16. Joy

I realize my writing has been sporadic the past few weeks. I returned to the full force of life… in all its glory… and my attention has been pulled in many directions. 

We returned to Charlottesville last week. I stayed with friends and my daughter returned to my mom’s, where she is better set up and equipped to do virtual schooling. A dear friend of ours got married, which offered a welcome break from some of the stressors of life. I got to do maid-of-honor-ish sorts of things, which felt productive and life-giving. We set up a small, backyard wedding (the BIG event has been moved to next year), and it was amazing! I realized int the midst of it how few moments of celebration have been had this past year. Like… none. I was dizzy with euphoria at witnessing a friend experience good life things… love and partnership and big steps forward.  

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15. Life Can Be Beautiful

PART I

Because a storm sweeps across the island on the day I am meant to leave, my departure is delayed. I spend two days perched on the edge of whatever must come next. Two days of bluster and white-capped seas and the whole world holding its breath to the count of electoral votes. On Wednesday, I board the ancient ferry clutching a handful of native flowers. I inch near a sublime sort of elation and toss the colorful weeds out the window. An island tradition, a promise to one day return. I inhale the possibilities with the last of the salt air but know I don’t really mean it. I convince myself I have found the courage to build a new life for us. But really, it is only that it has come time to leave. I watch the green-gray of the island fade from sight. 

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14. Winter

Before I jump into this next piece, I just want to say… I’m sorry (in a sorry-not-sorry kind of way) for spending so much time tooling around the dregs of my soul. Melanie is gone and the Cracked Mug is closed (to tourists at least) and I am finally faced with the hours of solitude I need but don’t entirely want. A friend texted today and referred to Monhegan as “emo make-believe land,” which, I will concede, is pretty accurate (but also entirely rude!). And/but also, it is one of the most real things I’ve ever experienced- the land, the emotions, the unfolding. All of it.

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13. Bended Knee

My earliest memories used to be close to me, the jumble of them kept around like a lucky coin I could touch when I needed to know the truth of things. But then my head became full of more important things, like keeping another human alive or not ending up in the news for saying something dumb to a classroom full of teen tyrants. Recently I found a flash drive full of old essays and remembered with dismay a host of things I thought I’d never forget. Like Pandora’s box, the heap of them came pouring out. Also like Pandora’s box, only one left me with any tangible sense of hope.

The reels bleed into one another, long fumbling scenes of house fires and birthday parties, nightmares and 80’s workout videos (no relation to the two), carrot cake and Great Danes and more house fires. Beneath them all is a memory that used to be my favorite, dusty, but still retaining some of the magic it once held.  

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12. Waffles

As a teenager, I loved to sleep in on Saturday mornings. Invariably, I would be woken by the loud and disjointed sounds of my mother in the kitchen, by her laughter as she spoke on the phone, by drawers closing, and cupboards slamming, and pans banging. I. Hated. It. I would lie in bed fuming with the certainty that this was all a part of her ploy to get me out of bed (it was) and furious that I could not be left to sleep in the undisturbed silence I deserved. 

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11. Monhegan Island

Ok… Maine is beautiful. I’m not sure why I’ve never traveled here before, but I will definitely travel here again.

I was a bit of a mess in the days leading up to my departure. There were so many moving pieces to coordinate. But mostly, it was the idea of leaving my girl for four weeks. The anxiety was not hers, but rather mine. I worked at a boarding school long enough to know that teen girls can pass a disconcerting number of days and weeks without noticing the distance between themselves and their parents. I knew she would be fine. Still, my heart ached and tumbled and missed a few regular beats.

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10. Healing

“Healing does not mean forgiveness either, though it is a result of it. Healing is knowing our woundedness; it is developing an intimacy with the ways in which we suffer.” -Lama Rod Owens

I always believed that forgiveness was the first step toward healing. I was wrong. When we were young, we were made to believe that a series of magical words would absolve all parties of wrongdoing and enable everyone to move on. I’m sorry. I forgive you. This, of course, is yet another reason why childhood is so confounding and adult advice so contrary to what we instinctively understand. We would walk away from that obligatory apology feeling confused as to why we still felt hurt and guilty for not having actually forgiven, despite the copacetic exchange, the shaking of hands, the mandatory hug. When the pain of a wound is still palpable, still stabbing at us with such acuteness that it brings tears to our eyes, no healing has actually taken place, merely an exchange of pleasantries. Forgiveness requires action. Absolving the wounder will not change that, despite everything we are taught as children. 

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9. Heart

Heart. One word. An organ expanding and contracting beneath 24 ribs. Muscle, fiber, flesh. The feeling place.  

i carry your heart with me

When my daughter was born, that organ tasked with the vital role of maintaining life exploded into a thousand pieces. And yet, I did not die. Or perhaps I did, because every mother knows that you die a little when your first child is born. You must. You slough off the excrement and waste, the falsities and assumptions, all the negative spaces, and make room for something so much larger than yourself. You are reborn to a place of faith and hope and love, and you cling to that with every fiber of your being. My heart exploded the day she was born and it was a magnificence of being. She was a magnificent being.  

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8. It’s Happening

Guys.

I am going to Monhegan Island.

I heard back from the loveliest of people yesterday, a kindred spirit for sure. Her name is Melanie and, this year, she opened a sweet little spot on Monhegan Island called The Cracked Mug. She named one of the beautiful seaside rooms after he son Alexander. A friend of her’s said, “wouldn’t it be nice to sit in front of this window and write while looking out over the water?”

And so I shall.

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7. Faith

I’m always reticent to talk about my personal faith, mostly because my past experiences have led me to some deep skepticism, which I generally assume others share, but also because it feels deeply and immensely private. Most of the time I’m still trying to figure it out for myself. But, as this is the space I have designated for precisely these kinds of musings, I will share with you the journey of the past few days.

I should clarify that acts of faith are not really my forte. I’m more of a “pray for God’s will and then soldier forward with everything you’ve got” kind of person. Like… trust, but also… take action. Lots of action. Also, map out every step for the foreseeable future just in case your first plan doesn’t work out as you hope. And then give lots of thanks when it actually does.

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