writing

Releasing Grief

WaterFigureI’ve had my fair share of grief over the years and when you have a real conversation with just about anyone, you realize they, too, have had theirs. We live on the surface so much of the time, nodding our heads hello and nice to see you, which is to be expected when we’re all surviving with our heads just above the surface.

I’ve learned that to release grief and move beyond it, you truly have to feel it. That can be scary. It can feel like you’re probably going to die. There are usually a lot of tears involved and sometimes kicking pillows or throwing rocks into the sea followed by deep, cavernous silences that go on forever and never reach the bottom of your soul, occasionally ticking the sides making an other-worldly clanging sound.

For me, now, it involves some kind of conversation with God. A lot of me telling Him why I’m feeling so sad and a lot of Him listening. What I love about my conversations with God is that he doesn’t try to just go and fix things. He listens. A lot. I feel Him there, empathizing with me. And that’s what I need. And after I’m all done going on and on, I listen to what He has to say. About 99% of the time, He just tells me He loves me and that I’m doing great.

I wrote an essay for Blogher this past week. It’s the first time I’ve really spoken about how devastating the end of my first marriage was. When your kids are young, you don’t want to add anything to the pain they themselves are experiencing. I tried never to speak ill of their father to them or around where they could hear. It was hard. There were some really rough years where things were very unfair and it would have felt great to unload on them. But even now I’m so glad I didn’t do that.

If I could add something here to the essay, it would be to caution those going through similar circumstances to consider how your children are feeling when you speak ill of their other parent. Remember, your kids are made of half of them.

Let’s Grow Through This Together

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetSometimes I feel like I learn new things right before I really need them. You know what I mean? Like, had this challenging thing that’s currently happening, happened even six months ago, I wouldn’t have been ready.

But God, or whatever you consider your Divine to be, creates this space for us to gather our knowledge and our wits about us right before the Big Test comes. If we’re paying attention. If we’re *at all* trying. And I’d wager that most of us *are* trying because we’ve been around the block a time or two and know that not paying attention doesn’t get us the desired result we’re after. Trying to be awake. Trying to be aware. Trying to pay attention. Trying to be a little bit better every day. Trying to serve and be present for those we love. Trying to make the world a slightly better place.

I’m watching my son grapple with being twenty and doing all the thought processes you go through at that age, wondering what to do with your life. Wondering what kind of person you are and who you want to be. Wondering how to participate in life in a way that’s meaningful. Trying to be Present. ALL the big questions.

And as we’ve talked and worked together this past month one theme keeps coming through: You do get to create the life you want to live. There are a vast number of ways to be a Person in Life.

Of course you look first to those closest to you to see who and how they are, like your siblings and parents. Of course you do, because they are your examples and who you have had the closest contact with in your life so far. And then maybe you look at the next familial circle, including aunts and uncles. And then hopefully you keep looking further out and find people in your friend circles and even further, historical figures, to find other examples of How To Be. You don’t *have* to be the same as anyone you know. It’s a choice to follow in someone’s footsteps.

Short of being a person that harms others, there isn’t a “wrong” way to be a Person.

We get so caught up in what it means to be successful and what constitutes a real job or a life worth living. Want to know what a Real Job is? I’ll tell you. A Real Job is anything that supports the life you want to live.

If it brings you immense happiness to live in an expensive loft and have three cars and arrange your days to be super busy without any breaks and travel a lot and be a VP or a CEO then do that. That’s one way to be a Person. And if it brings you immense happiness to live a quiet life with minimal needs and much more down time and many less people counting on you for paperwork or code or whatever, then be that. Just Be That Person.

There are no Real jobs and Not-Real jobs. There’s only what you want to create your life to be, and what you then do to support the lifestyle you’ve chosen. And also? It’s ok to change your mind and choose another path at any point. It doesn’t make everything you’ve done up until that moment a mistake. We gather knowledge and experience no matter what path we go down. You don’t have to know everything before you start. A good chunk of life is Winging It.

Take the lesson, leave the baggage, and move forward. Grow to the next thing. That, my friends, if Life.

There’s no one “Right” way to be a Person. The world is vast and the people are numerous and it takes all kinds to keep the world turning. Let go of the limiting beliefs you have about yourself and who you are *supposed* to be. Look inside, see who you are, and then be the best one of those you can possibly be.

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Looking for a mentor for your own life process? I can help. Find out more here.

Life Textures

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It would be easy to say as things get older they automatically go towards entropy like moths to a flame in the witching hour.

But the truth is, the easy answer isn’t always the true answer and where entropy is falling a little closer towards chaos and disorder every moment, we actually keep following along the perfect arc towards the inevitable, sure, but it isn’t chaos. It’s exactly what’s supposed to happen next.

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If I had to narrow down and categorize all the things I’ve done in the past three years that have made a huge difference in my life and just pick one to share with you, one thing that literally shifted my life into healing, it would be this: Positive Energy.

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Part of that is accepting life as it comes, in all its myriad layers and textures and believing that on some level, this too is for my good, whatever it is. Embracing the next thing that comes, choosing to see it as an exciting challenge instead of an attack on the fabric of my soul.

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It can be scary at first and it’s still hard from time to time, but I take that opportunity to look at myself in the mirror, smile, and say, “I love you! You are doing so great!” even if it’s a smile through tears, because that weeping smile is no less real and valid than a smile done in pure joy. I really and truly am doing great, the very best I can do at any given moment. And so are you.

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I’m getting older, no question. New wrinkles. Thighs of cellulite. Gray hairs to beat the band. And along with that a whole new way of perceiving my life. Maybe a little bit of wisdom? Do I dare call it that? I tread lightly here because the past has shown me that on the occasion I think I know something, I might not really know that something and soon may fall flat on my face in a sea of faulty expectations.

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But on this particular day, yes, I am so bold. Living in a more positive light, choosing to see life as trying to provide me with the very best it has to offer me, looking for the good, allowing others in my life to make mistakes and knowing they are doing their very best as well – this has made my life sweeter and more satisfying than any other change.

Next time you’re in front of a mirror, pause and smile. Tell you that you love you. 15 seconds of fake smiling triggers the same endorphins of a real smile, and a real smile hits your pleasure center the same as thousands in cash or bars and bars of chocolate. Pretty valuable smiles.

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Storytellers

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You guys. I’m just going to go ahead and apologize ahead of time because I’m going to be using phrases like, “I remember when,” and “Back in the old days,” and I’m very aware of how tedious and eye-rolly that can be. BUT.

Back in the old days (See? I wasn’t kidding.) when I first started online journaling in the late 90s, it was a brand new world where I could share a story on my computer with my family who lived miles and miles away. I’d post pictures and write what was essentially a monthly update about the kids and it was fun and it meant something personal.

And then in 2002 when Joe moved me to WordPress, my mind was blown with how easy it was to add posts and update more often and easily put in images and add headers and and and…

But it was the day he introduced me to Dooce.com and said, “Look. Here’s someone else writing about their life and sharing it with the others,” that I realized there was the possibility of a real community out there in the innernets.

Soon after that I started my sidebar blogroll and kept people listed there that I felt a connection to and I started my interview series to highlight interesting writers and photographers and “internet people.”

We had a smaller group then. It was 2004 by that time and more and more people were beginning to write their stories but it still felt like we could keep track of each other. It still felt small even as it was growing. I kept seeking out new bloggers so other people could find them and I loved it! And then at some point the world of blogging wasn’t about storytelling anymore. It was all about “Brands” and “Cultivating an Audience” and sidebar ads, which I tried out in various forms myself and have nothing against in the abstract.

But things changed over the next few years, didn’t they? We started having fewer and fewer storytellers and leaving comments on blogs became a way for people to make money. Traffic was king and everyone was being judged on their numbers. We could look up each others stats and decide if that person was worth knowing on or offline at a conference. If they were worth our time. If what they were saying mattered because other people said it mattered. Oh, popularity. Just like High School.

That was when I didn’t want to do interviews anymore and I shut my series with bloggers down. It wasn’t fun to get emails from people saying they should be interviewed by me because “they were getting 10,000 uniques a month and wasn’t that enough? Why wouldn’t I interview them? What was wrong with them?”

I stuck to Google Reader. I went in and read the websites I loved every single day and left comments when it struck me to do so based on their stories and not on their brands. I still felt a part of a community of friends.

When Google Reader went away, I really felt like I was being abandoned. (I’m still kinda upset about it.) The other options of feed readers were all lacking (for my needs) so I just dropped out. And I’ve missed out and I’ve missed you!

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I miss the real stories. They are still out there. I see some of my old friends are still blogging and talking like real humans without all the freshly pressed look of a fine magazine going on. Not that I’m dissing fine magazines. I like them. But I’m much less likely to leave a comment on a post that isn’t a personal story. That’s where the heart is.

I recently noticed that Angela has an old-fashioned sidebar blogroll (You don’t mind if I call it old-fashioned, do you Angela? Not you, it!) and it got me thinking. I should stop complaining about missing Google Reader and woe-is-me-ing and do something about it.

So here it is, finally, the request I have for you. If you know of a writer/blogger who is telling personal stories and not “crafting their brand for an audience,” would you let me know? I’d like to add them to my Storytellers page. I’d like to read them and connect with them. I’d like to cultivate a community again. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed you! I know there have to be thousands out there that I’ve missed out on while my head’s been in the sand.

Personal story telling and this community is what’s helped me through some really tough times. Really feeling other people’s stories is what it’s all about for me. Help me find you.

When the Water Calls

When my kids were young, when we first came back from Germany, when my marriage to the other guy was being held together with tape and googly eyes, when I couldn’t breathe, when I couldn’t think, when I wasn’t on meds and needed them badly, when I was dissociating, I took the kids to the beach.

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My feet, which had walked way too far and way too long to get there, were suddenly surrounded by rushing water and the Space of Nothing I needed. The water was cold and fast and then pulled at my soul before it receded, taking my fears, confusion, disappointments and grief with it on its way back out to sea.

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This was “Our Beach” and the kids knew how far they could walk and still yell into the surf and find me. There were huge boulders and small crabs and hot sand for miles. There was my daughter wearing her suit with the rainbow, ruffled rumba-butt, worried what might be lurking in the water that she couldn’t see. And my oldest refusing to have fun because he was just-that-much-too-cool and pulling a towel over his body, taking a nap nestled in the grains of sand while the sun kissed a slice over his leg when the make-due-blanket slid down.

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And there were my other two boys, unashamed to have hard, wild and loud fun, running into the waves, grabbing boogie boards and refusing to let me swipe sunscreen on them because they just can’t stop running right now, Mommy. Can’t stop right now, but soon.

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I sat. I watched. I stood at the edge of the world where the packed, wet sand meets eternity, with my feet sinking lower and lower with every pull of water and wondered who I was, where I went, and how I could find me.

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In the summer more people came. More and more each year. Parking got harder. Walking was further. The jugs of water, towels, sunbathers and canopies that dotted the sand got closer and closer together. The water began to burst with more and more surfers and swimmers but we didn’t stop going to Our Beach because, well, it was ours. No matter what else it was, it was ours.

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The world ended one spring, just as we had started going back to Our Beach that year, and I had a vacation in a mental hospital with strangers that knew me better than anyone else. Within minutes the kids had moved with their dad to what might as well have been another country and I had no passport. The gates closed on Our Beach and we never went back.

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I spent the next ten years or forever driving past Our Beach every other weekend and sometimes in the middle of the week on a Thursday to see them play sports or be in a play, using any excuse to get to watch their faces talk about everything, anything, please talk about something, to me.

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I looked out the window at that water and wondered what it did with all my secrets. But I never went back to Our Beach because it wasn’t ours anymore. It was just a regular beach now, like a hundred other beaches, one that belonged to everyone else in the world more than me or us.

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I’m finding new beaches now with my guy, the guy that stands by me when the tide is high or low. I don’t claim these wild beaches or try to make them my own. I understand better that the magic when the water races to the shore and dances around your feet, pulling out the grief and sadness, belongs to everyone. You can’t own a wild thing, anyway. It’s just pretending to think you can and I don’t need to pretend anymore.

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I sit. I breathe. I stand in the surf on the edge of the world and watch my guy swim out into the magic and feel so much joy it hurts in a delicious and comforting way, now that I’m healing, now that I’m happy in my soul where it’s quiet, now that I can breathe, now that I can think, now that I’ve found myself.

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Heal Something Good is available for Pre-Order here.

I See You

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I see you.

You’re at that place where you’re realizing that the people around you, those people that maybe love you more than anyone else in the world, those people, they are telling you those things about yourself and it isn’t really you.

Maybe it once was. Maybe it was a shadow of you. More likely it was their perception of who you were, their version of you after they took the pieces and assembled them so they fit inside them easily, in their own system. But maybe, to be fair, it’s a completely accurate image of you then. Then.

What they see when they look but don’t really look at you now? That’s not you. What they say when their mouths are moving up and down and back and forth like cows chewing cud, sometimes well-intentioned, sometimes not, that’s not really about you, either. It’s all about them and their needs. I can see how you got that confused. It’s so easy to do.

So, look at them. Really look and see how they’ve constructed their version of you just right on top of the real you. See how they feel safe in their faulty perceptions and old news and rod-straight unwillingness or unable-ness to change. See how they keep pulling up old days, old behaviors, old habits, old words, old worlds and trying to make them fit on you now, to stretch them across your bones even when they are too tight, too small, the wrong shade of green.

Look at their hooded eyes and incapability and really feel their frustration with them. You don’t seem quite the same. Are you? Of course you are. Because they need you to be. They need you to be exactly who they think you are so their lives can keep rotating around the sun without interruption and at least one thing in their lives can ring true. Otherwise, maybe their lives don’t make sense anymore. Otherwise, maybe they would have to change.

Once you see them, really see them, with their faulty perceptions and narrow glasses looking at you wrongly, and you’re feeling your full sense of righteous indignation that is duly yours, send them love and disconnect. Then drop the indignation, righteous or no, because it heals nothing.

I love you. Disconnect.Remove that cord that creeps like a vine, or maybe a root, from them to your gut and continues to suck your energy and very life-force from the marrow of your bones. Pull it out and throw it down or even hand it back with a simple, “No thank you,” if you want to be polite. But take it out of you where it doesn’t belong anymore, if it ever did, and heal that spot with love to yourself, from yourself, because this is just the beginning.

They will be sad. They will be angry. They will try with all their might to make sure you understand just how much you are still the same, the same, the same as you ever were. They will do this when they don’t even know why they are doing it. They will do it when they try not to. They will do it, these people who love you the most in all the world, because you’ve gone and done something extraordinarily difficult and upset the universe and all they know and all they understand and now they are afraid. And that’s alright. That is theirs to deal with and work on and it is not you. Still, that is not you.

Look at them, really see them, and send them compassion for their pain and love for their hurt and then refuse to cross over healthy boundaries to make them feel better during their confusing pain because it will hurt you and they will see you as broken and the same as you ever were. It will make them feel better when you break down and soothe them by acting like the old you and falling into old habits. It will make them feel better because all will be right in their universe again, see? You are just the same. And then they can comfort you. Yes, there, there. It’s ok. (I knew you would never change.)

And you’ll be holding that drink or smoking that cigarette or exhausted from an angry fight or crying in the corner or sporting a new bruise or out with someone unsafe or eating an entire bag of chips or cutting your arm or thinking about using or dropping out of school or shoplifting something you never needed even when you needed things because doing that thing, that very act, puts you back in the place of broken where it fits what they think they see.

And in that moment when they see you and it feels right to them and wrong to you, but right to you, too, because that gnawing ache of Different is soothed, you’ll remember I told you this might happen and that it’s ok. It’s a process. And next time when the vortex comes to suck you up, you’ll maybe make a different choice. Maybe not that time, but maybe the next time after that, because you will start to see you, too, like I see you.

And when that happens, if that happens, know I love you. This is hard, this thing you’re doing. You’re Becoming even when those around you, who you count on for support, who you gave your heart to with nothing held back, wish you would stop.

Remember they are afraid, but you be fearless. Let them move forward on their own journey at their own pace and Embrace your Self with all your might. Let your heart sing your new song, which is really your old song that got covered with layer after layer of hurt years ago. But it sounds new because it is so happy and you are so happy in there. I’ll tell you now, that’s called joy, so you know its name in case you forgot. Sing louder when you are lonely. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am free. I am joy. I am enough.

Keep track of that broken record that plays in the back of your mind, the one that replays all the old hits like, “People never really change,” and “Who do you think you are, anyway?” and everyone’s favorite, “You tried your best, just leave well enough alone,” and when you hear those old familiar phrases, take a step back and say, Oh, hello. I see you. You are not me.

It’s no longer about patience or explaining for hours with your jaw until it’s aching and your teeth want to fall out. It’s no longer about long-suffering. It’s no longer about keeping the peace. Now it’s about owning your power and seeing, then projecting who you really are. The more you sing your heart song, the more you pull your strength from the floor and gather it around you like a cloak, the more completely you reveal your true nature underneath all their misconceptions, the more you refuse to see yourself as broken, then you are whole and they will eventually have no choice but to see you that way as well, if they truly love you. You will reflect your song so loud and strong and true that they cannot help but hear it and see it.

And if they don’t truly love you, if their perceptions of you simply cannot budge, if they can’t hear your song, I’m sorry for them, but only for a short time. Because we don’t have time for that or for them. You and I? We’re too busy Becoming.

Already Gone

i looked up and you were staring at me,
your eyes were a little too wide,
your lashes long and dark.
i love you like crazy, i said,
and you suddenly smiled, looked down.

you packed at the last minute
throwing things in a duffel
it’s your way, it’s a good way.
i love you like mad, i whispered,
and you squeezed my hand, grabbed your toothbrush.

you wrapped me up in warm
kissed me hard, again, then again
the airport doors shwapped open and ate you whole.
i love you so hard, i said, you’re my favorite
but you were already gone.

I Eat a Lot of Bacon

I eat a lot of bacon. I don’t know if that means we can’t be friends anymore, but I just thought you should know. Gosh, I hope not. If we can’t get over our right to make our own food choices, how can we remain friends during an election year?

I can’t remember if you’re Vegan, Cabbage Soup, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Edenic, Subway, All-Organic, Pescetarian, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Paleo or what right now, but just know I think you’re awesome and I support your way of eating. We don’t have to talk about it, even though it’s all some people talk about. Like me, sometimes.

I have one friend that I text with and that is all we seem to talk about. Bacon. Seriously. Because she likes bacon as much as I do, and sometimes when you have something in common as deep as a love of salty pork meat, there really isn’t anything else TO talk about. And now when people come over for dinner, I’m that lady who, like your grandma used to do, keeps a tin can of bacon drippings on the stove and tells people, “Come over here and let me put a dab of this on your baked potato. You’ll like it! It’s delicious!” Just kidding. I don’t eat baked potatoes. I cook my chard and spinach in it.

Before I started eating less grains and more bacon, I had no idea there were people patrolling the world, assuming the title of Bacon Police, and to them I flip the silent bird and say a resounding, “Whatevs.” My inflammation has gone down to virtually 0, I feel energetic and I’m finally starting to lose weight. I will continue to eat this way until/if it doesn’t work any longer. Until then, thank you Bacon Heaven and may we all be so lucky to find our own Heavens, be they Bacon, Chicken Salad, Flying Spaghetti Monster or Veganaise, Amen.

Speaking of elections and politics and women’s bodies and Mormons and conservatives and liberals and families are forever and equal rights and gay marriage and “legitimate rapes” and right to choose and taxes and gun control and *pop* that was my brain and yes, it’s true, I may be skipping a lot of your Facebook posts right now because I’d like to love you through eternity if we’re all lucky and it turns out Mormon heaven exists, but I still LIKElike you, you know. We’re family and friends and we will continue to be family and friends beyond this year regardless of the outcome of this election, just like we have the last 41 years of my life.

Let’s not say things to each other we can’t take back. Let’s avoid drive-by commenting and tossing flaming zingers at each other. Let’s endeavor to say things in ways that are well thought-out and constructive and productive instead of inflammatory for the sake of being incendiary. Getting a rise out of me for a moment might make you feel better righthisinstant, but it’s not worth our friendship, is it? If we, the two of us, can agree to disagree and have an honest debate and come to some kind of meeting of the minds, see each others point’s of view, even when we don’t agree, then there is truly hope for our nation. If we two can do it, we can all do it.

To keep busy while I haven’t been Facebooking, I’ve been making things and organizing. Longtime readers would be right in thinking a manic episode is probably creeping along. I’m not worried. I’m along for the ride, as always. Worrying and stressing and the anxiety-riddled road lead to nowhere good. The illusion of being in control of my mind left me long ago. Every day is a surprise. Hopefully things don’t go too far up and then go too far down.

On the highs as of late – I went swimming in the ocean and in the pool for the first time in a long, long time, overcoming my fear of things under my feet where I cannot see them and things in the pool water where I can see them.

I rode public transportation, which is notable for three reasons: 1. I did it by myself, which is panic-inducing as I have a very real fear (based on past experience) of getting turned around, lost and assaulted/raped (not to be confused with “*eyeroll* non-legitimate raped */eyeroll*”). 2. I did it without any hand sanitizer or wet wipes for the GERMS and subsequently did not look like a crazy person wiping down my seat and handrails before touching/sitting down. (I did some thorough washing when I got home, however. Ahem.) 3. I did it after showing up in person for jury duty, which yes, caused me a three day panic attack and much, MUCH weeping and breathing exercises beforehand, to the point where Joe was automatically patting me on the head and saying, “there, there,” every time he walked in and out of a room, but I showed up. (I did weigh the pros and cons of not showing up more than once and may have looked up the ramifications of being a no-show, (the penalty for contempt of court is $1,500, jail time or both.) not because I didn’t want to do my civic duty, to the contrary, I’m fascinated by our government and very much wanted to know how it works and be a part of it, but because unknown experiences with people in authority paralyze me and make me vomit. Literally.)

So, I didn’t sleep the night before. The morning of, I ate a few bites of eggs and drank some coffee. Joe drove me to the Hall of Justice. I checked in. I threw up some eggs and coffee. I watched a video where real people pretended to be fake jurors, tried to read a book for hours and wiped my sweaty palms on my pants and did my best impression of a normal person until they called my name and assigned me a courtroom. And then I died but miraculously walked over to courtroom 17. I wondered how I would do this every day if this case went on and on. Then they excused us for lunch and I paid $15 for a ground beef patty I ate three bites of before admitting defeat. I went back to courtroom 17 about 45 minutes early and sat nervously outside the door on a hard wooden bench, waiting for them to call us inside. But instead, they told us our case was dismissed and thanked us, told us we could go home. Then I walked outside in the sunshine, sparkled like a Cullen, got lost for only 10 minutes while I pretended I meant to walk back and forth in front of the same strip of buildings three times BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I DO, OK GUY WITH A DOG WHO ISN’T EVEN LOOKING AT ME?! before finding the trolley, then made it home like a normal person would. Then I threw up again, cried for about four hours, ordered a gluten-free pizza, ate it all and went to bed at 7:30pm before Joe even got home from work.

So, small victories this past month. Yay, me.

One last thing before I go. The bright, shiny, electric elephant in the room. I’ve sent you an email. One that requires a response in a timely manner for an occasion coming up or I asked you a question about something that maybe you don’t want to answer but you don’t want to say so or you’re busy and you haven’t had time to answer so I’ve become a “Have-to.” And here’s what I’ve noticed – suddenly we can’t communicate about anything else. It’s like all communication has to be shut down because of that one email. That one stupid email that’s just sitting like a hot turd in your inbox, like a radioactive bomb. You avoid me everywhere else because if you look at me or acknowledge my presence, you think I’m going to jump on you and yell WHAT ABOUT THAT EMAIL, but I swear I’m not, and also? I miss you.

And now I wish I could take that email back if it means we could just go back to things being easy between us again. I miss the old us. Forget I sent it. Forget I asked. Let’s just move on. Never talk about it again or even for the first time.

Let’s go back to cracking sarcastic jokes on Twitter. Let’s run into each other at the grocery store and make eye contact and go for coffee while the frozen veggies defrost in the car and not care. Let’s talk on the phone for an hour about nothing while I scrub the tub with one hand and complain about the grout that won’t come clean and declare I won’t put on pants all day.

I don’t even like email. I miss your face.

Golden Tree at Dusk or Let in the Light

When the sun gracefully bends down in the sky to about here

the most beautiful thing happens off my balcony. Before I show you that, let me back up in time just a bit.

When we first moved into this little condo about a year ago, we were in the middle of some very stressful family things. We were distracted and heavy with Life and it was such a stroke of Universe (can I use “Universe” that way? Yes? Good.) that Joe’s aunts owned a place that was becoming available right when we needed it. It made the entire process of trying to find a place so much easier. We just slipped in quietly.

I remember when we walked through, checking out the closet space and shower, looking off the balcony and thinking, yes, this will work. The balcony faced the busy street, but was insulated by large and leafy mature trees. The sound was muffled. You could hardly see the cars whiz by. There were flower scents heavy in the air and hummingbirds flitting around. I thought, as long as there are these trees here, I can stay here. I enjoyed the shade and comfort of those trees every morning and every evening. They created a little nest for me. Quiet, solitary.

Fast forward through time, because we can, to late summer, early fall. Perhaps September? One morning I woke to the sound of a chainsaw. Looking out the window, I saw men in orange vests suspended above ground, deep into my trees, chopping off bits here and there and large branches right in the center of the best, fullest tree, the one I’d come to count on as a buffer to the world. I was devastated.

The next day, as I drank my coffee and glared at the empty spot where the branches used to be and where now nothing but a barren trunk stood, I wished we could move. Immediately. I hated the cars driving by. I hated the increased dust that flew up to the balcony and into the house. I felt betrayed. I spent a lot of time not looking out the balcony doors.

Fast forwarding through time again, somewhere in late November, I noticed some green bits had sprung from the trunk. They were tiny bits of things, nothing like their majestic predecessors, but there they were, all the same. Green and alive and making themselves known. I was begrudgingly impressed with their will to live, but very slow to warm up to them. And then dusk happened.

I sat with my cup of tea and couldn’t tear my eyes away. The honey dripping light blazed the bark to a glow that almost made me cry, but to be fair, I’ve always been a sucker for yellows and browns. The color turned dark amber, and then within seconds, was gone. I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath.

The days were short and the Dusk Tree glow lasted for approximately 47 seconds every evening around 4:30. I couldn’t wait and found myself finding reasons to be hanging around the balcony, waiting to see the light show. I busied myself at dusting the cd cases or talking to the houseplants. My Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura erythroneura) Gracie, (who has always refused to do what she’s supposed to do: pray), and I have historically found ourselves at odds when it comes to air temperature. She’s a picky little thing, wanting no breeze whatsoever, while I prefer a nice flow through the house. We had a lot to talk about.

One particular evening, as the sun dipped low to right above the ocean, Gracie shushed me quiet and began to fold her leaves, doing exactly the thing that her genera is meant to do. The tree outside glowed amber and Gracie, one by one, brought each leaf up and tucked it away. I was quiet, of course, and meditated in my own way.

Early the next morning, I crept out to watch Gracie unfold and welcome the sun. The tree outside was not just a Golden Dusk Tree, it was also a beautiful Back-lit Green Glowing Tree in the morning. I sat on the couch with my coffee and pointed out to Joe how beautiful the light was just then. Yes, he said. No more words were required. Although, at this point, he might argue that me pointing out how beautiful the light is every morning and every night might be more words than are necessary.

Here is a composite of “our” tree:

Hiding

I look out the window. The sun is shining, the leaves are dancing a slow waltz and I hear traffic close by.

There is a tiny spot of grime under my left thumbnail. I meticulously remove it with the long prong on the pen lid.

The AC kicks on and my feet turn to ice. My arms get pimples and I think about getting my sweater.

The AC turns off and slowly the small of my lower back gets warm and clammy. I feel a tiny bead of sweat fill behind my ear, under the arm of my glasses. It doesn’t fall.

I look at the screen and wish the words would come. Where are my words, I think, when my inside feels so full and empty.

Once there were so many words I couldn’t stop them from spilling out through closed lips and gloved fingertips. The words built up behind my teeth, vibrating for release and my hands moved quickly and surely, without stopping for pleasantries or lunch.

I grab my ice tea from the side table. The condensation has pooled around the base and quick drops fall to my neck, breast, creating a deep purple and jagged dash on my cotton shirt.

Maybe I’m in there, I think. Maybe that’s where my words are hiding.

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