1. Truth: I’m still working on “The Book.” One complication is that as I write, I am aware there are at least four books, waiting and wanting to be written, (working titles: Sublimity, The Lost Years, Walking Meditation, and Stay). This makes the process a bit confusing, as I sit down to write what I think is for one book but the deeper I go it becomes clear it belongs to another, or worse yet has a place in multiple stories but must be approached with a different viewpoint each time. It can leave me feeling that I have NO IDEA what I’m doing, (um, because I don’t). I just keep showing up, making the effort, hoping it will work out. As I’m writing, I’m also finally reading the books on the craft of memoir that I’ve collected over the years, hoping that study can help support what I’m doing.
2. Truth: I miss writing to you more directly, kind and gentle reader. Even though everything I’m writing is intended to eventually be FOR YOU, not sharing it directly and immediately is so hard. I want to tell you everything, make sense of it in real time and in community, tell you as I go in case it might help you where you are, right now. And yet, there’s something about creating an offering that is larger, more expansive and in depth, something you can hold in your hands and will last beyond me.
3. Truth: This takes so much time and effort, is so complex. I’m not just writing a book(s) about my experience(s), I’m living it, and some of my story is happening in real time, in the real and very chaotic world. My WHOLE life, I’ve tried to prove my worth, to EARN the right to be here, only to discover in my 50s that much of what I was taught to value and do to get that love, safety, and belonging is fundamentally unworkable and untrue. It’s a lot to process, so much to unpack and unlearn. In moments of despair it makes it seem like I’ve wasted my life and I don’t have enough time left to turn things around. In other more gentle, kind moments I can see that I had to live this in order to make sense of it and share it in a way that might help make someone else’s time a little bit easier.
One wish: May we allow ourselves the time that it takes, rest when we need to rest, ask for help when we need it, trust ourselves and continue to show up, even when it’s hard.
Everything is beautiful and I am so sad. This is how the heart makes a duet of wonder and grief. The light spraying through the lace of the fern is as delicate as the fibers of memory forming their web around the knot in my throat. The breeze makes the birds move from branch to branch as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh of the next stranger. In the very center, under it all, what we have that no one can take away and all that we’ve lost face each other. It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured by a holiness that exists inside everything. I am so sad and everything is beautiful.
1. Truth: I am sad. If you were to ask me why, I would reach my hand out, gesturing at the space around us while saying, “uh, the world…” or “all the things!” And yet, I don’t think you would ask me why someone might be sad at this specific moment in time, but rather you’d simply be interested to know if I had any reason in particular, beyond the general “everything.” We’ve collectively lost so much, and many with power and resources are committed to continuing down this path, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. We get up everyday in a world with an active global pandemic, war, a life threatening environmental crisis, economic upheaval, racism, etc. And while we attempt to cope with all that, the human struggles remain ongoing — birth, death, illness, injury, making sure the laundry is done and the bills paid, etc. There is no shortage of things to make me sad.
to love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you’ve held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, your throat filled with the silt of it. When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air, heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs; when grief weights you like your own flesh only more of it, an obesity of grief, you think, How can a body withstand this? Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you I will love you, again.
2. Truth: Grief is compound, complicated. Each grief leads to another, deeper grief. For example, Eric and I are trying to decide our summer plans, and one of the options in addition to visiting family in the Willamette Valley of Oregon is to give ourselves some time on the coast. We waited longer than usual to make reservations so there’s fewer rental options and everything is SO expensive now that it might not happen. As I think about going to Oregon without visiting the ocean, my heart breaks a little. When I remember how the trip we had planned in 2020 got canceled because of COVID and then Sam died and would never get to go to the beach again, it breaks a little more. When I think about the house we stayed in for six summers, where all four of our dogs spent time, and how we’ll never stay there again (the owner retired and lives there fulltime) and we only have one of our dogs left with us but also we lived through some really hard things in that house, my heart breaks a little more. Then I sink into all things past, all that we’ve lost, all the suffering that exists in me and the world, and all we have yet to lose some day, and I feel wholly broken, utterly gutted, and more than a little lost.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me. When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then, I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
3. Truth: And yet, there are so many reasons to not give up. And the strangest thing of all is no matter how big the sad or how deep the grief or how widespread the suffering, it only takes the smallest of things for me to drop to my knees with gratitude, for my heart to swell with joy. Usually the things that save me when nothing else can reach me are the tiniest of things — a hug from Eric, howling with Ringo, a poem, raspberries, birds in the feeder, a sunrise, the river, making someone laugh, a text from my brother. There’s always something to hang on to, to keep me afloat for another day, even just another minute, and it can be so little, so simple.
One wish: May you experience the magic and medicine of tiny moments of ease and joy, comfort in times of struggle and grief. Please don’t give up, kind and gentle reader.