(47) hollow

He called me at 5 a.m. my time after he had checked in at the airport and before he went through security. He asked how our dinner went last night and how was the house blessing (the priest and his family had come to bless the house and for dinner) and I sleepily recalled how it had gone. The priest’s 3-year-old son must have asked my brother-in-law about the picture of Zack and I at our wedding that was in the living room because he padded into the kitchen in his footed pajamas to ask loudly about a man he’s never met, something like, “Where’s Zack? Why isn’t he here?” My thoughts exactly, dear one.

I wish you could meet these people, I tell him in the early morning darkness. I wish you could be here. I want them to know you, too. Maybe that’s why I have half a dozen pictures of him and I framed around this basement room that is now my home. Maybe I’m a little afraid I’ll forget the sweetness of his face. Mostly I just want anyone who comes down here to remember that I’m not just a me, that there is an “us.”

Neither of us really want to say goodbye, but he has to go through security and I kind of want to go back to sleep. So he just says he’ll call me again before he gets on the plane. I fall back to sleep, but sleep fitfully and dream.

He calls again at about 7 a.m. He’s had breakfast. He spilled his coffee before he had a chance to drink much and I feel sorry about this, although it’s a small thing. They’re about to start boarding the plane. “I’ll try to find WiFi when I get to Japan,” he says, “And send you a message somehow.” And then we really have to say goodbye. Being an hour and a handful of states away feels so much more manageable than being a day and half the world apart.

When I wake up again a little while later, I feel so empty. Hollow.

 

I know a lot of good things. That there is hope. That I’m sure I’ll hear from him soon. We have the Internet, for God’s sake. Many, many people are separated from those they love most and many of these are in far more dire circumstances than he and I. Don’t lose perspective, I tell myself. Don’t wax melodramatic and lose hold of Truth.

 

Yes.

But.

Maybe it is okay, even good, to embrace the emptiness, the grief and loss. Maybe God will honor my tears as prayers. Maybe if I live with grief for a while, I’ll grow up in compassion. And maybe we will meet God together from a world apart.

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(40) marking time

It was only 9 p.m. on the West Coast, but the people in Times Square on television were celebrating the New Year already with the countdown, the ball dropping, and then a blizzard of confetti and cameras pivoting to catch the first kisses of New York’s New Year. “I want to be there, in Times Square, one day for New Year’s Eve,” I said. What a moment it must be, with the excitement of the crowd, all the lights and colors. I was reminded that it must be also quite expensive and quite crowded. Yes, but…

What is it that rises in me, wanting to join the celebration with a thousand strangers? Why do we treat the transition from this Monday (December 31) to this Tuesday (January 1) as special and different? January 1 began as most days of my life have so far: with me waking up.

All cultures have ways to mark the passing to time. We all mark significant life events (like birth, coming-of-age, marriage, death) and other rhythmic calendar events (Sabbath, Thanksgiving, New Year, Christmas, Ramadan…) with community ritual. Maybe we created the calendars that allow for order and organized communication in our communities, but we also celebrate our movement through these calendars. There’s something significant about celebrating and grieving and marking time together.

I remember a friend of mine sharing how challenging it has felt for her to attend and participate in the weddings of her friends as she continues as a single woman. The most difficult aspect she identified was that she wanted the community to gather around her in celebration as it had for so many of her friends, but there is no organized celebration to mark life events between college graduation and marriage — events such as big job transitions, decisions to pursue further education, cross-country moves, international travel or personal achievements like weight loss or starting a blog or overcoming fears to lead a small group or paying off debt. She and I talked about how we need to celebrate more often.

So here I am, breathing the air of a New Year, marking the transition from old to new beginning with a few million others around the world. I feel connected to all those strangers as we mark the changing of the year together.

May we grow deeper into our communities this year, soaking up shared nourishment as our roots extend into holy places of honesty and vulnerability and Truth. May our eyes be opened to notice the efforts, achievements, joys, and griefs of others and may we celebrate and mourn wildly and with absolute selflessness. May we be fearless in giving of our selves and our resources. May we be gentle with ourselves in our own journeys, engaging in the highest practice of acceptance with love. May we boldly walk through open doors and knock courageously on the closed ones.

Source: sundayinbed.tumblr.com via Anna on Pinterest

It is just another Tuesday. And it’s also another year. May we live well in today.

(33) morning like evening

a damp morning [the view from inside]

A morning as dark as evening has dawned and I have awoken with it, to traffic rushing through the wet streets, to wind blowing rain through the few remaining leaves on trees, to the dampness, to the morning, to the dark.

Today should be interesting, with a restless night behind us on an air mattress that absolutely would not remain inflated, but the room was quiet, dark and finally in the early morning we climbed together into the twin-size guest bed, leaving the queen-size air mattress behind. I lay awake last night wondering if we could sell it on Craigslist.

Today should be interesting, it looks busy, but busy with good things, with many sweet people, people I’ve been longing to see. The rain pours harder and I breathe, ready to drive carefully on busy wet highways, following old familiar ways to familiar places.

And in the middle of all of this, I am looking for You, Jesus. When the sun breaks through the clouds to surprise us (as it did yesterday to our delight), I see you clearly. Seeing you in the rain is easier when I’m inside and warm with my coffee and favorite blanket and more challenging when it drenches my plans and fills my worn-out shoes with water. I’m picky, particular, situationally-challenged when it comes to seeing you, I guess. You feel close when I feel loved and connected to the people I love, when I’m in geographic states and states of being that I recognize and associate pleasant memories with.

It is still raining steadily over my parents’ backyard, but blue sky is opening up in the westward direction. Which makes me smile. And now the rain is letting up into a steady drip and the blue is spreading.

Let me recognize you today, Jesus, in your many disguises. Remind me to practice a deeply grateful heart, one moment after another.

(29) ready for tomorrow

It’s barely 9 p.m. and I’m tired. It sounds terrible to say, but I’m ready for today to be over and for tomorrow to begin.

Why the lethargy?

Maybe I’m tired because it’s Saturday, the end of my work week. And today was busy, steadily full of one task after another, one request after another, one miniature conversation after another. I left several tasks unfinished, or finished sloppily, which is unusual for me, but I reviewed my morning carefully in my head as I left and I am pretty sure I only stopped working for about 20 minutes to eat some lunch and I hardly touched my phone.

Maybe I’m tired because I’m endlessly critical of everyone. Phew, that’s a broad sweeping statement! I noticed today at work though that I have extremely low tolerance for other people’s mistakes. I say nice things all the time like, “everyone makes mistakes.” But I guess I must not really mean that because I’m deeply critical when someone messes up on something they should know. To keep it fair, I am just as critical with myself, which is maybe why I feel justified holding others to my own rigid standard. It sounds wretched, doesn’t it? Maybe if I lived with more grace I would be less tired.

Maybe I’m tired because of a 6-ounce glass of wine I drank with dinner. I’ve been drinking more often. It seems like a steady increase since I moved here, partly because I’ve simply been exposed to more wine culture working adjacent the wine bar. And I love the flavors and smells of wine. And of course I love the way my anxieties quietly nod off to sleep in the soothing rush of alcohol. I told Zack I may have a propensity toward substance abuse because of my high-anxiety personality and a distant family history of alcoholism. I told him because I wanted accountability, to be reasonable, to not go too far. Kate told me once, “Do not medicate your anxiety with alcohol.” She knows what alcoholism can do to people. So far it’s just a glass several nights a week. Maybe let it stop there, dear.

Maybe I’m tired because I am caught in a battle between wanting to be productive and not wanting to do anything and sleep is an easy compromise. Maybe I would do well to be more thankful for these moments I’m living. Maybe it would help if I broke my to-do list down into smaller tasks, instead of big, vague ones like, “start going through boxes in the garage” or “finish touch-up painting” or “work on Christmas projects.” Maybe I should eat ice cream…oh, I did that already and it’s all gone. Maybe I’m tired because it has been a big, long week with all sorts of election drama, in the big world and in my little world.

I’m ready for tomorrow but what promise of being different does tomorrow hold? Won’t it come with enough troubles of its own? It’s Veteran’s Day, so there will be no lack of difficult conversations to have and thoughts to think. It’ll just be another 24 hours during which I’ll only be able to do so much. Still, it’s a fresh day. And I’ll get to sleep between now and then which sounds sweetly appealing right now. So shall I say thank you for this day and then let it go and sleep my way into tomorrow?

(9) presence

Ponder this Insight: How can you fully experience your Presence here and now? Connect with the sensations of life in your body, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 47)

 

Coffee. A miniature apple cobbler in a new ceramic ramekin. Waking up to an odd, disconcerting dream about a house fire and firefighters trying to use Pepsi to start putting it out while untangling their hose; my whole family had been there and there was product placement, even in my dream. His unending ideas, now to buy a boat only a few days after finalizing the sale on our new truck. They are truly unending and I am here, listening, present to his ideas without allowing my reactions to steal the reins. Traffic outside is steady, constant. Where the hell are all these people going and why? Why do we get up and move in the morning? What is it that pulls us or drives us? I felt satisfaction seeing that our trash had been picked up today. Isn’t that odd? Last week missed because of the holiday and I am looking forward to trash pickup? Perhaps it feels like a small accomplishment already: Even while I sleep, I am productive because we put out the trash and they picked it up.

My body feels heavy into the couch. The steam rising from the coffee has lessened, probably ready to drink before it becomes cold. The sensations of life in my body. A morning chill prickles down my scalp and neck. I am aware of listening, his footsteps, birds, traffic, pump station. He walks over and steals the first bite of my mini cobbler and I watch for his reaction. “Pretty good!” is the verdict and I smile, on face and in heart. Feeding him, feeding anyone, gives me great pleasure. Take note of that, heart, for the next time you are wondering about the heaviness of calling. I think feeding feels like tangible love. I see sun outside. My thoughts are slow in pace this morning, which is something of a relief.

I am here and now. But I realize I am not particular practiced at this, this being present, especially being present to my body. So I will try to remember to practice again. Soon.

(7) morning

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What does that song say? Great is thy faithfulness…morning by morning new mercies I see…

I’m starting work soon and this quiet morning will fill up quickly with voices and tasks and questions and phone ringing and cheerfulness that I may or may not feel.

Right now, though, it is quiet. I am accompanied in the silence by the young dad I saw walking by with his wide-awake baby in a front pack. Maybe the mama is still resting. Maybe he just wanted some time alone with the little one. And outside the window, a grandpa-looking man is carefully cleaning his boat for a day on the water. The boat probably doesn’t mind being his because he cares for it. Is he the sort of person who gives the same care in life with people? Am I that sort of person?

If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before you. (from Psalm 143, the Message)

Is that first phrase meant to be irony or wit? Or is it the gentle reminder that, indeed, you do wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice? Whether I hear you or not through the blaring alarm and my own groaning is another matter.

The boat man awoke early with purpose, looking forward to today. The father, with love and duty, to be awake with his little one. And I, although I may have missed it upon waking, I’m straining to hear it now: the sound of your loving voice.