Steal my breath with beauty
Stir my world with passion
Touch me with tender intent
And I am forever in your debt ~
I live inside my head a lot. For an extrovert it doesn’t feel exactly right, but maybe that’s because Myers Briggs puts me 50% in and 50% out.
I don’t mind time with myself, what I mind is being eaten up by partial truths, misperceptions, and misplaced feelings that tend to grow disproportionately. I was born to catastrophize. Not around everything, but some things.
Some of those things require conversations to resolve, some of those involve reality checks about who I am to myself and who I want to be to those around me, whatever the case it involves heart work. And heart work is hard.
Personally, I’d rather not be stuck in my head, it’s why I process out loud so much. It’s why I write, it’s why the people close to me get to hear the ebbs and flows of my feelings and probably are quite lost at times by my inability to pick a path and not still deliberate about that path while being on it.
In the enneagram (another personality exploring tool) I am a 9 space. I bring this up because while at the pool the other day my aunt pointed out that in relationships all the spaces butt up against another space, with the exception of the 9 space who butts up against the black hole.
I’m wondering if my head is a black hole, and that the dissonance I feel is about roots becoming unrooted, about ties being cut and about the sequential unknowns I keep being faced with. In my 17 year marriage it was always in question whether my husband would be there tomorrow or the next day. In my last year, it was about how would I make it through financially, or without my mom or with a child who was struggling with his anger. Where would I live? Where would my kids go to school? Who, what, where, when and why begin most of my thoughts out loud.
Life is a black hole, it’s a blank space until you’re there doing it. It’s potential space, possibilities and a choose your own adventure. But I keep coming around the corner of a new experience, faced with new unknowns and part of me feels like shouldn’t I be more solid at 43? Less swayed by unknowns? Less afraid of them? When does one fully mature? Where you can say with confidence, I know, I want, I need…
So I’ll hide in my head today, this grey prairie day with a wind that has me sitting in my car over being outside. I’ll let myself feel the unknowns without letting the fear of them control my actions. I’ll let myself butt up against the black hole knowing that the getting lost in them and getting found in them is just as much a part of my journey as breathing. I’ll let myself feel the scope of love that life has to offer, still learning at 43 how to be fully present to it and being ok with being me amidst it all.
Such a fickle girl
A feeler girl
And a captivated girl
An overthetop girl
(But mostly in her head)
She laughs too loud
She stores the world in her heart
She reacts before thinking
She finds beauty everywhere
I think I want to know this girl
I strongly suspect I am this girl
I imagine being no other girl
Now to love her as she is
If I am honest
My letter to the ocean
Is filled with a fear
Of not being strong enough
To swim its current
Of not being deep enough
Where it needs to go
Of not being generous enough
To let it ebb and flow
If I am honest
My letter to the sea
Is filled with longing
It is filled with a love
That wants to live with no bounds
It is filled with a raging passion
Only a sea could understand
And a need to explore caverns
These depths no land could ever know
It seems to me
Being in love with an ocean
Or a sea
Is a terribly exhilarating
And scary place to be
It seems to me
There is no other way
But to be engulfed
By its gravity
To feel its polar ends
Its surface and its depths
To wake at the end of all the morrows
And to have wholeheartedly
Received its gift
I sat on the edge of the stair, perched on his deck, afraid to get comfortable, anxious for all I was feeling.
“I don’t want to like you.” I said boldly. “I thought that the whole way on my drive here.”
He sat next to me, close enough to create intimacy, but not intruding my space. I lowered my head down, cupped my head in my forearms, and groaned a bit of resignation. It was too late.
I’ll not forget that night of conversation. He was careful, but not too careful to not make me think he wasn’t in deep already as well.
Most of you know my life is messy, if you’re reading this you probably know of my countless attempts at dating over the past several years. Some empowering moments, some written about and many not, some valuable experiences and other regretful risks. But 100% these were years processing what it was I wanted and didn’t want in a relationship.
If it came right down to it, besides the obvious, attraction and chemistry I wanted one thing above all else.
I had met and dated enough men to know presence was not in everyone’s repertoire. There’s little staying power in a world where you can swipe, chat, delete all within the same day on a dating app. You’ll recall me saying earlier in this series everyone dates for their own reasons, and I am the last to judge – whether a night, a week or a lifetime, everyone comes to the dating table with their own needs. But sometimes those needs evolve.
And my needs had changed, or at least came to the surface even if they were there all along.
I sat down on the edge of that step, knowing I had nothing to lose, that this man who I had already begun to enjoy and connect with needed to hear it again. Yes, again.
“I’m looking for life and love.” I said.
“What does that mean to you?” He asked, occasionally reaching out to touch my hair or my neck with his hands.
“I want someone to be there when I wake in the middle of the night. I want someone to be there when my son punches a hole in the wall, and I want someone to bring to my family’s at Christmas time.”
“You can have those things.”
I looked at him sideways, believing him when he said it, and mad at myself for believing him because I felt like after all these dating experiences I should be more distrusting. But he was different. And it was scary, and sometimes it still is.
You see he is every bit as real, sincere, honest, charming and funny as a woman like me could want. Actually he’s really goofy, and he makes me laugh, and sometimes he makes me cry. But the crying is more to do with the fact sometimes I look at him and say “who are you?” in my head. The crying is about the distrust of time because to be this deep, this invested, without years under our relationship belt, how can we justify wanting to be all in.
I’ve perched on a few more stairs and steps in the last months. Usually those conversations on those steps involved all the reasons he should run. I have a messy enough life that I should give any good human being the chance to escape the drama that has seemed to follow me around. But he hasn’t run. And now I occasionally let myself sit in a rocking chair on his deck, or on his uncomfortable leather sofa, or even in his big soaker tub. Instead of perching on things to avoid getting too comfortable.
All of life’s lessons aren’t always helpful, but my girlfriend said maybe I had to meet all those other men, and date to see what was(n’t) really needed in my life when it came to a man.
I think she nailed it. I needed a man that had staying power, who didn’t scare easily and was able to be present in my life the way my life looked today, not how it may or may not tidy up later.
That night we sat on his deck and we did the download as he calls it. Where you meet someone and spend the first while of your relationship “downloading” information. We talked about kids, jobs, education, up bringing and traditions. One of our extended family traditions I told him about is that we always sing this hymn when we eat together. I come from a Mennonite background and some of our traditions still include things we did while my grandma (Oma), the matriarch, was still alive, and this hymn persisted. I told him how every Christmas we sing it, and although we were a pretty open, liberal family, the hymn stuck and I think we are rather happy to have it as part of our tradition, and traditions are important.
So months later, perched on the edge of his deck, I am thinking about many things, about how we are 44 days away until he and I leave for Scotland for an epic walk that may possibly cripple us both physically at our ripe “young” age.
I’m also remembering that first night I perched on his step, wondering if I should trust this man who said I could have love and life. I was preparing to leave his home to head off to a night shift at the hospital. I can’t remember if he sent me off with a lunch that day, but he has done so many times after. I can’t remember if my hair was up or down, if he waved goodbye in the window as I left. I can’t remember if the dryer was running or even if the lights were on. But I can remember this.
He leaned in and kissed me goodbye, then pulled me in for a hug, putting his lips near my ear.
It was that feeling of a free fall, knowing you can’t stop the fall, a bit worried about the landing but wrapped up in the exhilaration. He squeezed me tight, aware of my fears, distrust and hopes and whispered in my ear.
“I want to be the one to take you to your family’s Christmas, I just don’t want to sing the song.”
And with that, he sent me out the door.
I love the way you hold me
When I’m sad
When I’m afraid
When I don’t know the way
When I say
The words that linger
On both our tongues
And echo in our ears
I love the way you kiss me
When we say hello
The goodbye less so
I love the way
When I need to know
You are there
Penetrating my soul
You don’t let go
Love is risky. It is far off from the sidelines of life, in fact it is right smack dab in the middle of the game where the action is live, rough and raw. It surfaces fear, insecurities, but adrenaline and endorphins as well. The very primitive of life.
It makes me think of my oldest who plays football. Standing at the line, head to head waiting on the whistle and the thrill of taking off, doing what he’s meant to do, meeting exhilaration and anticipation while risking himself to (bodily) harm. At least in the case of football, bodily and in love, yes there’s risk of being hurt there too.
A few years back a co-worker talked to me about imposter syndrome. She said I had it. To put it loosely, it’s being afraid people think too much of you and that maybe the longer they stick around, they’ll figure out that you aren’t so shiny and not so deserving of their affection/praise/advancement. Insert new beginnings here. My love and I talk about NRE (new relationship energy) a lot, ok we tease about it and the word shiny comes up a lot, or has until I admitted my desire for him to stop using it to describe himself. It carried this connotation that once he or I became “unshiny” our fraudulence would be discovered. And I have been utterly myself, admission of faults, insecurities and the raw facts of my life laid out early to give him a chance to run. And guess what? He’s still here, and sometimes it makes me weep.
I’ll be honest, he is shiny. I mean he’s living life, he is proud of his hard work, his kids, his relationships and who he is. He is unapologetic yet kind. He is an all in kind of guy, so this all in kind of girl was a bit taken aback to discover there really was someone out there for me despite my 43 year old collection of well, lots of unpleasant experiences he may or may not want to be connected to. And… (cue Entirety’s ability to overthink EVERYTHING) it is all a risk… it is all a god damn risk to believe in this thing called love, but even further to believe that it is meant for you at this time with this person. Because tomorrow…because who knows what tomorrow holds.
You probably have heard me talk about Brené Brown. She’s the author of Daring Greatly and Braving the Wilderness (And others). There’s this line from Daring Greatly that goes round and round my head and I am nearly sure I have mentioned it before. She talks about how there are no reassurances in life, I mean seriously, we are not even reassured our next breath!! And we are not reassured tomorrow or that even the person we love today, will love us tomorrow. And instead of using it as an excuse to stay out of the game and to avoid pain, it has motivated me to do what she implores in her book. To live all in today, to live wholeheartedly and true to my values, to my goals (which mostly consists of keeping me and 4 hoodlums alive), so that I can experience the joy of really living.
So I’m risking. Risking my heart and mind, by saying I am all in, me, just like this. Risking advancing into a new stage of life at the chance of failure, heartache and loss, but risking for the returns as well, to experience joy, wonder, beauty, pleasure and a full heart. If I’m not willing to put my heart out there, look at all I could miss out on. And there’s no god damn way I want to miss out on a single thing with this man.
In a broken fairy tale
Of pride and crown
Replace the gems
From a life
I never really held
Now I wander
Behind the rickety gates
Of an overgrown garden
Finding a few seeds, signs of life
When the wind chooses
And I’ll cling
My neighbour is dying of cancer and you should see her smile. She’s making me think, she’s making me think about big things. You see I’m dying from living and smiling is sometimes hard. Though, to be honest, it depends who I’m with. But yesterday I felt I needed to tell her and her husband thank you, and I watched her light up. She doesn’t wear her pain as a crown of thorns. But I do. I’ll give her age and wisdom on her side, I still feel young and dumb save for the saggy boobs but still carry this sense of entitlement that life owes me a better hand for all the shit I feel I’ve been through, so I wear a frown.
I watched her, bald from chemo therapy, holding her granddaughters hand outside in the sun. And there she was smiling again. And it confuses my immature heart. Part of the problem is that it also induces shame, and that in itself is unhealthy because I should be more grateful right?
I could carry on about all the reasons why everything is so hard, and my friends remind me, that a year ago this time started one of the hardest years of my life. …And I keep waiting for it to get better. To feel better. For me to feel settled, for me to feel less insecure about existing. I’ve begun to think there are boogeymen behind every corner and a part of me worries that my fear is what actually conjures these boogeymen into existence.
You know that saying? About how life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it? It’s my only explanation for why this woman next door can still smile. I bet she cries too, I’m glad she has a supportive husband and kids and grandkids to fill her bucket. Because the bags under her eyes say her bucket is quite empty, but the light in her eyes says it is quite full. Unlike her, I imagine my eyes and the bags under them tell the same story that life is draining the life right out of me.
I think I’ll go and visit her today. To see her smile, maybe to try and look her in the eyes and ask her how she does it. To share with me her secret, about how she lives while she’s dying. It’s a secret I need to know, before I dig my own hole too deep.
It may be the age I am at, but I am taking notice that life seems to be speeding up a bit. The perspective of seeing kids growing, some days going as slow as molasses and other days you get this big smack to the face that realizes a once 8 pound 8 oz baby now is both taller and weighs more than you. Perspective grows further into the other spectrum though, it opens up an abyss into the world of death as well.
Just like when I was pregnant, I noticed all the other pregnant people in my general vicinity, now I see my peers, people my own age begin to face death more frequently than we have in our adult journey thus far.
There is nothing I regret surrounding my moms death. My dad’s death is another story, but I have mostly relinquished my feelings towards that story.
My aunty, she is brilliant. She is articulate, intelligent, pro-active, beautiful, giving and has taught me a wealth of things over the past 43 years. In fact, I am named after her and her twin sisters, my middle names Faith and Joy. Two women I can say, that have impacted my life like no others.
Today I got an email from her with a Ted Talk Titled A Heroic Narrative for Death by Amanda Bennett. To be honest I’m not really a Ted Talk kinda girl. (Except for when it comes to Brené Brown.) But this came from my Aunty, so it came with some credibility.
After I watched the Ted Talk and read her brief email, I began to think about a time in my life where I helped lead a ministry program in the church called Alpha. I spent 3 years studying theology in college, and 20 odd years involved in the Christian church, many years in a variety of leadership positions and it was during this Alpha program that I had first learned what Amen really meant.
I had prayed thousands of times throughout my years in the church, I had said amen more times than I have brushed my teeth and combed my hair in my life time combined, and yet I had no idea what it meant. The bible says that prayer is a conversation with God, and I thought when you said amen at the end of a prayers, essentially you were saying, “The End” to the conversation. as an aside, I think that’s kinda paradoxical now that I am a writer and that I RARELY get to use those words because my pieces rarely come to their end. And without losing a bunch of you because I am talking about the bible or praying, that is not my point at all. I just saw something I had never thought of before and wanted to share a connection my brain had made after engaging with this Ted Talk.
It turns out Amen does not mean The End. Amen means, “so be it.”
I began to think and pontificate, and let my thoughts wander.
What if our lives are in fact, living prayers? And what if we misinterpret the pronouncement of death as The End? And instead choose to let death be our “So be it.” A proclamation in fact.
This is what it could mean for me and my perspective of losing my mother.
For one, it means, it is not an ending. I suppose I could see it as a continuation, of the 74 years she previously lived. What if instead of Goodbye I said, so be it? Acknowledging the life til now, and leaving our goodbyes to an open ended conversation, that doesn’t end at amen, or goodbye.
I don’t want to argue semantics, philosophy or religion, and I see there are many places for this idea to be taken apart, but my choice right now is to not see death and hence the idea of goodbye as the end. (I kinda imagine I’m not the only person to consider this concept either.) But the metaphor of our lives as a prayer, and death not being the end but instead the amen.
I 100% believe this is part of the reason my mom’s death was a heroic one. My mom didn’t end her life with a final page outlook, she approached death with an open ended conversation. She said so be it, with an occasional, “but am I really dying?” She told my sister (and my Aunty) that she looked at death as an adventure, she was curious about what lay beyond that last breath. It’s not like she was all gung ho or anything. She struggled for every breath until she took her last one New Years Eve. She cried when she realized her mini-stroke had prevented her from a much needed conversation with her best friend days before her death, because although she walked/rode heroically onto the palliative care unit, she was under no delusion, that in fact some things of what we knew as our normal were most definitely coming to an end.
I did have the privilege of saying goodbye to my mom, I said it to her every time I left the room to leave or to just go get a glass of water. But the amens, they were everywhere. Our “so be its” were evident even without our words. Our “so be its”, were in our toasts at the bedside with glasses of wine, our “so be its” were in the washing of her hair, the holding of her hands and the tears we shed both at and away from her bedside. Saying the word “goodbye”, although a part of, were not the act of our saying “so be it”, our actions spoke as well.
And for that I am reassured all the goodbyes my mom needed were said, and unsaid, just as they were meant to be.
Took a shower
In the rain
The part of me
That won’t shut down
Without the clawing sounds
Of time banging away
At its job
Trying to mute out the noise
Of the raging flame
The kindling in my brain
Before I can make sense
And just slow the fuck down
But the rain
It’s on its own time
Something I can’t control
With a swift kick
A brush stroke
Or even the ink pot
The rain just takes me away
To where all else
Has to wait
Even my own need
To control the release
Of what it means
To be fully me