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?

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.

The Lipstick Letters: Intuition, Ready or Not

I’m not ready.

My heart is still in pajamas. My grief hasn’t finished her morning coffee. My soul is not washed. Yet, my intuition is saying, “Now.” So here I am with my lipstick on.

I hadn’t planned to start with Intuition. It’s such a bold red. If I could have chosen any shade, I would have picked a much more muted, quiet color. A color that better reflects how I feel about myself and my life right now.

I had these letters all mapped out. I spent a year putting each lipstick word/color in order and planning the themes so I could show in each post how I came to this tidy piece of wisdom: Pain and loss are always the ultimate cost of loving and they are always worth it. Love is where all the good stuff is–the joy, the community, the laughter, the growth, the forgiveness, the strength.

But I never wrote any of it. And I should have recognized my intuition in that writer’s block.

Instead, I kept trying, kept seeking, kept shifting, and kept to myself. I started throwing out bags full of stuff we don’t want or need. I started cleaning out dark spaces inside and out. I started taking a knitting class with other women who say “fuck” a lot while they knit. I started making room for myself in my life again. And somewhere in the midst of it all–the things I was doing and not doing, I realized that maybe that tidy advice I thought was the end, is actually the beginning.

Now that I know the devastation of losing those I love, how do I knock down the walls that pain has led me to build between myself and others? How do I stay soft when hardening up dulls the hurt? How do I push through my fear and hold my hands out again knowing how it stings when they get slapped instead of held? It’s terrifying and anxiety producing to think about racing out into the world with my heart wide open and my soul on my sleeve. It’s one thing to have learned the lesson, it’s something else entirely to live it.

Yet I know that’s exactly what I have to do if I want more happiness, connection, fun, and satisfaction with my life and I do. I want those things so badly it aches. Maybe the Lipstick Letters are not meant to be about the what. Maybe they’re meant to be about the how.

With that trajectory in mind, I’ve thrown out the plans I had and maps I made. Actually doing this process instead of just thinking and writing about it scares me, but it’s also exciting and has me feeling the same thrill of inspiration I felt the first time I opened a box of fifteen lipsticks on Christmas morning back in 2020.

I’m missing something and my intuition is telling me it’s right on the other side of myself. So ready or not, here I go . . .

If you want to read previous Lipstick Letters, click here!

If you want to hear me read this one, click play below:

Awkward Girl: The Sandwich Fail

Hi. As many of you know, last weekend I booked an AirBnB for ONE. Just me. And me, myself, and I had the most quiet, peaceful, and refreshing weekend I’ve had in six years. I took the opportunity to sleep, to read, to knit, to think, and above all, rest.

But back to the thinking part. After this trip, I’ve realized I need to get out more. A lot more. Out, not as in to an AirBnB by myself, but out, ya know, where the other people are.

Strongest supporting evidence for this conclusion is that time (four days ago) when I went out by myself to order a sandwich for lunch. And I failed, friends. You could even say I failed spectacularly. Maybe some of you are thinking, But how can you fail at all, much less spectacularly, at ordering a sandwich? And if that’s what you’re thinking, read on and let me introduce you to Awkward Girl.

I’m an introvert (I know, I’m awfully outgoing if you’ve met me in person, but I assure you, I am an introvert), and as such, I made a point to pull up the menu online before I set out for the restaurant so I could plan my order in advance and not get anxious at go time. The way it looked, you could either build your own sandwich from a huge list of ingredients or you could choose something like a BLT where it was decided for you. I chose an Italian cold-cut from what I thought was the “done for you section” and then thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful, ten minute walk to the sandwich place.

When I got there, I went up, full of confidence, and said, “I’d like a six inch Italian cold cut.” The guy behind the counter said, “Okay.” then continued staring at his notepad with his pen out. So I continued, “I’d also like to make it a combo and get a Pepsi and chips.” He nodded, then waited again . . . kept waiting until it was painful. . . then finally looked at me expectantly and said with just a hint of impatience, “Whadya want on it?” I stared blankly. So he more kindly and slowly continued, “You picked the meat. Now what bread and toppings do you want?”

I looked down at the jumble of fifty-ish ingredients listed on the menu, my brain went into instant hyper-drive before the engine exploded and everything went dark for several of the longest seconds of my life. Then, I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “That’s too hard. Ummmmmmmmm, I’ll have a BLT.”

Yes. I said those words. I, an adult, who is currently raising three, small people, an adult who, at one time, ran an eleven million dollar budget and had twenty plus staff and was a director, said to another adult in public that it was just too hard to pick sandwich parts. So hard, in fact, it could not be done.

Soooooooo, yeah. I’m going to need to get back out there (as in, the world) ASAP before I lose my ability to process speech altogether. Although, to be fair, looking at my history, there’s only so much improvement I’m likely to make as it relates to being awkward.

Anyway, it was a great BLT, so I guess all’s well that ends well, right? Image below is not the actual sandwich, I was too busy enjoying it in a lovely gazebo to think about getting a photo. But it was as delicious as this one looks and I at least had the presence of mind to swap out mayo for mustard!