october twenty-ninth: a saturday

We indulged in large sums of nothingness today. 

Chase made me tea and then drove to Starbucks and bought us both coffee. All with an attitude that it was very normal to spend Saturday morning bringing various hot beverages to your wife. 

We sat on the couch and laughed as the dog tried to speak to us. 

It was rainy outside, and once our coffee was finished we hibernated in separate rooms. He played video games and I watched youtube videos. Somehow dinnertime arrived. I cooked slowly, with as many ingredients I could find that would harmonize. When it was ready, we ate without much conversation; our mouths were too full of fried rice. 

Afterwards he rubbed my shoulders and we joked back and forth, one sentence hopping on top of the other, about all our minds had absorbed that day as we sat cuddled up in blankets.

Then he walked away, and I stayed where I was, and the day faded out as peacefully as it had begun. 

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7 photos

for my husband

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1. (top left) Winter. Chase loves winter. He loves coats and scarves and gloves and snow. Mostly snow. This photo was taken over Christmas break. The students were gone so we had the streets and shops of downtown practically to ourselves. Most of our walks started like this, on our wrap around porch in the cold.

2. (top center)This is the chapel near the house I stayed at while volunteering at a prison over spring break. Chase is not in this photo. That’s part of why it’s perfect for this. He’s not in this photo because he stayed home working full-time while I went on an adventure. He’s always encouraging me to pursue my passions and calling even when that means sacrificing money or comfort or time together.

3. (top right) One of my favorite Seattle trips. This is us making out in a random parking garage downtown. Because we like to kiss anywhere anytime.

4. (center) Taken at a family wedding. We got the time mixed up and missed the ceremony. Then I got ridiculously ill that night when we got home. But the time in-between, exploring behind the barns and laughing by the fields, that part was excellent.

5. (bottom left) Our first home together! The leaves on the trees were lush and green. The sun was bright through the tall floor-to-ceiling windows. We were so so excited and so blissfully ignorant of how much trust and patience God would require of us in that tiny apartment.

6. (bottom center) A candid photo. July 4th, 2015. Our first holiday together. It was perhaps the most perfect holiday I’ve ever had. We wandered through the small trails behind the park then met up with a few close friends for fireworks. Life is rarely blissful, but that day truly was.

7. (bottom right) Driving home with our new puppy, Oliver. He is the strangest fluffiest cutest little dog. We stayed with Chase’s grandparents the night we picked him up in Boise, then he snuggled in my lap for the long ride home. It’s odd. Ollie symbolizes our future in a way. We got him as a sort of graduation present for Chase (the money he received from friends and relatives added up to exactly one labradoodle) and so he was the shift into our next step in the world. Now as we look at jobs for Chase and schools for me, he’s always playing at our feet reminding us he’ll be tagging along for every turn, marking the change of seasons with his ever-growing limbs and expanding fur.

this body

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Gratitude: A Thought Project

olliethebearcub (1 of 1)

When I look at this photo, I can feel it.

I feel the warm sun on my skin. I feel my puppy, who often looks and acts like a small bear cub, pressed up against me. His fur fluffs between my fingers; his soft belly rises and falls with each breath as he playfully squirms and makes muffled grunts and growls in my ear. I feel my thighs, touching where they did not before. I feel my waist, expanding farther in my waistband than it did the previous summer.

I have heard many women express gratitude for their aging bodies because their changes represent their accomplishments. Stretch marks from the children they have borne. Extra rolls of skin and fat brought on by bearing and caring for their little ones. Wrinkles from all they have felt and expressed. Freckles from laughter in the sun. Sore joints from years of diligent work.

It is this same recognition of what shapes our external selves that brought on such distaste for my own changes.

Mine was a body that had recently been shaped by despair. Muscles weakened by the days I could not find a reason to get out of bed. Extra pounds gained from the weeks that I only had strength for one activity per day. If I remembered to eat, it was whatever could be obtained the quickest. My face, which I had become certain would show the cheerful squint of crow’s feet in the coming seasons of my life, was now fleshed out without a laugh line in sight. For long draughts my insides did not stir enough for happiness to reach my face.

A new set of people entered my life, and for reasons I may never understand their actions suggested they would have prefered to have never met me. They painted some horrid unfamiliar image and labeled it with my name. I stood bewildered. It seemed the harder I tried to connect with them, the tighter they clung to this image and the harsher they scolded me for it. I was met too often with cold glances. Repetitive rejection. Whispers of gossip that followed me in the streets and confronted me in places I did not expect from people I hardly knew. But heaviest of all was that daunting knowledge that each sin of those who had targeted me would be placed on my own head. I was the subject of blame for their every turmoil. Each hurt feeling or elaborated offense. Even when I paid no notice of them, and mustered the strength to go about cheerfully with my life, there was always that impending text or that next conversation, where our lives would again be interrupted so my husband could be informed of the depravity of the wife he had chosen. Things as simple as shopping, grabbing coffee with a friend, attending or not attending a party, were marked as bitterness I did not posses, vengeance I had no desire for or pettiness I did not wish to serve but was thrown on me nonetheless. There was nowhere I could go to be free.

On several occasions I found myself consoled to the point of tears when any random acquaintance would do something as simple as taking an extra moment to ask me about my day or invite me to an event. I remember hastily brushing away the joy. Since the cold bite of judgement is what had harmed me in the first place, I was afraid to be vulnerable enough to let anyone see how deeply their warmth affected me. My soul had been bullied for too long. It had slowly been beaten into one aching bruise.

I had never been warned that loving someone could provoke such persistent punishment. Maybe someday I will ask my children that, when they have chosen someone to pledge their devotion.

“Do you love them enough to stand by them even when they make decisions that are unpopular?”

“Do you love them enough to be blamed for choices that were not your own?”

“Do you love them enough to be hated?”

I hope they will be like their mother, in that, when their time is right, they will say yes and mean it.

And I hope, for their sake, that they will not be like their mother, in that the hatred cast on them will not cause them to wither.

Because for me, the hatred was too heavy. Whoever I had known myself to be before seemed to have disappeared. I could not find her. I was some tired husk of myself.

When I would mention my physical changes: clothes fitting differently, simple exercises no longer being achievable, etc. my family would insist I did not look that different at all. And in a sense they were right. A little extra fat here. A little less muscle there. That was all that could be identified externally. But to me, those small changes were unmistakable because they were the result of belittlement, discouragement and a newfound hopelessness.

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Slowly, I gained courage.

I am grateful for this body. Its transformation, which to me was once a sign of my weakness, is now an indicator of my persistence.

It is a body that still feels the cold rush of water across its surface with each dive into the cold waters of my home state.

It is a body that rows canoes and balances on paddle boards and wrestles with the little bear cub in my arms when he has too much energy to play on his own.

It is the body that hugs my friends and hikes through forests. That walks with head held high down mainstreet even when I have been told all too many times that I ought to be ashamed.

It is the body that makes my husband feel at home. The body that holds in it the hope of every future touch and sensation this life will bring.

It is a body that is weaker than it was one year ago, but houses a soul that is so much stronger.

 

Nod Along

renfa (2 of 2)You are a special kind of summer day. The kind that doesn’t roll around ’til August when afternoons stretch longer and hotter. The buzz of bees is set to slow motion. The breeze has stopped. I find myself wishing for the brisk chill of fall and the vibrant sunset leaves, but then the warm rays of August sunshine hug me and I do not want to go. Pastel flowers quiver in the vibrations of a distant lulling lawn mower. My eyes blink in long pausing breaths. They will not light up until the sun goes down and the stars… Well, I don’t need to talk about the stars. We’ve all heard about sparkling constellations in the summer sky a thousand times. But you talk about them. You describe their twinkle as if you were the only one to have ever seen stars before, and the rest of us really ought to go check them out sometime. You reach your hands out in front of you and use your fingers to imitate how they glitter. I nod along.

I do not say what I am thinking.

Circus Girl 1

They never could quite make sense of her. Rarely did her behavior warrant a reprimand and yet she wasn’t quite what they wanted her to be. She was strange. Her essence demanded attention, whether she meant it to or not. Just when they thought they had no use for her, they put her on the stage.

Crayola Crayon & Free Hand
Circus Freak

They never could quite make sense of her. Rarely did her behavior warrant a reprimand and yet she wasn’t quite what they wanted her to be. She was strange. Her essence demanded attention, whether she meant it to or not.

Just when they thought they had no use for her, they put her on the stage. Suddenly they cheered for what had once befuddled them. The fire they had fought to extinguish was now a flame they clambered to take credit for igniting. It was a fury that gathered crowds, sold tickets, sparked talk all across town, and so the crowds grew and grew.

To be clear, they still hardly approved of her. How could they approve of what they did not understand? But that which they saw they admired. And they no longer asked her to change.

Eye to Eye

me1Even in the most joyous of times, the world can drain a soul. Confusion breeds confusion and I question my mind into tangles. With quiet intention, I scan my life, looking to each set of eyes, hoping for answers.

In the first I see only darkness. Faint circles hang beneath eyes that would be lovely were they not so hollow. They sit in a face of skin that has grown gray and gaunt wanting flesh to soften the harsh lines of cynicism. She is bitter. She is cold. I try to make sense of her words but she speaks only perversion so there is no sense to be made of it. Any comfort I try to offer is promptly rejected, so we sit in silence. I stare longer than I should as her brokenness brings me down. Finally she goes away. Still stung by her envy, I search for another pair of eyes.

With great determination, I move along.

The next eyes are blue, bright yet sad. They are hopeful but they are weary. Tiny pupils filled with fear wishing to be brave. Cheeks rosy, lashes long. A face much prettier than its owner knows. There are moments bright and beautiful
before her, smiles so shining and new, but to her they are
tainted by the clinging past and daunting future.
me1 - Version 2Loved ones gather around her table warmed by a meal she prepares, but she misses the joy in their laughter as she questions if she got the spices just right. I tell her the food is perfection; she tells me I am wrong. Her dearest calls her lovely but she does not hear him as she wonders what everyone in the room thinks of her. Another flicker of fear lights her eyes and I do not want to look anymore.

I welcome the next eyes for they are familiar and kind. Gray like the skies they were raised under and the sea they grew up beside. He talks while the rest of us listen, smoke in the air by a tree I used to climb. Wisdom walks boldly from a soul that has seen much more than mine. Still, he always speaks plainly, eyes growing humbler with the passing of time. For every betrayal, I see no bitterness. Both pupil and iris are steadfast and grateful, fully loving of life. For every hurt I’ve had, he’s hurt more and every sin I’ve forgiven, he’s forgiven double. When asked how he loves the hateful when they hurt without having the right, he says, “Hurt people hurt people, so be understanding and always be kind.”

My grace may wear thin to the hurtful, but I’ll heal in a matter of time, for as I watch him loving the hateful, he builds up the grace in my eyes.