Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hear Me, Girl (A Letter to my Mommy)

It was one of those perfect days -- the sky shone clear and blue, the sort of blue that could never manage to muster sadness, if that were what it was attempting to accomplish. The sun shone bright and fiery promising.
We had just finished our day of errands and she was leading me, twisting and turning, down roads I'd never traveled before -- I am quick to forget these stop lights ran, compass infused, in her bloodstream. I came to a stop sign and she told me to go slow and then pointed.

"There it is," she whispered. Tears pushed, racing and tearing, down her face - her big, brown eyes glowing lightening live with the memories of a time I will never share with her.
"That's my house."

Seeing where your mother was raised is not easily described; my heart beat fast - imagining the bedroom where she cried quietly at night, not wanting anyone to know the loneliness that crept in and camped out in the arteries of her heart -- never knowing, then, she would come to produce, raise, and shape a green-eyed girl who lived lonely loud - laced in the pulse with wild trying its hand at breaking out.

I imagined a young, dark-skinned version of her drinking coffee early in the morning with her mom, hanging on every word; it triggered, somewhere down low, the realization that there are infinite amounts of information I will never know about my momma.

She can tell me her favorite color and her favorite meal prepared by my grandma; she can tell me about her first crush, her first best friend, the fact that she was never invited to a prom dance, but I won't ever know --

I won't ever know the reverence in her voice when she whispered to her mom, goodnight. I won't ever understand the emotions cultivated early on toward her father and his habits, his addictions. I won't ever know the young girl whose muscles ran lean and strong in a chlorinated pool on sticky, hot summer days.

I pray her giggle danced then like it does now -- across my memory, linking itself deep into my bone marrow, never to be forgotten.

It is within the deepest parts of my fractured heart that I fling hope, high and fervent, that her mommy knows just how much my mommy loved her - just how much she misses her every single day.
I watch the tears roll, yearning and heat riddled, down her cheek and squeeze her hand.

I intake breath, deep and fast, and the brain won't quit - it's just always dancing . . .

I didn't always make it easy on us, mommy love, but you always fought for me and championed me for the world to bear witness.

You've taught me life isn't always fair and sometimes the eyes' environment is just downright dark, but there is light - ever gleaming and continually searching us out.

You are a woman who laughs with me and holds me afloat when I've thrown myself against that brick wall just one . . . more . . . time . . . 

I don't know of what scars childhood left on your eternally bronzed skin and there is so much of your history I just won't ever be gifted to have as my own. . .

but you are my history.

My history, you are. And the keeper of secrets and the forever sounding board and the lady with patience as long and constant as the succession of breaths taken in and pushed back out -- you are gold, pure and true and treasured.

I don't know what all you learned long before I came along, but there aren't words to be uttered that properly portray how every minute of all of my days is woven with the knowledge you invested in me so long ago . . .

We belong to each other, you and me.

If I could tell your younger self the ways you would grow up to change the world I hope I would muster the courage to whisper sure and sound --

you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
please, girl, don't listen to the anger surged voices that tell you otherwise
you will be a lighthouse in the handmade darkness of a young girl who laughs like you and argues like you.
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
hear me, girl, because you will make promises and you will keep them (keep them accurate and right) --
you will be the warmth when she needs it and you will be the strong voice of reason when she needs plucked out of messes of her own making.
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
understand, girl, that by giving rules instead of hand-outs and not giving in to shrieking, laced with fury, fits you will be a momma first and a friend second
you will make her stronger in the face of a world that wants her weak and damaged.
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
I hope you're grasping, girl, what is being said
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right

You are doing all of it just exactly right
because you taught me right from wrong and then gave me the freedom to move around within both.
because you loved me stronger and fiercer than any other soul in this world and you still do.
because you saw our differences and you taught me how to dance within them, not against them.

Girl, if I could tell your younger self the ways you would grow up to change the world, I hope I could manage the clout to whisper again and again and again --

Please listen, you are doing nearly all of it just exactly right and you are changing the world, you are

because you cultivated the wildness in me and taught me the pertinence of remaining true to my caged heart.

I would tell you, solemn and deep and mixed high and low with emotion, that you would grow up to change the world

because you taught me how to thrive.
because you taught me how to love.
because you taught me how to smile.

Girl, you will grow up to change the world because, differences and tantrums and hard to love circumstances aside, you never stopped trying to give me all I could want in the world.

because you changed my world.

(October 27th is my momma's birthday -- make sure to wish her a beautiful, happy, and blessed one.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Letter to the Inner Critic

I caught sight of my arm's reflection tonight in the screen of my laptop. I was writing down a poem I had heard about cyber bullying in my journal and a dimple in the wrong place gathered my attention.

I proceeded to bend and unbend my arm -- a distinct line of where the excess fat of my arm shouldn't be appeared when I bent in.

My elbows have dimples . . .

There's always been this fight, you know.

I look back at pictures of myself before college began, before I realized how much he wouldn't fit into the future of who I would become, before I was acutely aware of how clearly able I was to do things on my own.

I look back at them and have to decide, whiplash quick, whether I will sob over the truth of the matter or laugh hysterically so as not to weep . . .

I thought I was such a big girl then.

I shudder to think about what I might say about pictures of myself, from this time in my life, in five years if I do not gain some semblance of control over how I fuel my body.

It is a vicious, cyclical, caution-taped area I live in.

People will handle any number of pitches from this life in any number of ways - food happens to be my cure-all for each molecule of feeling passing through my bloodstream --

Food is a comfort whether I truly require comforting or not.

I flirted with the skipping of meals in my teens and early twenties -- realizing quickly that control was designated for my schedule, for my pseudo-healthy relationships, for with whom and where and how I shared my body -- but never for how I cared for my body.

Hours poured over computer screens, weeks and months and years passed of me giving freely, even in the midst of self-hatred, simply to prove that I had something worth giving.

And for what?

So that I can come to be a functioning, working, responsible (albeit awkward) adult woman who catches a reflection of herself and ends up spiraling into panic and verbal self-mutilation?

Oh, no.

I'm tired of living in a world whose culture is seemingly defined on how many likes and followers one will acquire in a set amount of time.

I am exhausted with having to face the reality that looks will likely determine how approachable females are, as a sex.

I am devastated by young girls finding their fuel for the day, the week, their life, in what they're wearing, who they're talking to, whether they 'belong.'

I am bent over, embarrassed and terrified and grief-stricken, that I was, am, and probably always will be a woman who must face these demons head on.

I am guilty of seeking approval, of grasping for worth, in others. In relationships. In social media banter. In whether I belong to someone, to a group, to myself.

I got tired of seeing my reflection in the laptop screen --

So I picked it up and opened a blank page to scribble some words on . . .

It is my deepest desire to know my students won't grow up to be women defined by what other's believe her to be and men who get glory from being the definers.

It is from the bottom of my heart that I hope each sister I come in contact with in this life knows just how remarkable she is and that each brother I know is man enough to tell the women in his life just that.

From the very center of my soul, where I seem to feel all the feels just a touch too much, I hope fervently and without restraint that one day I may come before my reflection and not immediately begin with critique.

Maybe it's just time we all start believing in ourselves a little more and bringing roadblocks down on how we don't measure up.

Perhaps we stop living vicariously through comparisons and begin to vivaciously champion one another.

Let's put a damper on the hate filled language littering our 'feeds,' our screens, and our minds and begin crafting love letters to our bodies and thanking them for making it this far, bringing it this long, and continuing to move through each day.

I could yell obscenities at the dimples in places they don't belong or I could figure out a strategy to make myself better and love every stage in the process.

The choice is ultimately up to me.

No one else's permission is required for each of us to love ourselves.

(I just want to become more focused on loving the skin I am in than on who I need to be hiding all my skin from.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Set of Walls Left Empty

I am a proponent of vulnerability and transparency. I believe there is deep, bone-true strength in admitting weakness; that being said, I never thought this would be something I posted about publicly for everyone to read and walk through with me . . . I suppose you could say I am in the midst of a season I never imagined for myself at all - familial, emotionally, physically, or personally. But here we are.

Decorating my new home has been a great sense of joy for me since I moved to Dayton on a cold February day. There is, though, one room that I left relatively bare.

Aside from bookshelves to house the covers that shaped my adolescence and a bed to fitfully sleep in each night, I left my bedroom empty. Like the walls of my heart, the surfaces of the four walls housing my bed were left plain -- imagined memories and pictures and d├ęcor filled my mind for both, but I could never gather the strength to put life into my room.

I never wanted to be a 27 year old woman that decorated the bedroom of her house alone. I had always been under the assumption, living in the wild and precious hope, that this process would require my husband's opinion. So, my very personal space in the house sat relatively empty - because I am a 27 year old woman with no husband, no other opinions to consider or consult.

Color schemes were not heavily discussed, I did not paint any of the walls that housed my bed and a few of my books -- it is all very simple, honestly; I sleep there, I run the fan at night, I rarely make my bed.

No one sees my bedroom -- when new people come to Morton Avenue, the tour skips the upstairs completely; no one needed to see the cluttered mess of my bedroom -- there was, and is, no reason to reveal how very sad my bedroom made me. I was never supposed to be nearing my thirties and sleeping alone. It was an open and closed case - I struggled. I am struggling. The idea of a naked bedroom left me wide open, stripped raw, and deeply saddened.

I can't tell you what changed. I needed a new comforter; the one I had moved in was fraying and stringy and messy.

What started out as a Sunday evening return to Dayton and putting on the new comforter so I could send  pictures to my mom ended up being me digging through drawers for art that had been purchased but not displayed yet.

I got out a screw driver and screws.

I collected doilies my beautiful Grandma Jo  hand-stitched.

I began to allow myself to pour a little soul into my private space.

I never thought I'd be single and unmarried at 27. I also never thought I'd live in Dayton or have to say goodbye to as many people as I have. I never thought I'd be proud of those corn fields I grew up in or ache, at least once every day, to return to them.

I never really banked on living the life I am currently living. But if we are all honest with each other, who is living the life they had dreamed up perfectly, as a younger, less damaged version of themselves?

I think the point of it all is that we aren't. I'm not. And that's okay.

But I can't continue to allow a deeply punctured heart to leave my space and my soul vacant.

So I put out my new bedspread. I took the hand crafted steps two dear friends made for my dog and turned it into my nightstand (because Addy refuses to use them.) I lit up my walls with words and art and memories that make my spirit catch alight with passion. I allowed myself to put myself into this space.

One day I might have a husband and we will decorate our bedroom together -- it will probably have less yellows and ruffles and lace doilies -- and it will be okay. It will be good.

But right here? Right now? All the yellows and ruffles and doilies (and beautifully, weird art that makes my soul dance) are okay. They are all good.

I can still dream and hope and pray for the day I won't do all of this on my own, but right now, I am here.

And it's just really time I stop fighting back so hard, so wide open hurting, and really be here. In my home, in my bedroom. Just, really, all in.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Queen of Broken Glass -- A letter to the Dark.

My car got broken in to sometime between Sunday evening around 7 PM and Monday morning around 7.15 AM. I opened up my front door to retrieve something from my car and saw fragments of my window hanging from the seal at the top.

This is just a string of the ways this world has proven to me, time and time again, recently, just how damaged and dark it can remain to be. I stood at my screen door and went over and over within myself when something went right that I could readily show to anyone who asked.

So I became one of those people I'd always silently felt pity for when passing on the interstate or a back, country road - I took trash bags from my bottom kitchen cabinet and rummaged through school supplies to find a roll of masking tape and I manufactured a makeshift window to keep the rain out. Even the skies felt dreary and drained over another Monday morning coming and going.

Today my mom called and informed me that grams wasn't staying in Columbus, after all, due to counts that were much too low. I busily made dinner for myself with the phone propped between my shoulder and my all too oily, especially prone to breakouts here lately, cheek.

"Oh," I heard myself say. It wasn't until I had fixed an entire plate and sat down at my kitchen table that I realized I wasn't hungry - did not want to go through the exertion to bring the fork of food to my mouth; it wasn't until I was sitting before a plateful that I realized just what that all meant - that instead of my plate full, it was my heart - full of weariness and anger and every one of my solitary thoughts never reaching completion before a quick countdown of the days until I could return to the farm house surrounded by fields in the midst of harvest. Just where was I and how long until I could leave - escape - and oh, yes, Addy, you have to go out, come here . . .

Just, come here.


I got out of my car tonight - returning home from work and telling myself, internally, not to lock the door, because the window is finally whole, again; I opened my passenger side door and looked down at the curb - at the jagged, fractured, misinterpreted reflection of my face against a bipolar sky - caught between weeping and rejoicing - in the thousands of slivers and cuts of glass from my window.

All for a leather bag.

I looked down at all those pieces - broken and beginning to wear down from the weather and the traction of traffic and I let a sigh roll deep and heavy loose from my mouth and thought to myself --

Queen of the broken glass.

Because here's the deal -- the particular point I am waltzing with right now -- this world is broken. It is fractured and slivered and jagged.

And I don't like to give it much credit, but the Dark - he will sneak up on you quick and stealth in the midst of lapping victory. He swooped in and got a hold of the health of one of the most important women in my universe - but he will not win out.
He took hold over whoever decided to crack open a piece of my safety - but the rejoicing is not for him.

The day my car got broken in to my phone exploded with messages. Bible verses, words of encouragement, sweet check-ins -- and some were from people I don't talk to regularly. I don't know how they could've known what my morning was like; most likely they didn't, but they came in roaring with Truth.

Listen up, darkness, you sneaky and adolescent and patronizing specimen. You try to bring me down - try to make me think I don't deserve something greater or that I do deserve what I get; make an attempt at breaking my spirit and pulling my focus; spend your time toiling over what next to try to break me down with.

You will NOT win.

In the end, at the close of each of my nights, you will lose; victory is not yours -- it never will be. You were not designed to be the victor.

I am the queen of broken glass.

I am broken, period.

How else would the Light get in?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Unknown Wild

It is with some of the greatest trepidation that I sit before this computer screen tonight . . .
Life, as it is prone to do, has handed me some curveballs in the last weeks of humid air dancing swiftly with the crisp fall spurring of leaves.

Unexpectedly, our family was asked to say goodbye to a dad, a grandpa, a great grandpa, and a great-great grandpa. I say unexpectedly because he was one of the most disciplined, healthy men I knew -- he was also the caliber of man that I had convinced myself would never pass on. The universe and its Maker have swift ways of reminding us just how human, how temporary, we are. I found myself in the business of hefting around heavy loads of refusal at standing graveside, yet again.

Possibly not even a week before he was called home, his daughter (my gran) was diagnosed with Leukemia. I will go on record and say that Jesus is good - immeasurably so - and cancer, of any form, is a giant, hope dimming bitch. I won't apologize for feeling so negatively towards a disease that, regularly, chips pieces of our hearts away.

Cancer is never really something I wanted to have to handle by any degree.

"It's just a touch of cancer," she said. Words that will make me forever want to cradle the woman who started it all for my family.

It's been a couple of weeks - of teeth gnashing, tongue biting, soul searching, mistake making reality - and I feel I am simply not up to the task

As if I have a choice. 

Before and after and swirling all around the disease and the death that riddles life on this earth, I took a phone call.

You see, I read this book called Let's All Be Brave not too long ago - and I read a lot - but this book? It shook my soul loose. It made my hair a little crazed. It stirred my heart to rattle fast and hard against its cage.

A call to live out our bravest selves - a call to examine just what it was, and why it was, we were not answering a call for the sitting frozen, frigid, frightened in the shadow of fear. It was a call to go dancing into the unknown wild. I started to think about this - and then promptly stopped because I was sure-fire positive I wasn't going to like the answer He provided.

And I did not.

Here's what you need to know -- in the middle of the losing and the weeping and the hating exactly where I was, no matter where I was - I felt a nudge to say yes to something I had always thought no to. I felt a nudge to be obedient.

I don't like to sweat. The only time this seems even remotely reasonable is if I am at the gym - and even then I'm concerned of to what degree of beet or tomato I may look.

I don't like curry. Well, I actually don't know if I like curry because I've never had it, but I'm not a fan of the range of spice.

I've never flown on an airplane without a family member. So I'm a twinkie, what of it? I've seen London and Paris; I've stood on a sidewalk and looked up, up, up at the colorful bulbs of Times Square, and I went to Georgia for the first time when I was around 7; but a mommy or a gran were with me every time.

My heart is for Dayton. Or that is what I had convinced myself of before I read this book; before I knew Jesus more; before I decided to prohibit fear from making the decisions of my life for me.

It is with some of the greatest trepidation that I sit before this computer screen tonight . . .
Because once I click the mocking post button, there isn't much of any going back.

I am going to India.

In the middle of mourning and trying to care for my people when I'm an hour away - in the middle of trying to remember why it is I no longer what to be the girl I was at 17 - in the middle of realizing just how hard being an adult is (get up and go to work no matter how your heart hurts) - in the middle of trying to push away and being pulled closer, still - in the middle of all of the things that make this life stupid beautiful and crazy painful, I decided to show obedience in a way that is unfathomable.

I am going to India. To try to figure out who this girl is that Jesus keeps sticking around for; to meet the orphans He loves wildly and all the way true; to push the boundaries of a heart long lived in fear and restraint; to love.

I am going to India. Because He asked me to.