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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

“Okay.”

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.

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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.

The First Sip: On Being Not Bored.

“I think I am going to make a second pot of coffee today,” my Someone told me.

“No!” I cried out, a little more urgently than I had anticipated.  I decided to follow the feeling through, anyway. “You haven’t even finished your first cup!  How can you even be thinking about a second pot when you haven’t gotten to your second cup?”

“Okay,” he said, “Fine.  I’ll finish this cup first.”

I felt embarrassed.  So I naturally decided to dig in a bit further instead of backing away.  “It’s just, how can we spend our whole lives thinking about the next cup of coffee with a cup of coffee already in our hands?!”

“This,” he responded, “coming from the woman who is planning tonight’s dinner before breakfast.”

“Not the same,” I said, “Clearly I am just looking out for us– somebody in this family has to plan out our groceries so they don’t go bad.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

He continued writing.  I continued being self righteous.

“A second pot might be necessary today,” I said.

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This was three weeks before the world started spinning backwards.  This was before my belly began growing.  Before my brain started inflating my guts.  But it was the first prophecy.

“I’m not pregnant,” I kept telling my Someone.  But neither of us could deny the growing space in my lower guts pooching out over my yoga pants and through my dresses.  “It’s probably just gas.”

But as the month kept going, the pooch got bigger.  The pain got bigger.  I started fasting.  I exercised more.  I ate less.  I hated eating.  Everything was uncomfortable.  I was sleeping in the day.  I was staying up late worrying.  I was having trouble breathing.  I was blaming the cheese from the pizza or the change in the weather or the not-long-enough hike.  I was thinking to the next thing that could help my belly stop growing.  And my belly kept growing.

“This is getting crazy,” I said.

“It’s feeling like a lot,” my Someone said.

“I can’t stop bleeding, either,” I said.

“We have to get help,” he said.

“We can’t afford help,” I said.  And as I said it, I felt my belly get bigger.

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“I don’t want to go!” I cried out to my Someone as we walked our two dogs back to the camper.  We were four days in to our five night stint in the woods.  I was already feeling the pressure of rejoining the world– the buzzing phone and the computer screen and the election results and the eating one meal thinking about the next.

We read books here.  We took hikes.  We hugged our dogs.  We slept when the sun slept and woke when the moon slept.

But here it was, leaking in: the next thing.  I was already willing myself back to Nashville.  I was angry.  I was concocting a plan for us to live forever in the woods.  I was thinking of the next getaway.  Then, I remembered the second pot of coffee.

I am so bored.  I am so damn bored.

I am bored from one cup of coffee in the morning to my last glass of whatever golden or clear or fizzy beverage I have at night.  Between, I am bored by an array of meals and snacks.  And between those, bored by a constant succession of tasks and fun activities and requirements and pleasures and conversations until I sleep.

In the morning, or sometimes at night, I make a deluxe plan of savoring my first sip of coffee in the morning.  I imagine my not bored self deep in meditation– on accident!– on my yoga mat.  This version of me rolls the coffee around my tongue and leisurely closes her eyes and is transported to a world of that sip– a water slide of coffee that warms every sense from the fingers curled around the cup to sight of the liquid coming toward her face.  She is someone who can’t imagine being anywhere else, and is in fact nearly unsure of where she is for the love of the moment.

The problem is, I am always imagining her while I am waiting in my bed for sleep, or in downward dog before the coffee has been brewed.  And I realized I cannot be the person present with her first sip if I am not also the person presently waiting for sleep.  Or the person presently telling her Someone she loves him.  Or the person presently petting her dogs.  This Zen Coffee Woman will always be sidestepped with quick pushes to the next boring amazing breakfast til I am empty of being full at night.  When I am not doing, I am abstaining from the doing rather than just being.  Never just being.  If I’m not drinking, I am waiting to drink.  If I am not eating, then I am waiting to eat.  I am waiting.  I am always waiting for the next thing to catch me, and I am never being caught where I am.  So I am always bored with where I am.

Earlier this year, I have been learning to have enough.  To drink only enough and to not lose a day to too much.  To have had enough cigarettes in my life that I don’t need them anymore.  To have enough water, to have enough time to read, to spend enough time exercising.  And I’ve done it.  I can count on only a few of my fingers the times I’ve been hungover.  I quit smoking.  I’ve taken care of myself mostly.  But all of the enough came with a careful calculation– to premeditate each moment so as to not overdo anything.  Which means that while I have been stopping at enough I have also been bored with now.  I have skipped the ultimate Enough– that Now is Enough.  Right now.  This word and this word.  T.H.I.S. L.E.T.T.E.R.  This breath.

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I’ve made a First Sip Rule.  It helps.  And not just my first sip of my first thing, but my first sip of everything.  It’s not much, but it helps a little.  Somewhere to start.  Sometimes, it even helps me enjoy my last sip, too.  And I am working hard to stop imagining Zen Coffee Woman and to look at my fingers instead, to see what they are up to right then.  Usually, when this happens, they have to stop scrolling on their phone and ask my brain what it’s up to.  It usually responds with, “I was bored, but I think I will be present, instead.”

I find myself a less envious of the spot I wanted to sit in at the coffeeshop, and happier with the one I got instead.  I don’t even move when the person who occupied it left.  I am keeping my mind from my gluten free chocolate chip cookie that’s waiting for me after lunch and enjoying my salad instead.  Sometimes, I even wait to eat the cookie until later or the next day, because my not bored self just realized she was full.  When I am waiting in the car for my Someone to fill up on gas, I don’t always turn my phone on.  Instead, I say, “I am waiting in the car, now.”  And then I pet my dogs, instead.  Or see how my Someone smiles at me when he comes back out from paying.  I am learning that getting what I want is better when time is taken to figure out what I want.

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“You need to take more time,” she said.  “Sometimes, when it all becomes too much, I lay flat on my back in my office and breathe for ten minutes.  Usually, this alleviates the pooch.  And fiber.  You need more fiber.”

My doctor has a calm, Kindergarten-teacher quality about her.  I had been cleared from the ER a couple weeks previous as having nothing “too dire,” but should “follow up in case it’s cancer or something.”  I had spent the previous two weeks in fear, until the fear dulled, and I was caught up in the business of not being bored.  Before my follow up with my kind doctor lady, I noticed that the less bored I was, the less I was skirting to the next thing without noting my present thing, the smaller my belly was getting.

I was relieved.  After weeks of not knowing, I still didn’t have an answer.  It could be an allergy.  It could be a change in diet.  But for certain, my brain was igniting my guts, and my stress was exploding me belly up.  There are specialists I could see and diets I can try.  But for now, my doctor told me to spend a little time being present to see if it helps.  Breathe.  Stop thinking about the next sip.

I am under doctor’s orders to be never bored.  I wish I could prescribe my first sip of coffee this morning.  It was really something.

New Puppies: On the Inconvenience of Love.

“Before, I couldn’t imagine having her,” I had told my Someone, “but now, I can’t imagine my life without her.”

We didn’t have our second 83 pound dog, yet, but I was practicing.  My Someone said nothing in return– he continued writing.  I detected a smile, so I pushed.

“It’s just, she is going to take up so much room!  But take up so much room.”

He glanced up, then kept writing.

I sat in front of him.

“It is so inconvenient to love an extra dog right now,” I said.

My Someone looked at me and smiled.  I waited.  He went back to writing.

“It’s just that, who has room in their heart for such a big, clumsy creature,” I said.  I got up to start the kettle.

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“Hey,” said my Someone behind me.

“Hey.”

“You are not inconvenient to love,” he said.

“Okay.”

Milk Carton Kid: On Waiting to be Called Home.

This week I have quit smoking for six months.  This leaves me a month and a half shy of the longest I have abstained since I started more than a decade ago.  So, naturally, when I think of my fine accomplishment and my clear lungs and my even clearer head, sans morning grog and congestion, all I want is to start again.

I am learning that this is not because I miss the buzz or the long conversations or how much more brooding and artist-like I look.  I am learning that I want to scrap my good behavior so that I can prove that I am still lovable– against all odds.

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“I just learned that I prefer to be by myself,” our host told me in a brief moment I caught her flitting between gardening and paperwork.  “I am so blessed,” she repeated.  This was the phrase she used after describing nearly anything– her well-maintained house, her knack for yard work, her divorces, her troubling tenants in a property a couple hours away, her two cats, her ability to take her own oversized garbage to the dump thanks to her new-to-her truck.  I was having difficulty deciphering if this was her mantra or her belief.

Earlier I listened to her wander around her open wood floored rooms, playing her small guitar and singing about brand new roller skates.  Two marriages later and she had it figured out– it was all for her to be alone.

And then, I wanted her alone-ness.  I know that one woman’s alone was another’s lonely– but hadn’t I had my share of love?  Had I been worshiping Aphrodite all along and am due to turn my head to Athena?  I started planning the tragic end to the love of my life, complete with waitressing and a bungalow in central Maine.  I practiced my lines to my adoring regulars–

Truthfully, I just realized after he was gone, I was really meant to be by myself.  This followed by a knowing smile and sad eyes and a sharp turn in conversation– You needing a warm-up, Eddie?  Charlotte?

I breathe in the North Carolina air.  The hurricane is coming in the next couple of days.  My Someone shuffles in his chair next to me.  I suddenly miss him terribly.  Two feet is too many between us.  I play out our coming years of close quarters and stupid arguments and late night prayers that we go out together and never live in Maine at all.

I am so blessed.

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My dog, Butter, is testing her boundaries again.  We like this game, where she follows her sniffs: nose to the ground, both eyes on me.  I whistle once, and I can see the involuntary muscles move in her front legs.  She can hear me.  I walk a few steps further and smile back at her.  She stops sniffing but keeps her nose to the ground, watching.

“Okay, I guess you can just stay here forever,” I call out as I round the bend out of sight.  I hear the jingle of her collar as she looks up.  I begin counting in my head as I slow my pace.

One.  Two.  Three.  Four–

I can feel the vibration in the ground before I feel her whoosh by.  Caught again!

We play this game often enough that I’ve learned to stay in sight on the main trail.  Butter loves the hide and seek.  But when the seeking gets harder, and she believes she is alone, I have watched the panic take her over, darting and panting and whining as she searches the grounds and listens intently until the game becomes no longer a game, and she is plunged into a wild rage of panic.  When she finally spots me those times, she is so relieved she falls to her side and squirms in a way I can only imagine Mary squirmed to see Lazarus again.

Now, I play by her rules.  Nose to the ground, both eyes on her.  We are pushing the boundaries of being lost from each other without ever being lost at all.  Same goes for the Game of Sticks.  I find a stick and woo her in, Butter takes it and crushes it, every time, on repeat.  It’s only sticks, but sometimes in crushing every good thing we are handed by the one we love most, and still more sticks are given, that is how we know we are loved most of all.

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I was hiding again, but I didn’t know it.  I went as far as the property line behind my grandmother’s house, where the cabs from old bulldozers went to their final resting place.  Stacks of odd shaped pipe, manhole covers, and green overgrowth defined the space before the long chainlink fence that separated us from the chemical plant which everyone is now certain is giving the town cancer.  Maybe it was that I decided I had played out our other acres.  Maybe it was another story of a mean older sister.  Likely, I felt alone.  And just like my adult self, now, my 8-year-old self decided that the best way to combat feeling alone is to be completely alone.

Tucked into that old Caterpillar yellow bulldozer cab, I pretended to be driving.  I peeled the paint from the rust.  I pretended to be grown, then I pretended to be small.  I sang any song I could remember.  I made up my own.  I never heard anyone calling.  Just like my adult self, my child self rarely believed anyone needed me.

So when I walked into the house after dusk to a frantic mother and a couple of wide-eyed siblings, I was shocked.  After I was questioned and new telling-people-where-you’re-going rules were set up, I was a little relieved, too.  Sure, I didn’t know I was lost, but it was so good to be found again.

That’s when my brother disappointingly told me his now-ruined plan to put my face on the milk carton.  Me on a milk carton!  It was no Hollywood lights, but this was only from pushing the boundary of love on the property line.

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I haven’t lit up a cigarette, yet, and probably won’t.  If I was smoking, I would be trying to quit, anyway.  Just like how when I find myself so comfortable and happy living on the road, my Someone and I start making distant plans to settle down.  It’s all just a test of how different I can become, how far I can roam, and still be loved by the people around me.

And no matter how content or imaginary-content I am to walk far and alone to follow my sniffs, the truth is I am waiting to hear the whistle to call me back in.  I am waiting to see the relief on their faces when I walk in the front door.

The Pulley System: On Eliminating the Hell Factor.

I am starting to wonder if the trouble with treating everyone as equal, is that we don’t believe that someone won’t have to pay.  We’ve been raised in a Heaven-or-Hell and sometimes Purgatory system.  Which means that anyone who knows anything about the afterlife knows that nothing you do here doesn’t come back to stoke your personal fires of Hell.  Or gains you exactly one ruby on your winning Heaven Crown.  So, of course, when the we find out that we’ve been doing it wrong all along, the sinking feeling starts to take over.  If Christ must increase, I must decrease.  Someone has to disappear.  The fearful mutterings are coming out all ugly.

What if women take over the election?

What if black people take over the same jobs?

What if everyone is free to enter our country and work and raise a family?

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What if we do?

The pulley system tells us it will be our heads and hands in chains on boats shipped back to Europe.  The pulley system tells us that it will be our voice that won’t matter, anymore.  And here is the most dangerous part of it all: somehow, the people with all the power– the ones who are afraid of being oppressed by the ones they oppressed– they believe they will deserve it.

That’s what Hell teaches us.  We deserve what we get.

But what if it’s like this: the oppressed have no interest in becoming the oppressor.  And maybe it’s like this: if for a minute we could get our head from the Heavenly clouds or from the brimstone below, we could find a balance here in the middle.  Where someone getting what they need doesn’t mean another gets less.

Because if there is limited seating here, I can’t help but believe there’s a capacity in the Beyond.  And it was tapped out years ago.

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I have a strong suspicion that this idea of God stepping in when it’s all over to correct all the wrongs isn’t any more plausible a scenario than it is here.  Which gives me the feeling that the next thing will be a matter of us continuing to work it all out.  So, maybe, if we get a head start, the feasting can begin a little sooner.  Or the singing.  Or whatever it is we do when we all go to the same place after this one.

Tell Me What to Do: On Asking Someone Else.

“I wonder if the way we can’t make decisions is like how other people pray,” my Someone said.

We had a long week of making one hard decision, and most of the time we weren’t sure if we were right.  We soothed ourselves by taking right and wrong off the table– I tried to tell him it’s not so much that we made the wrong decision.  We just made decision. He was not consoled.  Neither was I.

“I guess it would be easier if we had God telling us what to do, too,” I said.

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I like the way it looked on other people, sometimes.  I imagine it to be a small room with the person fervently praying, beads of sweat and tears pooling around their temple and the corner of their mouths, maybe an indistinguishable mantra coming from the strain of their face.  Knees to the floor, hands curled around each other in that classic Puritan sort of way– and then God shows up.  Maybe he casually shuffles in the back door.  Maybe he just appears.  But without so much of a consideration for the scene, he taps the person on their right shoulder.  They open one eye and peer over at God.  And then they hear it– in a voice just above a whisper and just below a full mutter–

You should totally buy the house with the extra bedroom.  It’s super rad, and you can totally justify it by saying you’re going to use it to house visiting missionaries or something.  It doesn’t matter– just tell them I sent you.  That should cover it.

And then God’s gone.  And the person gets to leave the room and face the rest of the world with confidence: God is leading me to buy this house.

God is always leading people to go to Africa or homeschool their kids or take the bus or buy a frappaccino.  He seems ever interested in what color shirts we are wearing, who we are marrying, and our choice of candidate.  He is invested in buying raw organic and not stepping on cracks to break our mothers’ backs and whether or not we have a license to carry our guns.  This is why I suspect s/he doesn’t really have time to tell me what to do when I really need it.  He’s too busy telling everyone around me whether to go on a diet.

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But then again, whether or not I should or shouldn’t get a puppy shouldn’t be up to God, anyway.  Because if s/he tells me to go for it, and then the dog pisses in the back seat, I’ll have to complain to God about the choice s/he made.  But maybe that’s the point, after all.  If God is always leading everyone to do or not do what they want or don’t want, we never have to be responsible– we never have to consult our conscience or make hard decisions or feel at all like we’ve failed or succeeded.  We just get to rest good naturedly in God’s will.

My Someone and I were still wrestling with our hard decision until this morning.  We may have come to an agreement at last.  But somewhere, between when it all started and when it was decided, we got to look each other square in the eye and say, “Is this going to be okay for you?  Are you going to be better or worse for this?”  Maybe that’s what we lose in having God tell us what to do.  We are so busy closing our eyes that we forget to look at each other.  We forget to look at ourselves.  We are straining our ears for the voice of God so that we miss the voices already penetrating our sonic space.  We lose the chance to ask each other how we can better love.

Glory and Hell: On Loving God.

When it says we have all fallen short of the Glory of God, does that include God?

I’m just thinking, here, that I have also fallen short of the Glory of me.  And fallen short of the Glory of my Someone.  On my most Glory days, sometimes my Someone falls short of me, too.

Maybe it goes that God wasn’t saying so much that he was perfect so much as saying, “Hey, we all have bad days.”  Maybe Glory is just another way of saying, “When I am at my best…”

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And maybe Hell is just the empty threat of when God is falling short of his Glory.  Maybe Hell is the insecurity that leaks in when he is worried that he is not enough for us.  The burning fear that he can’t keep us around with what he has to offer.  Because even God falls short of Glory, sometimes.  Twisted threats of suicide won’t work on a people who mostly believe God is dead already.  So, here it goes: love me, love me, stay with me… or I’ll– I’ll… send you to Hell.

Silly, God.  No one is perfect.  Don’t worry.  Though you have fallen short of the Glory of us, you can still be redeemed.  We can still be together.  Put your Hell threats away.  We don’t need them to love.

God-Lady: On Not Bothering Jesus So Much.

I think God held my head in Custer, South Dakota last week.  This was after the week before when she got me from limping to walking straight and steady.   It seems likely to be God because of the healing-the-lame business.  But then I got to thinking more and trying to put my God thoughts in their right places with gender and love and certification, and it came out a little more jumbled than I meant it, and then the thought was too hard to hold on to, so I’ve settled on this: whether or not she disappears or doesn’t disappear when I leave her Occupational Therapy office, God held my head last week in Custer, South Dakota.  And I cried.  And I am suspicious that Jesus might have gone to the same training as my God-Lady, because how else was he making the people walk again in all his funny stories?

It went like this: I had to go back to my massage therapist Lady.  It was on account of the beautiful things there are in South Dakota to see, with its Black Hills and swooping ospreys and baby bunnies that my little bum foot that was healed and may have asked for a little rest did not get what it asked for.  So I took my little bum foot back to my Lady who had worked wonders the first time, just a week ago.  I was sorry to not take care of the gift she (and a couple of Anonymous-You-Know-Who-You-Are’s) gave me to have my walking back.

This is where I am suspicious of my new Lady being God.  She wasn’t mad.  She said I was so smart to come back.

And then, she asked me questions and when I told her about all the hiking, she did not say “You were so bad to use it so much!  This healing I gave you!”  She said, “That sounds so beautiful.  Aren’t these hills wonderful places for adventure?”

I told her all about my secret sleeping and swimming spots.  She said, “I know these places.”

I told her I was stung by a wasp just that morning.  She said, “I have some menthol around here, let me put it there.  Now, isn’t that better?  The sting will still sting for a bit, but you won’t know, for now.”

She said, “You are doing much better.”

She said, “Your pain is special, but you aren’t alone.”

I said, “Thank you.”  And then, when she was helping me with my neck and had to hold my head, I resisted.  I held up my head and she waited.  And she waited until I finally gave in to her hands and she said,

“There we go.  You see, I didn’t need you to hold yourself up.  I know you were only trying to help, but I am strong enough to hold you.”

And that is when I cried.  And she was quiet until she said, “Now where are you heading from here?”

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“It’s just that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing when everyone else is prayer warrior-ing,” I told my Someone.  I was complaining again.  Social media told me that a person needed help.  They were calling all hands to deck to pray.  I don’t know how to be a Prayer Warrior.  I am not the person anyone thinks of as their Praying Friend.  And I was agitated.

“Maybe you could just think some nice thoughts?” my Someone suggested.

“But that’s not what they’re asking for,” I said.

“Well, what do you want to do?” he asked.

It goes like this: I am the janitor in a long hallway, mopping the floor after all the Warriors walked through with their muddy Bible-time shoes, clustered in a room with a locked door.  And that door’s window was just tall enough that I couldn’t see through it even on my tippy toes.  I keep mopping.  I put my ear to do the door.  Just murmurs.  I wait.

“Maybe I could get all the Prayer Warriors a glass of water?” I say.

“Maybe,” said my Someone, “but they are to be praying without ceasing.  That might be distracting.”

“Okay.”

I keep mopping.  I wait.  I remember there is another entrance to the Praying room.

“Maybe I could guard the back door to make sure no one else gets in while everyone is praying?  Like maybe a Heavenly Back Door guard dog?  Maybe Butter could help me?” I suggest.

“Maybe,” said my Someone.  This clearly wasn’t the answer.  I’ve read the Bible.  Dogs are for under the table scraps, not helpers.

I circle back around with my mop.  Then, I realize what is true: while everyone is busy in the room asking God to fix something, no one is trying to fix the thing itself.

“What if I maybe ask God if I can fix it?  Like, maybe I can say– Um, hey, merciful Jesus-Face, I know you are super busy with this room full of praying people, and totally take their request, but if there’s something I can do, just let me know, because I kind of feel like maybe we don’t really need you to step in to everything if there’s something we can do, okay?” I wait.

My Someone waits.  Then he says, “But, then, aren’t you praying?”

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I wonder sometimes if maybe it’s more simple than praying.  I wonder sometimes if the way we ask for prayer is actually just asking for someone who knows something to help us.  Maybe I should be a better believer in miracles.  Or maybe I am– maybe I am coming to believe that we have everything we need already here to fix our toothaches and our broken hearts.  It’s just a matter of asking for it.  And maybe if we spent less time clogging the celestial phone lines and more time asking each other, we could have all of our prayers answered.  In an earthly sort of way.  Little bum feet don’t seem to get healed by asking God every day.  But asking a friend for help sometimes helps us meet God.  Even if it’s just a little God-Lady in Custer, South Dakota.

I wonder if it would make me a little less angry with God and a little more hopeful in humanity, too, if when we got what we needed, we said thank you to each other.  Praise you, God-Lady of South Dakota, who fixed my bum foot.  Praise you, little dog, for making my day better.  Praise you, Anonymous-You-Know-Who-You-Are’s, for helping me pay to fix my ailments.  Praise you, Angie, for answering my text.  Praise you, Ryan, for asking how I am feeling.  Praise you, my Someone, for this cup of coffee.

I could sing praises for an eternity this way.  I think God will, too.

Children of Dirt: On Choosing Love Again.

The irony was not lost on me that we were halfway up a hill when we began fighting.  Or when we finished the fight.

It’s the first real time I ever thought– We aren’t going to make it.  We really aren’t.  

But then, it started a few nights ago.

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It started when we listened to that story about the different sort of people, all born with two heads and four legs and four arms.  Until Zeus ripped them apart for his usual jealousy.

There were Children of the Moon: half man, half woman.  (I smiled at you at this part, but it was dark and you didn’t see).

Children of the Sun, born both halves as male.

And Children of the Earth, both halves female.

And after the split, these children spent endless time searching for their beloved other half. (Here, I smiled at you again, but you still couldn’t see).  But this story went on to include the Children of the Dirt– those who never had any other half and never would.  (Here, I was grateful to be of the Moon with you, until) You said:

“Maybe we are all just Children of the Dirt.”

You went on to explain how maybe we choose to be Children of anything else, choose to be with anyone else.

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Had this been the first we heard it, I may have agreed.  But it was years ago, before we even believed we were in love, and I stood at my stove with the phone pressed to my ear to tell you this amazing theory– was it Plato?– of the two halves searching.

(And it seemed so obvious then– we agreed) We must be each other’s other half.

Or maybe you were right this time around.

Maybe love has no mystery at all.

Maybe it has no other half.

Maybe we lose nothing by believing in the Dirt.

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Because, in the end, did I not choose to keep walking up the hill to meet you?  And by the end of our hike, did we not both kick the moon dust from our shoes and be left smelling only of dirt?