Category Archives: Love Is…

How I show her how to love.

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In the middle of a crowded airport food court in Kentucky, I thought about my daughter. The one who doesn’t exist yet. The one who might never exist though I’ve already written her countless letters and etched her little notes on the edges of my diary pages.

In the middle of a crowded airport food court in Kentucky, I thought about my daughter and I thought about shoes. How one day, I might use the topic of shoes to inch my way into a conversation with her about great love stories.

 

When I lived in New York City, I remember calling my friend up one night on the commute home from work. I’d been struck on the subway by (what I thought) was a really amazing plan.

“So I could go to Good Will or some place like that and buy a bunch of shoes. I could get a bunch of high heels.”

“You’re going to spend your stipend on shoes?” (I was living on a $25 weekly stipend at the time. Yes, I was going to spend that stipend on shoes.)

“Well, it’s an experiment. It’s worth it.” I rambled into the phone as I passed bodegas and dollar stores on the way back to my apartment in the Bronx. “I could get a bunch of shoes and then write my number or an email address and leave them all over Manhattan.”

“Sounds very Cinderella-esque,” she said over the phone. “You actually think someone would pick up a shoe in New York City?”

 

The girl who lived in New York City her first year after college was evidently a different girl than the one who writes here today. I was obsessed with good love stories. I thought– with every shred of my being– that I was destined to fall in love in a coffee shop. I wanted to be Joey Potter or something. It sounds so lame to admit that. But I guess I have no shame. At one point or another, I think we’ve all wanted to feel like we could be the center of something– whether that’s a good love story or someone else’s universe.

But it was more than just falling into a good love story at that time in my life: I wanted to crafted one. I wanted to create one. I had so much control stuck in my bones that I wanted to manage the elements and I wanted to devise my own love story. It doesn’t really work that way. I’ve learned that over time.

I guess I’ll want my daughter to know that– just like shoes– you have to eventually stop being so hellbent on finding the “right one.” Some things are meant to be more seamless than we think. The girl in New York City didn’t yet know that it is easy to commit yourself to hunting for a great love story. It so much harder to make a commitment to yourself. But that might be the game changer, the thing that makes you ready, when you step up to commit to someone else.

 

Commitment. There’s that sticky word again. The one that makes my left eye twitch because big, red, blaring exit signs have always done me good. I want her to know that even if commitment looks like a scary word, she should see her way around it. Commitment is a constant word. It’s more than just love and fairy tale guts, it’s getting to say out loud, to someone else, “Even if right here feels like the very last place in the world that I want to be standing– because it’s just so hard right now– I am showing up to win your heart and prove to you that love grows and expands and evolves in time. I am making a commitment to you not to shrink out of this.”

But the shrinking will come. As it always does, the shrinking will show up and I hope she will know that just because a person falls apart from time to time does not mean they are disposable or not loveable. Just because a person falls apart does not mean that the white flags should get raised, or the scores should be cleared, or we’re supposed to walk away when someone hits the floor. I hope she knows that though the stars are charged with showing up in the sky, we are the ones charged with showing up for people when they hit the floor.

Because, just like everyone, she will know the floor. It’s a common place that we all can relate to– the tears, the fetal position, the cold hard wood against your face. It’s like a second language we’ve all learned on our own. She will know the feeling of her hands and knees sunk deep into the carpet and the kind of weeping that makes you feel like your heart might just explode out of your chest.

And I’m only ever going to be able to tell her that love is a rollercoaster that sometimes leaves us on the floor. You will be up. You will down. You will break someone at some point. Someone might leave you in pieces on the floor. But here is the hope (the hope, the hope): that whoever becomes her constant one will show up with glue and a hope to bind, not a hammer with a hope she can be fixed.

 

It will be a rush and a ramble to meet someone. Someone decent. Someone kind. Someone good. That’s how the culture will make her feel.

At points, the world will come at her from every angle and try to shake her shoulders like she is standing in the middle of a desperate post-apocalyptic war zone where she must get out there and find one of the last decent human beings alive. And fill out dating profiles. And go out to bars. And put herself out there. And. Just. Find. That. One. I hope I will be able to tell her that the world will make it feel like the search is endless but forced treasure hunts might only ever lead her to spots with no gold. Sometimes gold is the kind of thing that tumbles into a room unexpectedly.

“Don’t fear so much. Don’t worry so much, girl. Put down the map. Put down the compass. Get yourself a backpack and take yourself on a journey and make constant kinds of vows to your own self first. One day, someday, a person will arrive and they will quickly become your favorite novel. You’ll want to write your notes into all their pages. But for now, you have yourself an encyclopedia. Others might call that massive thing “your heart” but I’m just gonna call it an encyclopedia because it is miles and miles of things you don’t know yet. You don’t need to search. Stop looking around wildly. Just start reading. Knowing yourself will be the biggest gift you ever give to your own great love story.”

 

I like to imagine I’ll get to say these things to her and then I am forced realize that I probably won’t ever get to speak much at all. If her pretty head is anything like mine then she always, always be consumed with the anthems and the love songs and the poems that are writing themselves in her head. It’ll be me to face the mirror at the end of a longer day and ask myself the harder questions: “Did you show her love today? It doesn’t matter if you talked to her about love, did you show her love? More than that, did you show her how to love?” Was it evident in your moves? In your actions? In the way you made eye contact with the man on the other side of the counter?”

Because that’s what love comes down to. Not words, but actions. Not a constant debate of who to love and where to love and when to love. I don’t want to waste my time on things I already know the answers to: everyone. everywhere. always.

It will all come down to how. How I show up for her. How I show up for her and show her how to love.

So, for now, I just whisper things that sound poetic like prayers to me. Things like this: May love teach me everything it needs to be teach me so that I can show up and show her how.

May love be evident in all the things that I do. In the way I say hello to you. In the time and attention I give to you. In the things I push aside on my calendar because this… this… well, nothing beats this. And we will never have “this” back so I want to make sure we just stay soaking in it a little while longer.

May I know how to treat myself and others with respect. Because that is the core. That is the secret. That is the golden nugget.May love be evident in the friendships I make. And the apologies I make. And the time I make. And the messes I make.

May the love in my own story never be tame, but wild and fierce. May it sometimes be unexplainable beyond just these words: This is my heart. And it wants certain things. And I’ve wasted too long of a time saying sorry for that.

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The lifeboats are sparse. I think it shall be over soon.

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I spent the last minutes of 1999 noshing on Ritz crackers alone in my bedroom, pretending to be Rose DeWitt Bukater (the gal from Titanic who bedrocked Leo’s heart like an iceberg and yes, I know you always wondered how her last name was really spelled).

I was in the fifth grade. And I was a J.D. Salinger loner type with too serious of an infatuation with Y2K. These days, I still cannot resolve why mother let me spend my savings on a Y2K sailor hat and snow globe or why she let me loose in the flour to bake a Y2K cake for all my classmates. Yea, I was that girl walking into class saying, “Hey friends, Happy ‘we’re all going to die in the next 48 hours when the computers crash at the strike of 2000′!” Y’all can refer to me as “buzzkill” from now on.

But, in all seriousness, I honestly believed that the world would thrash and fall apart and I’d find myself standing at the foot of the Grand Staircase with Leo looking down at me from the clock, saying, “Darling, you look grand in that Y2K sailor hat. Let’s run to the front of the boat so I can wrap my hands around your waist and make you feel like you are flying.”

Something like that.

Either way, I thought the world was ending and I was perfectly content with falling to particles alone. In my bedroom. Sipping orange juice out of a champagne flute. With crumbs from the Ritz crackers scattered in my lap like sequins adorning my Titanical ball gown.

I think about the Titanic just as much as I think about “What would it be like to be a teen mother?” So trust me, that means the topic is on my brain. A LOT. I’m even so awesome that I went out to the store, bought a bottle of wine, and watched a minute-by-minute Twitter reenactment of the Titanic sinking this year on the anniversary. Yea, you’re bummed you missed it, I know.

I sat there with palms sweating, thinking, “It will be over soon. It will be over soon. They haven’t put me in a lifeboat yet. I guess this is it. The lifeboats are sparse. I think it shall be over soon.” And went to bed somber that night, and a little broken.

Call it what you will but don’t you ever wonder what it must have been like?

To be the one watching your children scamper on the deck after dinner before you heard a thud. A shrill crack.

Panic. There’s panic all around you. You take their tiny hands and you move towards the throng of people hushing one another. It takes a few hours before you know it to be true: the ship will go down. There won’t be enough lifeboats for everyone.

How, oh, how do I fit the rest of my life into 2 or 3 hours? Can I love you any harder, children? Can I hold you any closer? Can I say things that will quiet your fears and make it not so painful when the ice-cold water reaches your ankles? Oh, the pain. Can I take it from you? Can I close your eyes to all of this and read you bedtime stories and promise you heaven?

Did I show you God enough for you to believe in Him? Because all the talking in the universe would not matter if I did not love you right enough for you to think there was a God who cared about your limbs and that time you fell from the old oak tree. Did I show you God?

Did I do enough? Did I do that stuff that actually mattered?

Lately I wonder what it might look like if someone were to tell me that this—this whole wake up in the morning, put two feet on the ground, get through the day, be kind to people, be successful until you close your eyes at night thing—was ending today… tomorrow… next week… would I have done it right?

I promise to be the last person to come at you with a “live like you are dying” speech but the truth of it all is that we really don’t know when these toes will go. When these eyes will close. When these fingers will stop feeling new countertops and the tops of heads that give us a reason to shuffle home at night.

I’ve got a good few folks that I’d love nothing more than to get back. I’d hurl myself over mountains and through deserts and across oceans to get these people back in my orbit. To sit down beside him and say, “You know, you shouldn’t have gone away for so long. We’ve missed you so and, truthfully, the world falls apart without your laughter in it.”

And I know you’ve got them too. The ones who made strudel from nada. The Ones Who Counted Stars with You for the Very First Time.

It’s a different age. An entirely different age. And now we are flushed full with 140-character cries and a status update every 5 seconds but Would It Matter? If it were all ending, would we update those who never really cared or would we find a way to reach back to the ones who deserved our every update in person? Deserved the moments that should have always stayed tucked between Intimate People instead of blasted out to a world that lives for its own reflection.

I want to know that you would throw it aside too. That we both would. And we’d come back to one another like two just meeting from across a crowded room. That everything we said we cared about Oh-So-Much is pale, pale, pale when placed beside human hearts.

And some days I want an excuse to throw all character limitations aside and just clutch you closer than we’ve ever tried before.

Titanic-Fashion.

This Big Ol’ Boat is Sinking Fashion.

& I’m Gonna See You Soon.

& I Miss You Like Heck Already.

& Be Good Until We Meet Again.

& I’m Sorry, I Should Have Said This Sooner, But You Made All of This Worth It.

& Just Hold Me Now and Make Me Feel Like I Did You Right.

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Not no victory march.

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“It’s not going to be her,” I murmured.

“He said earlier that he could not get past a barrier with her… she never let her guard down.”

I sat curled up in a recliner, still enveloped by unplowed roads and blizzard conditions outside, as I watched four women stand side by side and wait to hear their name called. To be granted with a single stemmed rose and no thorns, offered by a man who keeps falling in love over & over again on TV.

And I thought to myself, while this happens, while girls throw themselves at one guy for a chance to be morphed Cinderellally into his wife for better or worse, a different kind of love is fraying at my sides. A different heartbreak is tearing at my eye sockets. The woman in the limo going home and I, we cannot relate tonight.

 

I found out just before I clicked the TV on that a love letter recipient passed away two days ago. Before she got her letters. Before she ever knew that hundreds of strangers did their best to hitch her up good with their strongest syllables.

It happened quicker than expected. Quicker than anyone expects a mother of two boys, growing like bean stalks, to slip out from the folds of this world. Her spirit slowly dancing away from the loves she grew high like prize-winning sunflowers in the middle of August. Quicker than expected but expected all the same.

Immediately I wonder about all the things I don’t want to know. Was she afraid? Was she ready? Was she angry? Was she whole? And yet, all I may ever know of this woman is what I’ve read from someone who requested dozens & dozens of letters be sent her way. That she was sick. But she was lovely. And she would do anything to make it so her family wouldn’t weep so hard when she was gone.

And, at any moment, that could become a person’s purpose– to make it easier for others when they’re gone. Because life is harder than we ever anticipated. & unpredictable. & often not tidy. & it does not tie easily into bows. & it is not always symphonic. A lot of times the melody gets sucked straight out, and we all forget the words, and the purpose behind the tune we’re humming.

 

When the tragedy struck in Haiti and the houses crumbled and schools fell into the dust, Justin Timblerlake covered a strange & beautiful song that the world has already classified as one of the greatest. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was perched on my lips for weeks & weeks after. It was the only song I wanted to hear. The only melody I felt like perking my ears for. I loved the brokenness of that little song.

When I told my Mama I was writing about this song today, she spoke slowly, “I’ve already got 9 pages of research on that song. And I don’t know what it means… but it does a really good job of talking about love.”

She means this line:

“I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch / Love is not a victory march / It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”

It’s not a victory march. It’s not sealed with a kiss. It’s not filtered out through Instagram. It’s gritty. It’s broken. It needs fixing. And we never get perfect at it. And we don’t always get the chance so we might as well just do it to the best of our ability. It costs surrender. And a lot of days it’s hard to believe that it truly conquers all.

 

It’s funny to be the girl who easily gets labeled as the one who thinks love letters can fix the world. I don’t think that. I never have. And if I thought that brokenness could be mended with twine & stamps then I would have started something else. But never this.

Tragedies like this one remind me why I started this journey. Why I feel stitched to live a life that stands close to the seams of stories that have already broken, and dig out the fragile & cracked Hallelujahs.

And God must have saw me fit for this. My inbox is absolutely unbearable. Not because I’ve slipped from the graces of organization but because people come to it daily to pour out their hearts and their imperfect love to me. And God must have wanted this. To grant me with an inbox that is bursting at the seams with desperation and a life story that He is tenderly stamping with “Lover. Lover. Lover.

It hurts on days like this. It gets harder to breathe on days like this. It gets more & more obvious that I am just human on days like these.

We are all just humans. & we will never get it perfectly. & we may never understand all of life or love or tragedy.  But I think sometimes that love is the only measure of what we know how to do and somehow manage to do it right once in a while.

And even when we can hurt one another. And break one another. And stray. And leave. Love is what makes this whole thing somehow redeemable. It keeps us dancing. It keeps us on our knees. It keeps dirt beneath our fingernails. It keeps us in awe of creation. It keeps us aware that we are not so much in control as we think.

& so we love until we are gone. Until the heart stops pounding. Until we feel less broken. And the sun seeps back into our skin. Until we find the courage to say to one another,

“I might not always treat you like the precious piece of flesh & human that you are, but I am trying. It’s hard and I’m trying. And I love you deeper than any kind of yesterday. So forgive me for my brokenness in loving you. But I will only want to love you harder in the morning.”  

 

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I don’t run out. I only rush in.

When I was a little girl, tragedy became real to me.

Real in the sense that it felt fleshy & alive. It took up oxygen in the air. It had footsteps & nicknames & places to be.

So I sculpted a story out of Tragedy. I planted Tragedy square in the middle of a seaside diner by the Atlantic City boardwalk. I turned Tragedy into an old man, with creaky limbs but cutting blue eyes. I gave Tragedy a newsboy hat. I gave Tragedy scowl. And always & always, Tragedy was a man who never liked his job description. Never liked how he rushed in to cause the tears and rushed out before the healing ever came. He walked up & down that boardwalk, drank half a cup of coffee at the diner, made small talk with Ruthie, the waitress, and then rushed off to a slew of funerals & warzones for the day.

 

Y’all already must have known what a desperately strange child I was.

I was never the child who wanted sunlight. Never the girl who was amused by water parks. Never wanted to be stuck in the presence of sticky children who hoarded aficionados for candy & cartoons. I only wanted to be left alone, to sculpt stories & breathe life into my characters: Tragedy. Happiness. Envy. And the leading lady of them all– Love.

Love was a girl– wrapped in a red scarf, a ponytail at the nape of the neck and long fingers curled around a spiced hot cocoa–she’d speak slowly, on the verge of melodically. People would stumble over her before breakfast but she’d always speak her syllables, along with her peace.

In a world where we’ve always wanted things to be neat & orderly, precise & predictable, Love has never truly fit in. She’s the rebel of the group. The new girl in the cafeteria that everyone notices for ruby red lips and yet they all turn to go when it comes time to shake a hand or swallow a grin from her.

“Don’t try to limit me,” Love would say. “And don’t think I’m leaving tomorrow or the day after Sunday. Don’t box me in. Don’t worry about me running out. I don’t run out. I only rush in.

Speak slowly when I am around. Let me go. Unleash me to dance with the ones you so adore. Let me get all wrapped up in them. Let me get tangled in their hair. Above all, don’t be afraid to say that you want me– in every area, in every morning,  in every hour. Just let me be as I was made to be: Thick. Big. Overwhelming but Understanding. Overflowing but Underrated.”

 

Love has always had to fight a lot harder  to win our attention.

Where Tragedy blows us over like little piggies with super power breath, Love has been the quiet fighter. Brinking for our hearts.

The radio blares of her. The movies personify her. The books– embossed covers & classical endings– burrow romantic little holes into our bones. But we get so distracted, so cluttered with the Must-Do’s and the Should-Do’s, that we forget how old-fashioned of a place Love has always wanted to take in our lives.

She does not want the busy. She doesn’t care for the frantic. She aches to be trusted. Aches to know that someone will just let her spill over them, flood them, wreck them, rule them, keep them more full than any other emotion in this world.

And here we hide– behind text messages, behind rules we’ve constructed for our selves, behind barriers & past hurts, and “you wouldn’t really love me if only you knew this…” rhetoric. But not a day goes by where she forgets us or thinks less of us or does not survey the damage of the hurt and says, “How deep is the cut?  I promise I can fix that.”

Not a day, not a day in Love’s life has she ever cared for the petty precision we use when we are trying to define her. And bottle her up. And control her. And make less of her. And keep her from doing the very things she has always, always, always been so good at. But only when we let her in. And let her set the table.  

 

That is where I find myself stopping.

Wanting to put the pen down. Wanting to end this blog post. Afraid to go an inch further because I don’t know what it would look like to have Love set the table; night after night after night after night. Make that table so full that there’d be no room for Fear. No table setting for Anxiety, no wine glass for the Worry. No chance of Broken & Bitterness scampering around the fringes of the tablecloth to steal biscuits from the bread basket.

Love. I think she sets a mean table. I think she delivers a pretty sizable spread. But she demands the things that we are so stingy to give within a life that has monopolized us with shame & guilt.

When you sit at the table that Love sets, you let things go. You let old battles die. You roll up your sleeves and you release the anger you’ve harbored inside.

You admit that you’ve been wrong. You let her heal the parts of you that you swore were not so relevant. You stay open. You stop trying.

You dig in. You. Just. Dig. In. To what life could look like when Love is the ally– not the toxic home wrecker– and not a day goes by where she does not think of you first.

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Your daddy is no Rumpelstiltskin and I’ve not got the bones of Betsy Ross.

Like any normal child, I started writing letters to my One Day, Some Day daughter when I was 11-years-old. I’ve been writing her into the margins of my diaries for eleven years now in hopes that one day she’ll find these books buried somewhere in the attic and know through the etchings of my messy cursive that I wanted the most for her. Even when I’ve had no idea what to want for myself, I wanted the most for her. The following posts are for her, my One Day, Some Day Daughter. 

Dear Daughter of Mine with the neon pink nails,

Honesty sits square on the kitchen table in our home, somewhere between the salt shaker and the pan of brownies that I managed to burn. And so, I’ll just be honest and tell you straight: Your daddy is no Rumpelstiltskin and I’ve not got the Bones of Betsy Ross.

I’d be lying if I said I never thought how your life might be different if I’d been the girl all wrapped up in thoughts of red, white & blue while your daddy Rumpel watched me from across the roller rink. If I’d been thinking of stripes as he said to his fairy tale pals, “There’s my star.”

I’d be foolish not to tell you that some days I wonder what it would have been like if he and I had collided like a firework pent-up in the garage for far too long. And if the rest had just been called History. If we’d wrapped ourselves up in a One Day American Flag and laughed up to the rafters about a Some Day Daughter: You.

Dear Daughter of Mine with the zebra-striped nails,

I would have started sewing early for you if I’d been a Betsy with a Rumpel by my side. While Sleeping Beauty snoozed in our recliner and the dwarves played Apples to Apples on the floor, I’d hold up the latest cloak for Cinderella and she’d surely nod. Pleased.

“This one is Strength,” I’d say, folding the finished cloak and handing it to Little Boy Blue. “Can you run upstairs and hang it up for me? Right in the middle of Grace and Peace.”

It’s a fine, fine collection you’ve got for her there,” Cinderella might’ve said. “I only wish my mother had been alive to knit me these kinds of cloaks, for the days when life gets tough and shoes don’t seem to fit right. But why are you knitting them all so early? She surely won’t fit into them until she is grown.”

“Cinder, Cinder, Cinder,” I’d tell her (because everyone knows her nickname was never Ella) “The sooner I make them, the sooner I can wear them. I’ll wear them Monday upon Monday so that no Some Day Daughter of Mine ever questions if someone’s love for her is like a well-worn sweater. So she feels me all around her, even when I’m no longer there.”

Dear Daughter of Mine with the pearly white nails,

I know there will be a day when life is going to hurt you, crush you, make you feel the magic has seeped out from your billowed sleeves. And what will I do? What will I do without a cloak of Strength to place around your shoulders? How will I manage without a closet full of Hope & Serendipity & Agape– hemlines of yellow & purple & silver– for the days when life starts showing you that she’s got teeth and she’s got bite?

Because I know I cant stop it. Cant stop the first boy who will break your heart. Cant stop the first time that you start to doubt the One who made the sunsets all for you. Cant stop you when you cry & spit & curl into a bucket of tears on the floor. No piece of silk will stop that. No cloak of gold will halt the sting.

Dear Daughter of Mine with the aqua blue nails,

I’ve come down to my knees for you nearly 1,000 times, in hopes that He’ll give me what it takes to stitch it all within you. Because I’ve not got the fingers of a Weaver and I’ve not got knitting needles all up in my hair.

And so I tell him everyday, “Break my heart and shatter my bones if it means I’ll have something to teach her when Growing Up hits her like a tidal wave. Place me into spots where I am weak, where I am hungry, where I am helpless.  Show me how to crawl instead of walk, walk instead of run.”

Dear Daughter of Mine with the red polished nails—my Some Day Daughter Sleeping Soundly Somewhere South of Saturn— there’s no closet full of cloaks waiting here for you. But I am waiting. Waiting for the day when your laughter becomes the soundtrack for my way to work, the lullaby for the sleepless nights.

And I am learning. Learning to go as Black and Blue as a Bob Dylan song to make you feel my love.

And I am stitching. Already stitching my heart into every sleeve you’ll ever own.

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We’d giggle at Niklas Zennström and whisper behind his back, “The man invented Skype? That’s a thing we’ll never need.”

photo cred to David Delisio.

Her smile is the kind of thing you’d like to place on a bucket list right between skydiving and dipping toes in the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a smile that some people spend a whole life looking for, the kind of smile that never signs its name the same way twice. Sometimes as Happiness. Other days as Joy. The kind of smile that makes people wonder and wish to ask, “Excuse me, Miss, what department store in New York City sells that contagious grin of yours? Do they carry it in XXL?” 

Her Bucket List Smile, the kind that holds the secrets of a Good Life within their glossy curves, is wider than I’ve seen it in weeks as she maneuvers the chopsticks in her hand and says it out loud, “He’s coming home.”

He’s Coming Home.

She’s a walking testimony to that very word and what it means when the green in your husband’s eyes matches the camoflage he folds beside his bunk bed at night.

A reminder that Love suits us up in Armor and makes us brave enough to hold another in their absence. To hold another together. To hold on tight even when it hurts. To hold faith even when you have none. To hold steadfast even when it sucks the color from your face and the feeling from your fingers.

A Reminder That, if this life were absolutely perfect, we’d lay in bed all day with the one we loved so true. We’d never talk about leaving. We’d touch fingers to lips with the mere mention of “apart.” We’d gawk at distance. We’d giggle at Niklas Zennström and whisper behind his back, “The man invented Skype? That’s a thing we’ll never need.” 

In a life that’s just plain perfect, we’d pull out dictionaries and drag our fingers through the G’s til we got to “Go” and “Going” and “Gone.” All & Only to rest our heads on the Shoulder that God Made to Be Our Second Pillow and say, “Well that’s a silly thing. Who’d ever think to “go” away? We’ve got all we need right here. “Gone” sounds like a horrid thing.”

But, even with a bucket list smile, she’s felt the going. The Gone for Far Too Long. The way it feels to have no courage to say the word “home” some days, only whispering it into the soft of the night by the glow of a computer screen as she Skypes Her Soldier and Prays Him Home.

He’s Coming Home.

Wearing boots with foreign soil wedged within their grooves. Coming back from a land we’ve spent ten years watching on the news. Tying Yellow Ribbons to Oak Trees After 5pm Broadcasts. He’ll be wearing a backpack on his shoulder though he’ll surely drop it to the floor when he reaches the airport gate and sees that smile. That Bucket List Smile.

He’s Coming Home.

Home. The word drops off her tongue bolder than its ever been before. On a day like today she’ll use that word one thousand times. Home. Home. Home. She’ll synchronize it with the raindrops dripping from the awning. Home. Home. Home. She’ll let it be her lullaby as the train rolls into Grand Central Station. Home. Home. Home.

And suddenly I’ve adopted seven thousand goosebumps, sprawled upon my knees and forearms, because I can only, only, only imagine the way it feels for an army wife to to know her soldier, her fighter, her partner… is coming home. To let him out from her heart, a sacred place to keep a soldier until he shows up at Gate 17, wraps his tired arms around her and buries his face in her lavender-scented hair.

She’ll drop all the armor when he drops his bag. She’ll forget all the words the second she seems him, like a language she no longer needs. She’ll leave the nouns and verbs of Missing Him scattered across the short-haired carpeting of airport flooring. Perhaps she’ll be speechless. Perhaps all she’ll have is the Bucket List smile. Perhaps she’ll utter a word through muffled sobs. Home. Home. Home.

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Filed under Love Is..., The Tough Stuff

But I knew instantly, as patches of goosebumps took up residence all over my knees and shoulders, that one of the loveliest feelings must be waking up to find yourself Phoebe.

I began counting on fingers and toes the number of people who might question me if I legally changed my name to Phoebe.

Oh, it’s just the writer in her, some might say. That’s a cute little phase. Let her frolic in the nostalgia of old Friends episodes for a while longer. But I hold high hopes that eventually someone would clue in and say it, Are you the one he wrote the song about?

I’ll just smile. And nod.

Well, you all guessed it before I even wrote it: I am not Phoebe. Sadly, I will not ever be Phoebe. But I did watch a man sit down on a stool, pick up a guitar, and proceed to make every woman in the cramped cafe wish she were the Phoebe he sang about. I knew instantly, as patches of goosebumps took up residence all over my knees and shoulders, that one of the loveliest feelings must be waking up to find yourself Phoebe. 

He sang about Phoebe as if she were some kind of Life Support. Electricity after a power outage. The discovery of a hair elastic when its needed most. The fire hydrant bursting open; kids in tank tops and frilly bikinis running through on a too hot morning in July. Green Grass after a too long winter.

I thought of how it might feel to be the girl who drove this man to pick up a guitar and sing. How it might feel to be the girl who made this man breathe life into a melody all because of her morning mannerisms at the coffee machine. How it might feel to be Phoebe.

I think we all cannot help but want this from time to time, to be the reason behind another’s smile after stumbling upon a missed call. To believe that someone somewhere wants to know what it is like in New York City before they proceed to tell us that Times Squares and its Ten Thousand Marquees does not even begin to light a skyline the way our smile can light a room.

But I suppose this is no reason to ask for a name change or wish for a different life with a better romance to sink our toes into like sand gushing through the hour glass. It wouldn’t make us Phoebe, after all. Or Delilah.

The funny thing is that we hold this quirky habit of glorifying the stories of others, love ballads or none, before we ever even try to hold up our own stories to the light. We waste time wrapped up in the way someone else leads their life while dually picking apart our own lifestyles because they have not unfolded perfectly and we did not fall in love as quickly as we had hoped.

When will we wake up to see that we were all destined for Different? Different Best Friends. Different First Kisses. Different Moments Of Clarity.

And let’s face it, not every one of us inclined someone to brew a love ballad today over their morning coffee so it is better that we just begin brewing our own. That we set out to learn the words of our own love songs and then sing them back to ourselves as we fall asleep at night. Cradling Dreams & Visions & Hopes in Queen-Sized Beds. And then, then, if we meet someone special we can say from the start, I know the song of my heart very well but I’d adore taking the time to sing it to you so that you can know all the words as well.

And, so as not to leave Phoebe left stranded in the beginning of all this, I’ll admit that I only needed to watch a few heads turning to see that Phoebe was not in the audience. Not Front & Center. Not off to the side humming along. I learned from the last of his verses that Phoebe was actually a girl who needed verbs like “leaving” and “going” more than she ever needed “staying.”

Phoebe was a beautiful song to this man but a song that would never morph into the crown of the head he so desperately wanted to rest his chin upon. 

And perhaps Phoebe does not even know that this man takes up spaces in divey cafes to sing about the way the door sounded when she closed it behind her. How it never swung the same way again. And maybe, just maybe, Phoebe only wanted to be a star, easily forgotten beside the other masses of energy in the sky; not a Planet and certainly not a Sun. Not someone who kept another’s world spinning. Rotating. Orbiting. Revolving.

Perhaps Phoebe does not even know the world she shook. The heart she shattered. And maybe she is smarter than all of us, for life is far too complicated to stop and connect constellations among all the souls we’ve ever met while we are still knee deep in connecting on a daily basis and learning the words to the love songs of others. Better we keep on moving. Keep on living. Keep on going while songs about Phoebe & Delilah get written into each new day.

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Filed under Life Lessons, Love Is..., Uncategorized

Forget me before nap time. Remember what I want for you when it comes time to dream.

Just tell me… are you going to do it?” He asks her, “Tell me right now. Just tell me right now, Diana.

Diana, dressed prim in her lavender princess dress, hairspray clutching her curls into perfect spirals from the 7a.m. hair appointment, looks away from him and keeps staring into the mud below the magnifying glass. Looking for the inchworm.

Tell me now, are you going to break my heart? Tell me. Will you break my heart?” Bryan puts his hands on this hips; the bumblebee finger puppets still saddling the tips of his fingers.

Welcome to the conversations that plop from the mouths of four-year-olds when you dress the herd of Bieber Fever Babies “to the nines” in spring attire to take a single photo with the Easter Bunny.

Suddenly, suddenly, they are snorting a thick smog of romance from the air and carrying on “grown up” conversations in the science area. Forgetting their soap opera rhetoric from time to time to stare at the inchworm below the magnifying glass.

“I…like…Josue…better.” Burnnn.

And don’t look now Diana, but Josue is buttering up Katelynn in the corner of the block area. Telling her he likes her Sunday dress better than yours and would like to dance with her during exercise time.

In a 2-day span, Josue can date Diana. Break up. Hold hands with Katelynn a few times. Katelynn will then get tired of Josue, move on to his best friend, Joel. Joel will pine over Katelynn, then move onto Jamell. All the while, Isis and Madisson will be fighting over a clearly disinterested Josue.

And then next year they will all move up in the world, split into separate kindergarten classes and forget one another.

Not to put a grim spin on it all.

But they are four.

They forget what cereal they had for breakfast. They forget what month it is. They will forget one another. They will forget they ever had a “Miss Hannah” for a preschool teacher who was a pro at doodling princesses onto papers they clutched up until nap time.

I’ll forever be a pre-Facebook, pre-mobile phone, pre-email, preschool teacher to these children. Give these kids a few popsicles, a summer vacation, and a new teacher and I will be as good as gone in their pint-sized memories.  I am no match against Disney World or birthday parties at the hair salon.

And so what is a girl to do when she knows she will be forgotten?

Well it leaves me learning a good, hard lesson in the reason behind being alive right now. 

It leaves me learning that my name will never matter, nor will my face. And that my only job, Right Here, Right Now, is to plant this “Break Your Heart From Being So Full” Kind of Love that I have in my possession all over the place. Plant it until it hurts. Plant it long after it breaks my heart a dozen more times. 

Setting my heart on mastering this whole “loving until it hurts” thing suddenly makes it much clearer to see what to do with this Very Little Time and Very Tiny Space.

Love, though it involves risks and the art of “forgetting,” is all I can imagine I would want these kids to take away from me. Long before they remember the color of my hair or the flowers on my dress.

Remember how special I think you are, I want to tell them. Remember that you are limitless, I want them to know. That you shouldn’t be fearless but don’t let those fears dictate your choices. That you may never remember a girl whose hair magically turned from curly to straight from one day to the next but remember her love. Her Morphing Love.

This is all your Little Bones need. A Love that morphs into Ambition. Imagination. Creativity. To Grow Them Strong.

A Love that will leave you seizing days and dreams with both hands long after I have stopped holding them.

It is rainy days like these, where the Easter Bunny is in town and the Sunday “Tacos” have come out to click clack on the floors during circle time, that I want to tell every single one of them to forget me before nap time, so long as they remember all that  I want for them when it comes time to dream.

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Filed under Big Dreams, Happiness, Humanity, Love Is...

To a woman who leaves a trail of adoration wherever she goes like the glitter upon greeting cards that always ends up on your Fingers. Your Dress. Your Face. Your Notebooks. Your Collar. Your Lap.

Sashay.

The word is sashay.

It might be the only word in all of the dictionary brave enough to take on her way of walking.

The only word without knocking knees when it comes to embodying enough potential to describe the poised motion of my mother as she floated from crowd to crowd at her surprise 60th birthday party this past weekend.

Sashaying across the floor as if she were still 22.

I was on the way to the doctor the other day because of chest pain that thankfully was just reflux,” she told the group of nearly 100 guests . “And I am driving and panicking, wondering, ‘Did I tell everyone that I love them? Did I?’ But you are all here tonight and I have chance to tell you now!

My mother is rare in that sense.

In the sense that she is given a party and she uses it as a chance to let others know that she loves them.

In the sense that her own world could be finding ways to crumble and she’ll stay wondering if the people around her know themselves loved enough.

She is rare in the sense that she will have you tripping over Piles of Love on your way out to the grocery store; in the sense that you will end up making a list of all the people in your life that need to hear “I love you” today instead of remembering to put the apples in the cart or check granola bars off the list.

She is rare in the sense that she could point out just how many times in a day we may say “I Love You” but that it really pales in comparison to showing it. In order to love, and love really, we sometimes need to ditch the words. Leave the Love Letters Behind and Raise Up Our Hands To Love In Action Like Shadow Figures Upon the Wall. Bring Love Forth With Presence. Awareness. Kindness. Understanding. Loyalty. Patience. Even when we would rather just say three words and move on for the day. Especially when nothing inside of us brews with an inclination to show love to others.

She is rare in the sense that she only needs to move three steps before she is shaking love off through her sway and leaving others absolutely wrapped with her easy companionship. A woman who leaves a trail of adoration wherever she goes like the glitter upon greeting cards that always ends up on your Fingers. Your Dress. Your Face. Your Notebooks. Your Collar. Your Lap.

She is rare in the sense that she only needs 30 seconds or so to prove to you that “to love” is to Love in Color. Love Out Loud. Love in Silence. Love in Motion. Love Regardless. Love Unconditionally.

She’ll make your fingernails ache from loving others.

She’ll make your elbows sore from loving so fully.

And she will give you every reason under her bright, bright sun to believe that you don’t need a holiday or a box of chocolates to begin right now.

 

Happy 60th Birthday Mom.

Short & Sweet. But as I wrote before: it is not so easy to find words confident enough to represent you. After a good deal of coaxing and bribing words out of the crooks of the dictionary I was able to find a few. Regardless, it is already very clear: There are no words when it comes to you and all you have instilled within me.

Love & Miss you already.

 

 

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Filed under Happiness, Live with intention, Love Is..., Love Yourself, Thank You, Uncategorized, Women

Sit Down, Slow Down, Sip Slowly: A Recipe for Slow Love.

If one is careful, conscientious and imaginative, it is quite possible to fall in love three times during one coffee shop sitting. Five times, if the logo of the coffee shop happens to have a green mermaid in the center of it. Starbucks provides a quick turnover rate of fine men in business suits. Commendable. Applause worthy. But you have to be attentive. Very attentive. With a willingness to conjure up story lines.  If you look at him at just the right angle, minus the satchel bag, he would totally be the type to crawl through the pits of the Amazon to rescue you. But the ones who are the Most Attentive will find that the Most Unconditional Love and the Most Infinite Kind of Love comes from the one who never walked through the door.

To be a connoisseur of the cappuccino. A master of all things Espresso and Double Shot. One who is willing to scour the cobblestones of Italy on a conquest for the perfect float of steamed milk. Now that is something that I think would give the same glint as Wonka’s golden ticket on a resume. An individual who can spot a top-notch brew is one who can spot almost anything: the good in someone, a conversation on a lonely subway, a restful spot in a restless world.
It’s not me. I can assure you, it aint me.  Me? I bustle just about anywhere for a thin paper cup. I opt for the 60 cent coffee at the Bodega across the street. Quick Coffee. Cheap Coffee. Something to serve as a substitute for my glittens during the trek away from Grand Central toward my office building.

On the Quest for a Cheap Large Coffee. Skim Milk. One Equal.

I steer away from the UNICEF Cafe today. Keep walking. Right up to a quaint little coffee shop that holds a foreign sip and bar stool that has never known my coming. By the looks of the front window the place seems to hold promise. Men reading their Morning Times. A Healthy Dose of International Peacemaking Conversation Going on in the Corners. Just the right amount for 8a.m. (Mind you: It is only two blocks from the United Nations. Peacemaking conversation is expected almost everywhere in the four block radius outside the Headquarters.)

The quiet of the shop sucks me in. It slurps me up even before my first sip and a man at the door wastes no time in ushering me to a small table in the back, asking for my order.

Oh Jeepers, wrong coffee shop. Definitely wrong coffees shop. My 25 dollar a week stipend definitely will not hold to what I have just gotten myself into. How do I say it nicely? Um… Sir? I really just want a cheap cup of coffee. It can even be old. Nothing special.

I look around at the white teacups clinking on their saucers. Symmetrical Swirls of Brown & Gold Floating Atop a Frothy Brew. Adorable Baby Spoons. Infantile Silver.

And then it strikes me… Prendo un Cappuccino.

A dear friend of mine has spent the last few months making her mark on the cobblestone of Italy. Finding a new cappuccino to drink every single day. When she returns back to the States in just a few short weeks I would not be surprised to read Italian headlines that follow her home: ” Extra! Extra! Cobblestones Cry For First Time in History: Roads that learned to miss a single person’s footprints.

“I will take a cappuccino,” I tell the man. For her. For Life. For deserving this moment.

I know a few things about this cappuccino before it even arrives before me:

One) It would not be fitting into my simple living budget

Two) I didn’t really care today for some reason. Call it a treat.

Three) This would be my first cappuccino that wasn’t sloshing its way out of a summer camp vending machine.

I officially understand now why a young woman would dedicate an hour of each morning to a cappuccino. Something happens in that first….. slow….. sip.

Decadent. Eloquent. Exquisite. If a coffee could wear white gloves, this would be the one. It demands your full attention. Like the mystified foreign lovers of great romance movies, it wraps you up and draws you in and it makes you feel Terribly Valued. Terribly Worthwhile. Terribly Special.

This is the kind of stuff that paper cups cannot handle…

And I sit, stirring the bubbles with my Infantile Spoon, wondering why it takes a coffee drink to make me feel worthwhile. Why a Giant White Cup Hugged Between My Hands Ushers In the Slow Love First.

We are slow to love. Quick to judge. Hesitant to move much of anywhere in fear that someone will criticize us. So we move fast. How fast? So Fast. On Purpose. Never needing to slow down to examine our lives. Never needing to stop and think about Happiness, Fulfillment, Spirituality or Desire. Do. Do. Do. No time to Be. Unless it’s Be on time or Be on top of things.

Always trying to please someone. Never quite mastering it all in one day. And there are days where we debate for a solid five minutes or so if we should scroll through the pages of the NYU website, searching the hyperlinks for the graduate program that offers a Master’s in Enough. Perhaps if we could be a Master of Enough, it would make up for the fact that we never feel like enough?

Or perhaps we need to learn to let the Adoration seep in. In the day-to-day, Adoration is seriously overlooked. Adoration for the elderly women befuddled by the light up Walking Men at a busy New York intersection. Adoration for the security guard at the United Nations who greeted you at 9 and then again at 2 and then again at 5. Courteous. So Courteous.

Adoration for our own selves. Our Own Skin. Our Own Body. Our Own Capability.

Adoration gets lost easily in a chaotic collection of tweets, texts, statuses, emails and to-do lists. But it is here. And there. And everywhere. Just waiting for that task to not need our full attention or for that touch screen to quit begging us to fondle its face with our tap-tap-tapping.

“You will fall in love in a coffee shop one day,” the voice of a friend comes scampering into the pool of reflection I find myself wading in. It was a few months ago. We were sipping Chardonnay and eating Guacamole, admiring the skyline and how we were both so drawn to it. Finding our Names Crocheted On The Street Signs. Between Lexington and Madison.

She was referencing a blog post of the past, the one that spilled my deep desire to find my Future Big Spoon over a Cup o’ Jo.

“But I don’t think it will be what you anticipated,” she continued. “I think you will fall in love with an idea in a coffee shop and your life will change right there.”

How very right she was. How very right she was. Slow Sips. Slow Love. Self. Love.

Slow Down & Love, Child. Slow Down. Look Around. Love. Love. Love.

Not tall nor dark nor handsome. Rather Short & Stout. Hot. Steaming.

Potential. Great Potential.

World. Oysters. Pearls.

Practice. Presence. Perfect.

Enough. Enough. Enough.

We never seem to see it all when we are moving so quickly. Only when we are forced to Sit Down, Slow Down and Sip Slowly. Then the Slow Love Slips In Slyly.

I leave behind my Infantile Spoon and my Oversized Cup after a slow morning, a gradual easing of my way into the world on a Friday.  I take with me the Slow Love though, summoned up and served to me by a God who must have a part-time job as a barista in the clouds.



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Filed under Happiness, Healthy Lifestyle, Love Is..., Simply Living