Create your own story

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This year I turn 40. I’m running away to Paris where I will surround myself with wine and crispy loaves of bread. I shall eat cheese and hike up narrow streets and bask in the overall glow of love. I’m taking Louboutin heels because there is no other occasion to wear them except for Paris. I plan on smiling more than sighing, walking more than sitting, eating more than sleeping, and looking into the eyes of the man God sent me to love. I may never leave.

But honestly, what do I really know of life?

A few things.

I sat in bed and sobbed after a week of radiation, the throbbing in my skull, wondering if this tumor in my head would finally kill me. I wondered if I’d ever be a mother or have a retirement party or if I’d have my eye ripped out like a freak with a patch.

My forehead was sweating during an eight-hour law school final, writing so furiously my hand cramped. I didn’t think I’d ever make it out and I’d forever be stuck as some government worker the rest of my life.

I remember taking shots of tequila in the big mass of New York and walking around in tottering heels with the world spinning and wondering why things were going in circles.

And oh, my babies. They were never supposed to be, but they were. And they grew inside of my abdomen for nine long months and rising out of me like little angels. My heart could barely take the happy.

And then there was moment I found out my 14-year-marriage was nothing but bones and dust and I found myself curled up in a closet, my mother begging me to eat toast since I seem to have forgotten to eat in a number of days.

And don’t get me started about the three-hour time-out battle with a four-year-old.

So I know a thing or two about life.

And if I could say anything about it to an alien, or an eighteen-year-old, which is basically the same thing, I would say that life is a collection of interesting stories. Stories you repeat to yourself when you’re old. Stories that are only interesting if they are tragic, or terrible, or unbelievably weird. No one wants to know about your boring chicken dinners.

Many of these stories you can’t control. They just blow up like a West Texas dust storm in the west, heading your way whether you want them there or not, and you have to navigate the fallout. And there are stories that you can control, where you make your life interesting and rich, and choose to take the hard road.

Go make good stories.

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and think about what your gifts really are – the things that only you have that no one else can do quite like you. The things that are innate in your soul that God has placed there to better the world. Think of how to improve these things and maximize these things and go kick some ass doing these particular things. Whether it’s taking karate or traveling to India, live out these great big stories.

At the cusp of 40, I want to shake the necks of all the 20-somethings. To not think of life as working and partying on Friday nights, but as a long journey, where you can choose to take the boring interstate or veer off on the side roads, where you get to sit at old diners and eat rabbit stew and meet folks like Earl. Take these back roads with gusto and develop an interesting history, so when you’re old you can look back and say that you lived, and earned your life, and you wouldn’t do anything differently.

Some things in life you can’t control. But other things you damn sure can.

Go live your life. You know, the one you imagined.

photo:

(threew’s):flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/11863037906/in/photolist-j5iaSj-dLtdNS-5eutgu-inwu5k-9AzoxK-byb7e5-rcsoUy-Ufdf-rcDYKM-a9kFWB-bvkwv1-rRTh2d-gZi7po-r8YDtH-dbBywi-9jKCtN-9kDNmW-dbBtJ8-jEcUh4-8HRbwV-s9soCH-95k1VZ-8qfkRJ-96cuD5-a37CLe-njBGrD-oP9M3P-dbBbao-dbBtuh-4iU33h-8Ywz6G-djHiXs-wEbcP-e3WKA3-oeReqX-dhgnqz-4iU2Sq-6fAPgC-8YtCvX-2WPkK-a37CcM-8HUgBS-8vpnnn-94n2Nq-95qjUf-25vgdG-dbBiPT-pF8KZ7-4iPXAz-9SAbDq

 

Nine Fun Facts About Full-Time Working Mothers

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  1. We are resourceful. Let’s hear it for Thursday mornings when you realize that you have nothing for the kids’ lunches but almost-turned strawberries and leftover pasta in oversized Tupperware. While those other mommas are lovingly hand-packing turkey roll-ups with love notes, I’m like sweet! We have frozen burritos! WE WILL SURVIVE ANOTHER DAY.
  1. We don’t mind traffic. After all, rush hour is a blessing.  Time alone without children to gather one’s thoughts, be mindful, pray, and listen to music.  That’s what I tell myself, at least. And yet quite honestly I am a liar. It’s a daily exercise in patience while you sit in a sea of taillights, mostly cursing.
  1. We don’t like to repeat ourselves. Can CPS be called for yelling about putting on shoes? I mean hypothetically if there’s a chronic not-putting-on-shoes problem and said yelling can be heard in the general neighborhood at a high volume? Asking for a friend.
  1. We encourage perseverance through life’s many little troubles. My daughter’s like “no one else has to eat cheese sandwiches for lunch.” Like something is wrong with cheese sandwiches. Suck it up, kid. Later in life there’s traffic and leaking oil filters and complex relationships. This is minor.
  1. We cook healthy dinners for our families. Dinner used to be a time where we all gathered around a protein and two vegetables. Now it’s a mad rush to put macaroni and carrots on a plate before 7 pm.  When I actually do cook a real meal, the kids frown. “What? No carrots?”
  1. We recycle. Yesterday one of my children got leftover pork roast, biscuits with jelly, and grapes for lunch. I fail to see the problem.
  1. We encourage ourselves to be our best. Every morning, we stare at that woman in the mirror, the one with dark circles and hair that looks like it was shocked with electrical outlets. One voice inside says “Give in, hon. Just throw on a baggy dress and ponytail it.” But another voice, much more faint, says “Girl, you know you’ll regret that decision by 2 pm. So go ahead and make more coffee, wear those black strappy heels, and curl through the tangles. I taught you better than this.” I hate that voice. I snarl at it as I dab on concealer.
  1. We focus on what’s important. Working full time means sometimes your kids are late to school, you forget things, you push them in front of television shows in order to jump on conference calls, or say things like “mommy is really stressed out today because of an acquisition that almost tanked and millions were at stake so HOW ABOUT WE NOT WHINE ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE ONLY HAVE PEANUT FLAVORED GRANOLA BARS.
  1. We have a thing for pajamas. Sometimes I have dreams of taking my kids to school in pajamas. My stay-at-home mom friends tell me it’s not that glamorous, and if you’re home all day there’s laundry to accomplish, and they dream of going out to fancy lunches. I just keep yelling “PAJAMAS” in the phone until they finally relent and tell me that it’s actually pretty damn awesome.

Basically, working outside the home is hard.  Being a mom is hard.  Put those together and your children will eat lots of carrots.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbh/10218754856/in/photolist-gyZMNy-9QvNRf-6n8DLq-sUCBA-h9n12m-8Aq1yt-87N9tk-7osHn-cRm8U5-aKug2K-7gQ28z-79tRBP-muMbmN-biy8Le-9jXmAt-79xHhN-8CPRdi-8rVAQ1-6ea8Av-de9aCe-a7kvnN-a7hxpk-rGFdbG-rsvURX-7CjSKL-8s34wJ-5b6HGp-61JYN-5ZtZ25-hZfbmj-91zUsq-q9eKwk-5kof6W-7mFcCc-oWpjmC-o7cpK9-8ACA53-bBGoXH-6uo26W-58TnmN-7osrg-dErga1-orF6Cr-fpU6oK-fq9kJh-8tktDc-DQisu-5cxkro-6KWzZJ-cvr5io

Trashwalk Dancing

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Usually when I sit down to write, I have a general idea what I’m going to write about. Maybe a story or theme is rattling around in my brain. Usually it’s something on my heart that I want to get out. But I thought for a change of scenery I’d write about what I’m doing in one particular moment in time, without any idea of what might come out and with little editing. It will be like we are old friends and you’re just sitting here with me hanging out.

So at the moment I’m writing this useless bit, I’m sitting at a Greek Café, eating a salad without any component parts of a Greek salad since I’m on a stupid diet and can’t have all the good stuff. The guy behind the counter was like “NO OLIVES OR TZATZIKI SAUCE?” It was like I was offending his mother. Also, I had to look at the menu to see how to spell tzatziki because how genius that you can have a “z” so superbly placed in a word. But who wants to hear about all that when there’s more important things to write about. Like dancing.

It’s awkward. It makes my palms sweat right now just thinking of dancing in front of people. It’s embarrassing, and I’m not good at it, and yet right now blaring overhead in this Greek cafe is dance music, of all things. Adorable peppy your-eight-year-old-would-love-it dance music. The type of thing you sing out loud in your car and move your shoulders and tap your feet to, but of course we are in public where people are located. So I’m typing and clicking my keyboard looking very lawyerly in my pearls and answering emails from colleagues about the term-extension on a contract. BUT OH MY GOSH HOW I DIG DANCING.

So I’ve made a decision that, in an effort to carry my chipped blue tray with half-eaten salad to the trash, I shall walk-dance my way over. Do you think people might think I am ill? Like the gyro meat is causing too much gas? Maybe I’m trying to free pent-up underwear or just learned the discovery of a new planet and I can’t contain my excitement? Not that I’d be that excited about a planet, who are we kidding.

I will do it. In a minute, after I talk about capri pants.

Ya’ll seriously. There are very few times in life people should wear these atrocious shortened pants. Unless you have fabulous legs and are paring those bad boys with stilettos, you best wear your pants long as to avoid the inevitable staring at your ankles. Unless you have a thing with ankles.

Okay, I’m not really going to walk-dance to the trash. For the love. There’s a dude here in a hoodie and a girl in a bun and some old lady wearing plaid. Why do I make myself these stupid little self-dares anyway? My Type A personality is taunting its own self, like “you a sissy? Can’t freaking dance to the trash can? Little Amanda can’t handle it?” Damn you, body.

My palms are sweaty. I am so doing this.

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS. I did it. I picked up that tray and be-bopped to the rhythm of thumping base over to the trash and the employee at the cafe was all “uh, you can just leave that at the table.” Naturally. But I don’t want to leave it at the table. I’d instead prefer to waive my arms around and thump my hips back to my booth like I forgot to take my medication. How stinkin fun. I encourage you to get up right where you are right now and dance-walk to the trash can. It’s a bit humiliating, I ain’t gonna lie. Did I say humiliating? I meant liberating! No one looks at you because they are vicariously embarrassed for your poor soul, but you end up laughing and all these fun endorphins rush into your system and you sit down in a heap in a Greek café booth spewing laughter like bubbles across the table. Laughing only at yourself, being such a foolish zany character and all.

Do it. Life is to be lived. Dance that half-eaten salad to the trash can, even though in reality you can just leave it at the table. Because honestly.  What’s the fun in that.

 —

photo:

(three-w’s)flickr.com/photos/lostprophet/9923312183/in/photolist-g7TyZn-9sHvNQ-8eMHsK-9ip5jm-dmFpU4-63DDqm-63DLNY-7cPL8h-7YGSp4-9sKPgs-64hbeF-7FT31K-8fJPfS-63DJWS-63qNpY-a6G8HK-63qKS5-aE5EaW-4Ezc39-7c6Yyo-67vjgK-ajwDA1-7oqCB-63DJhy-62T9Cx-62Tcjt-7uUS6e-9g5uxW-dmGa2s-63mcEt-62TfDT-62Tb2F-3Nutqx-63m9UX-62XoEC-63mbKM-63zyq4-63zzGk-8XAyWX-dmEP4h-63DFY7-61N3uo-9ikWBc-iwqsfM-9oMJsT-9jwAjd-9JeCbQ-9GcfJG-5son4a-9g2VVj

 

The Turtle Shell

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The windshield washers swished a grey refrain on the long commute north. Back and forth, back and forth, as washers are programmed to do. Dependable, those strips of plastic, swiping away the rain. It’s like that some days, when our minds are a sky haze and the monotonous radio noise buzzes in our ears.

And in these days I am just a turtle in a shell, carrying with me all sorts of burdens. I wonder why the present state is the present state and when I will again arch my back and see the sun’s fiery center like an egg yolk bouncing and spreading light against the backdrop of sky.

And the saddest thing is that I’m used to being hunched over so, letting the rain and the work and the bills and the savings all weather me, like the copper on my back is turning to an aged and tarnished green. And yet I have no reason to complain, right? There are so many more unfortunate ones. Don’t we all tell ourselves this – that we have no right nor justification to hurt? How dare we complain about our middle-class lives, filled with malaise when there are those who are hungry, less fortunate, without. If thankfulness is the key to happiness, we should be so exceedingly joyful, for we all scratch down our “thank-you-for-toilets-and-ice-cream” praises in journals and Sundays and Tuesday Taco Nights.

And yet when no one is looking we again pick up our tortoise shell and walk heavy, letting the rains beat against us so. We wonder when we can get out of this coal mine or this desk job or this writer’s block or this toxic relationship or out from under our past. We wonder when the boss will let up or when the laundry pile will shrink. We sigh for the heavy and feel guilty for the sighing.

And yet the rich (and let’s be honest – in America in general we are very rich), still carry burdens. That’s hard to grasp, but let’s just give ourselves permission to say it. For then we can figure out how to move away from it. To tell ourselves that yes, we are in fact depressed. We have beautiful children or lovely husbands or wonderful homes with pools, and yet we are so exceedingly sad. For we do not always see God showcase his glory. Sometimes it’s just a long walk through the haze, when tears rise up like natural springs and we have to be mature enough to see the bigger picture.

I was in Los Angeles last weekend. It was a glorious southern California day. The kind of day you wish you could freeze in time and come back later in dark moments to remember. Mark and I strolled the streets and drove toward the Pacific. We marveled at the Bel Air landscape and ate stringy cheese by the Santa Monica pier. And when I got home my children sat down on the floor and wrote me a treasure trove of love notes, wrapped in envelopes with “mommy” scratched across in their beautiful child-like writing. And for a glorious moment the shell was lifted, and life was right and true and beautiful. But of course vacations and weekends and love notes always tend to roll into Mondays, and we begin to hunch over as before.

“Nothing is free,” a girl said at work. Folks in the meeting nodded, like “well that’s about right.” She wore a shell, hunched and sighing. She was tired, and tired of being tired, and was flat-out worn down.

But smiles are free. Snapshot memories taken with your mind are free. Saying a compliment to a stranger, who has their hair all tied up with pins just so? Free. And the love poured out from a body broken, hanging from an executioner’s tree, was also without cost. So sit now, my dear friends with hunched shells. In your work chair or your kitchen table or in your car strewn with water bottles and Starbucks napkins. Sit with the understanding that we all live with fear, and burdens, and the wondering-when-it-will-all-change.

But in these moments, force yourself to smile. Go ahead and get your nice boots on, and make an appointment for your therapist, and drag yourself outside for a walk. Look way into the future instead of the now, and know in your heart there is a love that is more powerful than yourself. Compliment someone, and force yourself to keep writing down those moments of thanks. Do something outstandingly unselfish, walk inside of that nursing home, and write a letter to your children. Take a basket of muffins to someone, or send an email to a colleague. Go all damn day trying to smile bigger and love harder and look ahead more.

I promise you that love is there, all around. The clouds will break, the sun will bob again in the big sky. The Lord above will reveal to you how much you are deeply and completely loved. Not because I say so, because He does. He never, ever fails us in his loving.

Rise up from the shell. It’s sunny out.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/audreyjm529/401093432/in/photolist-6d5LWR-nqPBP-q2axiX-nqRYy-29RPeK-3JDUnC-5uzbKU-BrLz3-9jVk7m-edPxDM-a8Ehny-6ryjxB-6acAkq-ec1hJq-9y6bRc-drX1Eh-6D1H9-eXBti7-64fkXf-9hei7D-6f1t1V-nqMFo-c6DMXE-ehDPeT-BrH71-4G27kn-dpD9CD-3fyBQc-6Y9w2W-7ssyac-6qR2eb-eagZJQ-o2rAA-6kKCoo-6qR2Lq-9Uv1mR-7bFHC5-BrHSv-6Y5tM2-eeAKH-78grTt-25QcM5-7RXNLe-8gQQ9g-pu7ZMK-CNhCJ-qiXayf-5h1Bc-pESBGr-p1sjfq

Odd and Curious Thoughts [about the New Year]

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  • So the fudge consumption has ended. Also the spiced pecans and pie. My parents brought over a tub of animal crackers big enough to feed the state of Rhode Island, and those dagblasted little animals are the last remaining sugared items in my home. I have half a mind to throw them all out, despite starving people in the world. I can’t in good conscience wear my sweaters in public because they are clinging to my sides. So these little white floured elephants are going to the day care Monday, so I can push more sugar onto the little people.

 

  • My resolution this year is to be more positive. I’m already a fairly rose-colored-glasses girl, but I’m throwing it into hyper-drive and soon I’ll sound like Candide giggling despite my life’s circumstances. If I get cancer or have a horrific accident I plan on just putting on lipstick and bearing through with a grin. Because my life is very, very good, and I’m not planning on sweating any smallish stuff. Which means I probably will get cancer because I’m not great at wearing organic, all-natural deodorant.

 

  • I am starting off more organized. I cleaned out my closets and lined up all my boots, layers upon layers of them. My daughter stayed up late and helped me stuff plastic cleaner’s bags in the tall riding boots so they stood up high and proud on the shelves. I am not certain what prompted me to start this odd habit. “So this is what you do after I go to bed at night,” she says. To an 8-year-old this is truly fascinating stuff. To adults it just sounds weird and neurotic.

 

  • I also organized my shirts by color and texture (silks, knits, starched) and I highly anticipate this will last me at least three weeks before I’m yet again stepping over things and poking myself with hangers. However, this year’s a new start. Miracles can happen. Maybe there’s an organic deodorant that doesn’t actually make you smell like reheated broccoli. Only time will tell.

 

  • I got my septic system pumped out, which was its own adventure. A man with a long pony-tail, teeth that nary a dentist have seen, and tough work boots drove up with a big truck, looked into my various tanks, and said “Oh dear. We don’t usually see sludge in this one.” Whereby I kicked in my newly found optimism and said “Yippee! Good for me that I called you! Can I get you some coffee as you inhale sewage smell on this cold and rainy day and suck the sludge from my tanks? Nopers? Alrighty then. Let me know when you’re done so I can go inside and grieve for you that you have to do this every single day of your life.” Makes my little problems easier to endure. On a high note, there was no need for that man to wear deodorant. Who would notice.

 

  • Speaking of things that smell, our entire family walked around the house wondering what smelled like burned plastic the other day. Was a light so hot it was melting some sort of outer casing? Did a plastic spoon get caught in the bottom of the dishwater and melt to a puddle of carcinogens? It was a mystery that remained unsolved until later when I was putting away the rest of the ham and found a piece of the plastic the ham was wrapped in seared to the side of the meat. We are all so going to die. However, since we didn’t die, and it’s HAM for pete’s sake, I cut up the rest of it and cooked it inside a pot of black-eyed-peas the following day. SO POSITIVE! WINNING!

 

  • I was home for over a week with my children, and it was lovely to spend so much time with them without the distractions and burdens of work. We played legos, had the cousins over whereby there were lots of giggles and dress up, had hot chocolate nights, ate dessert first, prepared nice meals and some not so nice, and spent days in our pajamas. At one point I think I said “why bother getting new clothes on / we didn’t do anything but play board games today / take a bath and put these back on.” It was luxurious. I did so much laundry that I even matched socks and washed sheets.   My children went into my closets like they were a new addition to the home they had never seen. Woooooo. Ahhhhhh. It has a floooooooor. There is no need to be this dramatic. I swear it’s like you’ve never seen color-coordinated silk shirts before.  Geez.

 

  • I read Nancy Drew books to my daughter until 10 pm and when I was too sleepy she read to me, and we did this for hours during the days and evenings. Then she’d fade away in corners of her room reading some more. School books and mysteries and books on friends and princess diaries. She created Barbie playgrounds and put random things in envelopes and at one point said “I CAN’T POSSIBLY TAKE A BATH I AM WRITING.” So I simply shut her door and nodded my head like “well honey how can you possibly be expected to, naturally not. How silly of me to ask.” And she stared at me like how awesome: I didn’t know that line would get me any traction.

 

  • I am not sure I can survive without these little animal crackers. Have you tried them with spiced tea? Have you tried them with peanut butter? I have nothing in this house, people. GIVE ME THIS.

 

  • I am starting my second novel. This statement itself is totally nonsensical because I have a full time job as an executive and a boyfriend I like to spend time with and two smallish people living inside of my home. But here I went outlining the plot to my sister over the holidays and we are brainstorming about what awful condition one of my characters has and how it wrecks her life and her husband has to hide it to protect her and the family never knew exactly why she died until now. So let’s recap. Over the holidays I organized my shirts by color, ate excessive amounts of sugar, barely got out of pajamas, and made up a world of imaginary people. You can see why I have to be positive because I’m half-mad and if I get locked up at least I’ll have people in my mind to talk to.

 

  • It was a lucky year for me. I met a brilliant, kind, and loving man. We sat at the top of Mount Greylock this Fall and sipped hot cider. We held hands down 5th Avenue heading in the rain toward the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We drank beer at Rumpy’s Tavern in Massachusetts. We strolled down the streets of Boston. We stayed up late in Dallas.  We sat in church and he reached for my hand. And we have talked more hours that I can remember. For Christmas, he made me a wall-sized word search of all the places we’ve been together and it made big fat tears roll down my cheeks. He’s a keeper, this one. For I am indeed the lucky one.

 

I hope ya’ll have a lovely new year, whether it’s eating clean or staying organized or being more positive. We all need each other. I’ll be around, smiling and grinning, traveling somewhere, wearing cancer-laden deodorant, thanking God for my wonderful life, and stuffing my face with sugared giraffes while wearing ill-fitted sweaters.

Boilerplate

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Prospect Park, Brooklyn

I am a lawyer.  This means that I think about future contingencies and the probability of bad things happening and how to protect against bad things happening that have not yet happened. It’s a dance, this protection of bad things.  I run around carefully laying down arrows before people’s feet, like “don’t go this way!” or “HEAVENS SWEET MARY DO NOT TAKE A LEFT.”

I write a lot of contracts.  Sometimes I scowl and shake my head at innovation or even compassion because of the inadvertent layering of future bad things atop the good.  I sit in meetings and scratch my head and answer text messages from ladies named Sharon.  Think of me as some muttering old professor, always trying to create walkways over water.  Bridges over bombs.  Pathways around trouble.  I talk to myself while walking toward the bathroom.  Maybe that’s why no one takes me to lunch.

But here I go referring to bad things and good things like I’m some hand-wringing evil avoider.  It’s just merging companies or buying widgets and no one is dying.  And let’s not kid ourselves. I’m in Target at lunch buying socks for my kids who always manage to lose their socks.  I am no superhero, and my job isn’t that important. Except when people are fired and laid off and punished for the color of their skin.  Or when someone works so very hard to build something from nothing, only to have that something vanish because of a deal gone wrong.  Every penny they worked for is just ripped out from underneath them.  It’s all just boilerplate on a page that no one reads but the lawyers.

I do.  I read those words. I’m in a profession people turn to when there are problems, real or in the future. In some small way lawyers are a tool to avoid these atrocities, and are paid to fight against such wrongs when they surge. So it’s only natural that when I see something, I rush on past it to the next thing, and imagine how that thing will be avoided by some reworking of this thing.  It’s no wonder I imagine my children in college and believe they’ll never pass Chemistry. How could they, really, when we spent two hours with dolls and imaginary tea parties and I let them skip bath and now we are all just lying in one bed with unbrushed teeth atop each other snoring.

I often can’t just let life be. To lie in bed and look at leaves fluttering to the earth, or live inside of love without the fear of it being crushed.  I try to write out my current station in life so clear that it cannot be ambiguous, or terminated without cause, and will withstand the scrutiny of any judge.  And yet life is not a contract.  Even contracts we make between two people and God, as any family lawyer knows, can be broken. And we are left only with today – shreds of us, really – floating along.  And when we collect all those pieces to form a life again, we begin wringing our hands at what it all means, and what future is to come, and whether we will again be ripped open like a deal gone south in a smoky back room.

I didn’t read the boilerplate.  The love will someday vanish.

And yet God tells us to not worry, us goofy little humans.  For if he cares for the ravens, he cares for us.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light. The same language is repeated throughout the scripture that we are and will forever be taken care of. The edges will be made smooth.  The pathways straight.  “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

There are times that I fear the future, when flakes of me fall like snow and I panic at the thought of losing myself again in the weather.  And yet I cannot write a life that suits me.  I cannot create an air-tight pathway that my legal brain craves.  What I can do is trust, and pray harder than I expected, and smooth out the rushed and harried edges of my heart.

The other day I walked along the long pathways of Prospect Park on the edge of a rain, holding the hand of the One Whom I Love, and for once didn’t worry about the future.  I felt solid and calm. I knew this is all I care to be, and all I care to live, and all I care to do.  And in the echoed and narrow aisles of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral with scaffolding covering the stained glass like an apron, I grasped his hand and whispered to God that I am thankful this torn and beautiful life, just a drop amidst a congregation dripping.  For outside these holy walls where two-dollars-will-light-you-a-candle is a Burberry store with four-hundred-dollar scarves, and people drenched with greed, and yet I am on the inside of love.

I am a lawyer.  I worry about how current things affect future things.  Yet at the same time I am learning to not worry.  For I am a daughter cherished. His hand has written the most perfect contract that cannot, no matter how much I scrunch up my nose, be terminated.  And this allows me to rest in the knowledge that the good can outweigh the bad, and love wins.

My friends.  Those intellectual and hollowed.  Those working and labored.  Stop worrying about the protection of your current status.  God is the arbitrator and the judge.  The prosecutor and the defender. We have but to lift up praises to the heavens, and offer ourselves as consideration for such a lofty gift. And in return we receive peace, amidst our toiled human instincts and flawed minds.  We can finally come to Him, the forever and the infinite; the never and always.  Despite our drenched hearts that fear love. Despite our minds that tear at things.  Despite our very selves.  We can finally rest.

Odd and Curious Thoughts of the Week

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(1) So this past weekend, while eating a salad at Maudies, my date and I see a child vomit at the next table over, the parents not at all outraged or disgusted and simply continue to eat while the waitress cleans up said vomit. The parents handed the kid an ipad and a glass of sprite while we sit and try to carry on a normal conversation.  In the midst of this shocking event, our waitress remembers my side of dressing, which consists of a vat of white creamy substance in a large bowl looking exactly like vomit.  I’m totally disgusted with all humanity and I am swearing off ranch dressing forever.

(2)  In other news, we went out for sushi and laughed with new friends.  It turns out eating raw meat is less gross than a vat of vomit dressing.

(3) In his elder years, my dog has managed to overcome his arthritis in the morning long enough to bark for treats and roam the neighborhood at will without a leash, a stern warning, or any time limit on peeing, apparently.  He has a bladder the size of Wisconsin.

(4) My kids were off visiting grandparents for a solid week so my house has been quiet and I missed their beautiful angelic voices and the singing and yelling and laughing and running.  One night I visited a girlfriend and she was like “OMG I AM SO TIRED OF CHILDREN LET’S LOCK THEM ALL OUTSIDE AND DRINK WINE” and I realized that sometimes a break is lovely. It’s all about perspective.

(5) The kids came back and I was so excited to see them that I made crispy broccoli and tomatoes soaked in balsamic, but then I realized they are children and what the hell was I thinking.

(6) For dessert we had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but mostly it was just me eating it with the occasional droplet of ice cream placed upon their tongues like they had just hatched out of a nest and they needed food as basic fuel to fly. But not too much because it’s Cherry Garcia.   I missed them and all but still.

(7) Went on a fabulous dinner date to Alamo Drafthouse to see Stand By Me with a full menu that matched scenes in the movie complete with beer parings from a pub in Portland, but three beers later I was like seriously folks it’s Tuesday. There is a morning coming.

(8) My children are sleeping in my bed because I can’t stand to be away from them.  I wedge myself in between them and sing spirituals and tell them in the middle of the night they are the joy of my life. My son woke up and said he dreamed he was riding a mud-laden roller-coaster and when he got off he kicked snapping frogs off his toes.  He clarified that although there are snapping turtles in real life, this was just a dream. There are really no snapping frogs.  I thanked him for the clarification; I wasn’t aware.

(9) Basically my life is amazing.

 

photo:

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Let the happy burn

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Being happy is weird.  It makes your stomach tense up and your heart beat fast and you wonder if you might possibly have indigestion. Sometimes you’ve lived so many lifetimes bearing burdens that when happiness comes it’s a bubble caught in your throat or a light that’s so bright it’s blinding.  But you have a choice to cough or to laugh, to run or to stand. Your arms outstretched so heartbeats can collect like raindrops upon the tip of your nose and drip down slow.

It’s the moment you forget to take pictures or write it all down because you can barely focus on the swirling mass around you. It’s the way your mouth can’t stop curling.  You try to stop it, that dumb grin, but there it goes again, escaping.  And your eyes twinkle and shine like a million stars. It is then you know you’re really living and not just chronicling the living.  You’re loving and not just dreaming about love.  You’re viewing the redemption story, woven so perfectly you want to rip it into shreds to make sure it’s real.

So you laugh.  Big hearty laughs that hurt your side and make your tears run and you sit in church with your head down repeating small phrases that come to mind in no particular order because of all that delirious confusion.

It does not come without a price, the happy. It follows years of trenches and warfare.  Plodding and aching and yearning and dark.  But here you are, laying atop patch of clover and rabbits, of milk and honey, honeysuckle in the springtime that overtakes your senses and makes you breathe in slow and deep. “Don’t hate me,” you whisper into the ear of the sirrus, the high clouds atop the wind, for even they cannot see the sun shine as brightly or the sky so vividly as you.

It’s rare, these moments. Like firefly lights or jewels in the sand.  They are sprinkled ever so sporadically in the course of a life.  A child is born.  A perfect morning.  The kiss of a child.  New love begins. And in these very short flashes you stand with a queasy stomach and wonder if it will end.  Because you know the darkness and the demons, they are coming.  You know the dawn is followed by a midday that’s hot and piercing.  There is a heavy afternoon to every new morn. It is the tragic world we live, and we cannot escape it forever.

But for today, relish it.  Taste it on your tongue. Let the brightness overtake you for a while, not to chronicle it or to tattoo it but just to live inside of it, for when the hard times come you’ll open up the bottle to smell the honey, pour out a little of it onto your finger, and put a drop on your tongue to sustain you.

Sometimes it’s hard to be happy.  You pick up a diamond between your toes and wonder if it’s just a rock, or whether it will lose its shine, or whether this brilliant season will cease.  But let yourself feel again.  Open your arms, your heart, your eyes, your hands.  Catch this emotion you’re so unaccustomed to – and just hold onto it for a little while.

Let it flash like a firefly, grinning. Let the happy burn.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/47932340@N06/5900455185/sizes/m/in/photolist-9ZpnKX-72cN87-h5BoH-8kdTNH-6hTVcd-kmMoua-Va2iB-7vTbGh-4jJkWH-h7ibz2-jSXr6H-8PhSJz-dZuABv-6GHPMD-85y4fC-8ik4vs-8Si9Am-9eEJ7B-5HJwjv-9DyA5j-nm8rCR-8tFVZC-5WR6TC-4F3dCQ-bFefcU-bgAGw4-k8ZTi6-kcPtgK-5WFMty-86ajvj-7fmaVy-dy64jW-5Ae4R9-c1jRtu-baQRzK-o4M9qN-4Vbz8L-fPUtzL-6DiBpX-oaXdZr-djRWSs-5VWNf4-epZLjM-bhk7Ya-fbf8An-6nFBXd-7QWhu8-jcdLXL-5Wkbxr-iHeurN-87P3Ze/

Burn up the Rubber

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Most of us live sensible lives.  We drive reliable cars. We ensure our children have green vegetables and eat organic chicken.  We rent bounce houses on birthdays and allow our daughters to be princesses and when Fridays roll around, men grill steaks in their chinos and their wives say “they’re wonderful, dear,” and at night these women take off their make-up.

And the days, they change numbers. The t-shirts turn to sweaters.  But it’s all essentially the same.  Day camp on Monday, spin class on Tuesday.  Pancakes on Saturday and church on Sunday.  And we smile and cook lasagna and say hello to Sheila-and-Bob that come over for a beer because that’s what good neighbors do. We have grown so adept at hiding all the pain that comes from living this bloated American life that we tell ourselves this is it – the life we’ve yearned for.

And then one day, when you are driving home thinking of making crunchy tacos, you hit the familiar turn toward suburbia.  The brick house on the left, third street to the right, named after birds or rivers or wildflowers.  And that stretch of curve comes a bit too fast before it’s upon you like a crosswind, and you have a choice whether to slow down or take it.

And by God, you take it.

Something strange and sinister swirls inside you like a demon. Instead of putting two hands on the wheel of your trusty Lexus and meeting up with Sheila-and-Bob and making tacos and pulling into Braeborn Court to the brick house on the left, you have a feeling akin to flying.  The tires grip the road and you narrow your eyes and you burn that rubber.  You turn that ache into fire and you realize the life you’ve been living is a shadow of the one you’ve imagined.

So you take a right instead of a left and head through the rolling hills without a plan, without a full tank of gas, without a good set of recipes or a dessert for the pot luck.  And it feels good to crank up the music loud and let it pulse with the beat of your chest.  You rip out the hair tie.  You open the sun roof.  You stick your hand out the window like an airplane dancing and you pulse in your seat to the rhythm of the street and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, shining.  You sing loud, laugh hard, and wave at passersby’s like a damn fool.

And as the sun begins to set upon your sensible life, the one you don’t seem to fit into, you head that Lexus back home to tell your children there are no more tacos. There are only ice cream sundaes, eaten at night by the pool at 10 pm sharp, and one cannot use spoons but must dive face-first into a bowl of strawberry, and everyone laughs with hot fudge dripping down their noses.  There is no longer grilling on Sundays, and spin class on Tuesdays, for you pack up your things and move to the mountains,  where you stand in your underwear on the ridge and raise your hands high – to heaven, to God, and to freedom. And your husband sips tea and kisses your mouth hard, the one he loves more deeply than before.

Sometimes a sensible life is not enough for a dreamer.  Life must be lived with wild abandon, with hands out the window and the sun searing skin and music raging in places that were once nothing and empty.  And you grit your teeth at so many turns, because that’s what wheels are for, really, to burn up the rubber. And it feels good to go fast, and live full, and go out with a flame instead of a whimper.

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/30781947@N08/6154656560/sizes/m/in/photolist-anSdYh-6GmH8Y-89hsBV-5sXYn8-72wTKE-9hb8fu-6s7Xn5-o51QXS-89kHcC-89kHgA-76tkFK-8d1zXA-eDmG9b-eDmuKb-8dj1z3-4aYwnm-72wSBS-5kSaJg-6E2BRp-aAguJL-7ZWdQi-9UJbpN-5rNX5p-6Ne1NB-57QCbe-8kT1Pq-6E6MF9-6E6MoA-6E6Mud-yeaR-7zuodN-88jsAp-4W6Sig-9FptMT-72wSzJ-b4cR9-72wT2N-LtNrz-7LpxZa-75k8s5-7LpyQK-ccHcuA-7LpzDM-4W6Rke-bVkSTK-8dj1uG-58cTnx-c7A4Sd-5ZLmMu-8cXi48-8uvBW1/

A Heart of Freedom

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”

-Matthew 5:43-47

It’s hard to define love.  It ranges from simple affection to intense pleasure – it indicates human attachment, can highlight spiritual virtues, serves to facilitate art and war and even the continuation of our very species.  People identify with the concept of “falling in love” because we are all mammals with a basic hunger to mate, not be eaten by predators, and garner safety in companionship and numbers.

But love can take on other forms that require more effort. Sometimes I have conversations with God on my work commute or lying in bed about this form of love, this “decision to love” even when it’s hard and when it hurts and when the other person isn’t the subject of one tiny ounce of desire.

Like Ross, who sues you for negligence when you’re just a small-town physician trying to make it until Friday and it’s not your fault the guy had untreated diabetes.  Or Justine, who is strung out on heroin and watches her son scream and cry with starvation and wallow around in a diaper full of crusty brown remains. It’s Roy, who sits down in his basement with sweaty palms emailing children pretending to be Mackenzie.  And it’s the person who drove home drunk and plowed over the car of your beloved wife, leaving a trail of tears and dust.  There are often no valid explanations, and no reprieves, and when your mother dies a wretched death from stomach cancer and your best friend’s child is killed and bombs are strapped to back of Mohammad and people’s bodies are blown across a railway station like chunks of meat, it is so very hard to love.

For in truth, we do not love these people.  They are impossible to love.  And if we are perfectly honest with ourselves, we want them all to just rot in hell.  I beg all my religious friends to at least acknowledge this basic emotion before preaching against it.  It’s normal to feel outrage.  It’s okay to hurt.  It does no one any good to lack authenticity about the feelings that swirl around inside of our cavernous minds.

But when the dust settles and we scream loud enough for our throats to turn raw, we turn to the teachings of the One Who Created Us. And we learn, like students.  We grow, like children.  And we have the opportunity to make a choice about how we live and feel and act. And we realize that to “love” doesn’t have to be an emotion we give away to those who have earned it.  It’s not just a gift for our friends and neighbors, those who we feel add value to society, or the one to whom we are betrothed.   We have a duty to love the most despicable and foul.  Because the more broken a soul the more lost they are, and what pity to live a life full of addiction and fear.  What a horrible existence with an utter and complete lack of joy.

My dear friends, who I think of and pray for.  You have been given a great gift of life and a freedom to fail and be loved irrespective of your failings.  Every step and sip of coffee and walk around the block and word you speak to the Starbucks guy is an opportunity to love.  This day is yours, and the decisions you make can change someone’s life.  You get to make a choice: love or hate, apathy or empathy.

To Ross, who is hurting and confused.  To Justine, who is buried in her addiction and needs someone to lift her out of the well.  To Roy, whose mind is not his own and is lost inside a spiraling mass of voices.  To cancer and Mohammad and to that bastard who ran over the mother of your children. Yes, to them all. We can, and will, say with confidence “Come.  Sit beside me.  I release this hate in my heart to you because to love is to fully live, and to forgive is the highest form of freedom, and I will let vengeance be the Lord’s and hold hope that this life is not the end.”

This is to love your enemies.  To have a heart of freedom.  Then, when you rise and fall each day, you will smile. The days will be more good than bad, more bright than grey.  And love will finally “melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” ~Khalil Gibran

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/laracores/14448484494/sizes/m/in/photolist-o1Lg4C-6BDvbg-dAz3RP-e1Ev9e-759W1o-6w8WjN-nRsCgm-6Ke1MY-8yCDgQ-76t6sw-mN74S5-35j18V-7k9E4C-earD9x-kdHSZU-HGdT8-h152YN-kHeGE8-9qbjJz-aahDwv-6LMX4n-fk3463-87EJbL-89rNcu-64eXrU-5uBwzt-7vStdT-5iGDPh-6DCvwY-8xVGN5-4rtpxx-hkAegp-adAWsD-7BzykE-fHYCHy-8GaNxT-dU3WHD-2cDKu3-6JdGiV-cvD8-eZT6jm-7j5BWG-5yvryE-QuCHq-6FH1jX-4mrYiH-dAK6B4-dAK6Bc-6tJb9W-g2qx8-8sdBHV/