when I notice

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Freedom is hard for me.

There’s so much openness and opportunity. It calls to my soul and I indulge, running after the things that feel and sound good.

My freedom sometimes (often) leads me to excess and overindulgence.

I haven’t figured out how to balance it. How to exercise the freedom in a way that honors and cares for my body, my family, and my community. It’s hard to find that chord. Harmony. Rhythm.

I started a cleanse on Monday. I feel a little silly that I can’t just cut back on the alcohol or the caffeine when I notice I’m consuming too much. If it’s there and I “can” have it, I will.

I do better within a framework. Abstaining completely for three weeks comes easier to me than cutting back. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know what about freedom and ableness (to do something) causes me to consume to a place that borders on unhealthy.

I can be disciplined. I mean, foregoing all things but fruit and veggies for ten days takes a lot of willpower. But it’s simple. This is in the “good” pile. This is in the “bad/avoid” pile. Viola. My brain and desires are taken out of the equation. I don’t have to cut through layers of emotions to figure out what’s motivating the behavior or desire. I don’t have to over-analyze any one thing.

Don’t get me wrong.

I think the cleanse is good and healthy and will lead to a rebalancing in the long run.

But I’m wondering where else this longing for parameters comes into play. Or rather, it’s highlighting how much I miss the parameters. Life was simpler when there was a good pile and a things to avoid pile. I mean, I was pretty isolated cause it’s hard to be in relationship when you’re silently, constantly judging people (a habit I have a hard time not falling back on when I’m in certain social circles.) Now, I allow for experience and story.

And yet I feel lost in the midst of my own story. I wonder about the experiences and the way I was shaped. And there seem to exist nothing but questions.

Nothing feels secure under my feet anymore.

It makes writing and processing hard. I have no answers. Nothing to offer—except that I miss the parameters. I miss the apologetics and the wrapped up, prettily delivered Jesus from my Sunday School days. I miss a faith that didn’t require…faith.

I am living. I am making mistakes. I’m learning that I wasn’t as grown-up as I thought I was. I’ve come so far and I still have a long way to go before I’m done. Some days that promise is full of hope. Some days it seems bleak and despairing. And some days it just is.

That is my today. I just am. Here. Present. Noticing.

Freedom is hard for me.

tell me what you’re for…

So don’t waste my time and your curses on verses

about what you are against, despise, and abhor.

Tell me what inspires you, what fulfills and fires you.

Put your goddamn pen to paper and tell me what you’re for!

Taylor Mali, Silver-Lined Heart

A fear years ago Magic Mike came out. It starred Channing Tatum and was a story about male strippers. It was barely on my radar. Until my friend asked me to go see it with her. At the time (and to this day) this was a friend that if she invited me to things, I said yes. I learned a long time ago that no’s are detrimental to relationships and I wanted her to know that I am for her and for her family. So I went to a midnight showing, opening night to a movie I never thought I would see. I had fun with my friend. And I am so thankful she invited me, and let me share something with her that excited her. I entered her world. I loved her.

After my experience with the movie, I had a conversation with a long time friend and she confessed that she wouldn’t have been able to see that movie. It would have done something to her heart, her emotions, and her mind. I empathized—thankful for her honesty and encouraged her in her conviction. Mine was different. We both exercised our freedom and we were both loving ourselves and others. Neither one of us felt the need to condemn the other or publicly shame someone for enjoying a movie.

//

My Facebook is blowing up. I have friends excited about Fifty Shades of Grey. I have friends banding together in protest—grieved by a world where this book could have been written, let alone published. I haven’t read the book. I may or may not see the movie depending on who invites me. Do I love the idea that this book is a phenomenon? Not really—mainly because there are some amazing stories out there, rich and full of depth, and this book strikes me as more of a candy bar (but I’ve read my fair share of candy-bar-books, so I’m not really going to take a stand on that principle either.)

Love to me looks like making room for people’s stories. Not everyone in the world is like me, and if Fifty Shades taught them something, or entertained them—I think it’s a conversation worth having. It’s out there. I can’t put my fingers in my ears and pretend it isn’t. And I don’t have to be hateful towards the people who find some merit in it…And if I’m lovingly part of the conversation, then maybe I get to be a voice for change, pointing out healthy ways for men and women to interact, fighting against injustices and abuse women face around the world, or conversing about the darkest parts some of us can descend when we’ve been hurt. That we all have our shameful secrets and fetishes.

Instead of standing against something, I want to stand for something.

So watch or don’t watch Fifty Shades as your conviction leads you. I think love and wisdom may look like private conversations with face-to-face friends, rather than a newsfeed where people will have a different experience and may be hurt by your cause.

Instead, let’s have a conversation about what we’re for. I want to hear what inspires, moves, and brings you to life.

For me right now I’m for:

  • 6:30am workouts
  • a glass of red wine before bed
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • Noonday Collection
  • house concerts by Sue Fluger (www.suefluger.com)
  • birthday celebrations
  • poetry by Taylor Mali and Rumi
  • clothing swaps
  • movies with friends

What are you for?

wild: from lost to found on the pacific crest trail

WildTP_Books-330I finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed this morning.

Doug took the kids to school so I could have a few minutes before the Valentine’s Day parties descended.  I read this book because a friend told me it was worth reading. And of course now I want to add hiking the PCT to my bucket list—something Doug and I can do together once all our kids are up and away. Is that something that’s unique to me? Or do other readers all of a sudden find themselves considering things because they read about it in a book?

So I probably won’t actually hike the whole PCT. But I would like to get my backpack out of the garage, dust it off, invest in a new pair of hiking shoes and go on a few trips with my family while we have this time together.

When I added this book to my Goodreads list, I noticed some reviewers giving one or two stars to the book. Curious, I clicked on their comments. Keeping in mind that the author/narrator is a real person, I found their comments hateful. There are a myriad of ways to respond to grief. It takes something out of us—and it’s unique to the individual. Grief is an impossible emotion with which to empathize. And I am so thankful to the author for being honest about the depths to which her grief took her.

She didn’t gloss over anything—not the way she hurt herself or others, the drugs, or the affairs. She lost. She grieved. And here, she recounts her journey out of that darkness—a tangible journey along the PCT. I found her experience moving, full of falls and re-starts. Untrained, and full of desperation, she did something many of us would never attempt.

I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes I found along the way…

I ached for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world, keeping me safe not from danger, but from vastness itself.

As close as we’d been when we were together, we were closer in our unraveling, telling each other everything at last, words that seemed to us might never have been spoken between two human beings before, so deep we went, saying everything that was beautiful and ugly and true.

As if everything gained was inevitably lost.

Perhaps by now I’d come far enough that I had the guts to be afraid.

The kindness with which it was given blunted the heat and tedium of the day.

That was my father: the man who hadn’t fathered me. It amazed me every time. Again and again and again. Of all the wild things, his failure to love me the way he should have had always been the wildest thing of all.

They opened up inside me like a river. Like I didn’t know I could take a breath and then I breathed. I laughed with the joy of it, and the next moment I was crying my first tears on the PCT. I cried and I cried and I cried. I wasn’t crying because I was happy. I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I wasn’t crying because of my mother or my father or Paul. I was crying because I was full. Of those fifty-some hard days on the trail and of the 9,760 days that had come before them too.

I didn’t want to hurt for him anymore, to wonder whether in leaving him I’d made a mistake, to torment myself with all the ways I’d wronged him. What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? … What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless.

There was only the stillness and silence of that water: what a mountain and a wasteland and an empty bowl turned into after the healing began.

He hadn’t loved me well in the end, but he’d loved me well when it mattered.

Where was my mother? I wondered. I’d carried her so long, staggering beneath her weight. On the other side of the river, I let myself think. And something inside of me released.

There was no way to go back, to make it stay. There was never that.

Thank you, I thought over and over again. Thank you. Not just for the long walk, but for everything I could feel finally gathered up inside of me; for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know, though I felt it somehow already contained within me.

Have you read Wild? What did you take away?

brave is…

kyler fairy

I’m usually brave.

Her words are bold—and true. She often walks up to strangers and starts conversations. She’s fearless. She expects the world to be a good, kind place and she meets it with the same energy. I didn’t want to crush her spirit, so I let her words hang on the air, pregnant with all the possibility. She feels brave. I love that she does.

But.

But I know as an adult that she’s not actually brave. She’s unafraid. She doesn’t see how high the tree is off the ground because she knows I’ll catch her when she jumps. She doesn’t see all the little strings connecting that have the potential to spin her world upside down on a whim. The butterfly effect is outside of her comprehension. She is fearless.

I long for that fearlessness. I was the girl who wanted to go as fast as possible. I raced horses, road roller-coasters, skied and snowboarded. I roller-bladed down steep hills, often sporting scraped knees and elbows. I climbed trees and jumped to the ground. And did it again and again. I always thought I would bungee-jump and sky dive.

I’m not that girl anymore

Because now I see how high that tree is off the ground. I feel how hard and unforgiving the ground is. The knowledge of all the way all the things can go wrong rests heavy upon me. I know the world is dark and scary—that monsters are masked as a grandfather. A friend. A neighbor. I know that one wrong turn or stop can end my life as I know it.

I am not brave.

I have been held captive in fear. Terrified of the things outside of my control. And it’s different for me. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who is afraid. It’s a new thing. And I don’t like it. I’m the mom who took a three and two year old to Africa three years ago. But this past Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to go visit my sister in Uganda. And I didn’t. Because I was afraid. And that’s when I finally admitted where I am. I missed out on an amazing adventure because my brain sky-rocketed to all the worst-case scenarios (which, at the time, included contracting ebola.)

And then my five year old’s words loosened something inside me.

I whispered to my heart, to my children, and to my Jesus

Brave isn’t the absence of fear—it’s doing it anyway.

And that is sinking deep into my bones. The words washed away the scars and raw, exposed skin. It healed something in me that had broken open.

I don’t want to be fearless.

I want to be brave.

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