Month: October 2017

Like Riding a Bike: On the Second Time Around.

I used to know how to ride a bike.  I didn’t just used to know how, it was actually all I would do after school and throughout the summer.

I’m not sure when it happened that I forgot, but it happened.  Not in a wobbly-starting-out-but-even-out-by-the-tenth-pedal sort of way, either.  Somewhere in the seven years between my senior year of high school and my first year of marriage, I was falling-down-every-five-or-six-feet-in-the-street sort of forgotten how to ride a bike.

Everyone says you never forget.

Everyone says it’s just like riding a bike.

Seven years ago today, I was on my way to my honeymoon suite with my first husband, where we would fall asleep, and I would wake up with a swollen ankle from dancing too hard at my reception.  I would also wake up with a panic, realizing I had made the biggest of mistakes.

Three years after that, I would forget how to love.

A few months after that, I would fall in love again.

I shouldn’t have been so worried.  It’s just like riding a bike.

If I Can See It: On Doing It.

“I wish I was an artist,” I told my Someone.  We were admiring the graffiti in Laramie, Wyoming.  We are always taken by graffiti.

“You are,” he said.

“But, you know, like a real artist.”

“Like a painting kind of artist?”

“Yeah,” I said, “like a real, pull out a canvas and make something visual artist.  Like a real painter.”

“Then maybe you should start painting.”

Staging Grief: On Anger (again and again and again).

We are already picking apart our little camper, already finding the ways in which it has been insufficient.  We are already pointing our fingers at the lack of extra battery we’ve done fine with, and the low water pressure shower head that’s done us well, and the lack of space to walk around in which we’ve figured out a nearly flawless system of sitting down and standing up to avoid stepping on dog ears.  We are working on our anger so that we can let it go.  We are trying to get angry at our imperfectly perfect home because we just learned about a four season camper that will be even better.  And the only way one can truly believe it will be better is to gather a little amnesia and a lot of hostility toward the thing that is sitting right in front of us.  Or rather, the thing we are sitting inside of.

And anger always does the trick.

“You know,” I said to my Someone, “when I am dead, you are going to be so mad at me.  You’re going to be so mad, you are going to forget that I was actually great.”

“I know,” my Someone said. “But who says you are dying first?  How do you know I won’t die and you’ll be mad at me?”

“Because you wouldn’t dare.  My anger would be so fierce it would raise you from the dead just so I could kill you again, I’d be so mad at you.”

He laughed.  I laughed.  Likely because we didn’t think it was true.  We couldn’t imagine being angry with each other when the other was gone, because being angry would mean we were trying to move on.  And I am not so certain I ever would.

I used to believe that anger was something that came from a distinct moment in my childhood.  Something suppressed, something wild that hadn’t had the chance to be fully expressed.  In my early twenties, I kept digging back and back to find the one thing.  For the last decade, I was able to be justifiably angry at my parents and my old friends, my high school and my ex boyfriends, my dead dogs and my dead grandparents.  But I am coming to realize that with every little thing we lose, there is anger.  And we are always losing.  It now looks like a miracle that for all that we lose every day, every moment, that we are not perpetually in a state of anger.

Or maybe we all are.

There is a songwriter who lives in North Carolina who is one of the last overtly Christian artists I can stand to listen to.  And when she sings songs about coming to the table and being baptized, my insides moan and wail with the nostalgia.  By the end of the record, I am simultaneously soothed… and then angry.

“It seems so unfair,” I told my Someone.  We were parked in a lot in Minnesota, and finished listening to her record again before dinner.  “It seems so unfair that she still gets to go home.”

And that was when I saw it there, laying in the bottom of my emotional cup.  The last wriggle of anger drying up.  The last pitiful eye roll.  My years of being angry at God (and the years that may still be coming) weren’t wasted.  They were a coping mechanism.  I wasn’t angry that there was a God, or if there was a God.  I wasn’t angry that he did or didn’t love me.  I wasn’t even angry if he did or didn’t step in to save or ruin my life.  I was angry that for all my own praying, for all my songwriting, for all my seeking, I found that the robe didn’t fit.  It was too small.

I started to cry.

And my Someone cried, too.  And then I cried for my childhood bedroom– the one that’s been painted over. The one I was angry with when I would return home from college.  The one that I was only angry with because I knew that I couldn’t ever really go back to it– not just because my parents told me I couldn’t, but because I just. couldn’t.  I had moved on.  I was a grown up.  And the 101 Dalmatians theme didn’t fit me, anymore.

This didn’t mean I would never have a room again.  It just meant I couldn’t have that room.  It was time for someone else to occupy it.  And the anger propelled me healthily into adulthood.

It doesn’t mean that I’ll never have a God again.  I just can’t have that one.  And my anger has propelled me healthily along.  I wouldn’t be happy squeezing into that robe.  White just isn’t my color.  Even with a few altered dalmatian spots.  And now, I can be happy for the person occupying what I just can’t, anymore.

In the last couple of months, we have been angry with our ex Best Friend.  We have chosen to remember the irks and the aches that he caused, instead of the things that kept him our friend for ten years.  In this way, we have been learning to move on.  In this way, the anger has moved us on.  What is difficult to see in this scenario is whether the anger is showing us who he truly is, or if it is only muting who we know he truly is.  Either way, I am a bit grateful to the anger for its rapid healing process– its steady trajectory toward new friends, new late night phone calls, and even a new home for our hearts.  The startling openness that anger creates in its wildfire blazes, not another path, but every path.  And we have looked out on the charred field with steady heads and heavy hearts.

When it all grows back, it’ll be a different place.  Some of it may be the same, but most of it all new.  And that is when the amnesia begins.  The wonderful, welcome forgetting of what it was like to be burned.  All this, all this could not be possible without the cleansing– without the clearing of the landscape.  Baptism by fire.

Miracle Whip: On Living the Dream, Instead.

“Today, I do not want to live the dream,” I told my Someone.  We were in Grand Rapids, taking our usual walk when we stay in Grand Rapids, about to have our usual coffee at our usual coffeeshop.  Our usual truck was in the shop, and we were unusually worried about it.  It needed to be fixed so we could move to Minnesota by Saturday.  It was Thursday.  We were losing time.  We are usually told at least once a night that we are living the dream.  That moving from one place to the next, walking sidewalks we don’t pay taxes on, having destination coffeeshops and farmers markets that span the entire country that regularly fall into one calendar year is all a fantasy that only a few of us are in on.

Usually, I am in love with this.

This day, I don’t want to live the dream.

“What would you like to do instead?” my Someone asked me.

“I would like to be boring,” I said.

I then proceeded to tell him about my ideal boring day– waking up in a townhouse, going to the gym to work out on the elliptical, drinking coffee before 8AM, working from home.

“What is your job?” my Someone asked.

“Selling insurance,” I said.  “Or copy editing.”

I then proceeded to lose all of my health and body conscience decisions.  I would eat lunch meat ham sandwiches with iceberg lettuce on white bread and Miracle Whip sliced diagonally.

“Whoa,” my Someone said, “Miracle Whip?”

“It’ll be the only tangy zip of my day,” I said.  In my fantasy I would have a cat and my dogs and two fish.  My Someone would come home at 5 and we would eat pasta and then walk our dogs and watch TV for two hours before reading in bed for one hour only to do it over again the next day.

“Sounds like you have it figured out,” he said.

“Yeah.  And we are saving up for a vacation to Italy.  We got a deal through our wine club.”

“‘She wanted France, I wanted Spain, so we settled on Italy!'”

“What was that?” I asked, startled for him to be engaging in my fantasy.

“That’s what we are going to tell our couple friends.  It’s our big story– that’s the punchline.”

We walked back to the street we were parked on.  We dropped the bags of dog poop in the garbage.  We stepped inside the camper.

“I want my old life back,” I said.

“The one you are living right now?” he said.

“Yes,” I said, “I really hate Miracle Whip.”

My Someone, before we knew we were in love, admitted that he used to have a dream that I would be on my death bed, wracked by lung cancer, wherein he would hold vigil by my side.  Before I passed on to the Great Breathing Lung in the Sky, I would pull him to me– tubes aside, of course– and we would have our first and only kiss.  And he would be sustained a lifetime by it.

“Why was I always the one dying in your morbid dream?” I asked him.

“Seemed like the most likely scenario,” he said.

He wasn’t wrong.

“Are you disappointed that we actually have to kiss every day, now, instead of just one big one to rule them all?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “This way is definitely better.”

“Because all the machines and tubes and dying, probably.”

“Yeah.  The machines and tubes and dying would have been weird.”

We had been fighting for months back then.

“Sometimes I think you have to pretend I am dead before you can remember that you love me!” I had said.

He said nothing.

“But you are missing me right now when you do,” I said.

That is when he crossed the room to end the fight again.

It was after the bad fight in South Dakota, when we woke up early to the Black Hills, that I realized the danger of it all.  Each morning, I was a woman living the dream trying to be a woman living the dream.  I would arrange my mornings with meticulous control– the right yoga session in the well shaded spot, the perfect temperature of tea to sip on the right rock overlooking the most scenic and underpopulated view, and the most insightful thoughts to put inside my journal.  All the while, my Someone drawing his own lines in his own journal.  We were being healthy.  We were being separate.  It is just too crazy for two people to spend so much time together, we’d been told.  So we were squeezing out the separate time to its fullest– feet apart, back-to-back, pretending the other wasn’t there.  Pretending to not be interrupted.

I was concocting the wrong fantasy.

Maybe we are so unhealthy, all this time spent together.  Maybe we are codependent.  Maybe we are missing out by never missing a sunset or sunrise apart.  And I don’t expect that by eating all of this alone-ness would will me to like my life more.  Why should we wait til the pot has cooled and the dregs rise before we take the time to sit, side-by-side, looking to the Black Hills?  Why not share our first, best memories before we divvy up time as priority and people as needs?  Because with all this living as someone we think we ought to be or think we want to be, we are missing who we are.  We are missing the sharing of the first hot sip.  And how do we expect to huddle when we are old if we are too busy fighting the huddle when we are young?

I don’t even like Miracle Whip.  I think I will try making the sandwich and living the morning in the way I am right now, instead.  Right now is living the dream, after all.