there were far too many people enlisted and so Chw got sent home along with lots of others. The first night he was back, he sang the lyrics to our song (We were so on trend… Always, by Bon Jovi) as we slow danced in the dark. He’d been gone several really hard weeks, and he had spent an insane amount of (pre-birth-of-google) time writing out the lyrics and memorizing them. MELT…
  • Fast forward awhile. He’s working at a glass factory. During his lunches he had cut a glass heart out, for me. He bevelled the edges and then frosted the words I Love You into its surface. I have never been a kitschy, knick knack lover but that heart seared itself into mine. (which is good because we no longer have it.) When he gave me this beautiful gift with an equal mix of pride over his creation, fear that I would hate it and doom that it wasn’t good enough. Heartbreaking! But honestly, the most precious thing about this glass heard was that there was so much of himself within it. Seriously, I LOVED it. Major MELT…
  • Sometime later, he was helping a group of kids make homemade playdough, at my parents. He then took a bit of it and carved an amazing rose for me. I kept it for years, until it was so dry it crumbled. I loved that eerie blue flower more than anything he’s ever given me- glass heart aside. MELT…
  • One Christmas, money was really tight and gifts in general were pretty much a negative. In our garage, in stolen moments I never knew about, he made me an ornately carved wooden business card holder. I had a photography business at the time, and it was such a gesture of support. I love it still and it sits on my desk… MELT.
  • I’d had surgery. There was a tumor the size of a nerf football in my uterus. The doctor had taken it, along with an ovary. Once I’d woken up, in recovery, I was miserable. The pain was huge, and my heart was broken. I wanted to be a mother so badly, and if I hadn’t been able to do it with two working ovaries and a non-compromised uterus, how would I possibly do it after this? Shattered, (which felt like a life theme at my twenty-two years of age) and feeling so alone, they wheeled me into my hospital room. The second I caught sight of him there, waiting for me, I felt grounded in gravity, so stable and most importantly: SAFE. This was the very first time in the history of my entire life that I remember distinctly feeling safe. He’d brought me a little figurine that said “You are my sunshine”, and though it was cute and STILL sits on my nightstand (twenty years later), never far from where I lay my head, it is valuable to me because it tethers me to the most amazing moment I have ever had, thanks to my husband… MELT…

The most romantic things that this man has ever done, (and there are others… these are just the ones that come to mind right now) were when he allowed himself to just authentically be, without the pressure or lofty projections of someone/something else. This is true for all of us, I suspect. When we are our most authentic selves, is when we are our most beautiful… St. Valentine was a man, and this was simply his name. He signed a letter, before his death, “your Valentine.” Over 1500 years later the anniversary of his death is recognized as the most romantic day of the year, by the majority of the world. Remember that when the pressure and expectations presented by film, tv, novels and Instagram tell you what things should look like…