Month: January 2017

Santa Jesus: On the Apprehension of Disbelief.

My nephew is fighting for what he believes in, again, and it will cost him the thing he loves.  His mother is proud, and she should be.  He’s smart.  He’s thinking critically.  And it is completely reasonable for him to question why Santa didn’t remember his name when he had just seen him the day before at a Christmas party.

“He’s a fake,” my nephew told me.  “But it makes sense.  He has to have some people helping him out, probably, to get everywhere at once.”

He’s allowing it this time.  Next year he may make a few more concessions.  Or, like his mother, he may give up on it entirely.  You can only allot the one you worship so many passes before they are just deemed unreliable.  Then unrealistic.  Then, just simply unreal.  We’ve all been there or will be there or have been and will be again.


When the last course was served and the fifth round was poured, it was just a couple of blitzened grown ups on the eve of a children’s holiday.  My sister is reading the Bible in its entirety so she can be certain of what she believes.  What she believes is not the Bible.  And while she has never had an audible affinity for the sacred text, there’s a strange sense that the more questions she is asking, the more she is losing what was once part of her.  I don’t think she is brave or scared or right or wrong.  I think she is pursuing love.  And the best way she can is to lose a little part of her– the part that demanded far more from her than she bargained for growing up in a Christian home.

We fiddle back and forth with the terms and the conclusions of her pursuit of atheism.  I don’t disagree with her.  I don’t agree.  But I do see the same slow tearing that we will see with her son in the coming years– the giving up of a creature that is no longer useful, and requires emotional surgery to remove.  She will continue to make the Nice List even without the power of some person’s blood, real or imaginary.  But the curtains have gone up in her mind.  The lights are on.  And she is tired, tired, tired of suspending her disbelief.  No one is coming down the chimney for her at the end of this block to swoop her into Heaven with the rest of the baptized elves and reindeer.  It’s just a guy in a suit who can’t remember her name.


Truthfully, I am content in the tension for now.  It was some time after my second full read through the Bible that I grew tired, tired, tired, too.  All of this effort for a thousand stories that change by the pulpit.  And sometime after I read my last chapter-and-verse, I found a new set of sacred texts– a new set of imaginary or real characters.  Three headed dogs and undying friendship and gods-among-men abound.  When I am caught reading JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman in a coffeeshop and confronted with a knowing look or an “Oh man, can you believe this stuff?!”, no one is really looking that I should be prepared to give an answer.  They are looking to see that I, too, have been changed by these mysterious sets of words.  That we have been caught loving the same magic.  That we are bound together by the long trail of stories that are being repeated every day and are learning from them.

Maybe I don’t love Jesus or the Bible or Harry Potter enough to ask any more questions.  Maybe my contentment in the tension is a testament to that.  Or maybe I am just happy to be part of the fabric, for now– now, when a political landscape stretches out before me in a clear pattern of black and white and right and wrong, it seems that having a few questions marks to lovingly wander through is more of a consolation.  But likely, just like we do for all the things and ones we love, I am holding those questions so I don’t have to lose them.  At least not yet.


More likely, I am not so much tired of these elaborate stories and the terrible good and sincere bad that they inflict, but I am tired of certainty.  Not in an alternative fact sort of way.  More that I spent most of my life believing just myself a few hand selected missionaries and saints were making the Heavenly cut.  After years of successfully finding the text to back me up or the spin of “context” to back the text up, I am not yet comfortable or safe on the grounds that we are definitively worm food after this.  Now, I would like to believe everything.  Santa comes in a blaze of glory to redeem us all?  Excellent.  Jesus is a homeless man in the street?  Perfect.  God lives in a tiny pocket on the inside of each of us and when we all die we will complete him by forming one full and happy unit?  Okay!

This infuriates my parents.  This infuriates my sister.  The certainty is keeping them safe.  I am happy for them.  But for now, I am just going to ask one question at a time.  Like even if Santa does need a little extra help to be everywhere at once, what was the knock-knock-knocking on the roof Christmas Eve night?

Overseas and Under Covers: On Inauguration Week.

“It’s not that I am choosing to pretend it’s not happening,” I told my Someone.  There’s more war.  People are dead.  Headlines are flashing.  I am aware that I live in the privilege of opening my front door without being gunned down.  I am aware of my general state of fearlessness.  Don’t look away, my friends are saying.  This is really happening.

The problem with this, is that I know that it is.  The problem is, my brain is on a constant circuit that somebody somewhere is unjustly folding in front of someone more malicious, more powerful, less good than themselves.

These days, it seems close to my turn.

I’m not hiding out pretending it’s not happening.  I am working to recover all of this waste of human life.  I am trying to do a good job.  To hope.  To write.  To help.  And the more stories I hear, the more I want to give up– the more I believe that it all doesn’t matter.  Go to help, and I will die.  Go about my life, and I am not trying.  Make something beautiful for the people around me, and still there are people dying.  I am lost inside words like Russia and genocide and terrorism and death count.

“Death is a hungry monster,” I say to my Someone.

“Yes,” he says, “but we all get eaten.”

“Yeah,” I agree, “but where is the belly?  I am just trying to find out where we all end up in the belly.”

Mariah Carey and First Husbands: On Forgiving the Laughter.

Last week I publicly defended Mariah Carey’s poor performance on a near-stranger’s Facebook page having never seen the video everyone was railing against.  I can’t explain the mystery of my retroactive affinity for this 90’s icon.  Maybe it was the collection of self pronounced Christians who were poking fun that spurred me on.  Maybe it was my delight in watching the backpedaling– “Well, I felt bad for her is all…”.  Maybe it was the triumphant validation of watching the comments post, “Maybe it wasn’t her fault.”

There it is.

Maybe it wasn’t her fault.

Maybe it wasn’t her fault.

Maybe it wasn’t my fault.


I was squaring my jaw so determinedly that my shoulders hurt when I woke up.  Each time I rolled over in the night, I practiced my comeback lines.  But I never got to use them.  That’s the thing about my Someone.  When he puts his foot in his mouth, he rarely removes it until my anger has passed.  He can read my fury like the back of my head as I am faced away from him for the duration of the night.  I grew angrier as I got up to feed the dogs, my best lines thwarted by his patient silence.

“I think you are confusing me with your first husband,” he had said as we sat in the company of family.  We were recalling something funny, or something unimportant, or something a little red wine wasn’t bringing back.

“Don’t be rude,” I had whispered.  It was too late.  The shame had already returned.


The trouble with living is that for all the assurance that nothing is permanent– no feeling, no trouble, no situation– all these impermanent things are leaving a permanent indention on our permeable insides.  So much so that even on a rainy April day, I can sometimes still feel the ache in my right ankle from when I twisted it at the wedding reception five or so years ago.  The first wedding reception.  To my first husband.

I don’t need internet memes and online videos haunting my browser to relive it.  It’s consolidated all into one dull, rainy day ache, or occasionally resurrected by a bad joke.


“And this woman said to me, ‘Marriages are like pancakes– you always throw the first one out!'” Gessi laughed.  I laughed.  Our Someones laughed.  It’s good to have someone else’s six.  It’s good to make the first joke.  There should be t-shirts! we said.  We could wear them all the time! we laughed.  Start a club!

First one to wear it wins.

First one to give it out, well.  They hurt someone.


“It’s not your life to make fun of!” I yelled. “I’m not your punchline!”

“I know,” my Someone said.  He was sorry.  He had been sorry since he said it.  He was sorry all the way from last night to this afternoon.  I wasn’t relenting.  I hadn’t gotten all my retroactive hurt out.

The truth was, he wasn’t wrong.  I had gotten them confused.  But the point wasn’t the confusion.  It was the statement.  Everyone has exes.  People who messed up have first husbands.  My Someone has heard me make worse jokes than his.  He’s watched me play the part of a Southern Belle who’s been de-belled a couple too many times, audibly working through my memory with a thick characterized voice–

“Now, let’s see, my first husband…” as though I have to work through the many before and after him to hone in on just that certain plot line of a man.

It gets a laugh.  I should make t-shirts.

Maybe I am already wearing it.


I’ve covered all of this before.  I have been healed and moved on from this.  But that’s the thing about living.  You get creaks and cranks that come to surface even after the scar tissue has repaired.  Sometimes it’s just phantom pain.  Or sometimes the rock knocks you square in the same thumb that the hammer did years before.  Sometimes seeing someone else get hit is enough to sink you back with your old wounds– and you wait with your breath held for someone to tell them, “It’s okay.  It’s not your fault.  We are not going to laugh at you for your mistakes.”

Sometimes you are the person on the internet defending Mariah Carey to alleviate your own empathetic embarrassment.


I kissed him before he left and removed him from the hook.  I drank another cup of coffee.  I watched the winter birds.  I had the house to myself for a rare moment.

When I went downstairs, I found a note on our bed.

“I’m sorry.  Please forgive me?”

The thing about living is, for all these things we can’t take back, and all the invisible permanent changes that are made to us with and without our choosing, we are compelled to have something we can hold in our hands that will tell us we can keep going.  That we can keep getting hurt, and that the hurt might be forever but it is not intolerable.  And that the more we forgive each other, the more we forgive ourselves.  And the more we forgive ourselves, the less those strange phantom hurts ping when it rains.

I turned the card over.

Here we go again.

“Always.”  I wrote.

Communion and Resolutions: On Submitting to a Stupid Pinterest List.

January 4, 2017

2017 (as I hope for it)

  1.  Savor the first sip (be present).
  2. Embrace the mud (roll with it and let it make me laugh).
  3. Be vegan if I want to (don’t let the convenience of other people dictate my choice for health).
  4. Deep breathing (when I’m scared or stressed or sad or angry or happy– big long breaths [also see #2 {ha! I said #2}]).
  5. Call my dad (maintain my commitment to repairing and retaining relationships that aren’t always close, natural, or easy).
  6. Wake up with no hangovers (don’t give in to the boredom with numbing [also see #1 & #4]).
  7. Write when the idea hits (and when it doesn’t).

Oh no, I thought.  I’m actually that boring, now.


It was already December 20th, and it wasn’t here, yet.  It peaks in at least by the 15th, but usually at the first sight of a fully decorated Christmas tree.  I tested my untethered heart.  I brought in visions of opening presents and familiar faces sitting around a table, the after dinner sit down, the long afternoon.  Nothing.  I was still breathing steady and even with no sign of sinking into my annual abyss.  My Someone calls it The Get Mallory Through The Holidays Campaign.  I call it a wasteland.  And I remember it being always there, even at my earliest memory of the long dining room table set with ivory cloth.

I tapped my chest.  I shook my head.  Nothing.  I smiled.  I tried to tell my Someone, but he was gone.  He was sinking fast.  His Januaries came early this year.  My experience in the holiday sadness should make me an expert at comfort.  But I’m actually just angry.  Annual Holiday Depression is my market, and he was encroaching on it.  There it is, I thought hopefully.  There’s the familiar Christmas me.  I waited another second.  It was gone.

Shit, I thought.  I might be happy.


Lately I’ve been worried that the chain-smoking-whiskey-drinking-cranky-woman-in-a-muumuu-reporting-on-channel-4-news-about-how-she-seen-the-whole-thing might not be my destiny.  I’ve been carving out my stake in this future since my early twenties.  Lately, instead, I’ve been looking down the barrel of a vegan-somber-smiling-red-wine-on-occasion-yoga-every-morning-peaceful-easy-feeling type.  The disconcerting part is that I understand that I am neither.  I am in between.  I am always in the in-between.  And I am having difficulty deciding whether it is more pitiful to be in the indistinguishable or to be a future Orange is the New Black character.  Being angry and self loathing during the holidays may not be fun, but at least it was familiar.  At least it was something to count on.


It’s the last full week in December, and I am making a menu for no one.

I am constructing a grocery list that I can’t afford.  In the next couple days, I will spend more than I have to bring home a few ingredients to make a meal that no one wants.  And I just hope that someone will show up uninvited.  There was a scuffle.  There was confusion.  There was more than one hurt feeling.  Feast of Fishes, the Christmas tradition, was cancelled.  And, still, I couldn’t stop myself from planning it anyway.

“No one wants to eat my food,” I say.

“I want to,” my Someone says.

“No one else.”

“I want to,” he says.


I don’t cook because I want everyone to be amazed.  I don’t do it because  I need to eat.  I do it to keep from getting stuck in the in-between.  It is a time when I am defined by the walls of a kitchen for an allotted time.  Then, there will be a table and chairs, plates or bowls or both, and a stretch of moments when butts are in seats and faces are turned inward and there is one meal placed between us all.  An extension of me.  I am not in-between because I am held not just in the eyes, but in the bellies of everyone there.

Oh, I realize.  Communion.

Jesus was wise to choose something as generic as red wine and white bread.  People will remember him everywhere.  Me– I’m stuck to a place and a time.  Dinner at six.  BYOB.  Come as you are.  Remember me.  Please.  Even after you leave.  Even if you are not here.


It is the fourth of January, and I have finally gotten around to making my list of resolutions.  This year, it isn’t categorized by Financial, Social, Health, Music.  The specifics are lost in an aura of being less of a jerk.  I am thirty, now, and my resolutions look like something that should be decoratively calligraphied on a piece of cardstock and framed for Pinterest.  They make me feel squirmy.  They drip with future Yoga-Lady tendencies.  I remind myself that I just did yoga, so maybe my fate is sealed.  My inner whiskey drinking muumuu lady gives a shrug, “Ah, what the hell?”  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.

Last year, I resolved to have no hangovers.  This has lead me to a longer list this year of what feel closer to the substandard existence of most people, but to me is a real accomplishment.  Like deep breathing.  Like calling my dad.  Like not feeling like I have to eat cheese just because someone gives it to me.  I am working hard with my new list to be a grown ass woman.  And also, a kid– taking an idea on when it hits.  Embracing the mud.

This happier version of myself makes me roll my eyes.  She’s boring.  She’s repetitive.

Oh.  Communion.

Maybe I can, just this once, submit to the generic white bread and red wine.  Maybe this year, I can diligently come back to the same table with the same pulse again and again.  Maybe the excitement of being a pent-up, angry, holiday-hating creature will have plenty of time to emerge again.  The people I first invite to come may not be the ones to show up, but if I keep coming back to it, they may show up again.  The important thing is to keep coming back to check.  In this way, I catapult myself from the in-between to the now.  To the with you.  To the you with me.

Eat.  Drink.  Remember me, please, as I am becoming who I am.  Dinner is at 8.