Tuesday, February 26, 2013

jump, float, sink, repeat

I ride these months leading up to our big move like a see-saw. A jarring trade off between leg-dangling excitement and ass bruising stress and melancholy. Up I go into the optimistic sky of possibility, down I go into the drudgery of cleaning and donating and storage bins.

There are facts to be gathered, decisions to be made, plans to be penciled, papers to sign. One moment I'm floating in a daydream about hiking an Alaskan park. The next I'm measuring the washer and dryer to see if they'll fit in a possible laundry room of a possible house.

And all the while life goes on. As soon as one child recovers from a stomach virus, the other child spikes a raging fever. I make plans to meet at least one more time with this friend and that one. The laundry pile never gets smaller, and save the one with the fever, everyone still wants dinner. Especially the dog. Which reminds me, I need to get her shot records together for when we drive through Canada. That is, if we don't take the ferry. Oh, and passports for the kids. And back I am again to the decisions and reservations to make.

I feel a swell of no-reason tears at least once a day. I never shed them, only feel them tickling the inside corners of my eyes.  I've been itching for this move. It's almost here, and I feel a dozen bright colors about it. So why the daily urge to weep? I guess when you mix too many of even the brightest shades, you can wind up with black. It's all so much, and I find myself swirling into a muddy hue.

There's the weight of facts, reality, chores, drudgery. The heaviness of goodbyes, transplanting, coming ungrounded.  And then there's the buoyancy of possibilities, fresh soil, new paths, the chance to be astonished in my old age. I am taking it all in, the heaviness and the ethereality, refusing to go numb no matter how much the muscles burn, refusing to give up entirely on this urge to fly.

“Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled---to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.” ~Mary Oliver

(Thank you, Lindsey, for reminding me of this beautiful line of poetry a few days ago.)

Just writing with Heather of the EO

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Always and without the "if"

Dear Husband,
I'm not sorry I ditched you this morning to go on a running date with the Mumford boys. Marcus set the pace and I settled into the trail for an hour and wrote in my head, brave and uncensored, the opposite of how I write everywhere else.  I wrote a piece about the wreck that marriage can turn me into, how the neediness and vulnerability and unmet expectations can make me the craziest kind of angry--the wounded kind.

You and I, we have only a handful of precious friends who will admit with us the depths of the scars, the sacrifice, the disappointment, the insanity that accompanies even the most grounded of marriages. Ours is a good one, I think, but I don't have to tell you, it's still totally screwed up sometimes. (If this was still a post in my head, I'd use the f-bomb.)

I'm having one of those days where I have to convince myself that it's not the end of the world to feel misunderstood and unloved. Because I've certainly cried about it like it's the end of the world, even though I swear I'm not much of a crier. More of a yeller, actually. But the yelling thing seems to make everything worse. And we need things to get better, so I'll try to stick to the crying.

I listened to "Hopeless Wanderer" at least three times during the run, and it's possible I sang out loud (loud enough for the squirrels to give me the stink eye) as the song wound toward the end. I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I'm under.

To love the skies I'm under. We've talked about what that means for us in the geographic sense--how we'll make the best home and life we can whether in Alexandria or Portland or Cleveland or (lordhelpus) even Biloxi. But today, for me, it also means finding a way to be grateful and hopeful and whole, in spite of feeling like my heart's been shredded like leaf mulch and now beats faintly in a thin layer across the lawn. Today it means moving toward you when it would be far, far easier to hide.

I know this is a pretty crappy excuse for a love letter. A normal person would list the eleventy-one ways you're wonderful or gush unabashedly on about all the reasons to love you. A normal person wouldn't choose Valentine's Day to write about how profoundly difficult marriage can be. I guess the good news is, after 17 years of marriage, you aren't counting on me to be normal.

Listen, let me just steal a few lines from yet another a Mumford song, one of your favorites.

And in the middle of the night
I may watch you go
There'll be no value in the strength
Of walls that I have grown 
There'll be no comfort in the shade
Of the shadows thrown   
You may not trust the promises
Of the change I'll show
But I'd be yours if you'd be mine

So love the one you hold
And I will be your gold
To have and to hold
A lover of the light

No more growing walls or throwing shadows, and I'm going to keep the promises. You'll see.
And as if you didn't know, I'm already yours, always and without the if.

P.S. This afternoon, your personal assistant (me) ordered a rockin' Valentine's Day present for you to give to your wife (also me): a new pair of kicks and some chocolate mint energy gels. You know how I hate Valentine's Day (like HATE. IT.) But I'm clearly not above using the V-day guilt trip to score some new running shoes. Sorry/ You're welcome.


This bizarre but heartfelt love letter is linked up to the love fest going on at Momalom. And in the spirit of Love it Up, I thought I'd share with you three love songs that won't make you want to hurl. You're totally welcome:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Just tell me already {just write}

I'm at that point where I need to know where we're going to move this summer so I can freak out with some specificity.

A few nights ago I dreamed we were moving to San Antonio. I dreamed that my husband and I fought about some minor moving detail (buy or rent? public or private or homeschool? rip my hair out or set it on fire?). I dreamed that I hid in the closet to cry so the kids wouldn't see how upset I was. Of course, it was the walk-in closet from my Maine house and not my current dilapidated, make-one-wrong-move-and-subject-yourself-to-concussion-by-shoe-boxes-and-surprisingly-heavy-sweaters closet. (My current closet is sooo not conducive to hiding.)

The truth is, I'm ready to leave, to move forward. When you come in knowing you have three years and only three years, you set the timer. You keep the roots shallow. When things get hard or annoying or frustrating or lonely, you say to yourself that it won't last forever and then you add some specifics about exactly how long it will last. You do this particularly in the cases when the washer keeps randomly switching to hot water even though you clearly set the dial to cold, or when the tracks in the snow confirm your suspicions that the neighbor's dog is indeed taking a daily dump in your yard.

The other truth is, I'm not ready to leave. A few roots have stretched to depths I never would've knowingly authorized. I'm attached and invested, and I'm going to wince when it's time to pull myself out of this soil. And by wince, I really mean cry like I just walked barefoot for a mile on a pile of upturned legos. My point is that it's going to hurt, and I'm not going to like it. Hence, not being ready to leave.

But ready or not, we are going. And it would be ever so nice to know where, particularly so I can be more targeted and precise in my next panic-induced visit to Google to learn All The Things about the next possible place.


Just writing with Heather.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sometimes, it keeps me up at night

I wake to icy rain against the roof and a pounding heart, a clock reading 3 on the dot, a panic.
The only legs I trust for standing are the logical ones, so it's with these I chase my racing heart, calling out a hundred reasons not to worry. His shift doesn't even end until three, of course he isn't home yet. 

I stay buried beneath the blankets, gaze toggling between closet and clock. My thoughts rebel against the steady silent sway of night, springing madly out of rhythm, revving, lurching, screeching. Night is my dark alley, turning trashcans into monsters, far-fetched fears into imminent danger.

I close my eyes but can't make it back to dreaming. My worry and I, we wait up for hours until he calls back to say he's on his way.  I make eggs with extra cheese. Bacon too. The drudge of not enough sleep mixes with the relief of realizing it was only a trashcan. That there are still four darling faces wanting breakfast (if you include the dog). That today is likely to be the most breathtaking kind of ordinary.

It's a fragile happiness when there is so very much to lose. Some nights, I worry it might all be smashed to bits by morning. I've witnessed enough world-crumbling moments in the lives of those I love to know that there's no guarantee. My sleeves have been wet more than once with the tears of the husbandless wife, the fatherless son, the childless mother.

No guarantee. No formula or armor or miracle glue to keep this family in tact, to keep my son sitting on the lap of his father, looking like a mirror image save the gap from his missing tooth, cackling about a dozen different ways to rewrite the chorus to Gangham Style, stroking a pretend chin beard.

All I have is today, this moment. Maybe I'll have more, or maybe my world will crumble before midnight. I suppose in the meantime, I can just be grateful to have a love so deep and a happiness so fragile that sometimes, it keeps me up at night.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The only way I can keep reading

I've been on the verge of anonymous tears since five minutes prior to elementary school dismissal. My friend sent me an article, and it was the seventy ninth swing of the wrecking ball, the one that sent me tumbling to the ground. Not so much in a panicky way, like how will I navigate this with my own children and how will I keep them safe? But in a one-last-nail-in-the-coffin way, like how can we all be so completely effed up? Why do we insist on destroying each other?

I'm pretty sure the world has always been this terrifyingly awful. We've simply found more subtle and civilized ways to be barbaric.

Today I keep hearing the voice of Little Bee, a fictional 16 year old Nigerian refugee. "And then the men came, and...." Little Bee imagines how she might kill herself in every situation, in case the men were to come. Because in her experience, it's better to be dead than to be able to look the men in the eyes when they come.

I wish I could go back to not knowing about the Little Bees of the world, about the sexually exploited children, about the troubled teenagers who come of age in a world of over-exposure, about the suffocating darkness that persists even under the heat of a noonday sun. I wish I could believe that the good guys weren't so few and freaking far between.

The crazy thing is, I still believe in a captial G God who is capital G Good, a relentlessly loving God who will gather us up out of the hell we've made for ourselves and miraculously make things right. A God who is quick to forgive the foulest of men along with the most innocent of children. A God who sees the poor in spirit, the meek, the mourners, the merciful, the peacemakers, and calls them blessed.

I know it sounds like a fairy tale, like the far fetched stories of rescue and happily ever after that we tell again and again in every form and language. And it's almost because it sounds like a fairy tale that I'm prone to believe. For where did we get these audacious ideas anyway--these longings for good to overcome evil, for a sacrificial hero, for love and for peace, for eternity? Maybe these are the stories first told by a capital G God. And maybe these stories were planted in our fainting, failing hearts to assure us that no matter how horrific the first few chapters feel, there's still hope for a happy ending. 

At least I hope to God that's the case. It's the only way I can keep reading.