About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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Tuesday
Mar012016

My first marriage is over

I've been terrified all day that I'm going to die.  

I make breakfast for Phoenix, my youngest, and I think, "this might be the last time he looks in his momma's eyes." I notice faint traces of marker on Kyrie's stomach as I help her get dressed and think, "I might never get the chance to see her grow up." 

I'm boarding a plane tonight to go visit my oldest friend in Chicago.

I'm not normally afraid of flying, so my fatalistic thoughts seem out of place, until I realize that six years ago I made this same trip, and something did die.  

My marriage as I knew it died while I drank wine and watched SNL videos on my best friend's couch.  

And as I discover a reason for what I'm feeling, I suddenly don't feel it that much anymore.  What was mounting all day into a panic attack, breathes out with my breath, and the thoughts click into place. I'm having a trauma response, one that is connected to a primal experience deeper than reason can reason out.  And that's ok.  It's ok to be reminded of what I've lost and lived through.

 

Recently, I watched Esther Perel's TED talk "Rethinking Infidelity...a talk for anyone who has ever loved," and found her thoughts on betrayal to be so refreshing.  She says an affair can be turned into a generative experience, that it's a jolt into a new life- a new disorder that can lead to a new order.

She asks this question: "Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?"

It's a question Michael and I asked ourselves six years ago, in the wake of the explosion of everything we both thought could be trusted.  

But I forget sometimes that our first marriage died that day.

 

Esther says infidelity shatters the grand ambition of love.

It's a truth I've expressed in my darker hours when I've said, "I don't believe in love anymore."  But if I'm more careful with my words, what I actually don't believe in is the innocent, sometimes ignorant, epic movie version of what Love, capital L, is.

 

I don't believe Love is a thing that happens to you.  I think it's a daily choice, like Brene Brown says, to turn towards the other person instead of away.

I don't assume Love will sit there, without any caretaking, without any feeding, and just keep growing like some kind of super weed.  

It's always either turn towards or turn away. Love has no neutral ground.

 

I don't take love for granted anymore.  I don't assume it comes easily.  I don't assume it can't end.  

And, I don't expect my husband to be my everything.  I don't expect him to be transcendent and superhuman. I don't expect him to read my mind, or to fill all my cracks, or to satisfy my every desire.

I don't expect the world to work according to a mathematical equation where I receive in equivalency to what I give out, and if I am loved enough, I can be loving enough. 

Or, if I am loving enough, I can be loved enough.  

 

Love is a choice made regardless of circumstance or context or whether you think you deserve it or the other person earned it. It's not dualistic; it's transcendent.  

It expands. It does not limit.

But some of that expansion means the illusions fall away and the whole world gets bigger and more real, and you get more fragile, more aware.

I live with the awareness of my humanity, on the knife edge realization that any second I, or the people I love, could fail big time, could fall big time, could hurt or be hurt, big time.

I carry my fragility everywhere.  

The thin veil that hangs between safe and not safe was torn with Michael's infidelity, and rent in two with the fire, and if I had to choose, I'd choose the unveiled view still, even if it meant going through all of that again.

Because my fragility is my humanity, my offering of my whole self, without equivocation or expectation.

 

We are trundling down the runway when I read the phrase, "Vol de Nuit," in the Vogue article "Ring of Fire" by Silvana Paternostro. Vol de Nuit means "Night Flight." It's a phrase taken from the novel written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a story about the perils of the early days of aviation, when pilots flew the dark skies without instruments, taking off not knowing if the night would be filled with beautiful stars or terrifying tempests.

The author learned the phrase from a Guerlain perfume of the same name created in 1933 "to offer a tribute to women who like to take risks."  

I speak it out loud just as the plane goes airborne, "Vol de Nuit."  Night flight.

I am leaving behind my husband and four children, flying to Chicago for three and a half days.  I don't know what will happen while I am gone, I don't know what will happen while I am alone.  I don't know if there will be stars or tempests.

These are the what if's, that even when you entertain them, can never really prepare you for what happens, good or bad.  

 

Life is a night flight.

Sometimes you visit your best friend in another city and your husband kisses another woman.  Sometimes everything goes perfectly and you return home and your kids run to the door and throw themselves in your arms, and your husband kisses you on the mouth, and you sit down to dinner and hold hands while your youngest prays.

Love is risk in every moment. 

Nothing can prepare you for it, and nothing can change the truth of Love's nature. We never know what we are signing up for when we choose to love someone.  

We never know what it will cost, or what we will gain.  

 

I think truly giving your whole self to the endeavor of loving one person well for the rest of your life is the most countercultural, anti-status quo, ballsy, audacious, crazy town, warrior kind of thing you could possibly ever do.

And I want to be one of the ones who does it. Who loves hard, loves recklessly.  Who, when she is betrayed, or when she betrays, gets back up and keeps loving, eyes wide open, staring fear and retreat and cynicism and judgment and self-righteousness and shame in the face.

Tuesday
Feb232016

We're not all well on the same day

"When all is said and done, people only need compassion and stories."

-Barry Lopez

He's wearing denim on denim, with the sleeves rolled up to the crease of his elbows. He has white hair, glasses, cowboy boots. He's tall.  Sitting in the second row of the bookstore book talk, he almost folds in half inside his folding chair.  He's one of the only men in a bookstore filled with youngish and middle-aged women. 

I've journeyed two hours on a weeknight, with three friends in tow, desperately excited to see Anne Lamott in the flesh for the first time.

It's a YouTube age, a TEDtalk age; I know she even records her own books on CD, but I've never heard her voice.  

 

It's a smaller crowd than I expected. In my mind, Anne would fill a football stadium with adoring fans and followers.  She would sell out like a Coldplay concert.  Or maybe lead those Easter services where thousands of people get saved and baptised on one morning.   

I've come here with an entire bushel basket of books for her to sign, but when we walk in, I realize I'm still going to be sitting a squinty-eyed distance away.

Then the tall man stands up, and finds me somehow, and gestures.  I walk to the front, and he offers me the empty seat next to him.

"I've been here since 1," he says.  "Would you like to sit in this empty seat?"  I am agape, and the double meaning is not lost on me. Why me, in this crowd of believers?  

"Let me check in with my friends first," I say.

I return to my tribe, ask if anyone wants the seat. They look at my bushel basket of books and tell me I've earned the "I love Anne the most" award, and I should go claim my bounty.

I sit next to the man. He turns to me and asks, "How is it?"

"Oh, it's wonderful," I gush.

"You're worth it," he says.

 

The woman behind me taps me on the shoulder and offers me her book signing ticket. I go from 169 to 45. She tells me her name is Caroline, because she was born on Christmas. I tell her my name is Trinity.

"Oh, Holy Trinity," she says.  "Does everybody say that?"  

"Well that," I say, "and The Matrix."  

She smiles, and asks me to take off my hat.  I'm wearing a black fedora.  It's got instant style, which is why I mostly wear it when I haven't had time to wash my hair.  Sure enough, tonight is one of those nights. I've got greasy bits, and hat head, and I hesitate because I don't want to be in the 2nd row of an Anne Lamott reading with greasy bits.

But then I realize, it's Anne Lamott.

It's the exact place where one should reveal their greasy bits.

 

I think the tall man next to me is praying.  His hands are clasped under his chin, fingers wiggling like a child's game of, "Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the door, see all the people."  He rocks back and forth, eyes fixed on the wooden podium and the folding table at the front of the crowd.  There is a box of blackberries on the folding table, and nothing else. A plastic box of store-bought blackberries covered in curly yellow, blue, orange, and green ribbon.

Anne appears.

She's frumpy, dready, and sick.  Her voice is croaky, croney.  She says book tours are terrible things.  Terrible, living out of hotels, stale air, sorts of things. She blows her nose with wadded up tissue stuffed in her baggy pants pockets.

"I think God loves REAL," she says.  "I think REAL is the most precious thing."  

She says, "refuse to stop feeling what you're feeling."  

The tall man cups his hand around his left ear, leans in.

"You're safe, you're loved, you're chosen, exactly the way you are.  You are fearfully and wonderfully and vulnerably made. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it," she says, and tears well up in my eyes.

It's the truest gospel there is.

The way Anne writes about God, the way she sees God, opened a window for me to believe in God again, to love with robust, righteous tenacity, in language I can use equally with my children, and in the darkest of places.  Hers are the books, the only books, I give to someone in the midst of it.

Every time I read her work, I imagine rising up out of my couch, opening my front door, and strutting down the sidewalk, smiling at the sky, at strangers, and declaring "I am God's precious daughter," with a blissful grin.

She talks about her book on prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow.  She says the 4th great prayer, is "Whatever." "Because I've got this hilarious idea that things are going to turn out the way I want."  

She talks about her saggy butt, and how this is life, and how no amount of wishing her butt were different will make her butt different.

Then she turns around and demonstrates a writing technique, the way she strings up a clothesline in her writing room and pegs ideas to it, and I think, It's one thing to talk about your saggy butt; it's a whole other thing to turn around right afterwards in a big crowd at your own book talk and let everybody stare at your saggy butt.


She says, "there can be meaning without having things make sense."

She says, "Grace looks like people getting through the day together." 

The tall man kneads his legs with his knuckly thumbs, right above the knee.  He rocks and smiles, and rocks and smiles.

 

"How do you foster resilience?" someone asks out of the crowd.

I do all the things that make me feel alive.  I practice radical self-care. That's how I stay present.  

I never stop going to church. I never stop hiking.  I never stop trusting that I'm loved and I'm chosen and I'm safe, and that more will be revealed.

I'm not left to my own devices very often. And that's what saves me.

The reason I have such devout faith in God is because I have impeccable friends. 

We're not all well on the same day.  So you call around till you find someone who kind of likes their life, and you ask them to talk you off the ledge.


I close my eyes and let the words wash over me. 

I imagine myself and Anne sitting on a patchy old couch, covered in a patchy, tattered old blanket.  The couch sits against a wall, under three windows.  There is an old patchy plant, the kind with hairy roots, sitting on a wire plant stand with a mosaic top.

We have a grey cat between us.  We pet the cat, tandem-style, to make sure the cat gets all the love and strokes it needs. 

This is what Anne and I would do. Absent-mindedly, serenely, like two benevolent senile women, in our saggy sweats.

 

The talk ends.  I'm about to get in line for the book signing portion of the evening, when the tall man next to me rises up, on a mission, and walks up to Anne.  

"I made you dreadlocks," he says bashfully, and he points to the box of blackberries with the curly ribbon in yellow, blue, orange, and green, the only thing sitting on the folding table at the front of the room.  "In one of your books, you talk about resisting Hershey's with almonds and eating blackberries instead, so I got you a box." 

The tall man looks at her adoringly, like a boy would look at his mother, waiting for her blessing.  

Anne smiles.