Friday, October 27, 2017

A complaint for the ages




I know I've led a semi-privileged life. Aside from the brief period when Joey and I were both unemployed, I've never gone hungry. I've never been (really) homeless, even though I don't have my own home right now. I tended to outgrow my snow boots every winter as a child, but have never gone without shoes, even if they were the wrong size. I rarely received the toys I wanted, but I wanted books more, and I was filthy rich when it came to kid lit. School came easily to me for the most part, and when math became too difficult my parents were able to get me a tutor for a short time. I didn't have a lot of what the world thought was necessary for happiness, but I had enough. My family loved me, I had a few good friends, and it was enough.

But I'm in a strange period of life now. This in-between-ness. I have enough... for now. And just for right now. The future is coming at me fast and I don't know what I'm going to do when it arrives. I just know that what I have now, which is enough for right now, won't be enough for later.

I miss my clothes. Maybe that sounds stupid, but I can't tell you how frustrating it is to walk between seasons and know that I own a coat, a really nice one, but I can't get to it. I also have lots of nice "professional" clothes but when I had an interview last month I didn't have anything. I had to improvise. I miss my blouses and my nice shoes and my winter boots and all of my many pairs of warm socks.

I have bought more socks in the last month than I've bought in the last year, simply because I cannot access my sock collection. It's a nice collection, too.

I miss my books. I brought only three books with me on the trip out to Seattle. This complaint is not about having enough reading material (I mean, I could always buy more, right? Or borrow some.) It is about the comforting presence of my own beloved books, the sacredness of their weathered pages and illicitly written-in margins.

I miss the treasure trove of coffee mugs Joey and I kept. It's strange to only have four mugs to my name. Two I bought at a thrift store out of necessity, and two I inherited from my grandmother's house.

On that note, I miss my grandmother. This is possibly a strange place to mention such news, but she passed away in late September. She was 92. I have no hard feelings about her passing--she led a good life. She filled us up with her love and wisdom. My grief is soft, like a blanket. I miss her because she was wonderful and warm and she loved me. I think perhaps her greatest gift to me was that she received my love for her so willingly. She wrote fondly of my artistry and appreciated every picture I drew for her, every card I sent her, every doodle I might have scribbled. She soaked it up. I suppose that's a grandma's job.

I miss my desk. I have a "new" one now ($5 at Goodwill) and it has its own drawers, but the surface area isn't as big. I also miss all my office supplies. I miss my white board calendar and my hot glue gun and my stash of fancy markers. I have a stash of less fancy markers now--and by less fancy I really mean they are just terrible markers. Just the worst.

I miss my church and my friends in Waukegan. I miss holding hands and standing in a circle with all my CNC friends, singing "I Need You to Survive" and wondering at the double meaning. I needed them to survive for their own sake. I needed them for my own survival. I still do.

And I miss my dog. I miss the quiet moments when she would rest her big floppy head on my feet. I miss her warm little body against mine in the bed. I felt her loss most painfully the first cold morning here in Renton. How she used to love naptime with me on a chilly day. She would be so happy snuggled under the blanket for an hour or so. She wouldn't squirm or grumble, she just pressed herself into my chest and sighed contentedly in that way that a dog sighs with their whole body.

But of course, missing things doesn't mean I'm unhappy.

Goodness gracious. I am so happy. I am so sad, and so happy, at the same time.

All at once my heart is so light, and yet so burdened. There is such joy at what has been restored to me and such heavy sadness at what I've lost. All at once.

If I had not come home when I did, I never would have been able to say goodbye to my grandma. I couldn't have painted her one last picture or held her hand. The last thing she said to me was, "I love you," and I remember that. I remember her face when she said it. I wouldn't have that memory if I wasn't here. I couldn't tell you the last thing she said to me, or when it was.

If I had not come home when I did, I would feel her death more intensely. I have spent many years being absent for funerals and memorials and it is pointedly awful. It is so isolating. Death is so much more ominous and somehow haunting when it is unapproachable.

I am glad to be here, home, to have my goodbyes. I'm glad to help plan the memorial and wade through the ocean of photographs that embody my grandparents' lives. I'm glad to be able to support my mama and be the daughter I've always wanted to be but couldn't, because I was too far away.

This seems like a list of complaints. It is, but it isn't. It's just the way my life is right now. These are simply facts. I am so happy, and so sad, and so excited for the future, but so anxious.

And the most beautiful thing is that God is sitting with me in all of it. He holds my hand when I drown in the photographs and sticker collection at grandma's house. He gives me sleep when I am reminded, yet again, that I can't say goodnight to my dog because she's gone. He does not expect me to only see the good in life, but doesn't want me to see only the bad. He does not expect me to toss off the life he helped me build in Illinois, nor does he wish for me to drown in grief. He allows me to be in the middle, between feelings, between stages, between periods of having and not having enough.

Having him with me, in darkness and light, is the greatest privilege of all.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Mountains and Valleys



Funny to think about not blogging since April. I put such an emphasis on National Poetry Month and then my motivation for writing seems to disappear. I suppose it was also around that time that things really began to shift up and down in my world.

I applied for a job in Washington state. It took the potential employer a long time to make up his mind, but eventually he came to a decision and I didn't get the job. But we decided to move home anyways. The really wonderful and terrifying thing about trusting God is that sometimes he thrusts an adventure into your schedule at the last minute and you have no choice but to follow along--we could have had a grand expedition across the country, or not moved home and been homeless and poor and continued in various types of misery.

We went home to Washington briefly the end of June/beginning of July for my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. Their anniversary weekend was held in Bandon, Oregon at one of my family's favorite coastal locations. It was the best vacation I've ever experienced. It wasn't glamorous or particularly thrilling but we drank lots of coffee and ate lots of tacos. I collected lots of seashells and sunburns. (Yes, you read that correctly.) We also began making plans for the move home.

When we arrived back in Illinois we had just 20 days to raise the money for the move along with pack up our lives. This is not an exciting thing to write about so I'll be brief. We worked a lot, I had several doctor's appointments and one biopsy, we had trouble getting the trailer for the move and didn't have a lot of money and our last few days in Illinois were terrible. Also our whole county was flooded. I didn't sleep a lot.

The drive back to Seattle was the worst road trip I could have imagined. We had car trouble, and because of the loaded trailer (which was packed to the brim with belongings, but no furniture--I had to leave all of that behind) our gas costs doubled. Rather than spend money on lodgings we occasionally slept for a few hours in parking lots. The dog enjoyed the trip immensely, of course. We had her kennel cradled in the backseat and she just slept in there, peering out the window occasionally.

Driving a little sedan with a 2000-pound trailer behind it is awful. As a short person, I often do not enjoy driving simply because I feel physically disadvantaged. My hands also go numb. But on the last leg of the trip Joey had grown tired (no surprise there) and I was SO OVER being in the car. The Rocky Mountains had really done us in--it was a slow ascent, descent, ascent, descent, over and over again all through western Montana and all of Idaho. Joey was exhausted by it all.

So the second-to-last stretch of the trip was all me. It was the middle of the night but I was a warrior of darkness and speed. I took us all the way down out of Idaho and trekked through Eastern Washington until we found a Walmart parking lot for the night.

The next morning we finished the drive to Seattle. The dog perked up as soon as we rounded Snoqualmie Pass and couldn't stop sticking her little head out the window. The air was so fresh and clean in comparison to the midwest, and I think she knew we were home.

Since then things have been mostly steady. We house-sat for relatives, then stayed with a friend for a few days, then house-sat again, and now we're renting a room from a family friend. The last several days have been heartbreaking as we had to put Holly down on Friday.

I am not sure what comes next. I don't have a job, so I have a lot of time by myself while Joey is at work. I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do. God has allowed me to experience some great losses in all this. I've lost my beautiful little church and the family within it, I've lost all my furniture, and don't have access to my worldly possessions as they are all in storage. I've lost my job simply by moving away from it and now I've lost Holly, my very best friend in the whole world.

I've been in these valleys before. I know this one like the back of my hand. But there is so much pressure to deny the valley any power, to simply trek back on up the mountain and stay there because that's "how it's done." I just have a feeling that I have to live in the valley for a little while--to rest in the shadows from the mountains, to drink from the rivers, to pause and reflect on all the mountainous land surrounding me before choosing which one to climb.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

NPM Day 30 {Rocks & Feathers}



Rocks & Feathers
April 27, 2017


The lowest tides bring the highest pain,
she is reminded on the shore
of stones smooth and cold, and sits
to let the frigid waters wash her feet.
Wind ruffles red tendrils of hair,
rattles the anxiety caging her heart,
and a murky sunset catches all
the blue from watering eyes.
She blinks until the sky is gray,
letting waves of salty atmosphere
dry tears and clear off the seagulls.
This hurt cannot be smoothed out
and left upon the winnowing beach
among shells and gentle driftwood.
We cannot know the history of things,
how large or small a creation came
from a pebble, a branch, a leaf.
We are all just rocks and feathers.
She sees all that's been forgotten,
sandy remnants of other shores, things
which tell no stories of former greatness.
And as the night air rushes downward
it carries her, and she knows,
she could have been a mountain,
and she could have been a bird.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

NPM Day 29 {Position}



Position
September 9, 2016

Let it be my turn.
I have begged.
In a modern era
I have found myself kneeling
under desks and
in the dark.
Let it be my turn.
I have burned photographs
and filtered out
supposed poisons,
waiting.
Let it be my turn.
Always patient,
although devastated,
but somehow
never questioning
my position.
But perhaps
I should be pleading
instead
to simply be allowed

to stand in line.

Friday, April 28, 2017

NPM Day 28 {The Pause}



The Pause
April 9, 2017

I envision myself paused, my hands pressed
against praying lips, eyes closed, all senses omitted
except the sound of my heart beating.
It's a sagacious and frequently visited image,
hoping it will lead me somewhere new,
but whether I see my body swaying
mid-song, or crouched under this desk,
I am infinitely alone in such a moment.
The world offers no insight to, nor respite from,
the haunting desire that captures me,
that subtle yet emboldened pain
always just beyond my grasp, feigning
an approach and then fading fast.
And so intrepidly I take pause, always
assuming position in solitude, always hoping
that if I open my eyes, my heartbeat
will be stronger alongside yours.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NPM Day 27 {Roundabout}



This poem used to give me chills. They were sort of good chills, sort of bad chills. When I wrote this over seven years ago, they were my only way of processing one of the biggest fights with a friend I've ever experienced. I honestly can't even remember what the fight was about, but it went on for several months longer than I felt capable of enduring.

All I had were these words. 

And I've avoided this poem over the years, but it doesn't have power over me anymore. 

So here you go.

Roundabout
February 12, 2010

You are the friend of my conveniences,
coffee cups cold with petty sympathies.
You are a walk in the dark,
the translation of my nightmares,
and you lay your hands down on me
like a sacrificial beast into the flames.
You bear the knife in clammy palms,
breathing out my fate like a grudge
that holds on hopelessly.

You are the arrow that misses my heart
a thousand times too many for pity.
You stab me in the back
and apologize. You are so sorry.
Patterns go roundabout, but maybe
you will hit the target next time.

You are the accumulation of ice,
the shivering abandonment of reason.
You stab me in the back
and apologize. You are so sorry.
Patterns go roundabout,
yes is a maybe and maybe means no.
You stab me in the back

and sympathize. You are so sorry
that I am such a sorry sight.
You stab me in the hand
and put the blade in my bloody fingers
and you scream for me.
You say I did it to myself and
you say it's all my fault and
you stab me in the heart and
patronize. You are so sorry
that I don't see it your way.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NPM Day 26 {Chalet}



Chalet
December 20, 2016

Rickety seats and bright nights,
cool summers, proximal mountains,
all fade and grow hazy
under a new star.
Nobody takes these memories from me.
I say a thing can be beautiful
even after you’ve touched it,
even after I swore
it was ruined for forever.
I’m taking them all back now,
the theaters and cemeteries,
the antique stores, the lake.
I will reclaim jokes in stairwells,
and the blue tiles I stared at
during my first panic attack.
Nobody holds their record
except for me
and when they play across the silver screen
the credits will misplace your name.