Duality

Blessing for the Graduate

May this blessing bring you courage.

May it lift your spirits,

And remind you of the newness of your journey.

This blessing is mean to give you space:

Space to seek, to grow, to discover

Discover who you are

Determine what is next

The blessing is one small piece

Or the ever enfolding adventure

It leaves much unknown

But so much to look forward to.

This blessing is with you,

Through every class

Every new club

Through the friendships built

The parties attended.

This blessing is your reassurance

That you made the right choice

Because the choice is always yours

This blessing reminds you to not be afraid

Your dream can take flight

Because it has secured the wings on your feet.

—————————————————————

Blessing for the Parent

This blessing is alongside you

Through the bittersweet taste

You spit from your mouth.

It finds you twisted inside

With heartbreak and joy

Both so closely intertwined

May this blessing comfort you

As you find your new normal;

One less.

May this blessing bolster you

And remind you of the lesson you be instilled within them.

May you be assured

The tools are before them

And there is much to be proud of today,

And tomorrow.

This blessing will catch you

As they take flight

And the wind is knocked from your own wings.

A Blessing for this Day

You are my blessing.

Day in and day out,

You flood my thoughts,

Protect my heart,

And bring unending joy.

You are my blessing.

You find me in the dark places,

You wrap your spirit around me

When you can embrace no more.

You find me in times of weakness and shame,

You raise me to my feet,

And remind me of the strength within.

You are my blessing.

Lessons on end,

Teachings still to come:

About life,

About love,

About relationships

And faith.

About children,

About elders,

About spaces and in between.

You are my blessing,

My mantra,

My mama.

Will There Really Be a Morning?

There are moments you remember all your life…This is one of those moments. –Yentle

I can remember so distinctly that, all of us in blue velvet dresses with the rhinestones. Our feet crammed into character shoes and hair freshly curled. And as we wait (at LC I think) Wiehe came to tell us: there’s been an accident. A plane crash. Zach didn’t make it. I remember the shock, the confusion, and the silence that poured over us. But there was music to be sung, and what better way to honor him and begin to grieve then to make music and do our best at competition.

It was chance that we sang “Weep No More” that year. Maybe not, maybe it was fate. But emotion didn’t hit me until we got to that song. Looking straight ahead, not making eye contact with my peers, we all sang from the heart. And the tears rolled down my face. It’s hard to imagine your former student teacher and friend passing away unexpectedly. But there it was–he was gone.

I don’t remember what my drive home was like. I do remember bursting in the door, and crashing into my mom’s arms as I sobbed through explaining to her what I knew about what had happened. He was too young, there had to be a mistake, planes don’t crash anymore, do they? And there we sat together for a long while as she soothed my heart and dried my tears.

In class the day of our end of the year show Wiehe asked for a volunteer to give words about Zach. No one moved for a moment, and then a hand shot up milliseconds before mine. And even though I tried to show I really wanted to speak, the other girl was chosen. That sat heavy.

So, being me, I wrote out what I would have said. I took it home, let my mom read it, and she said, “you have to send this to Wiehe. This is beautiful and a wonderful tribute.” I knew the other girl didn’t know him very well and it didn’t seem right for her to give the honorarium–I was jealous, and pissed, and felt like she was being an opportunist . And so that night, Wiehe told me that we’d both be saying words. My words. We divvied up the sentences and read from the printout I had brought with me. My voice caught in my throat more than once that night. It seemed unreal that music he had arranged for us, that he had rehearsed with us, should be sung. But the music lives on.

I remember the visitation–traveling with one of my choir friends, driving the 45 minutes, staying just long enough to sign the book and take it in but not see the family. There were gobs of people. Even our choreographer was there. Leaving felt strange but I sent a card and explained a little about who I was.

I wrote several letters to his parents over the years–expressing what an effect Zach had on my life and my music education–what a pillar he was for my peers and me. They sent me his CD, I still have it. But time moves on and not all connections remain. After a couple years the letters ceased as other priorities took hold. But I think of them occasionally, especially as this date rolls around, and as it sometimes falls near Holy Week. I am thankful for what he taught me, for the joy and happiness he always exuded, for the Zach-isms that remain. For reminding me to live life to its fullest.

Will there really be a “Morning”? 
Is there such a thing as “Day”? 
Could I see it from the mountains 
If I were as tall as they? 

Has it feet like Water lilies? 
Has it feathers like a Bird? 
Is it brought from famous countries 
Of which I have never heard? 

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor! 
Oh some Wise Men from the skies! 
Please to tell a little Pilgrim 
Where the place called “Morning” lies!

–Emily Dickinson

The Anticipation of the Thing

I’ve always known myself as anxious person. It manifests itself in different ways, and 98% of the time it’s something I manage well and those who don’t know me don’t pick up on it.

When I was little it would show up in my extra energy, needing to always be around people, and trouble falling asleep. Through adolescence my anxiety grew up a little. I wasn’t a rebellious kid or troublemaker, though I had my fair share of opportunities. But my anxiety caused me to overthink the consequences of getting caught and I simply chose not to participate. In college, my anxiety turned toward my future: will I find a job? Will I get married? Etc.

And now my anxiety comes, more often than not, in my relationships. I worry about how I affect others and the deeper meanings behind their actions and words. I often think myself into a tizzy making sure I haven’t upset someone or done something “weird”. I don’t talk about this side of me much, probably because anxiety comes with a huge stigma in our society. People think it has to be treated through medications only, that anxiety is a gateway to other things, or that anxiety only happens to the “other”. Those aren’t my truths.

I am a high functioning anxious person who handles it really well on my good days. But on my bad days I tend to think the worst: everyone hates me, I made them upset, I’m not living up to my own expectations, I’m left out of “fill in the blank”. It’s a part of me, I live with it and I grow through it, but it isn’t always easy. I’m learning to be more direct in sharing my feelings and insecurities, to ask for what I need (and accept the genuine answers whether “I can help” or “sorry, I’m busy”). And I’m identifying ways I can best work through anxious feelings to diffuse them as much as I can.

I’ve been faced a couple times recently with conversations that gave me insight to my life and my friendships, and I’ve found I probably should start journaling again–not the “dear diary” type. More prompt based, deeper learning related, and concentrated on my goals and growth, how I’m feeling and the causes and side affects. My brain needs this type of organization and these lists to help me move forward, to get past the multifaceted analysis that often consumes my thoughts.

So with journal and pen in hand, I look forward to setting some new habits and routines–a healthier, more confident, stronger me. So I’ll start that forward motion with this new mantra propelling me:

Bert and Ginger

Sometimes the universe knows what you need. It sends you little messages of presence and encouragement and love. Hold on to those, dear ones, gather them up and keep them close to your soul.

Earlier this week my sister and I were able to spend some intentional time with our aunt who lives in another state. She’s been a widow for a handful of years, and we talk to her regularly to check in and make sure she is doing alright. Our mom, her sister, was the youngest of four by about 8 years. Because our parents had us (what was once considered) later in life, people often thought our aunt and uncle were our grandparents. And they operated as such, our maternal grandmother had already passed before our parents were even married, and I only have a few memories of my maternal grandfather before he went to the nursing home–but they are wonderfully happy memories.

But our aunt and uncle stepped in, in so many ways, to the role of grandparents. They came for visits, kept me for a week or two while the rest of my family went on vacation (no joke), they spoiled us, loved us, gave us advice, celebrated with us, and so much more. Visiting my aunt brought back lots of those happy memories, and thoughts of being worried about her being lonely living states away from family–especially as she ages. And so when my sister and I saw the below picture on the flight home, the wind left our lungs, tears welled up, and there was a stark feeling of reassurance and pain, an eerie combination.

A good reminder that those we love are always with us, sending us signs, offering reassurance, and urging us to remember them. Thanks, Bert. Love you. And don’t worry, we will take care of her.

The Witching Hour

I’m not sure if I’ve written about some of this before, so forgive me if I have…but right now I am just letting the words flow…

I remember so distinctly some of our conversations those last few months.  Twice a day visits, one each from Dad and I, that ebbed into one of us visiting once a day because we were running ourselves ragged and not even noticing it.  Conversations about things to come, how the world would be, and how the four of us may or may not move along.  But I can hear her saying over, and over, and over….”If you come after 4, it will be too late”.  “I won’t make it until 4…so come before then…” And in the most morbid of ways, it became our running joke.  And in my attempt to comfort her, to support her into the next stages, I promised that I would think of her at 4 o’clock and every moment between.

So it seems only appropriate that today I should wake up in the wee hours of the morning, feeling strangely wide awake though not in any shape to face the day.  I read in a book how sometimes people refer to this time in the early morn as “the witching hour” because nothing good could happen at 3 or 4 in morning (I wish I could attribute that thought to the author, but I can’t seem to recall which book it is from–but that is not my own thought).  To me this time is sacred–and I imagine because of its “name” it would be the same for certain groups of the occult.  But I consider it my own personal time where the distance, and space, and thickness of the world feels a little bit less between us.  And even though my sleep pattern gets thrown off, I am thankful for the moments I can sit at this hour and just be.

It can be difficult to remember.  Her voice seems to slip away from your ears and you wonder if you truly remember how it sounded: how your could here the smile in her voice before you saw it on her face, how you knew when you were in trouble just from her tone of exasperation, and the concern and worry that was never far from the core of her being because she loved fiercely about her people and really people in general.

I don’t like today: because it slaps me in the face with the fact that she is gone.  Life has been hectic the last several months–there have been numerous changes at work that affect how I work and my typical processes for getting things done–I’ve had to adapt time and time again.  I say that because, in a strange way, its helped me cope.  I’ve been able to distract myself from the gaping hole in my heart.  I’ve been able to push aside some of the grief and not let it crumple me in a corner.  But that also makes me feel guilty for not letting myself be raw and vulnerable and real.  But that time has also given me much time for reflection as I look at how our congregation moves forward and evolves.  And in those moments of contemplation I wonder what her advice would be.  I recognize the ball of nerves she’d be as I share everything that is happening in my life and the (self-perceived) difficulties with which I’m faced on the day-to-day.

I don’t know exactly what she’d tell me, but I can imagine the sentiment behind her advice.  I remember the strength of her faith and her spirit.  I remember the compassion and love she had for me and my sisters.  I remember the fierce connection between she and my dad.  I remember the twinkle in her eye when she’d say something that was silly or was something that just barely pushed the envelope on its appropriateness.  I remember things that bonded our souls, those connections that are unbreakable.  I remember life chats snuggled in bed together.  I remember the multitude of shopping trips for new clothes: whether her taking me for school clothes or me taking her when she’d stopped driving.  I remember the way her cheeks would pink after one glass of wine.  And how her nimble fingers could craft up just about anything on her sewing machine that seemed ancient.  I remember how as she aged she looked more and more like her dad–and I think fondly about the fact that I will probably follow suit.  I remember the difficult days: growing up, as an “adult”, and in the last several years–because life simply isn’t life without the highs and lows.

And even in all of this remembering, it doesn’t make it easier.  But I am thankful for the witching hour and the way time suspends–even just for a few split seconds–so that I can catch glimpses of her, feel concentrate moments of her presence, and commune with my mama who I will never stop missing.

 

Living Parallel Lives

Life has a funny way of bringing you what you need, exactly when you need it sometimes.  I guess that’s just God looking out for you, but sometimes it seems so coincidental.

In the last couple years I’ve been spending time with my dad going through things in his house: purging, and organizing, and reminiscing.  Often through this process we stumble upon hidden gems and items we didn’t know (or didn’t remember) existed.  Recently, one of those items was the journal my mom kept during most of her time in Zaire.  She served as a missionary through the United Methodist Church teaching Mathematics to middle and high school students.  Her handwriting looks different,  but eerily the same.  Her voice sounds different, she sounds…ambitious, young, dedicated, passionate.  But you can also hear the struggles, the questioning, the unsure-ity (is that a word?) and doubt.  Those are a lot of the same feelings I am confronted with right now as well.

I can’t claim that my experience is the same as hers. But situationally I can see the connective points of what she went through and what I am going through. It’s been a strange reality–to read it instead of discussing it with her, to feel her presence in my own struggles and emotions, to know that there is the constant reminder that no matter what happens she is right beside me.

It makes me wonder back to journaling my own thoughts, and what my future children will think of my words they might have the chance to read. How will they see me? What will they take away for their own lives? And how can I comfort them even by just giving them the realization that we all go through difficult times, times that make us want to pull out our hair, times that push us to (or past) the brink of tears, times that challenge us and make us stronger, wiser, and more ourselves.

All of these various thoughts push me to regroup myself. I remind myself of my worth, of my inner strength, of my talent, of my compassion and heart, of my need for self-care, of my desire to leave the world and my community even just a little bit better than it was when I was born to this time and place. I am learning to find me again. I’m learning to trust myself. I am learning that somethings I thought were important aren’t. And I’m remembering some of the important things I’ve overlooked along the way. I strive to do better, to create opportunities to grow and flourish, and surround myself with those who help me get there.

Rumble

I had a friend tell me once, as we were discussing his coming to terms with losing his mother, that all of the the power was in himself. You see, his belief was (and may still be) that he could tell himself not to be sad (or any other emotion he chose) and POOF it would disappear and he wouldn’t be sad anymore. I’m not sure it’s that simple. Sometimes I wish it was, but as an empath I find that feelings hit me much closer to the vest and stay with me much longer than just my initial “bye, Felicia”.

I’m an empath at heart. Emotions drain me: good and bad. And I often take on the emotions of others; they become mine. Sometimes I really have to sit with myself and unravel whether what I am feeling is my own genuine emotion or that which has rubbed off on me from somewhere or someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give this up even though there are times I wish I could shed it for a time. Being highly sensitive and an empath are a part of what make me, me. It makes me second guess, and worry, and hold situations in my head way longer than most people. It causes me to wonder how other people are feeling, how I can protect their feelings (often in place of protecting my own), and sometimes even jump to illogical places of “fear”.

But being an empath also brings joy to my life. It bolsters the way I care about people. It has allowed me the gift of intentional and dedicated listening, and pushed me to ask questions and go deeper in my relationships. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes comes easier, and I can easily see the other side of the story (when I am not an integral part of the situation). It reminds me that I feel and emote more than I don’t. It’s the source of my quick connections and my hesitancy to let people in below the surface. It is a piece of the web that is me.

There have been lots of changes for me. I’ve started working out again on a somewhat regular basis. I’m diving back in to eating healthy, being conscious of my food choices, and recognizing a need a little help sticking with it (hello, WW). I’ve started using a dating app, because I don’t believe I’m meant to do this life alone, and meeting new people isn’t happening on the daily. These are just the big changes in my personal life and don’t begin to scratch the surface of the professional life changes over the last six months+.

As an empath, which is a category of highly sensitive persons, change is difficult. It’s exciting, sure. But some days I’d rather crawl in a hole than subject myself to new and different environments or experiences. And so when faced with so much change all at once my system is a little bit shocked (that could be an understatement). And when my system is shocked to the point of overload, I don’t respond like I would 98 and 3/4 percent of the time. I operate out of fear and sadness and confusion, when normally I operate out of joy and confidence and wonder.

And so I write. Because it pushes me to be vulnerable. It pushes me to take what feels uncomfortable and unnatural and make it common place. I cannot live in a place of shame and fear any longer. I choose to own these pieces. I choose to be me.

Forty Years…

I would not be me if dates didn’t hold a special place in my heart. We had plans, or maybe just I did, about the celebration we’d have today. The guest list, the food, the decorations, the sharing of stories, the photos. But sometimes things change. Something happens and we have to set a new course, or change our goal. And so the magical dream in my head of celebrating my parents’ 40th anniversary went away. I packed up the ideas and the imaginings and put them in deep storage where they’ve remained untouched, until today.

It seems strange to celebrate without her here, and so I’ve held myself from wishing my dad “happy anniversary”. But in actuality I am sad for the years they have been cheated; it’s a strange sensation because it’s not even emotions about me.

I am thankful for my parents, their relationship , and how they raised me. And I am thankful for the realness, for the beautiful, and for the messy and difficult that comes with any marriage.

So here is to my parents on their 40th wedding anniversary. Thank you for your wisdom, your love, and your endless support. I am proud to have both of you to guide and teach me along the way. You may not be perfect, but you have proved to me that with the right person you can work through anything. And that love, true love, is everlasting.

I am Woman….

You may know the song.  But after last weekend, I’d rather end that opening title with ” hear me squeal like Richard Simmons”.  Just some Richard Simmons

We had our first Women’s Retreat last weekend, our church hasn’t had one for maybe ten or so years?  It’s hard to say because they haven’t had one since I have been working here (and I start my 8th year in October!).  I was a little nervous going into the weekend, you never know when you get together a new group of people exactly how they will interact and get along.  But I was blown away by the openness, grace, laughter, and support that came out of the weekend.

I organized the event, but in order to give me the opportunity to get as much as other participants from the retreat, we opted for an outside facilitator.  It was easy for me to figure out who I wanted to lead us.  My friend Anne , is a certified retreat leader.  I have attended many retreats that she used to lead for youth and knew how refreshing it would be to have her in the space, guiding us.  She and I met, talked about what I hoped for participants, and came up with a loose framework.  She sent me the outlines along the way to make sure she was on the right path, but admittedly, I was tentative in reading them, not wanting to “ruin” my own experience.

She created wonderful opportunities for us as we delved into the landscapes of our lives and how they are woven together.  There was time for self-reflection (something I don’t do enough), paired sharing, and group discussion.  There was time for creativity, time for laughter, movie views, singing (wow, these ladies have amazing voices), and yes even time to Sweat to the Oldies. 🙂

I didn’t know everyone on this retreat well.  But I came away with a deeper sense of each one of them.  There is a kindredness that this time together created among us, that was surely something I didn’t anticipate.  But I am so thankful for it.  I can only hope that the other ladies got as much from the weekend as I did.  I am hopeful that it becomes an annual tradition because it is something I am already looking forward to for next year.

For me there is strength found in connections.  But more than that, there is an unexplained strength in women coming together as a group.  We find solace, support, identification, and listening in a way not found by any other group.  And I covet this time, in a world that so often tears people apart, leaves them alone, tells us we are not good enough.

As I drove to work this morning, and this post was spinning around in my head, I was listening to one of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs.  It’s from the musical, Waitress.  Some of the words really spoke to me:

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine.

Aren’t we all a few of those things?  Haven’t we all felt that way, at some point?  I heard stories this weekend of failure, hurt, disappointment, struggle, and sadness.  But what I learned was those were only pieces of the stories–because in failure, there was success; in hurt, their was healing; in disappointment, there was pride; in struggle, there was perseverance; and in sadness, there was joy.  Maybe not immediately, maybe not always, but it was there.  And there is now this group of women that can remind us to keep our head up.  We are women, hear us ROAR.

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