Tuesday, April 26, 2011

life goes on...

another friend of mine died today. a mother of three...her children are gorgeous. married...her husband isn't too shabby either. daughter, sister, friend...all those things. beautiful, funny, caring, strong, smart, compassionate...pretty much your standard amazing woman. much like jeanni.

it is hard to face the sunshine of the day when you know someone amazing has died. but as anne lamott says, we're all terminal on this bus. and i know that. there are amazing people who die everyday. probably every minute. maybe even every second.

but i think about those kids without a mama. a big blank spot where their biggest cheerleader, support, lover, critic, mender, driver, teacher, nurse maid is supposed to be. and i ache.

i'm not sure exactly why i ache though. i mean yes, it is hard to imagine not having my mother...or my stepmother. they're both kind of crazy and nutty...neither of them is a perfect fulfillment of all of those things i just listed. i'm not a perfect fulfillment either. i carry around equal parts determination to be the person i have envisioned in my head and guilt because i'm not. so maybe i ache because i know that in the end, being imperfect is what matters...is what we (as mothers) have to offer and what we (as children) need. so why do i ache?

i know that there are other people who will love my friend's children in her absence. she, like jeanni, was one of those women who taught you things about life that prepared you for her death...that didn't allow you to wallow in despair or hopelessness...to do so only ended up making you feel kind of stupid in the presence of someone with so much vitality and determination and spirit. maybe it was because she had already beaten hodgkin's lymphoma...which she delayed treatment of so she could progress with her first pregnancy and carry her oldest to term. maybe because she'd been a bone marrow donor when her second born was only four months old...to her sister, who had leukemia...and sent that disease into remission. maybe it was because of events i never got to hear the stories of, never got to watch her face while she told them. i don't know. but she made life seem like something great and wonderful and fulfilling...something that even though we never seemed to get quite right, wasn't it delightful trying?...

and a person like that attracts other people like that. when i would visit her facebook page, i would be overwhelmed by the force of the people supporting her. the kind of people who would organize galas or direct girls' schools. they organized and directed prayers for her, good wishes to her, telling her to rest, put her faith in god, everyone to pray. and i did. i still am. i'm sure anyone who read those words did as those women directed. it was good medicine.

and she died today. just like jeanni died in december.

it is humbling to realize that my prayers didn't keep these women alive. it is flat out frightening to realize that their incredible spirits, their intelligence, their beauty, their amazing kids and spouses and lives...that those things didn't keep them alive either. well, i should clarify...didn't keep them alive in body. because i KNOW that they are alive in spirit. in a way i never felt when they were still housed by their bodies. (although, make no mistake, i miss the friends i had here on earth in these women...)

and maybe that's why i ache. because i know we don't have to be here to be here. but we are stuck here...until we're set free to go there...and we always leave part of us anywhere anyone we've loved is. and this is scary. and mixes things up inside of me...things i believe...things i don't realize i believe...things i'm not ready to confront...things i'm comfortable in...things, things, things.

this is definitely one of those times when words fail...when it's better to let things change before i try to identify them, capture them, control them with words.

but i know i love being a mother. and one of the hardest parts of being a mother is raising my kids not to need me, to go on without me, because i know my presence in their lives will always change until eventually i die. and experiencing the death of two wonderful mothers makes the certainty and uncertainty of that truth real in a way that hurts inside.

i love those women...then and now. it is strange to me how much love i feel from them after their deaths. i didn't expect it. part of me feels afraid to allow life to go on as though they haven't left...or as though they were never here...how can we possibly go on without them? but another part of me knows that my understanding of life and what it is is changing...and while it is scary to let go of what i thought i knew...it would be a damned shame to not be changed by the lives and deaths of these two amazing women.

so i will keep going...watching and waiting...


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

growing up

"Age itself is weird. Everything gets solidified and liquefied at the same time." (anne lamott, of course)

yep. this is what i was noticing...


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

self righteousness you could crack walnuts on

i love that line. but i'm getting ahead of myself...

i've had a crappy couple of days. that difference in management paradigms and philosophies of life that i mentioned in the last blog? there is a friendship here that spills over into many parts of my life...it's a small town. and i have been really hurt by this person (who, as things usually seem to go, also feels upset by me...or, well...she did...now that she's gotten it all off of her chest, maybe she feels better...i don't know...). anyway...i often feel torn in these situations. i want to fire back the ways that she's hurt me, betrayed my trust, wrecked my peace. (i am laughing as i type this...i swear, i am so melodramatic...) but i do really feel hurt. and i do really want to tell her. but i am too angry right now. so i will wait. until i can be honest and state how i feel without inserting some passive aggressive bullshit that will only make things worse. (not that how i honestly feel is guaranteed to improve the situation, but sometimes we must take that step forward in faith....right?........right?!?!)

anyway, i've been working on cooling down. for almost two full days now. it's hard...cooling down. and like some folks who offer up their prayer and then find a random passage in the bible and see how it speaks to them...sometimes, on really bad nights, i offer up my horrible insides and find a random anne lamott essay and see what it has to tell me. now, i've read anne lamott's books many times. so it is not unusual for me to be familiar with whatever essay i randomly choose. last night, the essay i randomly chose was called "the carpet guy"...and yes, i was familiar with this essay. like that feeling when you know you're going to hear a story from your mother...a story you've heard again and again...and you know it's lesson...and you also know it's relevance to whatever has prompted your mother to tell it this time...but you also know you're going to have to listen to the whole story and let the lesson unfold word by word, pause by pause... that's how i felt when i saw the essay was "the carpet guy." but, like a good girl who always eventually takes her medicine when she's told, i read the essay.

i have to admit, when i got to the line that said "you could have cracked walnuts with my self-righteousness," i knew i was in the right place. the fact that the author can admit this about herself makes it so much easier to confront the same truth in me. i mean truly, i was pretty worked up when i sat down to read...ranting in my head...indignant about the responsibility for her hurt feelings laid at my feet while my feelings went trampled or ignored...i may have even been heaping on other times i felt similarly that didn't have all that much to do with the present situation...you know, like when my mom accused me of saving my lunch money to buy joints with, only i thought drugs cost thousands of dollars...i might've thrown on a few unrelated injustices...i mean, maybe...

but then the essay went on to say,

"Jesus doesn't hold this against a person. His message is that we're all sort of nuts and suspicious and petty and full of crazy hungers, and everything feels awful a lot of the time, but even so--one's behavior needs to be better. One needs to be decent. So I would try."

can i just say that sometimes it annoys the hell out of me how anne does that? reels you in with a perfectly good line about cracking walnuts on one's self-righteousness, and then clobbers you with some sense of sisterhood and a personal commitment to try harder. it's enough to make me drink gin. (ha!)

anyway...that last part i quoted...it made me cry. because i could relate to it. and i so badly wanted the message to be that this other person's behavior needed to be better. (oh how i wanted to MAKE her behave better...really, it's awful stuff that comes out me sometimes.) but i knew it was my behavior that needed to be better. and it made me cry. because i knew i could do better.

by the way, this essay is in a book called grace (eventually). when you open my book, which anne signed right in front of me (i'dliketomention), you find this inscription...

February 16, 2008
You gave this book to yourself the evening before you ran the Austin Half Marathon. May you keep meeting challenges with grace, humor, and faith.

yeah...what i said.


Friday, April 15, 2011

my best pair of comfortable jeans

i talked to an old friend the other day...one i hadn't spoken to in years. when we were talking, she mentioned she'd been reading anne lamott, and i said, "yeah, she's still like my best pair of comfy jeans." (i'm sure anne would shiver with flattery at that compliment...)

anyway, yesterday kind of sucked. combine too little sleep, with the first day of your period, and throw in some clash of management and basic philosophies of life in a capacity that feels very close to your heart, and you get a pretty sucky day by most standards (which is my way of saying, "i don't think i was being overly sensitive on this one") so at the end of the day, when i was drunk with exhaustion (and not the kind of drunk that makes dancing on the table to your new favorite song sound exciting), i grabbed my best pair of comfy jeans. i opened to an essay called "dear old friend," which seemed strangely appropriate. here's the first paragraph of anne's essay...

"We turn toward love like sunflowers to the sun, and then the human parts kick in. This seems to me the only real problem, the human parts--the body, for instance, and the mind. Also, the knowledge that every person you've loved will die---many badly, and too young--doesn't really help things. My friend Marianne once said that Jesus has everything we have, but he doesn't have all the other stuff, too. And the other stuff leaves you shaking your sunflower head your whole life through."

amen to that, sister.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

a prayer

i'm reading this book called "reading between the lines: the hidden wisdom of women in the gospels." someone was saying the other day how people often perceive the catholic church to be anti-women...but how women are the only ones who look good in the new testament...how all the disciples are bumbling, backstabbing, pathetic guys and the women are all faithful and observant and understanding. it made me remember this book i bought a long time ago, and i dug it out of the "stacks of books i am going to read some day" and started reading it that night. and this seemed appropriate as it is lent. and while i'd been listening to christian radio this lent, i have to admit, i was getting a little bored of the same forty songs or so...so this book was a welcomed new avenue for expanding my knowledge, understanding, and, always ultimately, faith.

it has been a slow, deliberate-feeling kind of lent. not that all of my actions have been deliberate...i'm pretty much still flying along at my normal pace, only able to give my normal amount of consideration to the things i pass (and normal is kind of, well, notsofabulous). but it sure feels like the world around me is working in a deliberate way. it's a longer lent than usual...46 days...at least that's what my kids tell me...and i believe they're right...at least it feels that way.

i don't usually share a lot about my faith. christians have gotten sort of a bad rap (and hey, i know it was deserved in a number of instances). and i'm not trying to force my faith on anyone...i believe choice is important. but i do want to share my faith so people can maybe see there are christians who just want to love you, not change you...you know? anyway, i thought this was a beautiful prayer, so i'm going to put it here....(it's from the book i mentioned...)

"Jesus, even before you were born, you revealed the Father's love to the poor and simple. You revealed that you are present in our ordinary life, and you are present when we help and love one another. True worship has become the gift of self to others in humble service to the God of love, present in every human being. You have come close, so close to us, closer than we are to ourselves. Open our eyes to your hidden presence in the least of our brothers and sisters. Help us to see that others bring you to us. Give us the joy to reign with you by serving others, especially through the service of forgiveness. Let us bring your understanding and compassionate love to all who are burdened, especially to those burdened by guilt. Let us bring your hope to all who feel that you are distant or, worse yet, nonexistent."

one of my nephews is one of my daughter's godfathers. (his brother is her other godfather, but i'm not looking to talk about him right now.) my dh and i chose this particular nephew because the week before he was going to be confirmed as a catholic, i was chatting with him on facebook and i asked him if he was ready. he asked me if he had a choice and i told him oh yes, you always have a choice. and he laughed (i tell my nephews and my kids that a lot...that they always have a choice...good choices, bad choices...it's up to them) and said yes, he was ready. i asked him why he was choosing to be catholic, what it meant to him...and he said, to him, being catholic meant serving others. and right then and there, all this confusion and conflict within me about my faith and religion and where the two meet just settled down and made sense. the path became lit by this one simple light. all the doubts and the pride and the fears fell into the shadows.

the catholic faith is not perfect. the sex scandals of ten years ago are not nearly as great as the scandals and corruption of previous centuries. but just as people do not want to be defined by their mistakes...but they can be changed so positively by terrible mistakes...mistakes that hurt people and change lives...yet still great things can result from them...so i believe the church grows. and she's so old...how can you not feel a little bit of affection for her? (don't answer that...i know how a lot of people cannot feel one iota of affection for the catholic church...it was rhetorical, i swear...)

anyway, i'm going to go watch them crucify my son tonight. we're walking the stations of the cross and my second born is playing jesus. it makes me feel a little wobbly in my stomach (i know, i know...roll your eyes at my melodrama). i told my second born that it made me nervous to think they'd be "crucifying" him and he looked at me like i was speaking a different language (which is unusual for my second born...he's usually pretty in tune with other's feelings). i explained i'd have a little better understanding of mary...hoping he'd "get" what i was saying...and he still looked so confused. so i said, "look, we all know how to the story ends....you die!" and he just looked at me and said, "no mom, resurrection."

thank god i have these smart kids to teach me stuff.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

words, words, words

can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em...

i used to think that writing helped me to organize my thoughts...calm my thoughts...kind of help them get into the habit of getting into a line and proceeding orderly through my mouth, or my fingers, or at any rate, my head.

now i'm not so sure. maybe it's only when i'm able to think calmly (somewhat), orderly (sort of)...when my mind is still (so to speak) and peaceful (you know, moreso than the kindergarten room)...that i'm able to write.

i notice lately that i think in pictures. i don't think i used to do that. and sometimes, i think in great, whirling stretches of nothingness...but believe me, there are big things going on in that nothingness. it's like when you're at the beach and a giant cloud passes over your head...it's not that there's nothing behind the cloud...and the cloud contains many things...but the cloud isn't, say, a bird, or a ray or sunlight, or any of the other things you're used to seeing in the sky over the beach. or something like that.

anyway...i miss writing. i miss that affirmation that my mind is working, that i can still put words together and make sentences. talking can be so tiring. and sometimes, i talk too much or too loud or too fast. (maybe that's why it's tiring?) and writing is just so soothing.

but lately, when i sit here and look at my little blog (when i'm putting my runs in my run tracker), either i can't think of a single thing to write or, i find myself wanting to write something, but then, as i think about what i want to write, i begin to provide all of this context, background info, explanation, asides about how i feel about it, tangents...and before one word gets typed, there's already a traffic jam in my head and i can't even remember what my original thought was.

there have been a few nights that i've composed blogs in my head that i actually wished i had typed up on my blog. but i'm so tired these days and sleep usually wins out over trying to recover the feeling and train of thought that was what started the whole piece.

i should say...i like the silence. i do. there's a suzanne vega song that says, "if language were liquid, it would be rushing in. instead here we are in a silence more eloquent than any word could ever be." i used to like that song a lot. but it occurs to me that the song is about a shared silence, between to people (hence the word "we," right?). and what i've learned to appreciate is the silence in me...alone. i mean hey, it is not a place i want to live forever and ever amen. i don't plan on moving my underwear in the top drawer here or anything. but it's okay to visit...i'm actually quite comfortable here.

(but it makes for a crappy blog, doesn't it? lol)