this is a project that has been burning a hole in my heart. we all sing our pure and shaky and earnest songs, to ourselves, our kids, our pasts. we sing because we need to hear our voices out loud, because it gets lonely sometimes, because it hurts, because the joy cannot fit in our bodies. parents are always and never alone. i want to focus on the never part. i want to hear the voices together. i want to start a chorus.
i walked outside our front door tonight, a basket of wet laundry cutting into my hip, down the eleven steps to the dark garage. and i stopped. at the everywhere, every pore, smell of blossoms. blossoms before i knew their names. our early confused spring. olfactory time travel that brings our hearts up our throats, ready to jump. the smell of damp yearning and sweet ache. the world cracks and you pry it open at the fracture, shout out to the freedom, the end, the open door. we break, we bloom, we have no choice but to say ‘thank you’.
thank you for the aches as they shine a spotlight on the peace. for all the breaking as it starts to feel like multiplying. leaving parts of myself everywhere i have ever been, a trail of tears and crumbs and memories. this is where empathy is born: picking up old shoes worn by others and wearing them to the soles. in imagining the dips and twists of different veins in the agony and comfort of our own souls.
thank you for the new eyes my kids give me every day, swollen as they can be, as drowned in light, as weary of sharp objects, as ready to be overwhelmed with miracles. thank you is forgiveness to stories that bring up acid in my throat as it tightens. to the person who wrote them along the skin of my spine, in bruises and blows and the crazy dance of my own flailing against walls and closed doors and all hope. to everything going wrong, and then the questioning and listening to things that were once too soft or hard. to seeing the kind of clearly that means seeing it all. for divorces and moves and lies i didn’t hear the first time. for my little boy who wants to be everywhere, and rubs off on me in stardust. for the huge reserve of compassion that is my daughter, her bloom of beauty. for bedtime finally resting in my lap. for catching myself with butterflies for just this moment. for every hundredth scar and the humble pie they taught me to love. for each of my parents in all their humanity. for the sick feeling of regret that I get to swallow down with cool, clean water.
thank you for life taking that blown glass shell of true love, bought for someone else, and smashing it and planting slivers in my skin, for crying until i was dry and clear. to see the real loves that could be planted inside, that could open, free, and end me.
and the regret for all the times i didn’t say it. all the tiny bits of communion in the mundane, the sputtering through days, the shocks of light, the rainbows.
thank you is freedom. the peace you make when you hold your own soft and creased hand, the letting go of mistakes and taking care of the child you used to be, the bits of yourself in your own. it is not doing over. when we want nothing else. because it changes the way we need to live. it is two living poems, for being my dreams. for changing shape before i could wish it. for being outside and ahead of what i know or need. letting go doesn’t hurt with a hand in each of mine, there is no bitter taste, no reconciling. all of the alives that couldn’t fit inside my body, the ones i risked and wandered and ran to, are shadows across my face. they are nothing like the thank you of coming home.
thank you for all of it. if only i could store it up. if only i could repay. i am trying to be brave enough to say it. we have no choice but to sing it, like the best harmony we can manage, full throat and soul, the windows open, to the dark empty night.
Once I suffered from a broken heart. I filled page after page of my journal by repetitively writing “fuck you” and “thank you”. In the end, the thank you’s grossly outweighed the fuck you’s. It was that summer in France I spent mulling it all over that I learned wisdom is distilled from pain.
If anyone asks what you’re thankful for, you’ve got some pretty important people you’re supposed to thank. As a Mom, you thank your kids for making you better. As a wife, you should thank your husband for loving you even when it’s hard. As a daughter, thank your parents for making you. If you’re spiritual, you should thank a higher being.
But you know what? Fuck it. I’m thanking stuff that’s just as important to me.
… Nutella for making everything taste like the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
… age for making it ok to not wear fancy panties 99% of the time.
… Red Squiggly Line for pointing out misspelled words.
… wine makers for putting good wine in a box.
… Ma for teaching me if you cut the bag there’s always one more glass.
… “Cops” for being on TV somewhere 24 hours a day.
… rooms for having doors that lock when necessary.
… for bathtubs and waterproof phone cases.
… for the friends that are ok if you pee during a phone call.
… unlimited texting plans.
… cropping off heads in photo just because I can.
… for the strangers in the adjacent car who start car-dancing with you.
… grandparent weekends.
… a fast camera and decent Lightroom presets.
… HBO for occasionally airing old episodes of “Real Sex”.
… for my ability to be comfortable with my choices.
… for my ability to comfortably sling opinions that are not the opinions of the room.
… for a good IPA.
… to women who say, “I’d love it if you photographed my birth.”
… to the jar of pickled eggs in the fridge.
… to the sack of homemade burritos in the freezer.
… to the people who ask you write for their site and say, “It’s ok to let ‘fuck’ slide.”
Thank you, Important Things. My life is 100% better because of you.
Oh and all you important people too…
For most of my life I have complained about you.
The times when you didn’t pick me up from school until long after the cleaner had gone home. Many times I gave up waiting and walked the long road home on my own.
I was the only ten year old I knew that could look after a baby, make up bottles of formula, burp and change nappies better than how I knew how to do homework.
The nights where I was so tired I curled up on two chairs pulled together to sleep while i waited for you to take us home.
My siblings and I knew freedom in abundance, took risks all the time because no one was supervising. Half of the time you did not even know where we were or what we were up to.
Did you know I smoked my first cigarette at eleven? Heath taught me how to on the roof. Thankfully I did not like it.
You were too social for your own good. Always putting your own needs before ours. You say now when reminded of these things “oh you turned out alright’.
It would enrage me to hear you say that. How dare you pass the buck? How dare you take one ounce of credit for that!
As the years pass other memories drift to mind. Ones that aid in your redemption.
A memory floats in of my sixteen year old self, heartbroken by my first love and you never left my side until the tears stopped.
There was the time you let me have a party and half the high school turned up, the more the merrier you said and grabbed a glass of wine to enjoy the scene.
I learnt the art of make up application from watching you and how to put a good a good outfit together.
Is it possible that I have you to thank for growing into a strong resilient capable woman?
Is it possible that I have you to thank for being unafraid of becoming a mother myself, after all if i could do it at ten I sure as hell can do it at 25.
Is it possible that I am fearless because I saw you stare fear in the face all the time and rise above it?
Is it possible I follow my heart and be true to myself because that was all you knew how to do?
Is it possible that in all your imperfections lay a life rich in lessons?
Is it possible that in knowing everything you were not resulted in me vowing to be everything you should have been?
Judgement falls away as the light shines on the realisation that you did the best you could with what you had.
These past couple of years I can see the blessing that my childhood truly was…my training ground for real life.
And for that I thank you mum.
you liked to say that if maya is in pup heaven, she is ignoring all the bones and wrestling dogs and instead she is looking outward, waiting for me like she used to at the window. you said something about that to a kid at school who told you that that wasn’t possible since heaven and afterlife and all that stuff is “made up magic.” and do you know how you responded, after pondering that all day?
you said to me, “isn’t this all magic anyway?” while opening and closing your hands, turning them over, and went on about how we have blood running through us to make us alive and we can hold things and run and jump and go places in airplanes and all of that is magic we live in every day.
for that wisdom, your deep heart, your sage young self, i am exceedingly grateful.
thankfulness brings you to the place where the Beloved lives . rumi
Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude…
Take a place of thanksgiving.
The fight to battle thoughts of anguish, frustration, anger, constantly trying to change your perspective. It affects your mind, you body, your soul. It’s easier to say “SCREW the world”, than to walk in a way of grace. The wide path is easier, a path that allows our innate desire to fail to take us over. The narrow path is hard, to daily choose to be content in what we have been given, it’s hard.
There’s no doubting that.
How do we jump that hurdle?
Just do it right?
Move past our sinful nature and take a place of gratitude right?
Some days I just can’t do it, my heart sucks, my exhaustion takes over.
My mind gets the best of me.
But when it happens when gratitude sinks in, grace overcomes. Joy replaces that anger, that frustration, the desire to quit. And I can rejoice because I jumped the hurdle! I took the narrow path. Christ’s grace and power in little me took over, his victory was proclaimed in my life. And not by my own strength, not by my own strength at all.
I’m out of strength.
I wake with little bodies close to me quite often in a twin bed with planets dangling from the ceiling. Tired and looking for my glasses I smell coffee made and warm and I know I can do this life thing once more. The mad rush to the bus in 30 minutes, I wish I had someone to high five since it feels like a passed a finish line. My daughter watches “Dora!” and “Peppa Pig!” and I sit and think about the silence for another 30 minutes. I love the light and the quiet. And then her and I have a day together. I watch her become a girl after having two boys and it is good. She takes care of babies and sings “Let it Go” like with a blanket cape. So much new in this little person. Finding the color in the cold, white snow falling outside. I am thankful.
I was lost in Mississippi. You were in the backseat of the truck with your sleeping brother, and you grew quiet under the weight of my fear. We were creeping down a dirt road overrun by kudzoo, hidden from the world under a canopy of trees choked by vines and Spanish moss. The sun was setting and claustrophobia had spread like sap through my chest. I was afraid to stop. I was afraid to keep going. There was nowhere to turn around, and even with the windows rolled up, the buzzsaw of plump cicadas was a roar in my ears.
I was scared, and you knew it. You leaned forward as far as you could and I felt your little fingers in my hair. You whispered, “It’s okay. We’ll find our way back to town. I just know it. You’re a really good driver.” I said, “Thank you, baby,” and I kept going.
We will always find our way out, you and I.
we live on a mountain
right at the top
there’s a beautiful view
from the top of the mountain
every morning i walk towards the edge
and throw little things off
car-parts, bottles and cutlery
or whatever i find lying around
it’s become a habit a way to start the day
i go through this before you wake up so i can feel happier to be safe up here with you
a broken home is where i sprang up. my dad was sick. it was a lingering sickness that drug him along as the years passed. he drudged through it fighting. but, the creeping continued as the sparkling light of my childhood grew dim. and then the lights burned out. i was off at college trying to become a grown up. my mother worked. she had to. she threw everything she had into her career. it wore her down. this is not me complaining. the opposite rather. i know every one did what they had to do given the hand we were dealt. but, am i scarred? yes. i carry a heaviness, a reminder. it has made me a romantic though. i want my children to have everything i did not. and to have everything i did. love. so much love. i do not regret where i am from. i learned to love fiercely while i was there. i learned that life is fragile and nothing lasts forever. and every day i continue to learn how to clear away the shattered bits so that my past stays in the past. i have a multitude to be thankful for today. and i will give all that i am to make certain that nothing obstructs my beautiful view.
Yesterday, in Target, like a beggar pulling a gem out of his pocket, you surprised me with, “Mama, will I get married someday?” “If you want to get married, you will,” I say. “Who will I marry?” you say. “Someone you like,” I say, and raise my eyebrows. I smile. You smile. You giggle your four-year old giggle, the kind that can’t be faked or contained. “I want to marry a funny guy who tells funny jokes,” you say, and I’m proud. Through the animated haze of childhood, you’ve managed to locate the core of a good relationship–friendship, laughter. And then, as quick as you laughed, your eyes well up and your mouth turns down. “I want to marry daddy,” you muster. One tear drops over onto your cheek. You know it can’t happen. I say, “That would be awesome,” and smile. When we get home, your wheels have turned, and you’re now triumphant. “I don’t have to marry daddy. I can be daddy!” You insist on trying on his jeans. At first, you’re thrilled. Big smiles, you’re just like daddy. You shrug your shoulders and seem refreshed; you stick out your chin and giggle. Later, you’ll cry about it. Daddy’s jeans don’t fit, and you trip over the deflated elephant-trunk legs and bang your elbow pretty good. I console you, pat your back, change you back into your own clothes. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” you say, once you’re back to feeling alright. “Well,” I say. “Thank you. I’m glad you’re you, and I’m glad daddy’s daddy.” “Ok,” you say, “I think I’m glad, too.”
thank you for giving me this life.
for making me a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother.
thank you for her.
my serious child.
for the gift of her love, so freely given.
thank you for him.
for his big, toothy grin that reminds me not to take life too seriously.
as my motherhood is riddled with imperfections,
i am grateful they have yet to notice.
thank you for entrusting me with these little lives.
my greatest hope is that we raise them to return thanks.
the cakes baked
the gifts wrapped
the dress picked
the dinner made
the crown worn
the song sung
the candles blown
all this i would not trade for
fame or fortune
cliques or clicks
travels or tales
so thank you Jonas. for your honesty.
for making me see that i am right where i need to be.
thank you. i’ve been trying to say it- to believe it and live it deeply in my bones even when everything feels wrong thank you. when the day drags on and emotions are high and i feel that if just one.more.thing goes wrong i’ll just break and then it does, but somehow i don’t after all thank you. for that strength i find to push through, again. for the brand-newness of the morning. fresh start. thank you. for the lessons that each day gives me, if i choose to learn them like how unimportant so many of these things are that i allow to overtake my mind and heart and keep me awake, staring at the ceiling, mind never quiet thank you for the things that are actually important and the fact that they’re also the simplest things thank you for the beauty in the chaos thank you that it is there whether i choose to see it or not and may i see it before it’s gone. thank you.
Some experiences wrap themselves with a hold so strong they choke. You try and tuck that box away in a dark corner hoping it will eventually get covered with dust and be forgotten. Despite every effort, it
has a way of creeping up at your doorstep reminding you that it’s addressed
to you and no one else will claim it. You’re stuck with it, baby.
I remember everything so clearly: the rustling paper under my body, the
coldness of the room and most clearly the stain. It was small yet to me it
was larger than life. Here I was in this cold room holding on to hope so
tightly. Tight fisted…purple knuckle hope.
Hope was off that day. What had become everything was taken away in
an instant and I was given this invisible box to carry in return. I drove
home mile after mile trying to find the words that kept getting lost in my
throat. To tell him, everything was no longer okay. We had lost. I had
failed. I still don’t remember how I got home. I just remember the sadness,
emptiness, stains crinkled paper and disillusion..all in that invisible box.
Then YOU. I don’t remember ever letting go of this idea that it could very well happen again, and it would. I walked on eggshells with this box ever present. My fear that some sudden movement, something I did or didn’t do would cause you to go away. It was constant visits to all types of restrooms at any inclination that there were cramps. Closing my eyes as I did the unveiling hoping when I opened them there weren’t any signs of danger. The constant spot checks. The first time I saw that familiar redness I breathed deep in and out giving you every bit of air I could inhale. I don’t remember ever breathing while I carried you but I remember how that day how every breath I took was for you. Every single one was filled with hope and love..for you.
You my precious girl, a headful of hair, eyes wide open …waiting for no one. You shot into this world at full speed. I have adored every moment with you. I laugh at the sound of your laugh. It’s infectious. I could never have dreamed all the things you’d continue to become. I look at you and warmth fills my heart every single time. For you I am thankful. So grateful you are here.
THE SOUND OF UNLOCKING
(quick fact: Last year I, a self-proclaimed single and childless by choice woman, gained custody of my 2 year old niece, Patience, who I had only met in person 2 times)
Do you know what the sound of a heart being unlocked sounds like? What it feels like? Is it a burst of knowing that someone is going to change your life? A type of emotional epiphany? A warming of the heart? A quickening of the breath?
I am a gal who keeps a lot of things under lock and key. Emotions, mostly, especially when the stakes are high. I’m not a gambler, least of all with my heart. I am a gal who keeps up walls and boundaries and, in some cases —barricades— until I know that the relationship is safe to enter fully. I do not like getting hurt. I do not like being hurt. I do not like hurting others. I think a lot of us spend a vast amount of time planning on how to keep ourselves safe from pain. And yet, in the complexities of human relations—there is always a spoonful of hurt that no amount of sugar can take away.
The night before my niece came to my home to live, I had what the Southerners in my life would call “A coming to Jesus” moment. I had to let go of all the voices speaking to me from the recesses of my mind. The voices that told me that this whole process was going to hurt. A lot. No matter what happens when the jury reads the final verdict. It was going to hurt being a single mom. It was going to hurt the day that I had to give her back. A lot. It was going to hurt watching her go back with people that you just don’t trust. It was going to hurt to give up my career plans, vacation plans, social plans. It was going to hurt if I got to keep her. It was going to hurt if I did not get to keep her. Hurt. Ouch.
I had to let go of the fear of getting hurt.
I had to live in the day to day and the night to night.
I realized on a Tuesday what the sound of unlocking sounds like. It sounds like tiny, 2-year-old feet stepping lightly across the bedroom floor. It sounds like the rustle of her blankie dragging behind her. It sounds like the little whirl of “Aunt D’Arcy?” as I open my 5:30am eyes and see her 5:30am eyes looking at me. It sounds like pulling her up, taking her into my arms. It sounds like an exhale as she settles. It sounds like a soft exchange of “Nose!” and the tapping of a finger on the two noses that were present. It sounds like a tired “umhmm”, said with closed eyes, to confirm that she got it right. It sounds like all those little sounds that we do not ever really listen to.
It actually does sound like a tiny little “click-click”.
And you know the pain is going to be overwhelming at some future point…but you pull the key out of that lock and open the door anyway. You open it to more than just meeting her needs, more than just helping her survive, more than just giving her a schedule and security and teaching her to say “please” and “thank you”. More than all of that. You open it up and you start to love her like she deserves to be loved. Even if that love is going to end up just feeling “helpless” the rest of the time. You unlock.