Thursday, March 27, 2014

“…As Though I Had Wings”: Reflections on Fear and Happiness

Today is the second day of spring.  I am sitting on my little dock, which faces my murky little pond, with a cup of hot tea beside me and my laptop perched on my knees.  The frogs woke up from their underwater slumber last weekend, and I can hear a couple of them croaking to each other across the water.    A flock of starlings just swooped up into the sky in a swirling and elegant murmuration.  Some days, I can hear the highway.  But not today.  I just hear the starlings and the frogs and the dead leaves whispering to each other about the promise of spring.  

And gunfire.  I hear gunfire, too. 
I thought about leaving that part out. 
I’m (pretty) sure it’s just target practice.

We live on five acres at the end of a private road.  We have horses and cows for neighbors.  The sky is big.  Matt is building a chicken coop that we will paint bright green with orange trim.  We have fifteen chicks in a brooder in our living room, and right now my kids are out in the pen we just made for our ducklings, where kids and ducklings alike are happily imprinting on each other. 

Life is good.  And I feel—well, if you must know—I feel happy. 

I also feel terrified and a little embarrassed to admit to happiness.  My temperament is prone to melancholy.  My soul easily sinks into sadness.  But today—most days, really-- I am happy.  I am not completely sure why, but I have some ideas.   I am taking a cocktail of nutritional supplements that by some miracle has found happy’s sweet spot.  I am getting better about listening to my need for silence and solitude.  I live in the middle of trees and land and birds and sky.  Most nights after the kids are tucked in bed Matt and I sneak out to our hot tub, where we listen to coyotes and watch for shooting stars and track the path of the moon.   

I am a little afraid, though, of this happiness.  Just a bit ago I leaned back, stared up at the sky, and whispered, “I am so grateful.” 

And then my breath caught with fear.  I fought the urge to frantically look over my shoulder at what might be sneaking up behind me.  I had to fight the fears that flooded my mind:

What if cancer cells are clustered menacingly in my lungs or bones or blood?

What if I kill my kids in a wreck on one of my frequent trips to the city?

What if Matt loses his job and we have to leave this place?

What if a raccoon eats every single one of our chickens one night?

What if an eagle swoops down and snatches up our ducks?

What if…

I have lived most of my life stuck in the land of What If.  Oddly enough, I felt safe there.  It’s like the more “What ifs” I piled up around me the more I felt protected from them actually coming true. I stacked up the bricks of every possible “what if” scenario into a wall that I could crouch behind.  If my wall was tall enough, the “what ifs” couldn’t find me.  It’s a ridiculous sort of magical thinking, of course, but I have had years of practice in this paralyzing magical world. 

Except that lately, I find that I am not spending nearly as much time in that place.  Lately, I find myself walking in wonder through the real world.  I inhale deeply and walk slowly and gaze around me with a bit of awe.

Last month I turned forty.  A lot of people asked me how I felt about turning forty.  This is what I wrote the night before the big day:

“It's my last night in my 30's! I suppose I should feel something akin to dread, but quite frankly, I'm happier now than I think I have ever been--I don't think that's going to change when I wake up in the morning and I'm the big 4-0.”

And that feeling didn’t change when I woke up in the morning and I was suddenly in the next decade of my life.  That night, Matt gave me a birthday present, a flask, which made me feel both a little grown up and a little scandalous.  He had ordered it from a company called Liquid Courage, and he had it imprinted with the following Mary Oliver quote from her poem “Starlings in Winter”:

I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings

Those lines are my mantra, my wish, my new magical place.  Instead of crouching behind a wall of fear, I want to soar over those walls into a place that is
afraid of nothing.

I have found my wings. 



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Random Ramblings (really random, but at least I posted something!)

Whew!  It is dusty in here!  I had to sweep the cobwebs off of my blog space before I could find a spot to sit and write.  It has been TOO LONG!  Way too long.

Summer happened.
And then moving happened.
And then I just got out of the habit of my weekly blog posts. 
But I miss those weekly writing dates, so here I am again.  I used to write many of these posts from my side porch at my old house.  I loved that space to write.  I do miss that porch.  But, I am writing today from my new back porch.  There are horses, cows, and a bull grazing in the field in front of me.  My little green pond is sparkling in the sunshine (well, the few spots that aren't mucky with algae are sparkling).  Matt is perched atop our "utility" vehicle (which is really mostly a toy), and my children are being carted along behind in an attached wagon.  A pretty little bird with the unfortunate label of "titmouse" is pecking at food from a feeder.  Luke, exhausted from chasing frogs and butterflies and cicadas, is conked out in the sunshine. 

It's not been all sparkly ponds and butterflies since we moved here, mind you. 

First of all, it was a rocky road getting this place--I won't bore you with the details.  It's been a struggle, too, being further away from family and friends.  Jack has had to start out in a new school.  I am taxiing Amélie 45-minutes away each week for a homeschool co-op and piano lessons.  Matt's job has been crazy.  I know absolutely no one in this town (I email Jack's teacher to ask things like, "Does this town have a pharmacy?"  And, "Where do you take your kids to the pediatrician?")  I haven't found a place yet to get Jack's hair cut, so yesterday I hacked at his hair with safety scissors (because my scissors, apparently, are still hiding in a box).  A week ago our sweet, dear 13 1/2-year-old weimaraner died. 

So, we're adjusting and coping and grieving and stumbling through our days with klutzy grace. 

One weird side effect of living here is Jack's strange conviction that "Missouri kids" are different than "Kansas kids."  He is wrong, most likely, that Missouri and Kansas kids are truly different, but there is definitely a difference between "suburban" kids and "rural" ones.  For example:
Jack came home asking for a bb gun with which to shoot cans the other day.
He desperately wants a bow and arrow.
He asked to watch Duck Dynasty because that's what some of the kids in his class watch (which we did on Friday night--I was both repelled and strangely attracted to that show).
He was AMAZED at all of the camouflage in Wal Mart (yes, Wal Mart.  I hate Wal Mart.  But I am temporarily lifting my avoid-Wal Mart-at-nearly-any-cost ban, partly because I am still figuring out where to grocery shop, and partly, quite frankly, because I already have to sell my soul and trade in my Costco membership for a Sam's Club membership).  Anyway, so yes, the Wal Mart Supercenter five miles down the road is practically decorated in camouflage.  There's a camouflage deer stand perched outside the store.  The sporting goods section is HUGE, and while curiously wandering through it the other day I found a pink camouflage flask for sale.  For real. 

I am a little worried about Jack out here.  It's not that I have anything against hunting or Duck Dynasty or even shooting cans with bb guns.  But his dad and I are lost in this world.  I mean, we don't even kill bugs, mostly.  Last week I found a massive garden spider in my bathtub, so I caught it under a glass and released it into my yard.  Amélie couldn't handle the trauma of watching frog hunting during Duck Dynasty (And who can blame her?  We love our little frogs!  I could never chop off their heads and eat their legs.).  I can't imagine that we will ever buy a gun, despite the fact that the previous owner said we would need one for snakes and raccoons and skunks.  We are those weird people who try, in vain, to use those humane live traps. How in the world are we going to fit in here?  Is Jack going to start sobbing when he goes out hunting with his friends and they kill a deer? 

Please don't misunderstand me.  If you know me, you know I am not a vegetarian.  I do try to buy meat that has been humanely raised, and you can't get much more "humanely raised" than killing a deer that has spent its life wandering a forest.  I literally went YEARS without buying any sort of ground beef because I ate venison from deer that my grandpa had shot.  So I'm not against hunting or meat or even pink camouflage flasks.

It's just not me.  And I worry that we won't fit in.  Mostly I worry that my kids won't fit in.  I'm sure I worry in vain.  I'm sure they will be fine.  I'm sure one of these years Jack is going to find a bow and arrow under the Christmas tree.  Amélie might add "pink camouflage hoodie" to her Christmas list.

You know, actually, the truth is...
Matt is the one who really doesn't fit in.
He needs a bigger truck. 

P.S.  So, this just happened, I kid you not (I am typing out this "P.S." several hours after writing this post):  The guy from one of the three other houses on our gravel road just drove down in his (big) truck to see me.  (Let's ignore the reason he was coming to see me, because it makes me nearly hyperventilate with anxiety.  He, super nice guy that he is, was checking to make sure Luke had made it home, because my dumb dog, who is trying to make me die of anxiety, decided today that 5 acres isn't enough and that he also needs to explore the half-mile one-lane road we live on AND the country road our road leads to.  It's not a very busy road, but my neighbor told me he heard a horn honking, and it was because Luke was in the middle of the road.  Are you kidding me?  We had one dog die of a bowel obstruction seven months ago and another dog die seven days ago.  We cannot have another dog die.  We cannot.) ANYWAY, my neighbor was drinking a can of beer while talking to me (still in his vehicle--is it illegal to drink and drive on a private road?) and I swear to you there was a rifle sitting in the passenger seat.  I am, actually, all for gun control (go ahead--shoot me), but for some reason I just found it amusing that my neighbor was driving down to see me while drinking a beer and carting around a gun.  What is happening to me????? 
Let me just say this now: if you ever see me driving a big truck with a can of beer in my hand and a rifle in my passenger seat, would you please stage an intervention?  Thank you. 

P.P.S.  For the record, this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek.  I know that I am stereotyping "rural" kids and "suburban" kids.  I know there are suburban kids who shoot bb guns and I know that there are rural girls who don't wear pink camo.  Also, if you love Wal Mart, I still love you.  And if you drink from a pink camo flask and drive with a rifle in your passenger seat, I still love you.  I think. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I am obsessed with the song "Brave" by Sara Bareilles.  I have posted it on Facebook twice, watched the video an embarrassing number of times, and had the song on repeat for a full hour this afternoon while I was home alone and straightening up the house. 

When I am obsessed, I go big.

Every time I watch this video I cry.  Or at least I almost cry.
I can't explain it, really.
But I think I will try.

Often, I feel like there are two sides to me.

There's the insecure, shy girl bound by duty, the girl who meets deadlines, who has a panic attack in the face of spontaneity, who tries to keep her house clean, who lives by her to-do list, who colors neatly within the lines.

And then there's this other girl inside of me.
She is actually spontaneous. 
She dances. 
She sings loudly. 
She wears a twirly dress. 
She laughs. 
She colors a Christmas tree orange and the sky purple and maybe she colors within the lines and maybe she doesn't.

She is free.
She is free.
She is free.

When I listen to this song, I see that girl dancing and laughing, and I want to be her. 
When I listen to this song, that girl dances right up to me and reaches for my hand and asks me to toss aside my inhibitions and rules and to-do list...
...and just dance. 
She asks me to sing
and twirl
and create
and write
and be brave.

I want to be brave.

I want to be brave enough... write create laugh move to a house in the country open my arms wide to this world be free.

I wanna see me be brave.
I wanna see you be brave.

Show me how big your brave is.

I wasn't necessarily being brave in this picture (although I did think I might fall right off that dock), but I felt happy in this picture...and goofy...and free.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hope is the thing with soft, black fur....

First, two business items to discuss:

1.  I have every intention of writing about our farmsitting adventure for our Old German Baptist friends.  I am waiting until all of the pictures are transferred over to my computer so that I can overwhelm you with them. 

2.  I did write a little bit about farmsitting (complete with a few pics) over at Practicing Families this week in a post entitled, "The Rhythm of Solitude." 

And now, onto today's topic...our new dog, Luke.

(Luke on his first walk)

Yesterday morning I was in the shower, and I had this really horrible idea to completely bastardize one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems in honor of this puppy dog whom I am so in love with that it is rather distracting. 

Here is the beginning of the Dickinson poem:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And, here is how I completely ruined the poem with my own version:

Hope is the thing with soft, black fur
Who sits upon my lap.
Who looks at me with trusting eyes
And nestles in for a nap. 

I never claimed to be a poet. 
But, there is truth to my words.
If Luke were a girl, I might have pushed that we name this puppy Hope.  However, we have named the puppy Luke (Skywalker) in honor of his sister, (Princess) Leia, whom we still miss with aching hearts. 

Let me bore you here for a second.

Luke is, basically, too good to be true. 

We brought him home early Friday morning, and as of today he has had a grand total of two accidents in the house (and one at Lowe's, but I wasn't there, so I'm pretending like that one doesn't count).

I have only had to take him out to go to the bathroom once each night he has spent with us. 

The longest period he has cried is after his 4:30 am bathroom break, when I stopped to take a quick bathroom break of my own before heading back up to bed, and he wanted me to pick him up and carry him upstairs immediately.

He isn't crazy hyper.  At all.  In fact, he is super mellow.  (I realize this could change.  When we brought Leia home, she was quiet and sweet and slept all of the time.  How quickly things changed....  We got Leia at eight weeks, however, and Luke is twelve weeks old.  I am thinking that Leia was showing her true colors by the twelve-week mark?  I wish I remembered.) 

He is obviously used to being around children.  He spent the first twelve weeks of his life in a household of small kiddos, so he thinks kids are great. 

He loves love.  And attention.  And kisses.  And affection.  And my lap. 
The truth is, I want a dog I can absolutely smother with love.  So far, Luke isn't resisting my smothering instincts. 

But here's why, if Luke were a girl, I think I would want to name him (her) Hope:

Luke was born on March 1. 
March 1 is the day after Leia got sick (also, incidentally, the day after my birthday, which I still find an incredibly dirty trick).
It was on March 1st that I stood in my living room and looked at Jack lying on the couch, who was very sick with strep, and Leia lying on the couch, who was also very sick with a bowel obstruction that wasn't diagnosed until it was too late, and I wondered who I should take to the doctor first.
It was on March 1st that the talons of fear about Leia first wrapped menacingly around my soul.
It was on March 1st that I began a painful weeklong journey of worrying about my sick puppy, carrying her into numerous vet appointments, nurturing her, and crying for her.

And then, when Luke was just one week old, when we didn't even know he existed, Leia died.
And my heart just broke into teeny-tiny pieces.
And (as ridiculous as this may sound) I sort of let go of hope.
And (as ridiculous as this may sound) I sort of turned away in confusion from my faith.
And  (as ridiculous as this may sound) I sort of became stricken with grief and sad and, for lack of a better word, depressed.

Three weeks ago, I saw a picture of Luke on my friend Melanie's Facebook page. 

I looked at the pictures, but I dismissed them.
We wanted a chocolate lab or a golden retriever.
I very specifically did not want a black lab.  I don't know why, but I have never felt great affection towards black labs (please do not project any racist dog feelings here.  I feel the same way about the very white brichon frise and poodles of any color). 
But then my friend Jeannine re-posted those pictures on my Facebook page. 
And I sighed a little.
And then I carried my laptop over to my kids and said, "OK, guys, you said you wanted a chocolate lab or a golden retriever.  The puppies in these pictures are not chocolate or golden.  What do you think?"
And they both chose the same dog.
(If you have children, you know that this is a miracle in and of itself.)
So I sent a message to my friend Melanie, and she sent a message to her cousin in Oklahoma who owned the puppies.  Arrangements were made.  And here is Luke.

He is the product of an unplanned pregnancy, which makes me love him all the more.
He is a motley mix of dog breeds, which makes me love him all the more.


You know, while we were farmsitting last week, I found myself tentatively talking to God again.  He seemed present to me as I milked the cow without a CD playing and washed the dishes without NPR and listened to my husband and children without wondering what might be happening in Facebook world.
So, God and I were talking again.
That was good.

And then on Friday, Luke bounded into our world.
And then I thought that, maybe, I would be OK.
And then I realized that, maybe, we would all be OK.

It's not going to be easy, I don't think.
Luke had the hiccups yesterday, and I heard the sharp edge of worry in Amélie's voice as she asked us what was wrong with him.
When Luke slipped into the unfenced front yard this afternoon, I had to fight a rising tide of absolute panic and horrific mental visions of him being hit by a car.
When we came home from church today, I had to beat back images of him electrocuted on the floor from chewing a wire I might have accidentally left plugged in.

(I tell you, people, my imagination is a total wreck.)

The poor dog is growing up in a family suffering from a little trauma, I think.
He is going to be overprotected.
He is probably going to become completely neurotic.
He might have a few rebellious moments in his teenage years.

But, he is going to be loved
and cared for
and played with
and hugged
and smothered with adoration. 

We love you, Luke.
Welcome home.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dear Diary...


Here it is, another week, and once again I don't feel like I have anything very meaningful to say.  I know precisely the reason why:

I haven't been journaling as much lately.  I need to journal.  Journaling hangs out with food and sleep on my personal hierarchy of needs, and when I don't journal, my soul starts to wither away a bit, just like my body would start to wither away a bit if I didn't eat or sleep enough. 

I have felt bad for my journal lately, I think, and that's one reason I haven't been journaling as much.  I mean, I know that technically my journal doesn't have feelings, and that technically she can't get bored, but I have felt like such a broken record in my journal lately that I think even my poor journal must be getting tired of me.  I thought maybe she needed a little break.  I've gotten a bit bored with myself--I can't imagine how she must feel.

Also, Matt and I have started exercising together.  Exercising with him takes up more time than exercising alone, since we are going through this program thing that I'm not going to tell you about unless I get totally fit and hot, which so far hasn't happened, so you don't need to know about it.  Anyway, we have been working out some in the mornings, which seriously cuts into my journal time.  Also, I'm tired, partly from exercising and partly because it's been ridiculously cold and partly because I'm a little depressed right now, so I have not been exactly kind to my alarm clock when it cheerfully chirps at me at 5:00 in the morning. 

But let me tell you, I need to journal.  When I don't journal, I get really cranky, and I feel lost, and it's like I'm walking around in a body and soul that don't really belong to me, because I've forgotten to keep myself acquainted with myself. 

I find, though, that sometimes, when I'm working my way through a rough patch, I quit journaling.  It's weird--those rough patches are when I should be journaling the most, and I know it, but the darkest days of my life have often been greeted with silence in my journal.  I need to change that.

So, I have a great idea.  I will use my blog as a journal today, because I'm sitting up in my attic, and my journal is downstairs, and because of this exercise program Matt and I are doing I think twice before considering movement up or down those evil things called stairs.

I always start my journal entries with the date, of course, but I also include the time, and I usually include where I am writing.  One of my professors in grad school recommended this, and I'm so glad he did.  I've been following his advice ever since English 801 (Thank you, Jerry Dees).

Sunday, May 5, 2013
5:23 p.m.

Yesterday I had to go to the stripmall where Leia's vet was.  I hadn't been there since she died.  My insides all twisted up, and I cried as I walked by and peered inside.  I shouldn't have walked by the entrance, but I had to.  I was sad, so sad.  I cried a little, except not much, because I didn't want anyone to see me in tears.  It has been nine weeks, I think, since she died, and I feel a little silly that I'm still sad.  Suddenly I desperately wanted a puppy.  We can't get a puppy until we get back from farm-sitting, and I don't want to get a puppy for the wrong reasons--like, you know, to fill this Leia-sized hole in my heart, but truthfully, I don't care if we do get a puppy for the wrong reasons.  I want a puppy.  I want a sweet puppy.  I want one I can absolutely smother with love. I'm also scared to get a puppy.  What if he gets hit by a car or eats hair and dies from a bowel obstruction or, worse, what if he doesn't like me? 

We are going to farmsit for our Old German Baptist friends soon.  I am excited/nervous/apprehensive.  What if we destroy their crops or forget how to milk a cow or leave a lantern lit at night and set their house on fire or what if they find out that we brought a camp shower because I just could not hack six days without a proper shower? 

Matt and Jack's massive birthday party is this weekend.  I'm pretty sure that it will snow and/or rain and/or no one will come and/or those that come will have a horrible time and/or we will all be sick. 

I found out this week that the blog post I published at Practicing Families and the Mennonite World Review is going to be in the print edition of MWR!!  I am very excited about this.  My parents and grandparents are very excited, too. My grandparents have no idea what a blog is, but they thought it was pretty cool anyway.  They have always believed in me, which is super nice.  I figured that everyone would hate the article, but one guy with a very German last name said that he "wept while reading this delicate reflection."  It can't suck too badly if I made someone cry, right? 

I still weigh 1__ despite the fact that Matt and I have been working out like crazy.  Don't even tell me it's muscle.  Don't go there.  I weigh six pounds more than I did when I hit my goal weight, and if working out like a crazy person doesn't help me lose those blasted six pounds, I don't know what the heck will.  Perhaps I am supposed to balance out working like a crazy person with NOT eating like a crazy person. Interesting thought. 

I'm worried that I am going to hang out in this rocky place with God forever.  He feels so far away, as He should, I think, since he refused to lift his pinkie finger, point it Leia's direction, and save her life.  I still just don't think it would have been that hard to fix.  What worries me, though, is that I feel like I'm the seed that fell on the rocky ground, which withered away because it could not root.  Or maybe I am like the seed that fell on the thorny ground, and the worries of life have choked the life right out of me (see Matthew 13).  Whatever the case, I feel shallow and weak.  Nothing God-related rings true to me right now.  Songs seem pointless, sermons seem empty, prayers seem hollow.  I hate it, but I guess I will hang out here for awhile.  There's nowhere else to go at the moment anyway.

I should probably quit hiding in the attic.  I need to help Amélie with her piano, and I don't remember what I jotted down on my to-do list this morning during church that must be done before the week begins, and I feel guilty for spending so much time up here alone. 

Remember Sixpence None the Richer?  This morning I put this album from college days on before we went to church.  I hadn't listened to the album in ages, but I wanted to hear the song "Within a Room Somewhere."  If you were really my journal, I would copy out the words, but since you aren't really my journal, I can include a You Tube video and then just copy and paste the words.  I actually like writing in my journal much better with pen and paper, but this has been good for me today, especially since I haven't had to maneuver stairs. Oh wait...I can't stay up here all evening I guess, can I?  :)

"Within A Room Somewhere"

I breathe the mist
Floating about the stars
I can caress with velvet hands
I breathe the mist
Floating within without
This pen between my fingers

I know you are there
Within without me holding me
I know you are there
Catching carrying this beautiful mess

Escape the pain
Within a room somewhere
Escape the pain
So deep inside the soul
I have no key
No map to find

Sunday, April 28, 2013

free association

(This is me reading the newspaper on the train from St. Louis back to KC.  It felt so lovely to be reading the newspaper on a train, for some reason.)

I have no idea what I am going to sit here and write about.  Usually, I have an idea that I have been mulling on for awhile.  Often, I start writing about that idea and then go a completely different direction than I thought I would go.  Many times, an idea comes to me while I am sitting still and quiet during church.

But today, I have no idea what I want to say. 

I am sitting on my side porch.  It's the first time I have written out here since...pretty much forever, it seems.  I thought winter would never end, but perhaps it has, finally.  I hope. 
I hear the crack of a bat hitting a ball as kids across the street play baseball.
I see green--thank God--and white blooms, and red tulips, and the corpse of last year's garden, which someday, someday, will come to life again.

I also hear my son in the front yard sobbing because Matt can't make him a rope swing that will propel him across the yard and onto a platform where he can than push himself down a yet-to-be created slide.  He is swearing, between sobs, that if this masterpiece of a creation becomes a reality he will never, ever need to play a video game again.

My house is a little bit messy.  I need to pick it up before my weekly date with Mr. Selfridge and a friend and a bottle of wine. 

I need to wash sheets. 

There is a wasp buzzing around the windows inside my porch.  This makes me a little nervous.

Jack is no longer crying because Matt has propped a very tall ladder against the very tall maple tree in our front yard.  Jack has climbed up the ladder and is now standing on a perch up in the tree.  This makes me very nervous.

I am sipping a Diet Coke.  I try very, very hard to be healthy.  I religiously dump fruits and greens into my Blendtech every morning to make myself a green smoothie.  We eat pastured eggs and chickens and grass-fed beef.  We devour vegetables and fruits from our garden and our CSA.  But I can't give up Diet Coke.  I just can't.  Sigh.

I am excited because the essay I published last week over at Practicing Families about our relationship with our Old German Baptist friends is going to be re-published on the blog at Mennonite World Review.  Some day I want to be a writer, you know.

I am feeling pretty good today.  My insides feel pretty quiet, mostly calm. 
As long as I don't close my eyes and imagine Jack falling out of that tree, I'm OK today. 
I'm peaceful today.
I would say I am almost happy today. 

Maybe it's the sunshine.
Maybe it's the green.
Maybe it's the porch.
Maybe I'm just getting a little break.
Maybe I will wake up in despair tomorrow.
But for today, I am inhaling...exhaling...inhaling...exhaling...inhaling...exhaling....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

On Melancholy and Song Lyrics and Poetry

P.S.  I know it's weird to start a post with a P.S., but I feel like the postscript in this post is perhaps more important than the original post (which I published last night, and am now adding to).  First of all, when I read this post today, I rolled my eyes at myself a bit, so know that I completely understand if you roll your eyes a bit, too.  I kind of don't even want to re-read it, but it's there, and I don't think I will be deleting it.  So here's the postscript: yes, I know this post is kinda melancholy, and it is true that I am going through a bit of a rough spell right now.  But here are some more truths:

On Saturday I went shopping with my mom and Amélie, and we had a lovely day together.

Matt and I sat out on our front porch yesterday in workout clothes and robes (nothing sexier than robes AND tennis shoes being worn at the same time), and we chatted and laughed at ourselves as we sipped smoothies made for us by our daughter and her friend. 

Jack lost another tooth this weekend, and as I watched him grin up at me with toothless pride, my heart melted into a puddle of pure, absolute joy.

My friend Jeannine came over last night, and we watched Mr. Selfridge and sat out on our side porch with Matt talking way, way too late.  But we were having such a good time that I didn't notice how swiftly the time was passing.

So, what I say below is true, very true, but what I have written above?  That is also true, perhaps even more true.

This week I thought I was going to write about the Amish (technically Old German Baptist) wedding we recently attended.  I would like to write about that experience, and maybe I will soon.  I am going to be posting about our relationship with our Old German Baptist friends over at Practicing Families on Wednesday, so stay tuned for that. 

Today, however, I don’t really want to talk about a wedding.  I want to talk about poetry and song lyrics.  Do you ever get a poem or a song in your head and you can’t quit chanting or singing or mumbling those words? 

Sometimes, Matt tortures me with a song we sang together in our high school ensemble.  I won't be so cruel as to torture you today.  Amélie often walks around the house singing an Abba tune, and sometimes I hear Jack in his room humming the Star Wars theme song.  I always seem to have a song in my head.  In fact, I catch myself humming my way through the grocery store.  I can’t help it.  It's a little embarrassing.  A lot of times, a song gets stuck in my head because I have had it on repeat or because its tune is catchy.  Sometimes, though, there’s a deeper reason. 
Lately, I have had both a song and a poem in my head.

The song I have been singing is "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers.
The story of the song doesn't relate to me all that much.  But there's this line in the song that I can't get out of my head. 
It's better to feel pain
Than nothing at all.
The opposite of love's indifference.
Matt and I actually argued about that song on our way to the Old German Baptist wedding.  We both liked the line, "The opposite of love's indifference," but he didn't agree with me that, "It's better to feel pain / Than nothing at all." 
He would rather feel nothing. 
I would rather feel pain. 
We're different that way, I guess. 
The other lines that keep running through my head are from an Emily Dickinson poem.  Here is the poem in its entirety:
After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Here are the lines that keep echoing in my head:

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;


This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

This morning, in fact, I was digging through the refrigerator for some yogurt, and I caught myself mumbling out loud...

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Let's just clear the air right here.  I know it's weird to be crouched in front of one's refrigerator mumbling anything, much less melancholy Emily Dickinson poetry.  I know that. 

I remember a dark time about eleven years ago when another poet's words constantly replayed in my head.  They were the words of the poet Sylvia Plath in her poem "Elm":

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

I would wake up in the middle of the night with those words running through my head, chasing me even in my dreams. 

Sometimes, I still do feel the dark thing that sleeps in me, but I no longer believe in its malignancy.  Instead, we usually work alongside each other in melancholy, but quiet, companionship.  It's not like that time.  I don't want to die.  I am fairly certain I won't be spending any time on the psychiatric wing of a hospital. 

I really am pretty much OK. 

I don't really want to say much else, I guess.  My blog is not a confessional.  You don't need me to vomit my insides out all over your computer monitor (you're welcome for that consideration on my part AND that lovely image). 

I just want to stake my claim, my struggle, here. 

If you look into my eyes, I don't think you will see the struggle.  I can look into your own eyes and listen and talk with a presence that is truly genuine.

If you come to my house, my bed will (usually) be made, dinner may very well be simmering on the stove, I might be teaching Amélie about the life of a medieval peasant girl. 

But if a strong wind came by and whipped the covers off of my soul, you would see a girl
whose faith feels shredded
whose heart is sore
who is crouched low in the chill and the stupor, just waiting for that moment of letting go.