to love at all

Nothing sends me into auto-drive more than someone asking me why I haven’t brought any significant others to Christmas.

It’s no fault of theirs. They’re curious. They care about me. I don’t get mad or even aggravated. I just start saying things that I feel make sense so I don’t have to go overboard into anything I don’t want to.

On my drive home this past weekend, I started to question that. I looked at myself and my life and wondered why my answers felt so lazy. I’m not a fan of saying things that I don’t mean.

I decided to dig a little deeper, since I was on the road alone, with the windows down on our pleasant 75 degree day-after-Christmas weather.

I’m getting older and my answers usually fall along the, “Well, folks my age are just really cautious about things and it’s hard to tell if people are into you.” Or, “It’s just easier to be single sometimes.”

Both of those things are true in their own way. Some people are jealous of my single life while I am envious of their marriages, and their families. But, being human is being comparable. What does the other person have that I don’t? What do they have that I want?

What I miss about marriage, or should I just say partnership, is having one’s back. Sometimes I think all I ever did in a marriage was rant and have someone believe in me and talk through the things I needed untangled. (That wasn’t the only thing I did. But I think you get what I’m trying to say.)

It is nice having someone on your team! Or someone to cook dinner for, or look forward to connecting with — those are simple pleasures of partnership.

I started to get a little weepy. Some of that was a mixture of being hard on myself and the music that was playing.
I heard myself say, “It’s okay to let hurt into your heart again.”

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I didn’t think that would be something I’d have to say to myself. No one wants to be hurt again. But, speaking for myself, being hurt is just a part of being the Beloved. Being hurt allows us to heal and grow and is one of the most human things about, well, being human. Being single gives me the option to control {quiet fiercely} what I let in and what I get to give out. I have a better say on who I get to let in and what they can do with my feelings.

There is a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis about keeping your heart concealed in a coffin. There is safety in hiding away. You can keep a lot of the hurt out.

But to me, there is no life in maintaining walls. I spend a lot of my time working on myself in how to digest conversations and what other people mean and want from them. Most people don’t mean to hurt your feelings, it’s just between their mouths and your brain that a billion things can happen.

So, I let that feeling wash over me for a few minutes — the truth, that I have been keeping out pain, because it feels really good to feel good and that I need people. I value my vulnerability and it’s in all of that, that I feel most alive.

I felt things shift a bit as I welcomed in the ghosts of former selves and made amends with whatever I am at the present. With love comes hurt sometimes — among so many other things. It is worth it to take chances on people, I think.
When I think of a hard moment in my life, I often wonder what it might be like to have skipped over all that. The truth you know as well, is that you grew tremendously because of it.

That doesn’t mean you want it to happen again. As the old hymn goes, “…hard times, come again no more.”

My voice told me that it was okay to let hurt in again. I’ve been shaking my head at it for a while now and spoiler alert, the world wants more for me than to block off my heart.

So, I will listen. And it will probably hurt. That’s what we got, though. This is being alive on an Earth that is violent and heartbroken — we move forward though, and we always will.

Keep your heart open to listen and let things in. A concrete box is a cold, and dark place and that was never the intention of your life here.

To the New Year,

let’s give this thing a go.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

-C.S. Lewis

coming back.

I wake up every morning in a bed just big enough for me, that used to fit two.

I roll around for a bit. Back. Side. Stomach. Other side.

Taking deep breaths, I realize I am waking up. Officially. I have the luxury of sleeping in most days, due to my night time work hours. But alas, there is nothing like a restful morning, sitting in my big brown chair with coffee, catching up on the world, and at times, looking deeply into my own.

There was something missing.

Thanksgiving was kind of shitty.

And my birthday was last Monday. I arranged a few things, and some other friends invited me into their plans, which was just what I needed. There wasn’t a way I could weather my birthday alone, and I’m thankful that I didn’t have to.

A co-worker recently asked me if I was a Scrooge, or if I enjoyed the holidays. Very quickly, I responded, “Yeah! I just got a tree! Well, a 3-ft fake tree from Fred Meyer, with sad lights, but it’s beautiful! And it was 20 bucks!”

And so now I sit, with this warmly lit Christmas tree that looks like it got into a fight with a cat, and lost. Maybe two cats.

But that doesn’t matter. In the words of Mindy Smith, “..it makes my holiday feel like Christmas.”

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Behind my tree are four paintings. They all represent seasons. Summer, Fall, Winter and onto Spring. As it goes. They make a big beautiful tree. I cherish these paintings because they were a gift from my little sisters, Willow and Olivia, who live in Georgia. My dad also helped in their final touches, and he brought them with him when he came to visit not too long ago.

Some days it takes me a long time to snap out of a funk. I’ll dig myself in too deep, knowing in the back of my mind I’ll be okay. I’ll get out of it. It’s a little disheartening to feel myself slipping into it, though. I know when it starts to happen. Bad ideas pile upon themselves and I’m left feeling like I did when I was a kid stuck under all those plastic balls at Burger King.

But like I said, I get out of it.

And days like today, I head into a kitchen, I put my head down and I chop onions.

I know, that if I put them on a low heat with butter and olive oil and salt, they will caramelize into this magnificent, sweet and savory brown sludge. A delicious sludge, albeit.

Also, I’m feeding people I do not know. I fed a gal tonight who was a southerner and said my gumbo was the best she’s ever had since living in Portland.

My sadness feels more like a hangover, at this point. Still sort of there, but on the outro. These good things, these things that make sense in my head jolt me out of it.

That kitchen, has saved me far too many times.

Maybe, it is my love of stainless steel. Big refrigerators. 1/9 pans and hotel pans, the hum of the dishwasher. It all sort of makes sense. Kitchens makes sense. Food makes sense.

All this other stuff, can be messy.

But I’ll take messy. Maybe not so much in a kitchen, but in you, I love messy.

And so my day, as the seasons come and go, will grow and fade and die and come back.

That is life.

Growing.

Fading.

Dying.

coming back.