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

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the sun will meet you

I’ve been feeling like a borderline train wreck.

It seems the universe, in its ways of placing things before me, continues to teach me about pain and small disasters and patience.

If I can be honest for a minute, let me explore this.

A few days ago, I had written another piece for this “end of the year” thing. It was about the things I usually ramble on about. Food things. Love. Forward motion. Pimento cheese and sweet tea. It was about cooking, to be honest. Being off my feet and out of the kitchen for a whole week made me crave even more to be back in a kitchen cooking real food. I felt rested and inspired.

Then, I came home at midnight to find that the tenant above my apartment had a busted hot water heater that flooded his apartment for two days. Only, his apartment made it through just fine, where I did not fare as well.

I came home to the smell of mildew and was confused. My landlords did not get my memo that I had a new phone number and couldn’t get in touch with me. So, as I stumble in dead tired and smelling of campfire smoke, excited to take a shower — the roof and walls of my bathroom had collapsed. My kitchen walls were warped and the photographs on my refrigerator were curled and faded.

I took a few deep breaths and decided that this could wait until morning. I brushed my teeth in my kitchen sink, turned on my gas heater and fell asleep with the smell of fire still fresh on my body.

The next day at work we had record sales for our lunch rush.

I was losing ground, quickly, with about a billion things on my mind. Do I need to move again? Can I afford this transition? Where? Where? WHERE?

How? WHY?

Can the universe give me a second to settle down? My foot, still a bit stingy at times from my fracture in November. Then a busy Christmas catering season, a stomach flu and trying to pay my bills on time.

On top of all of this, I reflect on my year,

Of traveling back to Mississippi from the Pacific Northwest, and fitting back into a life and a community I had been away from for so long.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my marriage, and how much I have missed that comfort of being in love and cooking dinner and having a best friend I could talk to every day, and fall asleep with at night.

Divorce is devastating. And people move through it at different speeds.

Today though, this is where my heart rests.

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This stuff takes courage. It takes all of your heart to move and to keep moving. No one can prepare you enough for the weight this world can place on your shoulders.

I found myself, as I do from time to time, saying, “Dude, you’re doing so well! Look at you go!”

And the pendulum swings back where I want to sit at the end of my bed and spend the day exploring the things I have failed at and eating an entire box of Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes. I reach down and feel the pain in my legs and the ache in my back. Patting my holiday belly, hoping to get my stuff together enough to eat like a normal human being again.

It is easy to let yourself live in doubt and fear. Lord knows this year hasn’t been easy for me. It hasn’t been easy for a lot of people.

A poem I love says to not move the way fear makes you move.

And I listen to that voice.

Because what I feel today, is strength. I feel my legs getting stronger.

Every day fills with a new hope for those small victories.

Life is all about small celebrations. Overcoming a season of pain with an abundance of joy. My heart is so full of both and I am stronger because of it.

My hope for you, as you have perhaps read this in its entirety, is to keep moving this next year.

Keep trudging through the muck and know that sadness and pain are not your last feelings. They will move along just as you do, and you will feel the warm on your face again.

Because as it goes,

the sun rises. 

You will meet it with your feet firmly on the ground,

and you will breathe in deep, its light and grace.

Fare thee well

I am writing this from my little phone, which isn’t nearly as satisfying as I want it to be, but that’s okay.

I am also writing from Mississippi, as I’ve been here for about a week now, soaking in the love and grace of this place.

I guess love and grace have been what this year has taught me. For one, my departure from a life that is now so unfamiliar. From a person who I thought I knew, into a world I was not ready to be a part of.

People change. As do places and time. I don’t know why I expect things to change so much. Especially when you visit a place that was home for so long. They somehow become shells of their former stature. I suppose we all go through this in our growing process. We outgrow. We move. We change.

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We bid our farewells to the year’s troubles. We give thanks for the good and the bad, as old friends who come and go from time to time.

“Ah, you’re here again…” I will say.

And I will lay down and cry or dance when nobody is around.

Love will come up like an ancient well and quench your thirst.

Sadness will also be there at times, to remind us of the great weight we hold as humans.

Let it be known that I embrace both. And that writing about both sadness and joy allows me to reach deep into the earth and grab hold.

Because people will change. And certainly the places we live will one day be taken over by the unfamiliar.

Like kudzu on a Georgia highway, covering the things men and women worked so hard to build strong.

We will keep going.
Moving.
Fumbling with what to say.
Burning myself on ovens.
Questioning the divine
And embracing the great sadness this year has brought.

I will rise up.
Stick my hands deep in the earth,

and breathe in that sweet Mother love.