a letter to my forty-four-year-old self

March 29, 2017

a half hour or so before midnight, i was scrolling through my twitter feed and came across this bit of hideous nasty:

that's eddie lacy, formerly a running back for the green bay packers, which is my favorite football team (there was a period of loathing... the brett favre era, but the moment aaron rodgers began taking snaps i began to love them again). next to marshawn lynch (who played for my second-least favorite team, the seattle sea hogs, as my nephew calls them), lacy is the best running back in the nfl. so i was mad as hell when i learned he'd exchanged a packers jersey for a hogs one. son of a bitch. 

that's not really relevant to this post at all, by the way. i just needed to vent.

this post was inspired by lecy's letter to her forty-five-year-old self. she's one of the gals i met through the peaceful posse facebook group for bloggers. so far i'm enjoying being a part of that. anyway, when i read her post, i loved the idea of it. it's easy to write a letter to our younger selves, which allows us to look back on our lives and see where we've improved, that we've endured and maybe offers others who are younger a bit of insight. it's easy, sure. but it's also good to look at where we are now, how good we're doing now. and for the most, part, i'm doing okay. now. last year, no. i was not good. AT ALL. the year before that was as hideous and nasty as that photo of eddie lacy. one of the three worst years of my life, actually. i survived it. thank god. 

i'm in this bible study in which we're examining john's retelling of the apprehension and crucifixion of jesus, and one of the statements made by the woman leading the thing was something about how often we don't see the times jesus is protecting us. in my life, especially in my adolescence, i've felt as though he were absent. 

and that statement brings to mind a bit from an eposide of a football life, one featuring steve gleason and his efforts to climb machu picchu. gleason's got als, and climbing it meant spending significant time working with with doctors to ensure his lungs could handle the changes of and higher altitudes. climbing it meant having people carry him up. the night before, he said to his wife that he felt jesus was absent. and then at dinner, a woman, one who was terrified of heights and was celebrating with her husband after having climbed the mountain, she was wearing one of gleason's no white flags t-shirts. she saw gleason and spoke to him of how he'd encouraged her to make the climb. that's how jesus works.

there's an older couple who lived outside of the delivery territory of the newspaper for which i once worked, and so i would bring them the paper every week. i'd not seen them in a while. i'd stopped by the office of another friend, seeking job hunting advice, and during our visit, she'd asked me if i'd seen that couple in a while. i had not. so i stopped by their house that evening. the woman learned while i was there that her mother, who is blind and going deaf and having night terrors, isn't eligible for hospice care -- a crushing blow. had my friend not suggested i visit them, i would never known of this. looking back on my life there are so many times where it seems the hand of god has lead to me help others, to be there for them when they're most in need of it. i can see, now, how his hand has lead others to help me. i don't feel as though he is absent, but there is still a wide chasm between us. i'm working on a way to cross that.

i'm working on a way to see the good that's come from carrying my cross, because we all have one. i'm working on spotting the collateral beauty that's born of the damage. i'm working on a lot of things.

sure, there are things i'm lacking in my life -- gainful employment, the ability to love and be loved by a good man, my own place, the family of my own that i'd hoped to have by now, a published novel. okay. that's a lot of lack. and this isn't turning out to be anything like a letter, but then i never do anything normal. not really. and that's okay.

i've made some damned fine friends this past year. some REALLY good ones. one of them's making me chicken spaghetti, and another's making me paula deen's bananas foster bread pudding for our book club meeting tomorrow night, and we're discussing one of my favorite books -- the language of flowers by vanessa diffenbaugh. how fortunate for me that i got to make the suggestion for this month's selection and the group went with it. i finished rereading it sunday, and i loved it SO MUCH MORE the second time around. the past couple of weeks, i've been getting texts from the gals in our group telling me how much they loved it. that made me feel good. that food tomorrow night's gonna make me feel good. i'm gonna be ten pounds heavier afterward, but so be it. most of all, their company's gonna make me feel good.

so... from my current self to my future self so when i can look back on this a year from now or ten, i can know where i stood when i was here, and that it was a good enough place to be:

not every day's gonna be good. this week, like every other, is a testament to that. you've got an abundance of compassion and resilience, and yes, tenacity, to help get you through the uglier days, to help others get through theirs. you've got those damned fine friends to lean on and laugh with. revel in that. you cannot fuck your life up, no matter how much it might seem as though you've done or are doing so. you're not that powerful. god's got this. remember that. and your plan for your life? yeah, let go of that. try to see his plan.

your room is clean. kind of. the bed's not made. your desk and closet are a disaster, and you've got stacks of papers spread out in your brother's room, but at the moment, you're attempting to make sense of the chaos, which is something you rarely do, so yay for that. you've kept your car clean for a whole week! YAY. you're about twenty pounds lighter than you were two months ago. FUCK YES. all these things are good. all you are is. ALL OF YOU. even those traits you're not so crazy about... they could never be as ugly as that sea hogs jersey.

the end of an abbey

March 24, 2017

the monastery's closing in september. there are maybe four monks left living there. when the visiting abbot returns to his monastery in the fall, the surviving members of the abbey of our lady of the holy trinity in huntsville, utah must leave the land that's been their home for decades. my great-uncle celebrated his ninetieth birthday last month. he wanted to die at that abbey. he wanted to be buried there.

i have spent every summer of my life, save for two, visiting him and other members of my family i rarely get to see. that place is a haven. it is heaven.

we are not going there this summer. the last trip was the last one. i am beside myself.

it's like another part of my childhood is dying... a slow, slow death. i had my first communion there. sometimes i entertained the thought of getting married there, just so my munkle could be with me. my mother's father died before i started kindergarten, so that man in that chambray hat, he's been like a grandfather for me. his faith in me, his love for me... they are miraculous things. i grew up thinking we'd always spend summer in utah, like we'd always spend christmas in colorado. the latter of those delusions died a decade ago. i've watched the life of this particular dream diminish over another decade, just like i've seen the joy diminish in my uncle's eyes.

i want to get in a car and drive until i've reached that holy land. i want to stay there until they kick me out. i want my room in that shabby guest house, that one at the front on the second story with its giant window and its rickety twin bed. that blessed quiet. that brilliant sunset. i want to sit under the shade of that giant box elder tree and look out onto the fields... the fields that fed the cattle my uncle once tended. i want to feel the breeze and bask in the glorious light of the day.

i want the peace. there's no better sound of silence than in that valley.

but instead i have the single tear sliding down my cheek and settling on the tip of my nose. i have helpless rage. the whir of electricity and air conditioning. the sound of my family's voices downstairs, chatting and laughing with each other like it's just another day.

you get what you give

March 15, 2017

i started writing this post and had six or seven paragraphs down before i realized i was burying the lede. 

sometimes interviewing people for the articles i was assigned to write while working at the newspaper, sometimes those people intimidated me. the more beautiful they were, the less comfortable i felt in their presence.

one of those people was an artist, a painter from mexico who provided the art for the office building her husband owned. i'm in jeans and my docs and probably a polo, and i'm sure my hair was tied back in a pony tail. i doubt i had put make up on. the usual m.o. for me. this woman, who was at least a head shorter than me, had long, flowing brown hair, gorgeous skin and eyes and smile. she knew how to dress. she knew how to be a woman, in every sense of the word. i was intimidated by her, but i managed to get through the interview alright.

so imagine my surprise, after my having sent her a note a few weeks ago letting her know how much i'd enjoyed meeting her (because i did... i always love talking art with people), how much i admired her talents and skills. imagine how pleased i was to get a note from her. a note that included the following:

i feel so blessed that we met. let me tell you, the day of the interview, my nerves were killing me. hahahah! but you made me feel so comfortable that suddenly i started to talk to you as if i knew you for years. you are such a sweet, kind, smart and wonderful human being.

i'm a little weepy reading that. and i've read it at least a half a dozen times today. 

i am a free woman!

March 13, 2017

so on october sixth, i wrote this post. and for the six months since, i've been dreading that follow up appointment. it was a week ago monday. it was one of the worst well woman exams i've ever had, actually. had the student nurse practitioner not been there, it would've been fine. the woman who'd examined me previously was there again this time, supervising. and yeah, i was anxious. i'm always anxious in clinics, especially in situations like this, but then... what woman isn't? but i was more anxious than normal because... this was the third exam i'd had in eighteen months, and the last two hadn't been so awesome.

i was anxious. i wasn't crazy about having a student practitioner doing the exam. it didn't help that it was a guy. i was managing it, though. until crunch time. and there, when gentleness matter most... he had all the finesse of king kong. and then he had the audacity to say something about how i'd scooted back. i'd scooted back, jackass because you were stabbing then gouging my insides. and of course, i cried. i hate crying in front of others. it rarely happens, but when it does, i'm mortified that i couldn't keep the waterworks from working until i was alone.

the woman took over... did her thing... effortlessly. painlessly. graciously.

and then on friday, she called to say everything's negative.

i was lounging in bed, debating whether i should get up, get moving. it was pretty cozy... and then my mobile, and then those words. that one in particular...


ever since, my brain's subconsciously been replaying that line of bianca piper's (portrayed by mae whitman in the duff). OVER and OVER and OVER again. if you've noticed, i hardly ever put gifs on picky. because really, the repetition of the thing annoys me, but... yall. I. AM. A. FREE. WOMAN.

i've been thinking of that line of scripture used in francine rivers' redeeming love...

you are all fair, my love; there is no flaw in you. song of solomon 4:7 (p. 305).

i haven't felt all fair. i haven't felt flawless. prior to last friday, neither of those words would i use to describe me. but since that phone call, i have been hearing that bit of scripture in my head on a constant basis.

and yall... this experience i have... this drama that's played out for me over the course of two years... it's nothing compared to what others face. N O T H I N G.

i spent a good bit of my day thanking god, praying to him. because i am free to FINALLY close this horrific chapter in my life. i'm done with it. i'm ready to write the next one.

there are way too many in this world that won't have that luxury. there are way too many women in this world who die because of the callousness and carelessness of their partners. i've spent two years reliving all those moments when i ignored the flags, when i ignored my gut, being angry with myself for giving up and giving in, for having gotten myself in this mess. i was out of it in two years. some will never be out of it. countless are dead now because of it.

today i came across this article on facebook. the whole time i read it, i was picturing the events. could see the chaos and the panic and the violence. could hear it. and the men, these attackers, the douchebag i'd been dating... his mental state where women are concerned, it's not so very different from those who'd victimized the author in that article.

i got off easy, all things considered. i've been praying again throughout the day. for that woman, for those in similar situations, and yeah, for myself. 

so pray with me, will you? that more women get to love that word negative. that they can have mae whitman's voice floating around in their subconsciousnesses: i am a free woman. or maybe belinda carlisle singing i feel free...

twelve things to celebrate in march: a scavenger hunt

March 1, 2017

one. march second. national old stuff day. show me two of the oldest and most favored things in your house, and tell me why you love them. from what i understand, you're also supposed to try something new or go about accomplishing a thing you normally do in a different way, even if it's as simple as taking a different route to a destination instead of going the way you normally go. make sure you take a picture of the new thing... i need to see that, too.

two. also march second. national read across america day, also called dr. seuss day. there's a film, a nicholas sparks' story called the lucky one, and in it, zac efron's logan is talking with taylor schilling's beth and blythe danner's ellie about philosophy. beth asks logan, dares him, really, to give them his favorite quote by a philosopher. he does. she assumes it's something of voltaire's when in actuality, it's from dr. seuss. so what's your favorite dr. seuss book? what bit of his philosophy do you most admire?

(it's also texas independence day. freedom from mexico... and the beginning of nine years of being a nation.)

three. march sixth. national dress day. wear a dress. the whole day. you don't have to do heels if you don't want to, but you do have to do the dress. for some of you, this might not be a big thing. for me, i've probably put on a dress maybe five times in the past year. i hate the things. i hate having to iron them. i hate having to wear them because you can't just put on the dress. you have to put on the make up, too. BAH.

if you're a guy reading this, and you do the thing and provide documented proof of having done so, i'll send you a present.

four. march seventh. national cereal day. share a bowl or two of your favorite cereal with a friend.

five. march twelfth. national plant a flower day. pick a spot in your yard and plant your favorite flower there. (also this is the anniversary of my older brother's death so have a beer for him today, will you? but just one.)

six. march thirteenth. national good samaritan day. do something nice for someone you detest. do something kind for someone who's known more badness in his or her life than good. be an army of one.

seven. also march thirteenth. national napping day. give yourself a bit of rest one afternoon. lay down, and let your mind wander... dream a little.

eight. march twenty-first. national single parent day. surely you know someone who's raising a child all by his or herself. that's a LOT or responsibility for one person. send them a note of encouragement. if that person lives near you, offer to watch his or her child (or children) for an hour or two. give that single parent a bit of respite.

nine. march twenty-fifth. national tolkien reading day. what's your favorite of tolkien's tales? what's the third word on the twenty-fifth line of the three hundred twenty-fifth page of that book?

ten. march twenty-ninth. my birthday. send me happy thoughts, preferably via the post because i like getting mail (address is in the sidebar). please and thank you. i know. i'm being selfish. it's my day. i get a freebie on this one.

eleven. march thirtieth. national take a walk in the park day. show me your favorite spot in your favorite park.

twelve. national crayon day. grab a box of crayolas. color a pretty picture, and then send it to a friend.