light & dark.

July 22, 2014

midnight. quiet house, the chirping of crickets wafting in through a multitude of open windows, coffee to my right and kcrw keeping me company. very cliche and very sweet. these moments are few and far between, so i relish each one when i stumble in to a cluster of them.

i have been stumbling through a lot lately. maya’s final month of elementary school arrived and then swoosh! we were down to days and she was being promoted and was so lovely in her skirt and french-girl striped tee and then bam! we were bundled in blankets at the farewell bonfire, drinking wine in the big red plastic cups and watching the gorgeous kiddos make smores and then suddenly it was the first morning of summer vacation and i was so sideswiped by its seemingly instant arrival i felt compelled to drink iced coffee. you know, the first day of summer and all.

the passage of this year has marked a lot around here. in a heartbeat my girl has moved from little kid to adolescent, our beloved lucy lost her fight with cancer, my father has lost more of his memory and sense of reality, and my sister and i are still buried in the fight to keep our parent’s estate and integrity intact. i was laid out flat when my house was broken in to, but awash with relief that my dogs weren’t harmed. i welcomed new love, said goodbye to old dynamics, and have struggled to stay afloat with so much time consumed by family and obligation. i have met deep physical pain for the first time and cried myself to sleep as it shows up again and again like an unwanted house guest. i have received flowers and gifts and a thousand strokes of tenderness on my cheek, but in the recipe too are moments of temper like a flare gun going off, and a moroseness that, while it’s present, consumes and darkens.

and so i am faced with difficult decisions. self-preservation versus selflessness; being cared for versus being taken care of; a simple life that is mine versus a crazier life that is not. breath, joy, and light versus sadness, weight and darkness. of course there are a million in-betweens, beautiful ones, and as i sit in a quiet set of days, figuring out what i can and can’t do, what i want and don’t want, my mind begins the measuring of goods and bads. it is love-math, the weighing of definitives and abstracts. the value of connection, the scary depths we travel when we are smitten, and the equally beautiful heights. the blurring of lines, the necessity of compromise, the give and take, the loss of singularity.┬áthe sweetness of new history and sudden fits of laughter, the safety of a hand hold and sharing of sleep. the rewards of love, the costs of love.

we brought my father out to visit today so he could be with us and see the five week old puppies at my sister’s house. we all gathered there for dinner and then owen came back home with maya and me to sleep in the extra room at my house. my father has never done this, and though we heard the same zillion stories for the zillionth time, and he fell asleep at dinner more than once, we also harmonized john denver songs through the open windows of my car on the drive home, played with molly and piper on my couch, and sat with our feet stretched out on the coffee table for an hour just being together while maya sang monster high songs from her perch at the computer in the studio. my dad is still so damn handsome even at 81, with those amber eyes and ernest hemingway beard, and listening to him speak with one arm stretched along the edge of the couch and the other wrapped around a sleeping molly, i was instantly transported to the father of my childhood and teens. this charismatic creature, who could walk in to a room and instantly command attention while the atmosphere there actually shifted, was the man who came home from his office and sat with me in the backyard having a scotch and soda while i sipped frozen apple juice, asking me about my day and telling me about his. he has been an infuriating and bullish father at times, but his love for my sister and me is deep and constant, and i miss seeing fully the man i respected and knew had my back. there are glimpses there, and they are glorious, but often those glimpses come only as a set of moments in a wash of fog.

there is an echo there of what i am experiencing with my love, in a long-reaching and utterly different sort of way. we are from opposite ends of the earth, i am western and he is eastern, and after almost a year together (in the way that two self employed single parents can be together) we’ve begun to feel the cultural differences that exist between us. i have never been so tenderly cared for by someone, but that care is hard in moments to receive; sinking in to it goes against the grain of my independent, i-can-do-this-alone-if-i-have-to constitution. for me relationship pivots around a fairly balanced platform, where two people sit within reach of each other and within reach of the rest of their lives. a sort of i scream you scream we all scream for ice cream where we are on an even keel, juggling kids and jobs and home and creativity, stealing kisses where we can, and supporting and validating all we go through separately and collectively on a daily basis.

i don’t know that this holds true for my valentine, and what on earth does a modern, western girl like myself do with such a possibility about the man i love? i worry that this man, who has only ever been with women who share his culture, knows love as the experience of a woman moving toward his life, immersing herself there, with the knowledge (sadly or joyfully, i can’t be sure) that she will move to meet him, take on what is his, lose a piece of herself to have the rest of who she is cared and provided for. such an expectation creates an unease that is subtle but stalwart; and i, of wide vision and many projects and a child to raise and friends to nurture and dreams to follow and a need to be blissfully alone at times, am steeped in the overwhelming sadness that a person i find beautiful and compelling may be lost to me because i don’t know how to turn myself over. indeed, i don’t know that i can. or that i would ever want to.

and yet…? and yet. love is love. we can long for it but cannot anticipate it. we can imagine what it may be like but ultimately we are only one part of what shapes it. and when it is there, sitting in your lap with its highs and its lows and its arrogant sense of ownership and belonging (as you scramble to make room for it and accommodate it and nourish it), we analyze its nature and its traits and whether it really deserves a place in our life.

so in that vein, i invite my valentine to be in my house with me, to share the deep green couch and strong coffee and instead of the talking i am used to doing, i listen. and i wait, allowing for the silences that mean talking is foreign territory to him, and the silences get bridged and more words come. there are surprises and honesty and inferences and from this man who said early on he would rather stick a knife in his eye than talk something out, i begin to see a picture of what love looks like to him. it is more gesture and fewer words. it is time spent together in person instead of texts and phone calls. it is family – a vast family – made up of old men and the kiddos and fishing buddies and the former client who is down on their luck and us. all gathered around a big table, where big pots of food keep coming and the kids get special drinks or maybe dessert and everyone leaves well-fed and cared for. love is watering the garden and folding laundry, an afternoon of steam behind a locked door, venturing out only for milk tea because it’s such a comfort. love is building things and fixing things and buying things, too many coffees, a movie at midnight because we can, and because it is delicious to be out in the world when darkness silences the city buzz and the streets are mostly empty.

finally, love is learning. learning to stretch and feel scared and trust and dive deep when the need is there. it would be safer to sit on the surface in a little boat, paddling to shore when things get rocky. but in my heart i know if i miss the dive, i will miss the colors and wonders of all that beauty that exists below. so i dive in, and my body floats in the sun while my head does the love math, and when all my equations are summed up, i decide to stay in the water for a bit longer. if i go down deep, and the beauty is gone and there are only sea monsters and sand storms, i will know to push to the surface, where the water is calm, and distant trees sway their branches, and home waits for me on solid ground. i can get there – i’ve become a strong swimmer. but I hope I don’t have to.

 

one small question.

April 24, 2014

Last month there was an email in my inbox with the subject line ‘is your life meaningful?’ it came from donald miller – or at least the people who are the public persona/email sending engine behind donald miller. yes, the very same donald miller i wrote about a million years ago. because donald miller had a dog named lucy like i had a dog named lucy and sought truth and meaning like i seek truth and meaning and lived in cool portland, oregon and just seemed dreamy and hungry in all the right ways. and it is true that donald miller is a big serious christian and i am not a big serious christian but it was just a computer crush anyway and in my crush-drunk brain i thought, well if mary matalin and james carville can do it, certainly donald miller and i can. in the end that reasoning didn’t matter for my crush was short-lived as i ran head on in to a very tall man who became a real crush in the real world and then a very lovely friend. but i think i’ve already told that story here somewhere.

so there in the junk folder is this question. and it catches my eye because as much as i try to do, and to help, and to avail, and to listen, and to parent, and as many things there are to do on a daily basis – responsibilities and chores and friends and desires and volunteer opps and dogs to rescue and coffees to drink with gorgeous like-minded coffee drinkers, i had to ask myself, is my life meaningful? more importantly, i had to ask myself, do i ever ask myself that question? my answer? i don’t think i do.

i look for, and try to find meaning, everywhere. for those of you who have read my blog, or who know me even a squeak, i imagine that is no surprise, FOR I WRITE ABOUT IT ALL THE DAMN TIME. my day to day life is an attempt at a fluid, eyes-wide-open, truthful embrace of the people and circumstances that make it up – yet a simple question in a mass email caught my eye and sort of…halted me. it seems contrary, this search and this surprise. and then it bonked me right on the head: as much as i value and search for meaning, that doesn’t mean my life is meaningful.

i am fifty. well not really but i may as well be. in truth i just turned 49 last month and so this is the last year of my forties and i’ll be damned if it isn’t the most beautiful thing ever. i wish i could bottle this calm and this experience and this knowing of things and give it to my younger friends so they could know in their thirties what i know now as i near the end of a half century of life. i spoke tonight with my gorgeous friend stephen who will turn 50 soon also and touched upon how forgiving the lines of youth are, but how beautiful it feels to be here. we talked about the relevance of age, and how the physicality, the actuality of it need not be counted when one lives their life with a spirited and curious heart.

i find this such good news as i take stock and see that the people i choose to be with and get to be with run the gamut from twenty to eighty. my valentine has this magnetic pull toward old people – and they to him – and i must admit the utter charm of it and respect exhibited there fills me with happiness and inspires me to love him more. but it is more than etiquette – he learns from them, and they from him. can we learn our whole lives, ask the big questions of our elders, those who have been here longer and know so much more than we do? god i hope so; we have so much to learn.

but back to meaning.full.ness {if you are reading this addie, that was my ode to you}. how do we know if our lives have meaning? meaning is personal, it has to be, and varied. it is our history, what we’ve been taught has meaning and what we’ve run in to on our own. meaning, i think, must be the force that drives our heart and makes it feel fuller than we thought possible. and in my experience it can come from the most surprising and unlikely places. i don’t assume that meaning for everyone necessarily equals goodness, but for me i can at the very least say, it does. and to courageously take it a step further, meaning in my heart is about a certain selflessness. the choice to get out of my own way and move away from my own preoccupations and do something for someone else.

for when i take a deep breath and the extra two minutes i really don’t have to spare, just to watch something my daughter absolutely insists i must see, and her eyes shine and her words come staccato fast, there is meaning. and when my new friend and neighbor dorothy – the pretty old woman i’ve seen for five years of neighborhood walks but just recently introduced myself to – blows me a kiss from across the street in her bathrobe, there is meaning. when my yoga teacher walks by me as i stretch in down dog and places a light hand on the small of my back just to connect and encourage, there is meaning. when one dog out of a zillion in shelter gets pulled to foster or a new home because a hundred emails and facebook shares and blog posts were networked by the good dog people, there is meaning. when i manage to do something for my sister, who does so much for everyone, there is meaning. finally, when i let the world drop and the to-do lists fade for a bit, and surrender to a thousand possible moments every day of love and embrace and kindness and need and tenderness, there is meaning.

so to you donald miller, my enigmatic unfriend, i say yes. meaning is everywhere, swirling in great waves of grace and possibility, and within it, my life is full. of. meaning.

meaningful.