Tuesday, September 27, 2005

life being beautiful

i'm sitting here in a relatively dark room - except for one small bulb lit in my medusa-esque floor lamp. i can smell the chicken legs that i schmeared with apple butter bbq sauce before throwing them in a hot oven. also sizzling in there is some corn and broccoli mixed together with a bit of canola spray. nothing too exciting, but it's still dinner. i'm trying to simplify my life just now....

i had a really nonproductive day at work; i couldn't seem to focus. that happens sometimes, often without warning, and when it does, it's brutal. but no matter; tomorrow is another day!

after work, i went to the cockeysville library, got a baltimore county library card, and checked out some nice selections, including several books and comedy routines on CD (for the road trip!), some cookbooks, and a health/fitness-related new arrival. oh wait - the pièce de resistance: a DVD of julia child's 'the french chef' from her series on pbs. i'm very excited to check this out:).

okay, but all of the above is just news. what i REALLY want to say is that i've been pondering those types of people who have that picturesque kind of life. i know they're out there, that they really DO exist. what's even more interesting - and both heartening and disappointing all at once - is that they often have sub-lives filled with all kinds of stuff that you'd never know (i mean, who doesn't, really?). but part of the game plan of having a picturesque life is that nothing - no matter how horrid or heartwrenching - can ruin the image of it all. it must be an awful lot of work.

then again, i may also have fallen into abject cynicism about all of that....

because really, at the end of the day, i'd love to have a life that fit into a 30-minute sitcom. i'd love for all my dramas to work themselves out in 24 minutes (commercials, people!), for the relationships to heal after a helpful 'talk,' and for everyone to be their witty, charming selves. and you might be thinking: would it be interesting enough? sure, why not?! as long as the script writers were good enough, of course....

i'd also love for my relationships to be more constant, my family life to have been more secure, my problems a bit more whitewashed. i'd love to sit around a fire with my parents, the love of my life, and perhaps a non-shedding pet and talk about how grand things are, how much we all adore one another, and whether or not that family vacation should be to new england or the beach.

it never really works out that way, though, does it? well, except for that picturesque ilk (not that i would know)....

what life is is mucky, pain-filled, silly, funny, maddening, unpredictable, boring, mundane, interesting, scary, and way - WAY - outside the box. and even though it might be 'simpler' in many ways to wrap things up before next week's episode, there's a part of me that's glad there's more to find out every day, every hour, every minute. that there's dinner in the oven and the bathroom to clean. phone calls that even the writers couldn't have planned. tears that rush in when no one's looking. a quick nap in front of the tv. a hug from my dad. dreams to map out. diets to start and restart and restart again.

it's messy. it's ugly. and it's beautiful.

all day.

every day.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

full

i have had such an eventful weekend, it's hard to know where to begin. well, perhaps at the beginning....

friday evening, i had a very productive, life-affirming conversation that is another step in the process of wading through emotional muck. i slept soundly that night, the kind of rest that can only come when a person is truly spent, poured out, with no words left unspoken.

saturday morning, salimah and i went to a women's prayer breakfast with some graduate christian fellowship people from hopkins. really nice bunch of women, good food and conversation, and true communion with God's spirit.

afterwards, we wandered back to my place so that salimah could do a load of laundry. then we headed off to a chile roasting party at a coworker/friend's house. we originally planned on staying for a couple of hours - max, but the food and drink and company were so great, we were there for roughly SIX hours. i had my first shot of straight tequila ever, and i must say, it was rather good! it was definitely one of the best parties i've been to, and it gave me a chance to further bond with some people from work that i already really liked.

that night, we slept the sleep of the dead (lots of food and drinks will do that to you!), and then got up moderately early this morning so that i could take my car to the wholesale club to have the oil changed and the tires rotated and balanced. we ate an embarrassing breakfast of personal pan pizzas (!!), because they were basically the only palatable offerings at the little 'food court' area. i comforted myself with the fact that i drank a 100% fruit juice-containing juice box. oh well....

did a bit of minor shopping there, and then headed off to williams-sonoma to pick up two items that i've been needing for awhile. then we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around a used book/CD store, different places in hampden (including minas, where i bought a miniature piece of artwork for 6 bucks), and finally record and tape traders, where i scored the new dar williams CD in anticipation of her concert next friday.

after a quick bite to eat at ruby tuesday's (not my favorite eatery, but we were both super hungry), i dropped salimah off at her apartment and headed home to chill out for the rest of the evening. i'm seriously not in the mood to go back to work tomorrow, but one must do what one must do....

i've gotta gear up. next weekend is slated to be even busier. life is good. i am well. now onto the next adventure....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

everybody needs a little time away....

so the newest item on my list of 'things to do' is to finish planning my brief vacation to BAHSTON in early october with salimah. we are going to visit the illustrious cat, miss bacon herself. i cannot wait to be in new england in the fall. something just feels so right about that. somehow i feel like i'll be able to breathe for awhile.... and i am certain there will be much frolicking in the foliage and eating chowdah and being our fabulous 30-something selves. i nearly jumped out of my chair at work today with excitement at the thought of it all.

and even despite skyrocketing gas prices, i'm also just looking forward to the road trip with my dear salimah. i'm already planning a 'please come to boston' mix (or two or three) in honor of the voyage.

time out of dodge will be so good. it's not an escape, per se, but more a way to remind myself who i am these days. or better yet, who i've been this whole time....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

truth be told

my stomach hurts. i'm not sure if it's stress-related or something i ate, but whatever's going on ain't good. i hope i can make it through today at work without getting ill....

all that floods my mind this morning, though, (despite the above) is that God loves me more than i could ever know. and He's been faithful to me - always - more than i could ever know. and gracious. and longsuffering. and patient. and merciful. and i could go on....

so i'll put on my clothes and go to work and ask to rest in the only thing i know, which is the grace that covers me when i am most uncoverable. and that's enough for today.

actually, that's enough for forever.

Monday, September 19, 2005

song of solomon 8:6b-7

i thought i was coming home last night, but i wound up staying too late at salimah's to feel like i could drive home safely. it wasn't intentional - really - but i'm glad i decided to sleep there.

my rest last night was fitful, and my dreams were bizarre, but important. at one point, i was trying to save a little boy from an overcontrolling father-type figure who would come in and ruin his whole life. at one point, i realized that the little boy was actually a grown man, but then he was a little boy again. i fiercely loved him and stalked the man who tried to hurt him, posing as a nurse in a hospital to try and intercept the man's attempt at stealing the boy's precious records and experiences (it seemed as though the boy's memories, his very soul, were in this manila folder). when i woke up, i knew immediately what this dream was about, although the longer i've been awake, the less i can access it....that's always the way.

it seems that over all things, there is a hazy covering (even now, at 6:45, it's still not fully light). and in the midst of my 'blah' and feeling like i have to go get ready for work, it just hit me:

love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
it burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.

you know, it's true. in waking and in sleep, in anger and in sadness and in joy, it's always there.

and even when we disappoint, it never fails.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

BIG night

last night, after a lovely afternoon of chatting and then a quick dinner at the one world café, salimah, a friend of mine from h.s., and i went to see baltimore's improv group give a show down in federal hill. the event raised about 700 bucks for hurricane katrina relief (quite good, considering it wasn't a big crowd, and the tix weren't that expensive either). it was a fun time and made me remember how much i love spontaneous comedic efforts.

during my freshman year at hopkins - before i got so stressed i could barely see straight - i tried out for the then-group malignant humor (which would later morph into the buttered niblets). needless to say, i didn't make it in, but that's probably a good thing, considering i had a major crisis about a month later (deaths in family) and had to leave school the next semester.

but i digress....

as i was saying, it's a really fun way to spend an evening, and the cool thing about a show like that is that it's different every time you go. they give classes a few times a year, and honestly, i've thought seriously about going the next time they're offered.

oh, and a complete sidebar unrelated to the above: i'm moving back home tonight. it's been over two weeks, and while it's a little weird, i feel ready to be back amidst my things. yesterday morning, i went grocery shopping at whole foods and the new trader joe's not 5 minutes from my apartment (YES!) and got stocked up on healthy goodies for the next couple of weeks. and there are fresh flowers in my living room and bedroom, and i plan on doing a bit of cleaning and laundry to freshen things up for the week ahead.

one day, one step at a time....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

arise
(isaiah 60)

this morning, i awoke at the same time as i do every day - 6:15. in truth, my body was hoping to get up even earlier, but i was in staunch refusal mode. but, when the alarm (errantly set for a saturday morning) went off, i knew my time of resting was over for good.

so, i got up and showered and now i'm sitting here, clean as a whistle, feeling like writing my thoughts out into the world.

i've been thinking a lot about how people drift in and out of your life - sometimes as if by accident, sometimes with such a strong sense of purpose behind their actions, you cannot conceive of their presence (or absence, as the case may be) NOT being dictated by a very specific plan. my life has been marked by a lot of loss, and for years, i wondered to the point of distraction why this has always been the case.

but then i realized something: if you are someone who feels things intensely, you will always notice the everyday losses more than others might. and upon examination, you will have added up your losses and taken account and realized just how much there IS to lose. others, who have no interest in pondering such notions, are able to go through living, take things as they come, and maybe it just doesn't go that deep for them. and that's okay, because we're not all meant to be such intense creatures.

and to be honest, that level of intensity doesn't always help one to have perspective on life, the world, relationships. and i've recognized in myself - in recent years - that i'm slowly coming back to the middle, as it were. i'm trying to learn to hold things more loosely (but not as though they weren't important). it's just best not to stake your life on any person, on any relationship, on any hope or dream or notion of a dream.

and as the losses come, they still affect me - to be sure - but somehow i can look back on them and see that they weren't a personal affront, not some great 'cosmic joke' being played on me, or my 'punishment' for not doing things as i ought. instead, they're actually the primary vehicle in my life that God has used to build me up, to help me endure. the colossal disappointments can either beat you down or make you stronger (as the old adage submits). and i'm at a place in my life where i have no intention of lying down and just accepting my 'fate.' i'm far more interested in living, growing, changing, engaging, and giving of myself - EVEN if that means getting hurt along the way.

it's worth it to get up in the morning, to see another day come to fruition...another day, with all its hurts and uncertainties, fears and triumphs. it makes me smile now, because i know that God is building something...

me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

boomerang

one thing i have noticed is that if you are able to wait on God long enough, things will start coming around again. now, admittedly, they may not look the way they did the first time, but when they arrive back on the scene, you will recognize them immediately for what they are.

tuesday morning when i arrived at work, i was hit with nothing short of a thunderbolt filled with insight, perspective, and understanding, all doused with a reminder that God's love for me is so much bigger than i ever remember. (yes, i am quite guilty of looking at my reflection, 'memorizing' what i see, and then immediately forgetting as soon as my eyes drift out of focus.) all of the small things that i'd been thinking about and feeling over the last 10 days of my life suddenly coalesced into this perfectly clear whole, and i could barely breathe at the intensity of it all.

and what's best about it is that even though this present reality isn't necessarily what i would have originally hoped for, as soon as i 'got it,' my heart knew it was right. in my experience, that is SO the way God works. His plans truly are better and far above mine.

so, wow. now what? well, here are a few things i know:

1. i want to pursue writing (and freelance editing) more than i ever have, and i am well on my way to doing this. it is my hope that eventually i will break free of 'the man' and be able to work for myself.
2. a spark was ignited inside me over the last week and i woke up and realized that i've been wasting time moving forward with being as healthy as i can possibly be. all the reasons are too much (and too personal) to explain here, but i feel ready to pursue change in a way that i don't think i've ever felt before.
3. i want to start seriously looking for a church again. for the first time in SEVERAL years, i actually miss the community of a local body. i wasn't ready for a long time to go back to that, but now i feel myself getting there. and it wasn't as a result of pressure or guilt, both of which would have motivated me in the past (no thanks!!).
4. i am tired of being a homebody and have started a social events calendar for myself, including fun outings, projects, short-term goals, and the like. without warning, i am becoming one of those women who won't be answering her phone, but not just because she doesn't feel like talking. i'll be too busy for all that chatter...much too busy living, that is.

i'm throwing myself out there, people. and only God knows what i'll look like when i loop back this way again. i'm sure the essence of me will be unmistakably there, but i can tell you now that it won't be the same old, same old. yes, indeed, i feel a change coming....

'cut the deck, better place your bet, 'cause the game ain't over yet....' (gene simmons, bruce kulick)

Monday, September 12, 2005

if i wrote you
words and music by dar williams

i never thought you were the letter writing type
so now i see the words you chose, the way you write
so i started to write back about the trees in the snow
and i saw a bird, couldn’t say what it was, but i thought you’d know
you always surprised me.

and if i wrote you
if i wrote you
you would know me
and you would not write me again

and when the spring came and flooded all the streams
it’s like how you got the night you told me all your dreams
and when the barn roof sagged after an icy bout
it’s like how you got when you knew the truth was the only way out
but not the only way

and if i wrote you
if i wrote you
you would know me
and you would not write me again

we drew our arms around the bastard sons
we never would drink to the chosen ones
well you know the way i left was not the way i planned
but i thought the world needed love and a steady hand
so i’m steady now

and i’m so happy
i had to tell you
and i love you
and you will not write me again
you will not write me again
you will not write me again

Sunday, September 11, 2005

'on and on the rain will fall
like tears from a star, like tears from a star
on and on the rain will say
how fragile we are, how fragile we are.'

this afternoon, i found out that one of my former colleagues (from a job where i worked for 2 years in college) jumped off a bridge and killed herself two months ago, leaving her husband and very young child behind. i always knew she was a fragile soul, but i never would have expected such a thing. i guess you never know what people will do when pushed to the edge of themselves.

when salimah told me (she heard it from a mutual friend), i felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. God, i wondered, what drove her there? i know that she was a Christian. maybe the torments of this world had plagued her one day too many. i just pray that the breath left her lungs before she even reached the bottom of her descent.

God, reach us in our darkness. shine your mercy on this world. even when we know you, it is so easy to go blind with confusion and fear.

only You can save us from ourselves.
rough places plain

you know, it's funny. i realized yesterday that i actually don't know what to think about much anymore. everything looks different to me right now, and i seem to have been given the task of redefining my surroundings. except one problem exists: i've been unsure what lexicon to use.

when the bottom drops out of your world, you have a few options. you can let yourself fall into the abyss; you can cling like hell to what you know and doggedly refuse to change; or you can cling for a time to what comforts you (enough to get through the stomach upset and heart palpitations phase) and then you can choose to do things differently the next time around.

it hit me just now as i was in the shower, the beads of steam forming on the glass of the door that held me in: i've been given a chance to make a second impression on my life, and i can either take it or i can disappear inside myself forever. it's clear to me that i have been making some decisions over the last 5 years that have rendered me stagnant (yes, even despite gargantuan change and upheaval), and if things had continued on their path, i might never have moved to the left or to the right.

the plans of God may be straight when looking at them in retrospect, but along the journey, you feel palpably the hills and low places, clear thoroughfares and brambled pathways on which you tread. the way is so often unknown to us and that is why faith is required to make the trip. i need more of it. i need it every minute of every day.

i see now what it means to live a life that is out of focus and meandering. i see how fear can masquerade as stability. i see that love doesn't settle, doesn't change, doesn't fail. i don't know the way, Lord, but i know now - i see now - that i'll get there.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

ooh, disenfranchised....

last weekend, salimah and i made up a bjork-esque song in which, over airy instrumentals, we would just sing (over and over) the phrase, 'ooh, disenfranchised.' frankly, it was genius. i know some of you are wondering, but trust me -- it was.

which brings me to a memory: for a number of years as a child (probably between the ages of 10 and 14 or so), i was completely fascinated by the phrase 'disenfranchised proletariat.' i'm not sure why, really. perhaps it was simply the sounds of the words or the fact that they were multi-syllabic. either way, i've clearly clung to this word for a number of years now, and given the recent events in my life, it seems even more appropriate to offer them in a creative medium such as song.

and yes, i was being sarcastic just then. not to worry; my sadness hasn't dwarfed my ever-present grip on reality.

i'm telling you the truth, though: there is nothing quite like some people who take themselves WAY too seriously trying to make some avant-garde music about nothing in particular. if others are making cash off of something truly asinine, why couldn't i?

it's better than slummin' in the suburbs, ain't it?
the end of the honeymoon

for the last week, despite my serious state of angst, i've still been able to sleep relatively well (not for long periods of time, mind you, but well). apparently that time has come to an end. the last two nights, i have been plagued with wakefulness. this morning - a SATURDAY, no less - i was awake by 5 a.m.. i tried courageously to go back to sleep, but to no avail.

and it's not like 5 a.m. is the time of day for calling friends and making a stir in an apartment where another person and furry creature are trying to sleep. so it was just me, alone with my nightmarish thoughts, the now-all-too-familiar burning in my stomach, and an anxious heart. i tried to pray, but it didn't do any good. all i could muster was a feeble God....

i know He heard me. it would just be so great if i were met with something other than silence.

Friday, September 09, 2005

i heart dar williams
(or 'how i learned to stop worrying and love the Lord')

this whole week, i've been listening (on my ipod) to songs from three different dar williams albums, and for whatever the reason, her music is actually meeting me where my heart is right now. it's comforting in an odd sort of way -- perhaps because much of it is laced with a kind of sadness.

so after allowing myself to be saturated with her poetry for several hours, i informed salimah that we were, indeed, going to have to see her in concert. so i went to dar's web site, found out she's playing in philly at the end of september, and we decided at that moment to go. i found us two tickets online, paid for them, and now i just wait to receive them by mail. that was a decision that felt right, somehow.

so it's hard to keep moving ahead when you feel like everything is working against you. it's hard to pick up the pieces and place them at God's feet and ask Him to heal what must be healed...to leave broken that which should not be mended. and while i want to depend on Him more and more in my life (life goal #1, to be exact), i also know that He's given me legs and feet for a reason. i've got to stand up for what is true -- and in this case, that's the fact that He loves me more than i could imagine, more than anyone else ever will. and i'm scared to stand up and acknowledge that, because it means feeling the sting of those who don't love me like they should, who choose not to love me, who care more about their supposed 'freedom' than about what really matters.

but the bad decisions of others doesn't make the truth any less true....

i'll push myself up through the dirt and shake my petals free.
i'm resolved to being born and so resigned to bravery.

so, with as much bravery as i can muster, i'm making decisions that will protect my own heart. there's no need to hemorrhage just for the sake of being literary. and while bravery may not come so naturally to me, somehow after making a few good decisions on your own behalf, the world seems a little less 'unfair' and it becomes plausible that if i wait and want and work long enough, things might somehow turn out in my favor after all....

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

hell hath no fury

i know that some people are confused as to what's going on in my life. to those who have written or called, thanks for your concern. i mean it.

i really don't want to get into details right now, because suffice it to say that things are painful at best and agonizing at worst. i have a few select people with whom i'm processing directly and in the mean time, this blog space is (as it has been so many times in the past) my place to vent my feelings out into the void.

so, dear void, you'll be happy to know that i'm not lying lazy in my grief. i'm standing up and taking some steps forward. i'm being proactive and i'm protecting my integrity. i am a child of God - precious in His sight - and i do not believe for one INSTANT that the Father of Lights would have one of His children behaving like a doormat just because she's hurting.

there's a mountain in front of me, and in Jesus' name, i'm commanding it to move. this is no time for moaning; the only way through hell is to keep going.

it's a good thing my bags are already packed.
i pray
as soon as my thoughts become conscious, before the feeling of dread creeps in.
as i drift off to sleep at night, that God would protect my mind and heart from places i don't need to go.
while i sit at my desk at work, sobbing silently.
as i drive up and down too-familiar roads, seeing the things and places i used to look at with happier eyes than these.
that God's will would be done.
that all the falsehood would be blinded by the truth.
that my heart wouldn't hurt anymore.
for healing.
for resolution.
for you.

Monday, September 05, 2005

so basically

i'm alone in my apartment again (although truth be told, i'm not sure how much longer i'll be here) and the emptiness crowds in like too many people occupying an elevator built for one. i'm not sure that the weight of this can make it from my heart to my head. perhaps that's why this elevator is stuck midway, like a lump in my throat.

i'm not sure what to do next, Lord. i never thought i'd be sitting here this night, looking out my window, feeling all the things i feel. i never in a million years thought i'd be here. it doesn't feel right to me. it doesn't feel like You. it doesn't feel like anything You've done or are doing. and yet here i am.

if ever there were a need for grace pouring over me, covering me, drowning me, it's now. smother me until i can't breathe anything but You, God. You're all i have.

You, and this broken heart.
He said, she said

jc: I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. but if it dies, it produces many seeds. the man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

sh: i'm banking on this, Lord.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

i'll be honest: i don't have the taste for 'good news' just now. i don't want to hear of joyous occasions, of babies and parties and the making of merry. it doesn't help. if anything, it proclaims my wound further open as the salt pours in, with a chaser of lemon juice for that extra sting.

and what is worse: today is my best friend's birthday, and i am unable to even muster up a smile and the feelings that one should be feeling on such an occasion...and all of that just makes me feel guilty.

so while i am here and while this moment is now, salimah, happy birthday, my dear. you are my unflagging support and my safe harbor when the storms of life are raging. i don't know where i'd be now if God hadn't put you in my life. and i pray that this next year of YOUR life is the best ever. i'm SO proud of you for all you've done and all that you're doing, and i will always be honored to call you friend.

memo to the world: until i feel like i can face my life again, i'll likely be holed up in salimah's apartment, scratching the ears of a furry friend named baby girl, and watching 'nsync videos while salimah tries to force feed me bagels and skim milk.

i'm not hungry for any good thing, really, but sometimes bagels are better than the truth.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

the color of grief
is the crimson red of my pillowcase, now consistently dampened
is the peach-orange haze of an end-of-summer morning
is the deep purple blue of the smoothie i used to swallow my pill of heartache
is the smoky darkness shadowing me while i walk back to the apartment from my car
is the light blinking green on my cable modem
is the blue glow of my monitor in the dark
is the sage green quiet as the air conditioner hums through the wall
is what my eyes see
is what my heart knows without you
is now.