Wednesday, April 24, 2013

When you need to remember

I've been quiet here this past week, friends.  We had a move a few days ago and tomorrow marks a year since my injury and my husband and I head out of town for our first anniversary, and everything in between has been a whirlwind.  I won't be here for the rest of the week, but I wanted to share a few thoughts on moving and turning pages before we feel finished with the last; on starting fresh even while the old still lingers; on remembering.

First, let me say, there is too much for me to sort through here and now, in this little post, so I must practice writing in pieces.

The day after settling into our new place, I set off on a walk in our neighborhood.   Mere blocks west of our casita are Asian markets, Vietnamese pho and East African restaurants, halal meat shops, taco trucks and a Mediterranean bakery.  Up the steps, to the street just west of our apartment, is a neighborhood teeming with homes situated like works of art in yards like gardens, and within a ten minute walk, I descended upon Lake Washington and its cherry tree-lined boulevard.  

We live in between two worlds that I love.  Where diversity and the eclectic flair of the city meet serenity and physical beauty.  It's an explorer's paradise, and I am hungry for new. 

I believed, with all my heart, that I didn't want to leave our last home.  Once again, God heard what my heart didn't know to ask for, and he gave us so much moreI didn't know how secluded I felt this past year there, until we moved in, and I felt something dormant in me begin to stir.

As I walked the path along the lake, a flood of memories came back.  Of how many times I've run this lake and my feet practically danced their way for joy, and it's been so long.  So very long.  I've forgotten, nearly, what it's like to run free with my heart bursting.  And it hurt, to carry this longing, to acknowledge its presence.  Will I ever know this again?  

And the answer is, of course, I don't know.  

But, I felt something else, too.  Don't give up on this dream, small as it may seem, to run again.

Along this lake that my heart knows so well, beneath the deep blue sky and the cherry blossom trees, my heart began to awaken to dream, and with my inner ears I think I heard God, his words carried on a breeze in my soul.  

"This is going to be a year of remembering." 

I think it was God, because it hit spot on a spot I didn't even know was there, and my feet stopped walking, almost as if I wanted to be still and make sure I heard right.

A year of remembering, many things. 

Who I am and what I'm worth and things I've buried long ago.  How to run and how to dream and how to open myself to need.  

And this, especially this: remembering the love that brought us here to marriage, and how Love himself comes to breathe on smoldering ash and coax fresh flames to rise from nothing.

Because, I know, how even the most basic things must be relearned sometimes.  

I don't know how much I'll write this down and how much will simply be pondered, tucked away, until the tiny whisper of not-yet faith becomes a holy roar. 

It's like a friend beautifully wrote today, that sometimes we have to offer up our unbelief, wrapped in declarations of belief. And then, we wait, for the seeds of hope to grow.  

Linking up with the lovely Heather today for Just Write.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jump: reconciling two selves


I'm wrestling with my self these days.  With the dichotomies of me and vulnerability lived out within those.  Like other writers I know, vulnerability slips on more like a glove in writing than it does in person.  I've heard the comments over the years, to the effect of, "You say things in writing that I never hear from you in person."  And I cringe, because it's true.  And yet, I have no intention or desire to be two separate people.

In reality, these pieces do overlap, but they are heavily weighted to one side.

Those who read my writing, with a few exceptions, are the ones who know the most real version of me.  It's not that I'm trying to be less real in person, but that in writing, all the intervening variables - the space and environment, the timing, the verbal and nonverbal cues of another - are not there to intercept my real self, to hinder transparency and connection. In writing, an artificial environment is present, where I need not struggle to compete for the attention of my listener; where I'm not derailed by what appears to be a bored expression, an uneasy shifting in their seat, or an almost palpable fear of hearing the raw, unfinished truth.  

I fear I'm too perceptive for my own good, and not always accurate, to be fair.  But I feel the squirming of the other, at times, beneath the intensity of the moment, as if a silent plea escaping from their eyes, Please, just tell me you're ok, that life is a struggle but all is really well.  Don't give me the details.  Don't leave me hanging in your unfinished-ness. 

We're afraid, skin to skin, eye to eye, of transparency.

In living transparently in my writing, I am not seeking to hide from transparent relationships in person.  Instead, I write this way out of liberation, that I don't need to hide my true self from those who are uncomfortable.   I don't need to alter my story to fit what they want to hear.  I can simply be me.

In writing, I live into my true self, and I learn how to take that out into my skin to skin relationships.

But I'm sensitive, I hate to say it.  It's true.  If I don't think you really want to know the truth, I will politely shut my mouth and a piece of my heart, and I will open them in my writing.   

I don't do small talk very well.  I've learned it, over the years, and sometimes, I prefer to stay there for awhile, like taking a breath at the surface of the water before diving down deep once more.  We all need to come up for gulps of air.   

But it's exhausting, to tread at the surface of superficiality, and there are many layers to this.  Not all is superficial, in the sense that we so often turn down our noses in judgment - that's so superficial.  There are less intentional, learned layers of superficiality, constructed largely out of fear, that trap us in relationship patterns that are somewhere in between shallow and deep.  I think this is where most of us reside.  Perhaps it is there, in the middle place, that I grow weary, for it has the look of depth without the ongoing experience of it. 

I hunger for what is real.  And this is what I wrestle with and seek to flesh out in my writing.  And this, much to my amazement, is where I have found other souls like myself who are willing, even in fear, to strip bare.

In this writing space, with others who take the deep plunge - this space where we make room for each others' unfinished tales of becoming - I jump into being known.  And I learn to trust in the free fall of vulnerability and watch the pieces of me drawn back together, reconciled, living underneath one roof in peace.  

Linking up with Lisa Jo, though yet again, this is not a five minute post... and Heather... and Emily.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Brave words: I need you (@ Chronicles of Grace)

I didn't let him see me cry, those precious few minutes each Sunday afternoon I sat with glass between us and talked to him through a phone.  He wore an orange jumpsuit and I couldn't get over how broken he looked, no longer the Papa I knew who wore colorful ties and stood each Sunday before the church to preach and told jokes and laughed from his belly

I looked into his eyes and saw rivers of sadness and shame and hid my pain away, these nine months of Sundays, because I couldn't bear to show him mine.  At home in my room, I pulled down the shoe box filled with folded yellow letters in Papa's careful script and wept for the dad I couldn't admit I needed. 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

It's one of those parts of me I can't trace back to a specific place or event in time, only that it's as if I were born with an innate self-moderating device which gagged my voice, made me shrink back from needing.

I'm honored to have been invited to guest post at my friend Kelli's place today, for a series this month on "Brave words" - so will you join me there for the rest of this story? 

Thank you, from my heart.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The taste of small dreams

Eleven days shy of one year later - one year since tearing my achilles tendon - I jump on my bicycle and ride shaky and giddy all around Mercer Island.  In the grand scheme of dreams, this is but a drop in the bucket, but it feels like no small feat this afternoon.  It is, in fact, a dream realized, and so I savor it for one nerve-wracking, liberating hour in the April sun.  

I pull Uni, my 90s Univega road bike with the red tape wrapped around her handle bars, out of the storage garage, grateful to remember the combination on my lock.  Her deflated wheels house cobwebs and dead insects, and upon close inspection, the thick wire lock is nearly severed through in one section, so I'm glad to see her there at all.  The number 162 still hangs wrapped around the upper cross bar, a relic from our triathlon nearly two years ago.  Ricardo helps pump life into her tires once more with the pump I finally recovered, ironically, days away from our move from the island, and carry her outside like a child at Christmas.  

We've had several crashes, Uni and me, and so I wobble a bit on her ten pound frame and skinny minny tires, trying to remember how to adjust the old gears and feel confident riding on something not stationary.  When you've left swaths of skin on concrete, it doesn't leave you, this feeling of utter vulnerability on top of a bike.  

Nor the sense of exhilaration, the speed, the air stinging the corner of my eyes and tears trickling down.

Days after my surgery, I needed to get out of the apartment for brief outings, and so Ricardo would drive us around the island with my leg in a cast propped up on the dashboard.  We'd pass by bicyclists hugging the curves of the road winding all around the island, with peeks of Lake Washington below, and I envied them their freedom to roam this outdoor playground.  Their two strong legs and body in fluid motion.  I had no idea it would take so long, to get from there to here. 

I ride around the island, up and down hills, hugging those windy roads, alternating prayers of "Thank you, Lord" and "Oh God, please keep me from wiping out."  It's utterly terrifying, the thought of another injury, and yet these tastes of normalcy, of things I once enjoyed, fill me up with wonder and gratitude.  

I'm not where I thought I would be, nearly one year later.  I never imagined it would take me four months from my injury to walk well enough to return to work; six months after injury to work without my leg swelling and painful at the end of my shift.  I'm still not close to running again and my calf is smaller than the other, barely any muscle there.  I have yet to do one heel raise on my injured leg.  


I can ride this bike.  I can swim.  I can walk.  And I can dance, somewhat awkwardly, but that doesn't stop me.

It's amazing, the things I once took for granted, and I wonder how hard it will be to hold onto that the further this injury is in my rearview mirror.  It's still with me, a tiny limp at times and a scar down my ankle.  And this, even this, is beauty all its own.  Reminders of brokenness, of healing still in process, of gift and grace.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Five-Minute" (much longer) Friday: Here

Someone once said, "Home is where the heart is," and now it hangs as a canvas painting on our wall by the door.  Since first hearing that saying, I've learned what it means through season after season of transition and changing locations, that home is a Who and not a Where.  But I look at that canvas up on my wall now and my heart tells me it's a restless wanderer. 

I haven't the faintest idea where home is because I can't seem to locate my heart.

This place we've lived in our first year of marriage, at different points, has felt more like home than any other in a long while.  It's been, at times, a much needed refuge.  But now, as it's in the beginning stages of disassembly, as boxes lay scattered and pictures are stripped from the walls, I see it through different eyes.  This place is a cave of sadness, a witness to a thousand private deaths grieved this past year, from which I peer out at the mountains and lake and feel oddly detached from the sun.   Oddly detached from my self.  Within these walls, dreams were sown and watered and neglected, have shot up fragile from the earth and wilted fragile in our hands. 

I moved in with hopes for memories of dancing salsa on our hardwood floors, cooking together in the kitchen, sharing meals at our table, mornings tangled up in bed.  I got a handful of some of these. 

I have more memories of shutting myself in the bathroom or slumped on the kitchen floor alone, a fountain of tears erupting that won't run dry. 

And so, I wish to flee this cave I once called home.  

. . . . . . . . . . . .

There's a longing for home, a taste of it in the presence of the ones I love, a promise of it in the presence of the One who is love.  Yet it's always a flicker, a faded photograph, a memory tucked away.  And maybe there is no need to locate my heart, as much as to locate home in my heart, if I could find a way to access this place, to abide in the peace of belonging to a home that is not flesh and blood and physical address or lover's arms, but here - in Christ, eternal.   

Here, at the epicenter of all this raw pain and death and breaking, is where I finally come to know - really know - that home is Now and Not Yet.  

That home is grace and home is all-consuming fire. 

Home is where I lay my soul to rest each night no matter my address. 

Home is where the slumped ones will rise again, 
     where bitter waters flow into the river of life, 
          and everything that touches the water of this river will live

Home is here, where bruised and wilted dreams raise up their heads and stories that seem dead rise from a pile of smoldering ash to tell a more beautiful story.

Here, my soul.  It's right here, all along.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

*Linking up with Lisa-Jo and the Five-Minute Friday community of writers, with this confession: I rarely stick to the five minute rule, because sometimes, I just have so much more inside that needs time to work itself out.  But I love the prompts and the community I have found here.  The prompt this week was "Here," and as you can see, it was a doozy for me.  In case you're wondering, I didn't plan on this coming out, but it did.  And so I try to be brave with what comes to me - "transparency with a purpose" - for I believe this brings healing and hope and freedom, even though I'm shaking in my skin.  So, thank you for being here.  Your presence means a great deal to me.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just Write: And then I saw her face


I love her even more in person than I do her words.  Words don't do her justice.

For her lyrical words that capture me in poetry and voice of truth, flow out from this woman before me, the one whose deep, dark eyes nearly disappear in smile.  Months ago, I found her, read her, and my heart knew, don't let this one go.  I commented on her blog post and she responded on mine, and it's been back and forth between each others' online homes since.  I never believed an authentic friendship could be nurtured here in this bottomless universe of internet, this space without walls or kitchens or backyards.  Until I met her.

At a writer's conference this past weekend, I didn't know why I was there.  It's taken years to call myself a writer, even longer to call myself an artist, and yet the words still don't roll off my tongue.  But there I was, at my second conference in two years, barely holding it together, and I knew at least this: my friend was here.  She was part of the planning committee, and I really didn't expect any time from her, except a hug and a quick chat.  When she found me eating at a table, her hug told me she was as glad to see me as the beam on her face and the love in her eyes.  Later, she leaned over and whispered, "Can you get away for a little bit after this? I just want to sit with you."  

I just want to sit with you.  It's not often, really, I hear these words.  My throat was swollen and sore, my head full of pressure, my ears aching, my nose plugged up, and normally all I'd want to do is high tail it home and slip into sweats, but all I wanted to do was sit with her, in this sickness, in all the brokenness I came to the conference with, and be known.

She was goofy, exhausted, comfortable, apologetic, and I told her, "Please, I love you like this."  This real flesh-and-blood-sleep-deprived-giddy-in-need-of-a-good-drink you. 

In the pouring rain we drove to a restaurant and ordered steaming bowls of pho and sat laughing over how we fake it with chopsticks.  Almost as soon as our rear ends touched our seats, she fixed me with those sincere eyes and said, "Talk, please.  I want to hear you speak.  Everything, I want to hear everything."  

So I poured it out, to this virtual stranger who so quickly became a sister, without self-consciousness or shame.  My journey this past year.  The brokenness of my life.  She held my words with tear-filled eyes and gave me one of the greatest gifts we can give another soul: she heard me.  She enjoyed me.  She was witness to my story - the mess, the glory, the suffering, the beauty - and there we met, even deeper than the words that have passed between us online or in this booth over dinner.  

But then, glory of glories, she opened her heart and shared a piece of her story with me.  And I sat stunned by the knowledge that we know each other for reasons we couldn't have known beforehand.  Stunned by the love in my heart.

Another friend I know first in her writing and have yet to meet face to face sent this to me - "It is amazing that when we don't have to traipse through all the fluff of face-to-face relationships, all the learning to trust and chit-chat that goes into building that part, and we can just get right down to the heart (which is what comes out in our writing, right?)."  

My heart did a fist pump, yes.  That's just how it is.  And I became a believer.

And I became a believer, again, in this wooden booth at a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland.  

Linking up with Heather