Just Lines

Is there anything heavier than a newborn?

Is staying just not leaving? All these years on the wind, I have no roots to put down.

Optimism has returned. I can do anything . . . but I’m still me, so only if I want to.

I am stuck in the space between what I think and what I do.

Not all who wander are lost, but I certainly was. Am?

The path that leads me away from myself always leads me back. It turns out, there’s nowhere else I can go.

The Underworld

It might have been the incessant rain or the murder of crows gathering in the dead oak outside my window. It might have been the dying flowers in their pretty vase or even the candles—flickering their last at the ends of their wicks. Whatever it was, I found myself at the gate. Unlike Heaven, there’s no keeper. This gate is unlocked and you can come whenever you please, though it pleases no one to come here.

I tuck my heart close, lest I lose it, and set my shield down; having been here before, I know there will be no protecting myself from what I find. Next, I tuck my shoes and soul beneath it’s weight, comforted that they’ll have some shelter from the elements while I’m away. Whatever else you do, never bring your soul here—this is no place for the divine.

When all is as it should be, I step through and begin my descent. Down, down over eons of rot that squelch between my toes. Down, down through hallways of bones and teeth where I somehow know which belong to those I’ve loved. Down, down where moonlight can’t go. Down, down where the rain is full of salt and never stops. Down, down until the path levels out and turns to the broken dreams of the living. Only then do I know I have arrived in the Underworld.

It isn’t Hell, if such a place exists. Hell is for souls and there are no souls here. Just the end. The end of whoever it was you were in the middle of loving. The end of yourself as you were when they lived. The end of all you knew and all you didn’t. The end–where all that holds physical form loses it to water and worms.

Now that I’m here, I crinkle my brow the same way I do when I’ve just entered a room and already forgotten why. After all, I already gathered up the remains of my loves and left them here months ago. I stand at the exact place I stopped then and try to remember to no avail. Finally turning with a shrug to retrace my steps to the gate which leads right back to my life as I left it . . . it’s only then I realize my mistake.

I left the wrong way last time–returning to life as I left it—surrounded by empty spaces where love used to be. I let go of their bodies but held on tight to the emptiness they left behind. Turning back toward the dark unknown, I shudder. I want to go back to the gate: back to my shoes and my soul and my shield, back to familiar, if empty, spaces.

But I don’t.

I know I came for this—the sixth stage of grief. The one that comes after you find your way through your worst nightmares to acceptance. It took me a while. Acceptance cost me and I had to gather up fresh courage for this:

There’s new love, new adventure, new wisdom that await on the other side of all you go through when you grieve. More than enough to fill the empty spaces to overflowing. But if you want it, you can’t go back the way you know.

To reach the sixth stage is to set down your shield. It’s all heart. It’s running barefoot through the Underworld, soaked in the tears of everyone ever, in a darkness too deep for moonlight. It’s feeling the sickening squelch of eons of rot between your toes and pushing forward, knowing that if you keep going, you’ll love again and get hurt again . . . and again and again until your teeth and bones join the others here.

And it’s worth it.

Every time.

It’s worth it.

So I run. Heart wide open through all I’ve loved and lost before. I run barefoot through darkness as deep black as a crow’s feather with nothing but hope to guide me forward. Until I’m falling down, down into a deep, slow river. Cool, fresh water rinses the tears of everyone ever from my hair and washes the rot of eons from my feet. I close my eyes and float on my back, not warm or cold, not happy or sad, and not marking the moment moonlight creeps in–slowly turning blackest black into gray and gray into silver, until the sun rises–shifting silver into the pale gold of a new day.

Friday Thoughts

Usually when I write, it’s because there’s an idea that’s come to the surface. Something bothering me, like the grain of sand in the oyster and when I think there’s enough layers for a pearl, I try to write it out. But this morning I’m just following my fingertips.

I am itching to start a book club on You Were Born for This and laughing with myself over my abiding joy in them. I love them so much, I basically went to college for book clubbing.

It was lovely being back in the arms of my Southern sisters–an instant grounding in who I am and the fact that fitting in is for the birds; belonging is where it’s at.

Not working did not work out the way I thought it would . . . nonetheless, it is beginning to work out.

I’ve been sad for years and now I’m ready to fall in love with life again. The minute I had the thought, I blinked and the world looked different.

I love the weather here–it’s always doing something beautiful or disturbing and my senses enjoy the exercise.

This is me. It’s how I think and how I talk. I often unintentionally make it weird, especially with people who don’t know me well, by saying too much or going too deep too fast in conversation. But I’ve thought it over carefully this past year and, while there are several things I’m changing, I don’t want to change this part of myself–it’s how all my best and closest friends have been made.

My Bucket List is Missing a Word!

And I would love some help figuring out what it is, if you don’t mind. : )

I was bringing Daisy in off the pasture today and it struck me that none of the words on my list cover the feeling I get when I’m with horses. It’s something like reverence or awe, with beautiful and happy and fulfilled mixed in; it’s demanding of me and exhilarating, yet it fills me with peace, and there’s never been anything else in my life that makes me feel this way.

I took these pics in the moment this afternoon and I know if I could just name whatever is in my eyes, my list would be complete.

Any suggestions?

Bucket List with a Twist

I’m tired of feeling sad. I’m also tired of waiting for the next boot to drop. If you’ve been reading awhile or know me personally, you know the past four years have been some of the hardest of my life. But what I’m noticing now is that a lot good things are happening to and around me and instead of feeling happy or excited I just feel afraid of what’s going to happen next to take it all away. To be fair, when a lot of extremely terrible things happen, these feelings make sense. But when nothing terrible is happening, these feelings become a choice.

A few months ago, I made the decision to stop and promptly failed a lot of times. My most recent effort, was writing out a bucket list of things that would make me feel good to do. But when I was finished and read it over, I didn’t feel good, I just felt tired and anxious. Thankfully, sometimes the first, second, twelfth, or even twentieth failure leads us into the next possibility. And the possibility born out of that, most recent, failure is . . . well, it’s working.

Instead of a list of things to do, I made a list of things I want to feel. I edited it until every word hit right and when I was finished, I had a feeling I was onto something.


My Bucket List with a Twist:

Silly
Awestruck
Proud
Satisfied
Helpful
Beautiful
Determined
Connected
Strong
Known
Loved
Intrepid
Happy
Rested
Content
Butterflies
Successful
The Good Kind of Tired
Optimistic
Fun

So much of life we have no control over. Things happen to us and feelings rise up that have to be felt. But just about every day there’s some point when we get to choose. We can say yes or no to being around certain people, we can say yes or no to doing that thing, eating that food, how much sleep we’re going to get, or what to do that day, and we know before we do it how it’s likely to make us feel. This bucket list is about those moments and consciously choosing people and things that make me feel good.

Right after I got my list written, I made a trip to one of the most important places (because it holds some of the most important people) in my life. And for the first time in a long time, I let myself completely enjoy and give over to each moment without a thought to the future, without getting hung up in the past, and without anxiety over whether or not I’d be accepted/acceptable, or how it could all go wrong. Instead, I focused on each opportunity to feel good, then took it, and savored it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the initial results are in and . . .

. . . yeah, I’m definitely on to something. : )

So, I’m going to keep heading down this path awhile and see what shakes out. Sometimes, I’ll do a full post, sometimes just pictures tagged with words from my list and #bucketlistwithatwist. If you want to make your own list and join me, I would love that! If not, that’s cool too. This one is really just about me shifting myself back toward the relentless optimist I’ve been most of my life. : )

Home

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been all up in my feelins lately. Last week was both the heavenly birthday of one of the best men I’ll ever have the privilege to know and the anniversary of my dog Why?lee’s last day in my arms. I tried all day to write something beautiful about Kerry and the past four years of sad and how his death snapped whatever I was using inside myself to hold all my grief at bay, sending me on a two year pilgrimage that has only just now come full circle.

He brought me home. Not just back West for our epic and insane road trip last summer to the Eagle Caps (because let’s be real, I’ll always be a Rocky Mountains girl at heart), but back home inside myself–which is the most important place to feel at home because as Kerry’s widow, Doneva says, “You can run anywhere you like, but you have to take yourself with you!”

But I wrote and rewrote a thousand words and none of it was good enough. So I put away my laptop, went outside, and played with my horses knowing that was the best kind of tribute to Kerry anyway. Then, I helped my man put the kids to bed and, as we’ve starting doing every year on Kerry’s birthday, we built a campfire out back, raised glasses of whiskey in his honor, and shared a cigar while we walked down memory lane. And when we went to bed, I felt better. The right words will come when they come; they always do.

Thursday Randoms

The idea of “home” has always been tricky to me. I have no hometown, I have no one place where my family lives to return to, and I have no lengthy history with anywhere. So home has never been a place, but I never worked too hard to define it until lately. More on that to come.

For the past two days I’ve wanted to write and write and write, but that’s not my life at the moment, so I jot notes in little notebooks I keep hidden in my purse, my knitting bag, amongst the cookbooks in my kitchen. When the time comes, it will all still be there.

I’ve been thinking about Kerry a lot lately. It’s so painfully beautiful and cool that even years after his passing, I can still so clearly see his particular brand of goodness shifting things for the better. And it’s a comfort to me that, in that way, he’ll always be here.

Having read You Were Born for This twice now, I’ve decided that your life’s purpose is not something you find or choose or grow into. It’s something you can accept or not, but regardless, I believe you start living it the moment you’re conceived. My existence bent space and time when I came into being and whatever I was born for, it started happening back then. I can’t imagine my life’s purpose has been waiting all this time for me to wonder about it and figure it out.

I had to pull quills out of my dog’s nostrils last night with pliers. And, despite being the same weight as me and fully capable of eating my hands for hurting him, he just let me do it. That’s trust. And love. Whoever believes dogs have no soul has never really known a dog.

My new paddle arrived yesterday and I’m going to try it out this weekend. I’ve been feeling optimistic and like I need a shorter format for summer writing so I don’t do what I usually do which is neglect the blog entirely from whenever it gets warm until whenever it gets cold again. More on that to come as well. : )

The Lipstick Letters: Intuition

When I was trying to decide where to go next with the Lipstick Letters, I was torn between Memory, Perception, and Intuition. I was heavily leaning toward Memory for a long time, but even though I drafted several Memory posts in my head, none of them made it to paper.

Then, a few weeks ago, I went on a weekend alone to rest and sort it out. It was in that long, deep, lovely silence it became clear that my intuition had something to say.

I fought it. I was so sure it was going to say stuff like, “Get off your @$$ and handle your messy life.” But no. When I finally caved in, late afternoon on my first, full day alone, all I heard was, “Girl, you’re tired. Have a good sleep and we’ll talk in the morning.”

I slept from around four that afternoon until seven thirty, got up, had a snack, brushed my teeth and slept from eight until the next morning. And when I woke up, I could hear myself. I could hear myself so clearly it was impossible to deny how much I had pushed my intuition aside to survive wave after wave of grief in the midst of new motherhood.

I listened. And I learned.

My intuition is kind. Instead of being salty about being shoved down and ignored repeatedly for literal years, it was gracious and proud of me for slogging through, giving my kids everything I had to give, and making it to a place where I was strong enough again to go back and start working through that series of terrible losses.

Driving home, I promised to keep listening and act accordingly as much as possible over the following month. And I did!

I reached out when I felt like reaching out. I rested when I felt like I needed rest. And on days when my grief came knocking, I let it in and sat with it awhile instead of pretending I didn’t know it was there. I set a new boundary with my kids to ensure I get at least a couple of hours to cook or clean or lay down or fold laundry without interference each day.

I let my mind wander back through some choices I’d made over the past several years (another task I’d been avoiding) only to find that so much of what I’ve said, done, not said, and not done, was me in survival-mode. A mode I kept trying to get out of only to have another tragedy toss me back in.

Each whisper I tended to, I felt a little more of the weight of mistakes, the weight of difficult choices, the weight of loss, the weight of guilt, the weight of pressure to do and be more fall away. And even then, my intuition did not tell me to get out there and start rebuilding a new life out of the rubble of the unfinished one I’d semi-started here . . .

It told me to keep writing and sharing, to go get a hair cut, and to remove the gross, old wallpaper in the hallway. So. Yeah. Here we are. : )

I’m trying hard to avoid making these letters about advice. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my twenties and thirties, it’s just how much I don’t know.) But I have to say, if you’ve been shushing that inner voice out of fear of what it’ll say, then like me, you might be mistaking your thoughts for your intuition.

My thoughts can be anxious, angry, self-deprecating, and flat out cruel. My intuition is always loving, always tender, always gracious, and not just toward me, but toward everyone else as well. So much so, that nowadays when I’m confused about which is which, that’s my go-to way of telling them apart.

Bottom line? I’m beginning to trust myself and my inner knowing again. And it feels really really good.

Hair Cut

“Your hair!” she exclaimed,
as she pulled up alongside me,
shock and a hint of horror in
her tone and wide-eyes

“I know!” I replied with a practiced, rueful smile
she was not the first and would not be the last to ask
“Why did you cut it?”

In a blink
every truth whipped through me:

We were tired,
my hair and I
straightened out by circumstance
when we were born to be curly
.

Like Sampson, I mistook it
for more of me than it was.

I was feeling more like myself than I had in years
but still seeing someone else in the mirror.

Every time I pulled a wad of it out of the drain
I was disturbed anew at how closely
it resembled my thoughts.

My neck was creaking ominously
under the weight

of it–
living life
with so much death–
It had to go
I couldn’t carry it all
not one more moment . . .

“I needed a change.” I replied.

But she’d already seen–
she understood.
Her expression shifted to one of approval.

“It looks good.”
she said.
Then drove away.

Balance

Hi. I’m sitting on my couch drinking a cup of water right now while my boys, both of whom are sick (again!) fitfully nap upstairs. They were up several times last night and we started our day at five am with some coughing, runny nose, cry time. I’ll let you guess which of us was doing the runny nose cry time. It’s been like this all week. I haven’t slept much or well. I keep forgetting to drink water and make myself decent food. I spent all day yesterday cleaning because the kids were a mess, I was a mess, the house was a mess, and I just wanted to feel like I’d accomplished something.

We’ve had a lot of easy, not great for you food lately, I feel like I’ve been phoning it in on every level, and still, I’m gripping the last thread of my sanity with both hands. On top of it all, I’ve been bombarded with writing ideas. Inspiration is coming at me like a spider monkey and I have no time to sit with it. When I do have time, I’m so tired and run-down, I can barely string two words together. All of that said, I just looked at my phone to post a funny dog video and saw an ad on my Facebook about how there’s an app that can help me balance my life.

And if heads could spontaneously combust, mine would have. I’m literally on my blog today in this slightly crazed state to write one thing: YOU CANNOT BALANCE YOUR LIFE.

Life is too big, too ungainly, too full of surprises. Just when you’re hitting that perfect mark in the middle, something will break, fall off, fall on, change, give, or grow and you’ll be teetering when you were just tottering to keep from dropping it all. And sometimes you will drop it all. Then, pick up most of it, leave some, and hop back on to keep going. We really need to stop talking about life like there’s something you can buy, a habit you can develop, or something about yourself you can adjust to balance it all.

Instead, I wish we talked more about how to find balance moment to moment. Like me right now, so tired, wanting to write, a little scatter-brained and a little dehydrated, knowing that what I have to do is take care of my kiddos when they wake up/get home from school, but also knowing what I want to do is write until my fingers fall off. It’s just a moment, but I’m going to take it, sit on this couch, drink this water, and write this post before I have to close my laptop with one last, longing look, and start digging around for a snack to feed two grouchy toddlers when they wake up.