I’ll cry if I want to…

In two days time I am driving across the country to begin a new job. One of the reasons I started my WordPress account is that I was laid off from my job about 4 years ago, and I needed some way to channel my thoughts and occupy my time. This new adventure is such a huge change for me, not only because I have not had “regular” employment for 4 years, but also because I have never lived away from home. I don’t mean that figuratively – I have literally lived in the same house for my entire life. I didn’t go away for college and the longest I’ve ever been away from home is for 3 weeks.

I had big plans for today. I was going to run some last-minute errands, finish packing, and have a marathon of Summer Heights High playing in the background. At about 2 pm today I heard a thump in front of my house followed by the worst siren I’ve ever heard. I live in an area where sirens, car accidents and even fights are not all that unusual, but something was different about this siren. I opened the front door to see a dog laying in the middle of the street, who had just been clipped by a car. The husky was trying to move out of the middle of the street but his back legs had been badly injured. The “siren” had been his cries of pain. I ran out to the middle of the street and held the dog in my lap for about half an hour while waiting for animal control to come and assess his condition.

My neighborhood has had it shares of ups and downs. Over the decades, there has been a lot of transition, changes in the community and even violence. But today…today I was so proud of my neighborhood. Everyone responded so quickly. Seconds after I got to Balto, neighbors were directing traffic around us, calling 911, contacting animal support, and getting in touch with the dog’s owners. As I held Balto cradling his head in my lap, his 11-year-old owner came running up, tears streaming down her face. She held my arm and kissed Balto’s head, saying “But he has to be okay. He’s a dad…and he has a dog wife.” It took everything in me to keep from bawling in front of this child, the whole time my brain saying “Dammit kid, I am barely holding it together right now.” I hastily wiped off the dog blood from my arms and hands so she wouldn’t see.

At one point I looked up at a woman who was helping me to keep Balto calm and said, “Today is my birthday…” (I told you I had other plans for the day). She looked at me with tear-brightened eyes and said, “Oh shit.” Animal control came and transported Balto to the emergency vet. I don’t know what’s happened to Balto. I don’t know his humans, only that they live somewhere a few streets down. I don’t even know their names.

I fell in love with that dog in all of five minutes. And such is life. We love. And we say goodbye. It only takes a moment to love, and we are changed by that love just as quickly. And then, we have to pack up our boxes, fill up the car, and take our leave. And it sucks. We bleed out our love and cry out our loss. Loving and saying goodbye is messy, bloody, and hard; then we wake up and do it all again the next day, because we have to. And we speak in metaphors because sometimes the truth requires words that we don’t have.

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Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time…I had a good job.

I had money; not a lot certainly, but compared with my financial situation for the past couple years, I was FILTHY rich. I even had benefits, health insurance and a company matched 401k…whaaaaaat??!! Then a mean witch called “corporate downsizing” robbed me of my job and most of my savings. She’s a bitch all right, with a capital B. Yet somehow I can’t complain. Well, I could; and truthfully, I have. But since then, I’ve realized how much I had to lose in order to see what’s really worth holding tight. I had to lose clothes shopping at my favorite stores. I had to lose eating out for lunch every day. I had to lose my daily trip to Dunkin’ Donuts. I had to lose weekly movies and expensive vacations. I had to lose even the cheap vacations. I had to lose all the extra BS that seemed to be necessities at the time, in order to live a life of true necessities. I’ve learned that more money coming in, almost definitely means so much more money going out; that a bigger paycheck doesn’t always last that long when you have to expend soooo much just to keep up with creature comforts.

I’ve learned that coffee in a french press made at home is better than Dunkin’, and way better than Starbucks. I’ve learned that a summer morning spent reading on the front porch surrounded by flowers is an excellent way to spend some hours. I’ve learned that yoga in my living-room can be just as good at stress-relief as yoga in an expensive studio. I’ve learned to truly live on a budget and that I really, really love mac-n-cheese for dinner. I’ve learned that a phone call to your best friend who lives across the country is the very best form of therapy. I’ve learned that being caught in a torrential downpour at a kiddie amusement park with the best friend and her brood is a truly cleansing experience, that jumping in puddles is  awesomely messy, and that fireworks are truly the best.

The best thing I’ve taken away from this time-out, is that I found my voice in my writing. I never had the time before. It was always “later,” or “someday,” or maybe even “never.” I always had the words, but I never had the will or the nerve to put them down on paper (or laptop). They were constantly floating around in my head, bursting at the seams, only to be crammed down again and locked into the dusty box of “one day.”

I’ve learned what true depression is, what causes it, how to cope with it, how to heal from it, and how to plod on every. single. day.

I’ve learned that while money is great, friends and family who love you and support your dreams is even better. If you have a “time out,” don’t be discouraged. Use it as an opportunity to hone the skills that may have been lying dormant all these years. Look inside. Look forward. Look to the flowers, and trees, the birds, and bees, to the sunrise and the sunset, to those you love, and even those who make your blood boil. Love those who can make you giggle and value those who make you think. And always, always keep looking up.

Keep reaching for your goals, my friends; and never be satisfied with giving up.

downpour

evan

ana

tigerlily

Strength Born of Weakness

I wish I felt stronger
As the day wears on longer,
But I’m weak in the knees,
So even the breeze
Feels like it’s knocking me over.

I’ll turn to the One
Who makes flowers hum,
Flooded with colors so bold,
Violet, green, blue and gold.

Love that is violent yet gentle,
His flowers adorning heart’s mantle.
In this weakness
I’ll learn His meekness;
And only then I’ll be stronger.

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Age

Age does bend her captives low
‘Tween here and there, and then to now,
And weighs their once green branches down
Under weight of many snows.
The crowns that once were lifted high
Towards promises writ in the sky,
Now hanging down with thousand cares,
No more looking to the air.
Youthful dreams have seeped away.
Each one dreamed in warmer days
When sun was hot and noon was long,
With ease of youthful songs.
Her sneaky tricks and wicked charms
Caused them to lay down their arms
And fritter time, which they contend
Will always be their friend.
Her spells are limited as such
And cannot curse them all that much.
For each step closer to the bones
Is one step closer home.

Freedom in Friendship

love

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet number 116 has long been a favorite of mine. But more recently I came across the above quote by Adam Clarke. At first I found it difficult to hold both of these statements to be true. On first look they seem to be mutually exclusive, such opposing ideas that I feel my brain being tied into a knot. For my purposes I don’t speak of romantic love but of friendship (but I love my friends, so forgive me my broad interpretation). Here is my quandary: when does faithfulness in a friendship cross the line into lack of self-respect, by staying when things are terribly dysfunctional? On deeper inspection, I find these quotes to be quite complimentary.

Shakespeare is indeed right when he says “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” Love is faithful and kind and patient and covers a multitude of sins.

Clarke is also right that “love requires love as its recompense,” for true friendship must be reciprocal in nature. Genuine friendship is not an exchange of goods, services, and presents; a “this for that” mentality does not make for a lasting friendship. The only thing required is the exchange of goodwill, kindness and truth spoken in love. A friendship without mutual respect and the permission to allow each other to grow and change creates shackles rather than freedom.

Maybe I should be reading these quotes the other way around. There can only be loyalty, love, and faithfulness in a friendship (love which does not alter) when friendship has been given freely (love begetting love) first. Love does not flee at the first sign of trouble; adversely, love does not require oneself to be bullied, manipulated and disrespected for the sake of loyalty.

As a Christian these quotes will only get me so far. Scripture is really my only compass to navigate the choppy waters of evaluating my relationships. I have found the following verses particularly helpful:

“friendships” to avoid

Proverbs 18:24
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 16:28
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 22:24–25
Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.

friendships to cherish and cultivate

Proverbs 27:9
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Proverbs 18:24
A man [or woman] who has friends must show himself [or herself] friendly. And there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother [or sister].

Ecclesiastes 4:-12
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Busy – by Marya Mendelsohn

The wind blew freshness into my face
But it tangled my hair,
So I closed the window.

 The sunlight filled the room with gold
But it hurt my eyes,
So I closed the shade.

 The flowers turned my backyard into a rainbow
But they made me sneeze,
So I didn’t water them.

 The birds sang me love songs
But they distracted me from work,
So I shooed them away.

 Heaven came and knocked on my door
But I was busy
And didn’t answer.

many thanks to my dear friend Marya for allowing me to share her poem!

The Pictures in My Head

Many writers say they write because they have to. I always rolled my eyes and felt that it was a terribly clichéd thing to say.

I don’t roll my eyes anymore.

I write because I have to.

When I was little I had aspirations to be an artist. I loved to draw. I drew all the time and carried a sketch pad with me everywhere. But I was a terrible artist. I would get so frustrated, because I had a picture in my head about what I felt, and I wanted to show everyone else. I had no way to accomplish it. I had no way to put down on paper, or in clay, or on canvas the things I saw in my head. So the pictures stayed locked away for almost 20 years.

A few years ago I was having a terribly hard time. Things at my job had been going downhill for about a year and a half. It was a slow and steady boiling of the water, and much like the frog, I was being scalded. I had been in the soup for a while before I realized I was being cooked. The situation deteriorated quickly and after months of manipulation and dodging, the decision was made to close our branch. Within a one week period of time I turned 30, was downsized from my job, said goodbye to my grandpa (he made it to 92 God bless him) and was dumped twice by text message. By the same doofus.

I also have underlying issues of clinical depression and anxiety. And a host of things in my life that, at the time, I was refusing to acknowledge. I was hurting. I was sad. I was lost about what I should do and where I should go. It was a bad time, and I have no wish to relive it, but looking back over those terrible weeks which stretched into terrible months, I can honestly see God’s mercy. Sounds naive. Sounds mad. Sounds…cliched. But it’s true. I am a master procrastinator (some slam poetry right there…booyah) and I had decades worth of garbage that I was pushing deep, deep, deep down. I hoarded everything, although somehow it was only the bad, grimy pieces I kept and not the bright shiny ones.

I began to see a therapist who happened to be a Christian. I’d seen therapists before, so this wasn’t a new process for me. However, most of my experience was with therapists who were condescending or openly hostile towards my beliefs; and the few who were sympathetic where only interested in pushing medication (side-note, I am all for medication if it helps you, and I reject the stigma in some Christian circles that depression is simply an issue of sin…but that’s a post for another day). Bob was my first  therapist who wanted to know about me. He wanted to know about my heart. He asked me questions about my motivations and aspirations. And he was not afraid to hand me my own ass if the situation required it.

I was having a really difficult time even focusing on a coherent thought, let alone praying. It’s kind of hard to pray to God when you’re angry with Him. Bob suggested writing out my prayers. It would force me to acknowledge the bad feelings rather than pushing them down while putting on the brave Christian face. It would force me to take my time, to realize why I was mad, or sad, or even happy. His other suggestion was to model them after the Psalms. I had never noticed it before, but King David was pretty pissed in some of those Psalms. He’s mad and sad. But he usually ends happy, choosing to put his faith in his Maker.

You see, my brain is full of junk, piles of old newspapers stacked to the ceiling and garbage littering the floor. But it’s also full of treasures. I have pictures in my head. Words are the only medium I have found to get them out.

That’s why I write.

Tantrum

Heavy laden. I am weary.
Mind is dull and eyes are bleary.
Promises you made seem lost.
Among the violent waves I’m tossed.
Hint of a pledge rings in my ears
But I find it hard to hear
Your voice among my angry storm.
But you still bid me come.
Promise, pledge, oath and vow.
I think I hear your whisper now,
Just barely over all my rage.
I want to free you from this cage,
Of self pursuit and dreams most wild.
I’ll give you better things my child.
Things you would not dare to dream.
And though, impossible it seems,
I have plans, not to harm,
But prosper you. If in my arms
You’ll find your comfort and your way
I’ll bring you to a brighter day
.”
His whisper not his shout is heard
And even though my mind’s still blurred
I see the burning of the dawn
And know he’ll lead me home.

originally written on 8/24/11

Groans

The roof groans under many rains.
This earth spins on with many pains.
The leaves are falling from their boughs.
My heart groans too. I’ve been laid low.
I lack the words to say much more;
On this blue day I’m feeling poor.
Why is this world so very broken?
With a word You could have spoken
Peace, and restoration now.
So I will hold You to Your vow,
That one day hence we’ll see repair
Of things that still lay broken here.

originally written on 9/7/11